Finding Joy in January

Why the bad rap’s totally unjustified…
Finding Joy in January - The Cardiff Cwtch

Hey look at us; who would have thought? Not me! Because the fact of the matter is that anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve got a long history of ripping on January. Historically, I’ve hated it. I’ve called it the worst month of the year, the most depressing month of the year, and if there’d ever been a petition to bin January then my signature would have been right at the top. I mean, let’s be honest; at face value, there’s not a lot to like. It’s dark, it’s gloomy, there’s all that new year/new you pressure, all the Christmas fashion’s on the floor in the sale section, and – let’s be honest – the bank account’s always in a state of recovery this time of year.

So I was more than a little bit surprised when the other day (in the middle of cleaning my bathroom – that’s when all the big thinking in my life happens, clearly) that so far, I’ve actually really enjoyed January. Even though, I haven’t really done much. I haven’t booked any holidays, I haven’t eaten out (other than a massive fry up round the local garden centre cafe), I hadn’t even hit the Sales until last week. I’ve just been quietly doing the things I enjoy – like cooking, writing, walking – and since Sunny decided to relax the crazy hours he was working before Christmas, we’ve had more time to piss around on the PlayStation and goof around with Bungle. There have been zero plans made, zero events attended… and zero expectations.

And that’s the trick to it, I think. Zero expectations.

The trouble with January is that there’s a huge amount of pressure to blast out the other side of Christmas and into the new year at a hundred miles an hour. It’s all about movement – about setting goals, making plans, booking holidays, and this year I just didn’t bother with any of that! Not intentionally, I might add; the truth is that it was a busy Christmas and I was absolutely knackered come January 1st. I needed a break – a couple of weeks just to breathe – to slip back into a routine. I didn’t want to throw myself at a hundred miles an hour into anything other than my baggiest jumper, the left over Christmas chocolates and season one of The Witcher. Normally I’d have slapped my own wrist after a couple of days and had a bit of a word with myself, but this year I decided to just allow that slight pause and not expect too much out of January – and I tell you what, it’s been the best thing I’ve done for myself in a while.

Finding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff Cwtch

The only slightly “January” thing I have done is that I’ve started documenting on my phone – through my camera roll and in my notes – the little things that I’m grateful for every day. Small things, like late breakfasts on the weekend, frosty mornings walking Bungle in the field, a bargain Sezane shirt dupe for £5, home improvements and playing board games with my family. I knowwwwww – whenever I’ve seen people mention Gratitude Journals in the past my eyes have rolled so far back into my head that I could see my own brain. But after a heavy 2019 the only thing I’ve been craving for 2020 is more of the little things I enjoy – and writing them down and taking pictures of them just serves to remind me what those things are. That way I can make time for more of them – which is exactly what I’ve been doing so far this January. No big plans, no expectations, just small moments of gratitude for the things I love. 🙂

Finding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff Cwtch

Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

New Year, No Pressure

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A couple of days before the New Year a bunch of daffodils sprung up and bloomed in our front garden – which is weird, because traditionally daffs have got at least another month or so of underground snoozing to go before they’re expected.  But nope, these guys are up and ready to go.  You know, as if they’re raring to smash 2018.  I mean, if they were human they’d have quit smoking, organised their bullet journals and vowed to go vegan by now.

And it’s not just my eager daffs, during the first week of January there’s always that pressure to get up, get going and – like a crash test dummy on their first day of work – throw yourself at 80 miles an hour into a brand new year.  There’s that fresh page right in front of us and the chance to start over and reinvent which is exciting…

…But also TERRIFYING, and comes with a huge amount of pressure (if you’re a writer then you’ll know how terrifying empty pages are!).

I wish I could say that I had the same January Get up and Go attitude that my daffodils have, but the truth is that it takes me a bit longer than that.  For me, January has always been a massive struggle.  I used to dread the trudge back to school and the old routine after spending time with my family at Christmas, and I’m always falling foul of the January Blues.  It’s a dark, cold and miserable time of year; not exactly the easiest month to feel motivated to get up early and get crack-a-lacking on those goals, amiright?

For people like me, the expectation that I’ll wake up on the 1st of January bright eyed having switched into a new mindset overnight is completely unrealistic (…the truth is that I spent the first couple of hours of 2018 with my head down a toilet… but I digress…). And yet the pressure to do that is everywhere, so it’s easy to beat yourself up when you wake up in January and just want to groan and bury your head under the covers instead.

My January Self-Care Kit: Plenty of reading material, fresh flowers to brighten up the house on dull days, lots of candles and fairy lights, hot tea, sticky buns and lots of time spent with the beardo and Bungle ♡

I’m not saying that I’m not excited for 2018, believe me, I really am (2017 was one of my favourite years so far 🙂 ).  But I’m going to need some time to ease myself into it, and January seems like the perfect month for some self care and self reflection.  I’m going to hold off on the resolutions and goal setting until February at least, and spend the month quietly feeding myself instead.  Not with food exactly (although there are still two Chocolate Oranges in my kitchen cupboard that I’m very excited survived Christmas…), but with all the things that I’m going need to inspire that fresh mindset when Spring arrives.  I want to read, I want to write, eat good food, go exploring and then come home and cwtch up somewhere warm and cosy with a cup of tea.  Unlike those eager daffs, this girl needs just a little bit more time sleeping underground before she can be expected to bloom.

What’s in your January Self-Care Kit? 🙂

Ten Things to do in Cardiff to Beat the January Blues

“January is my favourite month of the year,” said no one.  Ever.  I mean, come on, it’s bleak.  Christmas is over, it’s suddenly extra dark without all the fairy lights and decorations, and everyone’s either on a diet or hibernating in the dark.  It’s a depressing time of year.  But it doesn’t last forever, thank goodness.  A few little pick-me-up’s this time of year can go a long way to fending off the January Blues until Spring comes back around.

▲Go Trampolining at GoAir!  If getting fit or starting an exercise routine is top of your list of goals for 2017 then this will ease you right in.  GoAir! in Ty Glas is a trampoline park – a whole warehouse full of trampolines to spring and somersault around on to your heart’s content (…or until your legs turn to jelly).  Not only is it great fun, but I staggered out of there red-faced and spluttering for air, so it’s a great way of working off all those Terry’s Chocolate Oranges you scoffed for breakfast at Christmas (…oh no wait, that was me).

Cardiff's

▲Walk across the Cardiff Bay Barrage.  One of my favourite walks.  Park up somewhere near Penarth Heights and walk down past the Custom House, over the Barrage and into Cardiff Bay for food or coffee.  The walk takes you past the BBC studios, the Doctor Who Experience (which isn’t sticking around for much longer, I’ve heard), the Norwegian Church and the Senedd.

▲Escape Rooms.  Instead of staying in and Netflixing it with your mates or your family on a Friday night, why not lock yourself in a room with them instead?  There are several Escape Rooms in Cardiff to choose from (Check out my review of Escape Reality here), all with themed rooms in which teams have an hour to solve enough clues and riddles to be able to escape.  You’ll either be laughing or arguing by the end of it!

▲Museum Hopping.  And there are plenty of Museums in and around Cardiff to hop to.  In the centre of Cardiff there’s the National Museum of Wales (free!) and The Cardiff Story in the Old Library (free!).  Down the Bay there’s the Pierhead Museum (free!) and Techniquest, and just outside Cardiff there’s also the Museum of Welsh Life – also known as St Fagans (free!).

▲Go Karting.  If you’re a fan of classic games like Mario Kart and Crash Bandicoot then why not try the real thing out?  I took Sunny Go Karting for his birthday and we had a blast trying to beat each other round the track.

▲Eat!  There are so many great places to eat in Cardiff these days, it’s hard to pick a favourite.  There’s Hangfire in Barry when I’m feeling extra carnivorous, Joe’s Ice Cream on Wellfield Road when I’m craving ice-cream… Signor Valentinos for Italian food, and Antlers at the Thornhill Farm Shop for tea and cake with a view…  As for the rest, I’m still discovering them myself 🙂


▲Chips and 20p Machines at Barry Island.  Okay, technically, it’s not in Cardiff – but it’s close enough.  I’ve blogged about Barry Island so many times; it’s my favourite place for a walk along the beach.  Be sure to stop in at Bay 5 for a hot chocolate, or O’Sheas for Fish and Chips – take in the view from the top of the Barry Eye/High, and cash in your tokens for a Barrybados Mug in one of the Arcades.

▲Go bird watching at Forest Farm.  This place is a total secret and one of the best places to get out, walk and watch the birds.  Not far from Coryton, Forest Farm sprawls alongside the M4 (though you wouldn’t know it, it’s so quiet), and is a great place to explore on a clear and frosty winter’s day.


▲Explore a Castle.  We’re lucky that Wales has more castles than any other country in Europe.  Just in and around Cardiff alone there are at least three, and there are even more lurking close by if you cast your net a little wider.  Castle Coch (above) will probably always be my favourite, but there’s also Cardiff Castle, Caerphilly Castle and plenty more out in the Vale; like Coity Castle.

▲Catch a Show or Live Music.  We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to places to see drama and live music.  In the centre there’s St David’s Hall, The Motorpoint ArenaClwb Ifor BachThe Sherman Theatre and The Chapter Arts Centre.  There’s also the Millenium Centre down the Bay, and the Welsh National Opera.  Did I miss anything?

What’s your favourite thing to do to fend off the January Blues?