Sunday 31 January 2021

This month...

 The month started in the Hebrides - the last day of our trip before the ferry back to the mainland the next day. 

Our original plan had been to travel back by ferry across to Skye, stay in Falkirk overnight taking the chance to visit The Kelpies - which I have never managed to see - then home the following day, however, before we’d even arrived in the islands at the start of the trip that plan had to change due to new travel restrictions being introduced from Boxing Day. 

After a long drive here me we returned to our first taste of the delights of covid tier 4, not far off lockdown but with schools being planned to open as usual after the Christmas break, and with no restrictions on leaving home for exercise. Within a few days though it was all change again as we were plunged back into full national lockdown for the third time. 

My main aims for the month were around movement and fitness - I decided to join in with Alice Liveing’s January challenge - a programme of workouts designed to build strength, as well as looking to get as many miles as possible under my belt for my first distance challenge of the year - the “Walk the Thames” challenge at 214 miles. To balance the strength and the walking I also decided to also do the Yoga With Adriene 30 day challenge - titled “Breath”. 

I always knew with Alice’s challenge I probably wasn’t going to be able to keep up with her pace of workouts - 4 strength sessions a week is really too much for me, my muscles just don’t recover that fast! I did  manage 11 sessions though and certainly felt the difference from the beginning to the end of the month. I’ll be continuing to work through the remaining workouts to finish the challenge next month. The yoga was a real challenge for me - I’ve tried Adriene’s practises before and struggled - partly as I always felt that her explanations of the poses and transitions weren’t that easy to follow, and partly because she was just a bit too “yoga” for me - and yes, there is certainly still a quite high degree of “woo” to deal with!  Having done a bit more yoga now though I found the cues far easier to follow, and by half way through the month I was really starting to enjoy a lot of it. I’ve noticed a lot of difference in things like my strength in holding some poses, and also my balance too, as well as in my flexibility. I’ve done 23 days and will do the remaining ones from the challenge over the next week. I managed to walk almost every day - mostly in the mornings on weekdays doing anywhere between 5 and 7 miles. By the time some additional walks to the shops were included, I clocked up 178.5 miles which I’m pretty pleased with - it means I should have my challenge wrapped up inside the next week.

Another month of lockdown has certainly been challenging - but at the very end of the month a small light at the end of the tunnel (literally!) appeared in the shape of the scaffolders turning up to remove the scaffolding we’ve been surrounded with since November. As always it comes down far faster than it went up - by the end of Wednesday we had daylight flooding back in to the kitchen, bathroom and spare room (aka MrEH’s office) and by mid afternoon on Friday the front room and bedroom were also flooded with light once more. The sheer delight of being able to look out and see the sky again is indescribable! 

So here we head into February - it will be more of the same really I think, with the addition of starting my second week of jury service tomorrow as well - and it sounds like this week we might actually spend rather more time at the court. 


Thursday 28 January 2021


Jury service yesterday was shorter than I (or the court!) expected. After a minor drama on the way there - when I got as far as the big roundabout outside town and THEN realised my phone was still sitting at home - cue a circuit of the roundabout and a lightning dash back to collect it (it wasn’t “no phone” that concerned me so much - more that it was to be my navigation aid at the other end for finding the court from the car park, and also of course has the NHS Covid-19 tracking app on it...) I arrived just before 9am as requested. The first day is always an earlier start - with time being needed for induction etc. I was pleasantly surprised how familiar everything  felt - including the jury officer who turned out to be the same lovely lady I had as my JO when I served first time round, some 14 years ago! Introductory stuff all completed, we settled down to a bit of the usual preliminary “getting to know one another” chat that occurs, albeit in smaller groups as 18 people spread out over a quite large room does not an easy conversation make! We’d been told that a case was just going in, and that we would be linking to the courtroom for jury selection shortly, however, at just after 10.30am it all fell apart, and the case was dismissed, so no jury requirement! Due to Covid restrictions currently when that happens there is not another case waiting to follow on, so that was us done for the day! 

I headed home, via a stop at the Lidl I pass on the way - FAR quieter than our Harlow store has EVER been I think - I’ve been avoiding our local store like the plague because, well, the plague, basically! Nice to have a bit of a wander around a different store - got the bits I had gone in for (bread flour and Greek yogurt mostly) and then a few other odds and ends where those items double up with Aldi’s equivalent- that will save me a trip there any time soon as well! Also a few tempting looking goodies - that’s the thing with Lidl, isn’t it! 

After lunch I decided to head out for a walk - and with the fancy to go somewhere a bit different to the routes we usually take on weekdays, I headed for the Common - it was still a bit musty and murky for the really stunning view but it still felt great to be high up, and with a good view over the town. From there it was across the motorway (a surprising amount of apparently essential traffic, for a lockdown!) and then along the footpath which leads through the small area of woodland above, then round a field edge. Now, the Common was muddy, but mostly in a “ahh look at this lovely puddle of muddy sludge that’s going to spray all over my jeans as I walk through it” kind of way. The field edge, however, was something quite different...

This entire area is on the edge of the basin of clay which London is built on, which means when it’s dry, you have a very solid base to walk or run on - almost concrete like at times. When it’s wet though, it sticks to your boots. A LOT.  At one stage I’d picked up so much of the stuff (the field edge section of path is only about a quarter of a mile, too!) that I was struggling to lift my feet - there must have been a good few kilos of clay weighing down each leg - an unexpected strength training benefit, I guess! 

Those jeans had been clean on when I left the house by the way - unsurprisingly they are now in the washing machine! Once back over the M11 via the foot bridge, it’s made up paths or pavements all the way home, and at regular intervals for those final 2.5 miles or so back I was stopping at every lush-enough looking clump of grass to try to wipe yet more of the clinging, sticky mud off my boots. I wasn’t altogether successful - next time they are worn I really must remember to put them on at the doorstep! 

Not entirely the day I was expecting, but nice enough all the same! 


Monday 25 January 2021



Well I don’t know about where you are, but it’s perishing cold here! We had a light sprinkling of snow yesterday, and although it did thaw to slush (ugh!) in some places it’s still sitting crisp and white on the ground in others. There was also a heavy frost over the town overnight  - meaning poor devils who had to go out in their cars this morning had a nightmare job of scraping or defrosting. 

The two photos here are the frost on the picnic tables outside a local pub/carvery. I love how well you can see the crystal formation of the frost and ice! This was on our walk this morning - a slippery affair in the course of which we both slid and nearly toppled over several times - it rather focuses the mind about treading carefully and making sure you don’t go over at the moment it must be said - more than ever we would certainly NOT want to end up at the local hospital at the moment! 

Today I start two weeks of officially being classified as a keyworker - I have been called for Jury Service again, and if I do have to attend court my journey there by car will be considered essential travel. I confess I am in two minds - while having to attend court would of course leave me a lot more vulnerable to the risk of covid infection, or at least to being considered a close contact of someone who later tests positive, requiring me to self-isolate, the thought of having something constructive to do with my time is utterly wonderful, as is the idea of some social interaction with a few different people!  Also, oddly enough, the thought of putting on less casual clothes for a change - my “work uniform” of skirts, tights, and smart jumpers along with my much loved knee high boots have been sitting unworn in the wardrobe for realistically close to a year now - as for the 4/6 weeks ahead of lockdown one I was wearing jeans and sweatshirts as the work I was doing involved much handling of old files which tend towards being quite grubby and dusty! Who would ever have thought that the idea of putting on a skirt would be such a lovely one, however this is what 10 months of jeans, leggings and snuggly jumpers does for you! We’ll see - I wasn’t required to attend today, and have a number to call later to check whether I will be needed tomorrow. 


Friday 22 January 2021

Thoughts for the day...


Today has been... Sunny, frosty and glorious - I didn’t want to stop walking when I was out this morning and covered 7 miles in the end rambling round the local streets. We’ve had a number of days this week of grey skies and ceaseless rain - some areas in the north of the country are currently suffering extensive flooding, including Northwick where close friends of ours live. 

I’m feeling nostalgic about... normal routines. We made marmalade earlier in the week - usually we make a trip to the farm shop a few miles away for the oranges - this time we gratefully grabbed the last bag of Seville oranges from Sainsbury’s last weekend. Usually around now we’d be heading to Manchester for their annual beer festival - always a great weekend, friends, beer, lots of laughs... There would be other plans coming up too - more beer festivals, trips to Scampton for me watching the Reds carrying out their winter training... Instead there is none of that - and currently not even any certainty about when we WILL be able to do any of those things. 

I’m being inspired by... A podcast I listened to earlier in the week while walking too and from town (essential, before anyone huffs!) It was on the subject of “Staying calm during a pandemic” and featured host Dr Hazel Wallace talking with a Psychologist, Dr Emma Hepburn. Lots of good advice, suggestions of things to think about, and be aware of, and all delivered in a really balanced, thoughtful way. My favourite bit was the suggestion that trying to make tiny changes is far more likely to be successful than going for great sweeping overhauls of life as we are so often lead to believe we should be aspiring to. This is something that I have already started putting into place since the current lockdown started too, so it was great to have that given credence, as it were! 

Right now I’m loving... The yoga challenge I’ve been doing. It’s surprised me - the first few days my brain was doing a lot of sighing and eye rolling about the level of fluffiness in it, and yes, I’m still struggling a bit with some of the more wacko stuff. Over time though - I reached day 16 today - I’m starting to feel a lot more benefit from it. Some days count as a really good stretching session, while others, like today, are geared up to deep relaxation. Either way I’m enjoying it far more than I expected and it’s something I’m interested to carry on once the 30 days are up. 

Something small, but productive... one reason why I was so inspired by the podcast I mentioned was the bit about small habit changes, because as I said, I’d already made a start in that direction. When we got back from the Hebrides at New Year I committed to remembering to clean my teeth and cleanse my face every night, rather than just most nights. A silly thing, but significant - aside from the obvious benefits, it also contributes to a good pre-sleep routine, and that’s something else I want to work on. 


Wednesday 20 January 2021

Furry faces and unexpectedly rural views...


Well the last two mornings have been grey, gloomy and wet. We have been out for our walk both days, and today I also had to make a second trip out as I needed something from the town centre, but it’s not been pleasant to be out in, I have to say, beyond just the aspect of movement and fresh air - and daylight, so much needed at this time of year!  Monday was brighter though - and once MrEH had reached the point where he needed to start walking back towards home I turned the other way and walked a loop around one of the green wedges that sit in various places throughout the town. This particular one has fields and horses, as you can see, so nose rubs and fusses were duly handed out to those who were interested enough at the strange person walking by to come and investigate - the one below didn’t think much of me having to continue my walk though, as you can see - how rude?! 

The town itself sits across two fairly low hills, but still the little elevation they give is enough to provide a decent enough view - looking this way across the fields you’d never know that the shops of the town centre are just across another field and a road, behind me. (In the top photo you can see the side of Asda, the civic centre and TK Maxx! 

The view in the photo above also shows the fence-line of the other path I walked along as I looped back - across where you can see the building work for the new college. I’ve said this before but we are SO fortunate in our town-planning - when the new town was built many of the old roads were left in place but closed to traffic so we have cycle/foot paths all over the place. Being able to walk a good distance with time alongside traffic at a minimum is a wonderful thing! 


Sunday 17 January 2021

A Sunday walk...


With the amount of local walking we did during Lockdown 1, combined with the less tempting weather at this time of year, it’s not been the easiest thing to come up with interesting places to walk this time around.  Clearly we have no reason to use the car as we do have plentiful areas to walk locally, even if we HAVE walked around most of them time and time again in the past 10 months! Today though after a brief discussion we decided to head to Churchgate Street - one of the villages on the outskirts of the town. It’s a lovely little village and feels quite removed from Harlow itself, and is also slightly too far to venture on one of our routine morning walks on weekdays, so a slightly longer leg-stretch in that direction today seemed to fit the bill. 

By the time we headed out (after a rather tasty lunch of beef stew cooked in the slow cooker overnight, with dumplings) it had turned into a quite nice day with the sun just peeking through. It was also quite a lot warmer than the last week has been too which made a nice change. We headed out on a pretty standard route towards the Tesco at Church Langley for MrEH to buy his newspaper, and then remembered that the old route we would have used to get from there to Churchgate Street is currently partly inaccessible due to the building works for the new parts of Newhall, so we needed to come up with an alternative. Handily MrEH thought he knew a path which might work, and a quick check on the map confirmed this, so off we went...

Up to the top of Newhall and past the Roundhouse was easy enough, but there is a short - about quarter of a mile - gap in made up paths and roads across the fields that divide the New Town and its offshoots from the older village of a Churchgate Street, and although there is a footpath, there has been a LOT of rain this week! The photo above is one of the drier sections...

Eventually though we found our way to the roadway that MrEH had been aiming us for, and from there it was all solid underfoot, which was a relief! The spire of the church itself is a bit of a local landmark - rather like the water tower (which also appeared in clear view across the field while we were battling the mud!) it’s visible across a surprising amount of the town. The picture at the top of the post shows you more clearly what the church looks like - it’s a lovely building which was rebuilt in 1870 after its much older predecessor suffered a fire.

A nice just-over 6 miles walked today, taking me to over 80 miles walked so far this month. This week will be morning walks as usual - mostly 4 - 6 miles each, with an additional walk into town one day as there is an item I need that I can’t get from our local shops. Hopefully I’ll be able to order in advance so I will just have to walk in and collect this, but otherwise it won’t take me long to pick it up in store. Other than that the week will be mostly “Staying at home” unsurprisingly! 


Friday 15 January 2021

This week...


The power of blogging proves its worth once again - what you see above is the front cover of the photo book I’ve put together with loads of memories from a 6 year period using photos from my phone. I started it within minutes of my blog post the other day, and have sent it to print today. In true frugal fashion I also found a 50% off code too which allowed me to make a decent sized book at a really quite sensible price. 

Also this week, lots more walking, 4 more of Alice Liveing’s challenge workouts, and yoga each day. I’m getting more used to the Yoga with Adriene stuff now, and have actually enjoyed some of this week’s practises, but I’m not convinced I’ll ever make a committed yogi! The Alice workouts this week have been tough but not unbearably so - and thank goodness I have been far less stiff after these than the first one last week! I’ve now covered just over 83 miles of tracked walking this month which I’m pretty pleased with - it means I’m firmly on track for breaking the back of my 214 miles virtual Thames Path challenge before even getting to February. I’m also about to sign up for another of the RAF Museum challenges too - this one is on a rather longer timescale than any of theirs I have done before as it runs through until May, and also has several different distance options. Allowing that I will be combining walking and running anyway, I’ve decided to sign up for the longest - 500km, and I’m also planning some fundraising alongside it. 

The freezers are definitely looking emptier - although there will be a bit of an influx of additions tomorrow as it is farmers market Saturday. Although due to lockdown the market is not operating in the usual way this month, the regular stall holders are working on a click & collect basis, and we’ve placed orders with three that we like to buy from - 2 lamb breasts and a couple of packs of liver from Highbury Farm Lamb, bacon and sausages from Great Garnetts, and sliced haslet and some of Catherine’s rather wonderful beef and horseradish sausage rolls from Foxholes. All three local small businesses that do excellent produce. Tomorrow will also be meal planning day, and so will orchestrate the use of lots more of currently frozen items through next week. I’ve not made bread this week as we plan to breakfast on the bread items that we already have in the freezer - bagels and the leftovers from previous weeks bread - those always get frozen for future use, they toast perfectly using the frozen setting in our toaster! 

So all in all things are running along quite smoothly - lockdown this time is definitely feeling less stressful than the first one, I suspect due to a combination of the time of year (it’s less appealing to want to spend lots of time outside when the weather is cold, damp and grey) and also that I’m more aware of the challenges it creates this time and so am dealing with them before they really cause problems. A little self care definitely goes a long way!


Wednesday 13 January 2021

Thoughts for the day...

 Today...has been grey and drizzly all day. It was damp while I was walking this morning, damp throughout the day, and as far as I know still damp now. It’s been a day for snuggly, cosy winter jumpers, copious cups of tea, and p quite handily, considering lockdown, for staying indoors. 

I’m being inspired by... thoughts of Indian cooking following listening to a BBC Good Food podcast this morning. It was an entire 40+ minutes on the subject of Keema Pav - a spiced minced lamb dish served with soft, buttery Indian bread rolls. The lady who was enthusing about it was so descriptive about the flavours, textures and the spices involved that even while still listening my head was whirring with thoughts about similar types of dishes I could cook. Planning needed, I think! 

I’m feeling nostalgic about... The good old days of photo albums - or indeed the slightly more up to date equivalent of photo books. When we had our big decluttering session at the end of 2019/early 2020 we pulled all the various albums and books together and stored them in the same place so we knew where everything was, and inevitably that also lead to much looking through them and reflecting on old memories. I’ve got albums from my early days of vaguely serious photography when my main subject was speedway. Albums of shots taken at concerts. Albums of pictures from myself and MrEH’s first few years together including early visits to the Hebrides, and later photo books of Hebridean adventuring too. It’s been a fair few years since I put together a photo book though - in fact the last time would be my Red Arrows project “#CircusAtWork” from 2014 I think. It’s probably high time I did another one, isn’t it! 

Right now I’m loving... Multi-use headbands! Basically a tube of fabric with oh-so-many different uses. I use them while running in the winter as a headband to avoid the painful cold ears I get otherwise. They can be used as a hat, in place of a scrunchie for holding back a ponytail, as a scarf, and, relevantly at the moment, as a face covering. To my delight and after a bit of mind-over-matter and working up from very short times I have discovered that even I can cope with wearing one of these little beauties over my mouth  and nose while the air is cooler as it is at this time of year. So far I have managed in every situation I’ve tried it out in, although there have been a few panicky moments, and my hope is that I might be able to get myself comfortable enough with wearing a covering that by the time the weather starts warming up, I’ll be able to continue doing so rather than returning to my face shields. 

Something small, but productive... some time this afternoon cleaning up my email account. Junk Mail folder checked, repeated nuisance domains blocked, any obvious scams reported. Also a review of my inbox - unsubscribing from a few bits I am no longer interested in, which should reduce the amount of traffic in. This time round was half an hour or so, but 5 minutes each time I log in should do the trick from now on. 

How’s things been for you today? Feel free to use my Thoughts for the Day prompts on your own blog with a link back to here, and post in the comments to let me know so I can read your post too! 


Tuesday 12 January 2021

Using things up...


A reworking of a shot from Northern Ireland - 2016

I know it’s not just me who finds an odd satisfaction in using things up - in fact every time the subject comes up it inevitably gets greeted by lots of people saying “ooh yes - me too!” The feeling of squeezing the last little bit out of a tube, scraping the remnants from a jar, or adding slightly more peanut butter than normal to a slice of toast just so the jar can be washed and out for re-use or recycling...ahhh! 

I seem to be going through a bit of a run of using things up right now. In the bathroom I reached the end of a bottle of shampoo on Sunday, will finish my current tube of toothpaste tomorrow or possibly the next day, and my shower gel is sitting carefully propped upside down to extract every last dreg over the next few mornings. The shampoo thing is significant for me - I buy my shampoo, a fairly budget priced clarifying one, in a b-i-g bottle - I reckon the one I just finished lasted me around 2 years as I only use a tiny amount per shampoo (shampooing twice per wash). This creates an ethical question in these days of shampoo bars. Sure my bottle is plastic, but it can be recycled (the question of where it really goes when I pop it into my recycling bin is a murky one for another day, I suspect) and allowing that I use one up so rarely, is that environmentally better than the amount of bars I would likely go through in the same timescale, allowing that those would also have to be ordered, made and delivered to me. One to ponder, perhaps - no rush though as I’ve just started on the b-i-g bottle that I already had in my stash...

In the kitchen too - tonight MrEH had to raid the store cupboard for new packs of couscous, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. In topping off our couscous Buddha bowls we finished up a bottle of the (rather delicious, may I say) mint & yogurt sauce, and at lunchtime MrEH scraped the last bit out of a jar of horseradish sauce.

Those food items will all go back on the shopping list for restocking in the normal way, and the normal quantities, no stockpiling here. I’ve already got replacements for both the toothpaste and the shower gel in my stash, and it will be so long before I need more shampoo I won’t be buying that any time soon.  

On the subject of stockpiling or panic buying, I was disappointed although not surprised to spot today that one of our grottier UK tabloid newspapers is once again trying to promote a rhetoric of fear around food supplies - presumably to encourage the panic buying that created such powerful clickbait headlines back in March and April. The real disappointment here is that this is on the same day as the news breaking about the appalling food boxes being given to those who qualify for free school meals - the boxes are being given in place of the £30 vouchers that were given before, but several suppliers have clearly decided to cash-in - providing just over £5 worth of food and nothing that a decent meal could be made from. Panic buying causes tremendous difficulty to many on low incomes - as people stocking up in that way tend to do so on whatever they can grab for a low spend. When a product like pasta completely sells out, the shops know that if they re-stock the mid price brands first, those in desperate need will be forced to buy that - rather than the value or budget brand they usually default to. For many of us, spending 99p, rather than 50p on a packet of pasta provokes muttering, but nothing more - but for someone on a truly tight budget, this can cause real problems. No doubt tomorrow that same tabloid will be huffing in faux outrage about “the poor children” - it won’t cross their minds for a moment the part they play in making those children’s lives even harder, though. Sigh. 


Monday 11 January 2021

An active start...

Netteswell Pond

 Today’s been quite busy! After nearly 9 months of furlough it was already getting increasingly difficult to fill the days, and this is even more tricky now we’re under lockdown rules again. Early in the pandemic there were household jobs to be done, odd jobs to be done on the balcony, and of course for a good part of the first lockdown MrEH was on a 3 days week too - it’s always easier filling the time when you have someone else to fill it with! 

This morning started as usual with a walk - we go via either the newsagents or the petrol station so MrEH can nip in and get his paper, and then continue with a walk of 3-4 miles depending on how much time we have. This morning we got out slightly earlier than normal and it was 4 miles on the button - including a wander round the pond (above) where we were delighted to see a pair of Cormorants drying their wings! We got back to home,  MrEH headed for his desk via the kitchen for his second cup of coffee of the morning, and I grabbed my backpack and an additional shopping bag and headed for Aldi. After some really bad experiences with our local store before Christmas I faced the prospect with quite a bit of trepidation I confess - it was bad enough in there when our case numbers were that much lower, in between pre-pandemic numbers of customers in store making it close to impossible to maintain any sort of distancing, combined with staff who had clearly been told by management that they needed to revert to treating customers as before, asking them to close gaps at the checkout etc. Now, with our numbers locally amongst the very worst in the country, it felt like a far from safe place to go! Thankfully and probably mostly down to lockdown, it was quiet. No queue to get in, and very few customers in the store. I whizzed round, got the items on both my and Mum’s lists, and was out again in 15 minutes and walking back home. 

2 different activities ticked off before breakfast - not bad! Later in the morning I added 2 more as well - firstly my next Alice Liveing challenge workout - another lower body session, which I’m hoping won’t leave me as sore as last weeks! Then a yoga session from the Yoga with Adriene 30 day challenge - I’m still struggling with her rather, and she entirely lost me this morning with what she described as a “breathing technique” and anyone else in the non-woo world would call hyperventilating! 

The rest of the day quietened down a bit - lunch, then a quick dash over to Mum and Dad’s to drop off their shopping and a quick doorstep catch-up with Mum, then home to get a few household jobs dealt with. Sadly today is highly likely to be the busiest day of my week too - there are no other errands to be run this week now, and initially at least I still won’t be running, although my foot feels a lot better today so fingers crossed I’ll be able to incorporate at least some short distances by the end of the week. Cross your fingers for me!


Sunday 10 January 2021

The freezers - yes, there are 2...

The river Stort, yesterday... 

Some years ago we decided we wanted to enable the purchase of meat in bulk. Not in a “buy it cheap, pile it high” sort of way, but more “find a nice farmer who cares for their animals, makes sure they have good lives, a dignified death, and then takes care in the butchering”. Our freezer capacity at the time was limited to the bottom half of our fridge/freezer - a reasonable size but not huge, and, by the time all the usual frozen veg/bread/ leftovers/ ice cubes/ fish fingers sort of stuff was taken into account, without a vast amount of spare space. Coincidentally we also had a pretty much perfectly “freezer sized” space being used for assorted “stuff” - all of which could be found homes elsewhere. We added 2 + 2 together and “freezer 2” was ordered and duly installed.

Initially freezer 2 was home to “Herbert” - our first whole lamb purchase. Herbert provided an astonishing number of meals for the two of us  - the cost of a whole beast feels high but you can get so much more from it when it is butchered to your requirements, and it is this, combined with the lower per-kilo price of buying in more quantity, that makes it cost effective if you have the space.

We don’t always have freezer 2 switched on. Until the early part of last year it had been turned off - door carefully propped open for airflow - for some time, but lockdown 1 and the panic buying underlined the benefits of having additional freezer space for either yellow stickered bargains or simply to give more capacity for things like additional frozen veg. Currently, the top drawer holds home made rolls for lunches, plus sandwich fillings. Drawer 2 is frozen mince plus the ice-packs we use in the cold box when camping, or going to and from the Hebrides. Drawer 3 - MrEH’s coffee stash, and every second week a 2 pint bottle of milk for me - decanted from the larger 4 pint bottle I usually buy. The bottom drawer varies. Often a bag of oven chips and some battered fish for fakeaway F&C. Maybe a tub of ice cream.

Freezer 1 meanwhile is below our fridge and lives - as you might expect - in the kitchen. Not the same fridge as when freezer 2 first came about, but a similar sort of size. 3 drawers - the top mainly home to things frozen in plastic tubs - home grown fruit frozen as purées, batch cooked stuff like bolognese, fish fingers because the packet is exactly wide enough to sit in the front of the drawer. Drawer 2 houses main central meal components - sausages, white fish fillets, meat for stews, or for roasting. Stornoway Black pudding brought back from the Hebrides (worth a mention all on its own). The bottom drawer is frozen veg and fruit. 

As and when a whole lamb is bought for a time at least that will make our main components of meals, and essentially we need the whole of freezer 2, plus some capacity in freezer 1 for the overspill. The only way of accurately estimating the available space is to gradually start making room to transfer the contents of freezer 2, into freezer 1. A job for this week will be to start moving things across - then we’ll start to know where we stand. 

If you have the space then additional freezer capacity is a gamechanger. And so is buying a whole carcass. When you just have a couple of chops, the tendency is to grill them, a single roasting joint? Pop it in the oven and serve traditionally with roast potatoes and veg. When you have a whole rack of chops though it opens up the possibilities - hotpot, grilled, curried. You escape the tendency to be constrained by the safe option. A selection of roasting joints to choose from fires your imagination towards tagines, deliciously slow roasted pulled lamb, or a rolled breast stuffed with dried apricots, herbs, and breadcrumbs... add in the liver with deliciously creamy mash and  stickily sweet onion  gravy, or the chump braised slowly with chunks of onion, whole baby mushrooms, and enough garlic to see off a whole platoon of vampires...and THAT is worth clearing space in the freezer for. 


Saturday 9 January 2021

Weekly planning for the freezer challenge...

Resident of Loch Skipport - South Uist. 

So - we have a meal plan!  This is a key part of our “eating down the freezers” challenge - although I meal plan most weeks anyway. The plan was written this morning - and also fed into the writing of a shopping list, we shopped this afternoon on the way back from our daily exercise. Because of the point at which the plan was written it includes today’s meals as well. 

Saturday: scrambled eggs and toast for lunch - using up the last of the big box of free range eggs we bought for 22p last weekend. They were on the very end of their date today so it seemed sensible to eat them sooner rather than later. The toast was from the sourdough bread I made yesterday. Tea this evening was jacket potatoes (cheap potatoes also bought last weekend - I think those were 12p for a good sized bag) with beans, cheese, bacon & mushrooms. The mushrooms were the last of last week’s punnet, and the bacon came from a pack which has already contributed to a pasta bake and last nights “breakfast for dinner”. The last few rashers will be used in the week.

Tomorrow: A half shoulder of lamb has come out of the freezer to defrost and will be roasted v-e-r-y slowly tomorrow morning with lots of garlic and rosemary. The final 2 potatoes from the bag will go with it, along with some fresh veg. Tea tomorrow will be cheese and crackers - a good old easy, lazy weekend favourite. Pudding will be a rice pudding with fruit compote - the fruit is from the freezer. 

Lunches on weekdays are always the same - a filled roll, with fruit. MrEH has a bag of crisps too. Similarly breakfasts are a choice of cereal, or a banana, or porridge. So the meal plan only accounts for evening meals. 

Monday: Risotto with bacon & mushrooms (yes - that will be the 4th meal that single pack of bacon has gone into. We buy decent quality bacon which has plenty of flavour so just a few rashers at a time make their presence felt). It will also incorporate some additional veggies too. 

Tuesday: Lamb couscous - some of the leftovers from the Sunday joint. With dried apricots, roasted chickpeas, roasted pepper, coriander leaf. 

Wednesday: Thai inspired fish stew with rice. This will use fish, shellfish and veggies from the freezer alongside tinned tomatoes, Thai curry paste and an onion. Highly inauthentic but very tasty! 

Thursday: pasta bolognese. I’ll probably make this on Wednesday and let it sit overnight. Mince from the freezer, and probably some veg too. 

Friday: will either be fish & chips from the freezer or a takeaway depending how we feel at the time. 

To declare: into the freezer - a pack of crumpets and a pack of fruit bagels - the bagels were yellow stickered and will do us for breakfasts at weekends. The crumpets because - well, it’s winter and sometimes only crumpets will do! 

We shopped at ThaT supermarkeT this afternoon spending just over £21. I’ll be adding a second shop for the week at Aldi on Monday morning as Mum also needs some bits from there and with the current Covid situation in the town it’s not safe for her to venture there herself at the moment. I expect that one to cost in the region of £10. 

This one was always going to be a slow-burn. We’ve done it before, and it’s about planning, thinking ahead and remember that sometimes it’s silly NOT to take a seemingly backwards step when good deals come up that need freezing. Ideally we’d like to be able to talk to Peter who we buy our lamb from at the farmers market next weekend about buying a whole butchered carcass - but realistically we will probably hold off on placing the actual order until February. Which is a shame in some ways, as we’re currently researching haggis recipes... 


Friday 8 January 2021

This week....


The week started of course with our trip back from the Hebrides - a 17 hour door to door epic from cottage to ferry to home. Would have been better without the liberal applications of ice that the roads in both South Uist and the Highlands had gained, but ran reasonably smoothly. 

Obviously the big news of the week is being back in Lockdown. Not in any way a surprise, but still a big blow to deal with at the start of the week. In some ways it’s almost a relief - numbers are completely out of control here. It now actually feels as though the majority of people round here are taking things seriously - which is a relief as that was definitely not the case when we went away! 

I’ve managed a fair amount of walking - my monthly total so far stands at 41 miles which is decent for 8 days in. I’m still hoping to be able to add some running but right now that’s looking less than hopeful. I’ve also started the Alice Liveing challenge as planned - with a lower body workout on Tuesday and upper body on Wednesday. As of now my muscles are still screaming and there was no chance of me doing any more this week! Next week will hopefully be better! I’m also 4 days in to the Yoga With Adriene challenge - It really is all a bit “woo” for my tastes, but I’m hanging in there! 

I’ve probably made the most progress this week in remembering to treat myself kindly. I’ve spent some time journaling - talking through on paper a situation that has been ongoing for a few years, and that I am now able to draw to a conclusion. It’s something that has proved that I was right to trust my instincts - something which I often doubt. I’ve let go of the idea that I need to be being productive and busy all the time - that’s simply not a practical aim after 10 months of this, and setting stupidly high expectations and then being disappointed when I didn’t (couldn’t) meet them was contributing to the mounting stress and anxiety I was feeling before Christmas. 

Tomorrow we’ll be putting together our meal plan for next week - aiming to make a good impact on the freezer levels. Food this week has been mostly to plan aside from a pasta bake taking the place of Bolognese last night - it served to use up lots of the cheap veg we got at the weekend and was entirely delicious! 

So far, so good! Let’s see what the next week brings!


Wednesday 6 January 2021

You’re not alone...


Just after dawn - Lochboisdale, South Uist. 

It’s odd, but lockdown this time initially felt somehow easier to cope with than the first time round. Maybe because we’ve done it all before, we know how it all works? Perhaps because the time of year makes it easier - shorter days, less daylight, colder and more likelihood of rainy days. It felt brutal being told we could only go out once a day for exercise in the spring, and yes, it turns out that rule has made a reappearance this time too, probably because with the “you can meet with one other person from outside of your household” aspect they want to prevent people from going out half a dozen times during a day for exercise with 6 different people. At this time of year though when being cosy indoors feels like more of an attraction? Somehow not *quite* so difficult. 

Undoubtedly though there are still challenges. Oddly enough when you’re told that you can only go out once a day for exercise it makes it far more likely that you start to feel cooped up and claustrophobic. We’ll be doing our morning walks as usual most days, sometimes I may add a run on to the end of those once MrEH has started working, and there will inevitably be odd errands to do on other days in the week too, where possible I’ll probably try to save up those for days when I need to get out a second time as I feel more comfortable making a second trip out for an allowed reason rather than simply going for a second bout of exercise - although if that is needed for mental health reasons, and allowing that I won’t be meeting anyone else or using my car, I will do that free of guilt. The scaffolding means that natural light indoors is incredibly limited and we have to have lights on for much of the day - at the best of times I struggle through the winter with the shorter days, unsurprisingly the scaffold is definitely not helping with that! Through November and December I dealt with it effectively by just going out for multiple walks most days. I was also able to run regularly through most of that time, which has a huge positive effect on me. By the time we went away though I was really starting to struggle - the combination of a period of time not running because of injury, combined with limited time outside due to quarantining ahead of the Hebrides trip - the two week reset was pretty much essential and hugely beneficial. I came back feeling I could cope with the unknown that was Tier 4 life, and now lockdown too. 

If you’re struggling then do know that you’re not alone, and there are so many resources out there that can help - the most straightforward of which is simply talking to someone. If you have nobody close to you that you feel is right to chat to about how you’re feeling, there are telephone options such as The Samaritans - but the key thing is to tackle things before they get worse. Know your triggers, and be aware if they rear their heads. Social media can be one for me - most usually Twitter. When the negativity on there gets too much I either stop looking altogether for a few days or simply retreat into notifications. Facebook has an incredibly useful “mute for 30 days” feature which can tackle those who you feel uncomfortable about  (or it’s “politically awkward”) unfriending. Remember on Instagram you can delete comments, and restrict other accounts in how they interact with you too. Twitter too has both mute and block functions too - using both liberally can make a huge difference in the feel of your timeline! Know your coping mechanisms too - and use them. This WILL end - the vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, but rather like the longer, warmer days of spring, it’s still just a little way away from making the vital difference. 


Tuesday 5 January 2021

Missions underway...


Completely unrelated Highland sunset...

2021 missions have started off with intent. 25 miles walking done so far this month - I’ll be aiming to increase that daily average a bit yet but that’s a decent enough start. I’ve also done a strength workout and a yoga session today (albeit the yoga overran on the timings I was expecting which meant poor MrEH got his lunch break delayed by 10 minutes - oops!) My rough plan is to make tomorrow another workout/yoga day, with a similar amount of walking to today, then Thursday will be increased walking but no strength work - I suspect I might be aching by then! I’ll still be planning to fit some yoga or mobility work in though. Friday will be back to strength work again. Weekends will mostly feature walking and some stretching but no actual workouts - on the days MrEH isn’t working I’d rather focus on spending quality time with him. 

The mission to start eating our way through the freezers will take a bit of time to gain momentum as this week’s food was already planned before we came up with that one, but I have decided to also expand that to include using up other odds and ends as well - tonight’s stir-fry used the last spoonful out of a jar of Spicy Malaysian Relish. The meal plan will in itself also attack the freezers - liver and onions one night, spaghetti Bologna’s another, a fry up on Friday night (partly to use up the last of the Stornoway black pudding bought while we were away) very likely some fruit purée will come out to add to a rice pudding or perhaps turn into a crumble one day over the weekend... I like this kind of meal planning - it forces me to stop and think, and to be more inventive. Ironically enough if it facilitates the purchase of a whole lamb then that will do exactly the same as I come up with ideas to use the various different cuts, not to mention the various bits of offal. I enjoy these sorts of challenges as regular readers will know! Later this week I’ll start planning what we’ll be eating next week - and that is when the impact will really start being made. 

We’ve now had confirmed that we’re going to be in Lockdown until at least mid February, and realistically probably the beginning of March. The only thing I have in my diary in all that time is that I have been called for Jury Service again - which I’m actually rather looking forward to. I was called before in 2007 - served and really enjoyed my two weeks and then got called back for a further week which I served at the Coroners Court - which was incredibly traumatic. I’d be very reluctant to do that again although my understanding is that having done it once, they are very much open to you asking politely not to be sent there again. I’m currently summonsed to report to the Crown Court as before anyway - although I suspect the experience may be rather different this time round. 


Monday 4 January 2021

Here we go again...


Loch Eynort - South Uist

...back into lockdown. #Lockdown3 in fact - so we know how it works. Same rules as before - stay at home unless you need to go out for a short list of acceptable reasons. Exercise is not limited this time thank goodness unlike the first time round - seems they learned their lesson from that! In this area it will be little different to the tier 4 restrictions we have been under (although in our case personally only for 2 days since we got back from the Islands). Our local schools were remaining closed anyway because of our severely high case numbers locally, they will now stay closed for longer though. 

So - MrEH is back to the spare room tomorrow (I’ve not banished him, it’s just where the computer is!) and I’m back to trying to fill 7 or so hours a day. I’m going to try to be better this time about pressuring myself to be productive all the time, and feeling guilty when I perceive I’ve not achieved that. We still currently have our home surrounded in scaffolding, and right now the lack of natural light indoors is more than enough to deal with, without beating myself up around what I “should” be doing. I also need to continue to limit my running thanks to the foot problem I mentioned before, which is frustrating. So - instead, I’m going to focus on fitness and strength. And on getting the miles covered for my distance challenge too - I’m nearly 20 miles in already so that’s going reasonably. Alice Liveing is doing another series of strength workouts, as is Lucy Mountain on the NOBS group, and I think I’m going to take a look at the Yoga with Adriene 30 days challenge too - I have struggled with her stuff in the past but I’m more used to following the cues for the various moves now, so we’ll see how that goes. That also fits in well with my ongoing aim at doing plenty of flexibility work. 

I’ve also got photos to work through (including some from while we were away) and might even try to get out and about with the camera for some wildlife / local stuff too. I want to do some journaling, and some blogging too - but above all the focus is going to be on self-care stuff, not on guilt and feeling like I need to be in a constant treadmill of getting things done. 

Let’s see how this goes, shall we?! 


2020 Won...

 (Oh yes - didn’t it just!) I loved this take on the new year number when a friend mentioned it last week - the play on words just seemed so apt! 

The symbol of 2020 seen on the first day of 2021!

So here we are at the start of another year,  a traditional time for looking both back and forwards at the same time, although I think a lot of people would agree that just shutting the door on 2020 would be what most folk would prefer to do. I’m a bit undecided on that - it was a pretty crap year in so many respects - being unable to do the things, and spend time with the people that most of us choose to usually. Having our everyday freedoms restricted for the good of everyone as a whole - and the frustration of watching others kick against those restrictions because they feel that their rights trump everyone else’s. Having events cancelled, seeing so many people struggling with disappointment after disappointment- and indeed feeling that struggle ourselves. If we’re honest though - I bet most of us have learned a lot from the last 9 months or so. From my perspective I have enjoyed the time I’ve gained - just small things initially like not having to do battle with the traffic on the M11 daily. The difference in MrEH too - while the drop in income caused by my furlough and his three day week early in the original Lockdown was problematic on one level, those two days each week were something we treasured and tried to make good use of. Also the opportunity to explore our local area far more than we ever had done before - we’ve walked round almost every area of the town now and a I have even resurrected my documentary “Recording Harlow” blog as a result. Feeling a greater sense of community too - although sadly a lot of that didn’t seem to last long beyond the end of the lockdown.

Some things have also surprised me too - how well I coped with the restrictions of the first lockdown, and being unable to leave the house for exercise more than once each day for example. Having to make the choice between a walk with MrEH and a head-clearing soo run was often really difficult but I managed it pretty much throughout. Also quite how much this definite introvert has missed socialising. With friends scattered across the country, and so much of our socialising involving beer festivals, pubs, and the rugby club, plus for me airshows of course, we had our options to socialise completely ripped away - and that continues now. Zoom took the place of meeting the gang at beer festivals, and socially distanced chats with rugby club pals whilst walking locally became the go-to places to catch up on the news. I didn’t miss things like the enforced jollity of New Year’s Eve - but I did miss spending time with the people I love. 

So now we look to the new year - hopefully brighter times on the horizon, but with a few tough months ahead before that. We already know that many events will be cancelled for this year as well - Yeovilton have already said that they don’t expect to run an Airshow, and many beer festivals are either deferring events until later in the year, or admitting defeat for this year entirely. As usual I’m not making resolutions - but I am giving some thought to things I want to look at, and work on. One thing got resolved early on - a person who several years ago I made a conscious new year decision to step away from due to their toxicity and repeated two-faced behaviour - not only did I not like that behaviour, but I also didn’t like the person I became when I was around them, getting roped into an unpleasant cycle of constant bitching about people behind their backs while being pleasant to their faces. I’d been beginning to wonder if I was being a little harsh, and whether I should reconsider - however, no - they have recently proved all over again that my decision was entirely correct and that they are not someone I want or need in my life. This time the break will be pretty final and very conclusive. This person is someone who I did once consider to be a good friend but I can now recognise that the “friendship” wasn’t a healthy one at all - and on that basis the removal of it can only be a good thing. The moral of this one is that someone who constantly needs to tell others how ‘Nice’ they are is very likely anything but...!

First two missions for the year then - I have a virtual distance challenge to get working on - it’s 217 miles, the length of the Thames Path, and can be covered running or walking over the first 7 weeks of the year. I was initially planning on trying to run quite a lot of it but the foot injury I’ve been struggling with probably now makes it more likely that in fact only a small proportion will be run. I’m intending to try to do with a few distance/movement challenges this year as I love the incentive to lace up and get out there. The second is a small silly one - to tackle the contents of the freezers in order to make the space to order a whole lamb again - we loved this when we did it before and this seems a good opportunity with more time for cooking and being inventive with recipes to do it again. First though, space needs to be created, so operation freezer-clear is on! 

Do you have plans or challenges to tackle for the year ahead ? Are you blogging about them if so? Pop a link to your blog in the comments so others can be inspired by your focus!