This was an ordinary week with sunshine! Every September I have a little challenge on how long I can stay wearing my shorts and flip flops. The challenge was easily met this week, so can I now make it to the final weekend of the month?

Its been a week of school, work and the full start of clubs. Scouts restarted for Little Man although for Covid safety reasons they are trying to keep the sessions outdoors as much as possible. Little Miss started a youth club too. For someone usually so confident she was nervous. Its in a neighbouring village but is a more age appropriate than the closest one which is for 10 – 14 years. Despite her nerves she really enjoyed it and the first question when she got back in the car was if she could go again next week.

For the first time this term, I had a work-free day on my non working Thursday. On the first week back I did a full day in school and the second, half a day so it was nice to have a proper Thursday off. I went for a lovely run, had my nails done and met a friend for coffee. It felt very relaxing and reminded me that I need that time for me. Weekends are busy and reserved for family time.

I did have a delightful surprise when I got home on Friday. The local supermarket had donated unsold bouquets of flowers to my son’s special school and the children had sorted the wilted and blossoming flowers and then created their own posies to go home. My son was so proud of his choices and I think it is my favourite bunch of flowers ever, there was so much thought and love gone into the task.

As we start back into the homework routines, Little Miss and I are back into our reading routine. She has to do 20 minutes a night so we sit together on the sofa and read our books. I feel that I need to take the time to be a role model so that reading is not just homework but a time to be valued and cherished. I’m just finishing The Frequency of Us by Keith Stuart. Its a love story and thriller and I’m curious to see how it ends, of course I have my theories but I’m interested to see how the author concludes it.

Saturday remains my favourite day of the week and it was parkrun day this week, Little Miss and I tend to alternate between the farm and parkrun on Saturdays. It was my 30th run and finally Mr S and Little Man came along too to see a parkrun. It was a stunning morning, and the girls ran well whilst the boys walked the course. Some parkrun news which I’ve been hearing from a number of sources was confirmed and its made me v excited. After the run we had drinks in the beautiful walled garden in the sunshine, some days are just perfect for their simplicity.

Saturday is also my kitchen afternoon. I had planned a simple pasta dish using our fresh, home grown tomatoes and peppers (we still have lots of supplies) so focused on a fancy dessert, Biscoff cheesecake. Now, before this week Little Man did not like Biscoff (us girls are addicted to it) so I was really surprised to read in his planner that they had been taste testing different toppings for toast and his favourite was Biscoff! I tested this further the next day by doing his packed lunch with one half of a sandwich with chocolate spread and the other half with Biscoff. Biscoff was the winner again. Although a little confused, I now have lots of opportunities to make Biscoff flavoured foods. My daughter and I had a Biscoff ice cream in the summer, it may be up there in the best ever ice cream flavours …

The other Saturday highlight was the return of Strictly, it makes me happy and is the escapism I need every week in the autumn, it feels that the countdown to Christmas is now on. There have been a few interesting dramas this week but I’ve recorded and kept them for the period of recuperation following my operation next month. I have to rest up with no weight on one foot so I’m preparing with books and films ready to watch. I am particularly looking forward to Help with Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham, which has received rave reviews.

Its a normal week next week, with the bonus of an evening out. I’m meeting friends for dinner on Tuesday. Its a garden house meet up as we’re all still cautious of Covid (cases have rocketed in our town in the past week) and I’m doing a slow cooker veggie chilli (its a school day so prep time is minimal) and yes its a perfect recipe to use up our home grown tomatoes, peppers and chillis. Here’s to a good week.

My week … the one with lots of autumn sunshine.

Thank goodness for weekends as this blog was looking a little sparse earlier this week. It’s back to school and my weekdays are very much work focused. I’ve not found that proper work/home balance this week and even on my day off, I was in work to do those extra things that could not wait. Then there’s also those new term jobs to do, sew badges onto a scouts uniform, organise my daughter with her new timetable and remember lunches. I did have a fail on the lunches this week as I forgot that my daughter was finally back at school. Fortunately Mr S organises the morning and spotted it and she left with her packed lunch.

The one lovely thing about this week has been the weather, with a mini heatwave. On Tuesday evening I did my normal run and the seafront was full of people relaxing in the sunshine. The queues for chips and ice creams sneaked down the pavements and there were lots of people in the sea, swimming, paddle boarding and sailing. When autumn arrives you use and savour every drop of sunshine.

The sunshine has lasted til this weekend. Its been the folk festival in town, one of my favourite weekends and one which seems to mark the end of summer. Its always a treat to pop into the craft tent and potter around the festival. I’ve spent most of this weekend outdoors, two early morning runs at 6am due to family plans, a morning at the farm being impressed and amused at my daughter’s farming skills, especially the goats! An afternoon at the folk festival and then today, a trip to a country park for cycle rides, walks and a picnic. I’m now comfortably exhausted and relaxed.

One final highlight of this week was the British qualifier Emma Raducanu winning the US Tennis Open, such a treat on Saturday night. Emma is such a role model for our young people and it will be so exciting to see her progress.

My week … the one in Norfolk

This week has seen us on week one of our summer holiday. With the postponed 2020 holidays, we’re doing a two centre break this year, this week in Norfolk and four nights in Kent next week. When we were planning our holiday we wanted to go somewhere a little different, we’ve enjoyed Cornwall and Devon so we’ve gone east. I have visited Norfolk before. It was the summer when I was 16 and my friend and I stayed in a small converted barn in her aunt’s garden near Diss. I remember playing Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet CD all holiday, long walks in the fields and a shopping trip to Norwich! Thirty two years later, my holiday looked a little different.

We broke up the journey as it was a long one with a stay in a hotel in Colchester. By chance on the evening we came across the most sparkly rustic pub garden where we stopped for a delicious dinner. It was pretty perfect, relaxing in the sunshine and the dusk with the fairy lights twinkling, great food and simply talking about holiday plans, an unexpected delightful start to the holiday.

We stayed in a Haven caravan park, Wild Duck. As we live at a beautiful seaside resort, we decided to stay more inland and chose the site for its woodland setting. It was a beautiful site, so well maintained and our caravan was nested in the trees, the views from the bedrooms were amazing. The picture above illustrates this, the window did feel like a picture frame for the stunning landscape. One bonus of the forest setting was really poor mobile signals so it was an enforced but welcomed digital detox.

In our family we all have roles and Mr S is chief holiday planner and organiser. I pack! Mr S had the booking system set up very efficiently, so we had daily swimming sessions in both the indoor and outdoor pools. I preferred the outdoor pool, it was so warm and again with the hour slots it was easy to get a sun bed too. One of my holidays reads was a present from a friend the Lido by Libby Page. It’s a fantastic read and the tonic I didn’t know I needed. I did feel inspired by it and the outdoor pool did make me wonder if I should do more outdoor swimming ( I am not going to become a sea swimmer, I need a chlorinated pool!)

We also had lots of other activities on site, Segways, Archery, Paint a Pot (that’s the birds in the picture above) and Bike Hire. The bikes was my favourite activity. The previous morning I had discovered the Angles Way on my morning run and we returned to cycle it. It gave the most gorgeous views of the Norfolk Broads and in perfect weather conditions, bright blue skies, sunshine and a gentle breeze. We also found some old castle ruins and windmills which added to the fun.

Away from the site, we explored the local area too. We went to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft in the evenings and also had a morning in Gorleston where we played on the beach. I recently discovered the poet Robert M Drake and my daughter and I read some of these aloud on the beach and were really struck by his observations and commentary. There was also fun to be had making pebble sculptures. We also found a craft fair on the field behind the beach, my type of shopping and I did return with a new candle! There was also a brownie stall, with the most amazing array of flavours I have ever seen. We may have bought a few to try! I liked the quiet and peace of Gorleston a real contrast to Great Yarmouth. I didn’t know what to expect from Great Yarmouth but it was loud, bright and brash, the Blackpool of the East. The children of course loved it, spending their money on ice creams, fancy milk shakes and what I can politely describe as tat! Lowestoft was a mix of the two towns, we went to the UK’s most eastern point and enjoyed an evening drink on an outdoor terrace in sunshine. Life felt pretty normal this holiday, with only mask wearing and sanitiser as references to Covid.

We all really enjoyed Norfolk, the countryside was beautiful and the site the perfect setting to explore the Broads. Our caravan was gorgeous and we had treated ourselves to a 3 bedroom caravan so the children could have a room each. This helped night times and gave the children some space and time to do their things. We’re in a 2 bedroom caravan next week and it’ll be interesting to see the difference.

It was a really wholesome week at Wild Duck, our activities were outdoor based and we all benefited from the fresh air and sunshine. The weather was a pleasant surprise, warm and sunny every day and we left feeling refreshed and happy.

Postscript.
On Sunday in Gorleston, we came across what was signed as a Banksy piece of art. It did amuse me as it was the grabber from an arcade machine, the very machines we avoid as it only ever ends in tears. By the time we left it was covered in Perspex and there was security. In looking on the web it seems Banksy is on a staycation and it was part of an art project Great British Spraycation.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-58145220

The week … in which I catch up with my blog.

I can’t quite believe we’re nearly at the end of the month, its been a busy one which started with our holiday and has included a mum and son weekend, family celebrations, Euro 2020 and a running challenge.

I’ve taken today what I recently heard referred to as white space day, a day deliberately blank in your diary. It’s just what was needed and I am feeling slightly more in control now. It’s been nice to have the time to stop and chat with our neighbours, potter around town doing a few errands and to catch up on life admin.

As its been so long since I last wrote I won’t detail every week, simply some of the highlights. I love a football summer, football on the tv throughout the day, the anticipation of an England match and the hope that this year is our year! Our son has the Euro bug too, he has the sticker book, a flag in his bedroom window, a new England top and is busy filling in his wall chart after every game. I’m pleased the next game for England, the first knock out round, is on at 5pm, perfect timing on a school night. I’m someone who doesn’t watch much tv but my viewing habits are very different at tournament time, I always have a game on and I find the non England games less stressful and a little more relaxing.

Euro 2020 began on our mum and son weekend, Mr S and our daughter went to stay with my Father in law to help him with some jobs, so we had what we call SAM (Son and Mum) time. We had lots of little treats planned, crazy golf was the best. We’re both competitive so there was no allowing for age, it was a genuine contest, which sadly I lost, much to the absolute joy of my son. We also had those mini hot doughnuts made freshly to celebrate the win.

This month also has seen a little running challenge. Sometimes, I like to do something a bit different with my running, this year I am attempting to run the 874 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats and decided to try to do a RED month, that’s run at least a 5k everyday which I could also double up as a 100 mile month. This all seemed like a great idea as I was relaxing on holiday doing my early morning runs. However the reality of long, intense work days, the Euros, solo parenting for a weekend, heat waves and cold, wet days etc.. has certainly made this a challenge. Some days I’ve been out at 5am, other days at 10pm. On one day when it was just my son and I, we ran to the park and I would do one lap, play a little football, do another lap play more football, that was a toughie. However, I’m now on the last week and looking forward to the end. I’m not planning on repeating the challenge, I like my routine of 4 runs a week and I’ve missed the longer runs.

Other things we’ve done this month is to get a new bed for our son’s room. It’s one of those cabin designs so he has room to play underneath, it took a few hours to construct but amazingly no arguments as we made it up together. It does look good and we’re really pleased with it. I also had a much delayed and rearranged ophthalmology appointment due to the pandemic. My eye pressure was raised as a concern at a regular eye check. However, all is just within acceptable parameters at present, but I now will have 6 monthly checks in case further action is needed. Ive tried to not Google too much and get scared but I will make sure I get those check ups.

Now I’ve caught up, I hope it won’t be so long until my next post.

My week … the one with more rain.

It’s a quick catch-up this week as it’s already Monday night and I’ve not written yet. I think its quite hard to write when everything seems so dull. It’s also been a week where I’ve learnt of some really tough times that friends and acquaintances are facing, they’re not my stories to share but I’ve hugged my little family that little bit tighter his week.

The highlight of my week was a night out with friends. It was rearranged from last weekend due to storms but rain was still forecast. However we were all keen to meet and agreed to simply come weather ready. Fortunately my friend has a shelter and a fire pit in her garden and we survived the night by being totally distracted by the weather with such good company. It was a real feel good evening, I’ve missed the face to face contact with friends.

There are always walks in lockdown and these continued this week. I tried to add a bit of variety by taking some photos of the colours we saw. It was a nice little project to contrast the very grey skies. I also added a little more colour by having a manicure, I really like the varnish, I can’t remember the name but it’s a shade of taupe and looks lovely. It’s an unusual choice for me as I normally choose pastels.

I’ve continued to watch This Is Us on Amazon. It’s such a good series and Mr S and I do make an effort to sit down and watch it together. I’m also reading Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. It’s a book I’ve read reviews and articles on for a long time and it is as good as predicted.

Today, May 17th indoor activities reopened. When I picked up my son from Scouts it was great to see the warmth of the lights on in the pubs and restaurants open. Perhaps normality is finally returning.

Easter 2021: The second lockdown Easter

This was another anniversary we didn’t want, a second Easter in lockdown. Consequently, it was another quiet celebration for the just the four of us.

As we didn’t break up until Maundy Thursday, we were straight into Easter weekend as we started the holidays. Thanks to long lockdown weekends, I had been pretty organised, so the cards had been sent in advance, all the items for the egg hunt added to the weekly food delivery and my Easter Fortnum and Manson’s gift to my parents had been delivered. This was so well received and something to remember for the future.

Good Friday was an unexpected day, thanks to overflowing sewage from our drain, making it not the most pleasant way to start the holiday weekend. However we are on a HomeCare scheme and Dynorod came very quickly to resolve the issue and all was left very clean and sanitary. Little Man and I went for a walk whilst this was all being seen to and went to buy the all important hot cross buns. Priorities sorted! The afternoon was a lazy, family time and of course, board games. We are totally addicted to Monopoly Deal.

Easter Saturday was a typical Saturday with nothing particularly Easter themed. Mr S and Little Miss went to the garden centre to buy some spring flowers and Little Man and I pottered around doing a few jobs. I did write the clues for the treasure hunt and decorated some card Easter eggs on which I wrote the clues. Normally, I illustrate a scavenger hunt sheet but this year changed this to a treasure hunt. I found some great clues on the Internet from http://www.muminthemadhouse and adapted them to our challenge.

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On Sunday, we started with a beautiful walk in the country park, it was a stunning morning with bright blue skies and a perfect way to start the day. On our return, our neighbours popped over to the garden to share Easter greetings and to give some Easter gifts to the children (we have the best neighbours)

I then started to prep up our Easter Sunday lunch. To me this is a big deal and like Christmas, I take time to browse recipes and plan the menu. I’m also realistic that Easter Sunday is about the chocolate, so I made a lighter lunch, a Spring filo pie, filled with spinach, peppers, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms and feta, served with new potatoes and spring vegetables. The filo pie from the bbc good food website was stunningly good, and a recipe to repeat, I think it would also be perfect as a main with a salad in the summer. Whilst I cooked, I played my Spring playlist, featuring old family favourites. Tulips from Amsterdam always reminds me of my dad, the spiritual songs reflected my faith and then I included a few past Easter hits, Easy Lover always evokes a hot and sunny Easter with my cousins in 1985. I do love a themed playlist and the memories they bring.

Just before lunch, I turned myself into a 1950s housewife and dressed for lunch, changing from my jeans into a pretty Easter dress. I saw this dress online at Cath Kitson about a year ago and loved the pattern and shape but it was well above my budget. However, just after Christmas I discovered it reduced to a 1/3 of its original price in the sale and I snapped it up. I love the dress it is so beautiful and one I can see me wearing for many Easters to come. I accessorised it with a few special pieces of jewellery, I inherited the bangle and cross from my grandmothers and the ring was passed on to me by my mum, a gift for her 21st birthday from her siblings. For me Easter is a family time and if we couldn’t be together, wearing the jewellery made me closer to them.

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Following lunch, the afternoon was lovely and relaxed, the children worked brilliantly together on the Easter treasure hunt and its definitely an activity to be repeated next year with new clues. We then went to the garden for more Easter fun and then all chilled together with a drink and lots and lots of chocolate. It was a simple but cosy family celebration.

After two quiet Easters, it will be nice to plan a very special celebration next year, as not only will it be Easter, but my lovely father in law’s 90th birthday falls on Easter Sunday too. Now that’s what I call a very special occasion! (and the dress is definitely making an appearance!)

One year of lockdown

This week sees the anniversary of the lockdown. In all honesty we knew it was coming, new rules had been coming into force in the weeks preceding to minimise social contact and schools had closed to all but key worker and vulnerable children. It was inevitable and was probably a bit of a relief to end all the speculation.

I think I had found the week before more disorientating when it was announced that schools were to close. My colleague and I listened to the schools statement in our office and I remember us both trying to work out what this meant for us all, both our school but also for our children. This was the week when I had my wobble, it was the only time I cried until I got my vaccination in January. I knew this school closure wasn’t for a few weeks and I knew it was likely that my son wouldn’t be returning to his lovely little primary school. His TA and I were both trying so hard not to cry in front of him on the penultimate pick up, six and a half years of daily handovers abruptly ending. That was the day when it all started to feel real, the last day was better, we all put on a brave face so that our children would feel that it was an exciting, new adventure. I was correct that our son didn’t return properly to school although he went back for a wonderful afternoon with all his classmates so they could say goodbye. Little did I know that the March 20th would be our daughter’s last day at her school. Home schooling showed us that some niggles and concerns we had about her well being and academic work were well founded and when offered the choice to transfer to a different secondary she jumped at the chance. She’s so happy at her new school and I do think that without the school closure it would have taken us longer to recognise the place she was in.

Mr S and I had to make some decisions at this time, as key workers we were entitled to school places for the children but neither of us wanted to send our children to school in such a strange and scary time, they needed us to be with them. We both requested and were granted flexible working, meaning that we condensed our working hours into fewer days onsite. I worked 3 days a week and Mr S 2 days a week, on non working days we did home schooling. Interestingly this is one aspect of lockdown which not only benefitted us at the time but led to a permanent change in my working hours. I now work 4 days in 3 but I am currently temporarily working fulltime in 4 days. Whilst it is early starts, it has improved life and I’ve definitely become a morning person now. Lockdown also led to lots of thinking and talking about the future. In August Mr S left his part time job and did what he had always hoped to do, retire at 55. This has made our life so much easier, especially with the further school’s closure in January. With Mr S at home and focusing on our home life, I have been able to accept a promotion at work and it feels like a new chapter of our family life is starting.

This lockdown year has really seen as thrive as a little unit of 4, it was the year when family was everything. I felt secure in my relationship prior to lockdown but it showed that even in the most challenging of times, we are strong and united. I always felt home life was safe and full of love and support and I will always be so grateful for this. We missed our parents in this year. I saw my parents at a country park midway between our homes in August when we met for a picnic and walk and spent a day with them in October. We have booked a cottage for a few nights in April when restrictions lift slightly so we can see them again. I have not seen my father in law this year, although Mr S has seen him in his garden twice. He has been so careful shielding, but again we look forward to seeing him outside in April by when both he and I will have had our second vaccinations. I have found myself being very cautious this year, I was terrified not of my health but passing the virus on at school where we have medically vulnerable children or to family members. It was a difficult conversation to have at Christmas that we wouldn’t be visiting family but in hindsight this was definitely the correct decision. Whilst we had two Covid outbreaks at work this year, the January outbreak was the more serious, with more cases and for the speed in which it spread. There was also a large number of cases in the community, in a matter of weeks our town went from suppressed to the highest category, scary times.

In January, we started the Covid testing at work, and in full PPE I helped with tests. PPE has become something quite normal now, I must wear a mask at all times at work at present, but on testing duty, I have surgical mask, shield, gloves and apron. On my first day as a tester. I had 8 positives, its an awful feeling when you see the result, concern for the staff member and their families and the hope that they will make a full recovery. Its also quite scary coming home and hoping that you don’t pass anything on to your family. I go straight to the downstairs shower room, shower and put all my clothes into a hot wash. This all makes it sound like I work in a medical institution, but the reality is I am Deputy Head in a special school and this all seems normal now.

In thinking about a post about lockdown, I inevitably started writing lists as its my way of organising my life. Below are a few Lockdown lists, its impossible to write a post about the whole year, its too much to take in and process but the lists hep me share key information.

Lockdown List 1: The things I’ll remember about Lockdown.

  1. The emotional clap for carers at 8pm on Thursday evenings and the town band who chose a song to play after from their gardens. All the neighbours were out in the gardens and the sound of the applause echoing around the bay was something quite special.
  2. The lockdown speech, suddenly it was real.
  3. Boris being admitted to Intensive Care. Regardless of politics, he was our PM and seriously ill, it was scarily real now.
  4. The Queen’s broadcast to the nation. The reassurance we didn’t know we needed.
  5. Captain Tom raising £33 million for the nhs. The 100 year old grandad we all fell in love with and mourned when he died from Covid.
  6. Rainbows everywhere. There’s something hopeful about every rainbow.
  7. 5pm government briefings. They became a feature of the day and on some days gave the grimmest statistics.
  8. The comfort of radio and podcasts and the voices which made us feel a little more connected.
  9. The cancellation of everything, there was nothing in diaries except food delivery bookings.
  10. Hot sunny days, from the first day of home schooling we had the most amazing weather in spring and summer, it made lockdown a little easier. January lockdown was really hard with the dark days and cold weather.
  11. Postbox bingo. This came from a running podcast I listen to and provided a focus to some of our daily walks as we tried to find the insignia of different monarchs on post boxes. It was surprisingly addictive and I always look at every post box I pass to this day.
  12. Tidying and sorting every nook and cranny in the house. My house has never been more organised and streamlined.
  13. The walks. Every single day …
  14. Appreciating nature. Our nearest outdoor space is either the beach or the country park and in both we could witness the changing seasons.
  15. The search for a Nintendo switch. To counter the cancelled holidays and lockdown birthdays we decided to buy the latest Ninetendo games console for the children. It became the must have item of early lockdown and was sold out everywhere. I did eventually track one down before the birthdays and I felt like a superhero!
  16. Sadness at the overgrown, locked children’s playground. There is something so melancholy and quiet about an unused children’s playground and it was so sad to see all the playgrounds locked, equipment covered up to stop little ones playing.
  17. Sanitiser and mask, the never leave home without accessories of the year. And the obligatory lockdown rucksack for all the practical items you need to carry. I miss handbags.
  18. The first Covid test. I’m such a dab hand at administering such tests now but my first test in May was a shock at its invasive nature. I have never got used to them.
  19. Family games. We have never played so many games, Monopoly, Cluedo, Quirkle, Uno, Monopoly Deal, Nope. We even had a games championship over the Christmas holidays, convincingly won by Little Man.
  20. Sense of community. I have never felt a part of my community as much as I have done during this year. Our neighbours have been amazing and I hope we have all supported each other. We clapped together, celebrated the little things and finished the year with a beautiful socially distanced carol concert from our gardens.
  21. Baking. There wasn’t much we didn’t bake last year, every little thing was celebrated with cake. I finally found the time to make fresh hot cross buns after threatening to do so for years (we’re sticking to the local bakers this year) A friend sent through a recipe and we made cakes and chatted via Zoom. Baking was everyone’s comfort.
  22. The relief and joy at my first Covid vaccination. Due to the Covid outbreak at work, Public Health England supported all our frontline staff to get vaccinations in January. The organisation all happened pretty quickly and on the day I helped at the clinic, a wonderful, joyful task. On the way home, alone for the first time all day, I found myself crying happy tears.

The changes in my life due to Covid and which are likely to continue.

  1. Flexible working. I work long days but prefer my new hours. The time between 7 – 8.30 when most others arrive is my most productive time of the day.
  2. Cash seems pretty much redundant now, contactless is the norm. I have had the same £20 note in my purse for months.
  3. A weekly food delivery. This was one of those things that I’ve been arguing for forever, but Mr S always liked going to the supermarket. Since the pandemic came he quickly converted and is chief food shopper with a superb booking system.
  4. Zoom meetings. Zoom and Teams are words that meant nothing to me in Feb 2020 and are now used daily. There are some things which will remain post lockdown and virtual meetings are a bonus. As a parent, the virtual parents evening was so much easier and relaxed.
  5. Health. The pressure of work in the pandemic got to me in May and I felt really poorly and decided to take positive action, cue a healthy diet, exercise and daily meditation. It was one of those life switch moments, over weight and unfit people were affected more by Covid so I lost a lot of weight, got the fittest I’ve been and feel so much better in myself.
  6. Accepting its okay to pause. There was always something to do in my life pre lockdown, now I recognise its okay to just be at home and be ourselves.

The things I miss so much in lockdown (not including being with family and friends as that’s a given) In no order of preference.

  1. Fresh flowers in my kitchen
  2. Pottering around town
  3. Cafe culture
  4. The cinema, theatre and live music.
  5. parkrun
  6. The buzz of a crowd
  7. Diving into a swimming pool and being submerged in the water
  8. Planning and looking forward to events
  9. Spontaneity
  10. Fun

Its been the hardest and most emotional year and there is more lockdown to come, but I feel strangely content with life. Its been the worst of times and the best of times.

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.

#21for21

I’m a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin, I listen weekly to her podcast and have read a number of her books. Its difficult to categorise her work, it started with the happiness project but its more about wellbeing. For the past few years, I have done #18for18, #19for19, #20for20 and now #21for21. Its choosing 21 things you want to do in 2021. Here’s a link to an episode about #21for21 Gretchen Rubin . This year, my theme was definitely about fun and frivolity, life has been too dark and serious in 2020 and we need to add those sparkles to our lives.

Whilst it is the end of January I did create my list at the beginning of the year, its just taken to now to write it up on the blog. I have the list in my book in which I add notes and plans, I’m that sort of person with lists and the like. So here is my lists with some brief reasons.

  1. Graduate from my Uni course. This is carried over from last year as our course was extended due to Covid. It is a little cheeky as all our work is due on January 6th 2021, but as graduation will take place in this year, I’m adding it as I never got to achieve it in #20for20
  2. Have a doorstep plant. I had doorstep envy at Christmas with some of the trees beautifully lit on doorsteps and as I have a nice doorstep, I’m adding this to my list. I’m not a gardener but am thinking a few seasonal choices, I love daisies and lavender and then I’ll create a special Christmas display.
  3. Wear stylish jewellery. I used to have some lovely pieces but they have slowly been claimed by my daughter, broken with old age etc.. Every year I treat myself at either the steam fair or folk festival to a new piece of jewellery as they always have lovely local makers in their craft tents but with no fairs last year, I didn’t get to buy any new pieces. With this as one of my items, I may need to invest a little more this year! Sadly, I need to buy my jewellery, as despite 23 years together, and numerous hints Mr S has never bought me jewellery (except for my engagement and wedding rings which I chose with him) I do get lovely presents from him so this isn’t a criticism just an observation.
  4. Organise my boxes of decorations. I do like to dress up the house for special occasions and have a lot of decorations that need to be sorted and organised so I know exactly what I have and what I may need to replace.
  5. Spark joy with my clothes. Last year I lost a lot of weight and went down 3 sizes. For years I was grateful if something fitted so didn’t really consider style and at times felt a bit frumpy. This year its about finding my style and having fun with clothes.
  6. Listen to an audiobook. I love to read and am always listening to podcasts on walks and runs but have never married the two and tried an audiobook. So, a simple idea, I’ll either love it or it’ll be back to my Kindle.
  7. Take the children to KFC. Its a bit of a joke in our family that our children aged 11 and 12 have been to MacDonald’s less than 5 times in their lives. To them MacDonald’s is this mythical restaurant they see in adverts! In fairness its a 40+ mile round trip to the local Maccy Ds which isn’t conveniently in a town centre but on the outskirts of the town. However, they are now keen to try a new fast food restaurant, KFC and keep asking to go. Again its a 40+ mile round trip to an anonymous out of town retail park but this year we will do this for them and see which becomes their new favourite.
  8. Run the virtual challenge of Lands End to John O’Groats, 874 miles. This is a running challenge with a difference, to run the British isles from the most southern point to the most northern in one year. I’ve joined an online challenge so am tracking myself on a map. I think its doable but I need to be consistent in my mileage, so fingers crossed for no injuries.
  9. Do something creative everyday. I’ve recently got Lorna Scobie’s 365 days of creativity so am working through some of the challenges and those of my own. Some are simple 15 minute tasks, others are more detailed, but I hope to do something everyday to help me switch off.
  10. Burn more candles. Over these past months, I’ve been using my nice candles and its been lovely, so next year its about burning more candles and not keeping anything simply for best.
  11. Display more seasonal decorations. Over this past year, I’ve enjoyed decorating the house not just for the traditional festivals but for VE day, birthdays. I want to do more of this in 2021.
  12. Grow something. Mr S and my daughter are brilliant gardeners and last year grew many vegetables and fruit for us. Its inspired me and as they look after the garden I’m planning a little indoor herb garden or similar.
  13. Find the perfect summer straw bag. I know totally frivolous but I had an amazing straw bag which I used all the time on the beach, days out etc.. and it finally went beyond repair, I’ve never been able to find the perfect replacement, so that’s my new goal.
  14. Watch a Christmas film or two. A tad seasonal but last year I did not watch a single Christmas themed film in the festive season. Last Christmas has been on my to watch list for two Christmases now, so its time to sit down and watch it in 2021 and lots of other films with Christmas treats.
  15. Visit beautiful gardens. Last year was all about the wild beauty of country parks, I fancy seeing some pretty gardens in 2021 and of course the tea and cakes which tend to complement such visits.
  16. Do a flower arranging course. Another item on my to do list for a couple of years now. Lets hope it can be achieved in 2021.
  17. Get my red parkrun t-shirt. A repeat from last year, I made progress in the first few months of the year and then parkrun was suspended. I think if parkrun is back by the summer, I might be able to achieve this. I’ve already looked up the nearest parkruns to our holiday venues this year, so I don’t miss a week.
  18. Finally visit the Fashion museum. Again an item that’s been on the list before. I even got as far as being outside it (it was closed, which I knew but I wanted to know exactly where it was when I was visiting the town) I hope that museums can reopen soon, other wise small museums like this will be in danger of permanent closure.
  19. See a show / live music. The atmosphere is going to be electric when we get back into theatres and music venues. I’m so excited for this.
  20. Get lost in art. Lockdown has shown all the little things we take for granted and how much we miss them when they are gone. I’m looking forward to my cultural fix when life reopens, a lazy walk around an art gallery and simply looking and getting lost in a picture.
  21. Try something new. I’ve no idea what this could be, but its always good to try something different.

So that’s the list for 2021 and as its now Jan 31st I have started to make progress and tick a couple off. Its always good to start with a few simple ones to complete quickly as the list always seems more doable when its got a few ticks on it. Bring on #21for21.