Are you a fan of cats?

We had a lovely day out at the Cats’ Protection headquarters in Sussex at the weekend. Everyone enjoyed visiting the cats and learning more about cat care, rehoming and sponsorship.

The thing I noticed about the centre was that it was so attractive and clean. Parking was plentiful and there was clear signage to the various parts including the toilets, the shop and the café. As readers know, these little things can make all the difference.

I fell in love with so many of the cats and a white playful one in particular. I was reminded by staff that everyone finds cats like that attractive but that other cats were equally deserving of a loving home. They also told me how tough they find it to rehome black cats.

My son fell in love with Maypole and you could sponsor Maypole’s pen for just £6 per month.

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We learned how the centre has its own vets and how cats and kittens often arrive in quite a bad state so need to go into an isolation wing to prevent the spread of disease.

My daughter got very excited at meeting the real cats and also the rather large one in the well-equipped play area adjacent to the shop.

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We had a lovely lunch in the café which had some gorgeous cakes, sandwiches and hot meals.

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I was really impressed by how much more affordable the pet products in the Cats Protection shop were in comparison with other outlets. I also liked that there were tiny prices and bigger ones so something for every budget.

There was everything you need for cats there including amazing play equipment, litter and toys.

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There was also a very wide range of giftware – scarves, clothing, jewellery, bags and toys.

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You can even have a fun children’s party and as we left a group of excited girls were arriving for a birthday. My son was rather keen to return too.

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Admission to Cats Protection is free.

If you are interested in rehoming or sponsoring a cat, this is the place for you.

My son will point you in the right direction.

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Visit the Cats Protection website today to search for your purrfect cat, to check out some pawsome content for kids and to learn more about cat welfare.

Christmas is a time to think of loved ones and to miss those who are no longer with us.

I lost my Mum in 2009 and my Dad in 2012. I seem to have moved to that stage of grief where you enjoy the memories so much that the pain is almost cancelled out.

Christmas at home. I miss it. I was the baby of the family by 16 years and for many of my childhood years my two brothers lived elsewhere as young adults.

I loved the magic of Christmas and coming down and finding all the presents. There was always a huge pile. Weirdly I remember very few of them – the doll’s house my Dad’s friends made and a doll that tumbled after hours of Dad trying to get it to work. I got to open my presents first as we always did it in age order. The gifts were piled on chairs rather than under the tree.

The tree was the same one every year with decorations going back to the start of Mum and Dad’s marriage in 1950. It was a green and silver affair that always went up on my birthday with me seeing it as the treat of year to decorate it. It was also my job to put up the Christmas cards. I took both of these tasks incredibly seriously. Things had to be just so – an example would be some system that meant a Nativity Scene was followed by a robin was followed by a snowman and so on. I am sure nobody else card but I did.

My uncle bought me this marvellous Nativity set in a lovely pale wood. I loved arranging the figures and that Jesus was not put in his manger but miraculously appeared by Christmas morning.

Church was a huge part of Christmas whether Midnight or morning mass. Mum dressed me up as if I was a doll and I once famously caught fire when I got too near the candles in my fur coat.

I got used to waiting for a knock of the door on Christmas Eve. Often there would be a family drama with someone turning up in a crisis that my Mum and Dad would sort out. You just hoped that two warring family members would not both turn up with their tales of woe at the same time.

My brothers would come for Christmas although my oldest did not always do so and this broke Mum’s heart. It is always strange how the one who absents themselves seems the most loved of all. My Uncle would arrive in his sheepskin coat with presents wrapped in gold, silver, red and green shiny paper. His were always the best wrapped and the most unusual as he lived in London and travelled overseas a lot too.

Drink would flow. My family always had a drinks cabinet with a whole host of stuff in it including gin, dark rum, brandy and Dimple. Dad was well respected in the business world so used to arrive with bottles from organisations throughout December. My parents were not really wine drinkers till later in life. Sherry was the first tipple of the day and as I got older I liked the tradition of trying it in a special glass whilst not really enjoying the taste.

Mum spent most of her time running in and out of the kitchen. As a cook by trade, she loved showing just what she could do at this special time of year. If I am honest I think we were guilty of leaving her to it. Several years later, she downed tools so that she too could enjoy Christmas and we started dining out on Christmas Day. I have always admired her for that.

What do I actually remember of the lunch? I always had Heinz tomato soup as a starter by request. I can’t remember much of the main course apart from sprouts which I loved then and now. I was never a fan of real carrots, bread sauce or Christmas pudding all of which you had to eat at Christmas.

In the afternoon, there would be lots of playing with cards and draughts, sometimes chess. I remember getting Operation and that causing a lot of hilarity.

I think it is interesting to reflect on what I miss about Christmas at home.

1. The things that were the same every year from the brown soup bowls to the oval plates and the pink and white tureens filled with vegetables.

2. My plastic stocking with pictures of Christmas trees on it. This came out every year and there was always a coin at the bottom of it. I went mad when Mum did not put it up the year I started university.

3. I miss how Mum would go wild spray painting Honesty gold and silver as decorations.

4. I really miss that feeling of a community where generations had lived for years so people knew not only each other but also family histories. There was a sense that people knew where they fit. I think we lose that when we leave our home towns. I often question whether I might have been happier staying put. For us the community revolved around the Irish Nash Club, the Parochial Hall, church and the school.

5. I liked how I would be teased in little ways like when my brothers and uncle convinced me that the lemonade they gave me was actually a gin and tonic.

6. I miss the table and its white tablecloth with patterns in embroidered by my Mum.

7. I miss standing together in church as a family and how my Mum loved the carol “In the Bleak Mid Winter” and how we both loved “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”

8. I miss how daft Mum and Dad could be so we had so much laughter and fun interspersed with the odd drama to keep things interesting.

9. I miss how Mum always banned us watching the Queen’s speech.

10. I miss the days around Christmas. Boxing Day often found us at the coast with biscuit tins full of sausage rolls and Mum bringing a bottle of brandy out of her handbag to add to our coffees to warm us up. I miss going to see Auntie Margaret, Uncle Cyril and Sean and how Mum used to secretly enjoy how Margaret never could do the kitchen stuff anywhere near as good as Mum.

I find it enlightening that I do not remember the presents really but rather the time put into making them. I miss the people, the love and the laughter. How quickly it is gone. How naïve we are about that which is why it is so important to make great memories and ongoing traditions. And let’s look after Mums at Christmas who usually drive themselves into the ground to make it just as perfect they can.

I was such a lucky girl. And I realise as I write this that one day one of my children will also be remembering our Christmases and how the best things of all were the things we did every year or the things that cost nothing.

I will round this off with a little conversation between me and Him Indoors on Christmas Day.

Me “You are daft you are”

Him “So are you – that is why it works!”

I am very late posting my reasons to be cheerful this week.

We have had a very stressful few days and then today all that stress disappeared when we got some lovely news. Bit of a close call for a Merry Christmas but we look all set now.

Anyway, here are last week’s reasons for cheerfulness because before I know it we will be ready for this week’s.

1. I had one of my most lovely birthdays. I think a lot of this was to do with my change in attitude since starting on the Prozac. Before the family surfaced, I had already opened cards and a home-made gift from a lovely blogger friend. I had an email from another with a poem and even Google seemed to want to make the momentous occasion. My daughter got me all things pink. My son got me 4 Wispa bars and I have more pressies to claim from the rest of the family this week. My brother came to see us and we all laughed as he had totally forgotten it was my birthday. I was not going to say anything but my daughter did! We talked and laughed and then we waved him on is way to Mauritius.

2. I lost weight again so Tuesday was a happy day.

After that it got very tense indeed for reasons that I prefer not to go into.

Today you find me chilling on the sofa, watching Christmas telly and decorating the house in a full on tacky Christmas way.

When I finish this post, I will be savouring some lovely soup and making some last-minute Christmas plans.

A rollercoaster of a week but I am still here and still smiling,

I have lost 5 pounds this week! I am only on week 4 of my weight loss journey and have lost 12 and three quarter pounds.

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I had hoped for 2 pounds and would have settled for one pounds so I am over the moon.

It was my birthday at the weekend so I allowed myself various treats including chocolate, cake, a couple of glasses of wine and very naughtily 2 mini pork pies.

There was also an Indian takeaway at some point in the week.

I guess this goes to prove that it is what you do most of the time that really matters. For me, that now involves lots of vegetables and lots of fish.

My proudest moments this week were giving away 3 of the 4 Wispa bars my son got me for my birthday and ordering poached eggs when out to lunch. Oh and resisting cream left on my daughter’s dessert plate which was screaming at me.

I finally got my diagnosis after becoming ill back in October. I have prediabetes and apparently this can be reversed so that is my mission now after such an important wake-up call on the health front.

The nurse upset me a bit when she said I have a long way to go. However then I woke up and remembered that about 3 years ago it was a big deal for me to go out to the next village and yet not long after that I flew to America. Baby steps lead to big change. I know this and I will remain positive.

I have a few quiet moments for the first time today. Him Indoor have gone to the supermarket in search of craft supplies so we can throw ourselves into Christmas Jumper Day tomorrow. Check it out as it is all in a very good cause for Save the Children UK. The boys are upstairs playing. So I have the pleasure of sharing my happy stuff.

I hope to get perfume for my birthday on Saturday and I love this quote.

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1. We had a lovely day in London so we could attend the gala screening of Tinkerbell and Legend of the Neverbeast. You can see what we thought about it in our review.

2. I lost weight again.

3. Him Indoors passed his probationary period at work with flying colours. Phew! Perhaps our luck is turning.

4. Apart from a little bit of verbal abuse, we have had no harassment from the neighbours now that the police are involved.

5. We are loving our more relaxed approach to home education and feel we are getting more and more right as the weeks go by.

6. My teenage son returned to school after a nasty virus.

7. My brother is coming to see us on Saturday before he flies off to an exotic location for Christmas.

8. The GP has put me on Prozac for another 2 months. I am loving the change in me since taking them. So much more motivated and positive. Keep bursting into song and laughing more. All very good and long overdue.

9. I am spending a little more time on Twitter and Facebook and enjoying connecting with people in that way.

10. My son has just got a Christmas card from his new penpal.

11. I have found out that the home education meetings or at least some of them are easy to get to via public transport.

12. It is my birthday on Saturday and I am looking forward to the coming year now my mind is fixed and my body is on its way to being so. I even prayed last night almost without realising so perhaps I am reconnecting with spirit too.

So yes I am cheerful and I hope you are too!