Sunday, 27 March 2016

A new leaf?

I've spoken before about my total inability to relax properly. I've also been feeling pretty sluggish and knackered and just generally under the weather since Christmas. After a few bad weeks, and then a lovely (properly) relaxing day out I decided I needed to do something about it.

Now, in the interests of sticking with this I've decided to share!

There's a yoga studio, literally around the corner from my house. I'd always assumed it was lovely (looked like it from outside/the website) but the times of the classes were never quite right - either no childcare at those times/days or no time, or felt I couldn't justify the cost. Well, the class is an hour and a half long, which even though it's just around the corner, is still 2 hours out of my working day once I'm organised and have got myself there and back. There are a couple I can physically get to though, and the classes are hatha yoga (my preferred type - I like to stretch and breathe properly and relax, not enter into a contortion competition). So last week I decided to go for it. You have to book in advance, which is good for me as I'm far less likely to back out at the last minute. So I went along to my first class the other day feeling a little apprehensive. 

My last yoga class had been years and years ago and it was one of those sweaty, competitive, 30+ people in the room at the gym jobs, and I never found them that relaxing. I also felt that I couldn't keep up (some people were super flexible - I'm not). So I was after no pressure yoga... This was completely different. A proper purpose built yoga studio - all calming and lovely - no underlying smell of sweat (and wonderfully clean yoga mats - anyone who's done yoga at a gym without their own mat will understand the joy this brings!). 

Anyway, it was wonderful and I came away feeling great. A bit sore the next day (I have a bad back and my current exercise regime involves walking - lots of it, but just walking), but sore in a good way if you know what I mean (and I think the stiff neck was more down to the amazing night's sleep I had - stayed in the same position too long!). So I'll be back. 

From a relaxation point of view I realised at the end of the class that I'd barely thought about anything other than what I was doing the whole time. This never happens! So in between classes I've decided to seek out a little more relaxation with some short meditations. I've used Headspace in the past so I'm planning to try them out again, and I also dug out an old customised hypnotherapy recording I had made for me after a session I had years ago (I partially credit this hypnotherapy session with my against all odds miracle pregnancy but everyone thinks I'm nuts - timing was uncanny though...). So the aim is to try and retain my current, slightly more chilled than usual (no longer as chilled as I was at the end of the class!) state but incorporating a little relaxation most, if not every day.

Now the last time I found a yoga class I loved it got me started on all sorts of other exercise as I felt so good. Let's see if this helps me to resume the running and swimming I used to do. That would be nice.

Oh, and did I feel like I'd lost 2 hours of time for my work? No, I had a blindingly productive afternoon and got what I'd usually do in 7 hours done in 5. So there you go...

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Channelling my inner Marie Kondo...

Only those who've been living, not under a rock as such, but maybe on a nice remote island with no internet, can have missed Marie Kondo. Her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying has been all over everything recently. I don't have a copy myself but am led to believe the idea is that you get rid of everything you don't use on a daily basis or is totally wonderful and/or makes your space beautiful (so a little like William Morris). However I'm not entirely sure I've fully grasped how ruthless she is, and I'm pretty sure it's not for me - I'm more maximalist than minimalist...

The house is looking minimal by our standards at the moment though as we had a massive clear out. It's sort of still ongoing - once one room looks great the mess in the others tends to look worse so you get inspired. We started with the bathroom where we discovered products which were 9 years out of date (we've been in the house for less than 6 so that means we moved with them... why????) and Mr M concocted what can only be described as his own version of George's Marvellous Medicine as we did our best to empty everything out and recycle all of the packaging. The bathroom is now practically empty, but you know I have everything I need. Funny that.

I then moved on to my dressing table - the rest of the bedroom was OK (and I did my wardrobe a few weeks ago), but I still found plenty of other bits to add to the bucket and the recycling. And look, I found a dressing table under it all!

Found lots of jewellery I'd forgotten I had too....

This all felt very nice but there was one elephant of a room in the house - it was driving Mr M and I nuts... The living room/playroom. The only room with a TV and the comfiest sofa, totally surrounded by heaps of plastic toys and a complete mess. So we decided to go to IKEA (as you do on a Sunday afternoon).

So yes, another Kallax shelving unit, but a small one, tucked into the corner of the room. Several items moved to the little mans bedroom and others went to the charity shop, but after that we got most of his toys into this. I'm so happy I can't put it into words. So Marie must be right, it is life changing?!

Decided to take the opportunity to chuck out the filthy old cushions and do the sofa revamp too. I'd planned to wait until I've finished my needlepoint, but as I'm only just over half way through, it'll be months, so in the meantime I went with this. The green and orange cushion on the left is one the little man choose in IKEA a few months ago. Pink one in front by yours truly, jammy dodger from Nikki McWilliams and the gorgeous square cushion on the right bought a couple of years ago from Rachel Parker

I've subsequently sorted out my studio (long overdue) and started on the spare bedroom/loft/general dumping ground upstairs. We've got rid of a fair amount of baby stuff recently but there's still a lot up there...

The next thing I know I'm standing in WH Smith looking for Marie Kondo's book, and I realised that by buying it I'll go completely against the whole idea of decluttering! So I haven't. Fairly sure it'll just make me feel bad as I won't be able to live up to her standards (and I'm not sure I want to). But I'm fairly sure that a tidy home can be life changing.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Book Week and the Epic Poo

I struggle a little with the fact that the small boy is not as interested in books as I was. I could read before I started school, and ploughed my way through all the books ahead of my class the whole way to secondary school.

The little man on the other hand, likes the idea but didn't realise that he would actually have to work at learning to read - I think he expected to just go to school and be able to do it. He was rather disappointed that he couldn't and struggled a bit in reception. He had extra help for the first term this year and I think he's turned a corner. The great thing about phonics is that once you've got the hang of it you can read almost anything.

He still didn't quite get my book week related excitement though... When I was at primary school it was the highlight of my year - we even had a book fair and I designed the poster a couple of times.

First of all he hates dressing up... So we had to come up with a character he could dress up as without feeling like he was dressed up. Aaargh. Instagram friends came to my rescue and we went for the boy from the Oliver Jeffers books. He was very happy and apparently his outfit went down well at school too. Here's a picture of said character in case you're unfamiliar.

Then last Monday he came home with the news that he'd been promoted to the next level of reading books - which is always something to celebrate for someone who struggles a bit. He then announced that he was to start work on his first novel. So here it is (very early draft of course!).... Thomas and the Epic Poo...

It involves a snake (the green thing), pants, a plunger and some orange sweets. Basically, small boy does an enormous poo and there are to be many adventures...

The opening chapter: "Once upon a time there was a boy called Thomas. He had an epic poo. It got stuck in the toilet. It was very big. I don't know what he'd eaten! It smelt awful. How would we get it to flush away? I don't know! To be continued...".

So maybe I'm just getting the whole thing wrong by not being gross enough?! He loves being read to and we're pretty much through the Roald Dahl books (although I don't think there's any harm in reading them again). At the moment I'm reading him The Borrowers in an attempt to recapture some of my childhood book related excitement but I'm not sure it's really grabbing him. Maybe the Tales of Narnia, but again... 

So, any recommendations for books for reading to nearly 6 year old boys which are a little gross but will still entertain me? This may be too much to ask but I'm glad that he's starting to develop an interest at last! 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Loosing The Mojo...

Hmmm, I think it's the time of year or something...

At the time of writing (Tuesday morning, 10.30am) I have lost my mojo. Completely. It's gone. Hence I'm writing this when I should really be doing some "proper work". I'm tired, not feeling it.

Just updated my stats for my main blog, social media and everything for February and it's left me depressed. I had an amazing December (best month ever), which was almost bettered by an amazing January (usually the worst month) - I was busy, full of ideas and motivation. In February it started to slow down (I had expected this) but now it's stopped. I almost feel as if I've dropped off the face of the planet.

A very short trawl through social media tells me that I'm not alone - I genuinely think a decline in work and mood generally does go with the last few weeks of winter. Oh, and to cap it all the weather is lousy again - filthy. I've put the flowers above on my desk this morning in an attempt to counteract the filthiness going on outside the window...

So I figured if I'm feeling miserable and plenty of others are too, I'd compile a little list of cheering (also free or very cheap - which is important if business is slow!) things I like to do - either to restore the mojo or just to give in and wait it out.

1. The flowers. So no, this one isn't free, and yes I have pushed the boat out today. The flowers above were bought this morning in Sainsbury's for £5. This is way more than I usually spend. At this time of year daffodils are my favourite and they're £1 a bunch. Sometimes I splash out and buy 2 bunches. Alternatively they have tulips for £2.50. I tend to get at least a week out of them.

2. Tea and cake. A day without tea in it is a very bad day indeed. My favourite tea at the moment is Twining's Everyday (the one in the yellow box). If this can be accompanied by cake, all the better.

3. Tidy up. As I type this my studio is a mess again. If I can drag myself up from this desk I should tidy it. I have more, better ideas in a tidy, inspiring space. I need to take down old stuff and stick new things on the wall.

4. The garden. One for the summer, not today as it's just hideous out there. Hideous I tell you. But, in the summer if I'm feeling a bit meh I drop everything and go out in the garden. My absolute favourite job out there is mowing the lawn and doing the edging, but I'll settle for weeding or pruning if that doesn't need doing. There's always something to do, and I find pootling around out there to be far more relaxing than sitting in a chair looking at it.

5. Restyle a room. Sort of the equivalent of doing the garden but for nasty days like today. Might try this later. Bonus points for taking pictures to share on Instagram at a later date!

6. Read. Not something work related. This is hard for me as I have stacks of stuff to inspire me, but sometimes you need to loose yourself. So ideally a novel. I don't have time to read usually so this is also a real luxury for me. See my earlier post here for some ideas.

7. Make something. This also needs to not be work related (in my case preferably something that can never be and that I won't photograph and share/write a blog post about either - this is tricky!). So painting and drawing can be good, or any craft  - best to do something you're familiar with so you don't have to think about it too much/get frustrated.

8. Glossy magazines. I'm talking to you Vogue. I also like Bazaar. None of the self improvement nonsense, no depressing gossip about celebrities I've never heard of. Nothing I can possibly turn into something work related. Just unaffordable beautiful clothes, nice pictures and a bit of escapism.

9. Woody Allen. Or insert your favourite films here. It has to be a very bad day though for me to sacrifice so much "valuable work time"...

10. Sort out the wardrobe/make-up drawer. Sometimes doing number 8 above can prompt this. I had a wonderful wardrobe clear out a few weeks ago and it made me feel great.

11. Have a bath. All the more indulgent if you rarely get to have one. I'm a shower girl due to necessity (small boy, and spend all of my evenings working, one way or another). I'm a fan of a Lush bath bomb - the Yoga Bomb is my favourite.

12. List achievements. I don't mean in your life, I mean in the last day/week. If you're anything like me you're brilliant at remembering and listing the bad stuff and the things that went wrong. Focus on the good stuff - you've probably achieved a lot this week, you've just forgotten about it.

13. Stats. Now if you're a stats person like me, you need hard evidence of those achievements. One of the things that has contributed to my funk today is stats. My stats for February 2016. One month. This is already rubbish. I need to compare month on month, year on year. And I know, without even checking, that this is a pretty continuous upward trajectory of growth, and I am definitely heading in the right direction. So snap out of it Kate. And don't look at one day/week/month of rubbishness in isolation.

14. Keep going. Still feeling rubbish? There's one guaranteed way to fail. Giving up. I frequently need to remind myself of this. If I give up, someone will take my place. If I give up I will regret it and wonder what might've been forever. If you can afford/have the time and opportunity to keep going, keep going.

15. However, step away... But step away today and have a break. It won't make any difference (unless you're on a major deadline today and you'll completely mess up everything if you don't achieve it, in which case take the break tomorrow!). That's what I'm planning to do now.