Is there a place for routine, even in the holidays?

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Recharge, relax and unwind

It’s at this time of the year that your normal routine goes out of the window. Kids break up from school, so there’s no school run to do. Teenagers sleep in late. Once you have finished work, you begin to forget what day it is. We need this time to recharge our batteries and unwind.

It’s Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Holidays are here!!

Is there a place for routine, even in the holidays?

When our daughter was a baby, we followed a structured routine. Called the EASY routine, its essence lay in establishing a structured pattern of activity: Eat, Activity, Sleep, then time for You. This worked incredibly well, set an expectation about what would come next, and was the cornerstone of our activities in those early years.

As our little girl grew, the period of activity lengthened and the sleeps became fewer in number, but the routine stood the test of time until well into toddlerdom. We liked it. She liked it. It provided a structured but flexible approach to family life.

So, could establishing an agreed pattern work at other times, such as the holidays?

In her recent ‘Happier’ podcast, Gretchen Rubin provided a great ‘holiday hack’ that prompted me to think about the notion of ‘routine’ even though there will be no little ones in our family grouping this Christmas.

Rubin’s idea was simple, but it may just help you. It was this:

Everyone has quiet time on his/her own after lunch.

I can really see the value of this. Sometimes, you need to have some space, especially if you’ve been in ‘entertaining-mode’ and feel as though you’ve been feeding the 5,000.

You may get a post-lunch slump. That’s your body’s cue: take a nap.

During quiet time, kids may get to use their mobile devices unimpeded and may even (who knows?!) read a book, do a jigsaw or get creative with new colouring pencils.

Grandparents might be glad of a little respite, too. Creatures of habit, they may be used to a slower pace of life or just their own company. Suggesting ‘time out’ for everyone might be welcomed.

Come back refreshed

When you all come back together, you’ll feel refreshed and ready, once again, to be on your best ‘Christmassy’ behaviour.

What routines or structure will you adopt this holiday time?

The simple Christmas kitchen 

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I’ll be serving ice-cream at Christmas

My parents are coming to stay this Christmas, and I’ve been planning our festive menu.  I’ve been thinking about what they’d enjoy while they are with us.

I realise how much my ‘simple living’ approach has spilled over into what I cook and serve in the festive season.

As I wrote here before, my culinary tastes have turned towards plant-based whole foods.

Eat more vegetables

I eat a much wider variety of vegetables whilst consuming flavours and textures inspired by the cuisine of myriad cultures. This food is easy to prepare, visually appealing and delicious. In addition, it’s usually cost-effective, as I have more than enough to keep me going at lunch time, too.

Today’s lunch, for example, was Nigella’s sweet potato, black bean and avocado burrito. I had made enough for dinner last night, plus leftovers, resulting in a cost-effective and healthy way to refuel during the day.

Simple kitchen, simple cleaning

The other thing I notice about my simple kitchen is that it’s easier to keep clean.

Last weekend, my husband made – for himself and our daughter – a traditional English cooked breakfast. They enjoyed it, but he vowed afterwards that they’d go out to eat this in the future; the preparation and clearing away took up half the morning.

My ‘Happy Pear‘ inspired porridge has no such downside. Quick to cook, with a variety of toppings to add texture, taste and extra nutrients, the pan goes straight in the dishwasher and away we go!

Healthy mind in a healthy body

The other benefit is that of health and wellbeing. I have noticed that I am able to avoid the common cold when it does the rounds at work. I feel better than ever, maintain a steady weight, and don’t crave the type of foods that wouldn’t constitute a healthy diet. I have even become that woman who enjoys a couple of squares of very dark chocolate in the evening!

So, back to Mater and Pater. Dad is a meat and two veg’ Yorkshireman. My vegetarian burrito is not for him!

Having said that, he is partial to real Italian pizza. He claims that it is, after all, just fancy cheese on toast. But what to feed the family when I have vegetarian leanings, my husband eats Paleo and our guests have more traditional food preferences?

Keep Christmas cooking simple

I’m going to prepare (in advance) some plant-based sweet treats for me, but will also make some simple meals to keep everyone happy without stressing the Head of Catering (me).

  1. A baked ham for Boxing Day, with fresh salads and baby new potatoes, will appeal to everyone after the previous day’s traditional Christmas lunch
  2. Fresh clementines and medjool dates
  3. Luxury home-made ice-cream (yes!), will make light work of holiday desserts and keep my father happy
  4. Chocolate Florentines and Lily O’Briens chocolates will satisfy the sweet-toothed

So, because baking mince-pies or fretting over fancy menus isn’t for me, I choose the simpler route. After all, it’s about spending time with loved ones and enjoying the holidays that matters most.

How do you decide on your holiday catering?

Do you take a simple living approach or go the whole hog? I’d love to know! What’s your must-have holiday foodie treat?

Do what you enjoyed when you were 10 years old

img_0730Are you looking to make some changes in your life in 2017?

Want to reinvigorate your social life or find a new pastime? Maybe you’re even looking for a different career path? Well, the suggestion I recently read in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project really made me sit up and think:

Do what you enjoyed when you when you were 10 years old.

This is such a great piece of advice and I can tell you that reconnecting with your 10-year-old self is a lot of fun!

This summer, my daughter’s dance teacher announced that she was going to be teaching an adult tap class. Since I had recently given up a longstanding and very time-consuming hobby, I had now the space and time to give this a go. So, I said yes.

Rediscover your childhood hobby

I borrowed my daughter’s tap shoes and went along to my first class in September. Could I remember my shuffle-hop-steps or my step-ball-changes? Well, some 30+ years since first putting tap shoe to floor, I have to report that I could! Some of my fellow tappers were complete novices. Others had some experience.

All of us wanted to try something new and were amazed when we got straight into our first routine, a jazzy number to a fabulous tune: Pencil Full of Lead.

Share your passion with others

Some weeks in, we began to put the whole piece together and our teacher suggested we might like to perform in the school’s annual charity dance event. At that stage, we were hardly ‘show standard’, but we agreed because the event always raises money for cancer charities. This year, the proceeds went to Pancreatic Cancer Action.

This Sunday, the mums finally got to perform in front of children, husbands, friends and colleagues. What a blast! We had such a lot of support from the audience, who clapped and cheered as we danced along to the music.

Now, believe me when I say that I’m no Darcey Bussell, but I do acknowledge what a lot of enjoyment this experience has been.

Don’t wait to be 10 again

So, don’t wait until the New Year to get in touch with your inner child. What can you embrace, once again, that you enjoyed when you were 10? Who knows how re-discovering a former passion might shape your future?

Listen to your gut instinct: it will serve you well

Listen to your gut instinct: it will serve you well

How many of us feel our gut instinct or hear what our heart is telling us, but fail to act upon it? In today’s blog post, I’m going to encourage you to listen to your gut, to your heart or to your inner voice (or all three).

Often, the answer to a question lies within ourselves.

A conversation this lunch time reminded me how grateful I should be for a decision I made in the early part of 2015. That decision led me to my current job, where I have been for the last 17 months. Whilst my current role perhaps doesn’t play to all of my strengths, I know that I made the right choice and there will be longer-term career opportunities for me in the organisation where I work.

A short while ago, I wrote about why quitting may not be such a bad thing after all. You can read that post here.

Indeed, making the decision to change is often the hardest thing of all, but once your mind is made up, you can move forward with all the steely resolve you’ll need. Your decision might stem from the desire to move away from pain or towards pleasure. Either way, once you’ve decided, you’ll be much more motivated to make that change.

How many times have you heard people say, “My heart’s just not in it, anymore.” That’s their inner voice, giving them a little prod, telling them to be proactive and to take action. Listening to one’s own heart is a very good way to gauge what decision you need to make.

There have been times in my life when I have been about to make a bad decision. Making that really bad decision would have had longer-term ramifications that would no doubt have impacted my long-term future. In my first year at university, after having worked before returning to full-time study, I thought about leaving to take up another job.”Wrong call!” pronounced my body, as my gut instinct delivered its message in the form of a migraine.

Did I listen? Yes, thank goodness, I did.

In his 2013 book, Intuition, Elijah Chudnoff describes intuition as a form of “intellectual perception” that enable us to perceive “abstract reality” rather than concrete, tangible objects. It’s that intuition that serves us well when we need to:

  • leave a job that no longer serves us, in terms of career development or personal wellbeing
  • change careers altogether
  • step down from a personal commitment
  • end a relationship
  • say no to activities, invitations or unwanted obligations

So, take some time to listen to your inner voice over the holiday season. You don’t need to make a rash decision, but ask yourself some key questions:

Why do I feel this way?
What’s my gut instinct telling me to do?
How might it feel if I make this change?

Imagine how you’ll feel when you’ve made that choice. Will you feel a sense of relief or wish you had left things as they were?

Taking time out to reflect and review will enable you to make that choice, so listen to your gut instinct. It will serve you well.