Number 8: Gilmore Girls

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So, here it is, a little late, but finally I have discovered something else that makes me smile and got me through last year. The Gilmore Girls. Fast talking, intelligent and successful women who just happen to be mother and daughter and incredibly funny.

I love Gilmore Girls for its escapism from reality, and obviously for Lorelei and Rory, as well as Luke and Jessie, Logan and Suki, Michelle, etc. The list goes on. It is not often that you can watch a TV series and really believe in those characters. As someone who grew up in a small town I can vouch for the fact that these places actually do exist, complete with eccentric characters, (yes, even horny, motherly Patty).

Today, when I came home after a grueling day at school, in the midst of all this strike stuff, causing frictions amongst the staff and students, as well as exam scripts to mark and assessments to get back on time, not to mention doing it all on 4 hours sleep because yesterday we took some students to London to watch Blood Brothers and didn’t get home until 1:30, I found that the only thing I wanted to do was sit back, eat ice cream and watch Gilmore Girls. In essence; I wanted to escape.

Therefore I am sharing my secret to a stress free evening with you lovely people. Watch and enjoy. It really does make every stressful little thing fade into nothingness.

PS, the clip above is one of my favourites. Fairly late on in the seven series run, it is the culmination for a series long feud between all members of the Gilmore family. Funny and sweet and occasionally wonderfully real.

Number 6: Duvet days

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Aren’t duvets wonderful? Really, whoever invented their delicious softness should win an award, maybe a Nobel prize. There is nothing more reassuring or comforting than a duvet.

Having trawled around shops yesterday looking for bridesmaid dresses that all three of my bridesmaids liked, and we could afford, I staggered home and sunk into the duvet. The big, soft, wonderful king size duvet. And pretty much refused to move until four o’clock this afternoon.

It may have been lazy, but trust me, it was bliss.

Of course all of this may be linked to the fact I have managed to catch flu from my students, so am feeling pretty knackered and grotty anyway, but it doesn’t lessen my love of the duvet. It just gave me a reasonable excuse to stay in one and watch terrible films all day. (That’s another story, terrible films that are just brilliant, guilty pleasures. The film today was ‘The Princess and The Marine’ and God was it awful and yet perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.)

So, here I am, still wrapped up in my heavenly duvet, my cocoon of deliciousness, writing my 6th favourite thing in the world. And today, it really couldn’t have been anything else.

Number 5: Macmillan and doing something good

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Ok, so today’s post is dedicated to Macmillan and other similar charities who do so much good to so many people. This is because yesterday my school took part in the coffee morning, cakes and children are always a successful mix and it proved no different yesterday. For the third year running I also donated my skills as a baker (this time it was Nigella’s rocky road recipe, equally as amazing and all day I had students coming up to me thanking me for the cake. It was a big hit and it always is. The only down side being that one of my students had six pieces before he came to class and as a consequence was as high as a kite on sugar. Oh well, at least I didn’t have to worry about the crash he surely must have got later on in the day).

The reason I do this every year and the reason I go and buy the cakes and donate whatever change happens to be in my purse, is not from some desperate need to do something good, it is from a far more selfish place. A few years ago I got very sick, really ill and it wasn’t until last year that I finally got a diagnosis and treatment (and am now fully recovered, thank goodness) but for two years I was tested for every type of cancer and serious illness there was. As a consequence of this I started to feel a deep, heartfelt gratitude to all those who put their time and effort into helping people, just like me, who didn’t get so lucky. So I started to give back in one small way that I could; I baked.

I think this is probably the best campaign from a charity so far. Children in Need works brilliantly, Comic Relief too, but when you ask the students what they actually want to take part in, unsurprisingly cake usually comes first. Feed them sugar and they’re happy.

Now the reason why this is included in one of my 52 positive thoughts is because when I do things like baking for Macmillan, or supporting cancer research or any other charity I feel an affinity for – even though at it’s core lies a selfish act it actually feels wonderful to be part of something, something that is wholly good. Doing something for someone else is in every way selfish – but that is the great thing about it. It helps people, it provides support, drinking water, care, medical supplies, you name it, and in return it makes the giver feel wonderful.

So there you go; do something good and it really does cheer you up. Or as Macmillan themselves put it, have your cake and eat it too.

http://coffee.macmillan.org.uk/Home.aspx#.UkaYmIaUROk

Number 4: Baking

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I love baking.

I love everything about it, with the exception that it takes time and I sometimes can’t be bothered. However there is nothing quite like it. To come home and know, for a fact, that eggs, flour and sugar when combined will make a cake is oddly reassuring. Especially after a day like today where teaching the students felt like pulling teeth and was frustratingly tedious and slow, and where I’ve been laughed at, ignored and even sworn at by people half my age. Always a delight. Don’t get me wrong, life as a teacher isn’t always like this, sometimes it is incredibly rewarding and heart warming; today was just a bad day. But at the end of today, instead of going swimming, I came home and baked cinnamon rolls. And they were perfect. Absolutely perfect. And everything suddenly felt a lot better.

So I carried on baking and made Mary Berry’s Mud Pie (seriously is there nothing she can do wrong?!?). For those of you who haven’t got it would like to briefly plug the Great British Bake Off recipe book, the first one. Everything I do from it turns out perfectly; the first time. It is simply a miracle. Especially as it is me, and anything savory I cook I burn to the extent that my lovely fiance has taken control of the main course lest he has to eat any more charcoal meals. (It’s ok, I play my own part by baking snacks for him at the beginning of every week; it’s a rather good system actually)

So there you have it, back a cake and suddenly the world seems right again. It is calming (so long as you don’t care how it turns out and are not a perfectionist, in fact I think that might be key to why it is so relaxing, it simply doesn’t matter if it goes wrong, chances are it will still taste good!).

I have also included this time photos of my culinary miracles to encourage you to try them out for yourself as a calming, relaxing evening away from life and spent instead burying yourself in cakes. Let’s face, who wouldn’t enjoy that?

If you would like any of the recipes look on http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/05/08/easy-cinnamon-rolls-from-scratch/ for the rolls and the Great British Bake Off for the Mud Pie, and enjoy.

 

The marvellous Mud Pie, cut into it is basically chocolate mouse with a crispy shell: gorgeous

The marvellous Mud Pie, cut into it is basically chocolate mouse with a crispy shell: gorgeous

So gooey and tasty they really should be eaten by EVERYONE

So gooey and tasty they really should be eaten by EVERYONE

Number 3: Dancing and Singing LOUDLY

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So this one comes from a very long weekend dealing with my family and an equally long day dealing with inane students. So I get in my car to come home and am thinking about writing this on Baking (it will have to wait now!) in honor of The Great British Bake Off, but the journey is slow and I start to crumble. Sadly not he first time traffic has reduced me to tears. I feel I should defend myself here – my journey although a reasonable 30 minutes is sometime elongated to an hour and a half, it’s annoying and all too frequent. Anyway, so instead of freaking out like I did last Friday I decide to take advantage of the traffic and put in the Pitch Perfect soundtrack. 

What happens next can be only described as miraculous. 

I go from stressed out and frustrated teacher and driver to crazy singing and dancing woman who really doesn’t give a crap about whether or not other drivers are staring. 

Yes, as it turns out, I am that person in the traffic jam who dances and sings, LOUDLY. It is the best thing to do whenever you are stressed, trust me. Turn the music up loud so you can’t hear yourself (then for the those of us who are a little vain it doesn’t matter if we sound awful!) and then let rip. This weather is also perfect for the dancing part. The windows steamed up and rain pouring down it means that you feel as though no one can see you. Seriously, get that head moving, arms waving, hands slamming the steering wheel, and if it’s safe to do so the legs too, why not? It is so therapeutic and bound to put a smile on anyone’s face. 

There is also a rather selfless perk to this and I do see this all the time. When stuck in a queue while you are singing and dancing just cast your eyes around and you will see people laughing and smiling back at you, it’s great, it brings a bit of sunshine to those of you too shy to get involved. 

So there you go,next time you have a bad day and get stuck in traffic use your car as your own personal club and karaoke box and I guarantee you will feel better, not worse, by the time you get home. 

Enjoy. 

Number Two: Strangers being kind, just because

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So this is the rather delayed number two thing that cheers up my week: strangers being kind and friendly, just because they can.

This happens to me on a regular basis. The guy at the shell garage on my way home asking me how my day was and whether the students behaved for me that day; the lady at the swimming pool who is slower than me and allowing me to go in front; that kind person who lets me into the queue on the motorway every morning; the checkout workers who make friendly conversation and actually seem to listen to your answers. All of these people, as far as I am concerned are extra special. They’re not being nice because they have to, they’re not doing it because they get anything out of it, not really, they’re just doing it because they are nice.

So this post is dedicated to anyone who has done a good deed lately and been nice or kind or friendly, just because they can. There are so many more people I could mention here, for example the guy at the airport who found my luggage after my other half had ‘misplaced’ it; the rather wonderful woman in Spain who lent me her inhaler while I was having an asthma attack (and had rather stupidly left mine in England, opps) and even to smaller moments of niceness and general manners, students who actually say thank you when you hand them a piece of paper, colleagues who take the time to ask you how your day is going. General niceness and manners.

Let it never be underestimated.

Oh, and thank you.

PS, what about those people who give you their car parking tickets when they haven’t used them? Aren’t they amazing. And isn’t the city council or whoever it is a complete and utter git for making that illegal and actually enforcing it. What arses. I still think it’s one of the nicest things someone can do for you, and you can do for someone else. Oh, and the garage man has added a ‘god bless you’ when he sees me. It’s lovely, some may find it offensive but he clearly is just being friendly and personally I think it’s lovely and it cheers my day up no matter what has happened at school.

Number One: Massages

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I could write about a million things for my first happy thought, but I think I’m going to stick with this one: Massages. Having just returned from my first ever back, shoulder, neck massage I can unequivocally announce that there is (as far as I am concerned) nothing better than a good massage. My joints clicked, my knots untied and my eyelids fluttered closed. It was truly astonishing.

I’ll admit I was skeptical at first. Who in their right mind wants to be semi-naked with a complete stranger in a locked room? Not only that but I was more than a little concerned it would hurt; my back is in pretty rough shape with a kink, trapped nerves and slipped disks, I was terrified she would knock something and I’d have to start the new term with a bad back…again.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It was heavenly.  But it did hurt, a lot in places, but one of those wonderful ‘good’ hurts where you just know it is sorting something out, and afterwards I was rewarded with a back that hadn’t felt this good since I was a teenager, before my big fall down the stairs that rather knocked my poor spine sideways.

Oh and the smell! Let me tell you about the smell. It couldn’t have been more wonderful. I am not the sort of person who loves scents, I get asthmatic and clogged up with even the mildest perfume, but this was just perfect. Vaguely spiced (it smelt like Christmas) with some kind of fruity, orangey undertones, it immediately began to relax me. I still smell of it even now and was sniffing it all the way home as I battled traffic, daring it to continue working and much to my surprise it did. Although not completely relaxed on the way home I was definitely less stressed than I would have been normally.

There is one last point I would like to make about massages, it is the customer care. Having a stranger be friendly and ask how you are and seem to be really interested in the answer, I find, is one of life’s great pleasures and one I will come back to later. Just to cover it quickly in this context, is there anyone who can tell me, hand on heart, that they don’t get a little glow inside of them every time someone is nice to them even though it is their job to be nice?

So, number one is done: massages. I suggest you try one, they are truly wonderful things to behold and will certainly keep me going during this first week of yet another year long slog.