Category Archives: holidays

It’s hard, but it’s quick – The Cleanse

I love food.

I love baked Camembert and steak pie and Magnums and rum cocktails.

I’m active but I’m greedy. If there’s a packet of Oreos in front of me, I’ll hoover half of them and don’t even get me started on Kettle Chips…

Last Wednesday I got a fright. My jeans had been feeling a bit tight, so I booked into a spin class and thought I’d jump on the scales in the gym.

I nearly burst into tears right there next to the kettle bells.

I was 2.5kg (5.5lb) over my maximum weight. I have a 2kg(4.4lb) plus or minus range I try to stay within – and here I was miles over. How had this happened? I realised it was pretty simple. I’d been eating like a pig.

Send help

So after blasting that spin class, I did what any woman does. I got straight on Whatsapp and wailed to my girls.

“Do you want my help?” Dionne – the London-based nutritionist and personal trainer – asked.

“YES!” I shouted.

Being the wonderful supportive friend she is, she immediately sent me details of the cleanse* she normally charges a lot of money for.

“It has to start with your gut health,” she explained. “You need to clear out all the crap, get on top of the cravings and change your eating habits for good.”

Christ. I read through that pack with growing dread.

On the list of foods to enjoy, I was pleased to see:

eggs

walnuts

oats

steak and chicken

peppermint tea

most vegetables

coconut

On the list of foods to avoid were – well – everything else.

“I can cut out everything but coffee,” I texted back, but she was adamant. I was desperate. I said I’d do it.

The headache

Oh dear lord the headache. It started later on Wednesday and I swear it didn’t shift until Saturday morning. It was so bad that I called Dionne on Friday night and said I wasn’t sure I could carry on. She was sympathetic and said I could adapt it as long as I stuck to the golden rules:

8 glasses of water a day

no processed foods

no carbs after 2pm

no sugar

Thank god I woke up without that headache on Saturday or I would have probably quit in a spectacular orgy of Cadburys and Costa. As it was I drank my peppermint tea, gave myself a pep talk and carried on.

The turning point

Sunday was a huge challenge because we went to a family barbecue. My mother-in-law is a spectacular cook and hostess, all my favourite things were on the table in front of me – tortilla chips, Desperados beer, big floury rolls, ice cream… But I abstained. Ok, I had four tortilla chips. FINE it was eight. But old me would have scoffed the bag and washed it all down with beer, so I’m still calling it a win.

I woke up on Monday and I didn’t crave coffee. I was astonished, then smug. I posted it on Instagram and everything.

Last night I went out for dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen for ages – I drove, I drank a virgin Mojito (apple juice, lime juice naughty) and I had steak and salad for dinner. I had one small glass of red wine and savoured every sip. The next day was the weigh-in, I gave myself the wine for making it that far.

The weigh in

So this morning I headed to the gym and those scales. I told myself not to hope too much. 1kg would be great, a sixth of my goal weight loss before our summer holiday. I stepped on and held my breath. Oh. I’d lost 500g. No, wait – what’s that first number? I actually gasped.

I’d lost 2.5kg. That’s five and a half pounds. In a week.

I’ve lost a third of my goal weight loss in one week.

I am so damn proud of myself.

So what’s next?

Well – I have created some good habits and I’m going to Spain in seven weeks, so I’ll be damned if I stop now. Dionne (who was super proud) said I could reintroduce fruit a week today. One portion a day – and berries are my friend. Meantime I’m happy to avoid the coffee and I can stay on the wagon. I may introduce a sandwich at lunchtime – but I can do without carbs at dinner time. I think I’ll bring yoghurts back for my afternoon snack. Oh – and I’d better do my measurements for a truer reflection of my transformation.

Bonus features

Genuinely – I feel fantastic. I feel in balance – neither full nor hungry. I’m so proud of this willpower I’ve discovered in myself. I feel strong. I’m totally motivated – this works and I have a holiday at the end of it. If I do have a wee cheat, I enjoy every morsel of it. It’s a good lesson for life. You should try it.

*The Cleanse is tailored to each client – Dionne knows my medical history so could confidently recommend it. She’s a nutritionist, not a dietician, so always has a consultation with the client before suggesting any programmes.

 

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Summer holidays are over

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I’m not going to lie, the last 46 days have been very hard graft. It’s the first time I’ve gone seven weeks without childcare for the Wee Man since he was six months old – and at least then he didn’t move. Now, he’s on the go from the moment he opens his eyes until the second he reluctantly shuts them – his zest for life is undeniable.

Plus he now has a wee brother who’s nearly three and has his own ideas about how the house and schedule should be run. Thank goodness for private nursery three days a week… I’ve managed to juggle my workload and thank God I’m self-employed. If I had a real job I would certainly have been sacked. All the childcare I thought I had lined up fell through, for a variety of reasons. My own naiveté was the main one, coupled with human error, expense and changes to holiday plans. It was frustrating and stressful. The weather was mostly rubbish, the days often began at 6am and all the driving to adventure parks and beaches resulted in KD napping at all sorts of inappropriate times. The bedtime and sleep routine were, for the most part, f*cked.

Yet here I am, the night before primary two, feeling emotional.

My mum spent the day with us and we had some lovely chats (in between hanging on to a dog and two boys on scooters) discussing my first summer holidays and how hard they are for everyone. I felt reassured and fired up – this afternoon I made a lasagne and filled a load of tupperware with jelly and mandarins ready for the lunchboxes.

summer holidays are over

summer holidays are over

This will never happen again – neither will I ever iron the Wee Man’s uniform (why bother when you can tumble dry it for ten mins) – but I’m pretending to be all #kickassmum and #winningatlife and whatever.

For his part, the Wee Man is so so ready to go back to school. He misses his pals and the structure of his day. I miss my pals too! The social side of the Wee Man’s school is great. The parking is shocking so everyone walks up together, plus the catchment is pretty small so we all live nearby. It’s a cosmopolitan crowd, lots of languages and backgrounds, which I love – the chat in the playground is interesting and I’ve missed it. I need my routine back too.

As for the weather, well, of course today was a scorcher.

Now that the schools are back the sunshine will no doubt beat down til October.

Oh christ – the October Week.

 

The Pramshed

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Mogabout on Arran

I took a deep breath, stilled my mind and rubbed my right thumb and forefinger together as I stepped forward. I paced slowly and deliberately to the end of the cairn, then turned and walked back. Were my fingers sticking? Was there a force emanating from the rock?

No.

Sadly I felt not a thing, despite standing on a ‘ley line’ on a 6000 year old burial ground.

“I didn’t think you would, it’s too rainy,” the guide, Alex, told me.

I smirked, thinking about how else we might ‘feel the energy’.

“I’m not getting naked,” I stated.

The rest of the group laughed. We were standing on the Giants’ Graveyard at the south end of Arran, observing the remaining stones and trying to imagine what the structure used to look like before the land owner commanded the peasants to remove them to construct a wall 200 years previously.

mogabout

“They almost made it to present day,” Alex said, forlornly. His tales of the Highland Clearances had been sobering – 86 locals forcibly removed and shipped to Canada so that sheep could move in, only for the duke to die and his hard-up wife to sell the land to the Forestry Commission.

Interestingly my kids hadn’t hung around. They hadn’t been the slightest bit interested in climbing the stones – had they felt something? Or did they just want to get back to play in the Unimog?

We were spending the afternoon on a forest safari, exploring the island on a 4×4 adapted truck called “Mogabout”, which meant we could go off-road and handle inclines of up to 45 degrees.

Despite holidaying on the island for nearly 30 years, I’d never seen it from this perspective, nor learned the nuggets of information imparted by our horticulturalist/fireman/entrepreneur/ranger guide. Two of the group were from New Jersey and I enjoyed seeing Arran through their eyes. “It’s so wild and beautiful – maybe we should move here and escape Trump,” they said.

mogabout

Just when we thought the boys were getting too restless to carry on, we stopped at the top of a forest track with an uninterrupted view across to Holy Isle and the Ayrshire coast. Alex produced two enormous thermos flasks, one with coffee and one with tea, a carton of milk, a box of biscuits and an huge tub of Swizzles sweets. When we’d finished he even let the boys ride up front.

mogabout

On the way back down the hills, he shared some local folklore, about the boy with an illicit whisky still who went “away with the fairies” and didn’t return for a year and a day, and the locals who’d carry food if they were ever out at night and found themselves near water, so they could make an offering and keep the fairies from causing them harm.

The beautiful and fitting ending to the eye-opening tour was the rain melting away and a perfect rainbow forming over the burial site.

Now that made me feel something.

 

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Mindfulness on Arran

 

 

 

 

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Mindfulness on Arran

I didn’t take my phone with me when we walked to Kings Cross point.

When we reached the bench at the top of the hill I sat down and let Rod and the boys carry on down to the beach.

I’ve been sitting on this bench since I was six years old. I considered this as I gazed out over the bay, across to Lamlash and up to Goatfell. It was so quiet. The only sounds were the insects zipping past my ears or hovering in the gorse behind me. Occasionally I’d hear a seagull down at the shore or the engine of a far off boat.

It was really hot today, I was in a vest top and shorts and could feel the warmth of the sun on my left side. It was almost completely still, only a light breeze made the leaves nod vaguely.

I was completely in the moment, but the worn wooden slats of the bench were hard and rough, so I stood up and followed the grassy path between the ferns to the beach, enjoying the relief of the dappled shade. I heard animals scurrying in the undergrowth and then laughter as I turned a corner to spy Rod and the Wee Man ankle deep in the sea. The tide was in and KD was asleep in his buggy in the shade of a gnarled tree.

I watched them for a moment, smiling, then picked my way across the stones to join them. I realised Rod had a beer in his hand and shook my head. I slipped off my trainers and stepped into the Firth of Clyde. It was catch-your-breath cold so I stayed in the shallows, scanning the sand for hermit crabs. The sea snails had left long tracks behind them and the cockles clung to the smooth stones – I could see every detail because the water was so clear. My eyes suddenly fell upon three bottles of Corona nestled in the rocks, keeping cool.

“You’re nothing if not resourceful,” I called to Rod.

“I’ve got a bottle opener in my pocket,” he called.

“Of course you do, “ I replied, selecting one. He popped it open for me and I took a slug. The rim of the bottle was salty. I stepped out of the water and selected a flat rock on the beach to sit on, listening to the dry popping of the seaweed around me. The tide was going out. The sun beat down and KD slept on.

Two women and four dogs appeared. We knew them, of course. They stripped to their swimsuits and waded in for a swim, shrieking that it never used to be this cold and beckoning their dogs, who sat resolutely on the sand. I listened to their chatter and watched Rod and the Wee Man play football with a rainbow ball and thought, “I’ll remember this moment as clearly as I can, so that when I’m old and lonely, I’ll feel happy.”

 

 

 

 

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What Would the Wee Man Do?

When I found out Edinburgh schools go back on the 10th of January, I was tempted to call the council.

What on earth was I going to do with them? When would I ever get back to work?

When in doubt - balloons

When in doubt – balloons

Rod probably wouldn’t admit it, but he must have been glad to get back to work on the 3rd. No one pulling anyone’s hair, repeating his name over and over and over or undoing everything he did… Actually, he works in the car trade, maybe that’s exactly what he went back to.

Thank God the nursery reopened on the 4th – only the Wee Man to entertain for three out of the six extra days.

Two days in and I’m kind of astonished to realise I’ve loved it.

What? So we're at the park again...

What? So we’re at the park again – what’s your point?

If anyone is struggling to stick to their “Healthy January” resolution, may I suggest hanging out with my son? He makes every minute of the day count – and I love that about him. Some of my friends’ kids are content to watch movies, play with their Christmas presents and generally hang out at home. Not him.

Yesterday, after dropping KD at nursery, we went straight to soft play. We were the first ones there and he whooped with delight. One other family arrived, with two small kids, one of whom introduced herself to the Wee Man and off they went. She was adorable. I played football with them and cheered them coming down the slides. They got on so well that her mum and I swapped numbers and arranged a playdate.

After a couple of hours at home we were off again, to visit Auntie Kaka and play with all her daughter’s toys. Then it was the big one: his first swimming lesson. That half hour in the pool made me so proud I could burst. For once his general lack of fear played in his favour – he was leaping into the water, swimming valiantly as he sank lower and lower and laughing the whole time. I think his instructor fell in love with him a wee bit – I could see she was proud too.

Today we went back to the pool after the nursery drop off and practised. To say he was delighted was an understatement, I actually feel bad for keeping his arm bands on this long. There was an aqua aerobics class going on at the same time and he kept trying to join in, dancing even as he drowned a little bit. There’s a soft play at the gym so I managed a quick coffee as he played, but soon we were off again, home for lunch and a wee bit of telly before donning full waterproofs and heading to the park.

A dot in the distance

A dot in the distance

As he shot off across the field with his football in the sunshine I thought “He’s just a free spirit,” somewhat indulgently. With no KD to slow us down we must have covered the length and breadth of that huge field several times over. He only stopped to hang over the fence and chat to the woman poo-picking in the horses’ field. She’d heard the rumour JK Rowling owned the sprawling stables across the bypass too and we commiserated in our jealousy.

After an hour in the zero degree cold we headed back to the car and popped in to see his great pal and her brother who, in his mother’s words, is “mad on the Wee Man” (rather than mad with him)… His energy was undented. They tore around the house, laughing their heads off, as Allison and I drank tea and discussed whether boys or girls were more of a challenge to parent.

"You be Anna and I'll be Elsa"

“You be Anna and I’ll be Elsa”

In the end the only thing that stopped us was a clamp on the wheel. Yes, they may be saving paper by doing away with tax discs, but they have opened up a whole new cash generator. I had just loaded KD into the car seat and was going back for the Wee Man when I realised the junk mail on the windscreen was in fact a £100 fine.

Drinking through the pain...

Drinking through the pain…

We have a joke in our family. Whenever we’re stressing about something we think of Big B, my so-laid-back-he’s-horizontal brother in law, and say “What Would Brian Do?” I’m thinking of adapting it to “What Would the Wee Man Do”? He is joy personified. It’s exhausting, but when it’s all about him, it’s incredibly uplifting. And fat burning.

So whenever you’re fed up, go ahead and borrow my new catchphrase. At least it will get you through January.

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The 21 hour date

It’s a bit like Stockholm syndrome. You wish for five minutes peace and yet you miss them as soon as they’ve gone.

It took a bit longer this time because I fell asleep three and a half minutes after we’d dropped the boys off at their Auntie’s. I napped all the way from Ayrshire to Perthshire, despite Rod’s questionable music choices, and woke up just as we parked at Gleneagles.

My pang for my children was almost immediately smothered by my raging thirst.

Mummykimmy boozing

It was the beginning of an eight hour session – the pace slightly slower than days of old – but the price considerably higher given our choice of venue.

Mummykimmy cocktail

mummykimmy eating steak

There were cocktails and steaks and a fine bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. There was even a trip to the bar, a place we normally bypass in our sprint to get back for the babysitter. It’s been recently redecorated and we liked everything about the turquoise walls and art deco style, except the bar stools. We did not like the bar stools. They were far too slippy. An attentive bartender came to try to assist us (the bases were very heavy) but seemed puzzled by our assertion that surely they had had many complaints about the bar stools. Neither of us could sit for long without sliding off.

“They’re perhaps designed so that you lean forward and chat to the bartenders,” he helpfully – and diplomatically – suggested.

The next morning, having fallen asleep on each other on the couch and stumbled up to bed around 3, we had a lie in. Nobody yelled “milk!” or elbowed us in sensitive parts or demanded Coco Pops, which made a nice change. Instead we went out for breakfast, read the papers and ate poached eggs, like grown ups.

The highlight of our prolonged date came at 10.45am when we walked into the Best Spa In The World.

Mummykimmy spa

We didn’t come out for three and a half hours. My aromatherapy massage was with a Hungarian called Sonny and I can confidently say it’s the best spa treatment I’ve ever had. The foot massage alone was worth the money. The whole experience was perfect from his soothing low voice to the classical music, heated bed and wonderful aromas from the oils. I felt like he kneaded out all the grumpy and left me feeling renewed. I realise this sounds ridiculous. Rod laughed out loud when I said pretty much those exact words outside in the hot tub as the rain fell on our heads.

Mummykimmy spa ready

We drove back to the kids in stages, stopping off to visit friends and their new baby and then my mum. Of course when we did eventually get to them, they ran straight past me and into their daddy’s arms and the wall of noise smacked us square in the forehead.

They’re in bed now and I’m about to make the lunches, pack the bags and prepare everything for the week ahead – but I’m doing it with a spring in my step.

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Lucky number three

I have somehow become the mother of a three year old.

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I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been finding things tough and anything I tried to write just came off like a huge moan. Who wants to read that? It wasn’t even anything serious, just a bout of illness, a crazy work schedule for both parents and the trials and tribulations of switching from a cot to a bed.

Now, though, the Terrible Twos are Officially Over.

Every since he turned three on Friday, the wee man has been on sparkling form. He didn’t even scream when I got him dressed this morning (usually an epic battle). We had some wonderful, quality, family time for three days, first with Daddy being off work, then with both sets of grandparents and an auntie visiting from Glasgow for the weekend. He just loved it. He adored having his daddy wind him up, his auntie dance around with him and his grandparents spoil him – and no doubt a relaxed and happy mummy had an effect too.

We spent Friday at Edinburgh zoo – an absolute five star hit for a small child obsessed with animals. My slight trepidation, based on an upsetting experience at Barcelona zoo last year, was quickly allayed by the focus on conservation and the wonderful design of many of the enclosures. The new chimpanzee house was a particular highlight, the wee man pressed his face against the glass, waving and mimicking the noisy chimps – though he did just about sh*t himself when they got rowdy and started banging on the glass. He stood in awe in the bird enclosure as they flew around him and squawked at him from nearby branches and tried to catch one as it hopped by his feet. The penguins were a big hit, especially when they paraded past, and he roared at the tiger and lions, even though they were sleeping and couldn’t care less.

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We met my friend Karrie and her gorgeous wee girl at a local Italian for dinner afterwards – both kids were very well-behaved and totally fascinated with each other. The wee man only thew one thing at her, and it was a cuddly panda he’d chosen for her at the gift shop, so she didn’t really mind.

The rest of the weekend was spent just hanging out with our family and anticipating his birthday party on the Sunday afternoon. We went for an early dinner on the Saturday at a Thai restaurant and a lovely Mother’s Day lunch on Sunday. Both times he sat at the table for more than an hour and a half without protest, playing with his sticker book or colouring-in or watching Toy Story on the iPad. We were very pleasantly surprised by his good behaviour. Was it the fact he was surrounded by parents and grandparents? Was it the fact his mum and dad were more relaxed? Or is he just growing up?…

The party on Sunday was a triumph, even if I do say so myself! We’d arranged to rent the local community centre, a lovely new building with a huge hall and a nice cafe for the birthday tea. We hired a bouncy castle and ball pool, borrowed all the cars, scooters, soft play blocks, slides and climbing frames from the toddler group and just let the kids run free. 15 of them played beautifully, no fights or tantrums, and sat very nicely for the pizza we ordered from across the road and sandwiches we’d bought in M&S. Mum had made a couple of dozen cupcakes and we stuck in the candles and sang Happy Birthday as the wee man blew them out one by one. I didn’t even cry –  I was just so happy that everything had gone according to plan, everyone was having a good time and the wee man was content.

I really think this is a bit of a turning point – even if only in my own head. He’s growing up and becoming more of his own person every day. This morning he woke up, trotted through with some sticklebricks and a huge grin and climbed into bed beside me, giving me a huge cuddle and lying happily in the crook of my arm as he pulled the bricks apart and reassembled them for five minutes. I think it was one of the nicest ways to start my day. I hope we can have lots more moments like this and the battles will become less and less frequent…

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Happy Birthday Boy

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