My week … the one with a lot of steps

The reference in this week’s title isn’t some new year lockdown health craze, its simply been a challenging week and my way to destress is to run and I’ve needed to run lots of miles this week. Within the pandemic, I feel that this has been the toughest week, its January, its been cold and / or wet and the pandemic just seems more real and dangerous. This week the country has recorded the highest numbers of deaths in the pandemic and the situation appears very grim.

Personally, work has dominated my week. Its very busy during the day and with my new role comes new responsibilities and I’ve needed to complete 2 virtual courses in the evenings to enable me to do these tasks in work. I’ve also had to renew my DSL training (child protection) so also attended a TEAMS training course this week. I always find this training quite harrowing, so coupled with my nhs training on administering the rapid flow Covid tests, safer recruitment training and safeguarding its been a week. Not every week will be like this, unfortunately, its simply been a perfect storm of events and circumstances.

Given this week (and there’s more but its not appropriate for me to write about) I did think I would struggle to have any highlights, I’ve not opened a book which is so rare for me and its lockdown so life is very limited. However, I did manage to find a few sparkles from the week.

Vaccines

The biggest highlight this week was that my 89 year old father in law got his first Covid vaccine. He has been so careful and I haven’t seen him in nearly a year, so to know that he’s been vaccinated and it will be safe to see him soon made me quite emotional. My dad who has some underlying health conditions and is nearly 75 gets his first vaccination tomorrow. It is a wonderful feeling that we have the vaccines and our most vulnerable are receiving it.

Lockdown Learner of the week

I am so grateful that Mr S is ‘retired’ as I couldn’t do what I do at work without him being at home for us all. He is home school teacher, although this time, it is slightly more relaxed for him as its live lessons and much more a typical school day. On Friday, Mr S emailed me through the latest letter from school and told me to read it carefully. To my surprise and delight, our daughter was the school’s lockdown learner of the week and today received her prize voucher in the post. It was definitely a proud mum (and dad and grandparents) moment and just the news I needed after a tough week.

My first milestone on the Virtual Lands End to John O’Groats virtual run.

With the daily exercise rule in lockdown I’m not able to follow my usual running pattern and am tending to run on the days when I work as other days are family exercise time. Running is my therapy and I’ve just gone and run this week, no plans of times and routes, just the steady repetition of one foot in front of another. I got my first milestone on the Lands End to John O’Groats run this week by passing the 50 mile mark. Its a virtual postcard but a nice little reminder of the challenge and the places I’ve ‘run’ past en route in Cornwall. Its also the only way to ‘see’ all these places at present.

And finally

Another week with nothing on the calendar except a food delivery. I miss all the little things so much and feel at present, its about getting through each day as positively as we can.

My week … the one with Lockdown 3.0

Well this was definitely an eventful week, promotion at work, Lockdown 3.0, the restart of home learning and the completion of my university course. Its the sort of week in which you can’t actually think about all that is going on, otherwise it would totally overwhelm you. However, I do try to compartmentalise my life to maintain my sanity and humour and this has helped me to get through the week. I do this by breaking down my day into different sessions and devote each time to different part of my life. It has also been essential to get out on my own everyday to walk or run and simply to gather my thoughts.

Lockdown 3.0 did not come as a surprise, the scientists had predicted the second wave and it hit just as they said it would. At work we had taken heed of their warnings in November at the start of Lockdown 2.0 and we have continued with our lockdown plans since then. At home, I was surprised by the announcement that the schools’ closure would last until at least half term. Our son really struggled with the long lockdown and we made the decision together that he would return to school. He is classed as a vulnerable student on two counts and I am also a critical worker. Thankfully he has loved being back at school, he is at special school so his class is smaller than at mainstream. He was tested as part of the fast track school testing system on his first day and was very proud to be the first student at his school to have the test. We have used the same system at my school and it definitely is a game changer for tracking Covid in schools. Our daughter is staying at home to do her home learning, it seems a lot more formal (and demanding) this lockdown with lots of live lessons.

Here are my sparkles of the week.

I ran lots.

In the first lockdown, I stopped running for nearly 2 months obeying the guidance for one daily exercise which was taken as a family. It affected my wellbeing and this time I’m being more organised to ensure that I get my time. I learnt that walking to work is a commute and doesn’t count as exercise, so I am now walking to work, 4 days a week. I can then run in the weekday evenings and on a couple of occasions this week my daughter has joined me. I really feel that this helped me feel more in control of the ever changing situation. I’m also on a Lands End to John O’Groats virtual running challenge for this year so have ticked off my first 28 miles.

I finished a book

The Memory Tree is my last book of 2020 as I read most of it in December and just the last few chapters this week. Its a sad but uplifting story of a young mother with early onset Alzheimer’s, there’s no happy ending but a story which shows the importance of family and kindness and love.

I completed my University course.

In such a busy week, this became something of an anti-climax. I finished the work in the holidays and had just been waiting for the final approval from my tutor to submit it. I was worried that I would need to do more work and had visions of being up all night, but in fact all I needed to do was add a reference which was quickly done (thank goodness for my careful reading notes) The work was submitted on time and now I’m just waiting for the results. My mum asked me what I was going to do next and I honestly believe that this has been my final academic work. I’ll have my degree and two post graduate courses after my name which I think is suffice.

I got creative

I have written my #21for21 and one is to do something creative everyday. I bought the book 365 days of Creativity and have started doing the tasks. My big job this week was to do our family photo book for 2020. I’ve tried not to reflect on the year gone by, but doing the photo book really brought home how different life was in 2020. I am so hoping that this year’s book is full of photos of the children with their grandparents, family holiday adventures and events.

And finally

Our family got good news this weekend, my 89 year old father in law gets his first Covid vaccination on Wednesday. Its the best news I’ve had in ages and a little light to show that we are getting through this pandemic.

My #20for2020

This little activity is inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, Happier which is a must listen every week. Its something I have done over the past few years, 17for17, 18for18, 19for19, where you choose items to be done in the year, they can be fun or serious, work related or home based. This year started as usual and my items were designed for a typical year, however this year was everything but typical and many items simply couldn’t be done under the Covid restrictions. Here’s my review of my list and what I was able to adapt to a Covid year,

  1. Read for pleasure, 15 minutes a day.  I am pleased with this target, I always have a book on the go and think I will finish the year having read around 37 books for pleasure ( the 38th is nearly finished) and countless more for my studies. Achieved
  2. Resize my wedding and engagement rings.  Achieved
  3. Complete my University course.  The Covid pandemic meant that modules and assignments needed to be rearranged and my deadline day is January 6th 2021. However, I think I have completed all the work now and just want to have a final proof read before handing them in and awaiting my result. Nearly there!
  4.  Run a 10k race. I had entered a 10k race with a friend for May, but this was cancelled. However lots of races went virtual and I did the London and Edinburgh 10k races. I submitted proof of my time and distance and got lovely goodie bags with t-shirts and medals. Virtual races were a great idea to come from this difficult year. Achieved
  5. Run a parkrun PB. I missed a PB on a wet and very muddy course by 3 seconds in early 2020 and then parkrun was suspended with no return date yet. I have not timed any of my home 5k runs this year, if the 5k isn’t on my parkrun course it just wouldn’t count for me. To be continued ..
  6. Have a no spend month. I did this intentionally in January and then by accident in March and April with the lockdown and closure of all non essential shops. Achieved.
  7. Enjoy live music. Gutted that due to Covid this was not achieved. Of all the things I missed doing in 2020, live music and theatre top the list (family and friends not included) Covid casualty.
  8.  Plan a special 10 year famiversary.  Another Covid casualty as so many of my possibilities were not possible. We spent the day at our local beach and enjoyed a take away at home. It also showed that all that mattered was being together. Covid casualty.
  9. Have a rainbow of nail colours. Despite Covid, I did manage quite a few colours on my trips to the nail bar, except May – July and November when it was closed. Achieved.
  10. Visit the fashion museum. Not achieved due to Covid. One day I will definitely do this! Covid casualty.
  11. Wear colourful running kit and smile. TBH, this year its been more important just to get out there and run rather than think about kit. Unsurprisingly, given the lockdown, I’ve not been to any running shops to browse ranges. I did get a new pair of capris but had limited choice online, though I did go for khaki as alternative to black! I do have an apricot parkrun t-shirt and a royal blue finishers t-shirt from Edinburgh to add a little colour, although I would like a pretty skort or capris for when parkrun returns in ’21. As for the smiling, I think I still look pretty grumpy when running, even if I’m not feeling it inside. I think I may just have a grumpy face! To be continued…
  12. Special bakes for Valentines, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. Well baking seemed to be a compulsory lockdown activity and we did plenty. I have a long list of bakes we made during the year. Baking was a welcome, comforting activity in this year. Achieved
  13. Review every film watched. So sad to say that I did not go to the cinema in 2020, my last trip was December 31st 2019. I love the cinema and have really missed our trips to the big screen. Covid casualty.
  14. Get the correct school place for Little ManIt was so stressful and went down legal avenues but we were successful and our son is so happy at his new school. One of our biggest achievements as parents. Achieved.
  15. Complete a photo a week challenge.  I took so many photos in 2020, but didn’t follow a set challenge. I don’t think the subjects inspired me. This may need a reboot in 21 as I do love taking photographs. Not achieved.
  16. Finish the 50 parkruns milestone.  Gutted to not have got my red t-shirt but whilst parkrun paused, I did continue to run and am raring to return to parkrun when it is safe again. Covid casualty.
  17. Take Little Man to London. I had started to make proper plans for this trip which was to happen in late spring or early summer but then Covid happened and our little adventure has been postponed. Covid casualty.
  18. Plan each season’s style. Interestingly this was an area which really developed, I had the time to sort out my wardrobe and losing weight made me really streamline my wardrobe and make careful purchases. I also started to follow a few fashion influencers on Instagram, going for styles similar to my lifestyle and watched a few videos on YouTube. Achieved
  19. Take a flower arranging class. Again, another item planned but postponed due to Covid, fingers crossed it can happen in ’21. Covid casualty.
  20. No sweets or chocolate. Amazingly despite spending the year in a pandemic, I managed to keep to this pledge! No I can’t quite believe it either. It showed that sweets and chocolate were more habit than desire. I missed both and will be enjoying them again in ’21 but perhaps a little more mindfully. Achieved.

So despite the pandemic and a few alterations and postponements, I managed to achieve 9 of my 20, a few are nearly there and others were simply not possible under the Covid restrictions. I’m happy with those results. I do enjoy this challenge and in the next few days will be finishing my #21for21, which after this year definitely needs to to be fun and frivolous list!

My week … the one with the tier 2 Christmas

Christmas has all blurred this year and I have really missed the anticipation and preparation to the big day, it has all felt so strange. However, its been a Christmas of simple pleasures, long walks ( and a few groans from the children of ‘not another walk!’) family games (we have a family grand games master competition in progress) festive television and some gorgeous home made food.

However, I have become a little fed up with the general misery, portrayed in the media, that Christmas has been ruined for 2020. Mr S and I have both said we’ve had much worse Christmases, the one which we both agreed was our worst was when we booked a beautiful rural cottage in Cornwall. It sounds delightful, but we got snowed in, it was freezing inside and out and we only had limited groceries. It was the only holiday from which we’ve ever come home early, once the thaw began. I remember stopping at the services and buying treats at the M&S shop to make up for the misery! Although it had a happy ending, Christmas 2018 was a very scary time as Grandad who was staying with us was taken very ill and rushed to hospital on Christmas eve, that Christmas put everything into perspective. So, a happy Christmas as our little bubble of 4 doesn’t even come close to being described as a ruined Christmas.

Anyway rant over, here are some of the highlights of Christmas 2020

Christmas Patterns

I embraced Christmas patterns this year, I love my new Christmas skirt and for the first time I bought some Christmas pyjamas for myself. Well, I got the Grinch bottoms as the top was just too much and they look so much better with a plain black t-shirt. I love them and they’re so warm and comfortable. Our Christmas morning photos are great with the 3 of us in our Christmas pjs and Santa hats, although sadly, I still can’t convince Mr S to have pyjamas or a jumper. I also bought a new Christmas cushion made by a small indie business using a Cath Kitson fabric, its very cute and kitsch!

Socially Distanced Christmas Carols.

We had a socially distanced Christmas carol concert with our neighbours and it was so lovely. We all stood in our gardens or on the pavement and sang together by torchlight. We had decorated one tree with lights and stars and it all felt so warm and sparkly. It was simple but beautiful.

Surprise Presents

With all the thought that goes into Christmas, its always nice to see what are the most well received presents, aside from the ‘main’ present. This year it was a pair of goalie gloves and a lava lamp. Little Man asserted that Grandad (again) is the best Christmas present buyer. This makes me smile as Grandad sends us the money early November and we do it all for him. At nearly 90, its the best arrangement for everyone and I’m happy to keep the secret so Grandad gets the kudos.

A Christmas Eve 10K

Christmas eve is my favourite day of the year, I love the buzz of the final preparations, neighbours popping in, the special dessert, new pyjamas etc.. As I knew this year was going to be different, I arranged to run the Virtual Edinburgh 10k to define the day. I started at 6.30am on a beautiful, still and mild morning and listened to a Scottish playlist to complement the run. I have a lot of Scottish family and as I ran I thought about happy times with them, especially my grandparents who have both died. It was a real life affirming run and my fastest 10k of the year, a nice way to mark Christmas eve.

Home Cooking

I love Christmas in the kitchen, my menus are prepared weeks in advance and my kitchen is cosy and filled with the most delicious smells over the season. One of our little traditions is a special dessert on Christmas eve, last year’s Baked Alsaka (or the mountain pudding as Little Man still calls it) was a big hit so I knew it was going to be difficult to top it. I chose a spiced apple cheesecake which was amazing, the ginger base and warm caramel sauce gave the pudding a festive feel. We had a traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas day, Roast Turkey for the children and a home made mushroom and tarragon strudel for Mr S and I whom are vegetarians. I love a rainbow of veggies so there were orange glazed carrots and parsnips, braised red cabbage and apple, creamy brussel sprouts and chestnuts and plain broccoli and boiled carrots for Little Man who likes his food plain and simple. My roasties were definitely the best ever. One of my little pleasures on Christmas day is cooking in the kitchen with my Christmas pinny on listening to the dedications and carols on Classic FM.

The lights

There have been beautiful lights in town this year and as I tend to run in the dark, I get to see their sparkle. Our school decorated our large outdoor tree and it does stand as a beacon of light in the community. This year, my friend commented that the snowballs hanging across the the shopping streets look like the coronavirus. Its an image I can never unsee! As well as the lights, lots of local shops have done spectacular window displays to spread a little festive cheer.

Festive tv

So we could be together and doing family things during the day, I have been working on my uni assignment in the evenings and have watched very little television this festive season. However I did manage to watch the Christmas episodes of All Creatures Great and Small and Call the Midwife which were perfect viewing. I have so much respect and gratitude to the cast and crew of series such as the Bake Off, Strictly and Call the Midwife, whom have been able to produce programmes under the Covid restrictions. They have provided us with the escapism from the pandemic which we have all craved.

And finally

Tonight is New Year’s eve, I’m sure I’ve explained on this blog before that I am not a big fan, so a quiet night in is my ideal arrangement. I’m planning on finishing this and settling down with my book, before an early night, I’m so rock and roll. In fairness, whilst I don’t like tonight and find it all a bit fake and maudlin, I will be over it in the morning and ready for a new year which brings hope and promise (once we’ve got over the next few months)

Take care and happy new year.

Tommy’s Final Visits

December 13th: Marking the date on the advent calendar.

December 14th: The final pieces on the Christmas jigsaw.

December 15th: Reindeer racing with Santa.

December 16th: Magic snow fun.

December 17th: Topping the driftwood tree.

December 18th: Tucked up in bed with Rainbow.

December 19th: Learning the rules of Qwirkle.

December 20th: Raiding the chocolate tin.

December 21st: Hiding in the penny pot.

December 22nd: Curling the ribbon on the flower arranagment.

December 23rd: Bringing the ingredients for gingerbread decorations.

December 24th: Hot chocolate treats for Christmas eve.

My week … the one with the Christmas Jigsaw

Uni work blah, blah, blah … but here are the other things I’ve done this week.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to embrace the festive season as it’s so different. It’s made me cherish all the little things which make up the season, the carol concerts, Christmas tree festival, meeting family, popping into friends’ homes to exchange presents and cards, last minute shopping. I’m trying to make Christmas 2020 as magical as possible and Tommy the elf has really helped by bringing treats and special things to do but sadly it’s simply not the same. With the news of the government changing the original planned 5 days of relaxed restrictions to just one day and even advising against this, there is a sorrow permeating the country. Our plans haven’t need to change as we had already decided to just be the four of us but I’m still missing our parents lots, even when we know we’ve made the safest choice.

But despite the darkness there needs to be sparkles and here’s some highlights from this week.

1. We did a jigsaw! It was the one thing we didn’t do in lockdown and I don’t think I’ve done a jigsaw since I was my children’s ages. I love the modern design and Tommy brought it in the eve of a predicted wet and windy Sunday (spot on forecast) for us to do. It was the perfect activity for the weather as we were warm and cosy indoors, trying to find the pieces, munching on Christmas treats. It was strangely addictive but possibly just a Christmas challenge.

2. Despite the Covid restrictions, I’ve managed to get Christmas nails and a hair cut and colour done. A little bit of colour and sparkle have made me feel more me.

3. Last year I decided I wanted to wear something different for Christmas, something to dress up in for our school events and all those other festive occasions. I have a little gingerbread obsession at Christmas and found a dressmaker on Etsy who was able to make me a skirt with this theme. It sounds expensive but was a very reasonable price and so much nicer than anything I could find in shops. There was no big school events at work this week but I still wore my skirt on the last day, we’ve got to find the joy in the little things.

4. I read the delightful email sent to all staff at my school about a secret santa present and it was mine! I love buying presents and always put in a lot of thought and love. I was especially pleased with this present. It was a charity calendar designed by a local artist for the animal sanctuary and I added an item in my colleague’s name from the sanctuary’s Amazon wish list. My colleague always supports this charity by collecting old towels etc. so I liked the personal link.

5. I watched the Strictly final which was perfect in every way. It was aired following the pretty grim news conference by the PM and was the escapism we all needed. I was delighted with the winner but the real success was being able to air a live show every week within a pandemic. It was different and simpler but has been a highlight of my week.

And finally … well who knows what this week will bring, it’s Christmas 2020 style. Here hoping for love, hope and belonging to bind us together.

Tommy Part 2

December 7th: Practising on Zoom for Little man’s class virtual coffee morning (he did appear on the live stream)

December 8th: Exploring Great Britain with a beautiful advent calendar gifted by a special friend.

December 9th: Labelled in French to help Little Miss’ vocab test revision.

December 10th: Hiding in a school blazer.

December 11th: Nibbling on a chocolate coin. The children always add these to their Christmas cards.

December 12th: Bringing a Christmas jigsaw for us all to do at the weekend. (Its forecast to be a wet weekend with tier 2 restrictions)

Tommy Part 1

Our favourite little elf is back this year, he is my one of my favourite traditions. Tommy is hidden each night and always writes a little letter to the children. Our library of letters over the past 9 years is a beautiful memento of childhood Christmases.

December 1st: Face mask and sanitiser and a rainbow of hearts, that’s 2020.

December 2nd: A little Christmas tree magic, the tree crystallised and provided gasps on the return from school.

December 3rd: Wind up races.

December 4th: Elf hat and costume ready for Elf day at school.

December 5th: Christmas wreath and a decoration for the tree.

December 6th: Jungle Tommy, hiding in my plant that I’ve managed to keep alive!

My week (or two) … the one with Christmas prep

Another speed writing post, yes the uni project is still hanging over me. , we’re now in December and its Christmas sparkles. Its so strange this year, there are no carols by candlelight, school concerts, Christmas tree festivals, Christmas markets etc.. and its about trying to find 2020 ways to celebrate the season.

Here are some highlights of the past two weeks.

  1. I am organised and ready for Christmas. I have written and sent all my cards, even the ones going abroad and bought all my presents, which are all wrapped and sent as needed. I used the new Royal Mail parcel collection service and it was brilliant. Instead of struggling with my parcels and queuing in the Post Office, I paid a small fee and the parcels were collected from my door step. It was worth every penny. I’m not the only one being efficient this year, I’ve noticed that the Christmas cards are all here earlier and we’ve received our parcels from friends and family.
  2. I’m really pleased with my present choices. I am always careful and take great pride in my presents but this year I feel I have excelled myself! I have used independent sellers where I can. My favourite new Christmas jumper came from Betsy and Bear, where I also bought my daughter’s. Instagram, Etsy and Not on the High Street have been my must goes to for inspiration and the presents are all lovely. One of my favourites to buy has been my work Secret Santa. My colleague is always collecting old blankets for the local animal sanctuary. This year, a local artist has designed a beautiful calendar for the charity, so this is the present she will receive on the day. However, I discovered there is an Amazon wish list for the animal sanctuary so I have also bought a little something from this list in her name.
  3. I will do a post about our decorations but I always make a special window display in our kitchen. This year it has a rainbow theme and its so bright and joyful. As soon as I saw the rainbow lights in the picture above I had my theme, my window is so lovely and so 2020.
  4. I am loving the Chilly Gonzales Christmas album. I read a review in the paper and its been my must listen this year. Its mainly instrumental but so chilled and relaxing.
  5. My daughter and I try to run together a couple of times a week. On Friday night, we were running (avoiding all the teen hang out spots so not to be seen!) and started to hear some Christmas music. Initially I thought it might have been choir practice in a church, but we passed it and it wasn’t originating from there, we continued running and finally found the music, it was Santa on his sleigh as part of the Rotary Sleigh ride. It made my heart skip, it was just so lovely to see the children waving from windows. We then continued on our run with a new idea, to hunt down the best Christmas lights. It was one of those ordinary evenings which unexpectedly became extraordinary.
  6. Its not a Christmassy book, its theme is brushes with death but I’ve enjoyed I am, I am, I am by Maggie O’Farrell. In a very busy life, the short stories are a perfect pause. I am hearing rave reviews of Maggie’s new book, Hamnet so I think that’s on my TBR list.

My week … the one with so much uni work to do …

Whilst the temptation was not to write a post this week, I am giving myself 15 minutes to simply jot down a few things, it’ll be a bullet point format but at least will provide some details of the week.

  • As you may guess from the title, my Uni deadline is looming, 40 days and counting and I should be fully focused on my project. However I am also having that moment of panic, best illustrated by extreme procrastination at times this week. What else could explain having wrapped all the Christmas presents and having written and addressed the Christmas cards when I in fact should have been reading and writing. No distractions now, the work must be done. I am dreaming of the January 8th when there will be with no more study stress (although in the best possible timing, I may have a promotion at work starting that week too!)
  • My Zoom life. As if Zoom at work wasn’t suffice, its been a work of Zoom meetings at home too. Scouts continues on Zoom and this week’s Taskmaster edition was excellent, so much fun. We then had our son’s Annual Review on Zoom, and as a parent, I embrace this medium for Annual reviews and teacher meetings, it takes so much faff away from the meeting and simply focuses on the content. It was a great meeting and lovely to have Little man appearing in the meeting too and showing the strong relationship he has with his new teacher.
  • The Great British Bake Off. I loved this series and how the team got it produced and aired in the Covid pandemic is amazing. The final was great and showed the simple joys of life, baking with friends. At the end of the programme, there was a dedication to all those getting us through 2020 and it gave me all the feels.
  • I’ve been reading Olive by Emma Gannon as I go to bed, just to simply switch off from academic work. Its a good read on the choices around becoming a parent, real and witty with some great characters.
  • We haven’t put up the Christmas tree. Despite a concerted effort form the Sparkles family to persuade me otherwise, I’ve remained strong on not putting up the Christmas tree early. I can’t bring myself to do it in November, I love my tree and decorations but it needs to be done in December. As compensation, I have planned a special Christmas day next Saturday to allow us to do this with some festive treats.

My time deadline is up now. Back to the studies and hopefully I’ll finish my portfolio tonight by bedtime. Last night I was doing Uni work at 11pm on a Saturday night, how did this happen?