Saturday, January 13, 2018

From 2017 to 2018: Reflections and aspirations

I am not a fan of stereotypical New Year's resolutions, but I do like to use January as an opportunity to reflect on the year gone and the year head. Last year I outlined six goals, which I return to below. This year I have identified four. Before getting to those, here are some general comments on 2017 and a summary of key events and highlights (also some lowlights).

Somerset (March)

2017 was our first full year as parents and I returned to work from maternity leave. We started and ended the year with visits from my parents, and also welcomed my mother-in-law in spring and my sister in summer. We traveled to Somerset and Suffolk. Goodreads tells me I read 40 books, which is less than I'd have predicted (I read 67 in 2016) but is probably an accurate tally. I am fortunate to have reading time on my commute to work, but these days I have little time to read at home. We didn't visit the cinema but watched 19 films at home (10 fewer than in 2016).

Overall, navigating 2017 feels like a highlight. We juggled my adjustment back to work, Mini Bite's start at nursery and many parenting milestones. I found the year much easier from a parenting perspective than the year before (albeit still with many challenges) and I now cook for three people, with Mini Bite starting solids early in the year. I still breastfeed morning and evening, and sometimes in the day too if I'm home, but we navigated night weaning when Mini Bite was 15 months old. Yes, you read that right - rather later than average as Mini Bite showed no signs of wanting to stop. The improvements in sleep from stopping night feeds are amazing. It now feels like we are out the other side of the initial, exhausting learning curve that new parenthood brings - albeit into the new learning curve of toddler opinions and temper shows.

I tend to use these posts to summarise good books and films from the previous year. Usually I highlight books I rated as 4/5 or higher but this year that seems to result in a long list, so I showcase the 5/5 reads only:

  • Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness (Scott Jurek)
  • On the Steel Breeze (Alastair Reynolds)
  • The Escape Artist (Diane Chamberlain)
  • The Misbegotten (Katherine Webb)
  • The Time Machine (HG Wells)

I gave 8/10 or higher to eight films:

  • Ethel & Earnest
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Lucy
  • Paddington
  • Pride
  • Room
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Theory of Everything

In the scheme of things, we are happy, healthy and have nothing to complain about. However, minor illnesses plagued us all in the months after Mini Bite started nursery, as her developing immune system was hit by the hotpot of germs that nursery brings. I think she and I were sick almost constantly from August to December. A particular lowlight was a stomach bug that hit all of us in September, when we were meant to fly to Germany so I could present at a conference. We didn't manage to fly and I can clearly recall the misery of Mr Bite and I lying on the floor, feeling terrible, whilst trying to care for Mini Bite (who was by then over her bug). It still smarts that I didn't make the conference.

Suffolk (October)

2017 goals
On a brighter note, my 2017 goals were largely realised:
  1. Run a half marathon in the latter half of the year. I ran the Tonbridge half marathon in October and loved every minute of it. My first half in two years, done with less preparation than usual, but completed with my second best time.
  2. Keep up pilates. I managed this for the first half of the year, but then the local studio I attended stopped evening classes, and I haven't gone now for 6 or so months. I would like to get back into this but know it won't be happening in the near future. My capacity to fit it in does not line up well with available local classes. I could make more of an effort at home practice though.
  3. Find a routine for advance meal preparation. Meal planning has made a big difference and I expect to keep this going for the foreseeable future!
  4. Related to (3), cut down on food packaging. I am not sure how successful this has been. In some ways we have done this, but because I run part of my commute home from work, I try to avoid too many containers and things to carry. This is not ideal from a packaging perspective. More thought needed.
  5. Get to the outstanding items on our 'To Organise' list at home (buying a rug for our living room, a mirror to hang over our fireplace, and a fire into the fireplace). Done, done and done (see below)!
  6. Live in the present more than I'm inclined to do. I suspect this will ever be a work in progress but I think I have progressed.
New rug, new mirror and new fireplace

Last but not least, here are my aspirations for 2018.
  1. Run two half marathons. I have my sights set on two local courses, one startlingly soon (February) and the other in October.
  2. Master the art of making soup. I am good at non-pureed, chunky vegetable soups but have a limited repertoire overall and make soup far too infrequently. I want to get better. Possibly my error is in thinking of it as an art, and I need to go back to step-by-step recipes (i.e., science) until I progress.
  3. Carve out time for family outings. Weekends flash by and all too often we are caught up in routine outings, errands and needs. I'd like to spend more time with Mr Bite but also more time doing enjoyable activities for all three of us.
  4. Take a proper summer holiday. For various reasons we have not done this over the past few years. This year we have a destination in mind (not a stereotypical summer one, but one that we want) and I hope we can make it work.
Happy 2018 to you and may your own year bring what you want it to!


  1. Sounds like you did well with the transition back to work and nursery. Though the illness must have been frustrating - sorry you missed the conference. I read about half the books you read as I don't have a reading commute and sometimes really struggle to find reading time and energy though I have enjoyed reading some books with Sylvia. Your lounge looks very cosy. Good luck with 2018.

    1. If I didn't have a reading commute I would be a very sad reader! It is hard to fit books in when life is busy. Good luck to you and your family this year too xx

  2. It sounds like it's been a really nice year, and it must be a great feeling to have done so well with your goals. I love your goals 2 and 3 for 2018 - looking forward to hearing more on both fronts. I'm with you on the packaging front - it seems to be so in-built into so many things, I don't know why everything has to come wrapped in so many layers of plastic or in non-recyclable tubs.

    1. I know, packaging can be so ridiculous. So wasteful!

  3. What a nice way to reflect on your year! I recall the germs childcare brings, and I’m sorry to hear about the conference. Very disappointing. I’m interested in how you record your books and movies. I use goodreads for books, but it lacks some features I’d like (such as private shelves). I don’t know of an equivalent for movies, so interested to hear how you do it. Commute time is a blessing - I often use it for books and podcasts that otherwise wouldn’t get my full attention at home. Happy 2018!

    1. We just have a Google docs spreadsheet for movies :-) Very basic and nerdy! It works though.

      I'm glad you get some commuting relief too, it makes such a difference.

  4. Wow, you read a lot of books. I only read when I am on holidays now. It sounds like you had a productive 2017. Wishing you and your family all the best in 2018!

  5. I admire your transition back to work after your maternity leave and your achieed goals for 2017. So sorry about the impact of illness and you missing out presenting a the conference in Germany, I do hope another opportunity will arise for you. I am super envious at the number of books you read, i only ever read/look at cookbooks and that is to change this year. One of my goals is to read 12 non-cookbooks in the year, and I am pleased to have finished my first for the year. As for movies, we watch loads (I enjoyed Pride), excluding following series on TV or netflix. Best wishes for 2018.

    1. Well, you do read far more cookbooks than me :-) You obviously do better than me at movies too - I have a tendency to fall asleep, to Mr Bite's despair! Happy 2018.

  6. I really enjoy reading your reflections. It seems like you had a really great 2017 (aside from being sick so much, which is obviously no fun at all). And I'm sorry you didn't make it to your conference, I can imagine how disappointing that must have been.
    You did great with your goals - the fireplace looks wonderful! As for trying to keep up with pilates - maybe youtube videos could be helpful at home? It can be tough working out at home, the motivation just isn't the same.
    Your 2018 goals are great! I'll be running a half marathon in February too =) Soup making isn't tough, but I definitely find I need to find a recipe and follow it precisely for it to work. If I do this, it turns out every time.
    I really hope you get your summer holiday.

    1. Thanks for the youtube pilates suggestion! That is a really sensible idea and would be feasible.

      I think soup and I need to get better acquainted via recipes :-)


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