Category: Goals

The Year of Back to Basics: Summer Edition

Yikes, fam, I’ve not updated against this in a long time. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but there’s kind of a lot on!

Let’s whiz through this, okay?


My credit rating is officially “Excellent” and we’re nearly out of credit card debt. It should be gone before the end of the year.



This summer I’ve actually been doing a lot more chatting and bonding with my siblings, even though we are literally scattered across three continents right now. I’ve not been as good a friend as I would wish and am definitely going to correct that moving into fall.


Basic Bitch

My weight continues to bother me, but I’ve made some minor lifestyle adjustments that I hope will have some positive impact. There’s a pandemic on, ya know? I’m not happy with my weight, but I’m also not going to beat myself up about it more than is healthy.



Reading for pure, unadulterated fun. I’ve downed a political biography of Putin, discovered and devoured a new romance author, and am currently making my way through the hilarious Kevin Kwan’s latest. Read everything, kittens.

Currently I’m doing a no-buy challenge with X. — who, let the record show — has already broken hers! But it was for a thrift store find of a “Knives Out” style sweater so we shame her, but we also forgive her.

Double checked my voter registration.

Listened to albums.

Swapped over my wardrobe for the encroaching cool weather – I’m delighted!

There, now that we’re through that, what do we think about goals in the year 2020? I swing back and forth between thinking they are valuable and useless this year. I honestly can’t decide if it’s healthier to accept the losses of this year or rage against the dying of the night, or whatever.



July Moodboard

This month we’re taking it easy when we need to and going hard when required. We’re rewatching our favorite TV shows or movies instead of trying to get invested in the lastest prestige drama. We’re swapping out the beach days for long calls with friends for the same vibe. We’re eschewing makeup for skincare. We’re girding our loins for annual budget battles and committing to using any clout we have in our professional spaces to other peoples’ benefit. We’re not avoiding hard conversations. We might be working from home and unable to travel to see family, but we’re doubling down on staying connected anyway.

What energy are you bringing to July, my doves?

June Moodboard

While clearly I made this board prior to the explosion of bad news, I’m harnessing summer energy this month regardless.

If we’re lucky we will travel to the States to see my husband’s family – though we’re keeping an eye on everything and there’s still a chance this isn’t happening. We’re eating well and exercising daily. We’re watching our wallets. We’re keeping ourselves steady in an unsteady world so we can then turn energy outward.

And yeah, summer is protest season. I’m signed up for two so far. I encourage you to do the same.



The Year of Back to Basics: May

Another weird month in lockdown, a lot of plans disrupted, a lot of progress to celebrate or report back on.


After a lot of governmental shenanigans, stimulus checks arrived for expats and we put ours straight towards debt without hesitating. The ‘Rona may still hold sway but we are staying steely-eyed and focused.

Money was spent however, especially since I shredded my athletic shoes and put irreparable holes in my workout pants – in the crotch and thighs no less. Fetching! Both were replaced. We picked up some household goods like pairing knives, a cooling fan, and an Ikea shelf, and I also bought a batch of new knickers to replace pairs that I’ve owned since before we moved to the UK and were becoming, er, unbecoming. And then, I confess that stress lipstick was purchased at one point.

I plan on purchasing some additional items for summer – believe it or not, I don’t own any shorts and seeing as how we’re already sweating in our city flat in late May, it looks like August is going to roast us – but after that, I’m going to close down the wallet for several months. I’ve got everything I need and am trying to be extra careful to stay aware of needs vs. wants right now.



Long calls with siblings and parents, good therapy sessions, controlled mental health symptoms, positive work relationships. My friendships have not had the focus I wanted this month, so will be spending more energy on that in June.


Basic Bitch

Weight was a problem this month, no two ways about it. But I’ve been sticking with my virtual barre classes (shoutout in my favorites post of last month!) and have started tracking my food again, because while it might be basic, it’s honestly the best way to keep myself on a health track. I upgraded a free app to a annually paid version to help with this and it’s helped. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH – do not focus negatively on your quarantine response and coping mechanisms. My health and weight goals predated the pandemic and we’re all doing the work to figure out what healthy means for us on individual and macro levels right now. This is what’s working for me, but YOU DO YOU, BOO.



More Agatha Christie. Also lots of romance novels, because self care. I’ve nearly read 100 books so far this year!

I declared my “make a garden” project ticked off. We don’t have a terrace anymore and I can’t see us moving for a very long time, so I’ve built an indoor Eden instead. As the proud mother of 13 thriving plants, I think we can adjust this one a bit.

Dramatic reduction of plastic in my life, blog post coming.




An Unattractive, First World Struggle Post

I know this isn’t the time to be beating ourselves up over our bodies, especially if they are healthy and functioning, but in spite of my goals I’ve managed to gain weight in quarantine and it’s really bumming me out.

The sensible part of my brain rolls its metaphoric eyes as I type that. Stress has always made me gain weight and circumstances are not exactly relaxing right now. Adhering to social distancing guidelines and guidance to stay at home, which we’ve taken seriously, has drastically curtailed physical movement. While I’ve been pretty good with exercise and have really committed over the past couple of months, my eating has been all over the place (see stress comment above). The toll is…exactly what you might expect.

It’s the most basic of basic bitch issues, but I really struggle with my body image. I’m small but not naturally slim and never have been. I’m not delicate petite, I’m squashed petite: normal sized skeletal proportions scrunched down vertically but not horizontally. It vexes me. In blatant rebuke to a lifetime of girl power and love yourself messaging, I do not like my corporeal form very much. I’ve gone through more positive phases and some crushingly bad ones, and right now I’m somewhere in the “negative to meh” zone.

This isn’t a plea for validation, or designed to make anyone else feel any type of way about their bodies – especially if in quarantine! But it’s an honest update against one of my year-long goals and how it’s making me feel. I’m working on getting rid of the negativity but I’m finding it difficult this week.

If you too feel the need to complain about something pointless and selfish, my comments are open for you to get it out of your system. We don’t judge at Small Dog Nation.



The Year of Back to Basics: April

It could not be more “back to basics” than this past month has been. Between working remotely, barely leaving the house, and just trying to get by, my world has become fairly small, fairly quickly. While this week as I type this I’m having a bit of a down one and struggling with the limitations of lockdown, I have to be fair and acknowledge that I’m fortunate that it’s all bad thus far.

I’m not sure our apartment has ever been this clean, this consistently. Laundry and dishes are being done daily. I’ve organized and RE-organized shelves and storage to declutter and tidy our spaces. I’ve actually hung some of our artwork, which is ridiculous seeing as we’ve lived in this apartment for eight months now…

Who knows what’s going to come our way in May (2020 seems to be trolling us all now), but looking back on the strangest of Aprils, I’m pretty pleased at what I have to report.



Even though I’m on a reduced salary (voluntarily) the compulsory asceticism of the past few weeks have some definite financial upsides. We continue to prioritize cooking with occasional “splurges” on meals from local favorite restaurants. Lack of even daily bus or Tube travel has meant that savings from pennies and pounds has added up nicely. We’ve got a reliable and delicious coffee subscription service that thus far has not let us down and is far cheaper than what we’d spend out and about in normal times.

That being said, we did spend some money this month. We restocked the liquor cabinet, and I finally got a pair of decent headphones after sending a series of cheap ones to their graves over the past few months. This and my pin from Paris are going to count as my birthday presents this year, so I feel okay about them. I also picked up a pair of “comfy but high quality” work from home trousers that are pull on, but look like normal pants and could be worn outside as well as in, and a light trench to replace a similar coat that was ripped and stained beyond repair.

Lest you find this horribly extravagant, we continue to operate mostly with cash day-to-day and have even topped up our emergency fund a bit. A good feeling in normal times, a great one right now.



I’m so grateful to be quarantined with someone I love, like, and feel safe with. Not everyone is nearly as lucky right now, and people in unhealthy or unsafe circumstances deserve kind thoughts, donations, and offers of safe help wherever you can.

In other areas, I’ve kept up with therapy, though reduced the frequency of appointments due to the current situation, and it continues to help keep me balanced. Texts and calls with friends continue, with more scheduled.


Basic Bitch

Let me preface this with a firm statement that no one should feel weight shamed or weight shame themselves right now, we are literally in the middle of a public health and economic knock down! Speaking only for myself and my body, I stepped on a scale for the first time in weeks and was annoyed at what I saw. Between a knee injury and then quarantine I have not been as active as I wanted for the first quarter of the year, but in the past month I actually put on weight. Which is diametrically opposed to a specific health goal I gave myself for this year! For some reason, and I’m sure there is a psychological underlying cause for this pettiness, this gave me the motivation I’ve been lacking and I started (and have so far maintained) daily workouts. More details in my favorites post tomorrow, but I’ve found some really interesting options even in the depths of quarantine. I hope that next month I will have lost the weight gained and will be able to report a continuation of the habit. I decided to focus on weight loss this year because my own health process and



Paid off all but one credit card. Death to debt!

Ticked off goals related to gratitude and mood.

Baking and album listening goals continue, though the baking one is definitely going on pause to focus on weight loss!

Nurtured my houseplants

Reading goals also pushing along, I’ve read over 70 books so far this year and started on some classics and biography book goals this past month as well. At the rate I’m going I’m going to read at least 200 books this year, so might as well tick off every single book goal I’ve got while I do it. What else are we gonna do, we’re quarantined!


The Year in Baking Thus Far

Kittens, I’m calling it. I’m a third of the way through this challenge to bake weekly for a year, having begun it over the 2019 Christmas holidays, but I need to press pause. I enjoy baking and I think it’s better to make your own sweets than buy them, but this is a pace I cannot continue without more exercise than quarantine measures allow. I know vanity isn’t the highest motive to claim, but as a person who requires effort to keep her weight level to say nothing of dropping, this is not conducive to my long term happiness.

But I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t celebrate and share the sugar goods which have gotten me through 2020 so far. I’m pivoting to healthier cooking for the time being, but I’d be delighted to live vicariously through any of you who care to try the below and share your efforts!

Gingerbread cookies

Banana bread

Cheese scones

Olive Oil and Rosemary CakeĀ 

Midnight Mocha Cheesecake

Savory Oatmeal Cookies

Classic chocolate chip cookies

Classic chocolate chip cookies again, because Jeff ate all of them!

Classic chocolate chip cookies AGAIN by request. Why mess with a good thing?

Pear tart with goat cheese and honey

Apple cinnamon tart

Classic chocolate chip cookies AGAIN because I had to get it done and was down to the wire this week

Coconut Thins

Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies again – because they are seriously addictive

Banana Bread

Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies AGAIN

Earl Gray Yogurt Cake (a reader recommendation and SO GOOD)


The Year of Back to Basics: March

Hi there. Coronavirus has consumed everything, and yet this month was still an okay one all things considered, for working towards goals.


Yes, we spent money this month, but it was to go to Paris with my best friend and we regret nothing. We got a bargain on an AirBnB listing and spent a long weekend with one of my favorite people in the world and her significant other, whom we both like tremendously. It may not be a kosher thing to celebrate right now, but I’m intensely grateful we had an international jaunt, no matter how short, before the coronavirus really got off the ground and isolation guidance kicked in.

We ate good food, drank good wine, stopped by French pharmacies, and generally wandered the city. It was a tonic! I picked up two pieces of treasure this trip, a bottle of perfume exclusive (for now) to France and a mint condition collector’s piece from my favorite costume jewelry shop! It was more expensive than I was planning to spend, but I think we can all agree that this was worth the coin. X. is a lover and connoisseur of perfume and took me to several boutique shops while the boys drank cocktails at the Hemingway bar in the Ritz. All in all, a perfect long weekend!

And since then, we are holed up in our apartment, leaving only to go to our local grocery store or when I get stir crazy and need to be taken for a walk like a hyperactive terrier. Healthy? No. Good for the wallet? To an astonishing degree. We’re doing one meal a week where we get “take out” from our local independent restaurants to try and our bit for businesses that we know are struggling, but otherwise our only spending has been to replace groceries and toiletries.



Text chains and Facetime calls with friends and family, lots of cuddles with my husband, and lots of communication wherever possible right now. Therapy sessions continue online, which I appreciate more than I can say. Given social distancing, I’m grateful for what I’ve got!


Basic bitch

We ate our bodyweight in carbs and wine in Paris. The first week of quarantine, we were the textbook definition of naughty: we ate what we wanted and snacked incessantly. The second week we made a conscious decision to exercise daily, eat real food, limit snacking and other health related priorities. Our day-to-day lives have shrunk dramatically in terms of space and scale but we’re trying to manage it as best we can.



Ticked off one reading goal.

Paid off another credit card!

Read a bunch of Agatha Christie in aid of another reading goal. Murder!

Continued to bake and listen to albums.

Started a couple of goals related to keeping up a good mood and prioritizing gratitude. What better time to start than a pandemic!

Blogging every day (another goal, and also a sanity saver)


The Year of Back to Basics: February

Happy Leap Year Day, poppets! Hope you are doing something fun or indolent with your precious extra 24 hours. Us? Greetings from Paris where we’ve jaunted off for a long weekend. It’s been a busy month and we’re in need of a holiday. Here’show the second month of the year is going in terms of goals: it’s been a mixed bag but wrapping it up on the continent isn’t the worst ending in the world.


This month we paid off three out of our five credit cards in full – which feels fantastic. Next month we’ll finish off the fourth and then begin to direct the same totals to the final card and our remaining debt.

The month was also tame on personal shopping until the end when a pair of jeans and pair of black ankle boots both gave up the ghost irrevocably. I replaced them both but because they are replacements, they are not counting towards my 20 items in a year goal – plus one was a deep sale the other was a vintage shop find. I bought a nice bottle of whiskey as a gift for someone else while in Scotland and a body treatment for some self care. Otherwise my continued capsule wardrobe and spending challenges helped keep me on the straight and narrow…

Until the final stretch. Towards the end of the month and starting to look ahead to spring, as well as a Paris jaunt, I reviewed my closet and made a list of items I wanted to get for transition weather and I picked up an APC dress for 70% off its original price and two jumpers and a pair of trousers on deep sale at J. Crew. Then, horror of horrors, I found a Prince of Wales check blazer (which has been on my wishlist for over a year) and a pair of Frye casual boots on deep sale and at a vintage shop respectively. Reader, I succumbed.

Never fear, all of this was dutifully added to the tracker and I’m very comfortable with these purchases. I’m still eyeing a new white shirt for spring and summer, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet as I want to wait and see if anything in France catches my eye and is worth a coveted slot on my shopping inventory. And of course, we did book a trip and because we left it a bit late, travel cost more than I would wish. However, we are going to be able to pay that off and more next month given our financial progress elsewhere.



After the first bout of Busy Season, we’re using this trip to Paris to spend some quality time together as a pair, and to connect with X who is there for work. Family and friends, and heaping glasses of wine! There is no substitute for time and Jeff and I are planning our time off more proactively through the summer to ensure we’re going on break and getting away.


Basic Bitch

Focusing on health was a bit tricky at the start of the month due to a lot of work travel which prevented me from keeping to a usual schedule and compelled a lot of eating “on the go.” I’m continuing to work with my doctor on a number of issues, physical and mental, and while I wasn’t as strict with myself about food as I was in January, I’m continuing to try and eat mindfully. Home cooking is still my best tool for this and because I wasn’t around as much, I wasn’t as consistent with it in February as I was in January and what I did make was far less healthy. I also haven’t felt able to exercise as an old knee injury flared up rather badly (and is one of the things I’m getting treatment for), so that’s having a negative impact as well.

In March my work team is participating in a health challenge, and I’m going to prioritize cooking again which will hopefully help reestablish a sense of balance and control.



Got a tattoo

Continued baking up a storm

Continued to read armfuls of books

Went on a weekend holiday with friends (*waves from Paris!)

Finished another shopping challenge

Tried new recipes



Year of Back to Basics: January

The monthly updates return!

As this goes to press, I’m on a train to Scotland for a work event which I’m both nervous and excited about. Once again I’m going to be a bit of a fish out of water when it comes to demographics with the other attendees (my best work pal and closest peer is off on maternity leave) but I’m trying to buck up my confidence – armed with my Barbour, a backlog of podcasts and books, and a black dress.

In case you’re relatively new around here, internet veteran CGP Grey explains why themes are better than resolutions. and provides a much better perspective on why structuring your life this way is probably something you should try.

Happy new year, if we’re still allowed to say that.


I want to say I bought NO personal items this month but I actually had to some thinking about this. Categories of items like health and beauty replacements or toiletries I don’t count if they are strictly replacements for items that I have used up, however I did pick up a cream blush from Glossier when I was replacing a moisturizer…and I managed to do it without even thinking! Bad start to the year, C.. However, I’ve added it to the shopping list tracker in the spirit of honesty and fairness. Historically I have treated personal care and beauty items as different from clothing, housewares, and other goods, but I think that differentiation was given me an “out” in my head and I’m not going to make a distinction this year. If I want to buy makeup of any kind, on this list it goes! I’ll continue to make an exception for skincare, however, so long as it follows the replacement rule.

Otherwise? This was a baller month for money! I prioritized home cooking significantly (which had the added bonus of helping me work towards completing some of my food related 101/1001 goals) and unsurprisingly, this had a noticeable effect on my walking-around money. We also continued to prioritize credit card debt and bent over backwards to avoid putting purchases on it. This allowed us to throw another sizable chunk of money at our total debt, which feels so bloody satisfying. Next month we’ll pay off another credit card in full and possibly two. Meaning that if we keep this pace up, we can easily eliminate all our credit card debt by the middle of the year, which means we can focus on loan debt and building savings. Each month I feel lighter and lighter about money, it’s a fantastic feeling.



This month I focused on communication, which is something therapy is helping me with especially. It’s resulted in lovely chats, text chains, letters, and emails with all kinds of friends and loved ones, as well as clarity in conversations at work. Most importantly, I’m trying to listen more deeply and learn when others voices are more important. Have I recommended therapy lately?


Basic Bitch

Weight loss – made some progress simply through home cooking and ensuring that everything I made was really healthy. On the flip side, and somewhat at odds, I also started baking once a week. Jeff got the majority of the spoils. Definitely not continuing this approach indefinitely–I don’t believe in long term ridiculous self-denial–but I am going to continue cutting back significantly on carbs and sugar and ensure that what I do consume is home made and not bought. Nothing effects my weight more than food, and more than those categories in particular.



This was a fantastic month for books, I read over a dozen (which puts me WELL on the way to reading 100 in a year), including several Agatha Christie novels (advancing my goal to read all her works), and three topical books on the human body and health as part of my armchair-expert-via-literary-osmosis goal.

My focus on cooking also progress my goals to try 25 new-to-me recipes.

Kicked off my cold weather capsule wardrobe project.

Started listening to a new album every week. Fiction and music help keep the badness of the news in check.