Run Stellian, run!

Over the last couple of years I’ve been working hard to lose quite a bit of weight and been relatively successful – losing 2 1/2 stone.

One thing I’ve never got to grips with though is exercise. I know I’m only going to get to a healthy weight if I sort out my eating AND my activity at the same time.

I’ve got a couple of things for the wii – which I never get round to because I’m running around after the kids or can’t be bothered to tidy up the toys so I have a clear space to move in.

So when I read about a free podcast from the NHS called ‘Couch to 5k’ I was intrigued.

It’s available from iTunes and the idea is that over 9 weeks where you go out 3 times a week, a coach will help you build up your stamina, so that at the end of the 9 weeks you can run 5k or for 1/2 an hour without stopping.

Well, today I have a rare day with no work & no children. The sun is shining so I gave week 1 a go.

The coach talks you through the plan and counts you down etc when you need to change pace and the music it plays to help you keep pace is quite good.

You start off with a 5 min brisk walk, then you run for 60 seconds, walk for 90 seconds & repeat until the 5 min walk at the end to cool down.

I’ve never run before (well since school & I’m now thirty something) and I coped really well.

I got out of breath but not excessively so. My legs are aching, but I could still jump up from the couch and do my shopping if I needed to.

I feel good and I’m already trying to work out how I can fit this into my normal family routine (chaos).

If you’re interested, search iTunes for ‘NHS couch to 5k’ or visit the NHS website here for more information:

Right, where’s the oxygen, chocolate & silver blanket?


The Power of Imagination

We recently came back from a week away in Swanage in Dorset.

It was one of those perfect holiday’s you remember having as a child – it didn’t matter about the weather or expensive days out, it was just about fresh air, room to run around and make believe.

The day that brought this home to me was a fantastic day out on the Swanage Steam Railway to visit Corfe Castle.

Swanage Steam Railway runs from Swanage to Wareham, with lots of smaller stops along the way, one of which is the tiny village of Corfe.

Corfe is the site of a ruined castle with a fabulous history, culminating in it being destroyed in the Civil War as it was a Royalist stronghold. It is now managed by the National Trust.

Part of our routine on our holiday was to chat with the children about what we were doing that day. The moment we mentioned we were going to visit the ruined castle we had passed on our journey down, the Boy declared “a dragon lives there!”

He then preceded to tell the landlady of the B&B (and anyone else who would listen) “We’re going on a steam train to a ruined castle to see the dragon.”

Once we got on the train (along with the Grandparents) he then told everyone on the train about going to see the dragon. Grandpa asked him “What does the dragon look like?”. Boy replied “Green and blue and pink and orange and red”

In his head, the dragon was alive and he’d brought it to life.

We arrived at Corfe just before lunch and decided to visit the model village of Corfe before going to eat.

The model village was lovely. In the centre was a huge model of Corfe Castle as it looked before it was destroyed and peeking out behind was the ruin in the distance.

It wouldn’t be a model village without a sense of humour, and true to form, there was a model village in the model village, with a tiny model village in the model village of the model village of the village! (Well done if you followed that!)

There was a lovely fairy walk, and a treasure hunt for the Girl to do – she was delighted to win a pencil!

All the time we were exploring the model village, the Boy was walking round with his binoculars searching for his dragon – while Girl was all excited about the talking Round head model soldier telling her how he blew up Corfe Castle with gunpowder, he was looking in bushes and in the sky for his dragon.

It was time for lunch and we had an amazing meal at the Greyhound pub. It features in the Good Pub Guide – and deservedly so. Good food, excellent colouring sets for the kids and a lovely atmosphere.

All through lunch, Boy kept asking when we could look for the dragon, and was delighted when he opened his colouring book and found a picture of a dragon to colour!

So, full of good food, we walked up to Corfe Castle. And so began the dragon hunt.

We tiptoed around the ruins, which were full of half open rooms and boulders to sneak up on and peek around.

We stopped and looked down at a neighbouring field and Boy cried out “Look! Dragon footprints!” (mole hills!), every puddle was “Dragon wee!”, we found a dip in the earth that was “A dragon nest!”

Dragon Footprints!

When we got back to the bottom of the hill, he decided the dragon was shy of all the people and was either hiding or invisible. Every time a bird swooped up to the top of the tower, it was the dragon flying there to hide.We also found a cave where he might be hiding!

You can just see the Dragon cave where the hill meets the castle, at the top of the ramp.

His day was complete when I gave him a gift I found in the National Trust shop:

Meet Dragy the Dragon puppet.

I realise I’ve not really mentioned the Girl. She had a fabulous day too – on the train ride she was absorbed with her ‘I Spy’ book, and at the castle she loved climbing and exploring. She also loved the tents that were set up for exploring the castle’s history, and she has a lovely book that tells the story of the castle through the eyes of a past king.

It was truly magical. It was one of the most fun afternoons I’ve spent since I was a child. Exploring a pile of rocks and seeing it as an enchanted place to explore and discover will never leave me. I hope it never leaves the Boy either, which is why I wanted to tell the story of his day so we can re-tell and re-live it when he’s older.

Crafty Crocodiles!

Thursday 3rd March was World Book Day:

Girl’s school had made the decision to celebrate on Friday 4th March as there’s no PE on a Friday and would minimise disruption and also meant the school hall was free for the costume assemblies. Just before half term, we’d received a note saying that the children could dress up as their favourite book character.

This gave me nearly two weeks to help Girl work out what she wanted to dress as, and sort her costumer out. Typically though, I didn’t even think about till the Sunday before, meaning I would only have evenings after work to get creative and/or spend a fortune on a costume.

The conversation went like this:

  • Me “What book character do you want to dress up as?”
  • Girl “A princess”
  • Me “Which princess, from which book?”
  • Girl “Belle from the DVD”
  • Me “No, it’s for World Book Day. What’s your favourite book at school at the moment?”
  • Girl “The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl. CAN I GO AS A CROCODILE?”
  • Me “Er, Ok, I’ll see what I can do”

So, hoist on my own pedantry, I start to think about a crocodile costume. And this is how I went about it!

Firstly, I nipped out to my local supermarket & purchased two cheap, turqouise (closest I could get to green) pillow cases, a box of eggs & a cheap green school jumper.

Secondly, I rummaged through the cardboard waiting for recycling and found my mum’s discarded box from her ukelele (don’t as, that’s a whole new story on its own!). And as it was tapered, I decided it was perfect for a crocodile head.

That was it for Monday, so off I trooped to work on Tuesday, trying to work out how I was going to pull it together. Whilst as work, I managed to reduce my colleagues to giggles. Other Half telephoned and asked if I’d bought eggs from anything specific as he wanted to use them for the kids’ tea. I answered “The box” and half the office could hear the confused silence!

Tuesday evening I begain work. Job number one was to paint the ukelele box green, I then chopped up the egg box for eyes and nostrils, and used printer paper to act as teeth. These pictures are the result:

Next job was to make a body & legs for my crocodile. To do this I pinned the cheap school jumper to the closed end of a pillow case, and cut out the head hole, and undid the seams so the arms of the jumper could peek through. The idea being, Girl would wear the jumper, then put the pillow case over the top so her arms were covered.

I then pinned a pair of her jeans to the open end of the second pillow case, and cut around them, leaving a little room for hemming and movement. I also put some velcro along the seam at the top of the trousers for functionality, and this was the result:

At that point, I went to bed!
Next evening was tail constructing. I got another phone call at work from Other Half asking if I needed another pillow case and if so which colour. Cue more office giggles when I answered “Green – it’s for a crocodile”.
Pillow cases duely bought, I began work on the tail. I placed a piece of cardboard inside and pushed it to the closed end. On the outside of the pillow case, I pinned some white paper & traced the line of the tail. I then cut through, the paper, pillow case & cardboard. I then hemmed the cardboard inside the pillow case so it was stiff and stuck out.
The final job was to get the crocodile head to sit like a hat, so I made a cardboard ring and fixed it with double-sided tape inside the head. And I was done!
This is how my Girl attended school:
I hadn’t realised at the time, that there was a prize for the best costume in each class, I put the effort in because my little Girl asked. But when I found out she’d won…. (*Blub*)

The moral of the (crocodile) tail is: anything is possible with 3 pillow cases, 1 jumper, 1 egg box, paint, sticky tape & of course, a ukelele box!

Half Term – Half A House

The first morning of our holiday in Swanage was spent exploring my In Law’s ‘new’ house.

The previous resident had been a bit of a DIYer (read Bodger). Recent discoveries have included the porch had been changed from the design submitted for planning permission, and 3 layers of tiles on top of hardwood on the kitchen walls and two phone lines coming into the house – one from the front, one from the back and no-one could say which was the mainline or which was attached to which phone number. The electrician has described the wiring as Clapham Junction & the plumber has discovered the main drain, buried under the ground floor bathroom, inside the house.

The weirdest discovery has been in the lean to at the side of the house. The deeds of the house show it to have been the original pantry/larder of the house, however there’s no record of permission being granted to remove it – yet all that remains are plywood walls & a plastic roof.
On the wall that connects with the house, is a wooden recessed shelving unit. When showing their architect round, the In Laws knocked on the back of this unit to see how solid the wall was – to discover that the back of the shelving unit IS the wall with the house. Turns out, when the previous owner knocked down the pantry, he built the shelves into the old kitchen door and knocked a new door through, just next to it. He then hid the wooden wall with a tall freestanding cupboard. We could just imagine the conversation with the police following a break in:

“And how do you think the burglars got in, Sir?”

“They walked through this wall here…”

Needless to say, they are rebuilding the pantry to use as a boot room and making sure that wall is secured properly.

The plans they have for this house are amazing and I’m looking forward to having a room with a sea view & a balcony! Girl is excited as her room is going to be pink and a has a special window with a sea view all of her own. Boy wants to help rebuild!

All in all, I think it’s going to be a fabulous house when finished, and we’re going to have some great holidays and create some amazing memories for our children and their Grandparents.

Half Term – Happy Holidays!

My in-laws recently moved to Swanage, in Dorset. This made visiting difficult as they had bought a ‘doer-upper’ house and were renting a two bedroom flat – which was much too small for my tribe! So when they offered to put us up at February half term in a local B&B, we jumped at the chance.

The B&B they chose for us is called The Limes, and is great. We had a family room, with 1 double bed & 2 twin beds. The room had an en suite shower room, Freeview TV & free Wi-Fi. The breakfasts were amazing, and the staff were friendly and accommodating. They welcome pets & families, and provide a baby listening service if you want to use the in house bar/lounge/games room. The lounge boasts 3 floor to ceiling book cases full of books that anyone can borrow, although they do ask that if you want to take a book home you ask first as they all belong to the landlord/lady.

This post wasn’t meant to be an advert, however when you find good, locally run services it seems a shame not to share a recommendation with other people, so if you want to visit Dorset, don’t go to a Holiday Inn or a Marriott – stay at The Limes!