Monday, 18 May 2020

Unplanned Lockdown Lessons

Despite well-intended advice from friends and acquaintances, I didn't embark on any intentional learning experiences during the lockdown period. Yes, for many this unplanned downtime presented the perfect opportunity to learn a new language, brush up on their piano playing skills, or air out Grandma's old knitting needles. Not for me. As a first-time homeschooling mom with a young family, I very early on made peace with the fact that such ambitions were far too lofty for the chapter of life we're currently in. And I'm 100% okay with that.

A lockdown stroll with two of my favourite bubble mates.

So does that mean that I'm walking away from this potentially life-changing experience empty-handed? Not at all! Despite the dozens of valuable life lessons that somehow snuck its way into our household bubble, lockdown also gifted me with a few endless joys in the form of unplanned learning experiences. One of which involves a life-long passion: Food!

During the past eight weeks, and for the first time in years, I was able to spend my fair share of leisurely, unhurried time in the kitchen. There were no school pick-ups to rush to, no after-school activities to carefully plan our meals around, and no birthday parties, shopping trips, or visits to the dentist to juggle in between it all. The going was eeeaaasy and my inner kitchen goddess rejoiced.  

So instead of throwing together the same old dinners on autopilot, I had time to try out new ingredients and experiment with textures. I made nourishing soups from scratch, baked a truckload of muffins, and played around with an array of different flour types. Hey, I even blitzed up some flour of my own...! I drizzled, baked, scorched, and sautéed. I made marinades and sauces that were not from a bottle and, when an empty fridge called for it, even tried my hand at baking with chia eggs(!). But what I loved the most, was having the time to do all of this enough times over to become completely comfortable with it. And to start getting a feel for what works and what doesn't.

Most, if not all of my culinary creativity, was fuelled by the Run Fast. Eat Slow. and Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. cookbooks by Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan. I've sung the praises of the former book here and after almost a year of cooking from it non-stop (literally), I still can't rate it high enough. And I feel exactly the same about the follow-up. Both books - and these ladies' food philosophy - resonate with me very strongly.    

So while I'm not heading into Level 2 (which started last Thursday - hooray!) with any fancy new language- or instrument playing skills, I'm thrilled with the new dishes, ingredients, and culinary tricks that have already become a regular feature in our weekly meal plans. May I put in the effort and make the time to keep the momentum going!    

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Livin' It Up in Level 3

After spending the past five weeks in Level 4 lockdown (our strictest level of lockdown with the least amount of "freedom"), New Zealanders gave a collective sigh of relief when we moved down to Level 3 on Tuesday. And while Level 3, in practice, doesn't look much different than Level 4 for our family bubble, it does come with some pretty awesome perks.

For one, I get to run the trails again!! We're allowed to drive up to a maximum of 10 minutes away from our homes to reach a chosen exercise destination, which, in our case, is just enough to get me to my happy place. Woohoo! So on Tuesday morning, while the rest of the nation apparently flocked to takeaway joints for their first junk food fix in five weeks, I hit the trails for a fix of a different kind. 

My happy place!

It. Was. Glorious! How I've missed it all: The fantails tweet-tweeting in the trees. The delightfully soft running surface underfoot. And the carpet of autumn colours as far as the eye can see... What a great reminder this time has been to never take any of this for granted!

I firmly believe that it is impossible to run here and not be in a good mood!

And while we're not big on junk food or takeout, we're thrilled with the return of our beloved weekly pizza nights. Our favourite local, family-owned pizza joint offers free contactless delivery for the duration of Level 3, which we're, of course, wholeheartedly embracing. You know, "support local" and all that ;).    

So while Will and the kids are still working and schooling from home, and we're still spending 90% of our time at home, in our bubble, Level 3 sure has livened up our lockdown. Onward now to May 11th!

Friday, 24 April 2020

Thirty-Two Days Of Lockdown And Counting...

It's so hard for me to write something about these times. 

On the one hand, we've settled into our bubble routine and I'm really loving having the whole family by my side 24/7. Will and I have literally never been in each other's company for this long in one go since we met 14 years ago. I've also not constantly had the kids under my wings for this long in, well, ever. And you know what? I love it. And I'm so thankful for it. I get to spend heaps of quality time with each of my children, Will and I have found this awesome communication sweet spot and I get to nourish my family to my heart's content. My cup runs over.

Muffin Batch Number ... 349...?? Maybe someday I'll finally make enough batter to fill that 12th spot... (PS: This Superhero Muffin variation - my own, ahem - is a keeper!) 

And then there's the super slow pace of living right now... Isn't it wonderful?! I love not having to rush anywhere. I love not having to keep my eye on the clock or in my diary all of the time. And I especially love only being able to shop for essentials and then realising that we actually need nothing more. It's as if the planet is on pause and I, for one, am very grateful for the break.

We're all enjoying this breather!

On the other hand, I realise full well that this is not everyone's reality right now. Far from it! There is serious illness. Death. Anxiety. Sadness. Loneliness. Job loss. Domestic violence. And abuse. And none of that is easy to navigate.

So how does one consolidate these two conflicting extremes? Just avoid mentioning it? Honestly, I'm not sure. For me, all that's left to do is - by grace and through faith - take it day by day. To be thankful for the small things. To make the most of this downtime. To try and embrace the lessons that come our way. And to spread kindness and love as the lockdown rules allow.        

Sending you love from New Zealand.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Seen On My Run: Lockdown Edition

We're on Day 16 of our four-week Coronavirus lockdown here in New Zealand and I'm still relishing my street runs on alternate days. In all honesty, I've had to drag my unmotivated body out the door lately, but, as I'm sure you can guess, I've never regretted getting it done. Exercise + fresh air is just such a potent mood booster. Plus, there's so much positivity and encouragement dotted through our neighbourhood right now! Here's a glimpse of what I saw during my runs this week:

Messages of encouragement written on the sidewalks...

Kia Kaha NZ (Stay Strong NZ)!

Games drawn on sidewalks to bring extra joy to kids out on their family lockdown walks...

Sidewalk chalk art...

And even sidewalk jokes...!

And then there's the great NZ Teddy Bear Hunt. People have started placing teddy bears and other soft toys in their car- and house windows in order to make lockdown walks more fun and exciting for kids. Some even go the extra mile by swapping out their teddies each day, elf-on-the-shelf-style, in order to keep things interesting. How awesome is that?! It sure makes my poor caged-in littlies smile!

There are neighbours dropping off bags of feijoas for friends and neighbours...

And even the flagpoles are spreading a little joy!

But perhaps my favourite sight of all is still this one: Our beautiful river with Kapiti Island in the background. I don't run on the riverbank or the beach for now, but can still catch a glimpse of both from my roadside turnaround point as I cruise the streets back home. Man, how I (and especially my knees...!!) will appreciate the trails once all of this is over...!

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Learning As We Go

We're on Day 10 of our four-week Coronavirus lockdown here in New Zealand, which means that Week 1 is officially behind us! And while I'm well aware of the possibility that our lockdown might be extended beyond four weeks, I refuse to occupy my mind with what-ifs. We're taking things day by day and will cross that bridge if and when we get there.

If I had to summarise our first week in lockdown, it would be this: A steep learning curve...! Almost every aspect of our daily lives have been impacted by this new normal, so we're slowly but surely figuring out what works for us and what doesn't. That said, things are actually going very well! We had some wobbles mid-week - mostly caused by the sudden absence of a) 6+ hours of social interaction with friends (for the kids) each day and b) wide-open spaces - but things are thankfully looking up. 

Small signs of encouragement and positivity - like this smiley face flag - are dotted throughout our neighbourhood. We love it!

Our daily dose of out-in-the-streets exercise has been, and continues to be, a big highlight. Will and I go running on alternate days for a bit of me-time and endorphins, and in between that we take the kids on separate scooter walks around the block each day. I initially took them out scootering together, but soon realised that a) some one-on-one time for me with each of them, plus b) some time away for each of them from their sibling, are both crucial for lockdown happiness. Lockdown Lesson #235! 

A somber sight. Parks and playgrounds are all off-limits for now, but at least we can still run the streets!

Since we're technically currently still in the school holidays (and will be until 14 April), I haven't started homeschooling the kids yet. Instead, they've been climbing, scootering, crafting, playing and jumping. Which brings me to Lockdown Lesson #236: A trampoline, during lockdown, is worth its weight in gold...! 

Our one and only (climbable!) backyard tree is suddenly the place to be.

I've only ventured to the grocery store once since the start of lockdown, and it was an interesting, albeit surreal experience. "Stand in this line until you're called, and then you may enter the shop". And then, when you have everything you need: "Stand in this circle while your items are being checked out, and then, when the cashier calls you forward, approach the pin pad to pay via paywave". Yikes...! I  guess we'll get used to it...? 

The hardest part for me, so far, has been trying to keep the kids occupied (and their decibels at an acceptable level) while Will is working from our dining room table (in our very open-plan home). He's on phone calls and in virtual meetings for most of the day, which, believe me, requires some interesting (and exhausting!) tactics from my side...! I wouldn't say that we've found our sweet spot yet, but we'll get there.

Love and prayers from our bubble here in Aotearoa to yours! xx     

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