Category Archives: Personal

September 2021: New Opportunities

September: the month where everything seems to reset and start anew. As I have previously mentioned, G has made the move to a local college to study a BTEC in psychology instead of continuing with her A-levels. She catches the train to college 3 times a week at the moment and following an apprehensive start, has embraced that challenge as well as discovering the joys of travelling by public transport -delays anyone? – instead of simply being able to walk to school.

M has settled well into Year 11 and our delayed Year 10 parents’ evening revealed that he is doing extremely well and his teachers are expecting good things from him with his final GCSE results. He was unsurprisingly identified as being clinically vulnerable and was offered his first COVID vaccination as part of that first cohort, which he was keen to take up as soon as he could. Our GP has been very switched on this year and he has already has his ‘flu vaccination too as has G.  Unfortunately, September also saw M testing positive for COVID and having to self-isolate for 10 days, which was not ideal at the start of his new school year. He has been unwell with it and spent a lot of time either sleeping or coughing without much let up. We’re hoping that the vaccine, which fortunately he did have more than 2 weeks before he got ill, will do its thing and that recovery doesn’t take too long.

There has also been some great opportunities that have manifested thanks to G and M’s involvement with the young people’s forum at our local hospital. M was invited to join the judging panel for this year’s staff awards a few months ago and was later asked to be part of the presentations of some of the awards to the winners. Never one to miss the opportunity to dress up, M chose a brand new suit and wore it proudly into the hospital for both of the presentations he was able to attend. The first recognised the value and compassion shown by one of the receptionists, especially when speaking to bereaved families, and the second was to recognise the hard work and efforts of the vaccination team over the last 18 months. He particularly enjoyed meeting the vaccination team, even if his first question was about when he could have the COVID vaccine – little were we to know that his invitation for it would be waiting on our doormat when we got back home!

And finally, I was invited to become a member of the interview panel for a new clinical nurse specialist role within the gastro department at the hospital. I was super excited to receive this invitation and had a great afternoon turning my interview technique in a different direction to the usual finance-based questions I find myself having to ask. I even got to flex my acting skills as I helped run the role play element of the interview. It was a real privilege to be involved and fascinating to learn more first-hand about the process undertaken to select the right candidate for the job.

Summer Photo Round-up 2021

As well as our travels to the Lake District this summer, we also enjoyed theatre trips, filming, beach visits, hair-cuts, boules and a journey to the moon:

Enjoying the best of the Lakes – Part Two

When I said that the second half of our week’s holiday was just as busy as the first in last week’s blog, I wasn’t joking. Everyday saw us exploring a new corner of the Lake District in a myriad of different ways:

Borrowdale ValleyOur walk here was inspired by an article I had read about the so-called “Borrowdale Banksy” and a desire to see if we could find one of these stunning pieces of art whilst we walked the hills. Sadly we didn’t manage to uncover the location, which is a something of a secret, but we did find some stunning views and had the chance to climb the most spectacular hill of slate to look out over Derwentwater. It was a challenging walk, but we had a glorious day for our trek around the loop.

West Lake Adventures: During our visit to Lake Windermere, G and M spotted several people paddle-boarding and kayaking on the lake and asked if we could squeeze a similar excursion into our week for them. We hadn’t previously booked it, so were a little sceptical about what we might find, but were lucky to come across West Lake Adventures who offered a 2-3 hour kayaking session on the much quieter Wastwater. Wastwater can be found at the foot of Scafell Pike, which meant some absolutely amazing photos of both children and Mike kayaking with a simply jaw-dropping backdrop.

Whinlatter Forest: When G said she’d love to horse-ride whilst we were away, M made it equally clear that that wasn’t something he wanted to do and so we looked for an alternative adventure for him for a different day. The answer was a forest segway trail with Go Ape at Whinlatter Forest. Whilst the boys tackled the trail, G and I headed off on a search for the Gruffalo, which led us to a most perfectly positioned picnic area looking out over Derwentwater, somewhere we returned to with Mike and M to enjoy our lunch. We were very impressed by the cafe here too as it served the most amazing allergy-friendly sandwiches and ice-creams, something that came in very handy when we realised that Mike had left the children’s packed lunch in the fridge back at Brockwood Hall.

Morecambe Bay: Our final stop as we began our homeward journey, and one I insisted on, was at the delightful seaside town of Morecambe Bay. Of course best known for it’s iconic statue of classic British comedian Eric Morecambe, Morecambe Bay is more than just this depiction of its most famous son. We had perhaps the best weather of our whole trip as we strolled along the prom and walked out along the stone jetty to gaze back at the peaks that had been our home for the last week. Charming in every regard and the perfect ending to a truly stupendous holiday.

August 2021: A Visit to the Lakes

It’s been a long time coming, but finally, 20 months after our last trip to New York, we managed to get away and enjoyed a week in the Lake District for our summer hols. I have been looking forward and counting down to our break, not least because I was excited to have a chance to look at a different set of 4 walls for a few hours – 20 months of lockdown and shielding will do that to a girl! We had planned the trip months ago, and with the huge increase in the number of UK holidays being booked as well as climbing prices, I’m really glad we did so as it was break away from home that we all needed.

As we have done so many times in the past, we decided to stop off on our way there to not just break the tedium of the lengthy car journey up, but also to take G and M somewhere they hadn’t been before. In this instance, Blackpool seemed an obvious choice, not least because neither Mike or I had been there either. After an early start, we reached Blackpool in time for a late lunch and it seemed the perfect opportunity to find gluten-free fish and chips for us all to enjoy. As always I did as much research as possible before we arrived and found what looked to be a good contender with consistently positive reviews and talk of a dedicated gluten-free fryer.

The weather was glorious as we strolled along the prom towards Bentley’s Fish and Chip shop and by the time we reached the shop we were all more than ready for our lunch. Tucked away from the main stretch of Blackpool, we decided to sit at one of the picnic tables outside the shop and enjoy the August sun alongside our fish and chips. The portions were plentiful and received rave reviews from us all. Lunch finished, we headed to the Adventure Golf course near Blackpool Pleasure Beach to play a quick round of mini golf before resuming our journey to the Lakes. The weather was brilliant and it was a super start to our family holiday and I even managed an elusive hole-in-one nearing the end of the course!

It was then back to the car and onwards to our final destination, which was a lodge at the beautiful Brockwood Hall near Millom. I had found it thanks to a recommendation from a friend and it was a wonderful base for our week away, albeit perhaps a little more remote than we had originally thought. We particularly enjoyed the peacocks roaming the site, even though they were extremely noisy in the evenings, and G was delighted to count 9 of them one morning just a stone’s throw from our lodge.

 

July 2021: Yet another school year done…

…and what a year it has been.

G started her A-levels in the sixth form at our local school after 6 months of practically no school whatsoever following the outbreak of the COVID pandemic and ensuing lockdown in the UK. It has not been the easiest year for her whole cohort as they’ve struggled to get back to learning with not only the added challenges of online schooling and social bubbles within school, but also that monumental shift into further education. It has quickly become apparent that traditional A-levels do not suit G’s learning style or allow for her exam nerves, and so she has bravely made the decision to move to a local college and study BTEC courses instead. It feels like a very grown-up choice for her to have made, not least as she will be catching the train to college each day, but with her 18th birthday approaching far too quickly, it is unquestionably the right time for her to make this change.

M, on the other hand, has, for the most part, embraced the challenge of his GCSEs and has shown a definite flair for both the artistic (photography and performing arts) and the scientific (Computing and Science) in his Year 10 mock exams. His cardiology appointment in May revealed that he grew an incredible 12cms and gained 15kg in 15 months, more than he’s ever managed before and he continues to grow like a weed and is fast catching up on me! I’m not sure it would be fair to say that he’s looking forward to moving into Year 11 in September, but he is beginning to think about what he wants to study next and G’s move to another college has helped broaden his outlook on where he might go.

Our summer plans are fairly quiet, though we are hoping to squeeze in a week away at some point, COVID allowing. G is helping out with the Stagecoach summer school for 2 weeks and M has volunteered to help with the sound at a couple of the summer camp family days that our church is running. They both have some school work to complete too, but the rest of this week is mostly going to be occupied with lots of sleep and an outside performance of Macbeth (one of M’s GCSE texts!) to enjoy, our first trip to the Theatre for an awfully long time…and I simply can’t wait!

June 2021: Eating our way around the World

Whilst we still can’t do much more than dream about resuming our international travel adventures at the moment, we have been talking lots about where we’d like to go once we can start again. We’ve discussed weekends away, city breaks, longer holidays and birthday treats, not least because G will be turning 18 at the end of this year. Some destinations have been something of a surprise (Hungary and Russia in the middle of the winter to name a couple), whilst others have been on one family member or another’s wish list for a long time.

There has also been a definite fatigue within the 7Q2D kitchen over the last few months and so, taking inspiration from all of our conversations about travel, I decided to pick a handful of countries and their cuisines to influence our menu choices. It started with a return to a recipe I’d adapted whilst we were watching the Great British Bake-Off last year and both children fancied trying the Japanese steamed buns that were prepared. I made them in the Autumn using duck as a filling and had surprisingly great success. However, I hadn’t turned my hand to them and so decided one weekend to give them another whirl, with plenty of time to fit in a family walk whilst the dough was rising.

In the spirit of travel-inspired foods and, quite frankly, building on that success, this past week has been all about Italy  – another of G’s picks as well as Mike’s hopes for a Roman weekend. So far we’ve enjoyed Gnocchi (though I must admit it wasn’t home-made), risotto, pizza, arancini di riso, and pasta on different nights and with plenty of enthusiasm from even my pickiest diner.

I’m not quite sure where next week’s travels will take us, but it’s been fun and an entertaining alternative so far to the same old dishes that I seem to cook week after week.

2021: Winners – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Weeks 61 & 62

It’s been a manic couple of weeks as year-end audits loom far faster than I’d like along with the end of term 5 for both G and M, with oodles of revision needing to be done in all of our immediate futures. Add in an unexpectedly large number of hospital appointments for M as well as dental, hair and opticians appointments for G, M and me, no wonder I barely have time to breathe, or so it feels.

However, tonight I’m hoping to take a couple of hours to join the virtual party for this year’s FreeFrom Food Awards. If nothing else, I’ll certainly be following their social media accounts to hear the winners and hopefully find some new products for G and M to try. There’s always some goodies to uncover, so if you’re got some time this evening or even in the next few days, it’s definitely worth having a look at the winners’ list on the #FFFA21 website.

2021: Do You Believe in Fairies? – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Weeks 60

You may be wondering what has me thinking about these incredibly whimsical creatures, especially when the last 60 weeks have been all about the global pandemic and not a great deal else. The answer is really quite simple and that’s my happy discovery this week of The Book Fairies. For someone who loves books as much as G and I do, what could possibly be more magical?

Last year, the Duchess of Cambridge and National Portrait Gallery launched a UK-wide photo project called Hold Still, which asked individuals and communities from across the country to take a photo portrait based on one of three themes reflecting life in lockdown. Thousands of photos were submitted and somehow whittled down to just 100 encapturing the nation’s experiences of COVID-19 in a number of different ways. These photos were presented in a digital exhibition as well as being displayed across the UK during the autumn and last week a book was also published.

Now you may be wondering how fairies come into the picture, but as my reading revealed, a number of book fairies as well as some of the 100 photographers included in the photobook were given a copy to leave in their local area in a place that had given that community hope over the last year. Book Fairies are a group of book-loving individuals from around the world, who want to share the joy of books with others by leaving books in public places to be found and enjoyed by just about anyone. Notes can be hidden inside and stickers popped on the cover to indicate that the book has been left by a fairy, and the idea is to simply share a book you’ve enjoyed with others.

I can’t imagine anything more magical than coming across a hidden treasure like this and think I may well encourage G and even M to think about finding some books that they’d be happy to share by becoming book fairies. How very wonderful to be able to bring joy and light to a world that has experienced great darkness over the last fifteen months and many individuals who will continue to do so.

 

2021: FFFA21 Finalists – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Weeks 59

This time last year the annual Free From Food Awards were done and dusted with the judging having managed to get in under the wire when it came to all things COVID. We celebrated the winners via a virtual awards ceremony on Zoom and then wondered just what would happen when it come to the 2021 awards, quietly confident that the wonderful and hard-working team behind the magic of the FFFA would have something special up their sleeves.

Needless to say they absolutely did, and even managed to put in enough measures to allow some in-person judging of the increased number of categories, albeit in a different way to what all of us seasoned judges have become used to. Unfortunately, despite an offer to travel to London for a judging session at the end of March, I wasn’t quite sure when my first vaccine would happen and so sadly I decided to decline the invite this year. However, G and M were delighted to step into my shoes and take up my mantle by judging some of the offerings from the “Child & Teens” category, which once again found some new favourites to add to our cupboards.

M also joined the brand new “Digital Presence” panel and absolutely loved being able to legitimately spend time online looking at how well various freefrom brands manage their websites and social media. And my month was made when I was asked to join the virtual session for finalising the shortlisted products and awards for the Child and Teens contenders.

This week the finalists for the Free From Food Awards 2021 have been announced and it’s wonderful to see some of the children’s new finds as well as old favourites being included in the shortlist, which you can see here. The final winners will be announced on May 27 and we can’t wait to see just who has won what across all of the categories.

 

2021: Creeping Closer – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Weeks 57 & 58

Over the last couple of weeks, G and M have gone back to having face-to-face Stagecoach and Dyslexia Centre classes, are swimming twice a week and have even had some in-person medical appointments. Whilst we’re still a long way from being back to our pre-2020 lives – and lets face it, who knows when or if we will be – it has been fantastic to escape the constant need to be online.

It really does feel as if we’re moving in the right direction and hopefully that continues. However, as we creep ever closer to a more normal day-to-day, our family and friends in Canada as well as thousands of others around the world are struggling with increasing COVID numbers and stricter restrictions. It’s difficult to predict when things will once again improve for them too, but all we can hope is that it’s not too far away.