Wednesday, 3 March 2021

My goals for March

Earlier this week I shared my excellent progress with my February goals. I completed them all, and I found it really motivating to have a few things to work on during the month. So I've decided to do the same this month and make a list of goals for March.

It's not such an easy month as February, when I knew that we'd just be staying at home for the whole month. On Monday the children will be back at school, which will be a big shakeup to our family routine, but then the children break up for their three weeks of Easter holiday on the 26th March. 

So here's what I want to accomplish:

* Get back into the school routine. I'm hoping that this will make a big difference to the mental health of the children, and that any new changes, like masks and regular testing, don't cause us too much stress.   

* Continue my exercise. In particular I want to get back to regular running, hopefully combining the school drop off with a run along the seafront. I have made a new running playlist on Spotify in preparation. I also have a couple of fitness challenges that I'm working on. One of them is this Shredded Abs challenge. I'm on Day 4 and I like to think that I can see a difference, the exercises are certainly getting easier, so I'll let you know how shredded my abs actually become!


* Get the garden furniture out from the garage and clean it off ready for the summer.

* Sort out the garden - tidy up my strawberry plants which seem to have survived the winter, weed the vegetable patch and flower beds. Also make a start on my planting. 

* Continue with the healthy eating and lose the last little bit of weight. I also want to investigate some healthy baking recipes, as I love baking but it's so many calories. I quite fancy trying some new things like beetroot brownies or these healthier Easter chocolate nests

* Find some podcasts to listen to on the school run. I've never been into podcasts but I'd like to find some short ones to make my school run drive more interesting and bearable. 

* Finish building my pallet planter and paint it. Hopefully the weather will start to warm up a bit so I can get outside and do some work on it.

* Try and manage some socialising. Currently one person can meet one other from a different household outdoors, at the moment for exercise and from next week to socialise. Then from the 29th March the rule of six, or two households, will be back in place. So it would be really good for me to schedule in some walks with my friends, and then maybe meet up with another family or two over the holidays for some outdoor play, assuming that the restrictions allow.

* Clean out the kitchen cupboards. This job is long overdue. I'm not too bad at sorting them out and using up out of date food, but I'm not very good at taking everything out and giving it all a good clean inside!

* Plan for the Easter holidays. Get some activities lined up, and try and plan for a routine which will keep everyone happy. Hopefully we will be treated to some nice weather like last year so that we can get out and about in the sunshine!

* Publish at least one blog post a week. This one is at the bottom as it's something that I'm struggling with at the moment! But hopefully there will be some new things going on this month and I'll actually have something to write about! 

Monday, 1 March 2021

My February goals - update

I can't believe that February has finished already. It's a very good job that I didn't have writing blog posts as one of my February goals!

But I have done very well with keeping up with the February goals that I did set at the beginning of the month. Here's how I've got on:

Focus on the children and their mental health - I've been doing the best that I can. Spending lots of time with them especially at bedtime, reading to them and talking to them about the things that are on their mind. 

Last week we were able to arrange an appointment for Mia with the well being adviser at school, a lady that she usually sees weekly but hasn't seen since December. I'm not entirely sure what it involves as she's rather secretive about it, but she came out with a big grin on her face and said that it had been helpful for her, so I'm very grateful that our school is able to provide this service. 

The news about school starting next week has definitely made a positive impact on us all, it's nice to be able to count down now and they are both very much looking forward to going back.

Paint my nails - I have had painted nails every day and loved it! My nails are really long and nicely shaped now. I'll definitely be continuing this one!

Lose the Christmas and January weight - Yes! I've eaten well all month, on a diet that includes enough treats to keep me going, and I'm back to the weight that I was a few months ago. I still want to lose a tiny bit more, but I'm confident that I'll get there soon.

Keep up the exercise - Again yes, and I'm really pleased with how I'm doing. I've not been for a proper run since before Christmas as I find it hard to get out when the children are around. But I've replaced this with a variety of different YouTube and Apple Fitness videos and I'm enjoying doing some more varied workouts. I've definitely noticed a positive change in my body shape. 

Buy seeds and compost - I have my seeds and compost ready to go, I'll start my planting this month.

Do something with my pallet - This has been sitting untouched in the garage for far too long. I lack the correct tools and strength to fully dismantle the pallet, but I attacked it with a saw and it's starting to look like I want it to. I've got a vague idea at least of what I want to do with it, I need to add some little shelves and then paint it and I've been collecting tins to decorate for plants. It's a job for when the weather is warmer!

Upload a YouTube video - I present to you a video filmed in conjunction with my son. It's his Mindstorms device for improving the Animal Crossing experience by repeatedly pressing a button that enables you to convert Nook miles into Bells. It has been very useful!

I'm feeling very pleased with myself for my February achievements. It definitely helped me to have my goals written out so that I could keep them in mind as the month went on. I will shortly be publishing my goals for March so that I can keep myself accountable once again!

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

February goals

I realise that I'm a few days late with this post. But I decided that February 1st was a good time to come up with some goals for this month. 

Why? Well it fell on a Monday so the start of a new week. February is a short month, the days are getting longer and finally, with my positive thinking hat very firmly hat, this will be our last full month of lockdown! And it also gives me a chance to catch up with the ones that fell by the wayside in January...

So here goes:

Focus on the children and their mental health. Spend time with them, talk to them, help them with what they need, read to them, take them out for some fresh air both together and individually.

Have painted nails all month. This stops me nibbling on them, but does also make me feel a bit more put together and motivated.

Lose that Christmas/January weight. I don't have much to lose, but it really needs to go otherwise I just get used to it and add to it. I want a reasonably flat stomach again!

Keep up the exercise. I've been doing really well with this anyway. I can't really get out for a run at the moment because I can't fit it in around the children so I've been doing regular exercise videos on YouTube. Then last week my husband activated his three month free trial of Apple Fitness+ so we've been working our way through lots of those. I don't have an Apple watch myself but I still enjoy the workouts, and we're finding them really good and varied. We also have a decent cross trainer on order which is due for delivery at the end of the month.

Order seeds and compost. I don't want to get caught out like last lockdown when the choice was so limited! But I was pleased with what I did manage to order from Suttons, so I've requested a catalogue to browse through.

Big pile of seed packets

Make a plan for the pallet that I have had in the garage for several years. I want to paint it and turn it into some kind of planter, but I keep putting if off. This year's the year!

Upload a YouTube video. I've got out of the habit, but the truth is that I do make a few pounds each month from my channel so I need to keep it active. I don't have any fancy equipment but I have a few ideas, and  I'm also going through some of our old family home videos and looking for interesting footage. Like this one that I made of our family trip to Disneyland, California back in 1993.


Lots to be getting on with there!

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Things that are better about this lockdown

I won't lie, as a family we are finding this lockdown much more difficult than the previous ones. Although our school has been great with the home learning provision, both the children are struggling. It's partially to do with the screen heavy workload, but mainly down to the social integration that they are missing out on.

I know that this is a problem for all children over the world, and I do worry about the long term repercussions for all children. I'm hoping that if we can get through the next few weeks (months?) it will all be fine once they are settled back at school, hopefully this time for good.

I'm really trying my hardest to be there for the children and try to maintain a positive outlook. Hopefully it will help both me and them! So in that spirit, here are some things that are better about this lockdown than the previous ones.

This time I feel that the end is in sight. The vaccination programme seems to be going really well, and although I'll be at the bottom of the list for a vaccine I know that this is because I am at a low risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid. I'll feel much happier when I know that the most at risk people have been vaccinated, and hopefully that will be very soon.

We are set up with regular food deliveries. In the summer we signed up to the Tesco Delivery Saver and the husband is on the ball with booking delivery slots well in advance. So far we've been pretty satisfied with the service (apart from this morning when our vegetarian pizza was substituted with a pepperoni one, grrr.)

There seem to be no major food shortages. There are a few things from our regular list that we've not always been able to get but there have been alternatives, and I'm confident that if we desperately needed something we could pop to a local shop and pick it up. 

Our online learning provision is very good. It has always been good but this time they've really hit the ground running and both teachers and children are confident with what they are doing. Over the last few weeks our school has done really well at adding in some extra lessons like PE and music alongside the basics, which help to make the day more interesting. There are also some scheduled live lessons which give me a bit of a break during the day. 

Child home learning on an iPad

We can still meet one other person for exercise. I have only actually done this once back in November, and I don't plan to again in the near future. But it's nice to know that the option is there if I need it!

There is nothing left to be cancelled. All we have is rescheduled tickets to the Hella Mega tour in June, but I'm pretty certain now that won't be going ahead. Not like last year when we had a string of holidays and events that we watched slowly get cancelled one by one.

No school run. I really don't miss the school run at this time of year when it's cold and rainy and I have to drive through the traffic then hang around outside for twenty minutes between pick ups. It also gives me an extra couple of hours in my day!

Lots of family time. Yes, it's very hard work, and sometimes I am just desperate for some time to myself. But I'm really trying to make the effort to enjoy spending time with the children and hopefully help their mental health too. We've been playing board games during their lunch break, working on our Animal Crossing island together once they've finished for the day, and today we had a teddy bears picnic in the living room!

Teddy bears picnic with children

Hopefully concentrating on the positives will help us all to get through this difficult time!

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Sorting through my 2020 photos

Every year in January I set aside some time to sort through our photos from the previous year. I get rid of the blurry ones, choose the best picture from a series of near identical shots, and remove any unflattering photographs of me. Then I use my favourite photos to make a slideshow for my computer.

Normally it takes me several days, this year I managed to sort them all in under an hour. With no holidays or days out to document, along with me blogging less frequently, we don't have nearly as many photos as we usually do. Nevertheless I found plenty of photos which I love, and I thought I'd share a few of my favourites here. 

The first photo was taken way back in February 2020. Ram was very ill for several weeks with all the Covid symptoms, although I guess we'll never know if he actually had it or not. It was half term and I'd been staying in with the children to look after him while it rained for weeks. I finally managed to drag the children out for a walk and we scooted around this flooded area near our house. The area has been purposely built to take excess rainwater away from the estate, but this is the wettest I've ever seen it!

Children on scooters near flooding

Most of my photos from 2020 were taken in the garden. We were so lucky with the weather over the summer! After all that rain at the beginning of the year it didn't rain properly again for months and we spent so much time enjoying the outdoors.

Children playing with bubbles in the garden

We tried to get the children out for longer walks at the weekend and we spent lots of time exploring the places that we can walk to from our house. This is taken from a nearby hill, really not that far to walk and with beautiful views across the sea and country.

Children on a country walk

This is one of my favourite photos of the year, and I've used it several times on the blog. It was taken on a summer evening at our nearest beach, when the restrictions had been eased to allow us to travel for exercise. We discovered these markings painted along the seafront and I couldn't resist documenting them. It seemed strange at the time as it was one of our first trips 'out' but now of course we are used to staying away from other people in public!

Children on the seafront at 2m distance

In July we actually managed to get away on holiday for a week! We spent a week in a self-catered apartment in Westward Ho! and we did a day trip to Bude. Bude itself was very busy so we didn't stay long, but we managed to fit in a visit to the famous Bude Tunnel!

Family selfie in the Bude Tunnel

It was a strange and quiet Christmas this year but we tried to keep our usual traditions going and we made our usual gingerbread houses. I'm glad that the children were able to be at school leading up to Christmas, as although it wasn't quite the same as usual they were still able to do some of the usual Christmassy things. 

Children with their gingerbread houses

I'm going to try and make more effort to take photos this year, especially over the next few months when I suspect that we're going to be at home with limited opportunities for external entertainment. I do love looking back through photos and reliving the memories.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Things that I achieved this weekend

Sometimes a weekend, especially one in which entertainment options are limited, can feel as though it passes by in the blink of an eye without me actually doing anything. So I thought I'd make a list of all the things that I achieved this weekend! 

My Tax Return. Yay! We both have to complete one and usually leave it to the last minute. Mine is quite simple to do but I need to wait for Ram track down all the interest statements and to double check it for me. We did make a mistake and managed to overpay my National Insurance contributions by a small amount. They don't make it easy to find the correct figure to pay! Hopefully they'll either refund the difference or it will come out next year...

Harry's presents. It's his birthday this week and it has rather crept up on me. I have a few extra presents to wrap this year as family have sent them direct to us from Amazon. When I went to wrap them I discovered that I didn't have much 'boy' wrapping paper left so he has a mixture of blue, pink and Christmas wrapping paper. Luckily he says he doesn't mind!

Children playing at the beach in the waves

Sorting out the junk corner. In our guest room I've been collecting things that the children have cleared out for garage sales, school fair sales and so on. Obviously these were all cancelled this year so I've had a sort through and got rid of some things and streamlined the rest so it all looks a bit neater.

Sorting out the cruise box. We last cruised in November 2019 and booked a Disney cruise placeholder as we were confident we'd be cruising again soon. Unfortunately cruising isn't going to happen again for a while so I sorted through the bits that I keep aside for cruises, gifts for exchanges and so on, and packed it away. 

Dragged the children out for some fresh air. We visited our closest beach for a quick walk and some fun chasing the waves. It was a bit of a mission to get out and we encountered a fair bit of resistance, but it was well worth it for the fun that they had once we were out.

Reading. I finished Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell which I'd been wanting to read for a long time. I enjoyed it very much, although it did make me feel quite sad. I liked picking out the references and inspirations for Hamlet. Now I'm reading The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow which is also shaping up to be a great read.

Brownies in a tin

Exercising. Normally I do my exercise during the week, but Ram was keen to go for a run and then we ended up doing some Joe Wicks workout videos together. It was his first attempt at a Joe Wicks video - they aren't for the faint hearted!

We had a family Zoom call for my niece's birthday which was lovely. I'm not very good at video calling but I do like to see everyone on screen.

Baking. I made rice crispie cakes with Mia which has become our lockdown baking staple, and I also made a batch of easy brownies.

Maybe I was quite productive after all!

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Trying to make the days more interesting when every day is the same

Some lyrics which perfectly encapsulate my mood right now:

"I'm bored of being bored, I'm tired of being tired" - My Little Empire by the Manic Street Preachers.

At the moment we are stuck in a loop. Every day feels the same, and seems to go by so quickly. I can't relax until the children are settled in bed, which comes later and later. All of us are feeling a bit down and fed up, and we just seem to amplify that among ourselves.

So I've been trying to think of ways that I can do to make the days more interesting for all of us. Hopefully by keeping on top of my own mental health I'll have the strength to bring up everyone's mood a little bit.

Cutting down social media

I have been getting sucked into social media, especially Twitter, and using it as a way to pass time despite my anxiety rising with every tweet I read. As well as avoiding it I've been cutting down the people that I follow - 'friends' on Facebook that I've never met and accounts on Twitter that I only followed because they followed me. This makes my social media a more interesting and personal place to be.

Reading

I've replaced the majority of this previously wasted social media time with reading, and I've found some excellent reading material recently. I've taken note of recommended books from blog posts and social media and reserved them for free to pick up from the library. I'm also using two ways to find free and cheap Kindle books which I'll share below in case you don't know about them and are interested:

Amazon Prime Reading as I understand it ( and please do correct me if I'm wrong!) Prime members can borrow up to ten books at a time from a selection of books that updates once a month or so. Once you've read a book you return it, and the books, will stay on your Kindle for as long as you have a Prime membership even if they are removed from the selection available. 

Top Kindle Books 

The Top 100 Paid tab will bring up popular books and bestsellers that are currently on special offer for 99p. And I can usually find something that I like the look of in the Top 100 Free section. You do need to be a bit careful with the free ones, sometimes they are just short stories and sometimes the books are the first in a series and liable to end on a cliff hanger to encourage you to buy the next one.

Exercise

I started a regular exercise routine in September and I'm really pleased that I've kept it going. Unfortunately my main form of exercise was running, and with the children at home I can't get out for a run in the day and it's too dark and cold first thing. I've been working through the Joe Wicks back catalogue and trying a different video each time. We've also ordered a decent cross trainer for exercising at home. I want to find some more fun exercise videos to try as well. I'm thinking about trying this dance one tomorrow although I know I'll be terrible at it!

Baking and cooking

Before Covid I used to regularly pop to the supermarket and only planned meals a few days in advance. Although we often ate the same meals, it was easier to cook something that I was in the mood to eat. Now that we shop less often, I need to meal plan much more efficiently and be more rigid. I'm determined to get a bit more inventive with our dinner options, there is plenty of inspiration online. I also enjoy baking and it's a good activity to do with the children, with the bonus of a tasty treat at the end of it. I want to make dinner something to look forward to!

Playing board games

I've found that (like most people) the children don't cope well when they are on a screen all day. It can't be helped when most of their learning is online, but I've been trying to set aside their longer lunch break to play some quick games together. We enjoy Maponimoes, Charades, Guess Who, and yesterday we even had a game of Elefun. Just trying to enjoy something together. 

Embracing my longer afternoons

When the children are at home I gain an hour and a half in my day. They often finish their schoolwork by three, and if they are happy to entertain themselves after that then I have a couple of hours until I start making dinner. I'm trying to use that time to do something useful - get some work done if I have some, do some housework, write a blog post, or just sit down for a bit with a book. 

Generally I feel much happier about my day if I feel that I've done something productive, even if it's just a happier child, a tidier house, some work done, an interesting chapter of a book read or a blog post published. So I'm really trying to make sure that I achieve something interesting every day!

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