Store-cupboard Brekkies

Yes, it’s another porridge post!

I figured everyone needed something calming after all yesterday’s… excitement.

So, got up at six this morning to get the firstborn on the bus to college. Starving. REALLY starving. And thought, “Aha! Porridge! I think I’ll just swing by Tesco and pick up some blueberries and yogurt raisins to go on top.” Then remembered that it was the crack of dawn and Tesco’s was firmly shut till eight. Foiled again!

Stared moodily into the cupboard. Tried another cupboard with no better result. Rifled through the tins, and found a small tin of crushed pineapple. Inspiration struck! So herein may I proudly present:

PIÑA COLADA PORRIDGE

Oh, yeah.

First you make your plain ordinary porridge. Then you add half the tin of pineapple, and mix it in.

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If you like cinnamon, add a goodish sprinkle, and mix again.

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I intended to add shredded or dessicated coconut to the actual porridge as it was cooking, but a quick search through the kitchen cupboards revealed that after last month’s ill-advised out-of-date-food blitz, I didn’t have any, so I substituted a good glug from a tin of coconut milk. This had the unexpected but welcome side-effect of making the whole thing very creamy-tasting. Cat optional. *Cat-hair probably not optional.

(*see my post from a few days ago)

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At this point I tasted it, decided it wasn’t quite pineappley enough, and dumped in the rest of the tin.

Top with a proud twirl of aerosol cream and a leetle sprinkle of demarara sugar, et voila!

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If you don’t have to actually function today, you could go the whole hog and add Malibu. Just sayin’.

Tastes nice cold, too.

I Am Not The Walrus.

I’m not sure a category exists in which to place this post.

I have a question. A delicate, ticklish question which nevertheless, sweet readers, I place before you this afternoon:

WHY OH WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT’S HOLY DO MEN HAVE TO MAKE SEX NOISES AT THE GYM?

I’m sure not all men do it (the sex noises at the gym thing, that is). Some are exemplars of stoical quietude. Others, like me, opt for the martial-arts-movie noises when they feel the need to make a noise at all – you know, the ones that go “Hahhh!” or “Hunkh” or “Eeeeyaarrgh!” – just some intentional-sounding vaguely word-like utterance of effort.

Not the guy who was in there yesterday. Ohhh, no. I could hear him clean down the stairs at the reception desk, and the urgency with which he was expressing himself made me linger a few minutes longer warming up on the cross-trainer in hopes that whatever was going on in the free weights room would be finished by the time I got there. It sounded as if it might involve a bull walrus.

Alas for my hopes. When I sauntered in, carrying my water bottle and nonchalantly pulling on my gloves, the Walrussing was still going strong. I selected a modest 8kg dumbbell and started doing one of my exercises, called (unfortunately for my state of mind) a one-arm snatch. Walrus Boy was doing bench presses with a very heavy-looking barful of weights, and every time he pressed the bar, he vocalised. Not just “Uugggh” or “Aaaagh” but a drawn-out, throaty moan of agonised effort that made you fear for his blood vessels.

I kept a straight face by concentrating sternly first on the floor between my feet when I squatted to pick up the dumbbell, then switching my attention to a pigeon trying to land on the windowsill outside as I lifted the weight above my head like a bad-ass Statue of Liberty. Floor. Pigeon. Floor. Pigeon. Floor. Pigeon. “Ooouuuuuunnnnggghuurrrh!” Dear God. Floorpigeonfloorpigeonfloorpigeon.

Thankfully Walrus Boy went off to do something a modicum less strenuous, and I moved over to the big bench-pressy machine. I’m sure it has a name, but I just think of it as the big bench-pressy machine thing. I removed all the weights but one (yeah, yeah, I know), and set the bench flat, and lay down underneath the bar to do my bench presses. So far so fine and dandy, though I have to tell you that as the sole female in the room, lying flat on your back on a bench with your legs apart staring at the ceiling does rather bring on delivery-room flashbacks. I did my reps, then looked at the sheet of paper I was toting around. Next item: incline bench presses. Now, I knew this one. Same thing, but with the bench raised so you’re sitting laid back as if in a Laz-e-Boy recliner to lift the weights. I adjusted the bench back (oddly like adjusting the height of an old-style ironing-board, by the way), and looked at the machine. If I slid under the weight bar where it was now, I’d strangle myself; it obviously needed to slide back a bit. But how far? Where was the optimum placement for incline bench presses?

Now, see, this was the point at which it would have been smart of me to go and find Jez or Eddy or Kay or anybody else who was on the staff. Instead I turned to the two young guys next to me, who were deep in a serious conversation about the best way to yank a doodle or crush a grape or something, and said, “‘Scuse me guys, could you tell me how far back this needs to be for an incline bench press?”

They were helpful. They pushed the bench back a touch, then suggested I get under the bar so they could see if it was in the right place. I obliged, and they stared hard at my upper body for several long, long seconds before saying, “Yeah, that looks… about right.”

Ack! I just practically invited two young blokes I don’t know from Adam to gaze at my boobs! Oh, the shame! At least I was wearing the Bra Of Steel (TM).

More exercises, this time in front of the mirror with a free weight bar. Hang cleans, which just sound hardcore (to me, anyway), and overhead presses. I was just coming to the end of my cycle of exercises when Walrus Boy started again, only this time, he was really going for it. Even my grape-crushing pals looked over. He was doing something painful and repetitive with a dumbbell, and in what seemed to my fevered ears at least to be an accelerating rhythm.

I downed the last of my water and fled. Next time I’m bringing my MP3.

One FREE* Cat-Hair With Every Meal

*Terms and Conditions apply.

The Terms and Conditions go like this:

You live in a house with five cats? Five house-cats, yet. You have (let’s be kind) less than fabulous focus on the housekeeping front. And you think there’s only going to be ONE cat-hair in every meal?

*Sigh.*

This was SUPPOSED to be a post about food. My breakfast porridge, in fact (‘breakfast’ being a loosely-defined term meaning ‘first meal of the day’ which today I am still eating, stone cold, at ten to two in the afternoon).

I was feeling quite good about the porridge, which I cooked up with dried-apple pieces and cinnamon, then topped with mini marshmallows, sultanas and teeny chocolate stars. Here is my Breakfast of Champions:

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Nice, non? Rather chic in a limited-palette kind of way. And then I saw it.

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Yup. One Tinkerbell Special, delivered fresh to my cereal bowl. Mmm-mmm.

This didn’t put me off my porridge, you understand. When you live with cats, you either come to terms (not to mention conditions) with their constant impact on your environment, or you have them shot and stuffed and give them a good thick coat of varnish.

Some days, the varnish tin looks awfully attractive.

The Usual (Indeed, Only) Suspects:

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There is one other suspect, but the battery just gave out on my camera. Suffice it to say, if there WAS a photo of Reep, he would have the exact same expression of dubious, randomised “Whaaat?” as the rest of them. Except for Tiny at the top there, who as senior cat, is running with a more sinister “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to diiie!” vibe.

So, that’s my immune system’s daily workout sorted, then.

I sometimes wonder why I subject myself to all the irritating, messy, inconvenient, literal and figurative crap that goes with keeping animals. In fact, I have a lengthy, witty ‘bloody animals’ rant that will no doubt adorn this blog before too many more days have passed. Fact is, except when they’re being noisy, eating, shedding, fighting or being revoltingly incontinent, animals are FUN. Also way more rewarding than that last sentence makes them sound.

*Weak grin.*

Honest. Now, where did I put that tin of varnish…?

Holy Crap, I’m a Wuss!

I’m starting to love my gym. It’s not an intimidatingly sleek, potted-ficus, air-conditioned mind body and spirit type of place filled with intimidating, sleek, potted-ficus, air-conditioned mind body and spirit type of people. On the other hand, it’s not like the (her words) crap box haunted by my pal Ethelthedean where the pipes drip on you while you work out.

My gym has the Goldilocks factor: it’s just right. Cheap-ish, quiet-ish, unpretentious, friendly, informal. I can breeze in any time of the day, say hi to whoever’s on the desk, drop my bag behind the filing cabinet and just get the heck on with whatever it is I want to do. Sure, there are TVs everywhere blasting out some godforsaken rap crap about bros and hos and mofos and all that …shizzle, but it provides a good strong bass beat for when you’re goofing around on the cross-trainer, and other than that I can pretty much ignore it. I’m strong in the Force in these matters, having raised three daughters to teenage and therefore being acclimated to a hideously wide range of musical styles. Let’s just say it would take a strong stomach to open the playlists on my MP3 player.

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Sweet Baby Jesus! What the mofo shizzle is on that thing?!

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I know. I know. James Blunt, Nickelback, Rihanna, Erik Satie AND Hannah Montana. *sobs*

The sheer volume makes conversation a non-starter, so that’s another plus. 🙂

I have recently passed over an invisible barrier, gym-wise. I have ventured where, I’m finding, ladies don’t tend to tread very often – into the free weights room. This is testosterone territory. It even smells different to the rest of the gym: sweatier, oogier, male-er. I have been strolling in and out for a few weeks, doing some upright rows and dumbell curls with as much nonchalance as I can muster, and every time, whatever men are in there always stop and look.

I mean, it’s not that I’m drop-dead gorgeous, ripped, toned and semi-naked; really not. Trust me on this. It’s simply that I’m female and middle-aged. They’re probably wondering if I’ve lost my way en route to the Zumba class.

So I feel as if there’s a spotlight trained on me as I shove the press-bench out of the way so I can do my pully-uppy things on the big bar machine. This morning, I went in early (7.30am, people!) to settle on an accelerated weights program to fit my last 4 weeks of training before the Highland Games start.

And yeah, I know I’m 47 and starting pretty much from scratch, but how lame does it feel to have to take away every weight plate but one? I’m bench-pressing 15kg, sweating like a sweaty thing doing landmines with a 20kg bar! I just feel like such a colossal wuss. I even had to ask the guy to take the weight down on the bar I’m using for back squats because I was seriously worried that I wouldn’t be physically able to do 5 reps.

I’m aiming at this:

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But I fear at the moment I’m more resembling this:

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Just so long as I don’t go too far and end up like this… human balloon animal, I think I’ll make it.

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Mike the Emergency Inflatable Life-Raft

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Holy facepalm. Shoot me first!

Ninja Fingers

Just a quick update to the previous post: added bronzey-brown to the greens – it worked! Now, instead of looking as if I have an unfortunate case of fingernail fungus, I have Stealth Fingers (patent pending)… nobody will see them coming! World domination next week, provided I can remember how to get the top off the bottle…

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The Morale of This Story Is…

The moral of this story, just to make it clear right from the start to anybody who thinks I didn’t do that on purpose, is that I cannot resist a pun. Ever. Ask anybody who’s ever talked/Tweeted/emailed me and they’ll tell you. It’s tragic but true. There should be a 12-step group for this (There probably is. And I bet it’s got a funny name).

Aaanyway… today’s contribution: talking about morale. Oomph. Mojo. Get-up-and-go. Yesterday, for some mysterious reason, mine got up and went. It was a day when everything I attempted got overrun by something else (and hello once more, Accident and Emergency, mon cher amour), and nothing I needed to do seemed to get done. I struggled through the day feeling as if I’d left my brain under a cushion somewhere. Everything was effort. Everything was slow. Even the supposedly-super-zippy internet kept dropping the connection. I knew how it felt. My servers were not responding to DNS lookup. I needed to reload http://www.thursday.co.uk and try again. Or perhaps I should try turning off my router and turning it on again.

Like everything else, the gym got delayed, reshuffled, and eventually abandoned yesterday. This made me despondent as I’d vowed never to allow that to happen, and I pulled my trainer socks up and decided I was going, no matter that it was 8pm. But yet another child emergency popped up just as I was about to get changed into my trackies. By the time I’d retrieved a distressed teen from Tesco, fed it industrial-strength painkillers, wheeled it round in the Tesco wheelchair and then made it home again, my energy needle was jammed against ’empty’. *Sigh*.

So this morning – reload! Stuff yesterday. If I look back clearly, I did several things that needed doing. Today is going to be better. Hell, it’s already better because I’ve written and sent several important emails, made needful phone calls, fed children and pets, and removed last week’s knackered nail varnish.

Nail varnish is crucial to this post. It’s my fallback morale-booster. The habit started when I began producing babies. Believe me, when you go into hospital to give birth, you may as well check your dignity at the door, because it’s the first casualty once all the grunting and swearing starts. I read somewhere that painting your toenails could make you feel better about having half a dozen medical professionals gazing entranced up your jacksie, so I dutifully painted them before my due date. Weirdly, it worked. Then and now, painted toenails just make me feel more dressed somehow.

The laissez-faire attitude I exhibited in the delivery room may well have had more to do with clutching the gas-and-air mask for several hours, but what the heck. Joint honours.

So today, a new colour, and a departure in style – I’m going camouflaged!

Blame Rimmel, they brought out a khaki-green varnish called ‘Camouflage Chic’ that I spotted last night and bought on the spot, inspired, then decided to team it with something called ‘Misty Jade’. Not entirely sure where this combo would render my nails invisible – a bathroom tile showroom, maybe – but hey. I may go wild and add some brown later.

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The nail varnish has done its job: I feel ready to take on anything. Strange, but true.

I Kilt It!

The Highland Games Heavy Events have one particular, immutable rule: ALL participants must appear and compete in Highland dress. That includes me.

Ohh, yes. Time to consider the kilt, my friends.

First, despite the slightly unfortunate coincidence of it being termed “Highland dress“, vastly the most important thing to grasp if you don’t wish to appear a complete moron: A KILT IS NOT A SKIRT. DON’T, JUST DON’T CALL IT A SKIRT. Not if you value your assets, anyway. It may seem like a funny thing to say (heck, even I, having a puerile sense of humour, am tempted to find it funny occasionally), but most kilt-wearers (unlike me) are male, have heard the joke a bazillion times from lips less charming than yours, and will not feel inclined to chortle along with you. Not even a bit.

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Secondly, every kilt wearer you will ever encounter has also heard the question about what he wears UNDER his kilt a bazillion times and finds it, if possible, even less funny than the ‘skirt’ remarks. Some may go on the offensive and offer to show you if you promise to kiss whatever you find under there; the smart ones just wink and say, “Shoes, of course!”

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Speaking personally, anybody who tries to investigate what I’m wearing beneath the kilt this summer is going to find themselves in a new world of pain. But hey. What’s a girl to do?

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Yes, the Alternate Universe Princess Fiona in “Shrek Forever After” really rocks the kilt! Also the battle-axe and the kick-arse boots. My heroine!

As soon as I had definitely decided to do the Games, I bought myself a secondhand kilt off eBay. Why not new, you ask? Because a decent new kilt would have cost me upwards of £300, that’s why! That’s also why I’m not wearing a clan tartan: if I ordered a kilt from a proper kiltmaker, I could specify a particular clan tartan, even a particular weaver, and get everything exactly how I wanted it. I could stride confidently into their showroom and say, “I’d like an 8-yard kilt in the Ancient Graham of Menteith woven by Lochcarron, with a 16″ drop and black leather straps and buckles, with a fringe end, pretty please.”

Alas for financial reality! My Aunty Doreen (our family’s one and only Scots connection for aeons in any direction) just had to go and marry a bloke whose tartan is scarcer than hens’ teeth. So, reluctantly, because I love the teal-blues of the Graham tartan, I abandoned my shaky claim to Scottish ancestry and settled for a secondhand kilt in a rather nice ‘generic’ tartan called “Heritage of Scotland” (or in my case, “No Heritage of Scotland”). I hung my acquisition carefully in the wardrobe, and forgot about it.

You will have seen my training efforts below. It suddenly occurred to me that, if I was going to wear the kilt with conviction (and without embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions) when the season started, I had better get it out and get used to wearing it now. So when my buddy Robyn called to ask if I wanted to go out for a drink the other night, I said, “Yeah, OK, but I’m wearing my kilt!”

The first thing that dawned when putting it on was that this was nothing – and I do mean NOTHING – like wearing a skirt. It’s more like strapping on armour for battle. Honest. In kilted circles, an 8-yard traditional kilt is known as a ‘tank’, because believe me, it’s built like one. Trust me on this. It feels very secure, and rather bracing. And when you move, it swishes. I think it’s something to do with the six yards of fabric folded into knife-edge pleats behind you! Wowza, does it move! Swing your hips, and you could take out a small child or an elderly aunt without even realising.

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Kilts: weapons of mass destruction? Stand well clear until the pleats have come to a halt, ladies and gentlemen.

Robyn captured the event for posterity (yeah, sorry about that, posterity…). Excuse the specs and slightly crazy hair. I had done battle with fibre putty hair-product earlier that day and the outcome still wasn’t decided, so I rammed the lot up in a bun and went forth as is.

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Schoolma’am-meets-Kilted-Warrior-Woman. I think.

Or there’s always what I’m calling Attitude: Kilted.

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I’ll be keeping this kilt as my reserve/pubbing/ceilidhing kilt, as it’s a tad long for athletical endeavours. I’m ordering one in the same tartan from an eBay shop, it’ll be 8 yards, like this one… just a fair few inches shorter – a girly throwing kilt, inspired by my friends on X Marks the Scot.

As I’m sure I heard someone say on the forums one day, “Swish happens!”

And when it does, I’m going to be wearing bullet-proof Lycra leggings under my kilt. ‘Cos, seriously, nobody’s been quite bad enough to deserve the sight of my nekkid thighs on a summer’s afternoon.