Posts tagged ‘resolutions’

January 6, 2014

2014 Resolutions

Happy new year everyone! As we’re a week into 2014, I’m firmly closing the door on the Christmas and New Year festivities (which I’ve totally loved this year) and getting back into the swing of everyday life. The start of a new school term always brings about a return to routines and the end of Quality Street being an acceptable breakfast food, just as I’ve got used to the idea…

Traditionally the start of January is resolution time. Usually I like to write a giant list of resolutions for the year, some of which I manage to complete and some I don’t. I wrote recently about needing to be honest with myself about the things that I really wanted to do and forget the things that I think I should want to do. So, no marathon running goals for me, this year or ever. Although I think that if you want to make changes to your life, you should start them today, whenever today is, rather than waiting for January 1st, there is something tidy about making new starts in a new year, so I do find New Year’s Resolutions somewhat seductive.

2014 is going to be a year that contains many changes. My career, my home life, and the way I spend my time are all going to change, and not all of those changes are my decision. So, rather than trying to control everything, I’m going to try and go with the flow a little more. Which is terrifying to me! But, I think that trying to force things to happen is bound to end in failure. It is important for me to recognise what I can control and what I cannot.

Therefore my list is short, and perhaps a little vague. But here goes:

1 – Study for my RHS Level 2 exams.  I’ve written about this before, and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a while (and really wanted to do) but life has got in the way of my plans. I’m determined to make it happen this time though. And I’m hopeful it may lead to more opportunity and who knows, perhaps a career shift.

2 – Make time. For my family, my friends, my boyfriend. Much of 2013 was challenging, sometimes it was painful and introspective, and it was a year in which my friends all supported me, but I feel as though I gave back little in return. I want to redress the balance and make time to visit my beloved friends and family and support them in whatever they are doing. My boyfriend has a year of change ahead of him too, and I want to be a supportive partner to him as we embrace our future together. (As an aside, I feel far too old to be saying boyfriend, but what’s the alternative? Partner makes it sound like we’re in business together…hmm)

3 – Say ‘yes’ more. And say ‘no’ more. Contradictory as ever…but by which I mean that I want to be brave enough to say ‘yes’ to the right opportunities that come my way, and say ‘no’ to things that I don’t want, need or feel like the right ‘fit’. And I’m not talking specifically about possessions when I say ‘things’, it’s really just a goal about being authentic and true to myself.

4 – Keep cycling. This is a bit of a vague goal, I appreciate, but I have really been enjoying cycling and I want to carry on improving, at my own pace, and just enjoying the ride. I have no challenges, competitions, sportives in mind at all. It will just be me, my bike and my boyfriend by my side.  Though, if you’re in Leeds and fancy a snail’s pace bike ride with a cafe stop in the middle, I’m your ideal companion!

5 – Visit somewhere new. Doesn’t matter where, I just want to keep exploring and having micro-adventures. And I really, really, want to go to somewhere I’ve never been in Europe in 2014. Fitting adventure into everyday life instead of waiting for a big chunk of time is something I’ve enjoyed in 2013, and I want to do more of it.

6 – Move towards being a ‘zero waste’ home. This is a huge goal and one in which I am going to be moving at an evolutionary pace, not aiming for an overnight revolution! On the back of reducing our reliance on the supermarket, the next step is reducing the amount of waste we create – less packaging, which in turn means less recycling. More composting and home-grown food! Which takes me nicely onto number 7…

7 –  Try my hardest to grow as much of our food as possible. 2013 was a dire year on the allotment for many reasons. I paid it a visit over the Christmas period and made a promise to it that I’d try my hardest to make 2014 a great year. Yup, I talk to my allotment. I appreciate that’s odd.

8 – Try yoga. We have a wonderful looking yoga centre near us and I’d really like to have a go at yoga, to benefit my (still too high) blood pressure and improve my flexibility. This is the year in which I’m finally going to do it, instead of just talking about it!

So, there we have it. Only eight things on my list this year. In addition to this are my usual ‘eat well, read more, learn new things’ goals, but they’re so heavily ingrained into my personality that I don’t need to specifically list them. As long as I’m breathing, I’ll be reading…

What are your goals for 2014? And do you have any advice for me in achieving mine? I’d love to hear from you.

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June 6, 2013

It’s my birthday!

It’s my birthday today! By the time you read this, I shall hopefully be on my way for a day of glorious sunshine at one of my favourite places, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Usually, my birthday is a time of reflection for me, and this year proves no different. June feels like a good time to take stock of year so far, and to make plans for the rest of it. Having made a few resolutions in January, it’s now time to see how I’m getting on with them.

1 – Run as often and as far as possible

Hmm. Not a good resolution to start off with, this one. I’ve not been running at all in the past few months. On the upside, I’ve been cycling a lot more, which I’ve decided that I prefer at the moment. In fact, I have no plans to run at all in the near future, but lots of cycling plans. So, perhaps I shall change this to ‘cycle as often and as far as possible’ and see how I get on with that.

2 – Blog as I choose – in terms of subject and frequency

It’s not long since I wrote a post about my blogging frequency, and since I wrote it, I’ve felt a continued sense of relief and of being in a lot more control over my blog. I’m going to carry on with the Slow Blogging for the foreseeable future.

3 – Do my Walk Leader training.

This is something that I’d still like to do, but my priorities have changes a bit since I wrote this list of resolutions, so it might go by the wayside without regret.

4 – Say ‘yes’ to opportunities to learn

Learning is still my absolute favourite thing to do. Recently I’ve been enjoying listening to lots of podcasts and watching TED talks on loads of different, but always interesting, subjects. I’ve just taken up analogue photography again with a Canon EOS 30, and I’m learning so much already. What I’ve realised is that I’m getting better at learning through practice,  as opposed to my usual style of learning through reading theory. Photography seems to be a particularly good example of this, alongside the many craft, cookery and gardening activities that I have planned for the rest of the year. Very soon, I’m also going to put an Impossible Project film through my vintage Polaroid SX-70 and see what happens! I bought a book called ‘Instant Love’ the other day, and it’s inspired me to get playing with it and see what images I might end up with.

5 – Cook 52 new vegetarian dishes – one for every week of the year

I’m currently at 11 recipes. So, I’ve got a long way to go with this one, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t get there. This resolution was partly about learning to be more creative and confident with cooking vegetarian food, and making the most of locally grown vegetables, including those I’m growing myself, rather than any hard-and-fast ‘goal’. One of the things I’m learning is how to adapt and create new recipes too, rather than following every rule, which is a pleasant feeling and something that I shall be trying to do more of and share through Sage and Thrift too.

I’m recording my recipes on Springpad, which has been a great visual tool in  aiding my resolutions this year. I absolutely love using this App, both on my Macbook and on my iPhone; it’s an invaluable way of keeping track, using lists, photos and uploads from websites.

6 – Go on mini-adventures

My first mini-adventure this year was a few days in Paris in the Spring, which was wonderful. I’ve got a short visit to Edinburgh (all food recommendations welcome!) soon, followed by a week in Bivouac, which I’m very giddy about and a few days in Oxford planned for the summer. Oh, and I’m possibly going to swim outdoors on the dawn of Summer Solstice too … good grief.

Further adventures will arise later in the year, no doubt. I’m not going to plan everything, but just say yes to things as the opportunity arises. I love the idea of packing a bag and setting off to destinations unknown, so hopefully that might happen too.

7 – Record all my spending

I’ve created a spreadsheet to track my budget every month and, rather than feeling restricted by it, I feel so much more in control, which is rather lovely. Overall, it seems that the amount I spend on frivolous fripperies and fancy stuff – trying saying that after a pint – is very little. Possibly something to rectify? We’ll see …

8 – Host one Sage & Thrift event every month

This project is something that I’m really proud of starting. We’re growing, generating plenty of interest and have lots of wonderful plans. Our next event is a cookbook swap on 23rd June in Leeds, so if you’re around, do come and say hello!

9 – Reduce my possessions

This resolution has definitely happened, for a variety of reasons, to the extent that I could now fit all my possessions –  with the exception of my bike –  into my small car.  I’m still working on my wardrobe and book collections. Although minimalism and I are slightly uncomfortable with each other (due to my messy nature!) I’m aiming to simplify my belongings, to make any new purchases really thoughtfully and to choose the best available options for me each time.

10 – Read one decent book a month

I’ve read eight novels this year so far,  as well as a number of non-fiction titles so it really does feel as though I’ve read very little this year. I love to lose myself in a good book, and have a reading list as long as my arm. The longer days of summer might be just the time to spend more time reading – the ultimate Slow activity. Again, I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t meet this goal. If there’s one thing I learned from my enormous GoodReads Challenge of 2012 it’s that quality definitely beats quantity when it comes to fiction. I’ve been recording my books on Springpad too – and creating a reading wish-list, so I remember all the great books that are recommended to me!

11 – Attend one cultural event each month

I’ve included everything from cinema to art gallery exhibitions for this goal, and I’ve actually surprised myself with what I’ve managed to do in the first half of the year. I’ve seen live music from David Ford, visited the National Gallery in London and the Musee du Luxumbourg in Paris, seen a stunning production of The Great Gatsby from Northern Ballet, attended Bettakulture, watched a wonderful new Sherlock Holmes play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and visited several art exhibitions around the country. Recording this (again, on Springpad) has been a great eye-opener, and is a good reminder to myself that actually, I do lots of things and am really very lucky.

12 – Be kind to myself. 

This one rather underpins everything else. So often, I’m so keen to improve myself and to meet goals, that I get cross if things don’t go as planned, or if I don’t manage to be quite as brilliant as I think I should be. My beloved friend and Sage & Thrift partner, Jo, always says that we must ensure that we don’t use our plans as  ‘a stick to beat ourselves with’, which I love. It’s something that I’ve been trying to keep at the forefront of my mind this year. Life is challenging, and often doesn’t quite go as you thought it might. Plans don’t always work out, and it’s important to be adaptable, shrug your shoulders once in a while, and not get so caught up in the desire to achieve that you forget to have fun along the way.

With that in mind, I’m spending today having fun and with no aims other than to eat cake, sit in the sunshine and enjoy turning 37. Wishing you all a lovely day today. Even if it’s not your birthday …

January 7, 2013

On Smoking.

I was going to start my 2013 blog posts with one about my plans for the year, but then I got a bit side-tracked by listening to a radio show about the most common New Year resolutions people make. Unsurprisingly, giving up smoking was high on the list and it made me think of my own history of smoking and about how I managed to quit.

I started smoking relatively late, at the age of 21. An interest in horses, plus being largely bullied or ignored at school meant that I never developed any bad habits there. In something of a tired cliché, it was with an unsuitable boyfriend that I started smoking. A musician. I know, cliché piled upon cliché. True though, nonetheless. We spent a summer together and by the time the relationship ended and I went away to college, I was pretty much surgically attached to my Marlboro Lights. For the next three years, during the whole of my degree, I smoked. Less so during the holidays, and with a dramatic increase during exam times, when I barely opened my eyes on a morning before lighting up the first smoke of the day. It makes me shudder to think of it now.

After I finished my degree, I went home, got a sensible job with the Council and carried on smoking. I made wonderful friends at work, one of whom I used to share cigarette breaks with. At 42, she was older than me and on the verge of a divorce and a fresh start in life. I took her rock climbing, to concerts, out dancing. I left that job a year later, in July, but we kept in touch. We still went out and still smoked together. In November of that year, she was off sick with a sudden ‘flu’, when I went to Australia. On Christmas Eve, I returned home to a message telling me that she was dead. The cancer was swift and vicious. I didn’t get to say good-bye, or to attend her funeral. My only consolation was that she had told all our friends how much she loved that I’d taken to do all the things she’d really wanted to try.

I continued to smoke through my grief.

My new job brought new friends, many of whom are still very close friends. Being young, free and single, we spent many an evening with a ‘swift half’ in the pub after work that tended to end with us being kicked out at closing time. In those pre-smoking ban days half the people who didn’t usually smoke would ask for the occasional cigarette and I always obliged. It used to cost a fortune. But more than that, it legitimised my smoking. We drunkenly put the world to rights, and worked our way through several packets of cigarettes a night. The morning after usually brought me a sore throat and an empty purse.

In January 2005, however, something happened that made me finally give up smoking. A party. We held a 60th birthday party,complete with céilidh band, for a  colleague. Mike is a pretty unique kind of chap. When I was off work with a long term problem, he sent me the most wonderful long hand-written letter, with a mix CD of country music (“because it’s guaranteed to make you feel better about your own situation” ) and comedy. I still have it to this day. The venue was upstairs, and so every time I wanted a cigarette, I had to go downstairs, smoke outside, and then climb back up the stairs, arriving red-faced and out of breath to start dancing again. With a 60 year old man who was clearly fitter than I was…

At the end of the party, there was a speech. I don’t remember it all but I do remember Mike saying how grateful he was to still be alive. How sad he was that not all of his friends had made it to 60. And that, combined with my realisation of how horrible and ill I’d been feeling all night, was enough. I quit the following day. I’ve not smoked since. I had to go through it without any aids, because I’m allergic to plasters so couldn’t use the patches and the nicotine gum made my mouth swell up. I don’t remember it being particularly easy. I don’t remember it being particularly hard either, beyond the first few weeks and a complete inability to drink alcohol, because in my head the two activities belonged together. You’ll be glad to know that I’ve got past the not-drinking problem!  I do know beyond all shadow of doubt that it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I would never, ever go back.

So, to everyone who has decided that ‘give up smoking’ will be their resolution this year, I applaud you. Never give up giving up. It’s not easy, but it’s the best thing you’ll ever do. I can run now, never mind climb some stairs or dance a ceilidh. And that’s the greatest feeling in the world…

December 28, 2011

2011: A Personal Review

At the end of every year, I always get an unsettled, ‘must-do-something-but-not-quite-sure-what’ feeling. How much of this is caused by the sheer amount of food I usually consume at Christmas I don’t know, but my usual remedy is to review the year and then think ahead to the next.  I’ve already written my plan for 2012, which is here on the blog, so that part is settled. I have a good feeling about 2012. Not sure why, but I do.

I didn’t write a plan for 2011. Which is why I ended up with 35:35 because I like to have a (flexible) plan for my time. When it came to reviewing the year, I just couldn’t think why I’d not written a plan and what on earth I spent the first quarter of the year doing. Then my lovely friend reminded me that I’d actually spent the whole time fighting for my job. Ah…

How quickly the mind forgets. My husband and I both had to go through months of fighting for our jobs. Months. It was a horrible time, filled with sleepless nights, tears and too much coping alcohol, all whilst trying to keep our stress and fears away from our children. Thankfully, we were the lucky ones, who got to keep the jobs we are both so passionate about, even though I did end up needing counselling at the end of the year to help me cope with everything that’s happened. It’s not finished though, there will be more changes and challenges ahead. Life is change. But we will survive.

Once the dust had settled in April, albeit with a different team, management structure etc etc, I started to focus on my personal life again, starting this blog and my 35:35 Challenge, to do thirty five things I’d never done before in my thirty-fifth year of life. I didn’t want it to be a huge challenge, but something to shake me up a bit out of life’s routine, do something positive after a difficult period, learn something new and have a few happy experiences. I read a study once that said new experiences are the way to slow time down. Following nothing but a routine means that weeks become months, which become years, without you even realising that so much time has passed. Puncturing that routine means that the brain remembers time better, which in turn makes it feel as though it’s not passing so fast.

So, from April, it’s a bit easier for me to remember what I’ve been up to this year. Highlights include my daughter starting school and thriving there (even though I was shocked to realise that girls can be mean from a very early age), taking her horse-riding for the first time, the completion of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks, and getting on a bike for the first time since childhood and completing Cycletta. Cycletta, a women-only bike ride, was a particular highlight because initially I was supposed to do it with someone else, who ended up having a family responsibility on the same day and so couldn’t make it. I nearly pulled out, but in the end I went and completed the ride on my own. It was such a brilliant, positive experience and I was thrilled to complete and chat to so many wonderful women the whole way round. After finishing the ride, I realised that I shouldn’t wait for someone else to want the same things as me before doing something. I have a habit of doing that, but sometimes it means that I never end up doing things I want to do. If I want to experience something, I need to just pluck up the courage and go for it.  I also realised that riding bikes is brilliant and that my body is far better suited to cycling than it is to running.

Other highlights have been a drumming lesson, various massages, and my annual visit to Paris, including a visit to Chanel.  Oh, and I was thrilled to be part of the annual Radio 4 Woman’s Hour phone-in too. I have completed 15 of my 35 Challenges. The first half of 2012 is going to be filled with trying to get to 35!

So, it’s been an interesting year and I have my plan for 2012. I’m feeling more settled, and ready for whatever comes next.

Happy New Year everyone!

What was your highlight of 2011? What are you hoping to do in 2012?

December 12, 2011

A Scanner’s Resolutions

I’ve written in the past about my Scanner Daybook, although I recently realised how little I’d been using it since starting this blog. It seems that recording life here is enough for me!

For as long as I can remember, I have written a plan for each year. During December, I spend some time planning the next year and reviewing the past one. I am loathe to call my plans ‘resolutions’, as they rarely fall into the ‘lose weight, stop smoking’ type of plan – although I am going to make more time for the gym next year, if only so I am fit enough for everything else! So, I suppose they are, really. A scanner never really stops making plans, but writing them in time for the New Year is a convenient way for me to organise them.

Generally, I write enough plans to keep me occupied full time and I am pretty bad at being rational about how much time I have to spend on them – but given how many new things I have already managed to do this year (see my 35:35 Challenge page) I am pretty confident that I might manage at least some of them. My usual method of managing everything is to have a monthly check on progress and to be flexible. They always say that life is what happens when you are busy making plans, and so I always allow for that, which basically means being kind to myself and not beating myself up if something doesn’t happen. After all, anyone with small children knows just how much time we spend each week on the routine of school, laundry, homework, cooking, tidying-up, etc. and that is the most important part of my life. Wanting to still be ‘me’ as well as ‘Mummy’ means fitting all of my plans around the family as well as my full-time job, and generally, I do quite well.

So, here are my (flexible) plans for 2012:

Physical:

  • Make time for the gym each week
  • Return to horse-riding, starting with a lunge lesson to work on my seat.
  • Undertake a physical challenge (akin to previous ones: Lyke Wake Walk, Three Peaks, Cycletta) The exact challenge is still to be decided, but I can rely on my dear family to come up with something that will at some point make me cry but ultimately be a brilliant experience. (35:35)
  • Have a go at some off road mountain biking
  • Have a beginner’s canoe session with my lovely friend Hillary (35:35)
  • Complete Cycletta again, and beat my 2011 finish time.

Travel

  • A week in Rome in the Spring (35:35)
  • A family holiday with the kids, hopefully on the Isle of Wight, where my Mum is from and where we have spent many a happy summer.
  • Paris in the winter, for a couple of days before Christmas ( this is pretty ambitious, given our budget, but I might as well add it in!)

Clothing

  • Keep a record of my monthly expenditure on clothing, accessories, beauty, skincare, magazines etc, so I can see exactly what I am spending on what (inspired by my lovely  friend’s plan to do this) I’m quite interested to see if my behaviour changes because of the act of recording it, as it is assumed  – and to a certain extent, I hope it will anyway because of the next plan.
  • Buy (or save up for) a piece of clothing each month. This seems like an indulgence but really, most of my clothes are falling apart. I seem to have drifted to a place where ‘fashion’ is something that exists in another world, not linked to my real life. Which means I barely own a pair of socks, and at the age of 35 I feel like I should be able to go to work in something that makes me look like a grown up, even if I rarely feel like one! I’m not talking about spending lots of money, but if there are pieces of clothing that I really like, I will save each monthly (still to be decided) budget to buy something really worth having. I always prefer quality over quantity when it comes to clothes, but this seems to have resulted in me genuinely struggling to find anything in my wardrobe to wear!

Allotment

  • Aim for four productive raised beds. These are all built, manured, and were in production last year, so it shouldn’t be too hard. I need to spend some time planning what to grow and working out the crop rotation in January.
  • Build the children their own small raised bed each for planting their choice of flowers, fruit and vegetables, or just for driving toy tractors on!
  • Dig over the area where we plan to put the poly-tunnel and mark it all out.
  • Sort out the supports for the cordoned apple trees

Learning

  • A one to one sewing session with Sew You in January (35:35)
  • Some time learning the basics of silver-smithing with my lovely sister in law (35:35)
  • Return to learning Italian in preparation for Rome, and try to find some structured time for this each week. (35:35)

Happiness

  • Make sure there is lots of time for just being in the moment, playing with the kids. As you can probably tell from this, and previous posts, I am not very good at slowing down and being present, instead of planning for the future or dwelling on the past, so I need to be careful of this.
  • Try to have a regular massage and try Lomi Lomi massage (35:35)
  • Eat at Create, Leeds, which, judging by the reviews I’ve seen may well be the best restaurant in the city! (35:35)
  • Hot Air Balloon trip (as per the survey I did here earlier, 35:35)
  • Have a falconry session.(35:35)
  • Continue with Operation: Bedroom Sanctuary and then when I am happy with that, move onto the other rooms.
  • Put together some photograph albums and get some more photos framed and put up on the walls.
  • Try to buy a second hand DSLR to take better photos for this blog, and learn more about IT so I can continue to improve it.

Now I’ve shared my plans with you all, I feel as though I am more likely to complete them, so I’ve added a new page to the blog to record my progress.

So next year is all organised. Now I can relax and enjoy Christmas…