Monday, 2 August 2021

Goals update and August goals

A new month is underway, and once again it's time to set myself some goals!

You can see the goals that I set myself for July here and I'm pleased to report that I did very well with them. I achieved some tasks that had been sitting around for far too long.

August is a different month to the rest of the year, because it's taken up entirely with the school summer holidays. So my goals need to be ones that work around the family, and also focus on spending time with the family and not having as much time to myself. 

So here's what I want to achieve this month:

* Spend time in the garden every day and get it sorted. The weather has been pretty rubbish this summer hasn't it? Apart from that lovely heatwave when we were away which killed most of the plants in my garden as I wasn't there to water it.

With that, along with the current disruptions to our green waste collection service, our garden is looking a bit of a mess. I want to get out in the garden every day this month (assuming of course that it's not torrential rain all day) and spend some time sorting and some time just sitting and enjoying it. There must be some good weather still to come this summer, surely?!

* Work on my cross stitch map. This is a very long term project, and I'm ready to make some really good progress with it. As you can see from the picture below I'm doing well at filling in the background but there's plenty still to work on. It's a lofty goal, but this month it would be fantastic if I could finish working around the edges of all the countries with the blue background, leaving neat square spaces for more of my pictures. At the very least I'll aim to finish the edges of North and South America (around the Philippines, Malaysia and so on it will get quite fiddly!) I'm blocking out areas with different shades of blue, then when that is all done I'll balance out the colours by adding detail using contrasting shades.

Cross stitch world map in progress

* Write more in my journal. I started writing in my journal in March and I've found it really helpful as a way to clear my head. But lately I've got out of the habit and I want to pick it up again. Perhaps not everyday, but certainly a few times a week. Perhaps I can do this while I'm sitting in the garden with a cup of tea!

* No phone at the dinner table. I'm embarrassed to write this down as it's a terrible habit and I know that. But I don't enjoy making dinner and it's often quite a rushed affair. By the time I've got everyone's dinner on the table I just want to sit down and zone out, as do my family members. But it's not good and it needs to stop and I need to set a good example.

* No phone after dinner either. After dinner and in the evenings I'll still use my phone, but only for messages and calls, or actual tasks like taking photos, banking, checking library books and so on. No mindless scrolling.

Finally I want to make sure that we all enjoy this summer. I've been letting the poor weather get to me a bit and I need to reset things. I've found it difficult because I've been trying to do a few hours work every day, but if I get myself organised and get up at a reasonable time then I can easily get my work and other tasks done by lunchtime, which leaves the afternoon free for family time. 

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Where I spent most of last week

We have just returned from an amazing week away at Westward Ho! in Devon. We returned to the same apartment that we stayed in this week last year as we loved it so much, and this time we couldn't believe how lucky we were with the weather. It was hot and sunny every single day, not a drop of rain and barely a cloud, and warm enough to walk around in shorts and T-shirts late into the evening. 

Even though it was a little busier than last year it still felt incredibly safe. It's a small town but there are plenty of takeaway venues so we were able to either collect food or have it delivered almost every evening and enjoy it sitting on the balcony in the early evening sunshine. When the tide is out there is masses of space for everyone on the beach.

And the balcony in the apartment was where I spent most of the week. 

The balcony looked out over a wide promenade with the rocks and sea beyond, and over to one side is the enormous beach that disappears almost completely at high tide. I spent hours at a time just sitting there watching the sea, the sky, and all the people walking past. I had my books with me but I couldn't concentrate on them, what was in front of me was far more interesting.

Westward Ho! beach from a balcony

We watched the sunset from the balcony every single evening and were lucky enough to be treated to clear skies each night. On our final night a few clouds just made the sunset even more spectacular. As the sky turned orange the rockpools reflected pink. 

Westward Ho! beach sunset

We've only been back a couple of days and I'm really missing my balcony! Please enjoy the timelapse video that I made one afternoon - here is two hours condensed into thirty seconds as the tide comes in on a sunny afternoon.

Monday, 26 July 2021

Taking the First Trip with Your New Campervan

Whether you’ve started from scratch and renovated the entire thing yourself (bravo!) or you’ve just bought yourself a new campervan, taking it out on its first trip is an adventure full of excitement and possibilities. You get to test out all its features, see if anything needs tweaking, and then you are ready to set off whenever and wherever your heart desires. Soon enough, you will be living the dream. But before you set off, here are a few things to consider when planning that first, long awaited outing. 

The Basics

Before you go anywhere, you need to make sure that you and your campervan are road legal. These are all the technical and boring, but essential, bits and bobs. Make sure that your driving licence covers the size and weight of your van. Your MOT needs to be up to date, and you need to have paid the road tax and got the correct insurance. So that you can spend your time doing more exciting activities, use a simple comparison sites to compare insurance prices from different companies all in one place. Comparison sites do what they say. They provide an unbiased comparison of all types of campervan insurance, from self builds to VWs and under 25s. This means you can get the best deal on insurance that is perfect for you and your van in a quick, easy and secure way.

Where to Go?

For your first ever trip, it’s usually a safer bet to stay fairly close to home just in case anything happens. Of course, you still want that authentic van life experience, but choosing somewhere that isn’t totally off grid would be sensible, for now. It’s easy to find a campsite or caravan park that hosts campervans, since there are several apps and websites where you can check the facilities available to you. In the UK, it’s rare and expensive to find sites with pitches that have fresh water and waste services but there will be at least some to choose from. Now you just need to decide what sort of landscape you wish to have your first campervan experience in. Do you want to be close to the sea for a daily swim, or up in the hills and mountains so you can go out hiking every day? The freedom of the campervan gives you the freedom of choice!

Campervan on road with flowers
Photo credit S├ębastien Goldberg via Unsplash

Packing Essentials

You will need the usual camping essentials: a first aid kit, pots and pans, a washing line, and toilet roll. But there are a few other items that you will probably need at some point when travelling or holidaying in a campervan, like levelling ramps, a water hose and an extension lead. But do not fret, the point of this first trip is to find out what you do and don’t need. Start a list to note down all the things that you’re missing on this trip, so you can get them ready for the next one. Of course, plastic wine glasses should definitely be added onto that list.

By following this guide, your first trip in the campervan will be as smooth as possible. Expect the small hiccups, since it is only the first time, but take them in your stride and have the best time.

This is a collaborative post.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

My goals for July

I'm a little bit late committing my goals for this month to blog post, but I made it in the end! This month things are a bit more mixed up, we have the countdown to the end of term, hopefully we'll be spending a few days away, and then we have a few social activities too. So instead of lots of things that I want to do every day, there are a few tasks that I want to make the effort to work on and complete.

* Sort out and delete old e-mails. I have been using the same e-mail address for a long time now and I have e-mails going back years. I'd like to have a bit of a clear out and come up with a better filing system for the e-mails that I want to keep.

* Update my household notebook. I started my household notebook when I learned about the FlyLady system years ago (she calls it a control journal), but I've been very bad at keeping it updated. I;d like to have some current notes about the children for potential babysitters, important contact numbers and so on, and there are also some new pages that I want to add. 

* Type up and laminate my recipes. Last month I challenged myself to sort through all the recipes that I'd cut from magazines, try out some and cull the rest. Now I want to take the ones that I will actually make again, type them up and laminate them to fit in to my recipe box. 

* Write a summer bucket list of things to do with the children over the long summer holiday.

* Take part in our village garage sale trail and find a way to dispose of everything that doesn't sell. I will be having an enormous 'free' pile outside our house!

* Swim in the sea pool that is in walking distance of our holiday AirBnB. I saw it last year and regretted not having my swimming costume, so I promised myself that if we made it back then next time I would swim in it (or at least get in, and jump out very quickly afterwards!).

* Work on my cross stitch map. My cross stitch map is a very long term project. It's a cross stitch canvas with a map printed on, and the idea is that you stitch in the countries that you've visited. But even if you are pretty well travelled, there is still quite a lot of white left over. So I'm intending to fill the entire canvas with little pictures that represent my travels, then fill in the other areas with different shades of blue. This month I want to add as much blue as I can, so that it starts to look a bit more finished!

Cross stitch map project in progress

Monday, 5 July 2021

End of term anxiety

It's finally the last week of term, after a very strange year. But one thing the same is how anxious I am finding myself feeling as the school year draws to a close. It's heightened this year by the fact that school bubbles across the country are closing left right and centre - fingers crossed that we can actually make it to the end of the week!

I always find this week stressful because the usual routines have come to an end and there are extra activities and events taking place. Admittedly not so many this year, but we have a summer 'bubble' fair, transition days and a themed day, as well as a half day on the final Friday. There are lots of things to remember each day and probably some school run juggling to make sure I'm in the right place at the right time.

Then there are the teacher gifts and thank you cards to worry about, I never know what to get and usually just go with a gift card (although I have upped the value since covid hit, I think they deserve it!). 

It's also my last chance to get hold of any second hand uniform directly from the school, which has already been trickier than usual due to the lack of the proper second hand uniform sale. I've managed to get most things but I still really need a bigger blazer for Harry, he has taken me aback this year with how much he's grown!

Finally there's the panic about trying to fit in everything I want and need to do at home before I have everyone at home again for eight weeks. I do some transcription work which is only limited by the amount of time that I can spend on it, and with everyone at home that time really does become limited! 

I will have such a sense of relief come Friday lunchtime when I can pull the car onto the driveway, get the final school uniform washing load on and pack away the schoolbags and lunchboxes ready for the summer! 

School things and apple
Image credit Element5 Digital

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

My goals for June - update

I can't that believe another month has come and gone! It's been a quiet month over here hasn't it, but I've not forgotten about the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the month. Here's how I got on with them:

Don't obsessively scroll the news websites. This has been a failure. All sorts of emotions lead me to scrolling - anxiety, boredom, tiredness - and having made a good effort at breaking my Twitter addiction, the news websites have unfortunately become a replacement. This month we've also signed up for an Apple News+ subscription which has massively increased the number of news stories that I now have instant access to. I need to find a better outlet than my scrolling but I'm struggling.

Throw away or recycle at least 5 things per day. This on the other hand has been a major success. I do well with a daily target of items, it really encourages me to root around in the back of cupboards and find lots things to get rid of, and usually more than five each day. 

Just some of the things that I put in to the recycling or threw away this month - instruction leaflets for things that we no longer own and unnecessary ones, old bank and credit card statements, old electrical items that go out with the general waste for separate recycling, Gu ramekins, recipes that I won't try, broken kitchen utensils and cardboard boxes that I was saving in case they came in useful. 

Think about taking part in the local garage sale trail. I'm all signed up and already have several boxes ready of things to put out! It's a decluttering exercise for me rather than a money making one, so most of my things will go in a big box out the front marked 'Free', and after lunch I'll probably move most of my sale items to that pile too just so that I can get rid of them.

Try three new recipes. I sorted through all the recipes that I had cut from magazines over the last goodness knows how many years and found three to try. One was a big success - a Mexican dish with beans, sweetcorn and spicy wedges. Another was also really good - pasta with a cheesy, buttery sauce and lots of green veg. Only one didn't work out - butternut squash and gnocchi. I like gnocchi but this recipe tasted very plain and the butternut squash is a pain to prepare, so I won't be making that one again!

Don't pick up my phone as soon as I wake up. This was a failure. The trouble is that I find it very difficult to get myself up in the morning and I find that the brightness of the screen as I scroll through the latest headlines really helps to wake me up. If I avoid the phone I end up falling back to sleep!

Play the piano every day. Another great success, I have played the piano every day and found some old favourites and new pieces to play. One piece in particular that I've really worked at was A River Flows in You by Yiruma which is a beautiful piece and that I can now play to a decent standard.

Tidy up the front garden, in particular the area around our front hedge. This is an area that we can't see from our house or driveway, so I'm keeping the area tidy more for the benefit of the neighbours than us. I hope that they appreciate it, because it was quite a bit of work to start with and now that I've done the initial work I'm feeling the pressure to keep it looking tidy!

Marigolds growing in a white painted planter in the garden

So a bit of a mixed bag this month. I am finding setting myself these monthly goals really helpful, it definitely gives me something to focus on, and so I'm busy thinking about how I want to challenge myself in July, stay posted!

Monday, 14 June 2021

Enjoying the sunshine

I am so enjoying the sunshine and the warm weather that has finally arrived! We've had a lovely weekend eating pizza in the garden, doing a bit of tidying, and watching the poor plants as they start to recover after being blasted by the cold wind a few weeks ago. I even have some flowers starting to appear on my marigolds.

Marigold plants in tin cans in a white painted pallet planter

My vegetable patch is starting to look a little healthier too, the tomato plants in pots are growing nicely and although the ones planted in the main vegetable patch are still looking a little worse for wear I'm hopeful that they'll start to bush out a bit soon. 

Tomato plants growing in pots against wall

This morning I went for a run first thing and it was still so warm. I was running without a jumper for the first time in ages, and it was so nice to feel the sun on my shoulders. Afterwards I took my mat out into the garden and did some outdoor stretches. 

Let's hope that we are treated to this sunshine for a little while longer yet!

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