Kicking Winter’s Ass


Go to it and then park up in the comfort zone layby…

A Jan day of snow 2011 001

So, yes, I know I’ve been banging on about getting out of the comfort zone a fair bit lately. But I haven’t abandoned it completely. We all need some comforts, some down time and relaxation. And, here in the northern hemisphere, probably more now than at other times of year.

A Jan day of snow 2011 008


Here in the Hebrides, we had a couple of bad storms in January with gale force winds gusting around 100mph. We lost roof tiles––all repaired now–– and we’ve had a few power cuts. But that sort of goes with the territory and we have a full power-cut survival kit to hand every year at this time.  I don’t even really mind the cold, or the bad weather particularly––as long as we don’t have to drive anywhere when it’s all ice and snow on the roads. I do hate the shortness of the daylight hours. However, the days are beginning to lengthen and there are already bulbs coming up in the garden.

A Jan day of snow 2011 015

And this time of year isn’t all bad. It can be a time of fresh starts, of bracing walks, warm firesides, and hearty soups. And after all, all our days are precious and are there to be savoured–– even if it isn’t always easy to remember that.


Below are my five tips for getting the best out of this time of year, and for parking up for a bit of a break in the comfort zone lay-by.

  1. Get outdoors for a time on most days. Dress for the weather and just go for it. I’ve managed to get a walk every day this month except one – when the weather was extreme and I wasn’t feeling so good. Even if you’re at work, try to get out for even a short time during your lunch break. 

    looking down the croft, across the loch to Trotternish ridge

  2. Get reading. When the weather is truly atrocious and you’ve nowhere else to be––curl up on the sofa or on top of the bed with a nice soft blanket and escape into a good book.

    image via
    image via
  3. Eat well. I do try to buy local and in season produce whenever possible, but at this time of year I make exceptions. Freshly squeezed orange juice at breakfast time and a mid-morning tangerine bring a bit of the sunny Mediterranean to the kitchen, blueberries and grapes from South America and asparagus from Egypt also add some much needed colour and variety to the winter diet. But I also enjoy excellent Scottish root vegetables and kale and other greens––all local and in season. Now is the best time here for hearty vegetable soups and rhubarb (early forced) or apple crumbles.

    image © Andrey Stasotin via
    image © Andrey Stasotin via
  4. Pamper yourself. A hot bubble bath by scented candlelight is a weekly treat for me. The candles came in handy when my scheduled bath time coincided with a recent powercut.

    image © Marilyn barbone via
    image © Marilyn barbone via
  5. Spring clean. Yes, you read that right. Why wait till Spring to get tidying? You’ll have better things to do then. Instead use this time of enforced indoorness to have a bit of a clearout and a declutter. And it can be a very therapeutic thing to get rid of no longer useful or beautiful stuff. So, put on some favourite music and get stuck into those cupboards and drawers.

    image © moomsabuy via
    image © moomsabuy via

How do you feel about this time of year? And, if you’re in the southern hemisphere what is it like for you?

Go Grandma!

Report from outside the comfort zone

Biker chick. Me well out of the comfort zone  - riding pillion on the husband's bike a couple of years ago.
Biker chick.
Me, well out of the comfort zone – riding pillion on the husband’s bike a couple of years ago.

In my first post of 2015 I did a bit of a preachy thing about taking the road less travelled and staying out of the comfort zone. So now I think I should give you an update on how good, or not, I am at taking my own advice.

In that earlier post I said that I intended to improve/maintain my fitness level by taking regular exercise, but that I didn’t see it as a New Year’s resolution as such, more as a continuation of something already started that I wanted to become an even more embedded habit.

Having taken early retirement from my teaching job is a bit of a double-edged sword fitness wise. I have more time to exercise, but I don’t get the incidental walking time I had when I walked to and from work and I’m no longer on my feet all day, but spend a lot of time writing at my desk.

image copyright DeVisu via
image copyright DeVisu via

However, I can report that it’s a case of so far, so good. I’m averaging thirty minutes a day of brisk walking, plus 30 minutes of yoga on five days out of seven, plus my 90 minute, once per week yoga class. I’ve also done a bit of an archaeological dig down through the depths of the bottom of my wardrobe and unearthed my long buried hand weights. So I’m also doing a ten minute stint a couple of times a week with them.

image via
image copyright iQconcept via

As far as getting out of the exercise comfort zone goes, yoga is new to me. I did a taster course while I was still teaching and then took it up in earnest last autumn. I really love it and it’s no chore to do daily practice in between the weekly classes. What I really like about it is its non-competitiveness and the fact that the philosophy is very much ‘even a little is fine’. So, as a recovering perfectionist this is especially good for me.

Along with healthy eating––again not a New Year resolution but an already established habit, I’m hoping that all that moving about will, keep the old muscles and bones strong, maintain flexibility and balance and keep the heart beating efficiently.

I’ve not lost weight, but I have lost some inches round my middle in the last year or so. And that’s fine by me. I’m so over the whole dieting thing.

image copyright Vova Shevchuk via
image copyright Vova Shevchuk via

I’m no fanatic. Running of any sort–– let alone marathons, eating only cabbage-based meals, and saying no to a bit of chocolate or a glass of the bubbly stuff are not for me.

But being fifty-eight years old I value my health more as time passes. I want to be fit enough to play with my grandchildren and to be around for sometime yet to annoy my husband and kids–– and I reckon whatever age you are it’s a case of use it or lose it when it comes to physical ability.

What I find very encouraging is that recent research seems to suggest that it’s not so much a daily hour in the gym that matters, though it’s still worth doing, but that what matters even more is the small regular amounts of movement that we should all be doing. The most recent advice is to get up from your desk/sofa every hour or so and move about a bit, or to do some in the house stair running in the ad breaks while watching TV, or to do some squats and lunges while waiting for the kettle to boil. There’s also a new trend for standing desks where, as the name implies, desk-based work is carried out standing up at a lectern height table top.

So I’ve decided my kitchen worktop shall henceforth be called my standing desk as I work at preparing meals, working out menus and shopping lists and check over the household accounts.

I haven’t tried the staircase gym. By evening, when I’m doing my TV watching, I feel I’ve done my exercise for the day––and  nor have I done any lunges in the kitchen, although I have done the odd tree pose (yoga) while waiting for the toast to pop­­­­–– as my probably traumatised neighbours could probably confirm.

image copyright Cherryjuice via


As for really getting out of my comfort zone, this month I finally learned to swim! I overcame a virtually lifelong fear and, following a private lesson with a wonderful instructor at my local pool, I swam a width. What a buzz it gave me! I was in a right state beforehand but determined to go through with it. Taking my feet off the bottom of the pool and then finding myself able to float while doing probably the weirdest breast stroke ever was just awesome.

image copyright Suriya KK via
image copyright Suriya KK via

And in my writing I’ve been trying new things too. I’ve been working on several competition entries mainly ones set by the Scottish Association of Writers whose annual conference I’ll be attending at the end of March. This has meant trying my hand at a short story for adults, a children’s short story, a review and an opinion-piece article. All are forms of writing that I find more difficult than novel writing, but it’s very good exercise for the creative muscles and having a deadline certainly helps.

I’m also having a go at life-writing which is akin to memoir––again it’s for a competition––this time for the Edinburgh Writers Club, of which I’m a long-distance member. I’ve not done this sort of creative non-fiction type work before, but it’s something I enjoy reading and I must say I’m enjoying the process of writing it.

But it’s not all work and no play. The comfort zone still exists, but it’s a layby off the main track. However, it’s one I do pull into regularly. More on that in my next post…