2018: 12 months, 12 challenges | Simply Marcia


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2018: 12 months, 12 challenges

Having made it to mid-January without a drop of alcohol (the longest I’ve gone without a G&T for years – literally), and determined to see Dry January through until the bitter end (16 days and counting …), I’ve decided to create 11 further month-long challenges.

Why? Well a) because having an end in sight is motivation in itself, b) around 4 weeks for a challenge is doable as far as I’m concerned (and before the novelty value wears off) and c) past experience has shown me that grand sweeping, generic resolutions along the lines of ‘I’m going to get fit’ or ‘I’m going to lose weight’ just never, ever work for me.

But, short-term commitments or challenges are good for me. I’m not always very good at trying new things – it’s the scared-of-failure thing I think! So anyway, I’m hoping that one of the outcomes of my challenges is that I learn to enjoy new habits – so most of my monthly challenges are based around nutrition, health, fitness and good mental health practices.

So this is my plan of monthly challenges:

January
I’m already half-way through dry January and to be honest, it’s going ok actually. I’ve had the odd moment where I’ve really fancied a cheeky little G&T but I’m determined to get to 1st Feb without alcohol – I think I might be finally discovering the will power I never thought I had.

February
Sugar free February. Supported by Cancer Research UK, this is another higher-profile monthly challenge. Their site has loads of tips and advice. I’ve also found some great recipes on The Body Coach site as well as individuals on Twitter to follow including London Health Mum for sugar free tips.

March
30 minutes of blogilates every day. Ok, so 30 minutes a day might not sound like much of a commitment but, this will be on top of my 45 minute daily uphill dog walk (and work, children, etc) – so for me, this IS a commitment.

April
3 vegan days per week. I try to have around 3 completely meat free days per week and have vaguely dabbled with vegan meals but want to do it properly a few days a week. A great site for tracking down ready-made vegan meals, snacks etc is My Vegan Supermarket and for vegan recipes and a 30 day Vegan Pledge you can take, to go vegan for 30 days, The Vegan Society will be my go-to.

May
The Body Coach’s 2 week (x 2 workout plan to lose weight and tone up fast! I’m anticipating this one being tough – we’ll see how it goes!

June
No dairy. I’ve more time to research this monthly challenge but found Healthy Magazine is a useful starting point.

July
Meditation and month of calm! In preparation for the kids breaking up from school, I thought this might be apt – I’ve done a bit of research and loads of people swear by the Calm app so I’m going to be downloading this and

August
I’ve always fancied having a go at making some of my own skincare, so with that in mind, James Wong’s book ‘Grow your own drugs‘ in hand and Lucy Bee’s website on stand-by, that’s my plan (though if it doesn’t quite work out I will might treat myself to a VeganKind beauty box).

September
Like January, September is a month of new starts and good habits, so am planning on doing the squat & plank challenge (eeek, do I know what I’m letting myself in for?!)

October
Surf school. I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf properly – or at least have a go! I’ve chosen October as it’s out of season but the sea is still a good temperature. There are some brilliant surf schools here in Cornwall – the one I’m thinking about learning with is Surf’s Up in Polzeath.

November
Walking to running. I remember running as a child ha! But am keen to see if I can still run so will be downloading the 30 minute run plan from Women’s Running to get me motivated and started!

December
Green Christmas. I’m pretty sure that as per all previous years, December will be busy and pressured enough as it is, so no fitness or health challenge here except to have as green a Christmas as possible.

Have you ever set yourself a month long challenge? How did it work out for you? Or maybe you’re feeling inspired to try a challenge or two this year?

Wish me luck! x


Starting an allotment – some tips!

Ok, so I’m not particularly known for being green-fingered or a natural gardener amongst my friends and family – which means I’m definitely not an expert horticulturist. But I do love food! I do love using fresh ingredients and creating new recipes, and I do come from a family of small-holders and grown-your-own’ers. So as far as I’m concerned that’s all the qualification I need!

I had an allotment a few years ago when my children were really little but to be honest, I didn’t really have a clue … I mean, I did actually grow stuff – but more by luck than proper planning – think too many courgettes, very scraggly, teeny-tiny carrots and, amazingly, an annual glut of berries! After a couple of year I sadly had to let it go – basically the combination of other commitments – work, children, logistics – and the fact that the allotment was a good 3 miles from my home at the time didn’t help…

Roll on a good 10 years: a new home in Cornwall, a new freelance working-from-home life and a close-to-home allotment means that 2018 is the year of the allotment for me. And in order to get it a bit more right than last time, I’ve been doing my homework and been plotting and planning and have come up with these ‘starting an allotment’ tips:

Do your research
Have a proper nose around your own allotment and the other allotments. What seems to grow well (obviously this will depend on the time of year)? More importantly, talk to and ask the locals – in my experience, other allotmenters are a friendly, helpful, super-knowledgeable bunch and will be the best source of local soil conditions, what grows well and what doesn’t.

Invest in a couple of allotment handbooks
I still have my allotment books from first time around and they’re still brilliant – full of useful advice and tips – great for complete beginners or more experienced gardeners. My go-to books are:

The Allotment Handbook by Caroline Foley
Grow Your Own Veg by Carol Klein

Both offer easy-to-understand advice on planning, weeding, sowing, planting out, the months/seasons and soil types as well as all you need to now about the likes and dislikes of individual plant families

Find online allotment bloggers to follow
For tips and topical, relevant allotment and growing advice, allotment bloggers are just brilliant – find some that you like. I find Twitter is the best source. I really enjoy the realistic and easy advice (and humour) from Richard Chivers’ Sharpen your Spades and Bohemian Raspberry.

As I have a large allotment plot, as well as growing fruit and vegetables, I also want to give a small patch to wild flower growing. Little Green Space is a wonderful Twitter account to follow for tips on green living and creating green spaces for nature and wildlife.

Get an allotment planner
This is essential for all your scribbles, plotting and planning. I have an A5 notebook. I jot planned as well as random, thoughts, ideas and drawings in it as well as sticking in snippets of advice or ideas I’ve found in the weekend papers or magazines – it’s a proper scrapbook i guess.

Grow what you like to eat
This time around, armed with local knowledge of the well-growing plants here, I’m going to start the allotment by focusing mostly on sowing seeds, planting seedlings and growing produce that we actually eat. I’m not going crazy as I don’t want to feel too overwhelmed – it’ll literally be an organic, rolling process. So for us, that means fruit, veg and herbs including:

– onions, garlic, leeks
– broccoli, kale, peas
– beetroot
– pumpkin, squash
– cucumber, courgette, lettuce
– berries
– rhubarb
– herbs: mint, rosemary, chives, thyme, sage

Although we eat plenty of them, this year I’m avoiding potatoes, most root veg e.g. carrots, and Mediterranean / greenhouse produce such as tomatoes and peppers. Partly because they’ve seemed so labour-intensive in the past, but haven’t grown too well, but also because we eat so much of them and actually, our local farming cooperative sells them at a ridiculously decent price.

Seeds
There are so many places to buy decent seeds or seedlings and plants now. One of my favourites is Dobies. They have loads of choice, a brilliant tips and advice-laden website and their prices are good.

Get equipped
You will need equipment to help you handle your allotment. Essentials include:
– decent gardening gloves
– wellies
– sturdy spade and fork
– hand trowel and hand fork
– trays and pots for seedlings
– rake
– secateurs
– watering can

What allotment tips or advice do you have?

Next time: Preparing an allotment