When I thought about this post, I have to admit I had the children in mind. After day one of being back at work myself though and it’s clear that I need help too! So here’s my top three tips for beating the back to school bleurgh!
1. Take it easy
You’ve had some time off. If you’re anything like me you’ve spent the first week of that time on a mad Christmas dash, cramming hospitality and shopping at unsuitable hours into every available millisecond. The second week I finally got chance to wind down. And wind down I did. Lazy mornings, even lazier afternoons, meals combined into a selection of goodies at random parts of the day, nights where you didn’t need to go to bed until late as there were books to read, TV to watch. Basically, I’m all out of whack!
Ignoring the fact that you have to get up at a certain time just to make it to work, make sure you’re easing yourself back into things as much as possible. Try to avoid scheduling anything major for the first week back and just concentrate on getting your brain back into gear and your body back into the routine. Make your workload as easy as possible, slow and steady wins the race!
2. Feed yourself!
Christmas gorge. Yum. Yum. Yum. Sadly, a diet consisting solely of Quality Street and Christmas Cake is unsustainable in the long run and you’re going to have to man up and eat your veg. You don’t need me to tell you all about the benefits of vitamins – I’m not preaching to the choir here – and I’m not convincing you to diet. Just look after yourself. Getting a little bit of what you need can make January that much more bearable.
The same applies to the kids too. Irregular meals and late night snacks have been the order of the day so it’s important to get them back on a meal routine, full of good stuff to get their energy levels up.
3. Prepare for the crash
Even if you’re back at work and are not feeling the bleurghiness, I’m pretty sure it will hit at some point. Certainly the girls have been bounding around like they’ve all the energy in the world but I’m confident that they’ll hit a brick wall during this week and their energy levels will crash dramatically. Don’t feel bad about retiring to bed early. Snuggle on the sofa and do nothing! Leave the work at work and for just one week take the time to bury yourself at home in warmth and cosiness.
How are you feeling going back to work? How about the kids? Any tips for getting through the next week?
The girls have been packed lunches for a while now – combination of them wanting to eat with the specific friends who also had packed lunches and the fact that at £30 a week for all three of them, the price of school dinners made me want to … well, get up earlier and make packed lunches instead. But I admit, lunches have been half-hearted affairs, limp sandwiches, obligatory yogurt tubes and an assortment of plasticised food (is it cheese? is it ham?!) I wouldn’t really feed the dogs let alone the kids! So as part of my year of love, I’ve decided I’m going to invest in their lunches to show them I love them (rewarding them with food, setting them up for a great relationship with calories in the future!) Plus hopefully save a load of money I’ve been wasting on the scam that supermarkets call ‘lunch food’.
Invest in a nice lunch bag and assorted plastic pots
Admittedly, Christmas helped with this as my mum treated the girls to gorgeous new lunch bags for Christmas. I splashed out on new flasks (in the sale!) and I’d already amassed a selection of pots from forays into Poundland. You know my ethos is that a place for everything makes decluttering easier and a place for everything makes packed lunches a little bit more fun!
Make your own
No more ready made drinks cartons, no more ready made cheese, no more… ready made anything really. I’ve bought whole packs of jelly and made them up in some tupperware pots – outlay for six individual jellies = 42p instead of the usual £2 for six individual ready made pots. I’m eschewing the usual sandwiches and am going to spice it up with crackers, breadsticks, even a bit of homemade focaccia. Block slice cheese, divide up the ham, ready the cucumber, tomatoes etc and let them put their own lunch together as they’re there. Yes, it’s a time investment, but I’m hoping it’s a couple of hours on a Sunday rather than a complete panic every morning!
Making in bulk is a great way of getting all the preparation out of the way. A dozen fairy cakes and that’s sorted for nearly a whole week (if you can stop yourself from scoffing them in one go!) Bake a loaf cake and slice pieces up and freeze them – defrost individual slices overnight or let them defrost in the lunch box. Make a cookie log and then just slice off the number of slices you need in the morning and whack them in the oven for 15 minutes or so – fresh cookies every day! What says ‘I love you’ more than that?
Variety, blah, blah, blah
In some ways, I think the children quite enjoy the monotony of the same thing every day – there’s comfort in sameness, especially if the children are going through any changes anywhere else (which mine might be soon). But apart from that, keeping it spiced up has got to be a good thing for them! So I’m going to try some new things in their packed lunches and see if they like it – some cold pasta salad, some rice salads, that kind of thing. Finger crossed!
Nettie is a picky eater. She’s not even a picky eater with any rhyme or reason. She’ll eat something one day and then swear blind the next that she doesn’t like it. There is no pleasing some people! So I’ve decided to involve all of them a bit more in getting their lunches ready. Choosing what they want to go in their lunch, making their choice of cakes and goodies, letting them make up the components – I’m hoping that this means there’ll be less left over at the end of the day!
Are you packed lunches or dinners? Any tips for making sure a) they eat everything b) it’s all healthy stuff and c) it doesn’t cost a million pounds?
So, it’s that time of year again. New Year. Resolutions. Promises we’d like to keep but somehow never manage past January – or maybe that’s just me?! I’ve keeping it simple this year. No vows to lose weight (if it happens, yay, if not, I’m a wonderful person!), do more stuff (let’s face it, I’m already quite busy, I don’t really need to do more stuff!) or find the meaning of life.
I’m going for the simple this year and in the words of one of my favourite groups “If there’s ever an answer, it’s more love.” So I am going to fill my calendar for the year with love. I will cherish my family. I will appreciate my husband. I will adore my friends. So often we don’t let people know how we feel about them, but no more. My heart is firmly on my sleeve and I am going to shout about how lucky I am in love!
I am lucky; surrounded by loving family and amazing friends. So I’m having a year of love, just for them!
Are you going for the traditional resolution this year or aiming for some a bit more different?
One of my students asked me the other day if I found Christmas terrifying. I didn’t get what she meant. She asked, do my children still believe in Santa? Yes. So aren’t I terrified that one day they’ll find and and the magic will be gone?
Well, yes and no. I love the magical side of Christmas. The mystery. The special stuff that just can’t be explained. Bee said to me today that the only thing she didn’t understand about Santa was that nobody could live in the North Pole. That’s the only thing that worried her! No questions about the flying around the world in one night, making all those presents, having flying reindeer – just the living accomodation!
The point is that I know we’re on the point of change in the family. Bee’s eight now and pretty soon she’s going to learn the truth. I hope she might see that she can keep the magic alive for her sisters and not tell them the harsh reality, but hey, she’s eight – what are the chances of that much discretion?!
So that challenge will start about keeping the Christmas spirit alive once they realise that things aren’t necessarily all magical. I think they’ll be okay – even though I’m long past the Santa stage, Christmas is still full of magic and amazement. The wonderment of lights, music, people together, snow, presents, family that you love, friends that you love, a whole wonderful spirited life – that’s my magic and I hope the girls come to understand that.
Because love. That’s the real Christmas spirit. That’s what I want to share with my girls, even when Santa fades away. Christmas is magical. We make it magical.
Are your children still believers? How will you deal with it when they’re not? Will it or has it changed Christmas for you?
A few years ago, when we were looking to save money at Christmas because we were having financial difficulties, I looked to different things I could make at home to give as gifts. They were such a hit that I’ve been making some of the same things ever since. Not to give away any of my recipe secrets here, but these are my top three favourite recipes to make for gifts at Christmas.
1. Sweet Chilli Jam
I’ve made this Sweet Chilli Jam from the very first homemade gift experiment and now have to make a double batch so that I can meet demand. It’s so easy to make and goes lovely with cheese and/or ham – a great gift idea is to just make up a big jar of this and buy a trundle of cheese – not hideously expensive but so welcome
The jam is really easy to make – in the past five years or so of making it I’ve only had one mishap, which was entirely my fault as I had a slip with the vinegar! It smells fantastic, tastes wonderful and is always a real hit.
2. Lemon Curd
The biggest warning that needs to be issued when making this delicious Lemon Curd is that Oh My God it is so, so, so very good. Literally you will have to channel every ounce of possible willpower you have to not eat it all before you’ve potted it up. There is nothing better than homemade Lemon Curd and this recipe from Delia is a real winner. Again, it’s so easy to make and will go down a storm with your lucky gift recipients.
I have to admit that I’m not personally a fan of biscotti, but this is one gift that I make year after year and it’s always gobbled up. It’s really easy to make (sensing a theme here with my choices?!) I tend to make two flavours, a fruity one like this Fruity Christmas Biscotti and then a chocolate one like this fantastic Double Chocolate Almond Biscotti. Biscotti is really simple to make – you simple make a big log of mixture, bake it, slice it and rebake it in its slices – easy and yummy!
Variety is the spice of life!
These are my favourite go to recipes for Christmas presents, but over the years I’ve tried all sorts, with varying degrees of success – nuts, cheese biscuits, Limoncello, chocolates, muffins, biscuits – you name it, I’ve tried it – but that’s all part of the fun. I love trying new recipes and it’s a real treat for someone to dig into their goody bag and find something completely new to try!
What are your favourite Christmas recipes to give? Do you give homemade gifts?
It’s November now, and I know it can feel like if you’ve not got your Christmas pennies saved by now then it’s too late, but there are still plenty of options for some last minute money-making to help Christmas that bit more affordable.
Amazon Book Trade-In
If you’re like me and have got innumerable books laying around the house, just waiting for you to summon up the energy to organise them, then Amazon’s new Book Trade-In service could help. Basically, you make a big pile of books at your end and then search for each of the books on the website. I found that paperbacks were usually around 25p which isn’t going to set the world on fire, but if they’re sitting around doing nothing then it’s an effective way to earn some money. If you’ve got any textbooks then these can have much better values – I’ve traded in three PGCE books for £30 which is a good chunk. Try it with recipe books that you don’t use very much, or books you’ve previously been given that are just not your thing.
You add the books to your trade in order and then print a delivery label for them. You don’t have to pay any postage and you can elect to have the books returned for free if they don’t meet the quality criteria. Once they’ve been received, they’re checked over and then you’re issued with an Amazon voucher for that value.
Surveys is a good little money maker the whole year round, although you have to have a reasonable level of patience to answer all those questions. The pay time on them is also generally quite quick so if you can find a site with enough surveys to earn a bit then it’s worthwhile stocking up for Christmas. I’m a member of Valued Opinions who regularly have surveys and will pay you in £10 increments as you earn them. It can be a frustrating way of earning not very much money – especially when you answer a load of questions and then it tells you that you haven’t qualified for the survey but if you stick with it, it earns you something eventually.
Supermarket cards are still a good way of earning extra spending money this Christmas. Although they can take some time to earn, you can take advantage of the vouchers for earning more points per pound on specific items or if you spend a certain amount. Tesco are currently doing their Christmas Clubcard exchange where you can swap £5 of Clubcard points for £10 of shopping in certain areas – if you’re planning on shopping there anyway then it does make financial sense to swap them.
Have you planned ahead for this Christmas or are you having a minor panic about affording everything? How do you save money for Christmas?
So DH is digging deep into his charitable nature and has signed up for Movember – in case you’re not familiar with this charity, he’s basically eschewing facial topiary for the month of November and is growing a moustache. I admire his spirit, but I remain unconvinced about his ability to grow any sort of facial hair, let alone wear it with style and panache. But I’m going to dig deep into my own charitable nature and live by these rules.
No besmirching the man’s moustache growing capability
I solemnly swear I will not make fun of an inability to grow anything beyond bum fluff. I will even, in a sickly sweet voice, say ‘Oh wow honey, did you grow all that moustache in one night? All by yourself? Aren’t you a handsome, virulent man?’
No laughing and pointing if the moustache does grow
I solemnly swear I will no ridicule the facial hair he might manage to grow. OK, so there’s a reason he’s been facial-hair free for the last 20 plus years, which I feel is lead by the knowledge that he will look daft with any, but I will bite my tongue.
No refusing to be seen in public with him
He’s my husband and I love him, facial hair or no. So I will fight the embarrassment and be proud of his sacrifice.
Take many, many, many photographs
This is likely to be a one time only deal so I promise I will take as many photographs as I possible can for as many nefarious purposes as I can think of!
I think it’s a great charity and I’m proud of him for joining in, even if he does look ridiculous doing it! It aims to raise awareness of some vital men’s health issues, especially testicular and prostate cancer. Working on the principal that if more people talk about it, more people are aware of it and if more people are aware of it, fewer people need die from these illnesses, it really is an easy way for all men to do their bit.
And you never know, he might surprise me and look very manly!]
Is your husband, partner, dad, son, friend, male person in your life, getting involved? Have you got any responses I can use for those situations with DH’s moustache makes me giggle? Let me know in the comments!
So, as I’ve admitted, I am a Pinterest addict and there is every chance that I will just disappear under a heap of pins if I don’t take positive action so I’ve devised my very own Pinterest Summer so that I can actually do some of the things I’ve pinned to the board. I’ve also rolled it up with a heap of promised summer plans for the girls so that we can all get something out of the summer!
One of my favourite Pin boards is ‘I can’t wait to try’ which I’ve used to collect all those fabulous craft ideas that I’ve seen. Twin that with ‘Nom Nom Nom’ and I’ve got a whole heap of stuff to be getting on with. My aim is to get through at least one project a day, whether it’s craft or cooking. I co-opted the girls who have perused the boards and each come up with a list of things they’d like to do as well so we’ve all got a summer wishlist.
Bee’s also been using the National Trust’s 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 and 3/4 website – if you haven’t seen it yet then it’s a great opportunity for kids to get ideas for things to do in the great wide open – they can tick off and write about experiences they’ve had and earn ‘points’ which transform into costumes to dress their avatar. So I asked her to choose some things from the site that she’d like to try over the summer and we’ve added them to the list.
Finally, because I am now an English Teacher and it appears I can’t let my kids escape that even for the summer, we’re going to set up a family holiday blog that all the girls can post to, pictures, writing… anything at all really, that we can use to report back on our adventures. I can’t think of a better way to engage them in what we’re doing over the summer, while improving their literacy skills and teaching them about technology!
So, full of great ideas, of course it all comes down to execution. What I have now is a board covered in exciting ideas, lists coming out of my ears of what they’d like to try and a summer holiday which feels like it will be unending but that I know will fly by. As I’m that sort of person, I’ve made myself a spreadsheet. Each day is divided into four sections – morning, afternoon, notes and budget. I’ve already entered the immoveables, the week in France and the week that the girls go to their grandparents and then it’s a case of fitting the other events in and around those days. Budgeting is vital too, as there’s no point planning all this wonderful stuff if you haven’t got any financials to do it!
But, doesn’t planning take… well… take all the fun out of it?
Of course there are many people out there who enjoy life lived on the spur of the moment, to take them where the wind blows and to a certain extent I enjoy that too but this time around the summer holiday feels like it’s going to be really precious time and I want to wring every moment for all the joy it’s worth. Moo starts school in September and then that will be it – I’m a mum of three school-age children in the blink of an eye. So this summer at least I’m determined to make sure we do stuff! I don’t want the weeks to have passed without us achieving anything – we’re building memories here!
How about you? Do you like to plan the holidays or are you a que sera type of person?
I am not a trendsetter. Sheep is more my thing. And usually the sheep right at the back who suddenly looks up from her grass and realises that the rest of the flock has already buggered off to greener grass elsewhere. So it’s no surprise to me that I’m late to another trendy party… this time the Pinterest party.
Where Have I Been?
Seriously, hours can be whiled away on that place – genius! If you’re like me, late to the Pinterest party, here’s my introduction.
Erm… Freya, I’m even slower than you, what exactly is Pinterest?
However I describe it it’s never going to do it justice so I shall copy their own blurb:
Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.
Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests. To get started, request an invite.
See? That doesn’t really sound particularly exciting, But it is. If you’re like me and are always looking for good ideas for something, decorating, clothes, crafts, recipes, then it is amazing.
What I love about it
- It is so easy to use – just add the Pin It button to your bookmarks bar and you’re away. See something you like, the just click the button and it’ll be pinned to whichever board you want it to be on.
- You can have as many boards as you want for whatever different purpose – so I have a board for decorating each of the girls’ rooms, a Nom Nom Nom board, a diet board, a craft board – you get the idea! It’s such an easy way of organising all your links.
- Inspiration – I’m quite good at getting around the Internet but to have so many different ideas from so many shops, blogs and websites all in one place is great – I can spend many happy hours just browsing all the boards and randomly clicking on things I like the look of.
- The range of stuff that people have pinned is amazing – whatever your personal hobbies or tastes you will find something on here to interest you! Bountiful new ideas await!
- It makes me feel so popular! Just like you can repin other people’s ideas, so they can pin yours. So I get little email notifications about the fact that some random person has repinned my board – it’s like virtual confirmation that what you like is worthy of being liked! Or maybe I’m just starved of approval.
Anything to be wary of?
Hours of your life may suddenly go missing? Not only can I spend time immeasurable wandering around the boards, I’ve also pinned enough craft projects to keep me making until Judgement Day! Of course I could exercise some self-control, but that’s never been a strong point and I am in danger of being over-whelmed. So if this is a habit you like the sound of, for your own health put a limit on it!
The only other problem, and this is really a minor issue, is how delicious all the US recipes look and then when you click through to them you realise they’ve been made with a box of cake-mix. But really I’m just jealous that they’ve got all this ready prepared stuff and we have to make all our own!
What do you think? Fancy giving it a go?
So, a question I’ve been pondering lately. I had a wedding, August 2003. It was a beautiful day, surrounded by friends and family. The ceremony was lovely, the reception perfect – I couldn’t have asked for a better day.
One thing spoiled it. Me. I can hardly bear look at my wedding photos because I hate what I see there. I was ‘voluptuous’ (I say was, still am, and yes, voluptuous is code for fat!) – there’s no problem with that really – many larger ladies make beautiful brides. I was not one of them. My make-up was done by someone who’d be well suited to an artist on TOWIE, and this is before that dream had even been borne! I looked like a giant satsuma and boy, does that orange face glow on my pictures. And my dress… there are worse dresses but I hated it. It wasn’t the one I wanted. It didn’t make me feel special. It didn’t make me feel beautiful. So as perfect as the day was, the memory of it is spoiled for me because of how I felt and feel about myself.
So, is it greedy to have another go? I’m not talking full-on church etc. More a beach vow renewal with just DH and the girls. Something low key. Celebrate our 10 year anniversary, get some pictures to feel good about, and have that honeymoon we’ve never actually been on? A chance to do it over and fix the one thing that I wish I could do differently.
What do you think? Tacky or romantic?