So here we are again. Lockdown number three in England stretching out ahead through the short stressful home schooling days and long dark nights until the vaccines’ rollout (we hope) drags us up out of the mire, like the early signs of spring straining their way up through the soil towards the brighter sky above. Sounds a little dramatic but unlike previous lockdowns in more agreeable weather, with more optimism for the future, this is tough...
It’s been almost a year of pandemic parenting and it’s taking its toll. With home schooling set to last even longer through spring, it feels like a monstrous monotony at times. Yes, we’re all in it together, but socially distanced apart. We’re not suffering from either FOMO or JOMO as there is literally nothing happening to miss out on. But we miss our family and friends, near and far, and long for travel. We’ve never felt luckier to be in good health and feel guilty complaining when we remember the bravery of the front line workers. It’s a heady mix of emotions all round. What we need to get us through each day are some mood boosting rituals that bring happiness and harmony above the chaos and uncertainty – even if momentary.
There are many lockdown cliches that began last year fuelled by scrolling through social media – the perfect sourdough, mastering a new language, embracing meditation, and reorganised wardrobes. I have managed none of these. This list includes none of these. I have managed to stare into the fridge and scroll through my phone in the hope of a morsel or miracle, too many times a day. I have also managed to keep it together, just, for my four children, husband and dog – my lockdown loves. Some days are definitely better than others – the days where I feel we are humming through the humdrum, and then there are days when the wheels fall off so spectacularly that it’s just best to think that tomorrow is a new day. I guess it’s an intense feeling akin to motherhood in general. Thankfully I have held my humour, grasp tightly to my gratitude and believe that spoiling myself with some comforts and me time, however fleeting, may bring forth a better me, and certainly a better mother.
So here they are – 17 little home comforts for winter lockdown that are lifting my spirits (and that don’t include books, tv series, podcasts or hilarious gifs from friends, as those are given essentials!). I hope some may also make your heart sing for a precious moment above the monotony and the mess.
1. Boots made for walking
Seeing walking is literally the pastime du jour, you may as well invest in some comfort. Cue wellies – the essentials for getting outdoors in the depths of winter. And getting outdoors in the depths of winter IS essential in my book! There are so many choices, but these Le Chameau girls were well worth the investment – extremely comfortable and warm with great grip for helping pull children out of muddy puddles. Cost per wear has proved excellent during lockdown too!
2. Learning for fun
While I watch my children learn every day, and try to help teach too, let’s be honest, it’s not always fun! It has also made me realise I want to learn again too. Serious study or mastering a new language is not so realistic right now (though my children and I do love the Duolingo language app), and I am envious of the children and their music, art, drama and French lessons! So I decided to use lockdown to up-skill too, just in something that required very little effort and was fun! Create Academy online courses to the rescue. You sign up for the desired course and keep the modules for life. Very easy to watch, inspiring, practical and enjoyable. I chose Rita Konig’s interior decorating course while dreaming of my future house renovation. Excellent winter escapism and a lovely evening alternative to Netflix… or the football.
3. Hair care share
I may or may not have let my 10-year-old daughter cut two inches off my hair. Ok, I did. But it only seemed fair as I had cut her hair the day before and she had set up a salon with her sister and it felt creative and fun. And I was clearly desperate. But I draw the line at colour. Josh Wood to the rescue. How clever he was to launch these brilliant at-home colour saviours (I love the root touch up) just in time for the lockdown ladies. They last a few washes, cover the greys that have arrived during homeschooling, and are a real pick-me-up.
4. Hot drinks on repeat
Cofffeeee. I long for real coffee – the Sydney kind and my very good local, Lynwood & Co, and on the wish list is a serious coffee machine for home, but in the meantime, our Nespresso is getting a serious workout. I simply cannot start Year 1 maths at 8.30 am before a coffee. Ordering CruKafe pods hit the spot, and the fact that the capsules are 100% recyclable helps ease the guilt over the third cup a day.
Hot chocolate. Fortnum & Mason is the best we have tried – the whole family loves it. The packaging is also pleasing, and it makes a very nice lockdown gift too.
Herbal tea. Clippers turmeric active. If you know you know! I highly recommend at 3 pm if, like me, you’re in danger of fading away. I have also re-discovered Horlicks – a comforting, if a little dated, pre-bed Winter warmer.
And stocked up on Falcon enamelware for hot drinks on cold walks. Obviously, they can also be used for cold drinks of the cheers variety too.
5. Cookbooks, to cook or dream with
Even if you’re rotating the same six or so meals week after week like me, one can still dream! It’s fun to imagine entertaining again and try a new recipe occasionally for your family. I am forced into baking on the days we have no time to get to the shops to replace the biscuit tin (I still cannot believe how much snacking is happening to us all!) so perhaps the accidental cook may emerge after lockdown. Here’s hoping.
My favourites right now are:
A Table For Friends by Skye McAlpine
Saucy by Nina Parker
A Basket By The Door by Sophie Hansen
6. PJs, all day every day!
It’s definitely worth investing in some lovely sleepwear given you’ll be wearing very little else of your wardrobe right now. Pyjamas all day I say, and nighties are making a comeback too.
Favourites are Yolke, If Only If & Sian Esther.
Also – bed socks – game changer. Particularly if you’re up in the night with babies still. And a great companion to nighties. My favourites are from Brora and The White Company. Cashmere bed socks also make such a lovely lockdown gift.
7. Flower power
It’s not easy to forage and find beautiful blooms to brighten your home in the middle of winter. Enter the queen of flowers, Willow Crossley. Willow has captured the mood of many this last year, providing creativity and comfort against the covid backdrop via Instagram videos, where she generously shares the tricks of her trade in a way that is both calming and uplifting. Her opening “Hello, I hope you’re well…” has become the soundtrack to lockdown escapism and as a busy mother of three, she understands the juggle, particularly in these tough times. Adding some foraged blooms to your home using unexpected vessels can bring so much joy. Her party trick with supermarket tulips is well worth a watch and I promise you’ll be inspired to lift the mood of your home with paperwhites and the like. Willow also has a course on Create Academy (see no. 2).
Read The Tale of Willow Crossley on The Grace Tales here
8. Instagram... style and homewares hunting
While Instagram gets its fair share of criticism, I absolutely love it. Yes, it’s not great if you’re feeling vulnerable or prone to comparing your life with others, but I find if you follow the right feeds for you, it provides inspiration and connection more than anything else found inside the depths of my phone. It’s also the gateway to finding so many wonderful independent brands and lifestyle inspiration. I’m not afraid to admit it’s a gateway to shopping for me too.
For fashion, I think many of us are shopping a little more mindfully right now – because of budget, because we want to know the story behind the garment, because we’re not needing to go many places, and because we realise we have a lot of clothes already!
If you don’t already, follow @ginniech00 (pictured above). Ginnie’s hot tips and humour will inspire you to ‘buy few & buy better’ and support the small independent brands. You can read Ginnie’s tale on The Grace Tales here.
Another style follow is @sarahsactualwardrobe. Sarah’s diverting form her usual high street buys to embrace an #oldclothesnewtricks attitude for the start of the new year – no shopping but instead showing ways to wear what we already have in our wardrobes.
For interiors, there appears to be a rise in Instagram-led antique furniture and homewares purveyors or perhaps I’m noticing more as I’m trying to furnish my new home on a small budget. eBay aside (and I’ve spent a lot of time on there), when you can’t go antiquing in person, may I suggest the following accounts for beautifully curated pieces to lift spirits at home.
9. Light it up
Step aside scented candles, we now want colourful candles to light up our lives. (Actually, we still want the scented candles too). Beautiful beeswax candles in hues of rose, taupe, and pistachio. Twisted, ribbed or plain and straight, anything goes. Place them in pillar candlesticks, wall candle holders, or even into floral arrangements. An instant lift to Groundhog Day meals right now! My favourites are from Pentreath & Hall, Matilda Goad (pictured above), Soho Home, and Fairholme.
10. Work out who to workout to
There are so many ways to workout at home now, that it can be almost overwhelming to work out who to workout to! Although I’d love to get to a class in real life, many of us are realising that cutting out the commute means we can dedicate time to a class in our own time. While running outdoors is still my preferred escape strategy, for body and especially mind, my favourite online class is through the Gold Coast, Australia-based Pilates & Co. They provide an affordable membership with pilates classes for all levels and the variety of classes and time durations makes it fresh and fun every time. Of course, a little Jo Wicks and Kids Cosmic yoga with the children also counts!
11. Get Crafty
Needlework is having a moment. As is block printing. And there couldn’t be a better time to embrace your inner crafter than in winter lockdown. There are so many clever creative women out there pressing flowers, threading monograms, and sewing scenes. Many kits abound, but my favourites are The Fabled Thread embroidery kits and block printing kits from Molly Mahon (pictured above). Such excellent gifting ideas too. And while you’re waiting for them to arrive, raid the children’s craft box for some necklace beading and mindful colouring – glass of wine optional.
12. Soak it away
There isn’t a better way to wash the day away than with a bath and book before bed. Time doesn’t allow every night but you never regret a bath. I’m lucky to have a bath at home (perks of having children!) and it’s becoming a favourite evening activity. Raging fun I am!
Here’s my wish list for creating a bath sanctuary at home:
Rose bath oil forever
Pedicure set because it’s time!
Bath tray essential
Deep sleep bath salts
Hand towels aplenty
Scented candle and dimmed lights
(PS, Thank you Matilda Goad for posting this divine bath picture by Simon Martin)
13. Make a pretty table
I’ve always loved setting a table with pretty bits and pieces, more than preparing the meal itself to be truthful, and would usually reserve the effort for entertaining or a family Sunday lunch. Now we are a family of six eating together almost every night, we make more effort. I recently heard Amanda Brooks on the AD Aesthete podcast mention her mother always asking her to ‘make a pretty table’ before dinner. I love and have adopted this and It’s worked wonders, with my children fighting over what used to be a chore. Options are endless but here are some favourites to make a pretty table – @sabre cutlery, @cutterbrooksshop glassware, and @zojora placemats (also available at @cutterbrooksshop) @daylesfordfarm plates, and of course, add pretty candles (see number 9).
14. Love letters
My five-year-old is sending letters to her friends and eagerly awaiting their replies. It’s beyond cute and we love our little stroll to pop the letter in the village post box, and check our own post box very regularly! The children also love sending letters to their Granny in Australia, and even their grandparents in England who we can’t see during lockdown. It’s got me thinking that this should also be a grown-up pursuit for the duration of lockdown. And that means I can indulge in lovely new stationery. Yay!
I usually spoil myself with a paper diary every year (a monogrammed Smythson if I’m feeling very spoily) but this year I couldn’t face the empty pages so I feel I can invest in monogrammed correspondence cards instead!
15. Write On!
Inspired by my eight-year-old son’s ‘Write On’ Friday lesson, I am looking to get back into creative writing and know I’m not alone. A lockdown silver lining appears to be a return to writing in many forms. If it feels a little daunting, I hear you, but here are some great places to get inspired…
Quill Kickers is a new interactive storytelling platform and the brainchild of award-winning writer Natalie Fellowes. It’s essentially a collaborative writing club powered through Instagram where you can be part of the narrative. Each week Natalie poses a question on Instagram and then weaves your answers into the thread of the next chapter, published a week later. Charles Dickens brought us the first-ever serialised storytelling format and Quill Kickers are booting this popular format into the 21st century. It also reminds me of my childhood ‘choose your own ending’ books and I can’t get enough.
If writing your first novel is your goal, the wonderful Marian Keyes (snippet posted above) is hosting great workshops with writing challenges and support via Instagram and her YouTube channel.
If motivation and a feeling of support is what you lack, check out author Clover Stroud’s Instagram where she supports the early morning writers club, brave women up writing in the early dark hours before the house and chaos rises. Clover’s book ‘my wild and sleepless nights’ is brilliant.
16. Music is the answer
As Joe Goddard sings so well, music is the answer. Always has been for me. I try to get a little fix every day, whether on a run or running an errand solo so I can play it loud in the car. It really helps me lift my mood. A good kitchen disco with wooden spoons usually fixes the grumps for whatever family member is suffering. While we have a Spotify playlist for almost every occasion, this one by artist Camilla Engstrom (whose dancing is seriously infectious) is a great place to start. It’s bound to get you moving.
17. The gift of perspective
It’s so important to remember that any home comforts are indeed a privilege. It can be hard to indulge in time to yourself or creative pursuits when you think about the vulnerable and the sick. While pandemic parenting is hard, it’s harder for those living with or losing loved ones to Covid 19. And those fighting the front line for the benefit of us all. It’s a good time to be giving and community has never been more important. There are many ways to help but fundraising is more practical than helping out in person with the current restrictions. I’m running the ‘50 miles in February’ challenge to raise funds for The Children’s Society supporting disadvantaged children. There are lots of running challenges for charities and it’s a brilliant way to get outdoors and remember those in need at the same time. Join me or think about supporting any of the charities below, and so many more.