The Pomodoro Technique

What is the Pomodoro technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management approach developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and traditionally, the timer will run for 25 minutes at a time with 5 minute breaks, until the fourth break which is for 10 minutes.

“Pomodoro” is the Italian word for “tomato” and the technique is named as such due to the timer that Cirillo used at university being shaped like a tomato!


How does it help me?

Automated reminders.

It’s very easy to get engrossed in a project that you might forget to make yourself a drink or stretch your legs regularly so the sound of the Pomodoro app pinging to signal a 5 minute break is a regular reminder for me to do just that!

Time to rest my eyes.

Not literally, I’m not talking about mid-morning naps, but we spend a lot of time looking at screens these days: computer screens for work, phone and tablet screens for social media and TV screens for entertainment…We’re inundated with screens, so to have a regular reminder to rest my eyes, look out of the window, do a wordsearch, and look at something that isn’t showering my eyeballs with blue light is really helpful for me.

Less procrastination, more motivation.

My mindset has changed from “I’ve got all day to do this” to “I’ve got 50 minutes to get to this particular stage” so I push myself to meet mini goals in the time I have before the app signals a break. This means that I procrastinate less and I feel more motivated to get things done and tick them off my list.

I make it work for me.

The default settings are 25 minutes of work with a 5 minute break and then after 4 rounds, a 10 minute break. That said, you can make it your own. I tend to work for 50 minutes and having 10 minute breaks so that I can fit in work calls, and the longer break is 1 hour to accommodate my lunch.

My day feels better structured.

I suppose it goes without saying that the structure to my day makes it more productive and enjoyable. Since it is divided into manageable chunks, I don’t feel overwhelmed with everything that I need to do; I assign a project to each 50-minute session so that nothing falls off the end of the list.


Where can I find it?

There are Pomodoro apps on both the Apple Store and Google Play Store, but also if you’re using your computer and you would rather keep it to one device, you can also find websites with the same time management functions.


Moving forward…

This app has gone straight on my home screen because I use it every day. As well as the working day, it seems like something I could maybe use for HIIT workouts to factor in those short breaks and home projects that I want to get started but keep putting off!

Have you ever used the Pomodoro technique or app, or do you plan on trying it?

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100 Thoughts Working From Home

1. Okay, let’s do this, time for work. *Snoozes alarm*
2. YEAH, totally ready and raring to go! *Snoozes alarm for the second time*
3. Okay, I’ve got 20 minutes to get ready, go, go, go!
4. How did I ever get up in plenty of time and commute?!
5. Anyway, don’t think about that, just find some clean pants and go brush your teeth.
6. Hmm, breakfast… Toast? Packet of crisps? Is there a difference now?
7. Yes, there is, Paris. For goodness sake, make the toast.
8. When the toast pops up and it’s the perfect colour…
9. We’re off to a good start, y’know.
10. Right, cup of tea, open the laptop, bish, bash, bosh.
11. The clock has struck nine. Let’s go. Today will be productive.
12. Why did I put a meeting in at 9am?!
13. More to the point, why do the settings default to me joining with my video on?
14. Good job I’m getting into the habit of checking that setting before we dial in.
15. Oh that’s a lot of faces.
16. Are we all putting video on for this meeting?
17. Somehow I don’t think the Sales Manager will be keen on me showing up with my messy bun and Winnie the Pooh t-shirt.
18. Have people tidied their home offices in preparation for having their video on?
19. Who is that prepared?
20. Is everyone else putting their video on?
21. I mean, if there’s at least someone else without theirs on, I think I’ll be okay.
22. Okay, we’re good. There’s at least three of us still in our comfies and not willing to put video on.
23. As long as no-one mentions it, let’s just leave it at that. As long as I contribute to the meeting, I’m sure it’ll be grand.
24. *An hour later* Thank goodness for that. Meeting over. No mention of the video. Excellent result.
25. Okay, admin time.
26. Let’s all file an e-mail, an e-mail, an e-mail, let’s all file an e-mail in it’s rightful place.
27. Do dee do dee dooo deee dooo deee dooo deee, do dee do dee dooo deee dooo deee dooo.
28. *Skype alerts to a new message* “Just a quick question…”
29. It’s never a quick question though, is it?

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30. Be honest, Debbie, this is going to be an all-day project, isn’t it?
31. Also, I can’t prioritise my Skype messages.
32. I like to leave emails unread so I know I have to pick them up later.
33. But I can’t do that with your message.
34. You risk your “quick question” being forgotten about…
35. *Twentyfive minutes later* Case in point. Not a quick question!
36. Proof-read, proof-read, proof-read.
37. Look away from screen and at the sky for a few minutes in between…
38. I do like having all my meetings in the morning.
39. It means this afternoon can be admin time without interruptions.
40. *Three hours later* THIRSTY. Cup of tea time. Should probably stretch my legs, they’ve been crossed on this dining chair for three hours.
41. Hey, we aren’t even far from lunch now, team!
42. Might do a little Instagram video of me stirring my tea. That’s the height of interesting things happening around here today.
43. Pop a cute little song on top of there annnnnd tea break’s over.
44. Back to it, girl!
45. Squint at the screen, get headache, have to take a break, and repeat.
46. Squint.
47. Headache.
48. Break.
49. Repeat.
50. I honestly think the commute was a great time of day to be away from a screen for 20 minutes.
51. Is it me or do we just not get away from them now?
52. Laptop for work, phone for social media, personal laptop for blogging, TV for downtime…
53. My EYYYYES.
54. Okay, lunch time. Time to switch my gaze to the fridge. Yesss.

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55. Reheating leftovers without having to make small talk is one of my favourite things.
56. Also without queuing for the microwave! Seems like a distant memory now…
57. How many dishes can I wash in the two minutes on the microwave?
58. 3, 2, 1…Go!
59. *Dishes complete, walking past shoes whilst stretching my legs*
60. I wonder if my shoes think I’ve abandoned them for good.
61. I’ll be back, friends. One day.
62. Ooh note to self, vacuum in here later.
63. (Definitely going to forget that as soon as I walk out of here).
64. Ooh, could put some laundry in whilst I’m walking past the washing machine.
65. Chores are easier to sprinkle in between work now. I do like that.
66. Right, back to it.
67. Oh, who’s putting calls in at 3pm?
68. Did you not hear me thinking about this earlier?!
69. Could you not have spoken to me before just deciding that was acceptable?!
70. Ugh.
71. I can’t be bothered challenging it though.
72. I’m just going to begrudgingly join.
73. Come on, it’s only 15 minutes. It’s okay.
74. It isn’t a call I have to lead or prepare for either.
75. Just be there. Me, myself and my opinions.
76. …and my cup of tea. Obviously.
77. My cup of tea! I left it by the kettle, again…
78. Okay, they’re forgiven. Quick call, c’mon let’s go.
79. *Thirty minutes later* I don’t know why people put 15 minutes in to natter on for 25.
80. Does my time mean nothing to you, Sheila?
81. Okay, let’s crack on, work to do, people!
82. Hmm, those flowers have seen better days…
83. Focus! Now is not the time to be writing a To Buy list.
84. Okay but I’ll just write it down before I forget…
85. Right, not long to go now.
86. Oh, hello, the almost-hometime-influx-of-questions. Why do people decide to open a can of worms “just before I go”?
87. Can’t you do that “just as I’ve logged in” so that I can prioritise and manage my time?
88. If I don’t answer this now, I’ll definitely forget tomorrow…

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89. Just quickly, before I sign out…
90. Oh, crap, it’s 5:45. Why didn’t anybody remind me when it was home time at half past?!
91. Where were all the eager people standing up and putting on their coats?
92. That’s one thing about working from home…
93. I need a timer on my phone or something.
94. Right, just finish this off and we’re good to close the laptop…
95. *Twenty minutes later* Wahoo! Home time, babyyy.
96. Buckle in for the 2 minute commute!
97. …aaaaand sofa time.
98. Oh, I did say I was going to do a workout today, didn’t I?
99. Ah I’m exhausted.
100. Tomorrow, it is.

If you enjoyed this post, I share more thoughts lists here:

The Virtual Care Package

In the current pandemic and lockdown situation, I haven’t ordered anything to be delivered to our home apart from food, and I’m trying to keep deliveries to the essentials as an extra health and safety precaution.

With that in mind, and having a loved one struggling with anxiety, I wanted to do something to help without potentially triggering anything or making it worse.

Cue, the Virtual Care Package. An e-mail with all the things you think might make their day that little bit better with no postage, delivery or waiting times! The items can be personalised, things you’ve made, or simply resources you’ve seen online that you think would be useful.

I’ve come up with some ideas to start you off (most of these are examples from the actual care package I sent):

A Yoga, comedy, or an uplifting YouTuber video.

A personalised Spotify playlist or your favourite playlist.

Resources to directly help with anxiety e.g. Mind charity or NHS resources.

Some photos of you together.

Plans you’d like to make together when this is all over.

Colouring sheets that they can print and relax with (link or PDF attachment).

Instagram accounts to make them laugh/smile.

Uplifting podcasts.

An eBook you think they’ll like.

A Netflix show you enjoyed.

A poem that you’ve written for them, or an already written one that you think will make them smile.

An invitation to a virtual quiz either that someone is holding or that you’re hosting yourself.

Recipes you know they’ll love.

Positive news stories from the week.

Online tours of museums and attractions.

A Skype link for you to have a cup of tea and a catch up.

An image you’ve drawn or a blog post you’ve written.

What would you like to include or receive in a Virtual Care Package?

Travelling into a Pandemic

It’s amazing, and scary, how quickly things can change: in a year, in a month, even in a day. That last one, we understand now better than we ever did before.

We left for Belgium in very early March 2020, aware of the global news but with no travel restrictions or high alerts in the media particularly for the UK or Belgium, it seemed the coast was clear for the time being.

It was our first time travelling by Eurostar and I have to say, I’m very impressed with their service. The journey there was seamless and the journey back, though earlier than planned, was pretty smooth too.

Day one was fairly standard for a city break of ours. Head out for breakfast, then for a wander, make sure we stop by a few landmarks, grab some lunch, meander back towards our accommodation, get changed and pop out for dinner.

Our second full day in Brussels was almost a 180-degree turn. We spent it indoors in our Airbnb apartment, after an alarming amount of pharmacies were displaying “No Hand Sanitiser or Masks Available” signs and an unsettling feeling in the air. Needless to say, anxiety held us captive other than a trip to a cafe for breakfast, and a trip to the closest Carrefour for supplies for the next 48 hours. We were lucky that the Airbnb was furnished with a small fridge-freezer, oven, hob and kettle, and we had decided that it might be best to limit our exploring. Even if we hadn’t made this decision, it became just about mandatory when the closure of cafes, bars and restaurants was announced, effective from midnight that night. This was none other than Friday 13th March, living up to its name if you’re superstitious.

It became very real, very quickly.

I was refreshing Eurostar’s Twitter feed more often than I was blinking. I would be seemingly in a trance watching Brooklyn Nine Nine on the Amazon Firestick one minute, only to be in floods of tears the next when my thoughts flickered back to the real world.

Not only was this a bit like the first 10 minutes of a sci-fi film, but we were also living it 350 miles away from home.

The Eurostar back the next day would cost no less than 400€ for the two of us. It was steep, and when I say steep, I mean it was over three times the amount we paid for both of our return tickets together. The difference between self-isolating in our Airbnb for one or two more days compared to travelling home earlier really was minimal. We had already stocked up at Carrefour and planned to continue making our way through Brooklyn Nine Nine. We’d wait it out.

The tweet that I’d been hoping for popped up at 4pm the next day:

“If you have already commenced your journey and wish to return earlier this weekend, please make your way to the station and you will be placed on the next available service free of charge.”

This was it. Home time, baby!

I have never been so excited to come home from a city break. We packed our suitcases and set alarms for the morning, to be at the Eurostar departure lounge for the 07:52 to London.

We made it onto the train after showing the Eurostar staff the tweet that I had saved. I took a screenshot with the stubborn view that nothing was getting between me and that ticket home! Thankfully, although staff were seemingly unaware of this new approach, they honoured the tweet and we hopped on.

With plenty of space, armed with hand sanitiser and the Belgian chocolates I’d bought in Duty Free as a last minute souvenir, we were on our way back to home turf.

The train home from London was less straightforward to change, but in the grand scheme of things, we got off lightly with two new tickets for £30. It could have been so much worse.

The train was full and I spent the whole time wishing it would go faster and people would get off at the next stop. Somehow we had landed ourselves on a service that stopped at every tiny station that no-one has even heard of.

Grateful to have made it, we closed the front door behind us and flopped onto the sofa, not before washing our hands of course. We had packed the toilet roll and hand soap we’d bought in Carrefour having heard about the emptying shelves in the UK, and I’m pretty glad we did. We immediately contacted our employers to discuss working from home, who were very understanding and I must say, I am very grateful that we are in a position to work from home and to have been isolating since.

The anxiety hasn’t gone, no definitely not (it never does), but it’s certainly more manageable in the comfort of your own home.

Belgium, we will be back one day when we can and I look forward to seeing the sights and enjoying your beautiful country sometime soon.

My Top 6 Self Care Activities

Self-care has found its voice in the last year or so and whilst I’m very glad it has, I think we need to strip back the definition and simplify it. By the very nature of humanity, we are all different so perhaps bubble baths and journaling are right up your street and in that case, this list might not be so interesting to you; but for anyone looking for a simpler and more straightforward idea of self-care, maybe this list is what you’re looking for…

Look after your teeth/Go to the dentist.

I left it longer than I’d like to admit between graduating university and getting a new dentist in my new hometown and honestly, the pain of a scale and polish at the time has encouraged me to brush better, buy floss and keep up with it! It takes a couple of minutes at each end of the day and it can save you pain and money down the line.

Brush your hair (unless you want dreadlocks obviously).

I feel way more ready to start the day if I run a brush through my hair and style it. Even if working from home, the fresh smell of shampoo and soft locks is worth it.

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Skincare!

There are so many bloggers out there with the expertise and lots of recommendations, there’s really no excuse for not looking after your skin. I like a makeupless weekend as well just to refresh and let my skin breathe, but it’s up to you how you structure a routine.

Exercise.

You don’t need a gym membership, you don’t need running kit, you don’t even need to go outside! Fresh air is really good for you but if once in a while you’d rather follow an aerobics video on YouTube, then that’s far better than not doing anything. I like following ‘YogaWithAdriene’ sessions on YouTube because her videos are varying lengths and levels, it’s never difficult to find a suitable one.

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Make time for your mind to completely recharge.

Yoga? Read a light novel? Meditate… You don’t even need an activity. Sometimes I find a cosy spot to lie on the floor on my back, stretch out, close my eyes and take some time to just be.

Read a book.

As a child, imagination was at the forefront of a lot of the things we did; as an adult, we don’t really use it so much. Reading for as little as 15-20 minutes a day both taps into your imagination as you picture the characters and the setting, and gives you chance to let go of the day, let go of any troubles and just be in a fictitious world for a little while. Sometimes it’s a well-earned rest.

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What’s a simple but effective self-care activity that you enjoy?

 

 

Why I’ve Stopped Watching the News

I might have muted words and phrases on Twitter but why can’t I stop myself from searching about it on Google? I keep reassuring myself and when I say it out loud, it does sound irrational, but why can’t I stop thinking about it?

It’s the reason I can’t watch House MD even when I have the slightest cold or any aches and pains, and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s something I’m currently struggling with.

Health Anxiety.

I feel like as a Brit, maybe the panic is something I should be used to by now.

“It’s snowing… Quick! Everybody go home from work and school or we might be stuck here forever behind that one inch of snow that might only stick for one day, but everybody paniiiiiic!”

I don’t really watch the news anymore because it embeds a fear in me that my brain already compiles for itself. I’ll scroll the BBC News app if I’m feeling particularly brave but otherwise, I’m quite happy in my Netflix and Instagram bubble. My theory is that if it’s something I really need to know, the news will reach me somehow.

Some news, however, seeps through on more than a need-to-know basis and that’s when it gets tricky. A pandemic illness, a worldwide drama, perhaps affecting multiple regions and countries. I might not fit the criteria or be in the right area but if the internet is panicking, should I be panicking?

No. The answer is no. I think.

Oh the irony of worrying about my physical health having a negative impact on my mental health (and in turn, sometimes, physical health!)

So I shut myself off from it all. I take a break from social media, mute keywords on Twitter and delete all the shortcuts from my home screen. I even write on my Instagram stories that I’m taking a break, only to come back a few days later when I realise that the platform for pretty pictures and uplifting captions (certainly amongst the people I follow) might actually help rather than hinder (because social media isn’t all awful and scary). I decide that the app I’ll leave for a while is Twitter, but then Google notifications start pinging to tell me how terrifying everything is and it feels like even though I’ve closed the door, it’s now lurking at the window, still trying to get in.

I open the door to peer out into the daylight and there it is: “Oh, were you just about reaching rational thoughts? Well, here’s the thing, you should still be worried and here are ten reasons why…”

There’s no escaping it when it has the outside world to roam around in, in the same way you can’t mute keywords on your Google app. A not-so-ideal realisation for anyone in this predicament.

One thing that helps is talking. Hearing other points of view, particularly from Dean who is the honestly the best person to balance out my irrational worries (no, you’re biased). Even saying what I’m thinking out loud helps me hear the sheer irrationality of it, for a while at least.

The trick is not to Google it, not to even dip my toe in the sea of scaremongering, clickbait article titles. It’s okay to open the door, to step outside into the daylight, but a ship cannot sink if it does not let the water in. I try to work on my resilience, remind myself of the precautions we are taking and therefore why it’s okay to have those thoughts, but not to let them sink my ship.

Bad things happen in the world, scary things happen in the world (I’d be naive to think they don’t), and if I switch on the TV to the news at tea time, I’m going to hear them all and that might just be the wave to try and write off my vessel.

I’ve taken solace in reading not only the Harry Potter series to lose myself in a magical novel, but also in life stories from authors such as Matt Haig and Fiona Thomas, who explore the worlds of anxiety and the effects of technology on an already troubled mind. Taking out a library membership might have been one of the best things I’ve done for my mind. Not only does it force me out into the fresh air to collect a reservation or return a due item; it has also led me to these authors that have opened my mind and helped me feel somewhat at ease that I’m not the only one that experiences these feelings and that all thoughts will pass.

Whilst reducing my screen time has led my Instagram following to drop and my blogging to take a back seat, it has also opened my mind to what I think might be my favourite genre of book to read. In the same way that I have found like-minded, lovely, uplifting people on social media, I’ve found like-minded people and their thoughts on a physical set of pages.

I don’t think it’s realistic to try to live a life without hearing negative news stories or nerve-wracking goings on in the world, but I do think it’s possible to filter out the unhelpful and let in the need-to-know and the uplifting. If I can be selective with the people I choose to associate with and the events I go to, there’s no reason I can’t be selective with the information I consume too.

Beating the January Blues

Christmas is such a beautiful, festive time that has a very long build-up yet is over very quickly. It’s not uncommon for Winter weather to already have a negative impact on mental health which means that the post-Christmas blues couldn’t come at a worse time. Believe it or not though, I’m not here to talk all doom and gloom, I’m here to share some ideas to help lift spirits that work for me.

Get Active.

Red January is the perfect opportunity to raise money for charity and get those muscles moving after having been slumped on the sofa watching Gavin & Stacey and eating Christmas chocs. It’s really up to you what you do, but the premise is getting active every day throughout the month of January in partnership with Mind charity for mental health. Exercise has been proven to improve mental health and I know that personally, I don’t need to buy a bike or a gym membership, even just a walk around my local area can lift my spirits.

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Harness an Attitude of Gratitude.

This one is a monthly occurrence for me but it certainly helps in the times that I’m struggling more with my mental wellbeing. Sitting down each morning or evening to write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for can help you dig deep for reasons to feel a bit more positive.

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Recognise Your Emotions.

It’s absolutely okay to be sad and experience those emotions rather than pack them deep and trying to be positive all the time – that’s exhausting! Sometimes I watch a sad film and just let myself cry because I know that’s what’s needed, other times I might talk to someone I trust because the one thing that I know will help is a listening ear.

How do you combat the post-Christmas blues?

25 ways to say Merry Christmas!

1. Merry Christmas! (UK/USA)
2. Nadolig Llawen (Wales)
3. Nollaig Chridheil (Scotland)
4. Nollaig Shona Dhuit (Ireland)
5. Joyeux Noel (France)
6. Feliz Navidad (Spain)
7. Boas Festas (Portugal
8. Buon Natale (Italy)

9. Frohliche Weihnachten (Germany)
10. Il-Milied it-Tajjeb / Festi t-Tajba (Malta)
11. Boldog Karacsonyt (Hungary)
12. Frohe Weihnachten (Austria)
13. Vesele Vanoce / Vesele Vianoce (Czech Republic & Slovakia)
14. Laimingu Kaledu (Lithuania)
15. God Jul (Sweden/Norway)
16. Prettige Kerstdagen (Netherlands)

17. Kala Christougenna (Greece)
18. Milad Mubarak (Morocco)
19. Häid Jõule (Estonia)
20. Hyvää Joulua (Finland)
21. Glædelig Jul (Denmark)
22. Gleðileg jól (Iceland)
23. Milad bayramınız mübarək (Azerbaijan)
24. счастливого Рождества
schastlivogo Rozhdestva (Russia)
25. Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus (Latvia)

Are there any languages you can add to the list? Let me know in the comments. Hope you have a beautiful, heartwarming day!

24 thoughts on Christmas Eve

1. Good MORNING, Christmas Eve!
2. Okay so I still need to make sure I’m in work mode but a Christmas blouse and some tinsel on my desktop never hurt anyone.
3. Hmm, what can I have as a festive breakfast?
4. Maybe something I can put cinnamon in?
5. Okay I can’t decide and time is of the essence so I’ll just treat myself to something from Caffe Nero on my way in.

6. If you can’t treat yourself at Christmas then when can you?
7. Can I put tinsel round my bobble, or is that too much?
8. Maybe too much. Rein it in, P.
9. Rein it in. Reign-deer. Heh. All the Christmas puns.
10. Oh I love seeing the Christmas tree every morning.
11. …Finally all the presents are underneath it too!

12. I cannot wait to see everyone’s faces tomorrow when they open them.
13. Okay, work mode, let’s go. Although, it doesn’t feel like work mode.
14. The office is half empty (or half full, depending on your perspective) and workload is diminishing rapidly.
15. Not that I’m complaining, it means I can plan for January and try to get ahead on my other objectives at work. 16. Personal development time, wahoo.

17. I wonder what I should write as my Out of Office message. “I’m currently (probably) listening to Christmas songs and dancing around the kitchen with a gingerbread biscuit in one hand and a bucks fizz in the other”.
18. Too much information?
19. Okay, maybe let’s not mention the bucks fizz.
20. Ohh I wiiiish it couuuld be Christmaas, every day-ay-ay…
21. Ahh, non-customer-facing jobs are great on Christmas Eve.
22. I can’t wait to go home and whack my ultimate Christmas playlist on full blast.
23. I think working Christmas Eve gives me some structure, I’d be too excitable if I were at home today.
24. ONE MORE SLEEP!

23 realisations while putting up the Christmas tree

1. The tree stand is integral yet somehow forgotten about for a lot of the time.
2. Pulling out the branches is the least fun part of putting up the tree.
3. It’s lights before tinsel.
4. Lights are like earphones only ten times worse to unravel because they’ve been in the box for a year rather than a day!

5. Though you can just hold the lights and spin the tree rather than walk around the tree.
6. It’s quite a task to make the tree look even, if that’s what you’re going for.
7. People don’t decorate the back?!
8. …Neither do I anymore.
9. People don’t seem too into tinsel these days.
10. Baubles take a pretty long time to hang on the tree if you have to tie the strings first.

11. I never seem to decide between glossy or matte baubles and we just have both.
12. There’s a decision to be made as to whether you’re going for random, family decoration or even, colour co-ordinated.
13. Your floor will not be seen for glitter…
14. …And that’s okay. It’s Christmas!
15. Somehow I still always find gaps in my Christmas tree where there’s no branch or decoration.

16. There are an unnecessary amount of settings for lights. I’m okay with just on and off… Why do we need 19 sequences?
17. Twinkly lights seem to work better in shop windows rather than my lounge.
18. Turns out beads aren’t so in this year.
19. We always end up with leftover decorations because I either don’t use them all or I’ve kept previous colour combination.
20. The tinsel always seems shorter each year somehow! (See point 7 for a resolution to this)

21. Fortunately we have wood flooring but this must make a real dent in carpet.
22. Green wire on the lights is definitely best for a green tree.
23. It isn’t the easiest to make your star straight!