health · top tips

Coronavirus Second Wave: Surviving Lockdown 2.0

2020 has been a pretty crazy year. I can’t say it’s been a bad year, because my lovely son was born in January, but it’s definitely been a mad year. And now it seems that we’re heading for the second wave of coronavirus… and another lockdown. The first lockdown back in March was a bit of a shock. None of us had been through anything like that before. Will surviving lockdown number 2 be easier, because we know what to expect, or will it be harder – for the same reason? It’s difficult to know, especially as we don’t yet know what a second lockdown will look like.

So in preparation, I’ve pulled together a round up of some of my favourite blog posts about surviving lockdown with your well-being intact…

Surviving Lockdown 2.0 And Maintaining Wellbeing

1. Coping with social isolation

One of the most difficult things about lockdown is the social isolation. It’s particularly tough if you live alone, but even those of us living with family, friends or housemates can struggle not being able to see the people we’re closest to, or even have those everyday interactions with other people that you don’t even notice under normal circumstances – a chat with a friendly check-out clerk, a quick gossip in the office, even just a smile in the street. Humans just aren’t made for social isolation.

This blog post gives some great tips on coping with social isolation, and the impact on our mental health. Check it out!

2. Creating a wellness retreat at home

My idea of maintaining wellness at home is agreeing with my husband an evening that I can have a bath while he feeds Little Man and puts him to bed (Little Man’s room is next to the bathroom and our pipes are super loud, so I can’t bath after he’s gone to bed!). I run a hot bath, add some bubbles, make a mug of herbal tea and grab a book to read while I soak. Luxury!

But this blog post made me realise I was aiming wayyyyy too low. You really can create a luxury wellness retreat at home – it just requires a bit of planning! Even if your family commitments mean you can’t quite clear your schedule for a while day of home spa relaxation, the links at the bottom of this post give some great ideas for lovely ways to boost your wellness when you have less time available. During coronavirus lockdown when you can’t go out or meet friends, it’s so important for your mental health to carve out some time for yourself, and this post is great inspiration for your next block of me-time.

6 ideas for surviving lockdown 2.0 coronavirus second wave mental health and wellness

3. Mindfulness meditations to combat Covid-19 lockdown stress and anxiety

Linked to the above, lockdown is inevitably stressful. Not being able to go out and spend time with friends and family is stressful in itself, let alone worries about catching coronavirus, managing food and medication shortages, employment issues and more. Mindfulness is a great way to combat stress and anxiety, and even as little as a ten minute mindfulness session every day can make a real difference to your mental health and wellbeing.

As we go into Lockdown 2.0, I’m going to be proactive about using mindfulness to manage stress, and working my way through this list of 10 minute mindfulness meditations.

4. Managing lockdown food shortages and limited shopping trips

If the newspapers are to be believed, panic buying has already started in advance of the second lockdown. Back in April, I set out some of my top tips for managing with lockdown food shortages and limited shopping trips. I’ll be revisiting some of those tips, and trying to make sure we have a well-stocked freezer before Lockdown 2.0 hits!

5. Improving Wellness At Home

I like this round-up post about improving your wellness at home. Some things are so simple and yet they do really make a difference to how you feel… Like making sure you get outdoors every day if possible. During the first coronavirus lockdown, we always made sure to pop into the garden every evening with Little Man, to spend a little time with nature, and it always really lifted my mood. Unless it was raining, of course!

6. Tips for mamas to survive Lockdown 2.0

Of course a huge focus of this blog is on parenting and being a mama, so I loved this blog post about how mamas can beat the lockdown blues. Of course a lot of the tips will be great for dads too (although probably not every dad will want a mini makeover). There are benefits to being locked down with kids – at least the time goes quickly as you’re caught in the constant whirl of feeding, naptime, playtime and tantrums – but there’s no denying it can be stressful and exhausting.

What are your top tips for surviving lockdown… again? Let me know in the comments!

coronavirus covid 19 second wave surviving lockdown 2.0 with good mental health and wellness
health

Going To Hospital During Covid-19 Lockdown

I recently had to attend hospital for an MRI scan and scan of my thyroid gland, as my doctors try to work out why I’m experiencing high levels of thyroid hormones at the moment. Although the UK has started easing Covid-19 lockdown measures, obviously in hospitals they’re still very strict about the lockdown rules, so I thought it might be helpful to write about my experience, to help ease your mind if you do need to attend hospital at the moment.

Going To Hospital During Lockdown

28 Days Beta

The hospital seemed very quiet and empty. I’m used to going there regularly with all my health issues, and it’s always a bustling place. Not currently! There were whole corridors completely devoid of human life. It was like being in a really boring zombie movie, where the zombies are quite neat and tidy and make sure to mop the floors once in a while.

photo of hospital corridor during coronavirus lockdown 2020
I am legend(ary with a broom)

In waiting areas, chairs had been moved to a distance of 2 metres apart, and where there were fixed groups of chairs, they taped off every other chair to create gaps. In one department, they had actually zoned the waiting area and each person was directed to their own personal zone! It did mean there was less capacity for waiting, and I saw one guy who turned up very early for his appointment being turned away due to lack of space, so that’s worth being aware of if you’re usually an early bird.

Everyone’s An Expert

Everyone is required to wear face coverings in the hospital at the moment. I brought my own mask (sparkly face mask by the amazing Velvet Jones Bespoke), but they were handing out free paper masks at the main entrances, and most people just seemed to be taking the free masks… Not sure that’s great for our cash-strapped NHS, but there you go.

wearing a sparkly sequin face mask at hospital during the coronavirus lockdown 2020
If you’re going to wear a face mask, it might as well be sparkly!

As a result, walking around the hospital you get the impression that everyone you see is a surgeon, because they’re all wearing surgical masks. There are a lot of sloppily dressed surgeons out there, I can tell you.

Visitor Free Since ’93

Now all hospitals are different at the moment, my hospital has started allowing some limited visiting of inpatients, but if you’re attending as an outpatient you’re not allowed anyone with you, unless they’re your carer or you’re a parent accompanying a child.

Break It Off

The food halls, shops and coffee outlets at the hospital were mostly closed. There was one coffee shop, the canteen and one mini supermarket open, both using social distancing rules. Everyone behind the counters wore masks and were behind plastic screens as well.

I had a big gap between my first and second appointments, so I was relieved that the main food hall was still open. Tables had been moved two metres apart and there was a man with a disinfectant spray constantly on hand, swooping in and cleaning tables when people left. It was very quiet though, only a few people in the whole place. You were allowed to take your mask off to eat and drink in there!

hospital dining hall during the coronavirus lockdown 2020
Table for one

One MRI, No Waiting

From talking to staff, it sounds like they’re doing fewer procedures and seeing fewer patients than usual, which is good news if you’re one of the patients they are seeing! The MRI scan lady proudly informed me that they no longer have a backlog (because they’re doing fewer scans than usual) and the technician who did my thyroid scan said it was the first time they’ve done that type of scan in three months.

That was my experience of attending hospital during the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully it’s useful if you need to visit hospital as well. Or if you’ve had experience of going to hospital during lockdown, perhaps you can share your experiences in the comments below!

coronavirus · food · Just for fun · lifestyle · recipes · top tips

Dalgona Coffee – Fun Korean Coffee Drink You Can Make During Lockdown!

So my awesome husband came across this great recipe for an awesome chilled coffee drink you can make at home. It’s called Dalgona coffee, it’s Korean, you can make it with ingredients you already have, and it feels like something super fancy you need to go to a coffee shop for!

He got the recipe from this website and I’ll direct you there as well for the full details. Essentially you make a meringue-style coffee foam by whisking equal quantities of good-quality instant coffee and sugar with a little bit of water, until it forms stiff peaks just like a meringue. Then you dollop it into cold milk. You can either mix it in with the milk or leave the foam on top and drink the milk through the coffee foam – I recommend the latter option because not only does it taste great, but the velvety texture is very satisfying.

It’s very quick and easy, and you can make a large amount of coffee foam and refrigerate it for a couple of days to use later. We made dalgona coffee over lunch one day and it was a great afternoon treat and something a bit different to do during quarantine.

A picture of our dalgona coffees is below…

cocktails · coronavirus · food · Just for fun · recipes · Uncategorized

Lockdown Fun: The Quarantini Challenge

So lockdown is boring (have I mentioned that?), and we have to find ways to make it more fun. My awesome husband came up with the idea of inventing a cocktail with just ingredients we already have in the house (although, fair warning, we do have two shelves of booze in the pantry, so it’s not a particularly heavy restriction). Clearly this would be named… The Quarantini. And this is the Quarantini Challenge!

I suggested we should each separately come up with a recipe and swap. Originally we were both going to make our drinks on Sunday evening, but after Martin made his drinks, it rapidly became clear that having another cocktail each would result in a much higher level of inebriation than intended or appropriate for a Sunday night. So I made mine on Monday instead.

Read on for the recipes…

the quarantini challenge lockdown fun coronavirus covid 19 original recipe cocktail the sickly mama blog

Martin’s Quarantini: The Dirty Artini

Named after Dirty Arty, a video game character notorious for eating tinned peaches and leaving the cans behind (among other things). Martin went with the base of a classic Martini, and a quarantine twist straight from our cupboard of canned goods. His recipe:

  • 50ml gin (he used Roku gin, a Japanese brand)
  • 10ml Marsala wine
  • 10ml peach liqueur (or umeshu)
  • 15ml tinned peach juice

The above to be stirred over ice, strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a slice of tinned peach (lockdown bonus: you get to eat the rest of the tin afterwards).

My Quarantini: The Jumbletini

Named because it was made of a total mish-mash of random booze from the store cupboard, I proudly present my recipe for a quarantini:

  • 25ml spiced dark rum (I used Kraken rum, our favourite)
  • 25ml lemon gin (Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle)
  • 10ml pink grapefruit gin (from the Ely Gin Company)
  • 10ml umeshu (Japanese plum wine which I’m obsessed with, I used The Choya Single Year)
  • lemonade to taste
  • mint leaves from the garden

I smushed up the mint leaves (technical term) and served the above over ice in our favourite sparkley whiskey glasses.

The Quarantini Challenge: Who Won?

Obviously it pains me to admit it, but Martin’s quarantini was better! My cocktail was pretty nice actually, and I would drink it again, but Martin’s was delicious, plus you got to eat the boozey peach slice at the end, which was awesome. So yes: Martin won the Quarantini Challenge!

Have you made a quarantini? What was your recipe? I’d love to try other people’s store cupboard cocktails too!

More lockdown fun…

I’ve also written about my kitchen tips and tricks for lockdown, focusing around cooking and storage tips and ideas for stocking up during the Covid-19 pandemic. Why not check it out?

coronavirus · food · food storage · recipes · top tips · Uncategorized

Lockdown Larder: Kitchen Tips and Tricks for Food Shortages and Limited Shopping Trips

Hi guys! I thought today I would share some of my best lockdown larder tips for cooking and stocking your kitchen during the current coronavirus lockdown. My husband is the chef in our household, while I do the baking. As I’m on maternity leave though, I’ve done most of the organising of food shops and storage.

I’m currently sat in our living room with my three month old son, who is busy doing a poo. This is a rather involved process requiring a lot of concentration, so I guess we could be here a while. I might as well do something useful with the time…

Lockdown Larder: Kitchen Tips and Tricks

1. You Can Freeze Milk

I was surprised how many people don’t know this! But you can totally freeze fresh milk. My mum has been doing this for years to ensure the house never runs out. I currently have four spare bottles of milk in the freezer for the times when we can’t get hold of it at the supermarket. Obviously if you’re going to do this, be considerate – don’t buy up loads of milk at once, as that’s what leads to shortages. Buy a little extra and set it aside over several shopping trips. Also, fair warning: frozen milk does turn yellow, which looks slightly horrifying, but it goes white again when you defrost it.

Bonus tip: you can also freeze butter.

2. You can make bread without yeast.

I know a lot of places are experiencing shortages of baker’s yeast, but you can make delicious flatbread without yeast, such as Indian naan bread (click for the recipe) or, if you prefer something that’s a more traditional loaf, you can make Irish soda bread.

However, in actual fact you can make a lot more kinds of bread because…

3. You don’t need yeast to make yeast

You can make your own yeast with just flour and water, by capturing natural yeast from the air to make a sourdough starter. Once your sourdough starter is going, you can bake all kinds of yeasted breads and cakes from it. Plus, if you’re homeschooling kids, it makes for a great home science project!

Speaking of which…

4. You don’t need eggs (or flour) to make cake

Obviously a lot of cake recipes require egg, and there seem to be a lot of shortages of eggs at the moment. Local farm shops/veg box delivery companies are a good alternative source to the supermarket, if you live somewhere a bit more rural.

However, if you can’t get eggs there’s still plenty of easy bakes you can do without them (and if you have kids, they’ll enjoy making them too). Try making scones,* or flapjacks are a great bake if you can’t get hold of eggs or flour. You can even make meringue without egg whites. There are also lots of vegan recipes online that are egg free, so get a’googling!

5. Green lentils bulk out meat dishes

If you are trying to ration what’s in your freezer, but want to make dishes such as cottage pie or spaghetti bolognese (really anything involving minced meat), you can make your mince go further by bulking out with green lentils. Cook your ragu or sauce, add the lentils about fifteen minutes before the end, and your meal will go much further, still taste deliciously meaty, and actually be healthier as well. Triple win! Plus, kids will not notice that you’re secretly feeding them veg. Quadruple win?

6. Freeze freeze freeze

Obviously you want to be making best use of your freezer right now, and minimising the number of trips to the supermarket wherever possible. There’s a lot of stuff that you can’t just freeze – lots of fresh vegetables need blanching before freezing, which is a total pain. On the other hand, I hear that scurvy is worse.

If you’re lazy like me, you can straight-up freeze onions and peppers (chop them first) without blanching, which is handy for making fajitas and stir fries etc. Then put other veg in sauces, soups, ragu etc. which can be frozen once cooked and make for an easy ready meal for your future self.

…And that’s me pretty much done on the top tips front, so let’s finish up with a few wise words from Ryan Gosling.

Lockdown Larder: Your Top Tips

Do you have any lockdown larder tips for food storage or preservation? I’d love to hear your ideas! Let me know in the comments.

* The recipe I’ve linked to suggests using egg to glaze, but you can substitute milk, or just not bother glazing!

coronavirus · health

“Mummy, What Did You Do During the Pandemic?”

“Mummy, what did you do during the pandemic?”

“Well, darling, mostly I sat around the house wiping your vomit off things.”

It’s been three weeks now and I’ve left the house once for a walk and once to take Little Man to the doctor’s for his second set of vaccinations. It’s not really how I envisaged my maternity leave going. After two months, I’d just got to the point where taking Little Man out no longer felt like a huge undertaking, and I could predict how much time I would need to get us ready before leaving the house. I was just starting to think of doing some more adventurous trips out with him on my own, when coronavirus really hit and we had to stay in the house.

It’s hard not to be a bit gutted when I think of all the plans we had for maternity leave which probably won’t happen now. We were planning to take him for a couple of weeks in Ireland, drive down to Devon, we had family planning to visit from Japan in the summer, I was hoping to arrange some kind of ‘welcome to the world’ party for him… The list of cancellations goes on.

Equally, we have to get through this by staying positive and there are some positives. His dad is working from home which means he gets to spend so much more time with us, and that’s lovely for everyone (although he may not agree when he’s on a conference call and Little Man is kicking off downstairs). Plus, financially things aren’t so tight as expected with my maternity pay reduction, because we’re not going out and spending money.

Sometimes it feels a bit useless to be sat indoors, so I have to keep reminding myself that we’re at least doing our bit to try to avoid spreading this horrible virus around. We’re so grateful to all the keyworkers who make it possible for us to stay at home, from the delivery men who bring our shopping, to the medical staff on the front line who probably would like nothing more than to be sat at home with their kids every day, wiping vomit off things.

#stayindoors

birth · coronavirus · health · pregnancy · Uncategorized

Why No Woman Should Have To Give Birth Alone – Please Sign The Petition

Today’s blog post was going to be about a totally different subject, but I’ve just seen this petition and I think it’s so important that I want to share and write about it now.

Due to Covid 19, many hospitals (not just in the UK) are restricting the presence of birth partners on wards before and after births, only allowing their presence for women in active labor. However, there is now concern that some hospitals may be considering stopping birth partners from attending at all, and requiring women to labor in hospital alone.

This is a serious cause for concern. Continuous support from a birth partner is associated with improved outcomes for women and babies, including a reduction in the requirement for interventions. Unsurprisingly, it can be difficult for women to advocate for themselves while they are in the middle of giving birth, and they need to have a supportive, trusted person on hand who can do that for them.

One of the reasons I feel strongly about this is my personal experience. When I gave birth, I was induced and I dilated extremely quickly, much faster than the midwife expected. I had been told they would check on my dilation after four hours, and they were expecting progress of about half a centimetre per hour. Until I reached 4cm dilated I was not going to be allowed gas and air, all I could have was paracetamol or an epidural. After 2 hours I was in so much pain that I asked for an epidural as I couldn’t see how I could cope with twelve hours or more of it, but no anaesthetist was available. Shortly after that, I felt my body starting to push, and told the midwife, but she didn’t believe I could be that far along. It was only because my husband was there and was insistent that they check what was going on, that the midwife looked, at which point she realised that I was fully dilated and in the process of pushing the baby out! Cue a massive panic because she was not ready for that stage of labor (and for some reason this seemed to require a lot of online paperwork) but at least I finally got the gas and air. If my husband hadn’t been there to advocate for me, god knows at what point they would have realised the baby was on its way, because I was in no position to have a debate and in the absence of any real pain relief could barely talk.

For some women, the presence of a birth partner and advocate is even more important. Black women are five times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth when compared to white women in the UK. Mixed race and Asian women also suffer a higher risk of death. These women are being let down by our health system and the professionals who attend them. They need to have the support of a trusted partner when giving birth, and are likely to be disproportionately badly affected by any ban on attending birth partners.

In America, where some hospitals had already enacted a ban on birth partners, they have been forced to back down after a public outcry. Let’s make sure that a ban of this nature can’t happen in the UK.

The irony is that in the US, the bans were enacted after asymptomatic pregnant women, who were carrying the virus without knowing, infected hospital workers during labour. But restricting the presence of birth partners obviously does nothing to reduce the risk of labouring mothers transmitting the virus – they still have to be in hospital. Instead, we would protect both women, babies and health workers far better by ensuring that UK midwives, doctors and nurses are provided with adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect them from the risk of transmission from women or birth partners during labour. So far the government and Public Health England have been absolutely woeful at ensuring staff are protected with sufficient PPE in line with WHO guidelines. We’ve heard a lot about companies being drafted in to supply more ventilators – but PPE is just as important.

Please sign the petition here: change.orgMe and Little Man

coronavirus · food · top tips

Quarantine Win: Veg Box, Baby

We usually get our shopping delivered by Sainsbury’s, as doing a big food shop with a tiny baby is really a two-man job. When Sainsbury’s announced they were restricting delivery slots to priority customers only just over a week ago, this created a bit of a problem. Given that Little Man is not even three months old yet, and given my exciting litany of health conditions including reasonably bad asthma (which has conveniently started early this year, thanks pollen), we are really trying to avoid leaving the house at all.

So I went online and tried to find a local vegetable box delivery company that wasn’t completely booked up. We live in a very agricultural area, so it seems logical that you should be able to get hold of fresh eggs and vegetables without going to the supermarket. It took a while but I finally found a company that were still taking orders and put in for a box. I had actually totally forgotten about it by the time the box arrived yesterday, because we had managed to get a delivery slot with Sainsbury’s. So it was an awesome surprise! The vegetables look amazing and we got a dozen eggs as well. If you’re struggling to get food delivered, it’s definitely worth looking for veg box companies near you.

Not pictured: two dozen eggs
coronavirus · health · top tips

Top Tips for the Coronavirus Outbreak #001 Social Distancing

The little man has some strong suggestions for maintaining social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak…

How are you finding lockdown so far? It’s a very strange time. We’ve been trying to stay in the house as far as possible… And trying to see the positives. For instance, at least it means there’s no risk of being caught out in public when Little Man has a major poo explosion! I’ve not really managed to get the hang of those baby changing tables you get in public toilets, so every time I had to use one I found it super stressful.

Plus, as my husband is working from home full time at the moment, he gets to see much more of Little Man than he otherwise would, which is really special at such a young age. He’s already growing so quickly! I do miss going out to the children’s centre and meeting other mums though.