365 project

Day 309 – We need to see each other more

Day 309 – Jan 21st

Try Dry January they said… you’ll sleep better they said… apparently not every night it would seem. Now normally it is me that is ill, picking up any number of germs at work, which considering the nature of my job is especially easy. This time, however, it was the wife’s turn to not be feeling quite so well, and the most obvious result of this was a cough that could wake the dead. Well, perhaps not quite that bad, but it certainly did wake the house up once or twice during the night.

Olivia was pretty good and must have gone straight back to sleep, as we only found out about it this afternoon when she announced that the coughing had woken her. Chloe is a bit more of a delicate sleeper generally, and needed a bit more interaction to get back off to sleep.

The coughing didn’t improve much as the night went on, and winter is always a bad time as people always shut the windows and have the heating on, which dries the air out and makes everyones chest worse. The humidity level in most peoples homes during the winter must be pretty low. Thankfully we had a humidifier sat on top of the cupboard, perfect for times like this. It meant faffing around with getting it down, filling it up and plugging it in at 4am, but the end result could be a much better nights sleep for everyone, well, for what was left of it anyway.

This clearly had little impact on Olivia’s sleep, as she was in our bedroom at 7am, not to climb into bed with us and quietly watch cartoons as we rest like she normally does… oh no, not today, this time she wanted to play with toys… yes, the very activity she could have easily done in her own room without disturbing anyone. She couldn’t be convinced to just take them back to her own room as she “wanted someone to play with”, and so as I had little left to bargain with, I had to give in and offer her the iPad to play games on, just so we could snooze for another half hour or so. Its not exactly a high point in our parenting, and I am sure others have done the same. I don’t see the iPad as a bad thing, I just don’t like using it as a babysitter. I should have been up and interacting with her, but I was just so tired after a bad nights sleep. I’d even written off going to the gym, which I wanted to do to make up for the half attempt at yesterdays run! Its fair to say that it wasn’t the ideal start to the day.

The one good thing about this morning was the fact that we literally had to do nothing before midday. We had a christening to attend at 2pm that was just 5 minutes up the road, so we could get breakfast, relax, and take things slowly. The only thing we had to watch was the snow that was coming down again, this time it had started to settle on the roads and was showing little sign of slowing down. The forecast had promised that it would turn to rain around lunchtime, which it promptly did, meaning we could at least get out of the house and get the car out of our road.

It was a lovely afternoon seeing friends that we just do not see often enough, it always makes me think that we should make more of an effort to arrange things. As gatherings such as christenings etc are just too infrequent.

I was at least pleased that I had managed to get through not only Friday and Saturday night without any alcohol, but also a Sunday afternoon in the pub with friends (our venue after the church) and the wife encouraging me to “take a day off”. I held strong, and even refrained from picking at the girls crisps, as they are also on the banned list.

So far the weight loss has had a positive, if somewhat unstructured start. We are now two thirds of the way through January, and I am not actually missing alcohol, crisps or biscuits too much, and I feel that a large part of the battle has been consequently been taken away. Previously I had used myfitnesspal to help me track food and lose weight, and it had worked a treat the first time around… the main drawback to that is that it still allows you to snack, providing that you log it all down and count all the calories. The snacks are my weakness though, my achilles heel, if I can cut them out then I will be doing a lot better than before. It is simply better to not eat them than try to regulate them. Once the weight is down a bit I will slowly reintroduce them. At my last weigh-in on the scales I was just slightly above 200lbs, which is a loss of 8lb since the start of the month. Not bad for just cutting out the snacks and booze!

365 project, Photography

Day 308 – McSnowflake

Day 308 – Jan 20th

Two days off at the weekend is always a great feeling, and it is nice to keep one day to relax, but I do also like to get a few things done on a Saturday and make a few plans. Its good to feel at least a little productive. Sadly todays plans didn’t quite work out as I’d hoped.

The mornings dance lesson for Olivia was about the only thing that we’d planned that didn’t change. Our next destination was a McDonalds for lunch, a bit of a treat for the girls, followed by a trip into town so we could visit John Lewis. We hadn’t even got to McDonald’s before Chloe was asleep in the car and the rather unexpected snow started coming down, so we had little choice but to abandon our trip into town, and took our McDonalds meal home with us instead. We’d assumed Chloe would go straight to bed and sleep for a few hours, but as it turned out getting her out of the car was enough for her to open her eyes and spot the burger and fries that her big sister was tucking into… meaning she was instantly awake and refusing to go to bed without eating.

So now we’re at home, Chloe has only had a 20 minute nap, a far cry from her usual 2hrs+, its snowing and we have already scrapped our plan to head into the city centre. At least the girls have had lunch, and I even had a cheeky cheeseburger and fries, probably not the best ahead of a gym session, which was my only other plan for the day, but it was lunch for me at least, and I figured its not so bad as long as I am not snacking between meals, which has been my biggest downfall up until now.

With my gym bag ready I am off to carry on my training, which starts off with a 15 minute warm up between the exercise bike and the cross trainer, followed by a run on the treadmill, a run I am aiming to increase by 5 minutes each time I do it, and today was set to be a 50 minute run… it has been quite a while since I ran for that long, but my 45 minute run went well the other day, and so I had high hopes. My legs were still aching a little from Thursdays run… although, as it turns out, that was to be the least of my worries.

I had only made 10 minutes into the run before I instantly regretted the decision to have junk food for lunch, my stomach was very quickly in a pretty bad way, and the more I ran, the worse it got. I was not going to complete my run today, this was as much as I could manage. The best thing I could do for now was to abort the run and save my energy and my legs to try again tomorrow.

I was hugely disappointed in myself, my instinct was to not have fast food for lunch, but I was hungry, I don’t have McDonalds vey often and I do have a weakness for a tasty cheeseburger!! This moment of weakness looks like it cost me todays run, which I was really looking forward to smashing. Maybe next time.

365 project

Day 307 – Its like Christmas all over again!

Day 307 – Jan 19th

Ah, the sweet taste of the weekend. There is no secret in how much I love my Fridays. 48 hours at home with the family and no work to worry about while I am off. The weekend has always meant several things, relax and watch a film with the wife, some snacks and a few beers/wines/whiskeys (delete as appropriate). It has also meant staying up a bit later, and having no alarm clock apart from the small, two legged, organic ones that sleep in the other rooms and come in to wake us as soon as they’re awake.

Why is it… and I know other parents are asking the same question… why is it that you only have to drag kids out of bed during the week, for at the weekend they are up before sunrise?? I cannot complain too much, we have two fantastic girls, they go to bed at a sensible time, usually by 7:30pm and sleep through until at least 7am the following morning. We nearly always get a solid nights sleep, and have no complaints. I know a lot of parents who don’t have it anywhere near as lucky as we do. Still, to have no movement in the house until about 9am on just one Sunday morning would be absolute bliss!

So whilst in the midst of Dry January, and without a single snack in sight, what does excite me at the weekend now? Well I do like to treat myself to a little caffeine buzz with a couple of energy drinks, sugar free of course, and dinner was a delicious chilli, not exactly a takeaway, but still very much Friday night food. Then there are my deliveries this week, some new clothing… courtesy of eBay of course. I don’t often buy myself new clothing, but have recently purchased a few SuperDry tops from the famous auction site. I only buy clothes that are well looked after and describe themselves as ‘hardly worn’, and in the meantime have saved myself a small fortune. A SuperDry t-shirt for £3.50 and a SuperDry hoodie for £5… yes please, I’ll take those. Sure its a little gamble, they could be terrible, they may not fit, but for the price I’ll risk it! Yes, I know theres a little charity shop somewhere that could benefit from my money if I am looking for a bargain, but I don’t get out shopping very often, so its either look online, or don’t buy anything at all. Now at least I have some clothing which looks new, feels nice and makes it look like I have spent far more than I actually have. Considering how many things are for sale on eBay, I know that there are many, many people doing the same, and probably just not owning up to it. Hey, maybe buying second hand clothes on eBay is still frowned upon a little, but so was online dating at one point, and look where that’s going now!

365 project, Photography

Day 306 – Run, run as fast as you can…

Day 306 – Jan 18th

After the nightmare of our trip to A&E on Monday night, the wife had an appointment today with Chloe at the Childrens Hospital to check her leg out again. Thankfully, although it didn’t come as a huge surprise, they found nothing, pretty much confirming our suspicion of a sprain. It was also reassuring to see that she had started to put a little weight on it too, which made us feel a little better, she was clearly on the mend.

The day continued to go well when I managed to get out of work earlier than normal, so I was home for just after 4pm, which always feels nice to be able to spend a bit of extra time with the girls. I know so many people who work hard for their money, and end up not getting home until it bedtime for their children, or even beyond that, which is such a shame. It must be horrible having no time to play and interact with your kids because of your job. I have always said that while my job does not make me rich, it does provide the opportunity for me to spend more time at home. The girls will not remember what I bought them, they may not even remember the places we went to, but I am hoping they will at least remember that I was there, as much as I could be.

Finally I could get back in the gym tonight as well, I had been waiting to see if I could push myself up to the 45 minute marker on the treadmill. This is crucial for me in regards to whether I enter myself for a half marathon this year, as the previous 18 months have seen me suffering with two injuries which were enough to prevent me from training for two half marathons that I was forced to miss out on. I am keen to see if I can make the leap from a simple 30 minute run back up to an hours running and beyond, to even stand a chance of considering a half marathon distance. As it happened, I followed a couple of simple rules, 1) stay hydrated and 2) focus on the breathing. With these two in mind, and some good music in my headphones, I was set and easily made the 45 minutes. The next target is 50 minutes on Saturday now, and so I am just hoping my legs recover in time!

365 project, Photography

Day 305 – If only we could do this together

Day 305 – Jan 17th

Mid-week and it has been a quiet week so far. Chloe is still not walking on her foot, its clearly still quite painful for her, although we are not especially worried as it seems fairly obvious that its just a nasty sprain and she’ll be back on it in a few days.

One big benefit of today is the fantastic nights sleep I got last night, going to bed extra early really paid off, and I woke up feeling much better. I really must try and do this more often, as I am quite tired of making new years resolutions about going to bed early pretty much every year. I am not normally one for making new years resolutions, but I am human, and pretty much think the same as most other people when the grim reality of January 1st sets in… must drink less, must lose weight, most go to bed earlier & must go the gym. Like most people, this is a recurring theme for me, I think you get to a certain point in life where you continually seem to be losing weight, or at least attempting to. Why is it that some people seem completely unable to get back down to the normal, healthy weight that the rest of the population seem to manage with such ease?

Anyway, I can’t complain too much, after jumping on the scales this week I am pleased to announce a loss of around 8lb since the start of the month, and this is pretty much just from cutting out snacks like crisps and biscuits, as well as the alcohol. The gym has been helping, although it is busier than ever at the moment, with the “new year, new me” bunch taking over all the equipment until they all give up again in February.

It is only the snacks and alcohol that have stopped, as meals are all remaining the same for now. They aren’t especially unhealthy and our portion sizes aren’t too bad. This evenings meal was a bit of a stark contrast for me and the wife though, she was off out for some fancy eating at a bar in a posh part of the city, while I sat in with the girls and ate fish fingers and mash! Oh well, she deserves it, she doesn’t get out all that often, and I know it will be my turn again at some point. Its just a shame that we can’t get out together more often as a couple to eat at nice places, like we used to before children, but I guess that time will come again soon.

365 project, Photography

Day 304 – Not just tired, but parenting tired

Day 304 – Jan 16th

After our previous nights excitement in hospital, today we were feeling the full effects of missed sleep. I’d worked out that I’d got just over three hours before my alarm went off, and knew that today was going to be a long day. As it happened, I coped fairly well for the morning, but then I sat down for lunch and it hit me… and all I could think about from that point on was bed.

Now it’s fair to say that I’m a bit of a night owl, and have never found it easy to get to bed early, but I knew that if I was going to maintain my running at the gym this week then I’d need to do something a bit more drastic than usual to make sure I had the energy.

After the girls were in bed, I did what I had to and started getting ready for bed much earlier than usual, and was actually in bed before 10pm, the last time this happened I’d taken the day off work and felt like I was dying with some flu virus.

Hopefully, with a little light reading of my new book, I’d soon be off to the land of nod!

365 project, Photography

Day 303 – You won’t always get it right

Day 303 – Jan 15th

They call it Blue Monday… the theory being that it is calculated to be the most depressing day of the year, using some fancy formula incorporating peoples bulging waistlines, empty bank accounts, the arrival of credit card bills along with various failed new years resolutions, and the miserable gloomy weather just doesn’t help.

The initial concept of Blue Monday was first publicised as part of a 2005 press release by holiday company Sky Travel, which claimed to have calculated the date using an equation. Although scientists consider this to be pseudoscience and have derided the idea as nonsensical.

Whether you believe it or not, it can certainly seem like a particularly lack lustre time of year, the poor weather and lack of sunlight leaves even the most positive of people pining for the summer months!

To me, it was just another Monday, a chance to get out on the motorbike again to ride to work as I was intending on saving my legs for a run at the gym later, where I am hoping to make a push on my running and extend my time on the treadmill again.

Sadly this wasn’t to be the case. I got home from work and was thrilled to see the girls (and the wife of course) as I am every day when I get back, they’re not always quite as thrilled to see me every day its fair to say, but I don’t take this personally. We sat down as a family for tea, and in a step up from the normal routine, Chloe decided she was having nothing to do with her high chair and wanted to sit in a proper seat like the rest of us… and to be fair to her, she sat and ate her dinner far better than she otherwise does. Maybe time to look into giving up the high chair, or at least thinking about it?

Suddenly she’d had enough, dinner was done and she wanted to leave the table, but rather than be helped down, the little adventure hero we’d created wanted to do it all by herself, and without much warning… only wasn’t expecting to slide off quite as quickly as she did. Suddenly there is a crumpled heap on the floor and the expected tears… only this wasn’t the usual tears.

Normally Chloe is quite a brave little trooper, and not quite as sensitive as her big sister, but she was clearly in some pain. Initially it wasn’t a huge concern as she’s always bumping herself on something, but when we put her down and she squealed as soon as she put weight on her foot, we became a bit more concerned. Now we’re definitely not parents that panic, if they get a cold we go to the chemist, not the doctors, if they get a rash, we see if it passes by itself, but it was clear we were going to have to get this one checked out at A&E, as she couldn’t stand on her one foot.

Now anyone who has ever been to Accident & Emergency at any hospital will know that you expect a wait of at least a couple of hours, regardless of what time you get there. The great thing about healthcare in the UK is that it is all free and everyone can use it… the downside is that everyone DOES use it, and there is no quick route to seeing a doctor, well apart from maybe faking death in the waiting room!

So with the in-laws at our house to watch a sleeping Olivia once she was in bed, it was off to the hospital we went. Sadly our worst fears were realised as soon as we got there, the place was packed! 8pm on a random Monday in January and it was standing room only. We knew this wasn’t going to be quick, but we were not prepared for how long it was actually going to take. Finally, at 1:30am, a whole five and a half hours after going into A&E we were finally getting back into the car. Anyone who says that the NHS is not struggling is a joker. The staff did the best they could and couldn’t have been any nicer, and they did all they could to make you feel like the only person they’d seen that night once it was your turn, but there simply wasn’t enough of them to deal with the queue. It was an uncomfortable experience I would not be wanting to repeat in a while. I can now see why they are constantly trying to drive the message home about not going to A&E with things that your doctor, or even a pharmacist at your local chemist can help you with. The girl that turned up with an eye infection wasn’t helping anyone, and the THREE friends that came with her, taking up seats that genuinely sick people could have sat in instead of having to use the floor were just as selfish!

Thankfully for us, after an inspection and a trip to the X-ray dept, there was no sign of any damage. Just a sprained ankle by the looks of it. One less thing to worry about at least.

We had certainly learnt our lesson tonight, and the £10 in parking just to be seen by a doctor only added insult to injury!

365 project, Photography

Day 302 – Is Sunday still a day of rest?

Day 302 – Jan 14th

I’ve always said that I want the girls to get out of the house whenever they can, rather than sit around and watch TV, and so after Olivia had asked to go swimming numerous times over the last few days, and I’d always found one reason or another to say no, I started to feel a little bit guilty, and I realised that this weekend I could change that. I was hoping we could arrange to meet friends at the pool so that Olivia would have someone to play with, but it was looking like most people were busy.

With the in-laws due over for lunch, I knew the wife would be too busy prepping and cooking lunch to join us, and if I took Olivia then I couldn’t leave Chloe out. So it was either take both the girls on my own, or disappoint Olivia again and take neither of them. I couldn’t say no again, I mean it was only swimming… what could go wrong?!

As it was, they were both fantastic, everything went to plan and I had no problems. They loved it, and I was happy that I’d taken them. We got home in plenty of time for lunch, and all sat down to eat once the in-laws arrived. With turkey and roast vegetables in the oven, it was starting to smell like Christmas Day all over again.

Once lunch was done, I just wanted to sit back and put my feet up and relax, but unfortunately I had promised my friend that I’d take a corporate headshot style photo of him, for LinkedIn and the likes. I really didn’t feel like doing this today, but I had promised and hate to let people down. I only had to get a half a dozen shots, so it shouldn’t take too long.

Sadly it was a very cloudy and dull day, and the shots I wanted to take using natural window light had to be scrapped. Thankfully I had a plan B and a plan C. The first, plan B, meant using two of my external camera flashes (otherwise known as speedlites) but with one placed in front of my friend and one placed behind him illuminating the wall. If that didn’t work out then I had Plan C, my studio flashes and backdrop to use, which was a lot slower and more fiddly to set up and take down, but would have guaranteed results. Thankfully this wasn’t the case, and the speedlites did a fantastic job, which was a good job as I had left all the other kit in the car, and it was rather cold outside!

365 project

Day 301 – Is there anything more important than family?

Day 301 – Jan 13th

I was feeling productive this Saturday, I had made a list of things I wanted to do, and they were realistic targets. Things needed cleaning, sorting and reorganising, and I had a weekend to tick them off my list.

However, plans do change, and things can crop up. The morning started off well, I dropped Olivia at dance class and left the wife to watch her while I took Chloe in the car to run a couple of errands. First was picking up a parcel from the sorting office, and the second was a quick trip to Streetbike to look at some cleaning products for the bike, and one of the items on my list involved making my GSX650F all clean and shiny again. I came away with cleaning products, but also a top of the range alarmed wheel lock for the motorbike. I have been reading so many countless stories of motorbike being stolen lately, a problem that is clearly on the increase. I have a good, thick, solid chain for the bike, but there isn’t always something to chain it to! At least now I will feel a little more confident leaving it unattended.

On the way home we stopped at the supermarket so the wife could jump out quickly to grab a couple of things, suddenly Olivia wants to go too, and I was NOT prepared to sit in the car with a crying Chloe who thought she was being left out… so we all went in. The kids love it, whats the harm?!

Once we were all back home, my next job involved clearing out the tops of the bedroom wardrobes and getting a bunch of stuff up into the loft. That was all swiftly ticked off. Sadly my attempt to clean the motorbike somehow turned into me actually washing the car, with Olivia rolling her sleeves up to help! The car wash all nice and shiny by the end of it, on the outside at least, and we were both rather damp. The poor motorbike didn’t even get a look in this weekend! Oh well, at least I have the cleaning stuff to do it when I have some more time next weekend.

With the girls in bed, it is time to relax in front of the tv, NOT open any snacks, and find a nice alternative alcohol-free drink to have in place of wine or beer.

365 project

Day 300 – We’ll just have to make the best of it

Day 300 – Jan 12th

Day 300, the last big milestone in the project if numbers mean anything to you. It is Friday night, and the torture of Dry January continues. It is lovely to be home from work early to spend an extra hour with the girls, but once they are in bed, we usually crack open the wine, open a bag of snacks of some variety or even one of those tubes that “once you’ve popped you just can’t stop”… you know the brand, then spend at least 20 minutes trying to find a decent film to watch, before we get 45 minutes into it only for me to notice that the wife is fast asleep and the film we finally compromised on could have actually been one that I really wanted to see instead! Ah yes, I love Friday nights at home, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Taking a month off the booze was a decision I have taken before, and failed at after a mere two weeks on my previous attempt. I don’t drink a lot, and never during the week unless I am on holiday, so it is only on a Friday and Saturday night that I actually miss it, and only because it has become such a habit, and a pleasant way to unwind at the end of the week, but its true, I do look forward to a drink at the weekend.

Still, my liver isn’t going to complain too much, my wallet seems a little relieved, but the big winner from all this I am hoping is going to be my waistline. The snack amnesty is still in force, along with the alcohol, and to be fair, both are going well. I am not missing any of them too much at the moment to consider myself weakened by their temptation. The results on the weighing scales have been positive, by doing nothing more than cutting out snacks and booze, I can see the weight falling off almost instantly. Of course, hitting the gym has helped a bit too, and I am looking forward to heading back at the weekend to see if I can push this running a bit harder!

So not our usual Friday night, but I am honestly missing the drink and snacks far less than I was expecting to. This bodes well for the rest of the month!