Sunday, 9 August 2020

When life hacks go wrong

We spend a lot of time in our conservatory, it's a really relaxing place to spend time except ... when the doors and windows are open we often have flies come in.  I've investigated several options of fly screens or those long plastic strips (which were old fashioned but now vintage) but we aren't keen to attach anything permanent to the doorway.

So in a search of natural remedies, good old Google was consulted and one hack that kept coming up was to hang outside the door a plastic bag, half filled with water and with some copper coins in the bottom. The idea being that a fly's eye will see the prism of light from the shiny copper in the water and will avoid it.  It sounds feasible and easy to try, and what did we have to lose?

Well, it had only been in the doorway about an hour when we realised that a fly in the conservatory was nothing compared to what else may be attracted to the glittery, shiny lights.  I was in the kitchen when I heard a bit of a kerfuffle in the conservatory and was horrified to find that a magpie had been enticed inside and was flapping around in a scared state trying to find his way out again.  

Obviously this was not something that I could sort out on my own so I quickly shut the door between conservatory and dining room and frantically called for Paul to come and get it out, while hoping that Coco would not leave her morning nap and think that it was her responsibility to get involved.

By the time I'd run upstairs and briefed Paul of the situation, the bird had obviously found its way out, but not before leaving a trail of feathers and poo behind in his panic to get back into the great outdoors.  Yuk.  Needless to say the bag of coins has been removed and if anyone has any ideas for deterring all manner of wildlife into the house, please let me know!


I've had a bit of a 'wobble' this week.  I don't really know why but I had a very emotional day on Thursday.  It seems to have been prompted by a friend's husband and Paul having a conversation about us all having a weekend away together.  I had a text from my friend to organise a time to discuss dates etc and I panicked.  I had a major feeling of apprehension and I knew that this was not something I felt comfortable with.  I know it seems weird as Paul and I have started going out a little further afield on our own, and we have been to the pub for a meal with these friends, and had them into our house for drinks one evening.  But somehow the thought of staying away with other people and spending a lot of time with them just spooked me and after a a few tears and a sleepless night of worrying how to tell my friend I didn't want to go, I knew I had to just be honest and say I wasn't ready to spend a weekend away with anyone outside our family.   I've said all along that we all need to appreciate other people's feelings and acknowledge that everyone has their own comfort zone which may not be the same as our own and thankfully they seemed to understand.  

I hope no-one else is suffering a low point of the Corona-coaster of emotions, but if you are, let's reassure ourselves that we aren't alone and we must follow our gut feeling about what we are happy to do and what we aren't.  We'll all get to the finish line eventually, and there is no point in forcing ourselves to go faster than feels safe.  I already feel better for being honest and letting people know that I'm not ready to go back to 'normal' just yet.  

Friday, 7 August 2020

Scavenger Hunt link up 2

So here we are with the next link up for the summertime scavenger hunt organised by Mary-Lou.  How can it possibly be time for the second batch already?  Normally I'll have checked a lot of these off on a foreign holiday but I've had to look closer to home this year.  It's made it a little more of a challenge, but it won't stop me coming up with 20 photos by the end of the summer!

3 - Something with the colours of your country's flag.

As I pulled up outside my house I realised that the centre display panel in my car covered red, white and blue - how convenient!

5 - Something you have more than one of 

{ahem, quite a few more than one, this is just one shelf of recipe books!}

6 - Something in the shape of a triangle 

Does putting three triangular Greek feta cheese and spinach pastries into the shape of a triangle make me an overachiever? #needtobuyatriangularplate

9 - Something that starts with the initials of your name (first or last) 

Dog and Knees.  First and last - definitely overachiever tendencies this year!

11 - Something you need to throw away.  

Due to the work in the garden, we had so much rubbish to get rid of, we had to hire a skip.  This was taken the first afternoon; by the time they came to collect it yesterday it was full to overflowing!

13 - A rubber band in use

Beautiful roses - one thing I missed in the early stages of lockdown when we were all relying on 'click and collect' or supermarket deliveries was having fresh flowers in my hallway.  They just weren't available to add to an online shop.  When I was able to actually go into a shop myself one of the first things I headed for was the fresh flower display.

17 - Something naturally round. 

About 20 years ago we went to Lanzarote on holiday and brought back a cactus, it is still alive (proof indeed that cacti thrive on neglect!) and has many little round babies which we have repotted.

19 - A stone/rock/pebble with some colour in it.  

Don't pebbles have some beautiful colours when they are wet?  Leo loves lifting up these pebbles that we have around the base of a tree in our garden, just to check on all the creepy crawlies that are likely to be living underneath.

Alt C - Something with four sides.  

I am bound to need to use an alternative for one of the original 20 so in anticipation of that I've snapped the lovely clock tower on the covered seating area overlooking the beach at Frinton.

So - I think I've ticked off 12 of the 20 and have one alternative up my sleeve - if you are joining in too, how are you doing?

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

A Sentence a Day in July

OK July, your elder brother June wasn't too bad, but there is definitely room for improvement, so let's see what you hold for us.

Day 1 Jon came over with Max and while J set up an office in our garden, Max and I went on an adventure feeding the ducks with his cousins Leo and Rosie

Day 2 Started a new project, reupholstering our dining room chairs - wish me luck!

Day 3 Coco's birthday - 9 today!

Day 4 Leo and Rosie came round because from today they are allowed indoors!

Day 5 Lazy Sunday, resting, relaxing and preparing for our new childminding routine!

Day 6 First return to childminding day - was so lovely to have Rosie and Leo here again although my baking pans which were used for an 'orchestra' may never be the same again.

Day 7 Another day with R and L - their childminder isn't resuming work until August so we are helping out with two days a week instead of one.

Day 8 Another day, a different grandchild!  We had Max here for the first time on his own, he was so good, but boy do I feel exhausted after three full days of childminding!

Day 9 Zumba class, followed by catching up with a humungous pile of ironing then a quick trip into town returning via Marks and Spencer's food hall - haven't been there for a while!

Day 10 Need to get cracking on re upholstering chairs, now have three down and one to go

Day 11 Friends over for drinks in the evening - how lovely not to have to consider the weather anymore before we plan anything (which was a good thing as the temperatures have dropped this week!).

Day 12 Sunday morning, sun is back, took a different route for our dog walk, hardly anyone else around

Day 13 Went into town with Rosie before collecting Leo from nursery, even something as simple as that seems a treat after being confined to home for so long!

Day 14 Leo's last day at nursery, so came home with armfuls of artwork he's made since he started - took him and Rosie to the park after lunch where he convinced me that Mummy lets him go down the big slide with Rosie on his lap - but apparently that isn't quite the case!

Day 15 Had Max here for the day, such a cutie and he really makes himself at home here now which is lovely

Day 16 Went to the garden centre to buy some plants to fill in a few gaps in the garden - unbeknown to us, this would prompt a huge rethink of the area at the end of the patio.

Day 17 Did a LOT of work in the garden, so much so that we will need to hire a skip to remove all the things we have dismantled - fence panels, lattice panels, swing chairs ...

Day 18 Spent the day at the home of our friends who have moved to a tiny village in Suffolk, it was a beautifully picturesque journey through the countryside and lovely to spend time with them again.

Day 19 Giving a lot of thought to redesigning our back garden - seeing the renovations our friends have made to theirs have inspired us even more to improve our own, and goodness me, isn't garden designing thirsty business? 😉

Day 20 Leo and Rosie here

Day 21 Took Leo and Rosie to Pets at Home to see the small animals there, fortunately none stowed away in anyone's pockets!

Day 22 Had Max here, he's so close to walking

Day 23 My first hairdressing appointment since February - ah, that feels better!

(this is the 'during' photo, taken while my highlights were in the foils!)

Day 24 Friend here for coffee in the morning, catching up on chores in the afternoon, our first day of having to wear a mask in the shops

Day 25 Max's birthday!  It was lovely to go over to see him on his big day and enjoy a slice of birthday cake and a glass of prosecco all before lunchtime.

Day 26 We had friends over in the evening yesterday and they didn't go home until just after midnight so it was nice to just have a long lazy Sunday at home.

Day 27 Exhausting day childminding, weather wasn't good and we couldn't get outside much.

Day 28 Leo and Rosie here again but it was dry and sunny so we spent the morning at the Adventure Playground in Harlow Town Park - they had so much fun and the day went faster too ;-)

Day 29 Not only did we get to go to the beach today, but we also went to the pub in the evening for a meal out with friends #isthiswhatnormalusedtobelike

Day 30 Looked after Max today, and Paul ventured to the gym to go swimming for the first time since March!

Day 31 Boy it was hot today!  Went to visit my sister for coffee and cake in her garden - we haven't met up properly since March so it was extra special!

And here comes the video, courtesy of 1 Second Everyday

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Monday, 3 August 2020

'Ta dah' in July

July was a month in which we tiptoed a little closer to 'normal'.  For some people it meant rushing back to pubs and work, for us it was a gentle easing of restrictions.  We'll all reach the end post eventually, I'm happy to take it one step at a time!

The biggest 'ta dah' wasn't mine at all really.  It was Max's.  He had his first birthday!  A quarter of that year spent in lockdown, but he's happy to be socialising again!

Hola!  Como estas?  

I've managed to keep going with my Spanish.  I'm not sure if I'll ever be fluent (no, scrub that, I know I won't ever be fluent) but my conversational knowledge is growing by the day.  130 days to be exact.

We've spent a lot of time in the garden, planning a new design and we think we have finally decided what we want to change - even to the point of asking a landscape gardener for a quote.  I have a sneaky feeling that the final bill is likely to be much higher than I am expecting!

I've read two books this month.  I've just finished our latest book club read which was The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.    It was really good.  I don't want to give any spoilers but a brief synopsis is that twin sisters are born into a small community in the south of America where the people are predominately of mixed black and white ancestry, with each generation being born lighter than the last.  The girls run away when they are sixteen.  Ten years later, one sister returns to the town with her black daughter, and the other twin is secretly living as a white woman with her husband and daughter knowing nothing about her past.  Years later their daughters lives coincide and all the secrets of the past come out of hiding. It's not a book I would probably have chosen for myself but it kept me enthralled!  But before I read that, my friend who is an author asked me to read through the first draft of her latest novel.  I have to say that I think that this is her best book yet, and that it will sell well when it is released early next year.  It always amazes me how she comes up with her storylines.

We got to the beach!  We have paddled in the sea and felt the sand between our toes!  That felt like a real 'ta dah' moment this year and we enjoyed our day immensely.  

We went to a pub for a meal!  Who ever would have thought that would be worthy of a mention of things I achieved over the month?  But at the beginning of the month I wouldn't have thought it would be something I had done, so here it is, last but not least - we have been out with friends.  Now we've had a little taste of freedom, let's just hope everyone else local to us stays as cautious as we are and we don't have to have a local lockdown again.  I think I have reached the borderline of my comfort zone for the moment!

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Traditions resume

It was so very lovely to be able to carry on our annual tradition of a day at our most local beach, Frinton on Sea.  I had wondered if we would get there this year, bearing in mind that rules and regulations are changing at the drop of a hat!  But on Wednesday, we packed a picnic, loaded up the car with an excited dog and headed for the coast.  There were no traffic hold ups, and we were there in just over an hour.

We made our way to the 'dog friendly' area of the beach (only one half of the resort allows dogs on the beach between May and September) and Coco was happy to feel the sand between her paws.

As you can see, the sun was shining and although there was a breeze from the sea, we are experienced British beach visitors and were well prepared for all weather eventualities!  Happy to report that the sweater I had packed was not needed after all.

It was so lovely to be there, it wasn't crowded, but there were still plenty of people enjoying the beach - some even swimming in the sea - I only braved it as far as my ankles but have to admit that after the initial chilly feeling, it did feel very refreshing!  The tide came in around lunchtime so we went back up the hill to the green that overlooks the sea and ate our picnic in the sun - and without sand getting in our 'sand'wiches.

We came home mid afternoon, showered, changed and then met some friends to go for a meal to the local pub.  Feeling brave but a little anxious we waited outside to be shown to our table but it was very reassuring to see that the amount of tables has reduced, with good seating, sanitiser for customer use, paper menus that can be put in the recycling after you've finished with them, and you can order and pay via an app on your phone.  It was remarkably relaxing and I'm pleased that we went.

Our local swimming pool has reopened so Paul investigated that today.  You have to pre-book a 50 minute time slot, they have made all the lanes double the normal width and you have to say which one you will use, slow, medium or fast.  You are asked to arrive with your swimming costumes beneath your clothes so you can undress speedily and spend as little time as possible in the changing room.  He said it was great!  There were only 5 other people in the pool at the same time as him and he ended up swimming more lengths than he used to manage.  It makes you wonder though how long gyms can survive with such small reduced volumes of customers if that was indicative of how many people are using the facilities.

So that is our venture into 'normality' so far.  It hasn't made me less cautious, but it was reassuring the see that businesses are taking all the rules seriously.  Have you tried anything 'new' this week?

Sunday, 26 July 2020

And now he is one

What a difference 12 months can make.

In 2019, 25th July was the hottest day of the year in the UK.  The hottest part of the country was Cambridgeshire.  So of course that was the day that our daughter in law went into labour and walked through the doors of the Rosie Maternity Hospital in Cambridge.  She walked out a few days later with our youngest grandchild. {He did give us all a few days of worry by having to be in Intensive Care for 2 days but we'll forgive him for that}

And little Max has gone from this 

To this

It wasn't such a hot and humid day this year - all birthday celebrations had to be hastily rearranged from socially distanced picnics in the park to a few family members at a time indoors!  But it was lovely to see him for a couple of hours on his big day, he was very excited to have so many new toys to play with and his mummy made the most delicious birthday cake.

Which meant that his first ever taste of chocolate was certainly one to remember!  Especially as his very special sparkler birthday candle set off the smoke detector so our rendition of 'Happy Birthday to you' was accompanied by the shrill notes of an alarm going off!

His was the first family member's birthday since lockdown in March and it was such a relief that we were all able to see him on his first birthday. 

It was our most social day so far on Saturday as after all that excitement in the morning, we also had friends over for drinks in the evening - things seem to be moving in the right direction!  Weather permitting, we are planning to go to the beach on Wednesday with Coco - we can't let Covid-19 stop our annual trip to Frinton!  Then in the evening we have a table booked at our local pub for a meal out with friends.  OUT!  We are going OUT!  I am still feeling a little dubious about it but have spoken to people who have been there and it seems they are taking all the precautions seriously, it's a large pub with a huge outdoor area so fingers crossed it may be warm enough to sit outside.  Of course with the British weather, you can never take things like that for granted but the forecast isn't too bad ... at the moment.  Needless to say I will be going with a nice warm cardigan in case it is too chilly, plus a bottle of my own hand sanitiser! 

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Is it just me ...

... that has forgotten things while confined to home?

Things like 

The registration number of my car.  

For the first couple of months of lockdown all car parking was free in town.  Partly because no one was allowed out for non essential journeys and I guess the parking enforcement team were furloughed.  But on 29th June, the car parks started charging again.  So on my first foray into town after that date, I parked my car, went over to the pay machine to do my 'check in, check out', saw the display which said 'enter your registration number' - and my mind went blank!  What was it?  EY something or was that my last car?  EU something?  No that is Paul's car.  In the end I had to walk back to where I'd parked and take a photo of my reg plate so I didn't forget it again!  I felt every one of my 63 years 😉

The PIN number for my credit card. 

I'd been doing my food shopping for 'click and collect' online for so long, and any other purchases had been within the limit for doing contactless payment just holding the card over the machine, that when I went and did a proper food shop in an actual shop spending more than £45 I had to stop and think for a long time.  What were those four little numbers?  

How much to tip my hairdresser.  That's still to be resolved and I have until Thursday to remember.  I may have to do a poll between my friends who have already had an appointment to find out what they did!  Some salons are asking for a contribution to help cover the extra costs they have incurred due to having to adhere to all the new distancing rules and PPE for staff.

Going back to cars, during lockdown we had changed from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time.  The clock in my car does not automatically update and I had to resort to getting the manual out to remind myself how to get into the right settings.

We met up with some friends who we met at ante-natal classes with our eldest children (34 years ago!) on Saturday.  They have moved to a tiny village in Suffolk and it is ages since we saw them so not only was it lovely to catch up with them but it was a beautiful scenic route in the countryside too.  Tiny gradual steps towards getting back into the swing of going out and about again - going at our own pace and only doing what feels comfortable for us.

Talking of comfort - this Friday sees us having to wear face coverings in all shops - I wonder how that will go?  I have tried to get into the habit of doing this already because I honestly don't think the virus is suddenly going to be more prolific in shops at the end of the week, surely the risk is the same today as it is on Friday?  So if anyone has any tips on how to stop your glasses misting up, I'd love to hear from them because that seems to be the main issue to me at the moment!