Friday 30 April 2021

My goals for April - update

I can't believe another month is over already! Time has been going so quickly now that the children are back in school and we are back to some sort of a routine. At the beginning of the month I posted my goals for April, and it's already time for an update.

So here goes:

Finish my pallet planter - Well it's not finished but I have made a start. I sawed my pallet into two pieces, a smaller one and a larger one. I've taken the smaller part, sanded it down and painted it with some white emulsion that we had lying around. Now I'm leaving it outside for a bit to see what happens to it when it rains, before I paint the larger part. My plan is to fill it with old tin cans that I've been saving, each one with a marigold or similar plant in. If they work out well then I'll share how I made them in more detail!

Simple planter made from a pallet

Spend lots of time in the garden - I've definitely done this. Even if most of that time has been spent sitting in our hot tub! When it's sunny I've been taking my morning hot chocolate outside and often my lunch as well. A couple of times I've taken my yoga mat out and done my stretches on the grass, I love lying on my back and looking up at the sky.

Plant out the rest of my seeds - I've done well at this too, I have a windowsill of vegetable and flower seedlings ready to plant out in the garden this summer.

Baby tomato plants in pots on the windowsill

Keep up with the exercise - Again this has been going well, with a good combination of outdoor runs, indoor cross trainer workouts and core exercises. 

Continue my leg stretches - I'm working towards a particular flexibility goal, which I'll share when (if!) I ever reach it, but I'm carrying on with my stretches and noticing improvements. I also bought some yoga blocks to help deepen my stretches, and I've inspired Mia to join me (she's doing way better at it!)

Spend time down at the beach. Oh yes. I've spent a lot of time at the beach. There's a particular seafront café where we often meet friends, and I think I've been there on average twice a week this month. I've also been for some seafront runs, and had a nice sit with Harry while we waited for Mia to do an afterschool club.

Pebbles on the beach

Refine my YouTube stream - I was doing well at this for the first couple of weeks but it's now got worse. I start to watch one video that doesn't interest me and then suddenly my feed is clogged with similar videos. I delete my history and set YouTube to forget my viewing history and then of course I see the same videos that I've already watched over and over again. I think the answer here might be to spend less time on YouTube and just watch new videos from channels that I'm subscribed to. 

Publish more blog posts. I'm very pleased with how I've done on this one. I've published three posts a week this month and I'm more than happy with that frequency. Now to keep the momentum going!

Pick up my cross stitch more often. Setting this as a goal really helped with my stitching motivation this month. My current long term cross stitch project is Olde World Map by Janlynn and I'm really pleased with the progress that I've made on the bottom left hand corner. This chap was quite challenging to stitch, as there are lots of different colours mixed together, plenty of half stitches, some detailed backstitching and a couple of French knots. You can see the corner where the border will go and that's the next part I'll be working on. It's a wide border but quite repetitive with only a few colours so I'm hoping it will be quite relaxing to stitch, and the sort of thing that I can work on while I'm watching television. 

Olde World Map cross stitch in progress - lower left corner

Thank you for reading! I'll shortly be publishing my goals for May, I find listing out my goals a really useful way to help me feel more productive and get things done. It's definitely helped me to get lots done this month!

Wednesday 28 April 2021

How my exercise routine has changed over the last year

As restrictions ease, our gym is now open again. But we've not been going regularly for a long time - we stopped visiting in March 2020 when the speed of coronavirus ramped up, and we only went back for a few tentative visits in October before they closed again. 

So a few months ago we made the difficult decision to cancel our gym membership. It was a shame, because we've been members for years, but we are hesitant about the covid risks and it's a lot of money to pay if we aren't going regularly. I do feel bad, because even though they are a big national chain I know that they will have suffered from the closures. 

It has worked out well for us though. Luckily we didn't have to pay any membership fees while they were closed, and so we have saved a significant amount of money. We have put some of this towards our own cross trainer, and also bought a few other pieces of exercise equipment - sports bras, leggings, new trainers, exercise mats, resistance bands, all sorts of things which are now in daily use!

Exercise equipment in a basket at home

At the start of lockdown we replaced our gym workouts with running. We both ran nearly every day, although we tailed off a bit as the summer drew on. But when the children went back to school in September I picked it up again and was running regularly three times a week.  

As the weather got colder in December I investigated home workouts on YouTube. I started with Joe Wicks after the success of his PE with Joe videos over lockdown. I found his workouts really tough at first but soon I could manage them without too much trouble, and I increased the intensity by adding weights. But I found that it was becoming a bit repetitive, and I also wanted to work out to music. 

I had a brief fling with YouTube dance workouts, but I never found them very satisfying as I spent most of the workout trying to follow along with the moves and failing miserably. So I settled on HIIT workouts to music, and with so many to choose from it's easy to keep a bit of variety.

I also found that I wanted to do some more targeted workouts, and I was really impressed with the difference that they made. I've been doing some two week ab challenges which really have helped to tone up my stomach, and I've noticed a huge difference in my leg flexibility after I started a ten minute daily stretching video in February. These are exercises that I wouldn't have thought of doing if I was still going to the gym. I have also developed the habit of exercising throughout the day rather than cramming it into one intensive session. 

The one thing that I will miss about the gym is the swimming pool. I enjoyed a swim after a workout, because as well as the exercise I find it a good way to stretch out and relax. Our local public pools are busy and expensive, and I can't see us using them. So I think it is very possible that we will pick up our gym membership again in a year or two, especially once the infection rates are down. 

My exercise routine is another one of those everyday things that has had a massive shake up due to the lockdown, and it's been a really positive thing for me. 

Cross trainer screen at home

Monday 26 April 2021

The first of the spring planting

It's still pretty chilly outside, but I've really been enjoying the sunshine over the last week or so. We've bought some lovely new lounger chairs for the garden and we've been soaking up the sun, even if I sometimes need to add a blanket to keep the wind off!

I've also been making a start on my planting for the garden this summer. I don't have many pots or much space indoors so I tend to plant out my seeds in stages. 

In terms of vegetables I've only planted tomatoes so far. Last year all my lovingly cared for cucumbers and courgettes died as soon as I put them outside, even though they were much bigger and the weather was much warmer. I always do well with tomatoes though so I'm confident about these, I've got twelve plants in pots which are from several different varieties. Some will go directly into the vegetable patch and some will stay in pots around the edge. 

I also have some spinach and carrots which I'll sow directly outside when it gets a bit warmer. 

Small tomato plants in pots on windowsill

I've started sowing seeds for some bedding plants, in particular marigolds as I want to grow lots on the planter that I'm making from a pallet. I've been saving tin cans for several months now so when they are a bit bigger I'll be putting them out into individual cans, but I don't have the space to keep them indoors in cans at the moment! I've planted some other flower seeds too but I can't remember what they are as I didn't label them so it will be a nice surprise to see what pops up.

I'm growing some sunflowers in pots because they always seem to do well here, I'll put some in the vegetable patch and some in a small flower bed at the bottom of our garden where there is a trellis to attach them to.

Small seedlings in trays on windowsill

My sweet peas are the only plants that I've been brave enough to put outside yet. They've been out for a couple of weeks and they haven't died yet so I'm hoping they will be okay now. Last year my sweet peas all ended up in a bit of a tangled mess, so I don't have as many planted this year and I'm trying to train them to run neatly up the poles. 

I have some strawberries outside as well, last year I successfully managed to grow lots of new plants from runners and they all unexpectedly survived the winter so I've now got four large planters full. Hopefully I'll have some yummy strawberries before long!

Small sweet pea seedlings planted against canes in vegetable patch

I'm looking forward to watching my garden grow over the summer, fingers crossed for plenty of warmth and sunshine!

Friday 23 April 2021

Book Review - Niksen by Olga Mecking - Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing

I recently treated myself to a couple of new books from my wish list, starting with one that frequently popped up in the books recommended for me - Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing (affiliate link).

The Dutch noun niks means 'nothing', and so niksen becomes the verb adapted from the noun, meaning something along the lines of 'nothing-ing'. It's difficult to come up with an exact definition for the act of niksen, but after exploring lots of options the author feels that the state of 'doing something without a purpose' is a useful description. 

Book review - Niksen by Olga Mecking

I'm such a sucker for books like this. I had to smile when the author went through a list of current popular wellbeing trends from around the world - Mindfulness, Zen, Hygge, Konmari, Swedish Death Cleaning, Nunchi, Ikigai. I'm very familiar with almost all of these. You can see them reflected in my bookshelves, and I must confess that the list inspired me to add a couple more books to my wish list!

The book is divided into six chapters covering detailed definitions of niksen, why it can be difficult, why it's good for you, how to introduce more opportunities for niksen into your life, and what to do if it doesn't work for you. There's a lot of information in the book drawn from interviews with many different people along with references to many books and papers. This can break up the flow a little bit at times, but I was glad to be introduced to some extra reading. 

In essence the concept of niksen is quite simple, so I felt that sometimes the book went off on a bit of a tangent, however I still found interesting to read. In particular I enjoyed the section on Dutch daily life, family life, culture and so on, even though I've not spent much time in the Netherlands myself. It was interesting to think about how different cultures are more accepting of taking time out for relaxation than others which have a much less tolerant attitude. 

I've read books about the importance of boredom before, and this book reinforces many of these ideas. Various studies have shown that people who are bored are much more creative in their thinking and I've definitely found that to be the case. In fact, reading this book came at a time when I found myself with some unexpected time to myself. Distanced from some of the emotional labour that forms my everyday, I was frequently able to let my thoughts run freely and I definitely noticed an increase in my creativity and productivity. 

The book also acknowledges that some activities can be an aid to niksen, even though you are technically doing something, as when you are engrossed in a task you enter a state of flow which allows your mind to wander. For example the author suggests knitting or listening to music.

The most useful part of the book to me was tips on how to niksen in the three places that we spend most time - at home, work and in public space (although home and work are the same for me!). It made me think about how I need to carve out this time in my daily life. It's not so difficult in term time when the children are at school, but it's harder when they are at home. I need to try and do things like get up earlier to have the house to myself, take myself out for a run or a walk, or just sit in the garden with a hot drink and watch the birds. 

Book review - Niksen by Olga Mecking

Finally from a purely aesthetic point of view, this is an attractive and pleasant book to read. It's hardback, a comfortable size to hold, and although it's mainly text, each chapter is illustrated with simple graphic designs. And even though the author tries to distance herself a little from the popular trends mentioned above, because the book is the exact same size and format as many of my other "wellbeing" books it fits neatly alongside them on my shelf.

I really enjoyed this little book and would definitely recommend it if you want to learn more about how doing nothing can be beneficial for so many reasons. 

Wednesday 21 April 2021

We bought a hot tub!

This summer we have treated ourselves to a new garden accessory - a hot tub! We've been pricing them up for a while, having enjoyed using them on a couple of Airbnb stays, but baulked at the price. It's not just the initial cost and installation of the hot tub, it's also the ongoing maintenance charges that add up.

But then a few weeks ago Ram spotted a special offer at Argos, and we are now the proud owners of a Lay-Z-Spa Cancun 2-4 person hot tub! It's an inflatable hot tub, you just inflate it, fill it with water, switch it on, work out the chemicals that you need to add to keep it clean and off you go. We've had it for a few weeks now, and we have used it to create our very own spa experience at home every day.

We built an insulated platform for it to sit on using foam mats and Kingspan insulation boards, and we also bought an insulated cover for it. This has really helped with keeping it to a good temperature and so we don't need to leave the heater on overnight. We just put the temperature up during the afternoon ready to use in the evening. We also don't really use the bubbles as they are quite loud and can be a bit annoying, we just chill out in the hot water. 

Lay-Z-Spa Inflatable hot tub in the garden

It's marketed as a 2-4 person hot tub but in reality it only fits two adults comfortably, and then two children can fit as well if you all squish in a bit. I think that you'd only want to share it as four adults if you were all very friendly with each other!

We've bought some new outdoor lights to decorate the surrounding area and we've really enjoyed using it, mainly in the early evening and later at night. It's a great opportunity to have a break from the phones and catch up with each other. We are hoping to get plenty of use out of it this summer, and if the weather heats up a bit we can also lower the temperature and sit in it to cool off. That would have been so nice during the heatwave last August!

It was one of my April goals to spend more time in the garden, and this is definitely going to help!

Monday 19 April 2021

Starting to socialise again

The children are back at school today after a lovely Easter holiday, and I'm enjoying some lovely peace and quiet. We had a good break, we didn't get out and about too much but the children had plenty of time to relax and get on with their own hobbies. I had some work to do for the first week or so which kept me busy, and then when it came to an end I was able to do some things around the house and garden.  

But the best part of the holiday was that we were able to get out of the house and meet up with friends and family for the first time in ages! Okay, only in small groups and just outside for the time being, but it was so nice. We spent a lot of time at the beach with various groups of people. Our local beach is a great place to meet because there's so much space, plenty of free parking, toilets and a café. Although it did get a bit chilly when the sun went in, and we still needed the winter coats, hats and gloves! 

The children had a great time playing with their friends, and even though they've been seeing them at school it's so different for them to be able to play properly. And I very much enjoyed being able to have a proper face to face catch up with people.

Goring beach, West Sussex in the sunshine

I even managed an evening meet up in the garden with some friends. I lit candles to give the illusion of warmth, then we had a firepit, hot drinks and blankets. I hadn't seen them both together for a proper chat since last summer and it was so nice to catch up. Roll on next month when we can maybe get out for a meal or to a café indoors!

Nearly finished firepit in the garden with blankets

We still haven't been brave enough to visit any very busy places like theme parks or shopping centres. But Ram is fully vaccinated now which is great, and hopefully my vaccination won't be too far off. I know that we'll still need to be careful of course, but it will make me feel happier when it's done.

We've been making plans for the May half term holiday which involve overnight stays with family members and friends, so I really hope that everything goes to plan and it can all go ahead. It makes such a difference to everyone's mental health to be getting out and about and seeing people socially again.

Friday 16 April 2021

Review - The DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer

A review of our new DKN cross trainer.

Our gym has been closed for most of the last year, and although we've continued our exercise at home, over the winter we started some research into buying a large piece of gym equipment. We settled on a cross trainer, or elliptical machine, chosen because it's not an exercise that we can duplicate ourselves (like running or cycling) and it provides a good full body workout. 

For clarity in this review, this is the first large piece of home exercise equipment that we have owned, and I can only compare it to the heavy duty cross trainer that I've used at the gym. 

DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer review

We settled on the DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer and we paid £599. This machine seemed to represent good value for money, being a high quality machine and with good reviews, yet not at the highly expensive end of the scale. We ordered it from Sweatband in mid January, but due to delays related to Brexit and Covid we didn't receive it until the end of March.

The cross trainer was delivered to our downstairs hallway. Since we planned to install it on the top floor we had to carry it up two flights of stairs. Some pieces could be removed from the box, but the bulkiest section was all in once piece, and because of the unpredictable moving hinged parts it was easiest to keep it inside the box for transport. It was very heavy, and although we managed it we didn't find it easy. 

Assembly took the two of us about an hour. It wasn't too difficult and there were only six steps, but a couple of times we were left scratching our heads and trying to work out what went where. It really takes two people to assemble, as you need someone to hold awkward pieces in place while they are screwed together. I think that it would be difficult to assemble alone.

Review of DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer

The control panel is very basic compared to some on the market, but that's a good thing for me as it's simple to use. You just press Enter to select your options and use the Up and Down buttons to scroll through. During use, the Up and Down buttons are used to decrease or increase the resistance. There are four saved user profiles, although we don't use these as we track our exercise separately through an Apple watch. 

There are 12 pre-set programmes that you can choose from, although personally I prefer to use manual mode and set myself a time or distance goal. To use one of the programmes , select the programme you want and the amount of time that you want to exercise for and it will automatically work you through the different resistance levels. You can override the resistance level using the controls at any point.

DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer control panel

The stride length on the cross trainer is shorter than on a larger machine, but it's not a problem for me and my husband as we aren't very tall. There are small wheels so that you can move the machine around, although you still need to lift it a little. On a wooden floor it can easily be slid around (without moving while in use!). We also bought a good quality mat to place underneath and protect our floor. We tried it out with a cheaper foam mat underneath but found that it felt a bit too bouncy. 

The cross trainer features an inbuilt Bluetooth Smart wireless receiver which means that you can monitor your heart rate with a compatible device and also connect to a device to keep track of your workouts. However we've not used this facility apart from to test it as we track our workouts using an Apple watch. 

There is a small shelf for a tablet or phone, but no water bottle holder or any other storage, although I manage to hook my small towel over the handles. You are quite high up when using it, so it's a bit awkward to reach down for items on a nearby table or chair. 

The cross trainer is pretty quiet when in use. You can hear it in the room underneath, probably because of the wooden floor, but it's not too loud. We've noticed an occasional knocking sound from inside the wheel that comes and goes. You can easily listen to a tablet or phone using the speakers while working out, and my husband has used it during work calls. I should mention that my daughter managed to cut herself very slightly on the sharp underside of one of the pedals, so that's something to be aware of and it should be used and stored in a place away from young children or pets. 

DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer review

I must admit that I don't always find it the most exciting way of exercising, but I do enjoy being able to watch and listen to my own shows and music while using it without the need for headphones. I'm intending to use the cross trainer for a longer workout once or twice a week, combined with outdoor running and core workouts.

We are really pleased with our purchase. It fits neatly into the space that we've set aside, and it's very motivating to know that it is there and so easy to jump on and use. It's definitely going to be very useful when I don't feel like going for a run outdoors.

You can find further technical information and reviews here - DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Introducing a new Roblox based YouTube channel for children

Today I wanted to introduce you to Mia and her friends' new YouTube channel. I appreciate that it probably won't appeal directly to many of my readers, but as a parenting blogger I'm hoping that some of you might have a child that enjoys playing games like Roblox, and might like to take a look.

The channel is called The Cosy Crew and is the work of Mia along with two of her friends. They all create and upload videos, sometimes as a group and sometimes individually. They are much better at posting to their channel than I am to mine! It's become a real creative outlet for them, and they've all learned how to edit the videos, record their voices and add music. Obviously they have me to supervise and I'm keeping an eye on it, for example I've made sure that comments are turned off!

I love how they have taken note of which Roblox videos are popular, and they've focussed on quickly creating new videos to help other people, like this one showing all the Easter egg locations in a recent update, along with reviewing any updates to the game. 

Here is what Mia has to say about their channel: 

Hi, we're The Cosy Crew! We do videos on Roblox playing some of our favourite games- Royale High, Club Roblox, Adopt Me and loads more! We also do videos on other games such as Minecraft and Among Us! We love to do role play and play music for our band.

Roblox YouTube channel The Cosy Crew

So if you have children in your family that you think might enjoy this channel, I would love for you to let them know about The Cosy Crew

The Cosy Crew Roblox YouTube channel

Monday 12 April 2021

How I've changed over the last year

I've recently read lots of articles marking one year since the start of lockdown in the UK on the 23rd March 2020. I don't think any of us imagined that we'd still be in almost the same place a whole year later! But with things hopefully moving in the right direction I thought that it wouldn't hurt to pause for a moment and think about all the ways that I've changed over the last year.

I'm more aware of my anxiety. I've always been anxious about things, but not to an extent that it interfered too much with my daily life. But at certain times over the last year I noticed physical anxiety symptoms, in particular a racing heartbeat, which I had never experienced before. Luckily that was just a temporary thing, and in fact many of my usual sources of anxiety were removed this year, for example the school run!

My meal planning has improved now that I no longer pop to the supermarket every other day for quick top ups. I have meals ready that I can make from store cupboard basics, and I've become used to planning meals in advance and buying everything at once. I haven't stockpiled, but I am careful to make sure that we have a good amount of long life food in the house, and always enough to make several days worth of food (essentially that means plenty of pasta, tomato sauce and frozen veg!)

I am very familiar with the local walking and running routes. Possibly a little too over familiar with the streets around my house.

Children on the beach at a 2m distance

I read a lot more. The short walk to my local library has become a big part of my routine, and the fact that I can currently reserve any book that I want to read for free has been brilliant.

I'm used to a lack of social contact. I used to think that I felt lonely when Ram went away for work and I didn't speak to any other adults for several days at a time. Now it's the norm!

I'm more aware of my home surroundings because I always at home. This isn't always a good thing, because mess bothers me, and sometimes it feels as though I'm constantly tidying up after everyone.

The children are more independent. Thanks to becoming used to doing their school work in their rooms they now spend more time there whereas in the past they tended to follow me around the house. This is part of growing up as well of course, but I always felt they were a bit too stuck to me so it's nice to have some space, especially when I need to work.

I spend more time in the garden. I've been very appreciative of our garden over the last year. It's not fancy but it's a good size and we have some comfortable garden furniture. I don't remember much really sitting out there for pleasure before.

Vegetable patch in garden with lavender

Screen time has become more productive. With more time at home to fill the children have turned to their screens, but they've also been using them in ways that I feel are beneficial. Harry has been teaching himself coding in Python, and learning how to solve Rubik's cubes. Mia plays games but it's a way for her to socialise and she has also started creating short videos for a YouTube channel with her friends. 

I use social media less. Over the summer I was on my phone far too much and it wasn't good for my mental health so I made a big effort to cut back. A key thing was to unfollow many accounts on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, and then to make an effort to flag up content that wasn't relevant or didn't interest me. This means that when I do log in I find the content more relevant, and it's also quicker to go through.

I've lost weight and become fitter. I did put on weight during the first lockdown, from stress, boredom and excess summer eating. But over the last six months I have cut back and increased the exercise, with the result that I'm currently really happy with my weight and fitness levels. I also feel motivated to keep it up going forwards.

Exercise equipment in a basket

I'm used to sharing the house. It was difficult at first with Ram at home all day, especially as he was usually away for a night or two every week. Then of course the children have been at home for the majority of the last year. But I've become used to it and I can hardly remember what it was like before. I've also come to appreciate having everyone around (even if I do long for some space sometimes!)

I am very grateful for the fact that this last year hasn't been nearly as difficult for me and my family as it has for many others. But it has been an unsettling year full of changes, and I know that it's going to take a while for things to get back to something resembling normality. I think that I've definitely made some positive changes, and while anxiety remains that things might fall apart again I'm hopeful for the future.

Friday 9 April 2021

What I learned from temporary home schooling

I'm hoping that we have finally said goodbye to the home learning. I've thought this before of course, but this time things seem to be moving in the right direction, and I feel more confident that the schools won't be closing again.

I was relieved to see the back of home learning, and I don't at all envy the poor teachers trying to help children get used to being in the classroom again, without their Roblox and constant access to snacks. But having the children at home gave me the chance to spend more time with them, as well as get a small insight into their school day. And looking back, it wasn't too bad overall.

So here are some of the things that I learned from home schooling the children:

* Teachers deserve a great deal of respect. I can't imagine how stressful it must have been to have planned out all the work for the year, then at the last minute (and not once but twice!) having to rewrite everything and adapt it so that it could be taught remotely. It must have been such a change to their normal working patterns and I don't know how they did it.

* I always thought that I would have liked to be a teacher, but now I know for sure that I don't have the patience. It was hard enough trying to deal with two children, let alone an entire classroom.

* I also always thought that home schooling permanently might be fun. But it wouldn't be for me.

* I'm so glad that my job is part time, hours can be worked to suit, and I don't have to do any live meetings or calls. With my husband's job being so demanding it would have been impossible to juggle everything.

Child learning from home on an iPad at a desk

* I had to learn to step back and not get overinvested, and I had to learn to stop myself jumping in to correct spelling and grammar.

* I found that the children are more independent than I give them credit for, and I often do things for them that they are more than capable of doing for themselves. When left to their own devices they had no problems understanding and completing the work set, they just enjoyed the reassurance of me being involved.

* It was interesting to see the areas where the children need some extra help. Fractions and decimals in particular proved to be tricky.

* Their different personalities mean that their learning styles are different. Harry likes structure and clear instructions, Mia enjoys more open-ended tasks. I had to help them adapt to home learning in different ways.

* I found out how much maths in particular has changed since I was at school. While I could always find the answer to a maths problem, it wasn't usually in the way that the teacher wanted me to find it!

Second time around it was all much easier, and if it does happen that we need to learn from home again, perhaps due to a positive case in the class, we are all much more confident with the situation. But fingers crossed, this time they'll be remaining in the classrooms!

Wednesday 7 April 2021

Our new cross trainer

We've been dedicated gym members many years now, since well before the children were born, but of course it has been shut for most of the last year. Even when it reopened over the summer we only actually returned in October for a month or so, and it has been closed ever since. 

I feel bad because I know that businesses like this, even a large national chain like our gym, are going to struggle with the  loss of income. But we have paid them a huge amount in membership fees over many years, and the truth is that not only have we saved a fortune this year, we've also realised that we can manage extremely well at keeping ourselves fit without it. So we have handed in our notice, and unless they are able to offer us a good incentive to stay then we will be leaving once we've worked through the notice period.

We decided to put some of the money that we have saved towards buying ourselves a cross trainer. We placed the order back in January when it was darker and colder than it is now, but due to supply issues we only actually took delivery of it this week. It was very exciting!

New cross trainer in bedroom office

Thanks to having cleared and decorated one of our top rooms as a good sized office for Ram, we had plenty of space to fit it. It means that he can use it while he's working, and if I do feel the urge to exercise during his working day he can usually take calls in another room. 

We've only had it a few days but we are really pleased with it so far, and I'm planning to share a full review when we've been using for a couple of weeks. A big benefit is that I can prop my phone up and watch my own videos while I'm working out, instead of relying on the gym televisions, and it's nice and quiet so I don't need headphones. I haven't used a cross trainer much before so it's still quite new to me and I'm finding it very hard work. I can manage twenty minutes on the lowest setting before I wobble back down the stairs and collapse. 

Ram has been eyeing up those fancy sheds that you can install in the garden to use as a home gym. Probably with the amount that we'll be saving on gym membership it won't be long before we can afford one!

Monday 5 April 2021

My goals for April

Writing a monthly goal list has become a new thing for me, and I'm finding it really motivating to have both long and short term goals to keep me focussed during the month. 

So here's what I want to achieve during April:

* Finish my pallet planter. I've been putting this off because it's been so cold, but as soon as the weather has warmed up a bit I'll be out there with the sandpaper and the paint.

* Spend lots of time in the garden. I've spent several hours out there today, it's still a bit chilly but I wrapped up with a blanket and a hot drink and I even took my exercise mat out there and did some stretches (well away from our Ring security camera!). I feel really good for the fresh air. So I intend to sit outside for at least a few minutes every day, as long as it's not raining!

Reading in the garden under a blanket

* Plant out the rest of my seeds. I ordered plenty of seeds back in February but I've only planted out tomatoes and sweet peas so far. I've been saving plastic trays and for my planter project I need lots of marigolds, I also have other flowers to do. I might plant some more tomatoes as well as I'm always successful with those and had a lovely crop last year.

* Keep up with the exercise. We spent some of the money that we saved on our gym membership over the last year on a decent cross trainer, and I'm enjoying using it on the days when it's too cold to brace myself for a run outside. I also want to keep up the core training and flexibility routines that I've been doing.

* Continue my leg stretches. I'm interested to see how far I can get with my leg stretches this month, I've been seeing a lot of improvement, so I definitely want to keep up with my short ten minute daily stretch routine.

* Spend time down at the beach. I enjoy a run along the beach after school drop off once a week or so, and I can also run to the beach from my home. I find it so relaxing to sit on the beach and watch the waves for a little while, especially after I've been exercising.

* Refine my YouTube stream. I've been really into YouTube recently but I find it far too easy to get sucked into watching mindless videos that end up being a waste of time. I have massively reduced the list of channels that I was subscribed too, and when I go through my home feed I'm being diligent about reporting videos that don't interest me. That has made a big difference and has also introduced me to some new channels. I've found some lovely relaxing videos like the one below, and I've been watching organisational and productivity videos while I'm on the cross trainer. I'd love to hear any recommendations if you have them!

* Publish more blog posts. I'm finding that writing in my journal has been a really good way to come up with ideas for blog posts, I just need to find the uninterrupted time to write them up properly. It's been tricky lately as I've had quite a bit of work on, so I need to get better at organising my time (and possibly spending less time on YouTube!).

* Pick up my cross stitch more often. I'm really pleased with my progress so far, but it has been a little neglected lately. My goal is to start working towards the first side of the border. There's a lot of it, but I don't mind it because it's quite mindless and I don't need to follow the pattern too closely. The design is Olde World Map by Janlynn. This is where I'm at so far:

Cross stitch Olde World Map in progress

I think that these goals are very achievable. Many of them feel geared towards making my life feel a little calmer and more relaxing, which I definitely need to concentrate more on!

Friday 2 April 2021

An update on my March goals

I did so well with my February goals that I was really keen to keep the momentum going with my list of goals for my list of goals for March. I had found it really motivating to have a list of things to work on through the month and I was pleased with my progress.  

When I started to write this post I wasn't feeling very positive, but when I sat down to think about it I realised that I'd actually done really well! The only thing that I didn't get do was to make my garden planter, mainly because it was too cold outside for me.

Here's what I achieved:

* Get back into the school routine. This went pretty smoothly and the children have settled back in nicely (albeit only for three weeks before the Easter holidays started). The first week back was rough, and they were both overtired and overwhelmed. But they benefited so much from going back. Harry had been anxious about the lateral flow tests but he soon realised it wasn't a problem and we've been continuing them at home with no issues. 

Covid lateral flow tests in a box

* Continue my exercise. I'm pleased to say that I've been doing very well with this. I managed two long runs along the seafront despite the freezing winds. I also joined Ram and the kids for school drop off and ran back home - it's nearly ten kilometres so I definitely felt that I'd earned my cake that day! I completed the shredded abs challenge that I was working on and my stomach definitely feels tighter and flatter. I'm doing a flexibility challenge for my legs, and I'm noticing big improvements there too.

*Get out the garden furniture. It has been out for two days now and I spent ages out there today reading with a blanket round me!

* Sort out the garden. The strawberry plants are weeded and the dead leaves removed, I've raked over the empty vegetable patch ready for later in the spring and I've made a start on the planting - tomatoes and sweet peas so far. 

Seedlings planted in plastic tubs on the windowsill

* Continue with the healthy eating and lose the last bit of weight. I'm delighted to announce that I have just hit my goal weight, I'm now the lightest I've been for a couple of years! I'd like to lose a little more to give myself a buffer, as I always put on weight during the summer what with the barbecues, the delicious pizzas and the ice cream that I can't stop buying. 

* Find some podcasts to listen to on the school run. This one was half achieved. I found some interesting podcasts, but I found I couldn't concentrate on them while I was driving! I realised I prefer to put some familiar music on and sing along.

* Try and manage some socialising. I went up to see my parents and I went for a lovely long walk with a friend. I have also scheduled in some more meetups for the Easter break.

* Clean out the kitchen cupboards. I cleaned the two worst ones at least!

* Plan for the Easter holidays. Another success, you can read about my Easter holiday planning here. 

* Publish at least one blog post a week. I managed this but it was tough, and I didn't feel very inspired when it came to writing blog posts. But I'm feeling a lot more productive at the moment so I'm hoping to step it up a bit this month.

I'm so pleased with the progress that I've made, and I want to continue making these lists because it definitely helps to keep me focussed with long and short term goals. So look out shortly for April's goals!