Travel Sparkles ✨

A Quick Trip

We had booked to go to Ibiza last Summer. I love that beautiful White isle. Like everyone else on the planet, plans were rescheduled due to lockdown. We re-booked for June of this year and once again with all the uncertainty surrounding international travel, PCR tests, quarantining etc, the holiday has been rescheduled to June 2022. Fingers crossed. Here I would like to thank TUI for their flexibility, speed of access to speak to someone to rearrange holidays and also for their communication throughout the pandemic so far. Regular updates were received with details of government guidelines, foreign regulations and what to do if you had a holiday booked with them. Well done TUI.

Anyway, we were lucky enough to be offered a little cottage in Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire in Wales for a few days. As himself had cover for that period to look after his Mom anyway, we decided to drive down for quick trip. I was very excited. It’s a long time since I packed up a car and set off for a holiday. We were up and on the road by 6:45 am and although it’s a four hour drive from Birmingham, it was a pleasant trip, no holds ups!!

Broad Haven is a small seaside resort with a huge, beautiful sandy beach. There are a couple of pubs/restaurants, a supermarket and one or two beach shops and that’s about it. It’s a busy little resort, plenty of room and we found everywhere to be covid secure following all the various guidelines in place.

We visited St David’s which is the smallest city in the UK. There are a lot of small independent shops and fresh food delicatessens alongside some of the more usual high street shops but no large stores. The Bench had been recommended to us for ice cream and we weren’t disappointed. Two scoops of home made deliciousness the size of your head. We didn’t need lunch that day! St David’s Cathedral was wonderful. I love to wander around reading about the history of a place, everywhere has a story.

The following day the weather was amazing. Blue sky, slight breeze and not too hot so we looked at the map and decided to walk the coastal path to Newgale Beach and back. It’s been a very long time since either of us done any walking like this, I’d say at least six, perhaps seven years. Walking boots were on and away we went. I was so proud of myself. I’m usually huffing and puffing on the uphill climbs and whereas yes, himself would have to wait for me at the top, I definitely wasn’t as slow as I have been in the past. I put this down to the Lucy Wyndham-Read workouts and that I was going out running for thirty minutes every other day.

The above is Broad Haven beach as we were leaving for the walk, the coastal path and a view back to Broad Haven. It felt so good to be by the sea.

As all good coastal paths do, there was a lot of uphill and down dell. This path is extremely well maintained, well signposted, clean and tidy and no very close to the edge paths. In some areas they have had to change the path a little due to erosion and it’s a popular path, we met quite a few people of varying abilities strolling along.

Newgale beach is beautiful, another pure sand large beach. However it was a lot further away than we thought it was. So after another huge ice cream for lunch at 4pm and a half hour rest we commenced the walk back. To say I was tired was an understatement. By the time we reached Broad Haven I ached all over and couldn’t even speak. Imagine that, me not able to chat!!! It was however a fabulous day walking. My phone thought I had climbed 98 flights of stairs and calculated we had walked 18 miles. We think going by the maps and google, it was more like 13 miles, but even so, that’s good going especially for me. We started the walk at 11.10 am and staggered back to Broad Haven close to 8.30 pm. Himself had a very quiet evening…

The day following the mega walk we were homeward bound and another four hours in the car probably wasn’t the best for aching legs. I was barely able to walk the day after we got home. It was a lovely break away from the routine though, so good to discover an area we’ve not visited and have good food, fresh air and the sea breeze. Something I’ve not done for a very long time is Trip Advisor reviews, neither has anyone else I expect. So I will review the various places we visited for meals and yes of course I have pictures.

A couple of sunset pictures from the night we arrived in Broad Haven and also the Prince of Wales Bridge which we crossed on our travels. It’s very impressive.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Comfort and Perspective

Is it just me or does anyone else find themselves changing as they get older? I don’t mean in looks or body shape but in what makes you comfortable. I have discovered that I see things from a different perspective and I’m not sure if that’s a new me breaking through with the value of life experience or if this is part of the old me breaking through once more. Perhaps it is a little of both. As my caring journey unfolded it was very much that I didn’t really exist as the priority was my parents. My life was completely on hold and I have no issue with that at all. It was a requirement of the role I was carrying out in looking after them. It’s taking a little time and now I feel bits of the old me coming back and also the lessons that life has taught and continues to teach me as my life progresses.

I think too that the various lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic has also changed my perspective on life and perhaps this too is because the pandemic arrived quite quickly after my parents passed away so it was a continuous transition. I’ve written in earlier blog posts that I found the lockdown healing and therapeutic and I know that I am very lucky in that as for a lot of people the lockdown was soul destroying, isolating and disruptive to their lives. Maybe because I hadn’t been out of the house very much during the caring years, I was used to a type of home lockdown and I was able to adapt better than a lot of people.

This past two years for me has been a period of ongoing evaluation. It’s very difficult when life changes suddenly and life as you knew it just stops. I know that I found my strength and independence from within. I realised that I had been taught to be that way by my parents and family. It’s now that I feel I am emerging and although I am the same I’m also very different. I know that doesn’t make sense and yet it does. My core values remain the same; honesty, trust, love, truth, kindness and laughter. I also realise that I need to be a little more selfish with my time. This is now my time. I have no real commitments a I did before so it’s down to me to make my choices and spend my time wisely. None of us know how long we have here.

Love this.

I have stepped away from toxic and negative people so that I have peace in my life. Social media has been wonderful for connecting me to some wonderful people. Authors, musicians, poets, dancers, artists and beautiful, kind hearted, warm kindred spirits. People who support you, who you support and cheer on. Deep conversations are held as are lighthearted chats about shows on TV or Netflix. It’s all good and it’s all happy. There is no pressure, no arguments, just pleasure.

People make life beautiful.

I spend time with himself and help to care of his Mom. I see my cousins and a couple of very close friends and I’m happy with that. My perspective as the social butterfly that I was pre carer role has completely changed and I’m comfortable with that. Maybe because I am getting older and have experienced various life lessons, I truly understand about the little things meaning so much. I know that this is my time to push my comfort zone, work hard and follow my passion. I am comfortable with that thought even though somedays it’s scares me so much. I know deep down I will love it.

Exactly!

Be comfortable in your life but keep pushing that comfort zone to experience all you can. Look at things from a different perspective, you just don’t know what you may find. Life is for living so make sure you live every single day. Be a little selfish with your time and do what sets your soul on fire.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Running, Again

Yes and once again, the mood attacked me to start running again. You may remember I shocked everyone who knew me, none more so than my parents and himself, that I completed Couch to 5K (C25K) in 2016 and also completed the 5K Race for Life for Cancer Research in a very respectable 38 minutes and then I didn’t run again. Until last year. As lockdown descended three of my cousins and myself started C25K, completed it and then continued to go running until around September when the weather really changed. We are fair-weather runners.

During the Winter I kept fit by going for walks and working out with Lucy Wyndham Read https://www.lwrfitness.com/ Great workouts, all abilities and various lengths of workouts. I really enjoy doing my Lucy’s. This year I decided once again to download the C25K app and get running. The thought of the longer runs filled me with dread. Positive thinking I thought, you’ve done this before, you can do it again. The positive thought was also the negative one, I was going to have to do the long runs again. I have to say though, I felt stronger and fitter this year working my way through the nine weeks and was just delighted with myself that I completed the training.

Like a complete beetroot when I get home after the thirty minutes, I ache and I feel great for getting out there and doing it. Like walking, your mind wanders, your thought process is clear, solutions to issues are mulled over and for me, thoughts on what I want to do and what I need to do to manifest my life and my dreams. Most times I was up and out in the morning for the training and now the runs. It’s quieter and I can feel a tad self conscious as I’m not fast at all, just steady. A few times I went out mid evening once the rush hour had passed. On a beautiful evening or an early morning, the sheer exhilaration that I’m out running, getting fitter and helping my body just feels so good.

I used the NHS C25K app https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/get-running-with-couch-to-5k/ and I’m now using the NHS C25K Stepping Stones podcast https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-plus-running-podcasts/ which is for graduates of the C25K training plan. You do need to build up week by week and not go straight to the longer runs or you do run the risk of hurting yourself. I’m hoping that I can keep the running up this time. I have a love/hate relationship with running. I hate getting out of the door to do it and love it when I’m in my stride and that feel good factor when in return.

In other news, I did the shopping…well there was a special offer at the supermarket and you know all those memes we see that say “I run because I love chocolate, pizza and wine”, yep, that’s me.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Nature Heals

As they say in Ireland, the weather has been cat. From the snow in February to a very cold and windy March and April with the odd warm sunny day. The wettest May for decades and then, at last in June some sunny warm days which meant I was able to get out in the garden. Long time readers of my blog will know that during lockdown last year I got outside and tackled a very overgrown and neglected garden and I fell in love with gardening. Whatever you do out there you get instant results to sit back and look at and be proud of. From lawn mowing to weeding, planting seeds or plants, it is just lovely to get out there and work and let your mind roam wherever it pleases. I find it very therapeutic and healing.

It was like a jungle out there. The grass was so long, the Willow tree was not blooming at it should (the Willow saga continues) and as for weeds…OMG absolutely everywhere and growing fast. I got stuck in and over a three days period which made my body feel as if I had been doing continuous squats, and crawling up the stairs to bed, I did make some headway. I’m learning that no matter how much you do in the garden you are never on top of the work. It really is a work in progress and I really do love it.

I love this Camelia, unfortunately almost as soon as it blooms the rain comes and knocks the blooms to the floor. I also love Viola’s and my hanging basket has looked lovely so far this year.

Obsessed with the Snowball tree this year. I don’t think I have ever seen it bloom as beautifully before. I have had to get the Willow Tree partially cut back, in the hope that it will grow back stronger. By cutting the tree back it let a lot more light and space into the area below it and the Snowball Tree has thrived.

Finally, after over twelve months, I managed to get a garden storage box, WHOOP! There was a huge shortage because lots of people took up gardening last year. I had a busy afternoon planting plus my neighbour gave me two tomato plants. I am growing potatoes, garlic, spinach, dwarf green beans, beetroot and radish. Out of view is a gooseberry bush which my neighbour gave me last year. I didn’t think it would survive the Winter but it did and is actually blooming, fingers crossed.

The Shamrock has gone crazy with the sun, heat and rain, looks beautiful though. Me, tired out after a day gardening.

I grew these!!

I planted two halves of a spud in February and yielded fifty small potatoes in early June. They tasted amazing. I have planted some more now for harvesting in September. I honestly can’t believe I’m gardening and growing, or having a go, at growing my own vegetables. It’s very satisfying and I do find that ideas for my music flow whilst I’m out there and my mind is uncluttered and free.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Perfect Time To Be Happy

At last, with vaccinations, restrictions being lifted at various times and a new normal way of life happening it has been just lovely to get out and about a little more. I have to admit that I personally think I was very lucky in the lockdown period. Caring for my parents meant that I was more or less in a lockdown situation for four years. I had just started to venture out and about again when the real lockdown arrived. I was more or less used to not going anywhere socially or even shopping although as usual the minute you are told you can’t do something, you want to do it even more.

Anyway, back to this year and things getting a little easier and days that the sun has shone so brightly and it has felt warm outside. I had a lovely afternoon catching up with my cousins in their garden and it felt like a holiday. So good to see them in person rather than on video calls. Yes, there was Prosecco.

There were a couple of birthday’s amongst the neighbours so I set to baking some cakes. My Mom and my Sister were fantastic cake bakers and I was always just awful. The sponge never rose for me, more like a biscuit base than Victoria Sponge. However in the last couple of years my cake baking has improved. I like to think Mom passed it to me. One of these days I’ll have to bake one of these for himself so that I can have the odd slice. Not even I could finish a whole cake!!

Between the global pandemic, losing my parents and helping himself to care for his Mom who has Vascular Dementia I have realised that what my Dad used to say to me on a regular basis is so true. Life is for living, don’t take life too seriously and the time to be happy is now. I am at peace with my choices, I am free and I have been told that I make people happy with my music, my posts and my random Instagram chats. This makes me happy. I know we all have duties, obligations and worries but we also have life and we owe it to ourselves to be happy and make someone else happy if we can.

Be Happy.

Do something everyday that makes you happy. Now is the perfect time to be happy.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Moving On

Life changes and we have to make changes and however difficult they are, we just have to get stuck in and do things, make things happen. Otherwise we remain stagnant and this makes it all the more difficult to move on. In the grand scheme of things I’m moving on slowly, in my own time and sorting things out when I’m in the right frame of mind to do things. This post as you will have noticed is very much focused on “things’ and in a way, that’s exactly what this post is about. Clearing out things, possessions, material items because although we may have an emotional attachment to them, they can never touch in depth the feeling of love or the memories we hold of those who have themselves, moved on.

Memories and Love.

I am of course talking about my parents clothes and other possessions. It has only been in the past months that I have felt in any way ready to move anything, donate items to charity or throw things away. Being practical I know that it’s the right thing to do to go through the various drawers, cupboards and presses. Sometimes I can be quite quick and decisive, I find something and know straight away whether to bin, donate or keep. Other times I have to sit and relive memories before I can let things go. I have donated almost all of Dad’s clothes to a local charity run by the church which gives clothes and food to people with nothing and to help refugees in our city to get on their feet and make a life. I have made a very slow start on Mom’s wardrobe and for some bizarre reason have managed to donate a lot of my own things!

A random weekend that himself managed to be over with me, we cleared out what was Dad’s room. I have decided to decorate it and make it into my music studio/office. Deep down I have the feeling Dad would be happy with that decision. It was hard moving out the furniture and I was overwhelmed with sadness when the charity came to collect it yet there was also this feeling that a family somewhere would benefit from these items and that was a good feeling. My parents were very giving, it is the right thing to do,

They are just things.

There’s a lot of work to do to get the music room ready and I will enjoy transforming it.

I’m mindful of the fact that should something happen to me, himself would have to come and go through everything and that would be hard enough with just my clutter never mind having to deal with my parents possessions. So I am being practical. I know that these tasks need to be done and I know that I am the best person to do them. It doesn’t make it easy and somedays are better than others at doing these tasks. I’m getting there. It does feel very liberating to go through paperwork that has been filed away for years and clear it out and vow not to let that happen again…yeah right, we all say it and it still piles up.

So moving on. It’s difficult, it’s easy, it’s emotional, it’s sad, it’s liberating, it’s happy, it’s any number of feelings all at once. Most of all for me, it’s healing. I can look back on the memories with happiness and feel blessed that I have such wonderful memories and that cannot be taken away from me.

With love and sparkles xxx

The Music Sparkle ✨🎶

Gone Live

I can’t believe it’s been two months since my last post, the time is flying by and as usual, busy, busy days. It sure is correct that the older you get the faster time goes and surprisingly even in these days of lockdown and restrictions, the time has passed very quickly.

Anyway, I was planning on writing a post about how my first FB live session went and I still will include this information and also tell you how the second FB live session went. Yes, I’ve done two!! Go me and pushing the comfort zone in all directions.

My first ever publicity poster!

I was so excited when the lady that runs The Virtual Club Bar group on FB sent me the above photograph for sharing the event. It was really happening. The day before the event I managed to get a bit of a cold with a sore throat. Typical. I drank lots of honey and lemon and a few Lemsips to ensure I had some kind of voice on the day. Oh I was nerve wracked the thirty minutes before I went live. I was so excited and so scared. I pressed the “go live” button and that was it, I was on. I had selected eight songs and I started off with the first one and although I couldn’t see comments I could see lots of hearts and thumbs up floating across the screen which helped so much. I knocked my microphone over half way through but I kept going. I do have a habit of losing myself in the music and forgetting where I am in a song and that happened to me during “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight”, I kept talking, restarted the backing track and off I went again. I have often said to my lovely vocal coach that my USP will be the audience wondering if I will come in on the right note, at the right time and if I can remember the lyrics because I do drift away into a world of musical daydreams.

Celebrate Good Times Come On!

By the time my 30 minutes was up I was nothing short of exhilarated, I’d done it, my very first gig in a virtual kind of way. My throat just about held up to the last song. It was well received as I was asked back and I did another 30 minutes, without microphones falling or forgetting where I was in the song, on March 14th and I was delighted with the comments and feedback. Somehow I managed to save this particular FB live session to my phone and I have uploaded it to You Tube so if you have half hour free at any point, tune in and let me know what you think.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlqpXf1z_vo&t=23s

The Second Poster.

I have been asked back a third time this time for an hour on Sunday 25th April at 5pm so I am currently working on my set list for that. “Rose Garden” appears to be a firm favourite for people and I’m going to start including more Country and Irish songs as I get more confident. This has been great practice so far for when I may be able to take to an actual stage. The head will be gone off me with nerves when I get that far.

Praying and Manifesting.

Singing is something I always wanted to do and never ever thought I would. After a career in Industry leading to the Corporate world and then giving it up to be a carer for Mom and Dad, I never allowed myself to think that I could make this happen. Yet here we are. I didn’t give up on the dream, I pray, I push myself, I dare to feel the fear and have a go. What have we got to lose but a bit of pride if things don’t go as planned. I know I will regret not having a go at this. I love singing so much, my guitar playing is coming along and I receive such lovely comments from people that it spurs me on. Never ever give up on your dream, you can manifest it, you need to work for it and you can do it.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Snow Days

We haven’t had a real good snowfall in years. The last one I remember was in 2017 and my Dad thought I had gone mad as I got all wrapped up and headed out for a walk in the snow that day. We are very lucky in The Midlands area of England as we appear to escape the extremes of weather that hit other areas. I was delighted when a few weeks back I woke to find it snowing quite heavily and that it was settling on the ground. Oh it looked so beautiful. Yes, I was up and out walking in it and it was magical. Hardly anyone around due to lockdown restrictions, no cars disturbing the snow on the roads and the wonderful sounds of children playing in the gardens with their parents. It was almost silent in places as the snow fell. As you would expect of me, never without the phone in case of photo opportunities, here are my photos of my walk and a celebration of St Bridget’s Day in Ireland, Imbloc and Groundhog Day!

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Going Live

Regular readers of my blog and those that follow me on social media will know that during our first lockdowns last year, I took the plunge and started to sing into my phone and post the songs online. I finally got my website sorted out and published it and I started a Facebook page specifically for the music sprinkled with positive quotes. I’ve been delighted with all the love and support I have received and all the positive comments, shares and visits have really given me more confidence to keep doing what I’m doing.

About three weeks ago I received a message on my music page from a lady who runs a music group on Facebook. She asked me if I would do a live set for them. Holy moly!!! Fear seized me, then excitement, swiftly followed by more fear. I was stunned. Delighted but stunned. Well I had to say yes didn’t I? This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something I have never done before. I have never done a Facebook live and I have never, ever, ever sang live in public. It’s one thing to sing into my phone and post it online but to sing live!!!!

Practicing the songs for the live event.

So I said yes and arranged the date with her. I go live on Sunday 21st February at 4 pm GMT in The Virtual Bar. I have been practicing nine songs for the half hour set. I wasn’t sure how many I would need and if I start chatting, then I may only need one or two!!! Best to be prepared and have more than enough. I’m very grateful to this lady for giving me the opportunity to sing live and push my boundaries, as scary as it may be. I need to do it.

I’ve been reading a lot over the past months about Law of Attraction and I have watched the film The Secret. It’s so interesting the concept of asking for, working towards and manifesting what you want. Since I was a child I have imagined myself on stage singing. I was in my bedroom as a teenager singing away to my records and working out my dance moves. I lost most, if not all, of that creativity and enthusiasm as life unfolded and I wandered up and down different paths. When I gave up work to look after my parents, their Doctor said I needed to have something for me to escape and unwind with. Back came the music. Now life has guided me down another path and the music has become my main focus. I’m forever thinking of songs, drafting lyrics, dancing in the kitchen and yes again, visualising myself on a stage singing. Especially over these past months when I’ve been posting songs online. Is it possible that I am manifesting my dream?

February has opened up an opportunity for me. I’m pushing myself outside of the comfort zone. I’ll let you know how it goes.

February Love.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Get Your Healthy Sparkle On

January 2021. New Year, new start and yes we’ve all been here before. We have such great enthusiasm when we start anything new and it takes real determination to keep the momentum going. Whether it’s diet, exercise, work, a new project, you need to have real passion to see it through.

Over the past years since I have been writing my blog I’m sure I have written in January or even mid way through the year about heathy starts, eating well, moving more. And yes, I’m a prime example of someone with the best of intentions that falls off the wagon all the time and you know what, it doesn’t matter. I never give up. At some point I will try again.

Whilst I was a carer for my parents I lost weight, I was on the go all the time but I wasn’t what you would call fit and probably not healthy as I grabbed at snacks to keep going. When I lost both parents in 2019 I lost a lot of weight and I looked awful. There I said it. I did, I looked dreadful. Skinny doesn’t suit me. Then I started the chocolate and prosecco diet and after a while (because you can only get away with these things for so long) the weight piled on.

Last year during the first lockdown of the pandemic, my cousins and I completed the Couch to 5K training. We would all have a Zoom call to discuss how our “run” had gone that day and we were super proud to have completed it. You know from previous blog posts that I started gardening and that kept me active. At the end of August my cousin suggested a fitness trainer on YouTube so I investigated. Oh wow, this lady has changed my perception of working out. I love her workouts. There is something for everyone regardless of age, ability or whatever area you may be targeting to full workouts. The workouts are from 3 minutes to 30 minutes and I love them. I’m fitter, more flexible, toned and the workout has become a habit. Lucy Wyndham-Read is motivational and for me and many others, has revolutionised working out. https://www.youtube.com/user/LWRFitnessChannel/featured (The photo above is me post workout).

As the weather changed and I wasn’t out gardening, running or even walking so much plus I was now caring part time for a lady with vascular dementia, once again the snacking and food intake increased. I wasn’t exactly gaining additional weight as the workouts daily were obviously keeping things in balance but I did become mindful of what I was eating. One account that I follow on Instagram, Derek in the Kitchen, had a story about Nutracheck. Like the majority of us he was fed up with various diet plans, restrictions, fasting etc etc and just wanted to see values of what he was eating. This was exactly what I wanted. I eat lots of fruit and vegetables but am I getting my five a day? I drink lots of water but is it enough? Bananas have more calories than a glass of Prosecco? Really? Yes!!!!

I signed up for three months and it has opened my eyes to what I’m eating. I don’t appear to eat a lot of fats or foods with salt. I do eat a lot of carbohydrates and my sugar intake is off the scale. There appears to be sugar in so many foods! Over Christmas I enjoyed the goodies. The cakes, chocolates, nibbles and yes, the fizz. I don’t feel guilty, I had what I wanted to eat. I had a couple of walks, I didn’t work out, I had a restful holiday season. https://www.nutracheck.co.uk/Home

I wrote a post on Instagram last week about healthy eating, working out, getting fitter and everything in moderation. It really resonated with people. I had loads of messages from people saying that they too were fed up with the usual diets, food restrictions, starving themselves. I decided last year during the first lockdown that I would never diet again, life is just too short not to have what you enjoy. Just have it in moderation.

I’m not counting calories, I’m mindful of what I eat. I’m drinking more water, I’m back on the daily workouts, I have my treats and I’m getting fitter, healthier and toning up. I’ve signed up for the Country Walking Magazine #Walk1000Miles2021 challenge. https://www.walk1000miles.co.uk/ I’m off to a slow start but it is only January.

We can do this. We can get fitter, healthier and more active. Some small changes go a long way. Are you with me? Get your sparkle on!

With love and sparkles xxx