May 27, 2023

Bank Holiday Saturday & House Projects & Meal Planning

 I feel like I'm on holiday a lot lately - but 3 bank holiday Mondays in one month can do that for a person.  Thanks King Charles!  This Monday is a bank holiday (not memorial day.  Late May Bank Holiday maybe? Spring Bank Holiday?  

The sun is out and today we spent half the day at the beach and half the day at a friends farm, culminating with a BBQ in a firepit.  Everyone is tired.  Kids fell asleep in the car on the way home.  Sand everywhere.  The beach was suprisingly quiet even though it's half term (school holiday) and a long week end AND the sun was out.  

Downside, Lilah got carsick on the way.  We were using the rear seats of the 7 seater.  She kept saying "I'm tired" and I think she meant "I don't feel well" because suddenly - much sick.  In good news, we had a whole bag of clean laundry in the car and she had a blanket on which caught most of the mess.  She perked up when we put her back in the middle seat and we may not use rear seats again for a while.

In other random news, I finally got a kindle!  Very excited.  I think I can put Libby books on it - I know you can only do it for US based accounts but my Libby account is based in my US library so I'm hoping it will work.  I need to spend 10 minutes setting it up.  Then I can get all the books! Not just the audiobooks! Yay!

As an update for 'Make our house more suited to our needs' project, we donated a loveseat to charity and now have a much more functional small room for kids to play in.  We also have finally decided what climbing frame to get for the garden and are going with this one:

Instead of a ballpit at the bottom we will probably make a sand pit.  We need to figure out how to keep the cats away.

We had our FLOM on Friday and planned meals for next week:

Sunday: Salmon & Potatoes
Monday: Mac & cheese with ??? can someone suggest a main to go with mac and cheese?
Tuesday: Egg sandwiches & home fries
Wednesday: Jacket Potato & Beans
Thursday: Chicken Gyros
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Out to dinner with Andy (hopefully! Everyone ended up ill last time we had a dinner planned)

What are you doing for Memorial Day/Bank Holiday?  Any recommendations for good kindle reads...? I've been thinking I want to get into a good sci-fi/fantasy book.

May 25, 2023

School Schedules and Childcare and Time

We are in the process of sorting out childcare/school schedules for next year.  Isaac has gotten into the school across from our house (yay!).  Right now he attends nursery 4 days a week, where we can drop off anytime after 7:30am and pick up anytime before 6:00pm.  Sometimes we drop off at 7:45, sometimes at 9am.

What I realized about school is that it starts at a certain time.  Every day.  You can't drop of early and you certainly can't be late.

In 2020 I got on the wait list for after school club, and this week we were informed there were two spaces available: Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  We also found a child-minder for Monday afternoons and Thursday Afternoons.  I wasn't sure how much childcare to take - we certainly don't need 4 full days plus 1 school day.  

However, I soon realized that it's always possible to reduce the amount of childcare one has, and often difficult to increase it.

For now we have decided on 4 days of "full" childcare and 1 day of school hours for Isaac, and 4 days for Lilah.  Andy will be taking off Fridays to spend with Lilah (and Isaac after school) and I can go back to full-time work starting in September (right now I'm on 80%)

School is going to be such a different experience for everyone.  I don't know how working parents manage - I only found out today that I have 4 full days of cover in 3 months time.  I could have had 2.  Or none.  

I'm also aware that lots of working from home parents have made the decision to not do after school care and instead pick up kids from school and have them at home while they finish off work.  Andy and I both have decided that we don't try and work while watching kids, and we don't use TV to entertain them either.  This probably makes our life harder.  For us we would rather have more dedicated childcare time.  We don't want to try and manage with less, or have the kids home with us but without our attention.  

I've thought a lot about Emily Oster's Second Best choices article.   I feel there is a push that "at home is best" for kids.  That childcare is somehow always worse than being with parents.  I have to remind myself that's not really true - maybe being at home with me would be best.  But maybe me working school hours, and experiencing the associated career downsides, would drive me nuts.  And that would cause it's own problems.  

Maybe being at home watching TV is second best to being at home, or maybe childcare is second best to being at home because we are lucky enough to afford it.

All this to say, that we are making a parenting decision now which either has all sorts of ramifications or impacts almost nothing.  But at least I don't have to continue worrying about how much childcare we will get in the spring.  The answer is - enough! Yay!

If you are a parent, how did you decide how much childcare you needed for your kids in early school?  If you're not a parent, were you in wrap-around/after school care or did a parent pick you up every day?

May 24, 2023

Galavanting through Wales - Weekend Adventures Again

We had visitors last weekend, which meant I spend the weekend galavanting through Wales. I used to spend a lot of time galavanting.  Now I spend slightly less time doing so.  It made me remember that there is a world more than 15-25 minutes from my house, and that world can be very fun.

Friends arrived Friday night after a terribly long train journey.  Their journey of 2 hours became 6.  I felt particularly bad as my 2 hour London train had become a 4 hour London train the previous day.  "What is the chance the same train will be super delayed two days in a row?" I thought. The answer - high.

They arrived in good form for all their travel.  I couldn't believe I hadn't seen these friends since I left Portland in 2016.  It felt like no time had passed at all.  People are great.

On Saturday we visit Big Pit, which is a former Coal Mine and now amazing museum.  Everyone should visit Big Pit.  Guides are former miners.  I have traveled a lot and never experienced anything like it.

Saturday evening was takeaway curry.  I was full for 3 days.

On Sunday friends were traveling in Inverness (Scotland!) for more great adventures.  Isaac and I took them to Cardiff Castle for sightseeing.  I only took a picture of the keep, but we walked all the way to the top.  It was a gorgeous day.  Everyone should visit Wales in May (when the sun is out)

Finally it was time to take friends to the train station. They are onwards on their big adventure, and I am reminded to have more medium adventures.

Also, can you tell who doesn't watch TV at home?  Isaac was very excited to watch this TV (its a rolling series of ads)

This weekend is another adventure weekend.  Beach on Saturday, friends on Sunday, and an American BBQ on Monday.  Happy Memorial day everyone!

Have you had big adventures recently?  Little adventures?  What is the difference to you?

May 18, 2023

Long Days & Task Management

 I've been marvelling a bit recently about how much time I have in a day.

For instance, this day (Thursday) I woke up at 5am and caught the 6:20am train to London.  I arrived in London in time for a coffee and a pastry before a 9:30 meeting, which went until 1pm.  I ate an amazing Turkish Mezze for lunch (I love London food!).  I sat in a courtyard with my colleagues, then sat in a different courtyard with different colleagues.  

I had three hours of meetings - exceptionally productive ones all scheduled and agenda'd by me.

In my last meeting I reviewed my used of my task management system.  I am loving my mental headspace that comes from working on one thing at any time.  I started this a few months ago after listening to a Cal Newport podcast - I use Trello to file all incoming requests and then categorize them based on the following "Ready To Execute" "Scheduled to Execute" "Waiting for Reply" and "Today Priority"

It does take me a few extra minutes to copy text from teams / slack / email into Trello cards, but I am fairly sure the full ownership of my time and responsibility more than makes up for it.

Since I was off on Monday and Tuesday I came back to work with 55 emails and many teams messages.  I spent 25 minutes filtering them into trello.  Once filtered I filed all the emails away and my inbox was empty.  I then prioritized the tasks in Trello and got to work.  At the end of Wednesday I had worked through the entire list, and finished 30 minutes early.  I think staring at a 55 email inbox and guessing at which email to reply to first would have taken a lot more time, and felt way more stressful.

I love inbox Zero, but email is a terrible task management system.  Knowing everything is in Trello, and that emails are all stored in the appropriate folders, means I only have to use Trello to decide what to do.

But I digress.  I caught the 6pm train back from London and hopefully will be home by 8:30.  Tomorrow I have breakfast with a friend, and I might try for a quick 20 minute swim over my lunch break.  I've realized I can just about fit a 20 minute swim into a 1 hour lunch break - as long as my afternoon calls don't mind wet hair (I like to pretend it's "tousled")

Part of the reason days sprawl with time right now is the light - I drove to the train in the sunshine, at 5:30am.  I am on the train home in daylight, at 7pm.  Winters are cold and dark, but summers are endless possibility.  

Do you use a task management system for yourself at work?  Are you a Zero inboxer?   Does summer feel like opportunity for you?

May 17, 2023

A belated weekend post!

This weekend I drove 6 hours to see my friend in Cumbria and her 12 week old baby.  It was awesome to see her and I am only sad that she lives so far away.  I left Saturday morning at 7:30 and then came back Monday - 12 hours of driving for 36 hours with friend.  It was well worth it.

I had loaded up the podcast with back episodes of Organize 365 and Best of Both Worlds, as well as Oh William by Elizabeth Strout on Audiobook which showed up on Libby.  Two hours into Oh William I decided it was a hard pass as I really can't listen to stories which include traumatic childhoods.  I know it was shortlisted for the Booker prize and The Modern Mrs. Darcy loved it but I couldn't take it.

I enjoyed a good few hours listening to Organize 365, I'm not sure whether I had heard some of the episodes before.  I started thinking about house projects and organization and realized some small but significant changes I could make to my space now.  I have a plan to fit a dishwasher in the kitchen!  First I need to find a handy-person to do some cabinet removal, reorganize our pantry goods, and then there will be Dishwasher!  I am very excited.

I also realized that it is time to say goodbye to our much loved loveseat.  

It was one of the first pieces we bought for our house and was recently in the kids room for stories.  We've since set up Lilah's "big girl bed" and now there is no room.  So I called the furniture charity shop and it's being collected on Friday.  It's so comfortable and has served us well and I hope it will go to another home that can enjoy it just as much as we have.

While visiting my friend I read all of Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan.  This was such a fun read and felt like a "holiday read".  I also brought A World Without Email by Cal Newport but it is somewhat slow going.  Definitely giving me lots of think about.  

For the drive back Maybe in Another Life became available on audiobook and I've started that now, it's definitely got the same great pacing as most TJR books.

I loved my 36 hour holiday and it felt like a total recharge.  Also, my friend has the cutest 12 week old.  I didn't know 12 week olds could be so good.  He just sleeps and plays and chats and I cannot wait to see him again soon.  I am not a huge fan of babies but I was a huge fan of this one. 

Have you ever been on a 36 hour holiday?  How is your reading in May going?  Do you like 12 week olds?

May 11, 2023

Photo Album Project - How I print our family and kids albums

I decided I wanted to make printed albums after reading Andrea Dekker's blog for 10ish years and seeing how lovely her kids albums were.  I realized quickly that I needed to set standards LOW or I wouldn't finish an album.  My first album has month labels at the start of each month, and barely any text.  My plan was to make a family album each calendar year, and then albums for each of the kids based on their birthdays.  

The first album I printed was Isaac 1-2, printed just after his second birthday.  I did go back and print Isaac 0-1 later, although I had far fewer photos.  I had taken lots of photos of him, but they were mostly random whatsapp photos and not really "nice" photos.  

Three years on, we have a growing collection of albums:
Every month I upload all the photos from the smart-camera into Snapfish, and then I update the two kids albums and the family album.  I generally try to do this in the first two weeks of the month.  The kids albums take about 20 minutes each, I don't usually add any captions and I chuck lots of photos in.  I also take photos of all their nursery art and each month they get a page or two dedicated to all their nursery art.  I throw away 80% of what they bring home from nursery after I take a photo of it.  My house would be overrun with art otherwise.  

I've started to get more involved in the family albums, adding captions and additional details about the photos.  This year I'm writing a short monthly summary on the first page of the album.  I'm not sure I'll keep this up, there is a fine line between making better albums and making my process so involved that I don't want to do them.

I keep reminding myself that done is better than perfect.  My albums have typos.  They sometimes have too many photos. Sometimes I forget which kid did art and put the photo in the wrong book.  But done is better than perfect.

I like flipping through the albums to remember what we did in any year.  It makes me realize that the remembering self and the experiencing self are so different.  As in, there are events I loved but can't really remember, until I see a photo.  And times that were really hard, but that I remember fondly now (for instance, I saw a photo of 6 month old Isaac.  I remember that time as very hard, but he was very *aww* in memory)

The kids can flip through the albums too, and like to read them and talk about it.  Because I can print new ones if needed I am not super precious about them.  If they get broken then it's only money to fix it.  

I always wait until Snapfish offer 50% off (including extra pages!) before ordering.  I had to wait almost a month to print my January album - I think a lot of people make a resolution to print albums.  Eventually Snapfish do a 50% off sale, so the albums are £50-ish instead of £100.  I started this project during Covid - the Covid year was by far the shortest album.  2021 has many more photos than needed, probably because I was so happy to do things again.

I tape any family cards into the back page of the albums.  Our holiday card will be on the back of the family album.  Any birthday cards or birth announcements will be on the back page of the kids albums. 

I am trying to keep the whole process to under 1 hour a month.  It should be fun.  I love printing the albums and it's another thing I look forward to in the fall... Lilah gets hers after her September birthday, Isaac in October, and the family album in January.  

In 2022 I started the family album with a photo of each room of our house and the garden.  I tried to take the same photos in January 2023, so we can see how much our house changes year to year.

We also love the photo albums because it helps us look at photos far more than if we kept it all on google photos or icloud.  I know one can get lost scrolling through photos on an iphone, but there's something lovely about flipping pages.  Plus, I start to resent paying forever storage fees to companies to store my photos - once printed, I know they will last*

*I realize this is a total historian debate.  What's more reliable, microfiche or online portals?  Scans or preserved originals? I find personally my older digital data is not always super accessible, but I know exactly where my family photo albums are

Do you print albums?  How do you store your photos?  Do you take lots of photos or not very many?

May 9, 2023

Bank Holiday Weekend

Now *that* was a bank holiday weekend!

On Friday I went out to dinner with my mom friends, to a tapas restaurant.  We vastly over ordered.  I am super basic and I love Patatas Bravas.  Spice and potato is my friend.  

On Saturday we had a family play date with friends we have been trying to see for ages.  Our kids are roughly the same ages and they played together so well.  Family play dates are the best.  In the afternoon we ate scones (savory and sweet!) and watched the coronation.  So many lovely hates! 

On Sunday Andy went biking in the morning and Isaac and Lilah played so well at home.  Is 3 and 5 going to be a magic age of playing?  I got house stuff done while watching kids, which is a total anomaly for me.  I also made a massive task list of to-dos for the afternoon.  In the afternoon Lilah took a nap and Isaac went to Grandma's house and we finally got house chores done.  

So many house chores.  We now have three bags ready to go to the charity shop, and a sofa, a Roomba, and a Kallax listed on gumtree.  If they don't sell in a week the sofa can get picked up by the furniture charity shop.  

We also assembled Lilah's toddler bed in an attempt to transition from her crib.  She was so happy but has so far not slept in it and instead slept in her crib.  I hate sleep transitions.  It is not my strong suit.  I love the idea of kids sharing rooms but on Saturday (and Sunday) she ended up back in her crib.  Isaac stayed in a crib until nearly 3, so maybe I just have crib-loving kids.  

On Monday we took the kids to Soft Play, which they loved.  Isaac has been to soft play when he was little but because of Covid it was all closed or super when Lilah was 0-1 and she hasn't been much.  They both loved it and ran for 90 minutes straight.  

Our friends visited from Bristol and we all came back for lunch, which I managed to smash out that morning.  I made a quiche!  Quiche is such an easy make-ahead lunch food for short notice lunches. We also had the Oh She  Glows Chickpea salad, which is also a super winner and I need to make more often.  In the afternoon we all took naps (ie, even our friends) and then did some playing in the house before having home made pizza.  

This week is a short week due to the bank holiday.  I still need to list my road bike on Gumtree and actually take the charity stuff to the charity shop, but I feel our house is progressing towards order again.  Which is good.

Also, this morning I was listening to Cal Newport's Deep Questions and was SO EXCITED to hear Sarah Hart Unger as a guest!  It's a long episode but great so far, and exactly what I needed to listen to on a time when my planning has gone a bit off kilter.  

How was your weekend? What is your favourite quick and easy lunch share?  Do you prefer savory scones (like cheese?) or sweet scones (like berry?)

May 7, 2023

April in review & May goals

April was a long wet month.  I had a series of mini goals, which I barely mini-achieved. Here is a summary:

  • Finally do Will (Had to move appointment again - so it's booked for next week now)
  • Eat more Fruit. (We ate at least 2 melons this month)
  • Declutter (I have a large bag of things ready for the charity shop)
  • Visit 1 National Trust Site (Adorable easter egg hut success)
  • Continue Monthly Budget (Because of credit card theft I now can't access some of my credit card data, but I definitely will continue this and mostly have)
  • Continue Time Tracking (Oops, this stopped when I went away for the weekend)
  • Continue Kids & family photo albums (I think I got too into captions as I haven't finished, and I may go back to not captioning the kids albums and only captioning the family album)
I'm not going to lie, besides some highlights (easter egg hunt with kids, really good work trip to London, and amazing mountain biking weekend) April felt like a bit of a slog.  I'm hoping May brings a bit more energy and internal excitement.

I did luck into reading 4 awesome books in April:
Babel: an Arcane History - Ahh this was a great read.  Super long.  Super good.  I love it when really smart people write really good books.  I was captivated from the first chapter, which is the sign of a pretty great book.

The Light Pirate - Another amazing book.  Beautifully written.  I love books about big themes which use the themes to compel the characters, rather than characters to compel themes.  I also don't ever want to live in Florida.

Stolen Focus - Hari delivers an excellent and well researched book.  His chapters on big tech were great and even though I have read A LOT on this he still brought new insight.  Especially his conversation with Nir Eyal. I know this is into the weeds of smartphone-use-theorist battles BUT I think this is a great read and I love how he thinks.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai - Not sure where I got this recommendation from, it was another longer book but I really got into it.  I think I like books about compellingly flawed individuals trying to make good decisions.  I honestly hadn't thought much about the AIDS pandemic before and how it must have affected the gay community.  It's crazy it was only 1985 when all this happened, although this is fiction I can imagine it paralleled the reality for so many people.  

May has some pretty exciting adventures coming up - I have friend visiting from the states (YAY!) and I'm going to visit my bestest and her 14 week old baby.  I have some dinners with friends planned and hopefully I'll start doing yoga with my yoga buddy and writing with my writing buddy too.

Main goals for May:
Sell excess furniture on Gumtree: I think when kids are at different ages and stages you just need different furniture.  We have a love-seat we adore in one of the kids rooms but we need make room for a toddler bed for the 2.5 year old.  When the kids were little we got excited and bought Kallax units for everywhere but now we have an extra one which is sitting in the loft.  I think I will appreciate the extra space more than holding onto the furniture right now, and if I need more furniture I can buy it later.  I also have a Roomba I don't use so need to get that on gumtree, as well as a road bike I just don't use.  Selling things second hand kind of sucks (especially bikes) but holding onto things isn't bringing me joy.

What are your goals for May?  Do you sell things second hand?

May 3, 2023

1 on a Friday, 4 on a Wednesday

I started this post on Friday but my 5 quickly became 1.  So, here's 1 on a Friday and 4 on a Wednesday 

1. This morning [last Friday] I woke up and checked email and found out that my credit card had been stolen, and someone had spent £2,000 very quickly at a number of shops in London over the last two days.  I know this will all get sorted but it seems like a real annoyance, I've ordered a new card and the fraud team will call later to tell me what happens with the rest.  It feels like a huge violation for someone to steal my money and spend it at fancy french shops in London.  I don't spend my earned money at fancy french shops in London, why would someone else get to spend their unearned money there?

2. Last weekend I went to a ladies mountain biking festival and had an awesome time riding bikes and doing yoga and camping.  It was my first ever camping trip sans husband, my first time setting up a tent, and my first time riding a gravel bike.  I wish I could spend every weekend at a ladies mountain biking festival.

3. I had had headaches in the evening which is a bummer.  I'm not sure if it's my computer/screen set-up, my posture, the fact that the sun is out, or something else, but I am getting vaguely annoyed with evening headaches now.

4. I am looking forward to TWO meals out this week!  Tomorrow with friends from work, and Friday with mom friends.  Tomorrow I am finally going to eat a Dosa which I have been dreaming about for three weeks now.  Also, excited to see my friend.

5. I am giving up on an audiobook.  I tried to read "How to do Nothing" and I was somewhat into the first chapter and then progressively lost interest.  I'm also a little bored/confused by books which talk about "neo-liberalism".  What is that?  It is a sort of para left dig the way "neo-conservitive" is a dig?  Or maybe neo-conservative isn't a dig?  I don't know, I am somewhat detached from american politics but I have read a few books recently that have used the term "neo-liberal" and it doesn't seem to mean the same thing in every book, and I get the sense that it's a bad thing.  I don't normally abandon books but 4 hours in I don't have 4 hours of attention left.

Have you read "How to do Nothing"? What is the best book you read in April?  What is the last book you abandoned?