2016/17

2017 - Emma's Picture Postcards

My blog feed last week included a lot of mentions of 2016 either being downright pants, or a variant of “actually, surprisingly decent, all things considered”. I had a lot of great highlights, but overall it was a pretty rough year for me personally.

A big hurdle was having to quit my job in July, with no new opportunity to go to, no firm idea of what I really wanted to do, and at a time when the employment market in Aberdeen was (is) dire. I have a bad habit of getting emotionally invested in my work, and considering that this particular job was in a very small business, working for people I had considered friends, it was difficult to give up on. I’ve also struggled with a variety of other issues this year, big and small, which have frustrated and upset me and which I’ve dwelled on to a point that I’ve realised is neither healthy nor normal. I’ve been proactive over the last couple of years about getting physically fit and strong, and I’ve decided it’s about time I applied the same approach to my mental health as well. Wish me luck 🙂

My rock throughout, though, has been my little family of three – me, James and Puss, that is – I didn’t pop out a child while your back was turned 😉  James and I have now been together for almost six years, and have had Puss for almost four and our house for three and a half.  The house has felt like home since the day we found it, but I feel like this is the year where we properly settled in and made it our own.  James also finished his PhD this year and got a long-term contract as a researcher in the same department and I’m so proud of him 🙂  I’m proud of our relationship too – I’ve been a pain in the ass at times but he’s been nothing but patient and supportive and kind and understanding, and I feel like we’ve come out of this year stronger and knowing each other better.

The other big positive from the past year that I intend to carry on into 2017 is that I made face-to-face time with friends a priority.  I can sometimes be a little rubbish at keeping in touch remotely, but I have always been a big fan of visiting people wherever they may be.  It can be an effort and an expense, but I’ve never once regretted spending that time and money to see them.  Plus, not only do I get to spend time in their lovely company, but I have an excuse to visit the place they’re in, usually with free accommodation!  In the past I’ve been to Iceland, Gran Canaria, all around Germany and even to New Zealand to see friends and they’re some of my favourite travel experiences.  Closer to home, Sarah and I have gotten into a nice routine of meeting up every few weeks, and I’ve seen my other Aberdeen friends a fair bit but need to up this a little next year.

Speaking of travel, though, 2016 was in theory a low-key travel year for me after big trips to the USA in 2015 and Iceland in 2014, and especially since I was without an income for a while!   I did get a surprising amount packed in though, which was lovely: James and I went to Skye in March, a family party in Dalgety Bay in April, York and Italy in August and Germany in October, plus I also went to London twice, Edinburgh two or three times and to my parents’ house in the Scottish Borders for Christmas.  Most of those were repeat visits but it was my first time to Skye, York and Tuscany, so for a quiet year, my wanderlust quota is quite happy!  In 2017, I’m off to Nottingham next week and we have a trip to Northern Ireland planned for late spring some time and Italy in August for a wedding.  We’re also hoping to head off for a city break or two somewhere in Europe – the list of potential destinations for this is as long as my arm so we might have to pick one out of a hat 🙂

As for blogging, it’s been a mixed year on that front too.  I went along to my first blogger meet-up in March, which feels like a lifetime ago.  Getting involved in the local blogging community has brought some lovely experiences and friendships and fun opportunities, but also occasional feelings of comparison and obligation that I’d pretty much managed to avoid previously.  I think that was helpful though, because I now have quite a firm idea of what my priorities and expectations are.  First and foremost, I’m here for my own enjoyment, because I like writing and taking photos and having people read and look at them, especially if they like them.  I would like to post more regularly and not worry about every post being the best it can possibly be.  I’m going to try to remember that I’m not trying to write something that’s helpful, but something that’s enjoyable and that maybe provokes a bit of thought or wanderlust.  I’m never going to be a daily blogger.  I said this time last year that once a week feels ideal, and I agree with that now.  Looking back at my stats, I posted half as many posts in 2016 as in 2015, which makes me sad, but I got twice as many views and visitors, which is nice.  Part of that is natural growth and me telling people the blog exists, and some is from casual social media promotion – again, I’m confident that I’m never going to be a social media guru, especially because I usually just don’t like Twitter, but I’m happy with my current level of dabbling.

Anyway, I’ve been writing this post for days so I’m going to go ahead and push ‘publish’.  Enough naval-gazing for now 🙂  Happy New Year and speak to you soon!

Happy Things, October 2016

Autumn Leaves - Emma's Picture Postcards

I always enjoy reading people’s collections of little positive things but it’s been ages since I last wrote one! Here are a few things making me smile:

  1. My new job, self-employment and my first big tax refund! Since quitting my last job I’ve been (and still am) looking for a new, traditional, 9-to-5 office job. Aberdeen is full of unemployed, overqualified people at the moment though and it’s a bit of a struggle. In the meantime, I’ve started working as a freelance audio typist, and I absolutely love it. The pay isn’t great (you get paid for each minute of audio you transcribe, rather than how long it takes you, so with practice I’ll start earning more per hour) but it’s enjoyable, gives me at least a little income, means I won’t have a big gap in my CV, and gives me another skill and experience which will hopefully be useful for future jobs. I also received a great big tax refund since my tax had been calculated on the assumption I’d continue in my old job for the rest of the financial year – I knew it would be coming, but it still felt like an amazing bonus when it did!
    Apple and Bramble Pie - Emma's Picture Postcards
  2. Baking and cooking! James is the one with the skills (enthusiasm, patience, imagination) in our kitchen, and normally does most (all) of the cooking. Recently I’ve been trying to give him a break and take a week off his plate (I can’t think of a less punny way to say that, haha) every 3-4 weeks. Usually I rustle up a few of his or my mum’s regulars and try one new thing that I’ve half dreamed up myself and then looked up on BBC Good Food for rough guidance on quantities and measurements. Last week I made what I’d imagined as a stew/casserole, but decided to turn into a really delicious pasta sauce, with tomatoes, sausage, chorizo and peppers, and my mouth is watering just at the thought of it. While it was simmering away, I made an apple and bramble pie as my October effort for Bumpkin Betty’s Baking Club. I used this Hairy Bikers’ recipe, but because we only have a teeny little flan tin, I halved the ingredients. This didn’t leave me enough pastry for the lid and I’d pretty much run out of flour, but with the help of the internet again (what on earth did we do before Google?) I found this open-top apple pie recipe, and covered mine with a half-lattice, half-crumble concoction. I popped it in the oven and proceeded to hover around, peeking through the door to see how it was getting on, because by this stage I had no idea how long I needed to bake it! And the result? *Drum roll*… it turned out perfect. Yay! To date, I am 3 for 3 and the world’s luckiest baker.
    Dornstetten, Germany - Emma's Picture Postcards
  3. A quick trip to the Black Forest, for the wedding of my favourite German! We started out as exchange students when we were 15, and were lucky enough to actually like each other and stay in regular contact afterwards! We’ve visited each other every couple of years since then, and really feel like family now. It was wonderful to be there for her wedding, to be back in her home village, to spend some quality time with her family and friends, and to introduce James to a place that’s been a big part of my life.
    Stranger Things Halloween Party - Emma's Picture Postcards
  4. A wonderful week in London. I’ll write a full post soon, but the original premise was for Dad and I to go to another NFL game. The friends I’d planned to stay with then invited me to a Stranger Things themed Halloween party the following weekend, so I decided to stay a week! I really enjoyed both events, the chance to catch up with London- and Nottingham-based friends, and the opportunity to spend a whole week with my Kiwi friends. There’s nothing like knowing your friends will eventually return to the literal opposite end of the Earth to make you appreciate their current, relatively convenient home!

Happy Halloween! Let me know your October highlights 🙂

Lately

Emma's Picture Postcards

Hi! I fell off the radar for a little while there, for a combination of reasons. Mainly, I quit my job, a decision that took up most of my thoughts and emotions for a couple of weeks. I’d never imagined leaving a job without a new one to go to, but bizarrely it was actually the most sensible option! So I’m currently unemployed, but hopefully it will just be short-term.

Secondly, I almost don’t want to mention it since it’s been so over-discussed, but Brexit really hit me hard. I was absolutely astonished by the referendum result, and the fact that it happened on the very same day I quit my job didn’t exactly help me process it! What did help, though, was reading posts from British bloggers who managed to sum up their thoughts (and my feelings) very eloquently: Katy, Morag, Freya, Shannon, Amber and especially Alex.

Third is a nicer reason, which is that I’ve had an unusually full social calendar lately! I had a wonderful catch-up with two of my oldest and favourite friends, one of whom I hadn’t seen for a year as she had been away travelling the world, and the other of whom had just gotten engaged. We had so much to talk about, and washed it down with far too much prosecco and enough home-cooked pasta and bruscetta to feed about 10.

York - Emma's Picture Postcards

I also got to spend time with some new friends, with a couple of visits to Sarah and her daughter Matilda, which were fun, interesting and relaxing all at once, and a weekend trip to York to hang out with James’s best uni friends. York is one of James’s favourite cities, and I quickly saw why, as it’s very charming, and full of quiet little pubs (the main attraction for him, as he’s been an old man since his teens 😀 ). I already knew one of his friends as he’d been up to visit us in Aberdeen, but I hadn’t met the others and was a little bit nervous to impose myself on an established group. I needn’t have worried though as they were lovely and I quickly settled in to a great weekend of eating, drinking, chatting and playing board and card games. The weather was glorious (I even wore shorts!), except on the first night, when James got so thoroughly drenched on the way to dinner that every time the waiter passed him, he punched his shoulder and laughed, “Ha ha! Wet boy.”

Anyway, I’ve missed sharing on this little space, and hope I’m back into the swing of it now. I have had a few drafts on the go, but every time I’ve started writing, my neighbours have started yelling at each other and I’ve lost my train of thought! Let me know in the comments what you’ve been up to lately and check back soon for some book reviews 🙂

Happy Things, Oct ’15

Garden Birds - Emma's Picture Postcards

I am 100% a summer person and dread the colder months, but so far, so good this autumn. Here are some little things keeping me cheery:

  1. Autumn itself has its perks: scarves and boots; crisp, cold, sunny days; pretty coloured trees; soft daylight; candles. I also realised tonight that I really love a dramatic fog haha, it makes me feel like I’m in a mystery novel!
  2. I’ve made it through the awkward growing-out phase of my pixie cut and my hair is now the perfect length for a little bun – quick and easy, and a lot more flattering than the strange creations I was resorting to involving hair bands and pins!
  3. Working from home is an absolute dream, for a whole load of reasons:
    – I can work when I actually feel productive. And I can go shopping on weekdays!
    – My commute home from the office was so draining that I never did anything in the evenings except eat dinner and lounge around, trying to muster up the energy to do the dishes or go to a gym class. I’m naturally quite lazy and messy, especially when tired, but at the same time I really like to have things clean and tidy, and feel drained and distracted when they’re not – a vicious cycle! Now I’m home all the time I’m completely on top of my chores, and have really noticed a difference in how I feel.
    – I also no longer have any excuse not to go to gym classes, so have been going once or twice every week. I’d go more often but twice is usually more than enough for my abs! 😀 As a result I’m feeling fitter and sleeping better.
    – Another health perk is that I’ve finally, properly, started drinking water. This is always a vague goal, but in an office environment it’s so easy to drink endless cups of coffee. Plus, although tap water here in Scotland is good by any standards, I prefer bottled water, but felt guilty about the unnecessary expense, and all those plastic bottles! I’ve now accepted that if I don’t buy bottled water I’ll just drink coffee and/or fruit juice, which are more expensive, have just as much packaging and are worse for me, so I buy large bottles and use them to refill a small glass bottle which I keep on my desk. Why not drink out of a glass or cup, you ask? Not when you have this little monkey around, who will only drink out of her own dish if she has no alternative:
  4. Speaking of Lucy, she’s been so happy to have company during the day, and also that we’ve started turning the heating on again so she can lie on her favourite spot on the landing, which is warmed by the hot water pipes! She’s such a sweet-natured, affectionate cat, and so playful – some time soon I’ll post a video of her playing, if I can manage to catch one with decent lighting and without me laughing too much in the background!
  5. We’ve made lots of progress on the house in the last month or two. We had such amazing luck finding this place, as it’s bigger and better than we thought we could afford, and was in good condition (well, apart from the boiler…!) There were a few things starting to need patched up though, and now that we no longer need to try to coordinate tradesmen with days off work, we’ve flown through the check list – we had someone clear the gutters and do a small repair on the roof, and replaced the oven and a section of fence that had blown down.
  6. My aunt gave me this cute owl-shaped bird feeder for Christmas, and we bought this “feeding station” to hang it from. It’s been such a pleasure spotting the different garden birds, and hearing their birdsong. So far we’ve seen sparrows, pigeons, starlings, blue tits, great tits, coal tits, chaffinches, gold finches, blackbirds and a robin, who is singing his little heart out now autumn’s here!

Garden Birds - Emma's Picture Postcards

Garden Birds - Emma's Picture Postcards

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A Catch Up

Things have been quiet around here lately… The company I work for (and lots of others in Aberdeen for that matter) are struggling due to a down turn in the oil and gas industry. There just isn’t the usual volume of work, and we’ve had to make some changes to cut costs and try to ride it out. It’s been out of my hands, so short of looking for a new job, which I’m not planning to do at least for the moment, there’s been nothing much to do about it except wait and see, and hope, and worry.

Currently the results, for me, are that I’ve had my hours cut, which is a bit of a bummer, and that we’re moving out of our office next week and I’ll start working from home. As nice as the office and my colleagues are, this is a dream. There are only three of us based in the office anyway, so I already work from home whenever my bosses are away, including for five weeks last winter, and I love it. Whenever I’ve worked from home up to now I’ve been on call, with the office phone diverted to my mobile, but from now on I’ll hardly have to deal with the outside world at all, and will mostly be able to set my own schedule, which suits me just fine.

So it’s turned out ok for the moment, but there’s been enough uncertainty bubbling under the surface to make me not feel myself. I’ve actually seen both my family and my best Aberdeen friends since this has been going on, and didn’t say anything, because I didn’t have it straight in my head yet. I trust my bosses to keep things going as best they can, and have stayed upbeat overall, but at times I’ve felt like I was maybe just bottling it up, especially when I had a couple of sleepless nights, running through all the possible outcomes. I think I’ve just been a bit frustrated because once I know a change is coming, I like to get it over with, so the last couple of limbo months have had me coasting along like a zombie, and now that I know exactly what’s happening I feel better.

Anyway, although I’ve wanted to blog and had things to blog about, I’ve been too drained to think of what to say, and my plans to take outfit photos last weekend were foiled by rain and a hangover (one of my best school friends is off around the world for a year, so a good send-off was in order!) I’m hoping that’s me on the way back up now though, and that less hours and no tedious commute will result in more and better blogging. Thanks for sticking around!

Emma's Picture Postcards

Working from home rule #1 – don’t leave your paperwork in a sunny patch