Monthly Check In: November 2012

Ho ho ho hello! It’s time for another monthly plan update plus the lowdown on the mighty December challenge!

Wow, I got quite a lot done in November. Not sure if it was the structure imposed by the challenges, or the fear of looking like a twit in public if I didn’t come through?!

Challenge #1 – Three Times A Lady Blogging Lady
I wrote 7 posts here, 2 on Pussycat and 1 on Up & Running for a total of 10. That does not average out to the targeted three per week. D’oh! But still, it’s a step up from my usual one-or-twice-a-month slackarse efforts of late and now I am feeling the writing love. Now let’s say a fond farewell to this low-res sexy Lionel…

Once, twice, three times a blogging lady!

Challenge #2 – The Great DVD Dust-Off
I’m going to carry on with this one. Decluttering is good for the soul. Coming up: Bob vs Jillian Smackdown!

And now for the December Challenge…
I’m blogging every day this month! Julia and I were chatting about how easy it is for things to go tits up in December with all the festive shenanigans. Also, my 2012 lard-busting results have been lacklustre (one measly pound off in November) so I want to finish strongly and not start 2013 with extra extra pounds. So for both our amusement and accountability we created…

The Christmas HAM Plan

(HAM = Happy And Mindful)

We set ourselves three simple habits to work on. Inspired by the Amsterdam experience my list includes sticking to three mindful meals and a minimum standards agreement on exercise, plus blogging the gory details each and every day. We each set out our HAM Plan habits here.

Five days in and the HAM rocks – it’s that structured mindfulness thing again. It’s also fun pretending to be one of those food blogger types for a wee while, even though I find it hard not to picture disapproving readers tsk-tsking at all the cake last weekend.

So if you fancy cheering me on, kicking my butt, or just want a stickybeak at how two ladies navigate the festive season (I’m personally addicted to this window on the running coach life), I am writing every day on the Up & Running blog throughout December. Fair warning for the coming weeks: There Will Be Cocktails!

 

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Walking in Amsterdam

Last weekend Julia and I met up for an Up & Running work-o-rama in Amsterdam. Just over an hour’s flight from both Edinburgh and Bologna, it was the perfect place for an in-person summit. We were only there for three days but we found ourselves falling into a routine…

First, we’d wake up early and go for a run (her) or power walk (me). Despite all the photo stops I got an excellent huff and puff going.

Goedemorgen

Goedemorgen!

Then we’d go to Our Favourite Café. It was quiet and cosy with a resident fluffy cat and beautifully presented breakfasts. When even a humble fruit salad looks like a bowl of jewels you can’t help but slow down and savour the heck out of it. I thought of my usual desk-bound oats-and-yogurt-scoffed-from-plastic-container and how easily I could make that meal more pleasant.

The next two mornings we’d pretend to ponder the menu as if we weren’t saddo café stalkers, then order the same thing as before.

Foxymobile

How sexy would you feel behind that wheel!?

After brekkie we’d walk a bit further, get some coffee then get to work. Julia would take out her ridiculously gigantic Up & Running rubber stamp and stamp our Up & Running wings on a fresh blank page and write the date. That was the official signal to switch the brain on!

Julia likes her Starbucks fix

Then we’d motor along right through the day, pausing only for another cuppa. I’d narrowed down our mega to do and ideas lists to an achievable agenda beforehand, so we knew exactly what we had to focus on. Zing, we were on fire!

Just before sunset we’d down tools as our stomachs were starting to grumble, then walk all the way back to the little apartment we’d rented. So much walking! I really regret washing that bloody FitBit… the stats would’ve been off the charts.

Have some more Amsterdam cliches

Have some more Amsterdam cliches

Then we’d have a nice early dinner, then back to the apartment for a final cuppa and a couple more hours work. Eating just two bigger meals would be impractical in everyday life (my soul would perish without lunch to look forward to :P ) but it worked like a champ for that work-a-thon situation.

Random Dutch ginger cat

Random Dutch ginger cat

Obviously when you’re away from home you don’t have partners, day jobs, laundry, family, housework etc etc to contend with. And you have to cook your own dinner. But the weekend was a great reminder of how I operate best. I relish routine and ritual. I lust over lists. I find freedom in planning and structure. Sometimes I rebel against that that because it sounds boring, but if I like it… why fight it?

Next time I feel wonky I’ll come back to this list and remember what feels good:

  1. Keeping meals simple and quite repetitive (less thinking required)…
  2. … but making a real meal of out of them (because the more I enjoy the meal at the time, the less brain-space food takes up later. So focus on the food; put it on a nice plate!)
  3. Moving my butt each day at roughly the same time (so it feels more auto-piloty)
  4. On both a weekly and daily basis, narrowing down the priorities and what really needs to be done (instead of getting overwhelmed by the big picture and flapping around)
  5. Making time to write each day (clears out the brain)
  6. When feeling grumpy, step away from the desk and get some air (before my bum becomes perma-welded to the chair)
  7. If I decide to have a treaty food, making sure it’s worth it (like this amazing apple pie we saved right until the last day… hubba hubba!)
Amazing apple pie... we left this treat right to the end.

So worth the wait. Gotta love those little ice cream balls.

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Monthly Check In: September 2012

We’re 75% done with 2012. Time for another monthly plan update.

First of all I must report that I spoke too soon about the laundered Fitbit. It is officially deceased now.

. . .

In case the hyperactive witterings didn’t give it away, September was ace. On the lard busting front, I was happy with how I did in the USA and ended up maintaining on the scale machine. As per the recent travel pattern, the days were so full of grooviness that I didn’t really think about food.

I did guzzle vats of iced coffee, however. Now back here in Scotland, a sultry 8°C/46°F, it seems hilarious that anyone would ever get the urge to put ice cubes in coffee.

THUS ENDETH SEPTEMBER REPORT.

. . .

Now here we are at half-October and I’m getting back in the groove after an extremely shoddy start to the month that involved excessive amounts of chocolate. I could say, “I don’t know what came over me” but I know exactly what happened and I was even aware of it as I was doing it.

After feeling shitty and sugar hungover and doomed for a few days I got re-organised. I find the week after travel to be the danger time. You’re back to reality, you’re tired, there’s no food in the cupboard; your suitcase has vomited its contents all over the bedroom floor.

Now I’m back to my usual routine. What else can you do but get up and crack on with it? I’ve been walking. I made a big thing of wholesome soup. I did some pretend kickboxing with Jillian Michaels. I caught up on the washing (no gadgets were harmed this time).

I choose to kick arse for the remainder of the month. Stay tuned!

. . .

Finally, about these Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa Nibs. They’re so crunchy and earthy tasting and come in a dinky little tin that’s fun to rattle. The hinged lid is very satisfying to flip on and off. I feel like an eccentric old lady. My pills! I need my pills!

Anyway, it hilariously says on the tin, 1 Calorie Per Piece. I wonder if anyone ever says, “Oh just one for me, thanks”. They are the size of a mouse dropping. Or maybe a rat? Or a Tic Tac, let’s be classy.

I bought three tins on my travels. Since I don’t live in the USA I’d planned to ration them out, one dropping at time for the next few years*. But thanks to these past choctastic weeks there’s only one left.  Let’s see how long I can stretch it out!

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Nibs

This pic was my 2011 stock. It didn’t last very long either!

* Not really.

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Ah ha! That explains it nicely…

Tree outside a B&B in Wilmington, NC

My friend Nikki posted a link to this recent Lifehacker article “To Succeed, Forget Self-Esteem”. It talks about the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion, and sums up in that typically succinct Lifehacker style what I’ve struggled to articulate re: being kinder to yourself doesn’t mean giving up on yourself or weight loss etc. I reckon self-compassion might be a better term for what I’m attempting to practice:

Self-compassion is a willingness to look at your own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding—it’s embracing the fact that to err is indeed human. When you are self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, you neither judge yourself harshly, nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your awesome qualities to protect your ego.

I also liked this bit:

“…it’s important to understand what self-compassion is not. While the spirit of self-compassion is to some degree captured in expressions like “give yourself a break” and “cut yourself some slack,” it is decidedly not the same thing as taking yourself off the hook or lowering the bar. You can be self-compassionate while still accepting responsibility for your performance. And you can be self-compassionate while striving for the most challenging goals—the difference lies not in where you want to end up, but in how you think about the ups and downs of your journey.”

The article goes on to say that self-compassion is powerful because it takes your ego out of the equation and, “You can get a realistic sense of your abilities and your actions, and figure out what needs to be done differently next time”.

Interesting stuff. Thanks Nikki!

Update: I hope I’m not freaking anyone out by writing about this stuff lately, but this article really has me thinking. So often I say or think really shitty things about myself, and I don’t find it helpful to look in a mirror and say YOU’RE AWESOME to counter that. But a little compassion, on the other hand, is something I feel I can work on.

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Fitbloggin 2012: The power of “me too”

“Empathy is the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a petri dish it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in a petri dish and dose it with empathy it cannot survive. The two most powerful words when we are in struggle: “me too.”
Brené Brown

Mara, me and Karen. Photo by Susan.

It took about two minutes to go from worrying that no-one to would get up to the mic at our Self Acceptance and Weight Loss discussion to wishing we could keep going all afternoon. It was a moving, magnificent tear-fest!

This live-blog post (thanks Kim!) gives you a feel of the session but for the full effect, just imagine a gigantic lump in your throat and an overwhelming urge to hug stranger-friends ;)

kleenex

I don’t think it was just my overly-emotional brain but this year it felt like there was more curiosity about and embracing of the idea of self-acceptance. It’s easy to get tangled up in semantics and definitions, but from the stories I heard and conversations I had, so many of us are done with the whip-cracking, bullying approach and are being kinder with ourselves as we make healthy changes.

As Mara said at the time we didn’t want to leave everyone “on the edge of the cliff” after such an intense session, so we created a free e-book called Self Acceptance 101. We also wrote it so there’d be something for those not at the conference.

In the book we each address the questions posed in the discussion, including:

  • What does self-acceptance mean?
  • How can you make peace with your imperfections?
  • Does self-acceptance mean you’ll never lose weight?
  • How can we cultivate a community around love and acceptance instead of negative self-talk and comparison?
  • How can you begin to develop a blueprint for your life – that works for you – even when it doesn’t look a bit like anything you see anywhere else?

Many of my answers are things I’d meant to blog about but never quite managed to put into words. Nothing like deadline to put a fire under your butt, eh?!

You can download the e-book here. Hope you enjoy!

Huge cheers to everyone who came along to our session and to Roni Noone for the bold idea of ditching the traditional conference panel format, which resulted in a great space for a kickarse conversation.

Finally thank you to my buddies Karen Anderson and Mara Glaztel. I confess I developed huge crushes on them after last year’s conference, so to work with them on the e-book and discussion was one of those warm fuzzy I can’t believe this gets to be my LIFE! moments.

P.S. Just a warning, I have about ten posts brewing about this USA trip. Brace yourselves for unbridled enthusiasm!

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Monthly Check In: August 2012

Time for another monthly update on my 2012 plans.

This is how I feel whenever I try to put my thoughts into words lately:

I still miss The Far Side.

I still miss The Far Side.

In a nutshell August was a cracker. Any month that includes meeting the rockin’ Jamie from Cranky Fitness for cake has to be goodun!

As per July, I work work worked on the structured mindfulness dealie. It’s turning out to be as I’d thought in January:

I think it’s just going to take practice. Everything I’ve read about emotional eating – from people as diverse as Geneen Roth to Jillan Michaels – all say in one way or another that eating mindfully is a habit that you have to keep working on. It takes practice to sit with crappy emotions instead of chomping them into oblivion. So I’m going to keep practicing…

Exercise and eating have been good. Slow weight loss (averaging half to one pound per week for the past 5 weeks) and consistent movement. The gentle life overhaul continues!

I dunno quite how it happened this past six weeks… I guess I realised that while nothing has been wrong compared to the shitstorm of 2011, things have been fine and okay and it dawned on me that I want more than that. It’s a hoot to admit but the Olympics were a big catalyst. Olympians and Paralympians are not people who settle for fine and okay, are they?

So I’ve been thinking about what needs work then actually doing the work, which makes a pleasant change from just letting life happen.

From spring cleaning to taking control of my finances to getting up earlier to spending more time with Gareth instead of working too much, lots of small changes are adding up to a sense of calm and purpose. And more I carry on with the changes, the less need I feel to overeat. Suddenly I want to do all this healthy stuff, instead of thinking I should. Very big distinction.

I’ve realised I’m one of these people who needs a clear long-term vision combined with short-term goals, otherwise I drift and fall back into the self-destructive patterns. I’m determined to stop tuning out of my own life. Party on!

(Apologies to my Up & Running alumni forum comrades for already being subjected to a draft version of this post! i love you!)

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Back in the groove

A belated Monthly Check-in post for July.

POW! There's been a quiet leap forward in the month since the previous belated Check In post. Last time I mentioned forgetting I wanted to lose weight, from a combination of contentment, complacency and daydreaming. I wanted to light a fire under my butt in a kind and gentle way.

I'm chuffed to say that I've actually been doing all the things I said I'd do to get my focus back! I know, I'm surprised as you are! To recap:

  • automating brekkie and lunch
  • tuning in to my hunger/feelings before eating
  • sitting down properly to eat, i.e. no spear fishing
  • regularly recalling my reasons WHY (head, shoulders, knees and clothes!)

I've also added:

  • getting more specific about what I want and setting some short term aims (thank you Olympic Challenge for the inspiration)
  • dusting off my beloved spreadsheets
  • strengthening up the real-world support network
  • recommitting to meal planning – shopping, organising and preparation
  • using the MyFitnessPal app – I've been mucking around with it on and off since Christmas (so addicted to that bar code scanner!) but now on it daily

All the above has seen a strangely focused yet relaxed/non-obsessed attitude sneak up on me.

What prompted a mind shift:

  • the DietSnaps app experiment – after just three days there was no mystery why I've been a master of maintenance this year. Portions too generous, some mindless grazing and not enough greenery. I won't be using the app in the long term, but it was a fab way to get back into mindful mode
  • a weekend in Paris – the weather was hot and I felt blobby and frustrated by my frumpy wardrobe. It's easier to ignore that discontent in Scottish climes.
  • Confronting the Wardrobe of Doom – tidying up a tangled pile of clothes, most of which don't fit, was another exercise in mindfulness. I didn't feel despair, just a desire to get on with it.

None of the above tools/plans are earth shattering – it's all the same structured mindfulness kinda stuff that I personally find effective. But making the extra effort to stay present, and keep remembering what I want and why, is helping the momentum build. Stay tuned!

Raspberry
A DietSnap snapped snack. Try saying that three times!

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Tuning back in

Let's call this a belated June monthly checkin, even thought it's nearly half July.

I keep forgetting that I want to lose weight. You may roll your eyes and say that is the stupidest thing ever written, but let me explain how this can happen.

Firstly, I'm a happy lady. I'm lucky to know a lot of nice people, I've found fulfilling work and my salad leaves are growing despite all the rain. I don't hate myself or my body anymore. I'm rolling with the ups and downs of life.

Secondly, I'm easily distracted. For example, I've been getting lost in work, perving at Euro 2012 footballers, bellowing at Andy Murray on the telly and belatedly discovering Charlotte Brontë. Ooh look over there, new Tweets. I haven't refreshed Instagram in 27 seconds. Ooh look a random story about Katie Holmes. I'll be back in a minute…

Thirdly, I lull myself into a false sense of progress coz the extremes are gone. The binging has stopped and I'm so mindful with the big events these days. Example, another Cake Ladies meetup the other day: I chose a couple of favourites, stopped when the body said whoa there and did not feel bereft at the cake left behind.

So I kinda float along through my days feeling quite content… until, POW!

… I browse a sales rack at a favourite clothing shop and realise nothing will fit

… my dodgy knee decides to reassert itself

… I spy an old dress in my wardrobe and realise I still can't get into it

… I eat a handful of "Gareth's" choc-chip cookies with a cup of tea and it's not until I notice the crumbs on my t-shirt that I say…

OH CRAP, HANG ON… remember you wanted to bust some lard here?

I'm still rubbish at keeping my mind and body connected. I'm always drifting away into la la land, losing sight of what I want and where I want to go.

I may not have binged for ages now, but the day-to-day eating is still rather sloppy and random. The proof is on the scales – I've been the same weight for six weeks now. It's not a weight that I want to maintain.

But how to light a fire under my butt, in a kind and caring way? I don't feel the same urgency as I did at 350lb, when I hated myself so much I wanted to hack off my excess flesh with a chainsaw. And I'm not consumed by the fear of disappointing strangers like I was with the book thing. It's nice to not be full of fear, shame and loathing anymore but, dang, they were some powerful motivators.

I reckon the best tactic is to keep reminding myself of all the positive reasons WHY. It's worked well to  get my exercise back on track. So I've distilled my reasons into a handy song to mutter to myself when making choices. You know that kids' tune "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes"? My version is "Head Shoulders Knees and Clothes".

  • head – good food = mental clarity; keeps Black Dawg in kennel
  • shoulders – I want to feel strong and foxy, both now and in old age
  • knees – they hurt and they need me to lighten the load, seriously
  • and clothes – I just want more options, dammit!

It's cheese, but it's concise cheese.

In addition to keeping my brain in the here and now, here's what else I'm working on:

Automating brekkie and lunch
I'm getting back in the habit of tasty yogurt/fruit/seeds for brekkie and mega salads for lunch, prepared in advance so no matter how busy I get, I can make two delicious and mindless-in-a good-way choices per day.

Put my food on a plate and sit down to eat it
I've been sloppy on this one. No spear fishing in front of the fridge! And remember that I am not training for an endurance event, I don't need as much on my plate as Gareth, for crying out loud.

Tune in
My favourite principle from the Beyond Chocolate book. Today I've started an experiment with the DietSnaps app that dear Jen posted about. I want to get back in the habit of pausing and tuning into hunger signals/feelings before I eat. Taking a photo of my meal (just a quick snap; no choreography or fancy napkins) could be a nice way to get me to slow down, think about what's on the plate, sing that little song and remember what I want and why.

Ahh… it's an adventure that never ends. I'll report back next week!

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Eleven years + 2012 plans

Today this blog turns the crusty age of eleven!

Huuuuge thanks to everyone who still reads this thing – from 2001 die-hards to kind strangers to family to friends to random googlers to lovely lurkers to bewildered colleagues… you RAWK!

. . .

I haven't made any 2012 resolutions aside from "wear lipstick more often". I'll be 35 this year – any day now my aging kissers will start disappearing into a thin line of disapproval. Gotta make the most of it while I can! ;)

In terms of health and fitness my project is "keep the mind attached to the body".

The plan of action is the same plan as 2011. It's a good, sensible, enjoyable plan, dagnabbit! I just have to stick to it when stressful stuff happens. As I said in September:

"I need to keep working on why my Mega Stress repsonse still seems to be… Stop Doing The Healthy Things."

In times of Mega Stress, that's when you need the Healthy Things the most. But nooo! I tend to abandon the meal planning, stop checking in with hunger levels/feelings before I eat, get slack with exercise. I don't write in the food diary because I don't want to acknowledge what I'm putting away. The mind and body disconnect. Instead of tuning in to the emotions I seem to go out of my way to tune out.

I'm in a stronger place than I was a year ago – when things get crappy I don't tend to slam my fist on the Self-Destruct button anymore… I just kinda tap on the Denial one. Ha ha. I will make progress this year. I seriously want to. My dodgy knee is not doing well with this extra poundage. I know from the first part of 2011 that I have a plan on which I can lose weight slowly, steadily and sanely.

I think it's just going to take practice. Everything I've read about emotional eating – from people as diverse as Geneen Roth to Jillan Michaels – all say in one way or another that eating mindfully is a habit that you have to keep working on. It takes practice to sit with crappy emotions instead of chomping them into oblivion. So I'm going to keep practicing and keep doing the monthly updates here, and let's see if we can keep the mind from wandering away from the ol' body!

Enough of my ramblings… be sure to come back tomorrow when the 11th Birthday Sell-Out begins! There is so much goodness to be won.

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Dooking into 2012

2011 ended sedately – just me and Gareth and The Apartment on DVD, followed by the Edinburgh fireworks from the spare room window. We'd been looking forward to a New Year's Eve party but since we'd been miserable snot monsters over the Christmas period, we didn't want to subject our pals to the dregs of it. I think the quiet (and sober) night really helped and I woke up today feeling so much better.

A few weeks ago the most excellent Tor, an Up & Runner, told me she was doing the Loony Dook. I'd first read about the Dook in a 2004 Sunday Herald article called 100 Things To Do In Scotland Before You Die. I kept the clipping and it's been a tip top source of ideas for exploring the country ever since. From the article:

#53. Do the Loony Dook
In Pamplona, Spanish revellers drink all night before attempting to outrun death and a great big bull. In Scotland the closest we have is the Loony Dook – jumping into the freezing Firth of Forth from the boathouse steps in South Queensferry on New Year's Day. For your goose-pimpling efforts you get a towel, a t-shirt and a pipe band parade through the town*. And probably pneumonia.

* These days you get a swimming cap instead of a towel and t-shirt!

Tor is a very persuasive woman with special voodoo powers that somehow get you doing things you never thought you'd ever do, so I signed up too.

I'd felt so rubbish this past week I'd been thinking I might wuss out. I didn't help the cause by sleeping in til 9.30AM then laying there for another fifteen minutes pondering, should I get up? What will I wear? Why didn't I organise a fancy costume? Can I even get there in time? Icy water or toasty sleep?

Dook
(from thefreedictionary.com)

Then I thought about how I'd feel if I didn't go. I decided I'd feel like a wuss, and a great murky shadow of wussiness would be cast over my entire 2012. Did I really want to wuss up the year before I'd even got out of bed?

I threw on some trackies, a cycling top and my oldest trainers. I stuffed some Post-Dook clothes into my backpack and pulled a piece of tinsel from the Christmas tree to wrap around my hat to serve as a very rubbish costume.

Halfway across the Forth Road Bridge I realised I'd left my ticket at home. Cue rant at poor Gareth: "Just bloody FORGET IT. Turn the car around! 2012 stinks! This idea was STUPID anyway" etc etc. But we made it in time and the nice lady accepted my email-confirmation-on-phone as my ticket (thanks Tor for thinking of that, my brain was still snoozing!).

There were about 1000 Dookers and they'd made a lot of effort with their costumes (some great pics here). Zombies, nuns, pandas, Smurfs, men in bikinis, cowboys. Just like Halloween but with more shivering.

Loony
We all paraded down the South Queensferry high street, then down the steps onto the stony beach, then into the Firth of Forth with the beautiful Forth Rail Bridge as a backdrop.

As promised, the water really was bloody freezing. This seemed to surprise a nearby guy in tiny shorts and an Aussie flag tattoo who bellowed, "JOISUS CHROIST IT'S FARKIN FREEZIN!".

It was almost painful at first, then the legs went numb, then it became strangely thrilling. It was a gorgeous day – clear skies in January? What are the chances? And such a bonkers thing to do – setting an awesome tone for a new year.

Afterwards I found Gareth and discovered I'd stuffed two jackets and no trousers into my backpack, so we went straight home. Must sharpen organising skills in 2012.

Next stop was a hot shower followed by a bacon sarnie.

The Loony Dookers use the splash as a great excuse raise money for all sorts of charities. I'm making a donation to Fife Young Carers, a local charity that supports young carers throughout the region. They rule!

HAPPY NEW YEAR FOLKS!

Loony2

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