Friday, 24 January 2014

Fitness should be fun

I'm guessing many people will have eagerly joined the gym, or taken up some form of exercise recently. We've all done it, start the new year with good intentions that this will be the year you'll get fit, no more excuses...2014 WILL be the year. Nearly the end of January now...have you stuck with it, or is your gym pass gathering dust somewhere, unloved and no longer in use?
Personally, I spend more time running 4 kids about to their various sporting activities, than actually partaking in any myself. However, I'm pretty sure walking up and down to the school and nursery 3 times a day must count for something. I do enjoy a class called Combat. Punching an invisible assailant to manic music I've not heard since I was 15 ("Like a shooting star..."), is surprisingly therapeutic. I find it a great release for stress. I am very fussy about instructors though. In my view, if I wanted a sergeant major yelling at me, I'd have joined the army. I want someone who is fun, realizes that yes, people need encouragement, but not through being ordered about by some scary instructor trying to make you almost kill yourself in an effort to keep fit. Not surprisingly, I do not book in for another class after such an experience.

My husband has started a Spin class. For those of you who don't know, it's an evil torturous hour spent on an exercise bike. In theory, the idea is good, but personally I'd never be cycling up a mountain, so why insist on setting the resistance on your bike to such a difficult level that you feel like you've gone halfway up Mount Everest by the end of the class? I tried Spin once...never again. Here's a picture of some people enjoying a Spin class...entirely unrealistic as I imagine it's physically impossible to smile.

I do like the name of the energy drink my husband uses to help him get through Spin:

Another way I try to tone up is with a vibration plate. You may know I am a Groupon addict, and this was one of our crazier purchases. I can't think of an easier way to stay in shape than watching TV whilst standing on "the shaky machine", as the kids call it. I set it pretty moderately, when Florin uses it, our living room starts to resemble an earthquake...I have to dive to catch cups and glasses as they start moving towards the edge of coffee tables, vases make a narrow escape, and the noise is like a helicopter about to take off. My husband arrived home the other night and entered the room singing "I see you baby, shaking that ass!" Clearly, the venetian blinds do not afford me as much privacy as I thought! I'll be more careful next time.

I think there's a lot to be said for novelty fitness ideas. A class that is fun, can even make you laugh, and isn't taken too seriously is definitely something I would be happy to keep up. My sister and I used to do a hip-hop dance class. Trust me, if you met me, you'd never associate Carolyn Mandache with hip-hop. However, it was great fun and made me feel like Beyonce (at least till I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror). Sadly, the class was cancelled, as there weren't enough customers, and I guess not as challenging as most of the other classes. I've heard a lot about Sh'Bam, another dance class. Has anyone tried it? Would you recommend it?

So, my views are that fitness should be fun. If I had the nerve, I would do Prancercise around Broadwood Loch, which is near my house (ok, not really). I cannot watch this fitness craze from the late 80's/early 90's without laughing. I sometimes wind the kids up by saying we're going to walk to school this way...the idea fills them with horror. Watch the clip, I'm sure it will put a smile on your face:

Just Dance is a great way to keep fit as a family. The wii game is even a hit with my youngest, and it's very cute watching him try to copy the complicated moves on the screen. Just Dance 2014 has the Psy song "Gentleman". I challenge you to try copying that dance with a straight face. I find it so much fun, and in the privacy of my own home, who cares how stupid I look?

I'll leave you with one final thought. Why should skipping just be for kids? If it's good enough for Michael McIntyre....

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Tea with Mr. Fluffy-Whiskers

Just before Christmas, my 4 year old made an important announcement: "It's Tom Fluffy-Whiskers birthday tomorrow, we need to have a birthday party." (Tom Fluffy Whiskers is the brilliantly imaginative name he has given his toy bunny.) As you can imagine, holding birthday parties for toys was not at the top of my priority list in the manic lead-up to Christmas. However, who could resist such a cute request? I managed to persuade him that Tom's birthday was a few days later, which just happened to be a Saturday, and not a weekday taken up with homework/after-school clubs. We decided to have a tea party, the toy tea set was set out on a blanket on the floor, Tom and his guests sat on cushions. My son and his cousins really put a lot of thought into it, Tom brought his own teddy, and his bunny friend even wore a tie for such an important occasion:

The food was all very rabbit friendly, we made a carrot cake. Betty Crocker may have had a helping hand, not entirely home-made, but close enough. Tom, although inherited from A's older brother, just happened to be 4 years old, according to A.....what a coincidence! I still had the 4 candle from my son's birthday which was handy (I'm all about the recycling). We read Peter Rabbit stories, and had a very nice afternoon. I'm sure Mr. Fluffy-Whiskers will remember it well.

Rabbits always seem to have played a part in our family. My elder son had a toy rabbit he would not go anywhere without. Blue bunny was his name, you may have guessed he was blue in colour. In fact, I say "was", but he's still around, for sentimental reasons I doubt I'll ever get rid of him. Blue bunny has seen better days, definitely what you would call a "well-loved toy". I remember having to carefully remove him from A's bear hug as he slept in order to wash him, watching him spin in the machine upset him. Blue was also rescued from a duck pond after he was dropped in from a bridge by accident. A. was distraught, but thankfully a kind park ranger type person waded in thigh deep to retrieve the soggy creature. I've written before about my son being tall for his age. People used to make really nasty comments about my son carrying his bunny, assuming he was older than he was. I can remember getting really annoyed about that, and constantly saying "he's only 3". Have your children ever been really attached to a soft toy, and been made fun of for it? I think it's a very sweet phase in their lives, we all know they'll grow out of it, and in my view, people shouldn't comment on it.

My younger son having watched "Alice in Wonderland", and being read the story, also went through a White Rabbit phase. Luckily, it was around the same time as his nursery held a day where they had to dress up as their favourite character. A. looked great in his outfit, facepaint, and cardboard stopwatch we made together. Of course, he spent the day saying "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!"

I realise that having two real rabbits in the house, may well have added to the fascination to the long eared animals. Gingersnap and Popcorn have been part of the family for about a year and a half now. I find it quite funny that they each have their own personalities, as I always thought rabbits didn't do very much except hop and eat.  Popcorn, our black and white rabbit is quite the diva! He stomps his feet if he's not pleased with you, he also doesn't really like being held, and can nip at times. Gingersnap, however, is very friendly and likes being petted. I have also been very surprised by their climbing skills, and we've given Popcorn the nickname "Spider Bunny".

For a while, we thought we had Houdini rabbits, as we woke up a few times to find they had escaped their hutch. Occasionally, we had a strange feeling someone/something was watching us as we watched TV. When we turned round, we saw them peering through the glass doors of the living room at us, probably disappointed it wasn't Bugs Bunny on the screen. Now we've figured out the kids don't always close the latches properly, so we always verify they are locked tightly now.

My final comment on rabbits is to make you aware of what is known as a "binky". A binky is when a rabbit does a crazy kind of jump when it is very happy. Unless you have seen one, it's hard to explain, and even harder to film as it happens so fast (trust me, I've tried). I challenge anyone not to smile if they see a rabbit do this. A great cure for the January blues I'd say. Not quite the same as watching it live, but this clip gives a good idea of what a binky is:

Do your children have a fascination with a particular animal? I'd love to read your stories. I'm also thinking of writing a Tom Fluffy-Whiskers story. What do you think?

Monday, 6 January 2014

A trip to remember

My first post of 2014, Happy New Year! This year we went away for the limbo period between Christmas and New Year. Perth was our destination (Scotland, not Australia).
The holiday, which we shared with very good friends, was not without it's share of mishaps. However, as seems to be so often the case, in many ways they added to the fun we had.
Our destination was the Log Cabin Hotel, part of the Nae Limits group offering adventure breaks. We did not book any adventure activities, but seemed to end up having some of our own anyway. The drive took us to the tiny village of Kirkmichael, which was very remote (think Blair Witch Project). Our room, although quite spacious, did feel a bit Waltonish every bed time, as all 6 of us said our good nights and tried not to wake each other in our side by side beds. There were often bumps in the night as one child or another rolled off their bed, or onto someone else. There were no bears in the woods surrounding the hotel, but a grizzly in the form of my husband snoring next to me. No spare room to escape to, should have packed some ear plugs. (On the subject of bears, I loved this tweet by @HonestToddler:
@TheBerenstains This is good time of year to start hunting. Most adults walking around taste like baileys and ferrero rocher you'll like it)

Back to the holiday, the family we were with, for various reasons, had to move rooms a few times. Inconvenient certainly, but in the end, their room was an upgrade... they escaped what I like to call "the stethoscope shower." In case you are as confused as I was, each sucker attaches to a tap on the bath...with no chance of staying attached, and doing a better job of washing the edges of the bath than anyone trying to wash themselves with it. Maybe I'm too spoiled and used to modern day luxuries, my parents saw the photo and said they used to shower this way, thank God things have moved on! Similarly, the men found the 15" TV's in the rooms unbareable to watch, saying they needed binoculars. What have flat screen and giant TVs done to us?

So, not exactly the lap of luxury, but the staff and the lounge with roaring log fire made up for any disappointment.

The first night we drove to the village to find somewhere to eat. We were surprized to see a fire engine arrive immediately after us. We were even more surprized when we realised it was responding to a call from the pub we were literally just about to step into. There was a problem with the chimney, so we decided to try elsewhere for some dinner, a little doubtful there would be another option in such a tiny place. Luckily, there was another Inn very close by, and by the time the 10 of us were seated, there was little room for anyone else. The food was very good, and we were entertained by a customer at the bar in an extremely festive outfit...head to toe in reindeer pattern. This strange individual was proudly showing off an expensive looking leg of parma ham, encouraging people to try it. We resisted the temptation of trying meat from a random stranger at a bar, and left feeling a bit queasy from watching other customers (and staff) put food in their mouths for a dog to take out. Just seemed wrong, and asking for trouble in my opinion.

Arriving back at our hotel and enjoying a few drinks in the lounge, we watched none other than Mr Christmas himself with his trusty parma strolling up to the bar. In a fit of the giggles we watched as he tried to tempt more fellow drinkers to sample his delicacy. Next, he had the bright idea to try and cook some on the log fire. Surely this defeats the whole purpose of buying an expensive meat which is meant to be eaten raw...but I guess he was curious. My husband (a fellow Groupon addict) happened to notice a random offer on a leg of parma ham, and couldn't resist telling the poor guy how much cheaper he could have bought his ham for. To his credit, he defended his purchase and was still clearly delighted with it. Mr. Christmas was clearly enjoying himself, to each their own. It was also a little surreal as we watched the local police doing their rounds to check everything was OK in our hotel, and leaving with a mouthful of parma ham.

The next day was sunny, and we decided to make the most of it and visited Pitlochry dam and Fish Ladder. The Fish Ladder allows salmon to migrate up and over the 86 metre high dam, it's very interesting although you can only view the salmon between April and late September. The views were quite spectacular, and it was great to get some fresh air. I suspect the tourism to Pitlochry Dam may be on the increase. My son and his friend were photobombed by a mysterious old lady, on the slightly unstable bridge. The photo appeared on Facebook with the suggestion that she could be a ghost (of course she wasn't), and a few people believed it. We all had a good laugh at the prospects of it going viral and people hunting the Pitlochry ghost...the joke will be on us if it turns out she actually is!

We'd visited Aviemore on a very scenic drive to let the boys try skiing and sledging. Little did we know we could have saved ourselves a 1.5 hour trip by going to Glenshee, which was only half an hour away. This time we all intended having some fun in the snow. However, as we drove higher up, the snow started coming down pretty heavy making driving very difficult. Our 4*4 could cope, so my husband dropped me and the kids off at the top to go back and pick up our friends. Unfortunately, by the time he headed back, the road had been shut off, and we couldn't get back to them.  We agreed to meet up with them later, and bought ourselves a very overpriced sledge. My first attempt, sharing a sledge with my son, was not a great success. Unable to stop as we were going so fast, I managed, despite my best efforts not to, to crash us into a fence. I was forgiven, and my husband had to make sure he stopped us on future attempts. My husband, incidentally, although technically able to stop his sledge, did only slow down by traveling past the fence and into the path of beginner skiers and snow boarders. Could have been a few candid camera moments there, but thankfully not.

Glenshee was amazing that day. The sky with it's continuous blizzard, was as white as the snow we were standing in. Looking around, you could not tell where mountain finished, and sky began. Beautiful, yes, but also bitterly cold. The kids (and I), had had enough after about an hour. We headed back to the car and put the heating on full blast. We noticed the petrol tanker and a few cars in front were stationary as we got onto the road. My husband went to investigate and was told the road was still closed as so many cars had got stuck on the drive up. We sat for half an hour wondering what to do. The police kept saying snow plow's and gritters were on the way, but nothing seemed to be happening. My husband battered the elements and went to help push some of the cars that were stuck. I wasn't too worried about him, his fluorescent ski trousers could be seen from miles away. Here's a tip, if you are not really ski people like us, but fancy giving it a go, Lidl does great ski clothes. They've moved on from Burberry horse coats to ski equipment...essentials for every supermarket I'm sure you'll agree.

I think that's the highlights of the trip, the older kids had a ball being scared out of their wits on a
walk through the woods at night, as well as roasting marshmallows on the log fire. In summary, we had a great holiday and I'd go back to the Log Cabin Hotel, they offered me a discount which hopefully they won't revoke if they read this :) My only advice if you decide to go...avoid the mulled wine.