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  1. Storm Bella raged through the night. In the morning, Mr and the Enting did a boundary walk to look for fallen trees and other damage. While I cleaned up our breakfast and got a fire going in the wood stove, I considered what a strange and eventful few weeks we’ve had since we been called to Owlshire. Boiler and fuel supply problems, an historical flood, unexpected severe allergies to sections of the house, leaks in buildings, now a major wind storm... all within the already surreal year that is 2020. But the year was turning, and we’d made it through midwinter in the Forest, and there is much Keeping to do. Having received the prestigious new title Keeper of the Flame from the Home Office, I had a lot to prove—to them, to myself, and to the World Soul that reached her glowing fingers into this sacred place. — In summary: a 41 year old American emigrated to England. Mum of Enting, a 2.5 year old agent of chaos. Kitchen witch, gamer (mostly LARP, TT RPGs and board games), knitter/spinner, writer, returning smallholder. In late November 2020, my family completed a Master Quest to move from central London to our woodland dream property. Now we’re settling into our new home—dubbed Owlshire—in a beautiful part of the Forest of Dean. For this challenge, I’m focusing on a few areas I want to make progress in. Progress is measured on XP per task, but I’m also including maximums to keep balance among them so I don’t, say, just write stories the whole time instead of working on the garden or getting fit! WARNING: There will be picspam of Owlshire, surrounding areas, and Enting. Stoke the Hearth Fire 1XP per day engaged in a creative activity (probably woolly related, but may not be). This may also include events (spontaneous or planned) that similarly bring joy. Maximum per week - 5XP 2XP per day that I complete my household chore rota. No maximum. Keep 1XP per day per task related to future self-sufficiency - IE, continuing the set up the future gardens/orchard/etc., collecting or processing firewood, etc. Max per week - 10XP. Research can count, but only for 3XP per week maximum. Stay Strong 1XP each day I have PAI average above 50. No maximum. 1XP each day I walk 4+ miles according to my Fitbit. No maximum. Map the Leylines 1XP for local walks off my property, 3XP if I’m doing a new-to-me route. Max 5XP per week. If I participate in the Slow Ways launch week—no maximum for that week. Research can count (such as learning new flora and fauna in the area or looking into human history), but only up to 1XP per week. Restore 1XP per task related to restoring or preserving the outbuildings, fences, trails, and other infrastructure. Max 10XP per week. Tales of Owlshire 5XP per narrative story installment told on my thread. Max 10XP per week. Quests Bonus points received for completion of quests on my “Level Up Your Life” list. Goal: Reach 200XP to Keeper of the Flame Level 2.
  2. I’m formerly Ann of Vries, often Adventurer and sometimes Ranger. In summary: a 41 year old American emigrated to the UK. Mum of Enting, a 2.5 year old agent of chaos. Kitchen witch, gamer (mostly LARP and TT RPGs), knitter/spinner, writer. On November 17th, my family (finally!) completed an Epic Master Quest—to move from central London to our woodland dream property. Now we’re settling into our new home—dubbed Owlshire—in a beautiful part of the Wye/Dean. The Challenge My goals for the challenge is transitioning from the moving/unpacking phase to settling in to my new environment and the lifestyle changes that come from it. I suppose there’s a milestone in mentioning this is my 1000th post! Seems fitting given change of chapters. WARNING: There will be picspam of Owlshire, surrounding areas, and Enting. Find a daily rhythm for my family We’re in a new home in a new place in a new lifestyle—while still under pandemic Lockdown restrictions. This is not your normal relocation situation, and we need to make the best of it and find our rhythm to live our best lives under our circumstances. Continue local explorations I’ve begun to investigate local footpaths, and I want to continue this. I want to find a footpath route to the farm shop in a neighbouring village and similar route to the shop in our village. As an added difficulty, these routes also need to be toddler-friendly—either with him walking or my being able to carry him. We live on a steep hillside amongst many hills it can get treacherous to manage in places, especially with a toddler along. Some routes are overgrown and unused and—as I’ve been learning—some local routes in use aren’t on the OS maps at all! Build my PAI score I’ve been doing mileage/step goals for a while, but after discovering and discussing PAI with @oromendur, I want to give it a try. (I will still track mileage for my journey to Mordor, it’s just not a specific challenge goal.) My goal for this challenge to build up to a 50 point average. I want to do this primarily by daily activities: the continuing process of salvaging the grown over garden so we can plant in it next year, leaf removal (so many leaves....), errands/local exploration, housework, etc. A returning focus to creative activities 2020 has been preoccupied with trying to make this move happen and a living amid a pandemic. Now we’ve moved and are nearing the end of unpacking, I’d like to use some of that “moving” energy to invest in my neglected practices, such as (but not limited to): Needlework (knitting, spinning and embroidery) - Pick a project, cast on, get on with it. Writing Interactive fiction - 5 min day/ 3x week “Tales of Owlshire” stories 3x a week posted on my thread. (Inspired by @KB Girl‘s storytime.) Homecooking: I love making homecooked meals, baking my own bread, etc. but things moved in a more “convenience” direction given the chaos of the last few weeks. Make at least 1 loaf of bread a week 3x homecooked meals a week (does not include leftovers) So, here is a prelude to what I hope will kickstart a set of challenges in the new year....
  3. I’m Ann of Vries, often Adventurer and occasional Ranger. I decided it was time to do my semi-annual “holiday” to the Rangers Guild. I’m an American currently living in London with my British husband and 2 year old son (more on him later). However, this urban status is to be short lived as we are in the process of purchasing a woodland property in the magical Wye Valley/Forest of Dean and expect to move there this autumn/winter (move date TBD). (You may not have heard of the Forest of Dean, but you’ve probably seen it. A lot of movies and TV shows have been filmed in its faerie tale woodland.) Meanwhile, I’ve been on a pilgrimage of my own to follow my heroes the Fellowship of the Ring on their Walk to Mordor. During the last challenge, I just missed my goal of arriving at the Trollshaws (211/221 miles). For this challenge, I will put my chin up and continue my journey. The recent months have been difficult—there’s been the global pandemic crisis, of course, and myriad challenges caused by Lockdown restrictions in the UK. My husband was unemployed at the beginning of the pandemic but thankfully found a new contract in the midst of it and has been working from home—which presents its own challenges. (He will eventually be commuting to the Midlands part-time and working from home part-time, probably starting early next year.) Oh, and there’s all of the issues of moving house as well, which isn’t easy even during the best of times. But then there is also my toddler, the Enting, who is in the throes of the Terrible Twos and can foil my attempts at lengthy walks and... well, anything and everything else I’m trying to accomplish! The Challenge: Find the Entwives There are a great many tasks involved in any moving of home, and this one of course is no different. We need to keep on with the solicitors, get the building survey done, go through our things, decide what’s going with us and what’s going away, set up a removal service once we have a date, etc. Part 2 of this search for the Entwives is to Find Joy in Growing. The Terrible Twos have been pretty hard on me. I want to remember the joy of little Entings instead of spending this time always feeling exhausted and frustrated. Beyond Rivendell I’m about 100 miles from Rivendell, but I intend to get much further beyond it. My goal is 205 miles—which should take me just past the “6 Days Past Rivendell” milestone on my Walk to Mordor app. This is based on an average of 6 miles a day starting in Week Zero. These miles are taken straight from my Fitbit—they include any puttering about, errands, long walks, chasing of toddler, etc. I stick to challenges better when the record-keeping is easy and straight forward. Learn from the Rangers They say that you’ll be chasing your toddler until you’re exhausted and in a way that’s true, but I’ve found that doesn’t seem to include going on long walks which has always been my principle form of exercise and was fine when he was littler and less mobile since I could just put him in the carrier or buggy and go as far as I wanted. Add in Lockdown restrictions/social distancing in a big city, husband working from home, preparing for selling/buying/move of homes, and I’ve found my weight frustratingly ticking up. I need to find alternatives I can do in a shorter time frame—preferably that don’t require much (if any!) kit change, new equipment, or set-up since I just don’t have time for that (and I’m trying not to buy things when we’re about to move). This is an exploratory goal. I aim to try different things over the course of the challenge with intent to choose one (or some) to continue with by the end. They don’t have to be formal “exercise.” One idea I have is just playing “tag” with my toddler in the park. (Suggestions welcome!) Maintain or Lose I want to either maintain my current weight (which is admittedly a touch higher than I prefer), or make progress on it going down. I’m already a pretty “clean” and healthy eater, so I feel that weight gain is mostly about my activity level. Ever on we go....
  4. Dearest Adventurers, It has long been the ambition of mine to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Fellowship of the Ring. And so, I have began something of a pilgrimage of their footsteps, from Bag End to Mordor. But I also have long felt a connection to the lost Entwives, and I seek home, a garden to tend. I don’t think I will find the Entwives—no one else has—but I can find one in myself. (I already have an Enting, after all!) So it is while on this long journey I hope to find my place in Middle Earth to settle down. During the last few weeks, I journeyed from Bag End to Bree. In the next few weeks, with my Enting on my back and friends coming and going at my side, I should make it as far as the Trollshaws. Challenge: Starting in Zero Week, begin walking. My goal is the Trollshaws, which is 221 miles. It doesn’t really matter how I make the miles—steps done on daily activities/errands, local walks, hikes, etc. After more than a decade of trying and failing the record-keeping with this challenge (I certainly haven’t lacked the mileage), I believe the key to me completing the Walk to Mordor is really by making the bookkeeping as simple as possible. Whatever my Fitbit says at the end of the day goes into my handy WtM app. Easy. Do something each day to help get the house sold and get me to that garden to tend. That will usually involve some sort of upkeep on the tidying, decluttering, or attacking the dust bunnies in some forgotten corner. If we get an offer on the house during the challenge, I will outline new goals based on our next steps. Skip Second Breakfast. I’ve put on a few pounds over the last several months (before Lockdown started, really), and I’d like to see them go. My goal here is to weigh less at the end of the challenge than I did at the beginning—as simple as that. It’s more about increasing activity than eating (I’m a pretty clean eater already), but they are of course intertwined and I need to be mindful I’m not just replacing every calorie I burn. Starting weight: 126lbs. (Usual disclaimer—I’m quite petite, so that weight puts me nearing the top of my healthy range and when I see an upwards trend I like to nip it in the bud. I want to get back to the middling—somewhere around 115lbs.) And that’s it. Walk a lot, make the house look good, and say no to extra snacks sometimes. I can do that much, right?
  5. The last challenge—well, the last couple of months, really—have been ones of new challenges. Too many challenges. Challenge 1: Lockdown restrictions. Needed, necessary and I support them 100%. But being restricted to one outing a day and all of the myriad complications around having a toddler when everything is canceled and you have to keep them distanced as well... it’s not easy, you guys. Challenge 2: Enting. There’s all that Lockdown stuff, and then there’s the issue where the toddler has also gone through some kind of developmental change which has caused severe separation anxiety. I’m spending a minimum of 1-3 hours a day trying to settle him down to sleep now (I used to spend less than 5 minutes total, as he’d easily go to sleep on his own). That’s a huge chunk of my day gone. And I’m having to bed-share night time as well, and he wakes up half a dozen times a night to make sure I’m still there with him. I have to tell you, I’m exhausted. Challenge 3: Falling apart. See above—I’m tired, I don’t get out for as much exercise as I want or need, and I never get a break, day or night. My evening downtime is all but gone because it takes an hour+ to get Enting to go to sleep and then I need to catch up on chores, and then by the time I can get myself settled, it’s time to get ready for bed. But, this is the new normal around here. And I’m trying to accept that, rather than continue to think of this as an inconvenient blip that will hopefully go away in a couple of days. Pull Together There is good news on the horizon—Mr has a new job! He starts on May 18th, likely from home for the short term. The job is in the Midlands, so we’re looking at relocating when the situation allows. And we’ve decided to go for the Dream. We’re planning to make our forever home in the Wye Valley*. Why the Wye? (You may also recall me pic-spamming about this place last September/October when we were there on holiday.) Mr’s new job will change things around here, as he won’t be as available during the day even though he’s at home. After this week, there will probably be some gradual relaxations on Lockdown. Depending on how relaxed, we may soon be able to go the homes we’ve “registered an interest” with the estate agents about. We need to get our house on the market. We need be prepared to move—because it could happen in 2 months or next year. We just don’t know between the fluctuations on the housing market and what Lockdown will allow, but we want to be ready. This challenge will be rife with transition and also with “hurry up and wait!”. But for any of this to work, I need to pull together. With lack of sleep and toddler issues and Lockdown ennui, everything has fallen apart. I’m not getting the daily chores done—let alone the extra things that need doing! And more is coming! So, the challenge begins with: Get on top of daily chores Get on top of extra house maintenance (things that don’t need daily attention, but haven’t gotten attention in... um, months weeks) Future relocations activities, which may include: Preparations to sell the house (both in terms of paperwork but state of the house) Preparations to view properties (putting together travel on short term, making sure we know what questions we want to ask about a given property, exploring the area around properties) Putting together a new routine when Mr is working Caring for my balcony garden (good for the soul) Trying not to let the lack of sleep interfere with my relationships (IE, try to think before being cranky) Getting outside daily—even if it’s just sitting in our dark little garden. The trouble here is that sometimes Enting won’t go with me, or won’t want to be out for more than a few minutes, and Mr is not always available to watch him so I can go on a solo walk. Also, we’ve done every possible walk in the acceptable local area over and over again and I hate to say it, but we’re bored. Control stress/boredom eating. I’m doing okay on this one now, but I need to stay vigilant. I’ll probably think of other things. Maybe even a theme! So, it’s not as much of a fitness challenge as a “level up your life” challenge, because I need to sort out a lot of other things before I can get to serious fitness obligations. But these things... this moving to the place we’ve dreamed of, navigating Lockdown, these are the things of heroes and adventurers, too. As for details, I’ll put more of those out every few days—this is a time of flux and priorities may shift too quickly for me to have them out far in advance. But for now... time to make a to-do list! (*Please note, plans can change. But this is our top choice.)
  6. Prologue I took my usual winter sabbatical off social media to figure out what’s important and what I most missed. And again, NF begin to call to me.... The House of Vries once again finds itself in transition. Mr’s work contract ended quite suddenly at the end of November (we expected the end of 2020), leaving us in a tumble. Our plans had been that after that contract, we would make good on Operation: Escape London and find our forever home. We’ve decided to go forward on that... probably. New employment hasn’t surfaced in the primary places we wanted to go to, and new places to research have come to light. In addition, the siren’s call of adventure always trickles in, inviting us to come away from settling somewhere and making roots, or put that off for another few years and go explore another land. And also London keeps her claws in us, whispering to stay for a few more years... who would be mad enough to leave this glorious city? Mr and I have never been good at settling down, despite really wanting to. We are fortunate. We are in a position to take our time and be choosy about our next move. But I find this in-between space stressful. Even... unsettling. So much change is soon to come—yet where is it? When is it? What will it look like? Unsurprisingly, most of my goals from autumn into winter fell through into icy waters. The whole household routine is in shambles. We had continual illness (one or all of us) until after Christmas. Amid this, SAD hit me like a truck. My physical activity went down, and my weight ticked up. We’re still picking ourselves up and trying to get sorted. Preparing to sell the house for a move? Haven’t even started! So, my goals will be about getting myself grounded again. To get comfortable in this uncertainty—and indeed, be ready to take action when and if we find the right contract and the right place and pull the trigger. That may be during this challenge, or it might be another.... Oh, and there’s likely to be an adventure or few along the way....
  7. While we were in Wales, in a rare moment we actually had phone signal, a call came through. It was our community nursery that RoV had been on the waiting list for since the beginning of the year. They had a part-time opening! Would we like it? Mr and I needed to discuss it—but eventually we decided we should get a foot in the door while we had the opportunity. Unfortunately, several days passed before we could get strong enough signal to call back. I promised myself then, that if this worked out, I would use that time to return to the fiber arts. We got the spot and now I have childcare 4 mornings/20 hours a week (including his existing childminder), and I’m going to make good on that promise. The Return of the Stitch Witch I’ve signed up for a program called the Artist Residency in Motherhood (ARIM) which is a framework designed to help new parents get back into the arts after the shock of adding a small child into their world. I’m currently signed up for 3 months (and can extend), and so this will be ongoing. My focus will be exploring and developing a fiber arts direction that’s been invading my imagination all year (but I’ve lacked the time or space to explore)—embroidery as a medium for storytelling. 10+ “studio” hours a week on improving technique, creating designs, and the actual stitching related to my residency projects/goals. (Due to the holidays and related trips, there are weeks when I may not be able to do 10 studio hours, but those should be known in advance rather than... accidental.) Take a trip to the V&A to look at embroidery exhibits. (Adventure!) Those who follow my Instagram will see it repurposed as an accountability space for the residency. Continue Spiritual Studies Resume meditation practice at least 5 days a week. Mornings are ideal, but I need to get flexible about it. Perhaps I’ll do it at the start of studio time. Finish my outstanding assignment, plus 1 other class assignment (and associated activities) I’m backing off on progressing this course a little bit to make more space for the arts practice. Tame the Hearth Flame 4 childcare hours a week for household chaos reduction and outstanding domestic projects. Be an Adventurer! In the summer, it’s easier to follow up on “I’m going to go out every day!” But it’s no longer summer and with RoV spending most mornings in childcare, I think it’s even more important to spend quality time with him in the afternoons. And embroidering and associated tasks is a lot of “bum in chair” time, so I need to make a point of being active at other times. Aim for one outing each day with RoV. Preferably outdoors, but if it’s really miserable out an active indoor activity like the soft play centre is great, too. This won’t happen every day, but it should most. We’ve also got a couple of trips planned during the span of this challenge, so adventure during those, too!
  8. I needed a challenge off to get some aspects of my life together and figured out, but while always imperfect, I’m such a better person when I’m doing a challenge. So here I am with the Adventurers once again.... Who am I? (Yes, this image is to show off my awesome new hair.) I am Ann of Vries, aged 40, diarist, LARPer, stitch witch, traveler, walker, and an aspirational forest fairy living in the city. I’m an American living in London, UK; married to my true love and brilliant partner (Mr of Vries) and my main job/labour of love is raising our adorable toddler son (Rowan of Vries). Which is mostly fun, but occasionally harrowing. (You wouldn’t know he had a total tantrum meltdown on this same train a few days before....) I immigrated to the UK from Seattle three and a half years ago. I love it here, although I’m still trying to find my tribe (outside of the House of Vries, of course). I long to live in the English countryside, in a stone house with a large garden that grows most of our herbs, vegetables, and fruit. But that time is out in the future—for now, we are city folk and I aim to make the best of that. Not every person gets a chance to move abroad and live in one of the most famous cities in the world! To that end.... I am the Dream Look at my short summary up there. I am, by many people’s standards, ~living the dream~. But a tendency toward Hedonic Adaption, some much wished for (and worked for) dreams that didn’t come true, and a history of depression (which gets much worse in the darker part of the year) means I often forget this. The Challenge There’s no reason to let these dreams turn into a nightmare. So to help keep the darkness at bay and remain living the dream, I will be: Practicing gratitude/journaling Write and post about something I’m grateful about at least 3 times a week. Many will be about my general status of life, but least one of those per week should be something current. Keep up on my personal journals in between. Meditation and spiritual practices I’ve recently started a course to help motivate me out of being an occasional witch and more of a regularly practicing one. Practice grounding/centering/meditation at least 5 days a week. Every day is better, but every day doesn’t always happen. At least two more lessons completed for the pagan degree course I’m in. At least once a week, work on book study or a branch class assignment. Get outside/stay active RoV is now a walker (although not particularly fast or with a destination in mind), and he doesn’t want to be carried all the time. In fact, he doesn’t much like carriers at all anymore and I’ve had to give and buy a stroller if I want to get him around (I’m not sure why he prefers the stroller to the carrier, but he does). This means my days of hours and hours of walking have become more challenging as has my use of public transport (my nearby stations aren’t step-free accessible), despite that RoV needs to go out 2 or 3 times a day to burn off energy. Go outside at least once a day, even if it’s just the back garden Embrace and enjoy going out. 10k steps a day; more is better. Engage in mind-healthy pursuits (and cut back mindless ones) I’m finding myself wasting a lot of time on mindless Facebook scrolling, news rubber-necking and other such activities. Cut back to only checking a couple of times a day and for no more than 5 minutes a go. Spend that time on reading, appreciating the outdoors, journaling, embroidery, knitting, and playing with RoV. I may resurrect my Instagram account. We’ll see. Don’t (always) eat the croissant I’m at a healthy weight and I’m generally a healthy eater, but the last few weeks has seen me engaging in a lot of indulgent, often junky eating (made worse by a two weeks cold I’m still recovering from) and my weight has crept up just enough to concern me about the beginning of an ongoing trend. My household consists of foodies, and I’m not a calorie counter, but sometimes I just need to resist the croissant. (And I definitely need to resist the junk food!) Sometimes, I’m allowed to have the croissant but it needs to be a conscious choice. There’s a lot going on in this challenge, and you guys know I’m not a huge fan of collecting the metrics. My general intent is that by striving for these things with some accountability, I will do them more often, and I’ll try to update a couple of times a week with how it’s going. Except! I’m going on an adventure during this challenge! We’ll be headed to Wales for 2 weeks shortly into the challenge. I haven’t decided if I’m taking my laptop or if I’m just going to go with a notebook and my phone and have a bit of tech break. Depending on how this goes, I may go silent for a couple of weeks. But I’ll be back. Cheers, AoV
  9. I'm Ann of Vries, aged 39; a diarist, a fiction writer, a fiber artist, a LARPer (also TTRPG, board games), a traveler, a hiker, and mother of a young toddler. I’m madly in love with my partner, Mr of Vries and my son, Rowan of Vries. I live in London, after having emigrated from Seattle three years ago. I love it here, although I’m still trying to find my tribe (outside of the House of Vries, of course). I long to live in the English countryside, in a stone house with a large garden that grows most of our herbs, vegetables, and fruit. But that time is out in the future—for now, we are city folk and I aim to make the best of that. Not every person gets a chance to move abroad and live in one of the most famous cities in the world! To that end.... *** Depending on who you speak to, some claim Keepers of the Flame are a subset of the wizards. Like metamorphmagi or parseltongue, being a Keeper is just an extra talent that wizards can possess. Since I never got my Hogwarts letter, I’m not convinced we Keepers are wizards except when it’s convenient to the Ministry of Magic. Example, a few days ago many of us Keepers were contacted by the MoM asking for our help with a Calamity that has threatened to expose the wizarding world, and I suspect may play a part in the darkness that has been seeping into the local Hearth Flame network. So maybe I’m still a little bitter about that Hogwarts letter, but I need to do what’s right, and it’s time to increase my patrols in and outside of my domain. *** This challenge is loosely tied to the new Harry Potter: Wizards Unite mobile game.* I’m keeping things relatively simple for this challenge—a focus on fitness. My weight loss has plateaued. We have a 12 mile hike planned conveniently on the last weekend of this challenge, and I don’t want to be the one who backs down from this Boss Battle. (It’s a group hike with varying fitness levels, so there is a likelihood of an early turn-around. That’s fine—I just don’t want to be the one who initiates.) Patrol the Area for the SoS Task Force Go out for daily walks, focusing on the “active minutes” stat of my Fitbit. Actions for this goal: Start with 40 active minutes 4 days a week and ramping up as I go on based on progress. Research (and potentially purchase) hiking boots that I will enjoy wearing. The current pair I have feel like I’m wearing lead weights and I really dislike them. Rock that 12 mile (or whatever it ends up being) hike. Examine and Fix My Eating Habits I hate food tracking, and I make no promises to do it. But my weight loss has stalled, and while I’m considered a “healthy” weight on the UK BMI scale, it’s only just barely. I want to increase that margin. My household already eats pretty clean. The challenge for me is to get back to eating on a sensible schedule instead of “whenever I can cram something into my mouth.” This is most problematic on weekday mornings, as Rowan has breakfast with Mr while I shower and then I have a toddler on the loose while I’m trying to fix and eat something for myself. This usually ends in me eating whatever I can find, and snacking later as it often wasn’t enough. Even healthy foods can be misused. Actions for this goal: Note when I eat (and possibly what I eat). Find and fix unhealthy patterns— particularly regarding breakfast. Stick to these solutions for the remainder of the challenge and check results. ***
  10. I'm back for another! The last challenge had its issues, plagued with... well, endless plague. But we're all on the mend now. My big success was that (somehow) I managed to knock off those last increments to return to my pre-pregnancy weight! Just less a year since I gave birth. Hurray! So let's carry on to the next. Who am I? I'm Ann of Vries, aged 39; a diarist, a fiber artist, a gamer, a traveler, a hiker, and a first time mother. I’m madly in love with my partner, Mr of Vries and my son, Rowan of Vries, who will turn one year old at the beginning of this challenge! Wow! I live in London, after having emigrated from Seattle three years ago. I love it here, although I’m still trying to find my tribe (outside of the House of Vries, of course). Keeper of the Hearth Flame One of the insights from my last challenge was that—when I allow myself to—I really enjoy doing a lot of domestic activities. I love keeping house. Spending time with my Enting, cooking, knitting, creating a warm space for family and friends, etc. (But not cleaning. I still don’t much like cleaning :P) Since that’s where this volume the books of my life is currently opened, I’ve decided to fall into it. I love the concept of being the Keeper of Hearth Flame. The Challenge: Protector of the Flame But this role I've newly embraced won't start easily. During this challenge, my mother is coming to visit for 2 weeks. I won’t turn this into a novel of all my Mommy Issues, but suffice to say we have a tenuous, rocky relationship and have done so since I was little. I have to break contact her for years at a time due to her toxic behavior. But she’s really keen to finally be a grandmother, and she’s the only grandparent Rowan will have (my father is in poor health, Mr’s parents are already gone), so we’re extending the Enting as a literal peace branch. Here’s hoping it’ll be successful. The thing is, my mother has never come to visit me. Since I was little and she left, I have always visited her, and I haven’t seen her for anything as long as two weeks since I was a tween! She has little understanding of how I live, or what I do with my time, or my family's values. She has always had her own version that I should fit, and our distance has largely allowed her the freedom to believe I am the daughter she wanted me to be (think materialism and keeping up with the Jones'), rather than the geeky, wonderful, odd duck that I am. And the odd duck that I married so we can raise our wonderful, unique family together. Sorry, those pesky Mother Issues are slipping in…. I will—in the kindest ways possible—protect and defend our lifestyle, values, and home from her criticisms and demands that I immediately change things because she thinks it should be different. I’m almost 40. It’s not that I can’t change anymore, but I’m not a child to be bossed around. This is my family, this is my home. I will protect it from those who seek to attack it. Use adorable grandchild as shield Keep Mother as busy as possible with London activities Be gentle, but firm about shutting down her criticism. This is our life, not hers. She will be here from 0.5 week to 2.5 week. After that, life returns to our version of normal, and the remainder of the challenges will begin in earnest. Tend to the Flames Cook, 5 days a week. We are a food-positive household. We love good, healthy, home-cooked food in reasonable portion sizes. I enjoy cooking. (As does Mr, so he cooks on the weekends.) I may not be able to compete with @Tanktimus the Encourager's lavish food writing, but I may just give it a try. Find my peace in creating a clean space. 5 minute tidies, re-framing, whatever it is, I want to find my pleasure in a tidy, comfortable (although, not spotless) home. Stay on My Feet I need to continue to get out for my sanity and health. I have another 10 pounds or so I'd love to lose over time. Daily outings - big or small. Whether its a walk to the park, the grocery store, or a museum, I want to try to get out once per day and be on my feet. As usual, illness and particularly inclement weather will not be penalized. Write My Family Saga Journaling is important for both keeping track of items, but also my mental health. I will continue to explore my psychic space and record my own family story. Make time to spend in my notebook, particularly during naps. As little or as often as I need at the time. Tap in the Creativity of the Hearth Fire Cook at least one new dish a week Knit, and take part in the House Cup on Ravelry Explore other avenues of creative expression as they come Family and Friends are Welcome Here For the last year, baby has taken the front stage and I've usually been crushed by the time he finally goes to sleep. This was largely inevitable. But I'd like to begin increasing my quality time with Mr.. Play board games and other activities together after baby bedtime At least once, join Mr at the Saturday Markets he goes to Propose family walks and outings to stretch our legs Continue looking for a well-priced secondhand jogging buggy so we can run together And, we are still looking to build our tribe. We did good on this during the last challenge, and I want to keep the momentum. Keep reaching out and making and tending to connections. Keep our home a warm and welcoming place for friends to visit--with good food, good company, games, and other group activities. That's more than enough bullet points to keep track of, I think....
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