My Summer of Love

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Yes, I have been very quiet of late. After moving into my new fab home I wanted some time just to be in, settle and feel like it was home. Now I have grounded myself and regrouped I have a new set of priorities, the uppermost being my own wellbeing.

Silence hasn’t meant an absence of happiness. Over the last few months there have been some truly happy moments which I am grateful for. So this post will be a little update on what happened in my summer of (self) love.

IMG_2054Yoga in the sunshine

If you’ve read my blog you might know that I had a blissful time stretching in the Spanish sun last September.

I liked it so much I decided join Nicole and the team for another break – a women-only wellbeing ‘retreat’ just down the road in Calpe.

Along with the yoga and Pilates, we benefitted from access to a nutritionist, life coach and personal trainer.

For a holiday that was billed as a ‘detox’ we ate really well. Our fabulous chef Jason prepared fresh meals for us every day as well as a morning smoothie and his own recipe granola bars.

Above all, it was the people who made the break the joyful experience it was. Women of all ages sharing their wellbeing wisdom, supporting each other and learning together.

Manchester International Festival

adam_buxtonWe are truly blessed in Manchester to have such a diversity of events going on in and around the city.

Manchester International Festival, which runs in alternate years, always brings a cunningly curated line-up to the city.

This year I had the pleasure to see perfomances by comedy god Adam Buxton (pictured) and quirky Icelandic songstress Bjork, as well as taking in the excellent Tree of Codes dance production – an explosion of colour, movement, mirrors and magic.

Girl Geek Dinners @10

bake-offThe parent organisation of Manchester Girl Geeks, Girl Geek Dinners, has been going for a decade. Massive respect to Sarah Lamb who founded Girl Geek Dinners – there are now ‘chapters’ in over 20 countries worldwide.

Manchester Girls Geeks joined in the birthday celebration with their own distinctive brand of girl geekery.

This included Raspberry Pi polaroid-style photography (props to @MiniGirlGeek & @elsie_m_) and tech swag pass-the-parcel (thanks to @angieokchan for packaging). Congrats to @GillKiernan for her ‘Pi’ cake which won the bake-off and very deservingly.

At the time of writing there are just a few tickets left for the next Manchester Girl Geeks event on Sunday 20th September, when materials scientist Dr Suze Kundu will be running a hands-on session.

My Week In Happy: home sweet home

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So, I’ve been the process of buying an apartment. I’ve not written about this on CheerUpLove.com because I wanted to surprise you!

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And I’m in! Photo with kind permissions of @ohlittlechief

Since moving up north from London I have rented somewhere, which I like very much, but I decided it was time to put down some roots and get a place to call my own.

The sale completed last week and I am very proud and grateful to have a ‘fashionable and bijou’ apartment with lots of lovely daylight to live in.

My Week In Happy: remembering Muriel

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It feels slightly wrong to start a blog entry about my grandmother passing away with my usual “My Week In Happy” prefix, but at 90 years old Muriel Breen did have a long and happy life. I am grateful that she continued to enjoy her interests into later life, that she made friends easily and had a kind heart.

She was the mother of my mother Carol, wife of my late grandfather Gerard Breen, and grandmother to myself and my brother Ellis – we called her ‘Granny’. She was a dear friend and confidante to my mother through thick and thin.

Granny with me on my graduation day in the gardens of the Shackleton Building.

Granny with me on my graduation day in the gardens of the Shackleton Building.

Muriel was a talented painter and pastel artist well into her eighties, loved the ballet and saw the funny side in everyday things.

She had an amazing spirit and was extremely independent, living in her own home until she passed away. This was made possible with the care of my mother, who was with Granny until the very end.

In the last five years of her life Muriel became increasingly frail and struggled with the limitations of her ageing body. The biggest blow was when stomach problems left her only able to eat foods that were pureed or disintegrated easily in the stomach.

She really missed being able to have the foods that she loved and preparing something palatable became a focus of each day. It became something of an obsession and even my mother’s patience was tested after hearing about Granny’s special trifle recipe for what must have felt like the millionth time!

I asked my brother to write something in memory of Granny and this is what he said.

My memories of Granny, by Ellis

Farewell Muriel

Muriel with a photograph of Venice by Carol Breen (modelled by Ellis Breen).

She was always upbeat, positive, loving and humorous. She loved to talk endlessly but always had time to listen to anyone as well. My first memories of Granny were formed when I visited her home with Granddad. She had a poodle who was as loving and vivacious as her owner.

Later she moved to be closer to Mum and, after Granddad passed away, enthusiastically resumed one of her great passions: ballroom dancing. I was always impressed by her energy and love of life and for some time she had a very lively social life which many of the younger generation would envy.

I had talked a little to her about her time before my birth in recent years, but in some visits over this last Christmas, despite a failing memory, she elucidated with great clarity on many parts of this. Her love of ballroom dancing dated back to the WWII era, and she enjoyed any opportunity to socialise.

She had done very well at school, and had wanted to continue her education, but opportunities for women to do so after the war were severely limited. Instead, after settling down with Granddad, and looking after Mum in her early years, she ran a small shop and became a well-loved member of the community.

She was a keen reader all her life, and loved culture of all kinds – a passion which she passed on to the rest of the family.

The times of her youth were tougher, and more socially conservative in many ways, but her pragmatic and positive spirit seems to have got her through.

She always looked on the bright side even in the last few difficult years. Probably my fondest memory of her was seeing her delighted as I, my sister and Granddad kicked a football around in the park. She always took the greatest pleasure in seeing others enjoying themselves.

My Week In Happy: A White Christmas and 25 reasons to be cheerful in 2015

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In her fab blog, my friend Lynsey White explains how she uses gratitude lists to help her stay positive – actively searching for three things each day that she feels thankful for.

So, taking a leaf out of Lynsey’s book, I’ve collected my thoughts and put together a list of things I’m grateful for that will sustain me into 2015 and beyond.

To get me in the mood for writing this list I’ve taken inspiration from the cosy cheer offered by Lynsey’s daughter Lucy Lou White in her very own vlog series.

And, with a nod to punk legend Ian Dury, I’m dubbing these my ‘reasons to be cheerful’.

25 reasons to be cheerful in 2015

  1. Cheeruplove.com
  2. My loving family
  3. Fantastic friends – old and new
  4. Brilliant and talented colleagues
  5. Work I truly believe in
  6. My wonderful mentees
  7. Wearing beautiful, colourful clothes
  8. Birthdays / any other reasons to celebrate
  9. Cooking delicious and healthy food
  10. Trying out new places to eat
  11. Pokusevski’s deli – my second home
  12. Developing compassion for everyone
  13. A wonderful yoga holiday in Spain (hopefully another in 2015)
  14. Rocking circuits on a Sunday morning
  15. A strong immune system (touching wood)
  16. Great arts scene in Salford and Manchester
  17. Mindfulness exercises
  18. Northern soul dancing
  19. Relaxing and remembering to laugh
  20. 90s dance classics with Robin on Saturday
  21. Being a part of Manchester Girl Geeks
  22. Becoming a Google City Expert
  23. Lovely neighbours
  24. A beautiful, light and airy apartment
  25. Knowing my cat Cosmo lived a happy life

My Week In Happy: All I want for Christmas…

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10683572_10152606908058160_8962302706601248153_o‘Fairytale of New York’ playing into my headphones, I attempt to pull myself into the festive spirit. Sitting at home on Sunday, I started to manufacture Christmas cards – each one a bold explosion of colour. Each card in contrast to my own quieter, stiller mood.

Don’t get me wrong, I have many things to be thankful for this Christmas. Not least, time spent with friends and family and the comfort of friendships and relationships made and nurtured in the past year.

I just don’t like these short days of winter and hope that the coming weeks and 2015, like my festive greeting cards, will sizzle with colour and excitement!