My week … the one with the home made pasties

Its quite difficult to write an interesting and original weekly round up, as in lockdown, life is pretty much the same every week, work, home, run, read. I’m watching little tv as it all seems a bit dull and we’re quickly working our way through the Marvellous Mrs Maisel, season 3 now, which never disappoints. I’ve become far too interested in the weather, the time the sun rises and sets (in fairness its to help plan runs in the light as I can do more varied routes and I’m now walking to work in the light too) the tides and this week I learnt about the last winter new moon, who knew that it was a thing? I really need to get out more , if only we could…

The road map out of lockdown was announced this week, it seems pretty sensible and measured and gave us all some hope for the summer. It seems we will be able to go on our UK holiday in May and I am so pleased that parkrun now has a return date too, hey its still 14 weeks away but there is a date and some promise of brighter times ahead. Mr S also got his vaccination letter this week as he has an underlying medical condition and he’s booked in for next week. I’m so impressed by the vaccination roll out, as of today over 20 million jabs have been given, an amazing testament to our nhs and volunteers.

With not much on tv, I have been reading in the evenings and this week its been Motherwell by Deborah Orr. Its slightly uncomfortable reading as I recognise a few stories in it having been played out in my childhood too. But it is also giving me more of an understanding of the social, cultural and economic environment my mum grew up in, as she grew up in a similar Scottish town to Motherwell.

One of the things we have been doing in lockdown is cooking, its gone from cakes and bakes to meals and on request today, Little Man and I made home made pasties for tea. Little Man’s primary class did a project with a local cafĂ© and created their own pasties, he’s remembered it well over the years and wanted to repeat his filling of chicken, bacon and cheese. We made the pasties from scratch, including home made pastry, hey its lockdown we have the time! His pasty did look delicious (I’m veggie so didn’t try it) and he loved it, so one happy boy at teatime tonight with his hand made pasty.

So its another lockdown week to follow, the last full week of home schooling for Little Miss, although her school has a staggered start the following week and she won’t be returning on March 8th. Here’s to a happy and relaxed week.

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My week … the one with pancakes and half term.

Of all the school holidays, February half term is my least favourite. There’s not much to do, the weather can be pants and its too short to fly to sunnier climes. I now look back on 2020’s shocker of a half term with nostalgia, yes it rained heavily all the time and was so cold, but we had the little luxuries, our family friend came and stayed with us for a few days, we sat in cafes, went to the inflatable session at the local swimming pool, visited a local museum etc.. Such things which now seem alien and showed how little we understood what was about to happen to our lives.

I was a bit worried about how this lockdown half term would go, at least home school gives a structure to days. As I drafted this blog, it struck me that this is one which will actually sound quite jolly and busy but there were times when the drudgery of lockdown life appeared starkly and there was plenty of screen time to keep everyone sane.

In a lockdown holiday, there were lots of walks, we tried a little variety but its still a walk and everyone is so fed up of another walk. However, its the one thing we insist on daily, no walk, no screens. The weather had been quite wet and windy on Monday, and we went out when there was a quick break in the clouds for a walk along the beach. As we passed a local takeaway and saw the lovely array of cakes and pastries I stopped, much to the children’s delight, and bought a little impromptu snack for us all. As we stopped to eat our delicious bakes (cherry and almond croissant for me, which was amazing) the sun broke through the clouds and we felt the warmth on our faces as we watched the surfers doing their thing in the waves, life suddenly seemed a little more hopeful and happy. On another day, we walked up to the local country park, where they had a photography exhibition, entitled Unmasked, portraits from the Covid frontline. One of their buildings is an art gallery and they used its large windows to reverse the display so it could only be seen from outside. The project was simple, nhs workers photographed, accompanied by a short text on their thoughts on working on the Covid frontline. Their thoughts were humbling and inspiring. It was also lovely to see a few familiar faces in the photos, developing the sense of community and togetherness. On another day, we went to a different local beach and could really see the effect of the recent bad weather, parts of the beach had eroded and there was lots of driftwood on the beach.

At the beginning of the week, Mr S was decorating our daughter’s bedroom as virtual learning from her bedroom had delayed this project until the holiday. Its all completed now and looks great, we’ve gone from dreary grey to a more joyful palette of colours with a hint of the tropical. Unfortunately the smell of the paint did leave me feeling quite poorly and we had a couple of lazy afternoons as I tried to shake a headache and nausea.

I managed to read quite a bit this week and Haven’t They Grown was a good page turner of a book. The plot was that a former friend of a main character had by chance seen her after 12 years, but her children had not aged. It was a thriller and kept you gripped by its quite chilling conclusion.

Another little thing I enjoyed this week was a live presentation by Marks and Spencer Archive department on their fashion archives. I came across the event on Twitter and signed up for the broadcast. Oh, the designs, patterns and styles were amazing and it was such an interesting mix of social commentary and fashion. I believe it is now available on You Tube and well worth a watch.

Being a lockdown holiday, we have spent lots of time in the kitchen, either playing family games or cooking. Pancake day was the big highlight and it was lovely that it fell in a holiday. We spent lots of time preparing our fillings and toppings and it became a real event, more than just tossing the pancakes. Little Miss has been learning how to make more meals this holiday. We worked through a vegetable lasagne from scratch this week and it was delicious. She then took her new skills of making a cheese sauce to another night’s dinner where she made it independently for a cauliflower cheese.

Its back to school for Little Man and I on Monday, whilst Little Miss continues home schooling with Mr S. They have a lovely routine going and it has definitely added something to their relationship, they describe themselves as the DAD gang (dad and daughter) Despite this, my daughter is desperately hoping she gets to go back to school on March 8th. I’ve been as honest as we can with the information we have, but until Boris unveils the road map on Monday, we cannot be certain of anything and we have tried to warn her, that it might not be the exact return to school date.

I’m hoping that this has been the last holiday in such severe restrictions, the vaccination programme is rolling out so impressively that I am hopeful. Have a happy week.

A bedroom makeover.

I’ve not been recording the work done on our home in much detail over the past year and yet despite lockdown, we’ve been busy. It started just pre lockdown in 2020 when storm damage caused a leak in the children’s playroom and we had to have the flat roof re-laid and then redecorated due to the water damage. We were able to continue with the work we had planned pre lockdown as it was painting the house exterior and the decorators could paint outside within Covid restrictions. Painting the outside had been one of those big jobs on the to do list for a few years and I am delighted with the result. I did spend a lot of time trying to decide colours, I did like the idea of a pretty pastel colour but ended up with cream which looks lovely. Inside, Mr S has been busy decorating since he ‘retired’ in the summer, he has done the playroom, dining room, our bedroom and now our daughter’s bedroom. As she is home schooled at present, we had to wait until half term to do her room.

I wish I had taken a before picture, as it was a tired, dull bedroom. Little Miss was desperate when we last painted her room to have grey walls and then chose black and grey accessories. I like a room to radiate ambiance and warmth and I simply couldn’t get this from the grey room. The paint faded quickly and just made the room look duller. Fortunately, Little Miss was up for something brighter and bolder this time. We have been more adventurous (for us) in the rooms we have painted recently and I think this helped her to embrace more colour. We have been playing with colour testers for the past few weeks, trying, shades of plum, teal, purple but this bright blue was the unanimous choice. It is sea blue from Dulux. We liked that you can get cheap testers on the Dulux website with free p&p. I did wonder if the blue would be too much as this is the largest bedroom, but with her wardrobe, bunk bed and large bay window it is not a problem. Our daughter has the biggest bedroom as its an interesting shape and really limits where you can put furniture, our bedroom is slightly smaller but a really good shape and this arrangement works best for us all.

In addition to the painting, we have had a big decluttering of her room and as she nears 13, it has definitely become a teen room. It is a little scary removing so many toys, books and momentos, but her favourites are still in her room, some things have been put in her memory box and others are being donated to the charity shop. We’ve also updated the accessories, her new duvet covers come from Next and I have a couple of complementary cushions on order. The bunk bed is unusual in that the bottom bunk is a double bed and the top a single. This means she uses bottom layer as more of a day bed/sofa reading, listening to her music etc.. and just uses the top bunk for sleep. The disco ball is a nice touch to her love for dance and the fan displayed in the old fireplace was a hand painted present from my parents. One of her favourite Christmas presents was the peg lights from her aunt, we’ve put these up and she’s chosen some favourite photos to display.

I’m really pleased with the transformation, its a room which is now full of life and character, the perfect reflection of our daughter.

My week … the chilly one

It has been so cold this week, that I seem to have spent the week wrapped in a blanket throw at work (thanks to Covid ventilation rules and open windows) or under my cosy blanket on my sofa at home. We’ve had the icy weather and the wind chill factor but only a few little flakes of snow, see the flower photo above. The iced plants photo was taken this morning on our way to the farm, it was a spectacular sight.

Lockdown 3 continues with little more than work and home. We have a new game, a locally themed version of Cluedo which has been fun to play. I don’t know how but its the first time I have ever played Cluedo, I’m up on the rules now and have developed my own strategies. I definitely play to win.

Lockdown has brought some really random experiences. On Monday’s Scout Zoom meeting, Little Man did armpit cooking. It was as gross as it sounds and I didn’t try any of the chocolate fudge they made as I had seen how it had been prepared! Tonight, Little Man and I watched the final of the Masked Singer, such a random, bonkers programme but entertaining and harmless fun on a lockdown Saturday night. I correctly guessed one singer but am still very taken by Morten Harket aka Viking from a few weeks ago. I’ve seen A-ha in concert three times and although we’ve all aged a little, he could still be my bedroom wall pin up, 30 years later!

I did feel quite mature and adult this week as I needed to do some tax research. I’ve got part of Mr S’ tax allowance transferred to me now as he is no longer working and I needed to calculate all my allowances to check the figures of my new tax code. The HMRC resources were helpful and I think its the first time I’ve ever understood tax in all my working life. I’m not sure I would have investigated this fully if we weren’t in Lockdown, but it was genuinely refreshing to do something different and useful.

We have continued to watch the Marvellous Mrs Maisel, which is my favourite tv of Lockdown 3, it gets better with every episode (we’re now on Series 2, episode 6) However, this week I have also spent lots of time reading the Midnight Library by Matt Haig, a perfect story for this time. The story is simple, albeit with a bit of quantum physics to fully explain the plot, in which a woman takes an overdose and on the edge of life and death gets to live many versions of her life by making different decisions at key points in her life. Its very clever and life affirming and had me in tears at the end. By chance, as I finished the book, my playlist was playing Elbow’s One Day Like This, beautiful synchronicity. This is a hard period but perhaps one day we will look back at how it helped to reframe our lives.

Its half term next week, again a very strange week with none of our normal activities. Holidays and weekends feel like a game of lockdown bingo at present, board games, walks, baking, special dinners, family film, Nintendo Switch etc… Tick them all off to get house!

Have a happy half term.

My week … the one with humour

Its a been a really difficult month and there is still the sadness permeating our community following the Covid outbreak which saw us go from the virus suppressed to the second highest category in 6 weeks. It feels wrong to suggest that this has been a humorous week, but due to my reading and tv watching, there has been some carefully placed wit and humour hidden among the melancholy which is lockdown 3. I’m also lucky enough to share a socially distanced office with a great friend and colleague and among all the worry and angst of recent weeks, we had a real laugh out moment, where we were both nearly crying with laughter. When life has been so rough, you do actually cherish those unscripted funny times. Its the little moments which make life at present.

I’ve read …

A few months ago, I picked up Adam Hill’s Best Foot Forward on my beloved Kindle 99p deal of the day. I swiped it by accident after finishing my last book and having read the first page I was hooked. Its witty, thoughtful and full of brilliant stories and a testament to hard work. Its one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read recently.

I’ve watched …

We’re now on series 2 of the Marvellous Mrs Maizel and its only improving with each episode. The mix of family life and its dynamics, a woman’s role and the most stunning costumes is a winner. As if it couldn’t be any better, the action is now also in Paris and I get to see the beauty of 1950s Paris and lots of French dialogue to listen. It is my ideal of blissful tv.

I’ve admired the sky…

Lockdown 3 is work and one daily exercise a day, there’s not much variety in life and you do look for the little things. In the photo are 3 scenes from my daily exercise this week, a clear night sky full of stars, a rainbow peaking through the drab day and a beautiful dawn. Of the three images the night sky was the one which filled me with such awe, I hadn’t really noticed the sky on my run, concentrating on the pavement and not falling over in the dark (I’m clumsy) but when I returned home and was stood in my garden just looking, it was overwhelming just making you feel so small in the universe. I had also listened to Tim Peake’s Desert Island Discs and his words on space seemed to resonate with the beauty of the night sky.

And finally

Its one more week until half term. We’re decorating our daughter’s bedroom so we’ve been choosing paints and thinking of new ways to update the room for a teenage girl. This means Mr S will be busy decorating and I need to think of some ways to keep us amused at home. After nearly a year in lockdown, it’ll be a challenge to come up with new ideas.