Christmas Day 2012 – The Gifts

Now that we’re in that lull between Christmas and New Year where shops (and my gym) think it’s totally OK to dick me about and open whenever the hell they want, I have a lot of time to myself.  Translation: I’ll probably be updating this frequently.

Christmas day saw us (me and Ian) wake up around 8, and then make the adult decision to go back to sleep for as long as possible.  This only lasted until 9:30 am, when we dragged ourselves through to the living room and had breakfast.  I indulged in toast with brandy butter.  If you have never had brandy butter, your Christmas is lacking.  Then we moved onto presents.

Now, I am not usually inundated with gifts.  My family lives thousands of miles away (in Texas, and Australia, and Italy), and we don’t really bother sending birthday/Christmas presents.  Instead, I get spoiled during my annual visits, which suits everyone because things aren’t overpriced and there are less crowds.  But being the only person in my family in the country isn’t all bad, because I occasionally get pity presents.

Case in point: my colleagues pretty much all have children/family to buy stuff for and get stressed about.  I have Ian.  I felt kind of bad, so bought them relatively inexpensive (but thoughtful) gifts and put them into their pigeonholes at work with a card saying ‘from Santa’.  While they eventually figured out who ‘Santa’ was (one of the gifts was a lanyard from the Natural History museum in Houston, where I had been in October), I never confirmed my role in the gift giving.  Anyway, on the last day of term, I arrived to see a sack (a John Lewis carrier bag) with four gifts and a card saying’ Merry Christmas, from ‘The Elves’.  I know I have a soul, because I got a little emotional at that.

Anyway, 4 gifts from work, 2 from Ian, one from my Fetch Secret Santa, two from Grant (we usually agree beforehand whether to buy gifts for each other and a budget), as well as a gift from Ian’s mum.  I had scored this year! I did also get a secret Santa present from work, but it was so disappointing that my friend actually bought it off me for £1 when I let him use my washing machine, so that will not be mentioned again.

Presents!

Presents!

Pictured: Ryan Gosling colouring book (Grant), coasters (Grant), CW-X Revolution tights (Ian), tea-towel, marshmallows, hot chocolate packets, Shakespeare sticky notes (the ‘Elves’), lap counter/timer (Ian), and Australian money (in card from Australian grandparents).

Not pictured: Mango liquorice (‘Elves’ – eaten), Ian’s mum’s gift (worthy of its own post that will feature further on), ‘Liell’s present’ (more on this to come as well) and Fetch Secret Santa gift (ditto).

I was exceptionally happy with Ian’s gifts, and took the tights out for an 8 mile Christmas run.  The air was crisp.  The sun was shining (though the Scottish winter sun is low/blinding).  The drunks were still out from the night before, but otherwise the streets were abandoned. The photo below was taken several hours after my run, but it’s pretty, so it stays.

IMG_20121225_173938What I did not realize about the tights (translation: I was blinded by all the pretty colours and did not fully read the product description because I assumed they’d be like my other CW-X tights), is that they have been designed to be thin.  Very thin.  14% lighter than your average tight, apparently.  I squeezed into them and admired the aforementioned pretty colours:

IMG_20121225_111510And then I did the obligatory ‘how does my ass look in these’ pose in the bathroom mirror to conclude that the answer was ‘visible’:

IMG_20121225_111640Yes, that’s my right butt-cheek, adorned with festive red and white underwear, and a particularly sheer panel in the running tights.  A quick search online let me know that I was not the only one to think parts of these tights were verging on ‘indecent’, but whatever, RAINBOWS!  Reasoning that hardly anyone would be out on Christmas day, I opted not to go commando/change into nude underwear, and to just go for a run.  Of course I ran into a small group of kids I teach about half a mile from home.  Of course I did.

Back home and showered, I gave my attention to my Fetch secret Santa gift.  When I opened it, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it.  At first, I thought it was a scarf, but I realized it was just a loop.  It was too big to be a buff, but too small to be a snood.  It was very cosy, and a very nice colour though:

IMG_20121225_135757With some experimentation, I figured out a way to wear it that was comfortable, and flattering.  I am still not sure if this is how it was intended to be worn, but this is how it’s going to happen for me:

IMG_20121225_173734Sidenote: my hair is actually curly, but I choose to straighten the crap out of it because it is also very fine, and goes limp very quickly.  Essentially, I look a bit scrappy.

And now we move onto Liell’s present.  Liell is a friend of ours who has featured a few times so far in this blog.  He is an interesting character, and highly entertaining, but also eternally puzzling.  Anyway, Liell decided that it would be ‘hilarious’ to ‘wrap’ our Christmas present in Plaster of Paris instead of traditional wrapping paper.  Maybe this has something to do with him being a Jew (a sort of anti-Christmas silent protest, if you will).  I would bet it has more to do with the fact that he thought it would be a fun thing to do.  At the time.  On Christmas Eve, we were presented with this:

IMG_20121225_141959And on Christmas day, Ian and I had no choice but to open the present like this:

IMG_20121226_185459Despite getting plaster dust all over the packaging (and somewhat destroying the packaging in the process of unwrapping), we emerged victorious:

IMG_20121226_185523A children’s puzzle toy.  Definitely worth the effort, Liell.  Thank you.

And finally, we move onto my gift from Ian’s mum.  I did not get too excited about this gift for two reasons:

  1. Ian repeatedly told me, “Don’t get too excited about it.”
  2. Ian repeatedly reminded me that he had the receipt.

Last week, Ian ran out of fresh boxers and asked to borrow a pair of underwear to last him until he could get home and wash some clothes.  Obviously, I gave him a sensible pair of white briefs that came as part of a set with a cute bra, and that I have worn a grand total of zero times.  His mother, seeing the delicate item in amongst his washing, somehow got it stuck in her head that this is the type of underwear that I wear all the time, and that I could do with some more.  Which I guess it kind of sweet, but mostly a bit weird.  Like, it’s weird if my own mother buys me underwear because it’s something that touches my vagina, and my vagina is something used for sex.  Sex and mothers DO NOT MIX.  Nevertheless, my final Christmas present was a pack of these racy numbers (and a gift receipt):

IMG_20121226_190059Also, please ignore the Bambi pyjama bottoms.  They were cheap and the fabric is unbelievably soft.

All in all, a very successful year, gift-wise, even though Santa, the lazy git, never put anything in my stocking.  Not even coal.  How about you guys?  Did you get any amazing presents?  Or better yet, any seriously bad ones?  Seriously, you can vent about it here.  I will definitely not take a screenshot of your complaints, stalk you and your relatives aggressively, and send the gift-giver a copy of your complaint.  I will definitely not do that.

More Festivity, or Festive Cheer Part 2! (working title)

Megan recently posted a ’25 Days of Christmas’ thing, which is essentially one of those e-mail surveys that everyone loves filling out in the hopes that other people will read their answers and think ‘what a cool/hilarious/kindhearted/badass/quirky [delete as applicable] person s/he is, gosh darn it!’, except people just delete your answers and waste 30 minutes thinking of their own super meaningful responses.  Yeah, it’s like those.  Except it comes in picture form.  And has a Christmas theme, would you believe it?

Anyway, because I’m not out drinking with workmates I hardly know in gale force winds and horizontal rain, I’m looking for something rock n’ roll to do on my Friday night, so whilst I haven’t answered every question (you’re welcome), I have chosen to indulge myself a bit.  Enjoy.

Favourite Christmas movie

Being a teacher, my answer at this precise moment in time is: None at all, I would not be upset at all if every Christmas film ever made went up in flames right this minute.  But, if you asked my 9-year-old self this question, the answer would have been ‘Home Alone’, because I had a major crush on Macauley Culkin (I know).  I even rented ‘The Pagemaster’ from Blockbuster when it came out.  I’d like to think my taste in men has improved, but you can be the judge:

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2012 Christmas wish list:

These tights.  Because who doesn’t love rainbows?!
A Kindle Paperwhite.
A lap counter for my rekindled love of swimming.
An all-inclusive vacation to Hawaii/anywhere hot and with beaches.
Nothing that has to be used in a bathtub (I only have a shower).

Favourite Christmas song:

It’s a toss up between ‘Fairytale of New York’ and whatever The Darkness’s festive tune was. (I’m obviously not a Christmas song buff).

Best gift:

Easily the Sony Dream Machine Radio/Alarm/Cassette player that I received when I was about 11 and lived in Ponca City, OK.  So futuristic.  I loved that thing.

Sony Dream Machine

Sony Dream Machine

Favourite Christmas decoration:

Could it be any other?  I bought this baby the day before I ran the Loch Ness Marathon:

IMG_20120930_230247 A Picture of Christmas décor:

Well, I’ve already posted a picture of my tree (3 feet tall as my apartment is miniscule and cannot accommodate anything larger), so I’ll post my ‘card window’.  I don’t have enough surfaces to leave cars about on (and I find it too cluttery), so I slot my Christmas cards into my wooden blinds in my living room.  It’s not like having them closed blocks out any light, since I’m in Scotland, and I literally cannot remember how many days ago I last saw the sun.  Maybe Sunday?

IMG_20121221_212152 Favourite Christmas tradition:

When I was young my dad would make popcorn and we would use a needle and thread to transform it into tinsel for the tree (and eat the leftovers).  I think that may have been the only ‘tradition’ my family had, considering we never lived in the same country for more than a couple of years.  I have started a new tradition with Ian, though: good food for Christmas.  Last year was fajitas, this year is shaping up to be a spicy mustard chicken dish.

Wrapping paper or gift bags:

Wrapping paper.  Don’t be so fucking lazy.

Hardest person to buy for:

My dad.  Seriously.  This is a conversation we had before Christmas one year:

Me: Dad, what do you want for Christmas?

Dad: Nothing.

Me: Daaa-aaaaaaaaad.  Seriously!

Dad: I wouldn’t mind a Porsche.

Me: [dramatic sigh and eye roll] Dad!!!!

Dad: I don’t know, get me a copy of The Economist.

On Christmas day, under the tree, a few mysterious parcels would appear labelled: To John, From John.

My dad’s name is John, by the way.

Post a picture of an old Christmas card:

IMG_20121221_212224

This one is from my grandma (on my dad’s side).  Her birthday was on Christmas day, but she died in 2010.  This card would have been from a few years before her death when she still remembered/was able to write back to me.  I used to write her letters throughout the year, and sometimes I get the urge to write to her, and then remember that I can’t.  Anyway, this makes me glad that I’m a hoarder of personal stuff.

It’s also pretty hilarious to come across a bunch of old love letters from my ex with such gems as “you are the centre of my universe” and “I love you with every fibre of my being”.  Seriously.

IMG_20121221_212434

 When do you open gifts?

Christmas morning, after some champagne (or whatever cold, alcoholic fizzy stuff that comes in a green bottle happens to be in my fridge).  When I still lived at home my brother and I could open one gift on Christmas Eve, but these days I don’t really get enough gifts to make that viable.

Do you travel over the holidays?

Yes, if possible.  I’ve managed to escape Scotland’s harsh weather for the last two years, going to Houston for X-mas 2010, and Australia in 2011 (which featured a ‘delightful’ Christmas dinner courtesy of Qantas).  This year, however, I’m stuck here, which is not ideal, but it does mean I get to spend time with Ian and friends while they all have some time off work.  Plans are already underway, however, for a Texas Christmas in 2013.

IMG_0396

New Year’s Day 2012 – Australia

So how about you guys?  What do you want for Christmas?  What traditions do you have?  What has been your favourite present of all time?  Does Christmas music make you angry?  If you receive a gift with ugly wrapping paper, do you hide it behind gifts that you have wrapped for others just so you can’t see its ugliness?  Or is that just me?  Do you always get a shitty secret Santa present?  One year, the person who got my name made a mistake and thought they were buying for someone else.  I can’t say battleships was the best gift I ever got.

Festive Cheer!

As I type this post, I am full of festive spirit (beer)!  Christmas is only 17 days away, and I’m starting to get excited (having banned even a sniff of the ‘C’ word in my classroom until December).  I get really cranky about Christmas stuff being on display/Christmas music being played/literally anything to do with Christmas if it isn’t December, because I think that all the overexposure sucks the joy out of the holiday.  So my ban on Christmas until recently means I am extra stoked this year, even though I’m staying here in Scotland for a change (last year I was in Australia, and I started this blog just before I left, and the year before that I was in Houston).

Because I’ll be staying at home this year, I figured it was about time I get a Christmas tree.  Now, my vacuum cleaner broke about a week and a half ago (I have since bought a dustbuster as a miniature hero to step in until the Dyson engineer can come out), and my flat is tiny, so there was never going to be a real tree.  Most artificial trees were also way too big, and by the time I hit the shops, most of the small ones had sold out.  So I was glad that, a few nights ago, on a whim, I went to a shop a little out of the way and managed to bag their last 3 foot artificial tree in stock.  And to those of you with houses, no, that is not a typo, my tree is three feet tall.  Behold the beauty:

IMG_20121206_205513And yes, it sits on top of some shelves, but I have a tree, and I have presents (including one from my Fetch secret Santa!) underneath it.  That, for me, is commitment to the season!  As is my chosen headwear for today:

IMG_20121208_175749Now, this wasn’t for any old walk about Aberdeen city center.  No, no, no, this was to go and watch my friend Dylan, and my other friend Iain (who I go to spin class with) sing in the Granite City Chorus at Aberdeen Art Gallery this afternoon.  The group sang a half hour set of Christmas songs and were really good!  Despite the fact that my friend Dylan has been singing with the group for well over a year, this is the first time I’ve seen them perform:

IMG_20121208_171728I also have a feeling Dylan is the youngest member of the group…

In running news, my butt building has been going well, and I had a sports massage on Thursday where I was told there was a noticeable improvement to my shins and calves.  They had been feeling pretty good during my few short runs so I thought I’d try a 5 mile run on Friday night.  Along the icy pavements.  And at points in cold, sleety rain.  This is what the streets looked like on Wednesday night:

IMG_20121205_224209It snowed more overnight, and after people walking on the sidewalks the next day, combined with a very cold following night, it became like trying to walk on a wet ice rink.  At some points during my run I was literally pulling myself along the ground using a wall next to the sidewalk (so not my fastest 5 miles), but there were still some runnable sections.  Apart from the conditions, the run was fairly good.  Not much shin pain, not too out of breath.  And then I woke up this morning.

My left calf has been unbelievably tight and tender today, so I’m not sure if it’s just sore from the massage and run, or what.  I managed to do a step class and Body Pump this morning without much issue, but I have a Santa run (thankfully only 6k) to get through tomorrow, and possibly a few extra miles earlier in the day, so I’d really like the pain to go away!  I’ll hit the foam roller a bit tonight and slip into something sexy (compression socks) tonight.  Hopefully that’ll help.  If not, tomorrow is going to be a bit sore.

Hope everyone else is having a good weekend in the run up to Christmas!

Running in heat!

Well, I arrived safe and sound yesterday in Australia and met the rest of my family at Sydney Airport.  We then took the (very, very bumpy) hour flight to Albury, where my grandparents live.  So far I have been gifted with sunshine and warmth, and while for pretty much everything that is amazing, for running it can make things difficult.  Especially if you’re used to dealing with limbs losing sensation due to the cold and trying not to get sleet whipped into your eyes due to gale force winds (Ah, the joys of running in Scotland).

The flights over were, while not completely terrible, long and sore.  I didn’t get too much sleep, but I did eat a lot.  Apart from the crew wearing santa hats/reindeer antlers, and a little Lindtt chocolate bunny, there wasn’t much of a fuss over Christmas, so I was a bit disappointed, even though I am still not sure what I was expecting.  On Christmas Day we stopped in Bangkok for about an hour, so I had a bit of time to stretch my legs and take an obligatory ‘Christmas Day Photo’ at the airport:

Bangkok Airport, Christmas Day 2011

When we finally arrived in Albury, we were shattered.  I had a power nap (and apparently had some fantastic photos taken of my sleeping face courtesy of my uncle’s new flashy camera and my brother’s suggestion, I’m sure) and then awoke to a lasagne feast!  Much better than plane food.  About 11pm, I could resist sleep no more and hit the hay.

Santa's stash!

I awoke at about 3 this morning to a phone call from my bank alerting me to some possibly fraudulent transaction attempt.  I had to verify that it was indeed me trying to withdraw money in Australia unsuccessfully (causing major distress at Sydney after a parched flight), and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I looked outside.  Darkness.  I checked online for sunrise times. 5:55am.  Ages to go.

I decided to stay awake and then head out as soon as the sky started getting light to avoid having to run in immense heat.  At 5:30, I donned my brand new Sauconey running shoes (courtesy of Santa), set up my Garmin and made sure that I had a map of the area set up on my phone.  I set off shortly after and managed to fit in a respectable 6.81 miles.  The pace was slow, but I decided to ease my body back into exercise after all that traveling, and allow it to get used to the temperature change.  I also had to check where the hell I was occasionally, and I stopped to take a few photos.  I got back shortly after 6:45am and it was already 23 degrees.  Ridiculous!

Below is the route I took, courtesy, obviously, of my Garmin.  See if you can spot the 400m (roughly) track I found and took a lap on!

Route: 27 December

Tomorrow and Thursday I’ll be doing classes at the local gym and taking advantage of the last two days it’ll be open this year (Mental holidays!  You wouldn’t have to put up with that in Aberdeen!).  Then more running!

Here are some snaps taken during this morning’s run:

Payphone

Lavington Literary Institute

Blurry 'action shot' of the running track I came across

Abandoned trolley

Early opening laundromat on Mate Street

A deserted Mate Street at ridiculous o'clock

By the way, the new Sauconey shoes are great!  And while I was being ultra healthy, my boyfriend was thousands of miles away indulging in a Boxing Day BBQ!

Australia, here I come!

Well, my structured gym classes would normally go out the window for a few days over the festive period, but in this case, it’ll be 2 weeks!  I’m off down under to visit family over my Christmas holidays, and I had planned on making that the time for increasing my weekly mileage, and had bought the Garmin specifically for that.  Running is still my plan, but I can’t remember the last time I ran in 30 degree heat, so I think I’ll be breaking a sweat (frequently) not breaking the sound barrier, speed-wise.

I leave tonight (Christmas Eve) and arrive on Boxing Day, so I’m kind of screwing myself out of Christmas, but also avoiding too much filling up on stacks of pre-bought junk food, so not all bad.  I have been naughty and opened a present from my boyfriend – a leopard print latex dress with black paneling that I had wanted!  I also got a present from my ‘running friend’ – Diplomacy, the board game.  It has good reviews so I’ll definitely be cracking that one open upon my return to the ‘Deen.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas!  I’ll get a stopover in either Hong Kong or Bangkok, so at least I’ll get a couple of hours of land-Christmas.  The next time you hear from me, I’ll be on the other side of the world!

Christmas Canter 10k for Mencap

Sunday, 4th December, 2011

Sunday morning

Despite having been out the night before for a Christmas meal, I was up bright and early on Sunday to make my way down to the beach – solo (boyfriend was having a lie-in).  It was a bright and sunny morning – but freezing!  The streets were pretty deserted on the way to the Beach Leisure Centre.

Long winter shadow

As I approached, I noticed an assemblage of ‘serious’ runners – hi-tech running gear, hardcore stretching, running tights, gloves.  I was feeling pretty hip with my new Garmin, so I gave a sly wrist flash (I say sly, you should envisage someone unnecessarily exposing half her arm and leaning on a railing looking ‘casual’), but nobody seemed to notice, so I sauntered over to the coffee-drinking runners and asked where to register.  I was directed downstairs.

Race number

In the dungeon of the Leisure Centre I was met with cheery and alarmingly alert faces.  I gave my name and was given a number, some safety pins and an XL t-shirt that could double as a tent if weather conditions deteriorated throughout the race and I needed shelter (apparently mediums disappear quickly!). I had a quick change, dumped my belongings into a locker and went back upstairs to wait for the start.  The route was pretty straightforward: run along the beach of the sidewalk, turn, run back to Footdee, turn, run back, turn, run to the finish line.

The route

Just before 10:30, all the runners were summoned to the sidewalk.  Headphones went in, and as I crossed the start line, I also started the timer on my new Garmin for the first time!

The cold breeze was less than enjoyable for my poor bare hands, and I did feel a pang of jealousy as a woman passed me bedecked in cozy gloves. Luckily, after the first turn, we were shielded from the wind a bit, only to be blinded by running directly towards the low hanging winter sun.
After reaching Footdee (which I only recently realized is pronounced ‘Fittie’), we turned back onto the main sidewalk (and back into the wind).  I noticed that I was creeping up on one of the serious runners – let’s call her Silver Ponytail – that had previously been a speck on the horizon to me.  I also noticed glove woman who overtook me at the start.  Instantly, without wanting it to happen, I became competitive.

As I closed the gap, the low sun cast my 30 foot long shadow onto their feet, so they knew someone was approaching.  When I reached them, Gloves dropped behind, but Silver Ponytail switched into second gear and would not leave my side.  ‘That’s cool,’ I thought, ‘I’ll just run with her to keep a good pace and then sprint at the finish.’  And so, merrily I ran, matching Silver Ponytail stride for stride, soaking up the sun and the atmosphere.

But hold your horses there, cowboy! What is this?  The Silver Pony was actually a sly fox.  I was being shamelessly used as her windbreaker!  The ‘coastal breeze’ transformed in my mind into a ‘bitter wind’.  Hateful, venomous words rattled around my head and I thought ‘Screw this!’ and sped up.  She tried to hang on, but I was not having that redonkulous behaviour.  As I made the final turn of the race, I noticed I’d managed to create quite a sizable gap between us, so calmed down.

The last leg of the race was relaxed and sunny.  I overtook two more people (one male – always a mood booster!) before going for a short sprint finish.

My overall time, according to my Garmin, was 54:08 (no chip time or anything due to the ‘no frills’ style of the race).  An improvement on the dreadful Great North Run of October, thankfully, and less painful as I wasn’t really pushing myself too hard.  I’d like to get back down to the 40’s for 2012, but charity fun runs are less pain, more steady enjoyment.  I plan on doing it again next year.