My week .. the one with the harvest

So, we have had our final week all together as Little Man and I prepare to return to school next week, whilst Little Miss has an extra few days at home to enjoy. We have had 23 weeks together at home and this week was similar to the others, long walks, home baking, the skate park, Nintendo Switch, family games etc.. However , you can always find something special in the ordinary and here are our highlights from Week 23 of lockdown!

I have read (and listened) ..

Desert Islands Discs is not being broadcast at present but on my Sounds app, they are highlighting previous episodes. This week’s guest was the poet, Wendy Cope, someone I’ve always admired for her work. I still have my original well thumbed copies of Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis and Serious Concerns from my uni days, inscribed with my maiden name and in the beautiful Faber and Faber print. After listening to the episode, I ordered Family Values and have loved reading it. There is something hauntingly simple and honest about her work and her poems do stay with you. In Desert Island Discs her childhood was discussed and the sadness of it is reflected in some very personal pieces, Daily Help was a beautiful read. I also loved Christmas Ornaments, as I am that person who likes to pick up a new decoration on our summer holiday so our Christmas tree reflects happy times and memories. Sadly with this year’s cancelled holidays there are no new decorations yet, although I will definitely be buying a rainbow inspired decoration for 2020.

I have played ..

On Monday, Little Miss and Mr S went to visit Granddad again. They had planned to do some more gardening work for him but the weather was pretty poor so they simply enjoyed some time with him. This left little Man and I with a day together to plan. I asked him what did he want to do together and his wish was to teach me how to play Minecraft, something totally out of my comfort zone. However, I gave it a go and learnt a few moves and strategies. Little Man was a patient teacher, even when I knocked down part of his house in my enthusiasm but I think he prefers playing with his sister.

This week we have also had a few games of Monopoly on the wet afternoons, its a really good game for all of us to enjoy together. Lockdown has presented us with the time to do these long games on wet afternoons without feeling the need to be doing something more productive. Lockdown has taught us its okay to be in the moment.

I have made ..

Its been harvest time Chez Sparkles, as my gardening squad have been harvesting and tidying their garden patch, our neighbours and Grandad have also been harvesting so we’ve had a glut of home grown produce (and freshly lain eggs) Little Man and I baked a ginger and plum upside down cake, it was delicious, the flavours went very well together. Little Miss made stewed plums, which have become a favourite with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. I made a fresh tomato sauce for a pasta dish and have been recommended a beetroot pasta sauce by a neighbour. I love experimenting in the kitchen and we all know that home grown produce tastes so much better than any shop bought produce!

And finally

There is one more thing I would like to do before the holidays end. In previous school years, the children and I would always go down to the ice cream parlour after the first school day of school as our little treat. This year, both are taking school transport and will be home later so this won’t be possible :(. However my plan is to do this on the last day of the holidays instead. There is a new ice cream treat in town this year, ice cream waffle cones, who could resist?

Have a happy week.


The lockdown rucksack

Last week I was listening to the ‘Fortunately’ podcast and they talked about the lockdown rucksack which has become such a feature of my life since March. I thought it was just me, so I was relieved and amused to hear the reference and discussion. I love bags and have a bag for every occasion and more, so to have used just the one bag in lockdown has been a surprise. I wish I could say that its made me want to buy fewer bags but no, I still love bags and am looking forward to more variety.

A few years ago, I did a post about what’s in my bag and thought I would update it with my lockdown bag. The NYR bag is still there with all my essentials, tissues, wet wipes, rescue remedy etc.. but I don’t take a diary with me now, there’s very little to note down 😦 I’ve always carried a hand sanitiser, the NYR is my favourite but I’m currently using the Dr Bronner’s Lavender spray, which is a strong second. I can’t believe I actually have a list of best hand sanitisers, such a 2020 trend! The big addition is the little bag with masks for us all. Although, I have a purse in my bag that’s more habit than necessity, I’m barely in any shops and we have a weekly food delivery. The picture only shows one water bottle, generally its two so we can all have a drink on a long walk. The small blue blanket is to sit on, keep me warm etc.. and to stop the water bottles clinking together. Surprisingly I use all of these items on a daily basis, our lockdown lives have been characterised by long walks and this bag and my walking sandals have definitely been my lockdown essentials.

As schools return next week, our routine will change again and I think it will be time to retire the lockdown rucksack as a daily accessory, returning it to family trips out. I’m looking forward to wearing a different bag, something smaller, colourful and fun!

My week .. the one with our 10th famiversary.

So what is a famiversary? Its our little family’s word for the day on which the children came to live with us, a day special to only us. The birth family don’t know the exact date of when the children left care to be welcomed into our family, so I feel its our exclusive day to celebrate. It also isn’t the day of the legal adoption which was a very uneventful day in our lives six months later, as the hearing is done in a closed court case. We did have a court appearance where we met the Judge who presided over the case and met up with our social workers and this was our celebration day, a month later. Our day in August is just for us and as it normally lands on holidays we always have a special little treat. As it was 10 years this year, I had started to make some plans at the beginning of the year, options included afternoon tea at the Ritz or a trip to Harry Potter world but sadly these have all been put on hold temporarily. Perhaps 11 is the new 10 for celebrating!

This week it did feel like we all had all seasons in a week, we went from a wet, stormy day to a hot day on the beach bathed in sunshine. Here are some of the things we did this week.

We celebrated our famiversary ..

On the day of our 10th famiversary, we went to the beach. It was the place we took the children on their first weekend with us (I remember a cold, damp day) but this year with bright sunshine it was the best place to go. Our bay is normally calm and gentle, but on this visit, the waves were incredible and they were definitely the highest we’ve ever played in, the children loved it! After a morning at the beach, we then chilled for the remainder of the day before enjoying a takeaway of everyone’s choice, an Indian for tea. A simple day, perhaps not quite what we had imagined, but it was spent together as our little family and that is all that matters.

We helped to celebrate a big birthday ..

My lovely cousin celebrated a big birthday on the same day as our famiversary. She is a special person in our family and has always been so kind and caring to us all so we were keen to join her in her celebration at the weekend. It was a very well organised with guests coming at different times of the day and Covid secure. We joined her for morning coffee and cake at the local airfield, which was a great spot and kept the children interested as the adults chatted. We took a picnic on the day too and then went to a local beauty spot along a river to eat and play, making it a lovely, relaxed day.

We played games ..

Wednesday was a very wet and miserable day and we had a little mini games tournament. Little Man bankrupted me and Little Miss and thrashed Mr S. in Monopoly, he was so chuffed! We also played my favourite Qwirkl, but again I was beaten by one of my children, they’re good at strategy! I am competitve when we play so for them, success is all the sweeter.

We spent a lot of time the skate park.

Little Man has become obsessed with his scooter and tricks this holiday and we have spent a lot of time at the local skate park, this week we even did two trips in one day! He’s seen the poster for a ‘jam’ next week, organised by a local charity and is practising very hard. He’s now at the age, when we’re not willing to leave him at the skate park alone, but he wants others to think he’s independent. Our compromise is that I sit on the grass opposite the ramps and read or walk around the park where I can keep eyes on him at all times. Its a compromise which is working well so far.

We bought school shoes.

I dread buying school shoes any year but this year the thought of a busy town centre, queues, wearing masks was just too much, however I came up with a plan. Little Man’s new school is in a small town which has a small Clark’s shoe shop. I decided to use the trip to time the journey from home to school so booked an appointment in advance on the website for 9am. The plan worked perfectly and we were the only customers in at 9am and were out with the purchased shoes before 9.15am. The organisation in the shop was seamless and its a plan I’ll definitely use again.

And finally

For Little Man, next week is the final week of the school holidays, as he goes back a week before our daughter (same local authority) and the same week as me. We are all ready and even though its a new school, he seems genuinely excited by the return to school. There will be a few final treats next week, it seems that it is simply not just the end of the summer holidays but also the end of a strange period of our lives as we’ve been home together since March 20th. Its been hard at times, but I think I’ll remember this period with fondness for the time we got to be together.

My week … the one with a heatwave

This week has an outdoorsy theme, with superb weather, its been a good week to explore. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten outside so much as this year, if we’re not out with a picnic, we’re in the garden for lunch or dinner. Whilst its been a heatwave, we’ve avoided the beach as it is so busy here at present, even busier than a ‘normal’ high season. However I do get up early and run along the beach to get my ‘vitamin sea’ and a little peace. Here are some of our adventures from our week.

I learnt how to survive in the wild.

On Monday, Little Miss and Mr S went to see Grandad so Little Man and I had a day out together. It was another activity in the local council’s summer scheme (which I still know little about) and this time was about surviving in the wild. With the weather forecast, I was worried about surviving in the heat, but whilst it was warm, the clouds made it bearable and it was perfect conditions for the day, spent at a lovely outdoor centre. By the time we got home, the clouds had broken and we enjoyed an incredibly hot spell in the paddling pool too. During the day we learnt how to make a fire, some local history, orienteering and map reading and building dens. We were in very small bubbles to help make the day Covid safe and Little Man made a new friend, both were well into the day and it was good to see him so happy and involved. We were able to get into another activity day on Thursday and Little Man’s new friend was there too.

I walked and ran a lot of miles.

On Wednesday with the whole family back together we took the bikes out. Its only the children who have bikes so we took them to the local forestry and we walked, as they cycled ahead, looped us etc.. We ended up with a 6 mile round route which we had found online, it was a lovely route and perfect for the morning’s ride. Fortunately a lot of the ride was under the shade of the trees so we managed to keep cool’ish’ in the heat and it kept us all quiet and resting in the afternoon.

I’ve also upped my running mileage this week, with an extra run and extra miles. I signed up for a 500 miles in a year challenge and had thought that it was now unachievable due to losing a few months in lockdown when we were only allowed out once a day to exercise and I did this with the children in the form of walks. However when I started to calculate my miles for the year, I realised that with a few extra weekly miles to what I’m doing at present (4 runs) I could achieve the 500 and am now focused on this. I have a Fitbit and this week I did my highest weekly number of steps.

I heard a lot of thunder

On Thursday, Little Man did another summer course, Mr S took him to it, whilst Little Miss and I tagged along to visit the local town. The town has a beautiful river and park, so we planned a walk and a little potter. I was also keen to see where the parkrun course was so I can run it one day. Thursdays was one of those days where a big storm seemed to be brewing and our walk was one of those really eerie journeys, the heat was stifling, but the sky was pretty dark and we kept hearing deep rumbling thunder without the heavy rain. It was so strange that there wasn’t an end to the weather with a big storm, just the stuttering’s of a start.

I had my eyebrows shaped.

Of all things, eye brow shaping was one of the last services to be allowed to reopen in beauty salons and with the announcement on Friday that they could be done again, I was quickly on the phone for an appointment on day 1. I tried plucking and waxing during lockdown but nothing beats an expert doing it. Its one of those little things which just make me feel neat and tidy.

I laughed at Fortunately

I do love a good podcast and with doing lots of miles this week, I’ve been listening to lots. Fortunately was on top form this week and a description of a lockdown rucksack had me giggling. When the podcast finished it went straight to the latest I hadn’t listened to, which started with a description of a trip to Ikea. I was listening to it in quiet disbelief, it was only part way through that I realised that I was listening to a 2 year old episode and just showed how much our lives have changed in the past 6 months.

And finally

We are living in this strange limbo of lockdown, more and more is opening and life feels it is getting back to normal and then suddenly people returning from some European countries are put in quarantine for two weeks. Our decision to cancel our holiday is a relief and we are probably having our most healthy and fittest summer holiday ever. However, I do miss those lazy days on a sun lounger with a cocktail and a good book.

My week .. The one in which we didn’t go on holiday (again)

This week we should have been going on our family summer holiday. However, we made the decision to cancel the holiday a few weeks ago, when it became clear that the facilities which we had specifically booked the holiday for were not going to be available. Fortunately we got a full refund so are not out of pocket from our decision. We are so lucky to live where we do, we can enjoy the beach from home and it seems we’re so on trend having a staycation! I’m comfortable with our decision, I want to relax and rest on holiday and from what I’ve seen in the media, our holiday would look very different with us needing to be very organised to plan activities, meals out etc.. I don’t need that stress on holiday and am simply looking forward to a great holiday (or two) next year. Our cancelled holiday means we’ve needed to keep ourselves busy at home so here’s some of the things we’ve been doing.

I read ..

I do lots of park visits and as the children are now at a good age to play on their own, its a perfect reading time. I am really enjoying Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. Its very cleverly written how each character’s story blends into a new one and the book is very addictive.

I ran ..

On Tuesday, I ran early as we had a family cycle trip planned and I got to see the most amazing sky at dawn. It was one of those runs in which you lose yourself in the beauty of our little planet and feel it is a privilege to be able to run. Later on we went on a cycle ride, well the children did but as Mr S and I don’t have bikes and were unable to hire any we traipsed behind them as they cycled through the forest. We went early so it was quiet and the whole morning gave me a strong sense of well being.

I helped out at the farm ..

We received a flyer in the post to advertise a Summer scheme being run by the council with a ‘passport’ number for our son. We didn’t quite understand how the scheme worked as details were sketchy but I looked at the website and found a few interesting activities to do. This week we went as a family for a morning at a therapy farm. What a joy, it was an amazing morning, just for the four of us supported by two workers. We all worked on the farm, feeding the animals, cleaning out their areas and grooming them where appropriate, (giant) pigs, goats, donkeys, sheep, cats, guinea pigs etc. Nature has such a healing power on us all and we felt really connected and happy after our morning.

I watched ..

I think we’ve given up on television at present, there is little on which we want to watch. For the past few weeks we’ve been using our 9-10pm slot, our joint tv time, to watch box sets. After last week’s excellent The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair we watched Chernobyl, following its critical acclaim. Yes it was a dark drama, but one which was interesting, terrifying and captivating.

And finally ..

Its more of the same next week, walks, picnics, bike rides and perhaps an early morning trip to the beach. For the first time ever, August simply seems a countdown to September and a little normality in going back to school.

My week …the birthday edition

I am a little late in this write up but still decided to do two separate entries as we’ve been busy (or busy for lockdown life!) in this period. It was a strange week, a week of missed traditions, carnival and a music festival, and in a gorgeous sunny week there were a few ‘if only’ thoughts. However its no good to dwell on what ‘could have been’ but to embrace our life as it is and here are a few highlights of the week..

I played crazy golf ..

I had a serious chat with Little Man on Friday night. When something is bothering him, he’ll come and ask you to have a ‘serious chat.’ So we sat down and I listened to my sad little man who said he wanted to have some fun. I asked him what would be fun for him and he listed the indoor water park, indoor play areas, indoor skate park etc.. all which remain closed. I tried to help him understand that there are things that we don’t have control of present and we’ve tried to create our own fun on the beach, or in the park etc.. and that mummy and daddy have been writing a list of special things to do as soon as we are able. This did seem to help but I decided he needed a surprise. We often walk into town on Saturday morning so he came with me expecting the normal routine, but we walked past the shops and went to the new pirate crazy golf. We had such a happy time and best of all for him, he beat me by one stroke. The new course is brilliant, so detailed and aesthetically pleasing whilst being fun too. It was just what was needed on our Saturday morning.

I read ..

In two days this week, I read Lemn Sissay’s autobiography My name is Why. Its my favourite book of the year. I discovered Lemn Sissay through an episode of Desert Island Discs, which is well worth a listen as he has the most beautiful, rhythmic voice. I knew briefly about his life in care and his current work but nothing had prepared me for the power of this book. My daughter is 12 the same age as Lemn was when he left the family he had lived with since birth and was put into children’s homes. I don’t know if it was the age but this really affected me, I cannot imagine our life without my daughter and we always tell her that she will always have a home with us, even when she’s old and wrinkled! As an adopted child, she needs to hear these messages of security, permanence and love. I also work with vulnerable children, many of whom are in care and there was resonance in his experiences here too. This is a book to be kept and to dip back into over the years.

I watched ..

I watched a remarkable drama about Anthony Walker, the young black teenager killed in a racist attack in Liverpool in 2005. It was written by Jimmy McGovern and rather than be the story of Anthony’s death and his killers, it was a story of the life he never lived. This medium made it even more heart breaking and only emphasised the need for the Black Lives Matter movement. His death happened 12 years after the horrific murder of Stephen Lawrence, a murder which we hoped would have a significant effect on our society but one in which today, racism and prejudice still remain. We have to take action.

Mr S and I have also watched the box set of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair. I loved this book when I read it and wasn’t surprised that it had been turned into a series, with its twists and turns and one of the biggest surprises at the end of any book I’ve read, its ideal for tv.

I celebrated ..

It was my birthday this week and I turned 47, as beautifully illustrated on my birthday balloons! I have no issue with my age, I hope I’ve lived life well and don’t feel I need to make myself younger. However, I do have an issue with the number 47, is it just me or do some numbers sound nicer than others, crazy I know but 47 sounds harsh, 48 sounds cuddly and warm. it could be lockdown is getting to me! I had a lovely, simple birthday with my family, a walk around our local RSPB site, a picnic and a homemade birthday cake courtesy of Little Miss. Its also been my wedding anniversary this week, 17 years. We have a lot of special occasions in a short time in our family, a busy time.

I did some flower arranging ..

I was lucky to be gifted some beautiful flowers for my birthday. For the first few days I kept them in the bouquet they came in but then got a little creative. I found out what each flower was and then separated then into colours and style. I had wanted to do a flower arranging class this year, whilst this is another Covid casualty, I can do a few little things myself.

I met with friends..

Sometimes its just the little things which bring joy and this week, I met friends one evening in a neighbouring town for drinks. Of course, things look different now but to be able to sit outside on a warm evening and just chat was perfect. We were at the quay which is such a pretty area and I returned the next afternoon with my daughter for a walk along the river in the sunshine.

I made ..

I made a lovely roast at the weekend with all the vegetables (bar the potatoes) grown in our garden by my gardening squad of my husband and daughter. They have worked so hard on their vegetable patch during lockdown transforming a bare area into something lush and green. Its definably a highlight of lockdown.

And finally

The holidays are strange this year, with far fewer activities open for the children. My aim is to try and find a few different activities for them to enjoy over the coming weeks, although I think we’re all focused and looking forward to September and a little normality with a return to school. Its the first time ever, that August hasn’t been our highlight of the year, its normally our month off school, this year its our 5th full month at home, the novelty is waning!

August 2020

August 2020 is unlike any August in my lifetime. Those lovely things we like to do in our school holidays are either closed or with such high restrictions that we’ve chosen to wait until we can do them safely again. All the special events in our seaside town have been cancelled, so no carnival, fetes etc.. and with our cancelled holiday, August seems an empty month. As a consequence we seem to be counting down the days until we return back to school after 6 months. We’re all hoping that September will bring the normality we crave.

However I will not be daunted by a set of unexpected conditions, it’s holiday month and we will be on the beach, cycling in the forest and even finding time to do the dreaded school shoe shop (I’ve already prebooked our slot!) I had planned to do something very special for our 10 year famiversary this month but sadly this was postponed. However we celebrate it, it will be a special day and there will be cake!