Yelly Writes

Start of the week

Well, that’s half the working day gone!

I’m trying to figure out when I should go and get stuff but I’m thinking it should be soon. It doesn’t look too lovely outside with the rain threatening to come down. I need to go to the supermarket to buy stuff, I think!

One thing that’s been a constant these days is my daily to-do list. I know! There are so many articles saying to-do lists are the death of productivity. I disagree. If I don’t have a list, it kind of feels like I’m not working towards a purpose.

A few months back, Sara Tasker had Nir Eyal on her podcast (it’s Episode 82 and they’ve got a follow-up episode as well!) and I learned something nifty from Nir Eyal that has revolutionise my time control. He said that people should schedule their time in time blocks and to allow yourself time for yourself (I’m paraphrasing very liberally here!). I find that allowing myself time to faff is time well spent. That way, when I do get distracted and go off-piste then I don’t beat myself up with a stick that usually grows exponentially because my conscience will always go heavy on the emotional self-flagellation.

Excuse the chicken scrawl but I did want to share a picture of what I meant (if you want to see what my day looks like, let me know! Haha!). My next target is to learn to properly time block…to actually set time deadlines. It actually scares me because I’m worried that if I add another element to my workday scheduling, the restrictions will trap me into immobility. BUT baby steps. I need to actually grow into this habit. It is my goal to consciously be kind to myself.

What do you do so that you keep on track of things? Please share them with me in the comments!

Yelly Writes

Insta-validation

Sometimes I wonder if anyone is listening…if anyone actually reads my posts or if they’re just looking at the pictures. I’d like to think I have interesting things to say. But sometimes when people don’t write comments or react to your posts, it’s hard to gauge whether the content you put out is relevant.

I like writing as much as the next blogger and I like to think that they way I express my opinions can be entertaining. But when you are met with radio silence, visions of tumbleweeds rolling in the dust fill my mind. I’m constantly asking myself if I’m actually reaching someone.

One voice in my head says, “Yeah well, you don’t blog often enough for people to pay attention!” This is true. Everyone says that for your content to have traction, in this oversaturated social media environment, you have to post not just meaningful content, but you have to post regularly. Even though I know this, a small part of me thinks that somehow I’m reaching someone.

And then days like Saturday happen:

@yellywelly on Instagram

Thank you so much! You made my day! You know who you are.

I know that my chilli belly pork recipe is, by far and away, the most active of all my posts but I rarely hear from people who actually try the recipe. To be thanked for sharing a recipe that I actually tested several times before I posted it on my blog means the world. It’s actually galvanised me into action. It is the elixir vitae to my inertia! I am hoping this sustains my writing drive. I’m glad to know that my virtual “Yooohooo! Anyone out there?” was heard and someone, sight unseen, has replied “Yep! I hear you!”.

Please leave your comments! My “I’d love to hear from you!” pronouncements are genuine. I really would like to hear from the people who read my blog. Besides, if you’re someone I’d rather not hear from, you’d know it!

Yelly Writes

Are you winning 2020?

I know times are difficult but it helps to try to look at the bright side of life. If you’re down in the depths of despair, there’s nowhere else to go but up.

I saw this post on LinkedIn today and I wondered what Boris and his cohorts would say…

https://twitter.com/LewisHowes

My responses to these are:

  1. Never really possible so yes;
  2. Our lives are constantly in flux these days, with all our foundations constantly shifting, so yes;
  3. I have accepted that we won’t ever go back to normal, so definitely;
  4. I’m a worrier so that’s going to be a tough ask, but every day is a new day;
  5. See Number 4!

What would Boris et al might say:

  1. Yer, but nah, but yer, but nah, but maybe!
  2. You must all change the way you live (but we won’t, we’re the privileged few!)
  3. I’m channeling Winston Churchill (and failing miserably)
  4. “This app will be a world beating corona virus app!” (the app doesn’t know the Isle of Wight is actually an island!)
  5. What? Were we supposed to be properly thinking?

Yelly Writes

Being back

My work-life balance has been atrocious since I’ve started working again.

Since being brought back from furlough, it’s been hard to draw lines between what is my workspace and what is my at-home space. I think it’s a dilemma that everyone living in a shoebox-sized flat has battled with.

I miss the office noises. I remember finding office noise apps and sites that just played ambient office-related white noise. It was okay to hear but annoying as I guess my brain knew it was mechanically manufactured.

It was also very odd because I was an office manager without an office to manage!

When lockdown finally eased, there was the occasional opportunity to travel to the office. I could meet with suppliers and service providers, do a bit of post scanning (this was part of my day to day when I worked for an accounting firm, so to not do it regularly was very odd), prepare the office for the eventual return to office-working. Of course, between Boris Johnson saying, “Work in the office if you can” and his declaration (because there was a spike in coronavirus cases) to “Work from home if you can”, our office spent a considerable amount getting the office up to social distancing guidelines scratch. Of course, management did not require us to work from the office. We were allowed to choose the work situation that worked best for each of us, individually. The office was there “as a resource”.

I’m finding working from home very intense. I think it’s because you’re more focused on each task and sometimes it’s hard to stop when you’re on a roll. I’m also finding that because I’m working from home, I tend to start when I wake up (which is early…about 5am most days) and finish when it’s time for supper (usually when the BBC evening news starts, so about 6pm). If you consider that time frame and factor in any breaks I take, that’s at least a solid 10 hours of working.

I enjoy travelling into work because it provides variety and gives me something else to do. However, in these trying times where there is a deadly virus about, and no vaccine is available, it’s hard not to be obsessed with infection control. Because let’s face it, not everyone thinks about germ transmission. People here have to be reminded to sneeze into tissues, for goodness’ sake! My rants about people and infection control can be a whole other blog entry! London is also not quite the same right now. It’s very quiet and the buzz and hum of the city seem to have disappeared. And even though stricter lockdowns haven’t been put into place, everything is eerily quiet and empty.

How have you been?

Yelly Writes

No more hand sitting

So the secret’s out and I don’t have to hide it from my colleagues.

I was told that I was coming back from furlough but I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone else. But I got a call today and they’re making the announcement so I don’t have to keep schtumm anymore! Yay!

I’m really happy about being recalled back to work. Being on furlough is great because I’ve had the chance to catch up on sleep, on reading, and do absolutely nothing on days when I just can’t be bothered. But I love my job.

It has been a few years, but I think I have found a really great job for a company that makes a difference…at least I think so, anyway. The team is great and everyone is just driven to make a difference. You can see it in people’s dedication to their jobs.

I’m really glad I’ve been called back from furlough. It means I can start contributing to my team again.

Yelly Writes

Victory!

“The world must know what happened, and never forget.” » General Eisenhower

Thinking of all the individuals who served in the Allied Forces to push back the Nazi Germany and their cohort, of all the people who the Nazis thought were disposable, those that survived the concentration camps, those that served in the auxiliary services that kept the nation running, those people who fought against those wanting to obliterate our intrinsic rights to practice our freedoms.

Also thinking about my grandfather who served in the Philippine Army, to fight the Japanese in the Philippines. He served with distinction, walked and survived the Bataan Death March, continued to serve his country as the first chairman of the National Science Development Board (which was a precursor to the modern day Department of Science and Technology) and worked to raise the profile of science and technology and how this can help the Philippine nation move forward and develop. I think of all the selfless individuals in the Philippines who fought the Japanese covertly or overtly, the men and women who laid their lives to protect the larger population from Japanese oppression and I marvel at their bravery. I am not sure that I can be that brave or selfless.

We must never forgot what these people went through, what horrors happened. We must never allow this kind of hatred, bigotry and oppression to be experienced by anyone, regardless of the colour of their skin, race, creed, religious beliefs and political views.

I

Thinking of all the individuals who served in the Allied Forces to push back the Nazi Germany onslaught, of all the people who the Nazis thought were disposable, those that survived the concentration camps,those that served in the auxiliary services that kept the nation running.

We must never forgot what these people went through, what horrors happened. We must never allow this kind of hatred, bigotry and oppression to be experienced by anyone, regardless of the colour of their skin, race, creed, religious beliefs and political views.

I would like to think that we are more evolved now as an international population.

We must be honest about what happened in the past. We must be brutal in the discussion of the series of events. We accept that there was and will always be blame to assign in times of strife and war. War happens when someone wants to subjugate another, overpower them, obliterate their culture and mores; when someone believes they are better than others.

Thinking of all the individuals who served in the Allied Forces to push back the Nazi Germany onslaught, of all the people who the Nazis thought were disposable, those that survived the concentration camps,those that served in the auxiliary services that kept the nation running.

We must never forgot what these people went through, what horrors happened. We must never allow this kind of hatred, bigotry and oppression to be experienced by anyone, regardless of the colour of their skin, race, creed, religious beliefs and political views.

I would like to think that we are more evolved now as an international population. We must be vigilant about this. We must fight to maintain our rights, as international citizens, to be who we want to be, to believe what we want to believe and to express our thoughts and opinions. Yes, there should always be rules, because without them, our society would not have order. We must remember that these rules protect these rights that we enjoy and more often than not, take for granted.

But above all, we must remember that we must be guided by love and kindness. If we are guided by love and kindness, everything else follows.

Yelly Eats

How To Make Almond Buns

I’ve been fairly busy this weekend batch cooking and baking. I’ve made a meat sauce that I’m going to use to make lasagna for tonight’s supper and spaghetti meals for the week. I’ve made my version of my mom’s meatloaf as well. I’m really happy as the fridge is full and I won’t have to think of what to cook for the next few days.

I’ve attempted to make almond buns yesterday after Alan sent me a recipe for almond buns. The recipe looked fairly easy to follow but called for shop bought almond paste. Since I had ground almonds at home, I thought it would be easy to make almond paste at home. I googled recipes and found a relatively straightforward recipe that I thought I’d share with you.

You can opt to use my Chinese Milk Bread recipe, however for buns and loaves, I recommend Hazel’s recipe. I don’t know Hazel (Avellana) personally but I stumbled across her blog whilst I was searching for recipes for cinnamon buns. I was looking for a Cinnabon-like cinnamon bun and this was easy to do and yielded amazing results. I’ve been using the dough recipe for most of my enriched dough endeavours. You can find her recipe by clicking Perfect Cinnamon Buns. I’ve based the ingredients on her list but I’ve used my own (tried and tested) way of creating an enriched dough, which has always worked for me.

I apologise for the lack of photography, I’ll do better next time. My kitchen is a right bomb site! I’ve been overrun by multi-buy purchases (it’s cheaper on Amazon if you buy more than one item!) and I’ve allowed myself to be overwhelmed by an unwillingness to sort out my cupboards (you’ll be pleased to know this is now a work in progress thing and I’ve at least started the process of sorting things out!).

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 250ml warm milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 x 7g sachet of dried, quick action yeast.
  • 2 eggs
  • 75g butter, melted
  • 600g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp salt

For the almond paste: 

  • 250g ground almonds
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 75ml water
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp almond extract (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a heatproof (microwaveable) container, place the milk and sugar and mix until the sugar is combined with the milk.  Place in the microwave and heat up for about 30 seconds until slightly warm to the touch.  This can also be done on the stove, but make sure that the milk doesn’t catch at the bottom of the pan.  NB If you are doing the pan method, make sure you keep stirring.  Remember you want the milk to be just warm.  Once the milk and sugar mixture has been warmed, add the 2 sachets of yeast and mix well.  Set aside in a warm place to allow the yeast to activate.  It should take about 10 to 15 minutes.  I usually place mine in my airing cupboard or if in a pinch a lukewarm oven (of course, switched off). 
  2. Whilst waiting for the yeast to activate, you can make the almond paste.  In a small pan, combine the water and the granulated sugar.  While stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a slow simmer.  Make sure you don’t take your eye off the sugar-water mix as it can burn quickly if unattended.  Once all the sugar is melted and the mixture is clear (you should be able to see the bottom of the pan), take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter.  Mix until the butter has completely melted and stir in the almond extract if using.  Add the ground almonds and mix until well combined.  The more you mix the paste, the smoother it gets.  I like the coarseness of the ground almonds but if you want a smoother paste, you can use a stick blender until you get to the consistency you prefer.  Set aside and allow to cool.  
  3. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and set aside (do not refrigerate as you don’t want the paste to harden).
  4. You’ll know the yeast has activated when the bubbles are almost as much as the liquid.  In a mixing bowl, mix the melted butter and the 2 eggs until well-combined.  Pour in the yeast and milk mixture and mix well.  Add the flour and mix until well combined.  I use a free standing mixer and I beat the dough until it comes away from the sides.  Of course, if you don’t have a mixer this can all be done by hand. Once the dough was mixed well, turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic.  If the dough feels wet and sticky, sprinkle a little flour over the surface and the dough and knead.  It should take about 10 minutes of kneading, if doing it by hand and about 4 to 5 minutes if doing this via the mixer. Once all combined pour about 1 tbsp of oil in the mixing bowl and place the dough in the oil, making sure the dough is well oiled. Cover the top of the bowl with cling film or a towel and place in a warm place to let the dough proof and rise.  Leave for about an hour.  
  5. Check on the dough after an hour.  It should be about twice the size of the original ball of dough.  If it is still slightly smaller, allow for another 30 minutes to an hour.  Once the dough is risen, whilst still in the bowl, punch the dough several times to release the air and deflate the dough.  Turn out into a floured surface and knead until smooth.  With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a rough rectangle of about 24 inches (60cm) in length and about 12 inches (30cm) in width.
  6. Once you have your sheet, spread the cooled almond paste all over the dough, leaving about an inch at the bottom of the sheet.  Roll the dough down towards you as tightly as you can and with a sharp knife, cut your buns from the long stick.  This should make about 16 buns.  
  7. Place the buns in a wax paper-lined (greaseproof) tray or large flat baking dish, about 2 inches apart, and allow to prove for another hour.  After the second proof, the dough should rise and grow to twice the size.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180C.  While waiting for the oven to heat, mix 50ml of milk and 2 heaping tablespoons of confectioners (icing) sugar, brush this all over the buns.  You can also use an egg wash (beat 1 egg and brush over the buns).  Place in the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes (sometimes even up to 22), depending on the oven.  The buns should turn golden brown and rise some more.  Once they are lovely and golden, take theam out of the oven.  Allow to cool on the baking tin for 15 minutes before moving it to cooling racks.
  9. This is optional as it means adding more sugar, but if you’d like to add a glaze, mix 50ml milk, 4 heaping tablespoons of confectioners sugar and 1 teaspoon of almond extract and combine until smooth and lump free.  Drizzle over the buns.  Serve and enjoy!

Top tip: The recipe is quite substatial, so I decided to create buns and a plait loaf. But if you decide that you’d rather have buns, this makes 16 generously sized soft filled buns.

Yelly Writes

Furlough FAQs

Before I start, my caveat is that I started writing this on 25 April. It’s now 6 May. But I’ve checked and the website links are still up to date!

It is, thankfully, Friday.

And it is Day 5 of being on furlough. Really, I should stop counting because it’s going to be a very long wait. The furloughing, according to the letter I received from work, might be up to 3 months. It scares me to think of what 3 months of not doing anything will look like for me. I try to tell myself that I’ll find something to do other than bingeing on TV boxsets. Only 5 days in and I’m losing the ability to communicate!

What I’m afraid the most of is the inertia that seems to fill me when I have no direction during the day. I’m writing in my journal a lot because it’s the physicality of having to sit at a desk and actually DO something that helps me feel not so useless. Of course there are quotes and memes about being kind to yourself at this time, or forgiving yourself for the inactivity, or accepting that these are exceptional circumstances and we’ve never been in this situation, so whatever you’re doing, however much or little, is enough. I get that. In my head that makes sense. But there’s also that whiny inner critic that goes, “well, you’ve got things that you said you would do, that’s on your list, so do them instead of just wallowing in the anxiousness that you can’t explain!” I’m really conflicted.

Also, my body clock is out of whack. Completely. I’m wide awake until about 2:30 in the morning and then I feel horrible during the day. I’m going to make sure I go to bed at around 10PM and stay in bed, even if I’m not sleepy. I really need to discipline myself. The only problem is I’m so jumpy and anxious and I can’t settle.

Anyway, in case you’re like me and you like knowing things (in other words, you’re nosey), and you’re not yet on furlough and you’re wondering whether you or your employer can qualify for the government’s job retention scheme, I’ve added links below to a few helpful sites that might provide you with answers. I’ve tried to make sure these are either proper professional bodies or government website links so that I’m not advertising incorrect information. I hope these links help someone else!

Check if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Gov.uk link)

If you’re self-employed can you apply for a grant for assistance? (Gov.uk link)

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Furlough FAQs – where you can download the guide about what furlough is. There is also text that you can read through and a helpful video explaining what is furloughing. When I read it, it was written to apply to an HR person’s perspective, but it does answer a lot of the questions that I had (what is furloughing, how long can they have me on furlough, what about the usual benefits, etc.).

What does it mean if I’ve been furloughed? – This is a BBC explainer and helps put things into perspective and I think the one-liners help simplify things. It explains the realities of what being on furlough means in a language that is accessible.

Covid-19 Guidance for employees, employers and businesses (Gov.uk link)

Hopefully these links help you. Of course if you’re reading this outside the UK, unfortunately, you will have to read something that is more local as employment law will have different provisions in different countries.

Thanks! And I hope you’re all keeping well, staying in and staying safe!

Yelly Writes

On Lockdowns and Furloughs

The beginning of the end started on 13 March 2020.

The situation relating to coronavirus hit the UK shores and it started to escalate (in late February, our building management team announced that one of the tenants tested positive for COVID-19 and, understandably, everyone was worried). The government started encouraging people to work from home if and when they can to avoid being in contact with the general public, to thin out the number of people out. At Drinkaware, we had decided that Friday, 13 March, was going to be the day that we were going to test our office systems and see if we were going to be capable of working from home. The week before that, we were told that we should start bringing our laptops home and our CEO, Finance Director and HR Manager were having daily catch ups and weekly catch ups with the committee that deals with risk. Our directors were expecting the government to suddenly declare a shutdown where people would not be allowed to travel. At the time, it was only a possibility. It didn’t actually dawn on me that the day was a Friday and the date was the 13th. Not that I’m THAT superstitious. It was just a bit ominous.

So we all came back to work on the Monday, the 16th. It was pretty much business as usual, except that of course the situation relating to the coronavirus infection was worsening as the government started learning more about COVID-19. I had a long list of things I wanted to finish, and as the day went on, as usual, I managed to tick some things off the list and some, I planned to finish the next day because I got carried away with other projects.

That evening though, we got a message from our CEO via WhatsApp and by email to say that the office was going to be closed for the foreseeable future. I felt a slight measure of relief because I was fully intending to leave my laptop at work and I had decided to bring my laptop anyway. After reading the email, I decided to still go to the office the following day because I needed to finish off a few things and accept the deliveries that were meant to be arriving on the Tuesday. Also, there was the office fridge that needed clearing of all perishables.

I managed to get a lot of things done and I went home slightly earlier than usual. I was fully intending, as I’d discussed with one of my line managers and my HR manager, to return to the office either on the Thursday or the Friday. To collect post, to check on the fridge and the milk that was left there. I also meant to start the asset tagging because there wouldn’t be anyone at work and I could go in, get my tags printed, zip through the office with my stickers and clipboard and go home and finish my other telephone calls and emails at home. That didn’t happen though. My bosses advised me to stay home, mostly because they were worried about me and how quick I seemed to be catching viruses (I’m diabetic and I’ve found that since I’ve moved here, I’ve been so sickly).

So for the next few weeks after that day, I worked from home. Prior to the pandemic, we’d all been flat out, everyone was busy doing something for some project. The office buzzed with activity and we were all putting in long hours working on various things. During a meeting our leadership team agreed that we would all go on a week-long holiday after Easter Monday. So we were all working towards that REALLY long weekend. It was a 10-day weekend (of course the extra 4 days came out of our holiday allowance, but no one objected)!

Whilst we all worked from home, it became more and more apparent that things wouldn’t be business as usual because we were cutting down on expenditure, writing to our suppliers saying we would be delaying payment for some big-ticket items, etc. People started to worry that we would lose our jobs (it didn’t help that there were several businesses that folded even before we started working from home because of the reduction of customers).

On Monday, 6 April, after an emergency board meeting on the weekend, we were advised, during our Start of the Week meeting, that the board has had to make the difficult decision to furlough some of the staff, in order to protect the trust and prevent job loss. Our board wanted to avoid having to to make any member of staff redundant. The government had already announced the Job Retention Scheme. So our directors had to make the difficult calls to half of the office, to tell members of staff that they would have to be furloughed. Our super HR manager prepared an FAQs document for all our questions and she let everyone have her number so that if we were worried about anything and needed to talk.

I can’t say I was surprised that I got the furlough call. I mean, apart from being EA to the CEO and the Finance Director, I was also office manager. How do you work as an office manager without an office to manage? Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my job. I love my bosses. I love our senior leadership team and I love my colleagues. Working for Drinkaware is more pleasure and privilege than a job. Mostly because the environment is so different. It’s so collaborative, and there is genuine love for everyone. It’s nice when the environment is like that; less territorial, more inclusive.

To be fair, I am actually better off being on furlough, even if my salary is about a fifth less. Factoring in how astronomic train fares now are, even with 20% less, I’m still much better.

I can’t deny that I am worried about the future, that I am thinking about whether there will be any redundancies. However, right now, I am confident that we will be told with enough notice, if this was the case. Because the communication lines are always open at Drinkaware. Whatever the future holds, right now, I am best placed staying in, away from the general public.