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

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 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!

365 project

Day 298 – Neglect the rest day and you’ll pay for it later

Day 298 – Jan 10th

Time to hit the gym again, yes I am throwing myself into this healthy January thing with some relative enthusiasm, this is twice in one week, on top of all the snacks I’ve given up. I could be giving it a bit more, sure, especially seeing as I have completely slacked off on the cycling to work, opting for the much easier and far more fun motorbike instead, but I don’t want to end up hating January or just giving up. I need to make sure that what I am doing feels sustainable. Giving up is just so easy, and especially when making so many changes all in one go.

Today’s workout didn’t feel quite as easy as Monday, there are some days when you’re absolutely on it, and other days when you’re just not quite feeling it… today was most definitely the latter, but I decided to push on anyway. It all started well, but I was hurting by the end of it. Its full-on cardio stuff, but the running element is key at the moment, I need to persevere and keep increasing the duration if I am going to stand any chance of getting up to any kind of race distance in time for the half marathon. The Stratford half marathon I am aiming for may not be until May, but if I am only running twice a week then I am going to need all the weeks available to me to get the distance and the pace I am aiming for, I want this to be my best race yet. So I think a few days off to recover after todays physical assault on the body should hopefully see me ready for another run at the weekend. People think that training is all about pushing yourself as hard as possible as often as possible, but anyone who trains smart knows that rest days are as important as training days. Muscles need to recover and repair themselves.

365 project, Babies

Day 288 – Its certainly not like the old days

Day 288 – Dec 31st

Has it really been a week since Christmas eve?? Where has a week gone? It feels like we’ve done so little!

New Year’s Eve has always been a favourite night of mine, the party night of the year. Be it a house party or an evening in the city battling the crowds, some years I’ve even partied till the sun came up.

The wife isn’t quite as much of a fan of new years eve as me, it’s “just another night” in her opinion, which is fair enough, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Although in the past she has enjoyed a few parties with me and my friends at our one friends house who happened to have a bar and a dance floor in his conservatory and was happy to throw a party for a few years on the run, some good nights were certainly had there, and it’s just a shame the whole thing had to eventually be knocked down for an extension on the house.

Soon afterwards we became parents, and the New Years celebrations were pretty much confined to just the two of us, sat in front of the TV at home. I do miss the parties, but it’s the price you have to pay for parenthood sometimes. Of course, there is the possibility we could have planned in advance a little and organised our own party, but so many of our friends have also become parents in the last few years, that babysitters are strongly in demand and parties are generally quite rare now anyway.

So, we resigned ourselves to a night in. The girls saw a few fireworks before they headed off to bed and we ordered ourselves a takeaway, poured a drink and put the Wolf of Wall Street on to watch. I did get a last minute call from a friend to join them for a few drinks, but we had already ordered our food and Clare was going to attempt to stay up anyway, so I wasn’t going to see the new year in on my own.

Around midnight the fireworks kicked off, and our light sleeper Chloe somehow slept straight through them all, but our deep sleeper Olivia somehow woke up, and so we let her join us at the window to watch the phenomenal view that we had from our bedroom over a few miles of Birmingham, we had literally 50-60 firework displays going off as far as we could see, from somewhere down our road all the way up to a few miles away towards the city centre. I didn’t realise we had such a great view!

It may not be party central, but I had all I needed under one roof. Some good food, some drinks, some good tv and my wonderful family!


Day 282 – Merry Christmas everyone!

Day 282 – Dec 25th

Ah, Christmas day is here at last, and even as an adult I always feel a little bit like each Christmas day is a little bit magical and different from any other day. The truth is we know as grown ups that its just another day, but that doesn’t stop my mind putting on its rose tinted glasses and feeling like a 6 year old child all day.

The girls didn’t get up any earlier than normal, which we were very grateful for, and once they were up we could afford to take the morning slowly leaving them to open their presents and explore the toys they’d been bought. The dinner was all prepped and ready to go in the oven, and the house had been cleaned the day before, so all we had to do was get showered and dressed and then turn the oven on. Its exactly how we’d hoped the day would start.

Dinner was pretty much served on time, which I always see as a win, and I’d pretty much nailed the portion sizes rather than loading the plates so high that the table represented a small mountain range! There is a temptation to cook loads and serve people far too much, it is almost a British tradition, but I knew that it would only end up in the bin, and out of politeness people would try their best to eat as much as possible, and quickly regret it. Normally I get held up on serving everything up at the same time and wish I’d staggered the cooking a little more, which I think went fairly well today. All I wanted to do was get through the day without getting stressed about anything, and with the help of my wonderful wife, dinner was a breeze!

With dinner out of the way we could relax and wait for our evening guests to turn up, the in-laws, my sisters, and our neighbour. I’d even planned a quiz, which I’d created myself, something I enjoy doing from time to time when I get the chance, just a bit of fun for the evening which seemed to go down fairly well, everyone seemed to enjoy it which pleased me… I’d call that a success!!

And with that, I think we can safely say it has been a successful Christmas day all round, too.

365 project

Day 281 – T’was the night before Christmas…

Day 281 – Dec 24th

With Saturday out of the way, it was already Christmas eve, and thank goodness for the wife being so on top of things and virtually everything ready to go. A couple of cards hadn’t been delivered and there were a few presents waiting to be delivered, but they’d have to wait now. Christmas eve was upon us, without trying to squeeze too much in, we’d made some nice plans for the day. We had soem close friends visiting in the afternoon, and so made a big effort to clean the house in the morning, as it was well overdue and needing doing before the parents turned up tomorrow anyway.

A little earlier than we’d planned, we opened the Christmas eve box for the girls that I’d made. It was finally ready and looked great. The girls went though it exploring all the christmas eve goodies we’d filled it with, including new pyjamas, a christmas dvd, and some chocolates amongst other things.

Our friends arrived with their little ones, who sat down with our and tucked into a McDonalds happy meal that I popped out to pick up as soon as they arrives, while the parents exchanged presents for the kids to take home.

The next part of the day was my entertaining Chloe for an hour, while the wife went off to church for mass with Olivia. I managed to dodge that one as we knew Chloe would not sit still or be quiet in church. Not that anyone would have really noticed or that it would have bothered anyone, but it would have meant one of us chasing her around and being oblivious to what was going on anyway, so there really didn’t seem like much point.

Before bed we had to make sure that milk and a mince pie was left out for Santa, along with a carrot for the reindeers, and with the girls finally in bed, it was time to tidy up a little and make some room for presents to go under the tree. Then we could settle down, put a film on, pour a drink and order our takeaway!

Merry Christmas everyone!