Reflections #19: Loco Lockdown Birthday Parties

Portrait of my husband and I pulling silly faces

On the last Sunday of the month I write my personal review of the previous four weeks. But what do you write about when one day just seems to blur into the other? Today’s blog post looks back at our birthday parties, the development of my (nearly visible?) sixpack and of course my monthly recommendations for films, series, books and music!

Happy birthday to us!

Hubby and I both have our birthdays in May, exactly two weeks apart from each other. And obviously this year’s birthdays were unlike any we’d had before.

While it was suddenly really cold again on my birthday (around 13 degrees Celsius), it was almost tropical weather on Hubby’s birthday (around 27 degrees Celsius) just two weeks later.

For my birthday we made a special trip to Marks & Spencers supermarket to buy cake and some fancy snacks and drinks. Since we do our weekly shop at Aldi, you can imagine we wanted to buy everything we saw at this more luxurious supermarket!

But the trip to the B&Q hardware shop that same day was even more special. Unlike the Netherlands, hardware stores had been closed in the UK from the start of the lockdown until May. It was the strangest thing though since the staff with their intimidating masks looked just like riot police.

Thankfully we didn’t get arrested though and made it home safely to overeat the rest of the day and drink some cava.

Photo of me holding a glass cava out towards the viewer

Home-made presents

Although we had promised each other we wouldn’t buy birthday presents this year, of course Hubby did buy the most fantastic gifts for me. He got me the beautiful Taschen book about London that I had been drooling over in a bookshop in Cologne, Germany last year. I had forgotten all about this, but Hubby clearly didn’t! And he also got me a proper yoga mat that doesn’t fall apart just by looking at it like the cheap yoga mats I usually buy myself.

However, lacking any inspiration for gift ideas and the fact the post is taking at least four times as long as usual at the moment, I decided to make something for Hubby in return. The initial idea was to make a diorama, but that ambitious idea quickly changed into a kind of 3D birthday card.

The 3D birthday card / dioarama I made for Hubby
My homemade 3D birthday card / diorama might not look that impressive in the photo, but it does look much better in real life!

The incredibly finicky craft project took me a few days to make, but it was so much fun! It reminded me of my younger self who’d always be busy working on some DIY craft project.

For my special 3D birthday card I used a small cardboard box, leftover Damien Hirst print wrapping paper, metallic paper, an almond milk package which has a surprisingly pretty silver inside, a scrunched up chocolate wrapper, yarn and small felt pre-cut circles.

Surprise birthday post

Hubby wasn’t the only person to surprise me with unexpected birthday presents. Following the Dutch blog post I wrote recently about typical Dutch food and drinks I miss living abroad, I received three care packages from different Dutch friends! In hindsight it was very strategic of me to write that blog post a month before my birthday. I need to keep this in mind for next year ha ha!

Dutch food and drinks sent to me by my friends

Recognising the grief feelings I still experience every day since the death of my best friend earlier this year, my friends figured treating me to my favourite food would at least cheer me up a bit.

And it’s true, my birthday was a day of mixed emotions. Realising the big birthday party I threw last year in celebration of my 40th birthday was the last one with him there, made me feel utterly sad. But at the same time other friendships have become much closer which is something I cherish and don’t take for granted at all. So, here’s to friends!

Street art travel photos

This last month I’ve been travelling virtually on my travel Instagram account (@misstravelclogs). Using the unique hashtag #streetartmay, I’ve been posting street art photos from a different city each day. I’ve had amazing responses and wonder what I can post after today which obviously marks the last day of May. If you want to see these fun posts, then simply click on the image below which takes you to my feed!

screenshot of my Miss Travel Clogs Instagram feed

Growing vegetables during lockdown

Being unable to travel, I decided to grow some vegetables this spring. Because the seeds had well expired their best before date, I never expected any of them to sprout. But only two months later, our house is taken over by flourishing kale and tomato plants.

Just compare the two photos of the tomato plants below dated 29 March and 30 May. Some of them are almost as tall as I am! At this point I don’t really know where and how to keep them anymore as, unlike my parents, I’m the worst gardener in the world.

Books I read this month

Okay, I might not have finished the entire Taschen book about London I got for my birthday from Hubby – look at the size! – but I’ve been flicking through it and love seeing photos of London of the past.

I have almost finished the other book about London though. 19th-century London to be exact and mostly set in the East End, the part of London I know best and love most. The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper sheds light on the identities and lives of the five women killed by Jack the Ripper. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in London history!

According to popular belief, all the victims of this infamous serial killer were prostitutes. A theory I believed to have been proven and therefore adopted without any hesitation. However, this book reveals how some of the women have been falsely been identified as prostitutes.

If anything, the women seemed to be the victim of 19th-century society. Often coming from good backgrounds, tragic life events made the women turn to alcohol which ultimately led to a life in the streets, making them easy prey for the serial killer.

Discovering ancient board games

Hubby has had this elegant wooden box containing a variety of board games for as long as I remember. However, until this month we never played any of them. And now we play at least a few games a day! Besides chess and checkers, it also contains ancient games such as mancala that was invented in Africa between 500-700 AD and backgammon that was probably invented around 5,000 years ago in Iran!

We couldn’t work out how to play backgammon though. When we watched a tutorial on YouTube, we had no idea what we had just witnessed. So we just left it and have been mostly playing Ludo (a predecessor of the Dutch Mens Erger je Niet) and Snakes and Ladders. Especially that last one requires no special skill at all which is perfect for us ha ha!

Three board games: Ludo, Mancala and Mills

Where’s my sixpack?

Whereas I’d usually go to the gym three to four times a week, I bought myself a Les Mills On Demand membership in March in anticipation of the nearing lockdown. Although I miss the social aspect of going the gym (and don’t push myself that hard as I’d do in class), it’s proven to be a really good alternative for me.

My weekly fitness programme:

  • Day 1: 1 hour body balance (combination of yoga, pilates and tai chi)
  • Day 2: 1 hour body combat (mix of different martial arts)
  • Day 3: 1 hour body balance
  • Day 4: 30 minutes grit (high intensity interval training) + 30 minutes cxwrx (core exercises)
  • And so on.

Although I can clearly notice I’m more flexible and stronger now, I can’t really see any difference between these two photos taken in March and May. Perhaps the generous care packages from my friends might have something to do with my not yet visible sixpack…

Two photos of my abs dated March and May 2020
Do you see any changes between these photos taken on 16 March (left) and 9 May (right)?

Films and series recommendations

Since Hubby and I spent most of our birthdays watching films, this month’s film and series list is quite long! To make it easier for you, I indicated all my must-watch recommendations with a * in front of the title.

I’d like to highlight these two Spanish films on Netflix: Hogar (The Occupant) and Tarde para la ira (The Fury of a Patient Man). While it can be quite a challenge to find good films on Netflix, I find that their selection of Spanish films are excellent. They’re often really original thrillers that keep you guessing till the very end.

You’ll see that the majority of my recommendations is available via streaming services, but some older films also came from film box sets like the film noir set I got for my birthday two years ago. But we also rewatched Starsky & Hutch with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson on my birthday as that’s one of my top 10 favourite films.

Films

*Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard documentary (2011)
*Bob le Flambeur (1956)
*Columbus (2017)
Dangerous Lies (2020, Netflix)
*Death of Dick Long, The (2019)
*D.O.A. Dead on Arrival (1949)
Évolution (Evolution) (2015, Amazon)
Fallen Angel (1945)
*Farewell, The (2019, Netflix)
*Faults (2014, Amazon)
Golden Years (2016)
Guardián invisible, El (Invisible Guardian, The) (2017, Netflix)
*Hogar (The Occupant) (2020, Netflix)
*Mýrin (Jar City) (2006)
*Lovebirds, The (2020, Netflix)
Night and the City (1950)
Starsky & Hutch (2004)
*Tarde para la ira (The Fury of a Patient Man) (2016, Netflix)
*Tropic Thunder (2008)
*Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)
Whirlpool (1949)
*Wrong Missy, The (2020, Netflix)

Series

*After Life SE02 (Netflix)
Catastrophe SE01-02 (Amazon)
*Dead to Me SE02 (Netflix)
*Servant SE01 (Apple TV)
Tiger King (Netflix)
Trip (to Greece), The SE04 
*Trying SE01 (Apple TV)
*Upload SE01 (Amazon)

Blog posts I wrote this month

If you missed any of this month’s blog posts, here’s your chance to catch up! Click on the links to find out the difference between Tower Bridge and London Bridge and what UNESCO World Heritage Sites you can find in London. Or show some love to the best East London independent bookshops and independent record stores in London during the Covid-19 lockdown!

Blog posts I wrote in May 2020

View of Westminster Palace taken from across the Thames on the other side of Westminster Bridge

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London, England

Being one of the oldest cities in the UK, London is home to numerous historical landmarks. Today we uncover the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London, England. From former royal palaces to botanic gardens, discover the most outstanding London landmarks here.

Read More…

Music I’ve been listening to

These are some of the songs I’ve been listening to a lot this month as they get a lot of airplay on the two radio stations I listen to. (Dutch radio station 3FM and British radio station BBC Radio 6 Music.)

Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death

Kensington – Bats

Balthazar – Entertainment

Big Wild – 6’s to 9’s

Georgia –Started Out

I hope you’ve been well these last weeks. Tell me what your month was like in a comment below. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Thanks and stay safe and healthy!
Zarina xxx

5 thoughts on “Reflections #19: Loco Lockdown Birthday Parties

  1. Pingback: Reflections #20: Feeling Isolated in Isolation – Dutch Girl in London

  2. Esther van den Bergh

    Two birthdays, so lots of cake! 🙂
    About your tomato plant, I think you should have ‘topped’ them, then they grow more stems instead of just on that gets too tall and unstable. But I am no specialist, just growing some things myself, like tomatoes, for fun. Since I hardly ever cook (too hard and also dangerous with the oxygen) I often give the veggies to other people.
    I really enjoyed your graffiti posts last month, and I hope you have enough photographs to continue this for a longer period! And: the sixpack is showing!
    I was very happy I was able to go to physiotherapy again in May, with a special reference issued by my GP. For 6,5 weeks I had none, and even though I did daily excercises at home and tried to walk around the block when weather allowed it, I felt I was deteriorating very quickly. So frustrating after working so hard to get to this point, for more than 3 years…
    Again I made several visits to my father and received some visits of my friend C., who I accompanied to the dentist several times in May.
    My friend Margreet, she used to help me (and Jim RIP) with our groceries and cleaning around the house, was operatied on, finally. Her operation was due in March but postponed due to the virus. There was a possibility she could just drop dead waiting for everything to start up again. Last Wednesday it was done, a bypass of the lungs, they burned away the embolies in her lungs. A really dangerous and difficult operation, that lasted 6 hours, and before and after the cooling and warming of the body down/up to 18 degrees C. Very stressful but it all went okay. Now she needs to revalidate, a long process.
    I am very glad things are sort of returning to normal. At least, I will try to live my life as normal as possible. I will have visitors and visit people myself, of course I will be careful and sensible. But without human contact I will surely wither away….
    Thank you! xx

    1. Dutch Girl in London

      Fijn dat je toch nog een soort van sociaal leven hebt kunnen onderhouden de afgelopen tijd! En die operatie van Margreet klinkt heftig zeg. Ik wens haar een voorspoedig herstel toe!
      Wat betreft de tomatenplanten: toppen kun je pas als zich een aantal trossen hebben gevormd en dat was nog niet het geval. Deze planten kunnen 2-5 meter lang worden, maar ik had een foutje gemaakt en dacht zaadjes voor cherrytomaten te hebben gekocht waarvan de planten niet zo lang worden ha ha! Ik ben de afgelopen dagen op zoek naar lange bamboestokken maar die zijn uitverkocht bij de bouwmarkt. Gespecialiseerde tuincentra zijn nu pas weer open dus we gaan daar vanmiddag kijken en hopen dat ze ze op voorraad hebben. Iedereen is aan het tuinieren geslagen de laatste maanden 😉

  3. dutchamericano

    I loved reading this post! It feels like I was travelling a bit even though that’s not possible right now. On a different note, what has been your favorite quarantine board game for two people (including the ones you mentioned)? My partner and I are looking for tips since we’ve played Azul one too many times now.

  4. Robin Rimbaud

    I think the development in your six pack is to strengthen your inner core, so while not outwardly visible it’s like a brick wall on the inside. And I also notice that your increasing strength brings you closer to the camera 🙂

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