Tuesday 28 April 2020

10 happy things that are bringing me joy during lockdown

Celebrating a new baby during lockdown

Well, that got your attention didn't it!! No, I'm not pregnant or about to give birth any time soon. I'm in fact referring to one of my best friends who recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She had a really difficult pregnancy and at one time there was a terrifying 'it could be you or the baby' scenario so words cannot express how relieved I am that both mother and daughter are healthy and doing well. She is the definition of a miracle baby and a fighter just like her awesome Mum.

Unearthing old video games and playing them again

Sure, not all of them are going to work with the latest computer operating systems - but you don't know unless you try, right? And the gamble has already paid off with some of our old PC games. Admittedly we couldn't play anything on the old wii for a while as we discovered that a cat had chewed through the lead to the sensor bar (typical) however we found the part on Amazon so we were soon playing Guitar Hero and Mario Kart again!

Re-watching classic movies

One weekend we polished off all the Matrix films and the nostalgia brings SUCH JOY. Now we're planning on re-watching all the Back to The Future movies and I low key want to re-watch some of the older Men In Black movies as we watched the new 2019 Men in Black reboot lately and NOT A FAN. Sometimes you just can't improve on a classic!*

* the exception to the rule being the Jurassic Park films which are all class

The little plant that could

I surprised my Nan on her birthday last year and gave her an orchid (her favourite). I bought one for myself at the same time (I love the pink ones as seen here and here). Every time I speak to her on the phone she's raving about this plant and how much it's grown and the number of flowers it's had. My plant in comparison is not a grower and is certainly not a shower (ha). That is until recently. Suddenly three pink orchid flowers have opened up and they are much bigger than the original flowers on the plant - so I guess I can count that as a win!

Pink orchid in grey bedroom with black furniture

Saving leftover seeds and egg cartons

I've been planting a whole host of things (taken from our food scraps) in leftover egg cartons which under normal circumstances (pre lockdown) would have gone straight into the recycling box. I've been considering growing my own fruit and vegetables for the longest time but this pandemic has given me the kick up the bum I needed!

Looking out at the garden and seeing everything in full bloom

First came the daffodils. Then came huge heads of tulips in red, yellow and orange. Shortly after bluebells and forget-me-nots followed. Now we have foxgloves emerging. Suddenly our garden is as colourful as all the rainbows displayed in windows celebrating the NHS and our carers <3

Yellow tulips and other curiosities

Waving to my family from the window 

... and exchanging supplies on the doorstep. My Mum really outdid herself. Around that time, we hadn't been able to get any supplies or a home delivery slot  (whereas they had) and when asked what we needed, I just asked for the bare minimum. Things like toilet roll, yeast, hand soap and flour. Because if I can make bread and pizza dough, I'm set. My Mum turned up with bars of chocolate, lentils, sliced bread, fruit and get this - a home baked lemon drizzle cake. I was so emotional afterwards because of their kindness (and the frustration of not being able to get closer). I did a bag for them too but didn't have much to offer them (low supplies). Just things like books, magazines and wine (sounds like a cracking night in)

Essentials food box home delivery

Embracing a more natural look

I've hung up the straighteners and have been avoiding all heated hair care products and my hair is the best it's ever been. It's been naturally drying into the most perfect curls which look like I've spent hours with a curling iron (I haven't). My hair suddenly has great volume and glossiness as I'm no longer stripping it of moisture or its natural oils. It sounds silly but it feels like my hair is rewarding me for being kinder to it!

Writing to my heart's content and feeling inspired 

I wrote about how the struggle is real with blogging and working here but lately I've had a massive wave of inspiration and I've found myself jotting down ideas for future blog posts as well as ideas for books that I am working on. I managed to write 5,000 words for a book in the space of two days and sent it to a publisher with a proposal - so here's hoping! I love writing and whilst I'm not sure I'm any good at it, I find it hugely therapeutic - particularly at a time like this.

Unapologetically making time for myself

I have a whole other blog post on this going live soon where I touch upon the initial pressure I felt at the start of lockdown to busy and better myself. Because it felt like that was what everyone else was doing and that I should too. I busied myself with decluttering the house, getting the washing out on the line, cleaning, etc, and felt guilty whenever I sat down or stopped for a few minutes. What I've come to realise is that our mental health and wellbeing is key at this time where many of us are feeling isolated and alone. I've now got myself into the habit of taking some time out each day to do something that brings me joy. Things like sitting with a candle and magazine, reading books, doing some yoga, writing, and colouring.

Rainbow tribute in progress dedicated to our hardworking NHS healthcare workers and carers

As a result, I'm a lot less jittery and anxious, and I'm actually sleeping now (and longer!)

Have you found any silver linings to lockdown so far?

Monday 20 April 2020

The spreadsheet that is helping me keep sane (and helping reduce food waste)

Now is as important a time as any to not buy more food than necessary and not to waste food. I have always prided myself on using every last scrap of food, but the added pressures of covid-19 and not knowing what ingredients I can get or when I can next get a home delivery slot, means that I am working extra hard to make food supplies stretch and work that little bit harder.

As lucky as I am to have a fridge and a freezer, I am not blessed with space, so cannot fit much in either of them. Whenever I get a food shop, I don't want to go crazy and deprive others of supplies, and the fact that I cannot store much is great in that aspect as it really helps me rein back and carefully consider what I do (and don't) need.

Working from home

The current strategy that has been working for me is keeping fresh ingredients in the fridge (or in some cases, the cupboard) and aiming to cook / eat everything by its use by date to reduce the need for freezing. Because frankly my freezer is tiny and I just don't have the space. And to keep tabs on use by dates, say hello to my geeky spreadsheet that is helping keep me sane

Food expiry dates spreadsheet - Curiouser and Curiouser

As you can see, I list out my ingredients, where they are currently stored, and their expiry dates. I've noticed that many stores have stopped putting expiry dates on vegetables (hence the * in my spreadsheet) which I think is great as many people swear by end dates and bin food when in reality, veg lasts a lot longer than you think it does! (the items marked in red are still perfectly fine)

I have conditional formatting and sorting on the end dates, meaning it's listed in date order. Items within their final week are colour coded (light orange) and the gradient darkens as they get nearer to their best before (red). Doing this allows me to assess which items need prioritising first, and helps me to plan meals. I really recommend planning meals in advance as that way when you do a shop, it will prevent random ingredients that don't belong together, and food waste.

Example food planner based on this spreadsheet method


Ingredients expiring: pork steaks, various veg
Meal plan: cut the pork into strips - stir-fry with the veg and spices (fajitas)


Ingredients expiring: beef pieces, various veg
Meal plan: slow cook with carrots, onions, mushrooms, bacon and red wine (beef bourguignon)


Ingredients expiring: beef mince
Meal plan: combine with remaining veg and add tinned tomatoes and spices (chilli con carne)


Ingredients expiring: chicken, various veg
Meal plan: slow cook with tomatoes and herbs (Italian chicken) - serve with crispy potatoes


Ingredients expiring: cauliflower
Meal plan: cauliflower curry (here) using tinned tomatoes, nuts, chickpeas, coconut milk and spices


Ingredients expiring: cauliflower, sausages, potatoes
Meal plan: use the last of the potatoes for bangers and mash - serve with spiced grilled cauliflower


Ingredients expiring: last remaining veg
Meal plan: I alternate between veggie curries, homemade pizzas and vegetarian pasta bakes

As soon as I use an ingredient that has been flagged up in the spreadsheet, I change "used - no" to "used - yes" and the filter in place means the ingredient in question is filtered out of sight. Another option I have under "used" is "frozen" - so if I don't have the necessary other cupboard basics to form a particular meal - or when I cook in bulk and have leftovers - I will pop it into the freezer and mark it as frozen (which the spreadsheet also filters out of view).

This may sound like a long winded method, but it's helped me be a lot more organised at this uncertain time, helps reduce food waste, and it means I can go through 2-3 weeks before needing another shop, which is great as it means that I am not depriving the elderly, healthcare workers and others in need of food or those highly sought after home delivery slots.

Have you changed the way you shop and think about food?