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Quarantine has been interesting. It’s certainly provided a rollercoaster of emotions, particularly with two children adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of home schooling and a husband who still puts in the hours in his busy job. However, we’ve carved a new normal: There’s an hour exercise most day, cooking, baking, reading and even culture. Here’s some of the things I’ve enjoyed during lockdown

What I’ve read

With a slightly slower way of life, I seem to be able to carve out more time to read, which is great!

My first quarantine read was Where The Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. This is a much lauded book, promoted by Reece Witherspoon’s bookclub and also a New York Times bestseller. Does it deserve such plaudits? In my opinion, yes. It’s a touch fairy tale, but I adored the story of the abandoned ‘marsh girl’ who is ostracised by the local town, bar a few people, but she’s very much absorbed and accepted by the wildlife and fauna of her native marsh. A story with love and mystery set against a background of 1950s/60s America with the racial and social tensions it had.

Secondly, my book club still exists, albeit virtually, and this month, we read Ian McEwan’s latest novel, Machines Like Me. Set in an alternative version of the 1980s where we lost The Falklands War, and we have made huge technological advances with automated cars, smartphones and artificial intelligence is becoming more mainstream, so much so, the protagonist of the story buys an artificial human. This is a story of how we can automate, but can replicate the darkness of a human heart and we dissect why sometimes we deviate from the truth as the plot unearths a moral dilemma following the actions of one of the characters. Additionally, as we introduce these humans into society, we use them as fellow beings, but despite our input, do these ‘beings’ have rights within our society? The first half of this book was rather science-heavy and not that gripping, whereas the second half was gripping and it produced some lively discussion!

Lastly, I’m reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming. This has set on my shelves for a while, as it was the last book my mother bought me before she died,I couldn’t bring myself to read it. However, I am now, and I’m glad I took the plunge:  A graceful story of an elegant woman who presents the challenges her life has given her and how she has always strove to be the best. I will be passing this to my teenage daughter too, it’s a book all people, especially young girls should be reading.

What I’ve learnt

Whilst researching the blog post about Secondary School resources, I discovered a website called Future Learn. There is a mass of courses covering many different subjects. However, I decided to take a free five week course on Royal Fashion. I’ve completed week one on Tudor Royal fashion and thoroughly enjoyed it! I highly recommend these courses.

I’ve also tentatively donned my ballet shoes again after a LONG hiatus. I’ve been doing the live classes with The Ballet Coach on Youtube, and it’s actually made me want to take classes after lockdown, I’d forgotten how much I love dancing.

What I’ve watched

Pure romance, pathos and just beautiful filming, you cannot miss Normal People over on the BBC. It’s a simply stunning adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel. Also on the iPlayer, we’ve loved watching Race Across The World as a family. Gives us a little bit of travel, if even from our sofas!

For some easy watching, I’ve enjoyed 2 Broke Girls on Prime, and my daughter and I really loved Cheer over on Netflix. Sometimes, a rather hard watch, but ultimately very uplifting.

What culture I’ve seen

With so many exhibitions online, it’s easy to get some online culture. My favourite has definitely been a documentary on David Hockney, screen on the Royal Academy’s youtube channel.

I’ve watched quite a bit of ballet too: I love Metamorphosis on The Royal Opera House YouTube channel. I studied this at A Level, so brilliant to see it interpreted as a ballet.

What I’ve done to keep fit!

Keeping moving and fit is important for me, so during quarantine, I’ve made an effort to keep active. I still do my pilates classes via zoom, but I’ve been doing quick cardio and toning session from Lucy Wyndham Reed which I love, and after 5 weeks or so of doing them, there’s definitely a bit more definition in the arms.

What I’m wearing

I don’t like to buy too many clothes at anytime, and least at all during a pandemic. However, I needed a new summer dress, and making sure they were covid safe, I bought a gorgeous new dress from Marks and Spencer’s which has been perfect in the slightly warmer weather we’ve been having.

What I am eating

We are lucky enough to be Riverford customers, so we’ve continued to get their deliveries of fresh fruit and vegetables every week. They do a great recipe for carrot and coriander soup which I’d really recommend.

Added to that, the pressure to provide so many meals (I miss school dinners, even if my kids don’t!) means I’ve had to find a few more recipes to add to the rota. The best find has been Jamie  Oliver’s chicken pie, which appears in his 30 minute cook book. I can guarantee clean plates every time. I tend to use red onion instead of spring onion, and add in whatever herbs we have and normally leeks too.

Another chicken dish, one pan baked chicken and potato is really simple – there’s basically no real prep at all, you just chuck it all in a dish and let it cook for 45 minutes. The ingredients are simple – normally in your stock cupboard, and again it’s liked by everyone. You can find the recipe on Easy As Apple Pie’s website.

Lastly, our waistlines may be regretting this, but we love a loaf cake whilst we are all working / studying! Our favourites have been Taming Twin’s Nutella cake, a delicious lemon drizzle loaf and a simple, classic vanilla cake with icing!