Monday, 30 March 2020

Fitness for Shut-ins Part Two: Workouts You Can Do in a Small Space

You already have the will. Here's the way.

You can get a great workout in a 2'x6' space. Please move your dog first. (Image: author's own)

Whether you're just at the physical distancing stage of this pandemic or you're in full lockdown, one thing is certain: you're not getting to the gym today. Depending on where you are and what you have access, to, there are some great free (or cheap) ways to stay fit while avoiding the rest of the world and/or being stuck at home.

How much space do you have?

A large backyard and an open-plan basement? A balcony the size of a yoga mat? An actual yoga mat beside your bed where you hide from your kids that are "homeschooling" themselves? There are lots of ways to get an effective workout even in a tiny space.

Yoga, calisthenics and Pilates are natural choices for small spaces. These two home workouts don't require any equipment, but will get your heart rate up in a 2' x 6' space:

KISS Your Excuses Goodbye
This small-space body-weight workout can be dialled up with cardio intervals or kept simple with supersets.

5 Exercises in 5 Minutes
Take five minutes to rev up your metabolism and wake up your body and mind.


Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Fitness for Shut-ins Part One: Motivation vs Dedication

A three-part series about staying fit and healthy while on lockdown

These puppies are going to stay looking new for a while. (Image: author's own)

In this strange new world, it's going to be harder than usual to stay fit and healthy, but it CAN be done.

First, let's discuss the difference between motivation and dedication. Motivation is wanting to do something, which is great. It's having a good reason to do what you're doing, and it's how most people get results: they want to get fit, so they work out and eat better.

Some days, however, even the most motivated people don't feel like working out. I have had days (and still do) where I would rather die than eat another chicken breast, and would sell my firstborn if I could just lay on the couch with several Creme Eggs, even though I have a very good reason to do the opposite. That's when dedication kicks in.

Committing to a task means doing it even when you don't feel like it (see also, Work or Marriage). Dedication is always linked to motivation, but goes that extra step towards action. After all, it's not enough to have a good reason or a goal in mind. What gets you there are the actions you take every single day.

So, how do you make this work for you while you're locked in your house? Easy.

Keep reading...

What do you want to achieve while you're stuck inside? How are you going to do it?

Watch for Part Two: Home Fitness Tracking Tools and Part Three: Indoor and Small-Space Fitness Routines.

Friday, 21 February 2020

I review The Hairy Bikers' One Pot Wonders

It's a Crossover! The Cranky Book Reviewer and the Domestic Goddess work at cross-purposes together for a combination book review and meal attempt

(Image courtesy of

As a thoughtful Christmas present this year, I bought Fis a copy of The Hairy Bikers' One Pot Wonders by Si King and Dave Myers. 

Their show is delightful; they're like two sweet (yet hairy) old ladies who have known each other too long, encouraging each other and bickering as they put together meals. Chris appreciated their humour and facial hair stylings, there was a new cookbook coming out, and Tsaketa! Christmas solved.

He made one recipe, mid-way through January.

I let him have his time, but last week, the Domestic Goddess took over.

The DG weighs in on the recipes

I flagged a few tasty-looking recipes and got to work. Of course I didn't follow the recipes exactly. I substituted where I needed to (didn't have the ingredients/didn't have enough/had the ingredients but they were expired), but they still turned out remarkably well.

Their Chocolate Brownie has hazelnuts (but I didn't, so I used almonds) and glace cherries. They're a one-bowl deal, and came out moist and chewy. Thumbs up from everyone except Tamsin, who didn't like the cherries.

Brownies with cherries (and almonds) (image: author's own)

I also attempted the Roast Vegetables with Chickpeas and Halloumi. I know the kids don't love halloumi; they find it too salty, but thought I could sneak it by them it with a mint halloumi (which the Hairy Bikers recommended), which in retrospect was a really terrible idea. Everything was ok, except for the halloumi, which the girls actually refused to eat after the first three bites. Vaughn liked it, though.

Delicious vegetarian food (image: author's own)

For my third attempt, I made their Winter Chicken Bake. Unfortunately, I didn't have the skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs that the recipe called for, so the chicken breasts that I cut down to size ended up dried out, but tasty. Somehow, everyone enjoyed the mix of leeks, parsnips, carrots and brussels sprouts -- it was a reach, but it was flavourful and SO GOOD.

A few days after that, I made their Biker Goulash. Yum, but not enough to feed five, let alone six, as the recipe says. However, I maybe used less meat than was called for, and didn't have any suet (suet!) to make the dumplings, so that probably explains that.

Yesterday morning, in time for Second Breakfast, their Belting Banana Bread was a hit with every member of the family. Not one exclaimed, "Why are there raisins in banana bread?" I see that as a victory.

And yesterday night, I made their Spinach, Ricotta and Parma Ham Lasagne ("It's an assembly job really and a cracking good dish"), and it was, even with less than half the required cheese, and that half being cheddar instead of mozzarella. (Sincere apologies to Messrs. King and Myers.)

The Domestic Goddess is obviously compensating for something. But, it was half term, her bootcamps are off this week, and it was a great opportunity to try out her new digital food scale, which works like a dream. (Get it? Weighs in!)

Is it my turn yet? (image: author's own)

Lies, all lies!

The Cranky Book Reviewer jumps in here to say that I think it's fair to say that I've given this book a chance. The food is flavourful and somewhat easy to make (no weird, advanced cooking techniques), but the idea of this being "one pot" cooking is a sham -- a sham, I say!

Most of the dishes required mixing ingredients in a separate bowl, or browning ingredients and "setting them aside" (not just in a pile on the counter, but in a separate dish). There were always several dishes to wash, not just the one, and to that I say humph.

The CBR also found it upsetting to say the least that there were rarely any leftovers. "Serves four" means "serves four." And, while I appreciate correctness and accuracy, I also want leftovers to eat the next day for lunch.

Joint recommendation

Aside from the misleading title, it was great. Lots of variety, interesting combinations of foods, and the writing - warm, conversational, witty - I felt, was the best part.

"Dead easy this and so good."

Just for that, the book is worth a buy.

Have you tried it out? What did you think?

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Adventures in Dinnertime: Chicken Surprise

The Domestic Goddess has been quiet for a while.

Perhaps it's because she is exhausted; from mid-November to mid-January, there is a LOT going on, food- and mommying-wise.

These goings on include, but are not limited to: the ramp-up to Christmas season, the 3rd Huffling's birthday, the countdown to Christmas, that fun space between Christmas and New Year's Eve when you have to spend every day with your children  (remember? you love them), to the 1st Huffling's birthday. All of this involves a lot of baking and planning and grooming and cleaning up (before and afterwards). It's exhausting.

So, last night at 5:30 pm, the DG realized that, not only had she not planned dinner, she hadn't even taken anything out of the freezer to thaw. And the fridge was pretty empty of anything that could be eaten for dinner. This, of course, is different from "the fridge was pretty empty". No, our fridge still looks full, but it's full of condiments, wine and yogurt, while containing no actual food. See Figure 1.

Fig. 1. Fridge full of not food. (Image: author's own)

I pulled some frozen chicken thighs from the freezer (the DG is suddenly too tired to refer to herself in the third person), and popped them into a nice warm-water bath in the sink. While that was thawing (sort of), I chopped an onion, three past-their-prime carrots, and some very wan, floppy celery, and sauted them with a bit of oil.*

At this point, the chicken was (sort of) unfrozen, and easily hacked chopped into bitish-size pieces, sprinkled with mixed dried herbs and S&P, then added to the mirepoix** to brown. Once the meat was sealed, I added about a tablespoon of Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix and glooped in about 1/2 cup of salsa, and covered to let simmer for about fifteen minutes. Et voila.

I gave each kid a scoop of egg-fried rice (leftovers that Chris made from his new cookbook) and topped it with this concoction.

The kids peered into their bowls, suspicious.

"What is it?" they asked.

"Chicken Surprise," I responded.

Tamsin blew on hers and ventured a small bite. She sat up taller and shot me a thumbs-up.

"It's really good," she said. The other two agreed.

I did jazz hands. "Surprise!"

* Fun British Fact: Canola Oil, as it is known in Canada, was actually rebranded from the British Rapeseed Oil. Same oil, different name. (I assume there was a focus group.)

** Fun French Fact, taken word-for-word from Wikipedia: "Though the cooking technique is probably older, the word mirepoix dates from the 18th century and derives, as do many other appellations in French cuisine, from the aristocratic employer of the cook credited with establishing and stabilizing it: in this case, Charles-Pierre-Gaston François de Lévis, duc de Lévis-Mirepoix (1699–1757), French field marshal and ambassador and a member of the noble family of Lévis, lords of Mirepoix, Ariège, in Languedoc since the 11th century. According to Pierre Larousse (quoted in The Oxford Companion to Food), the unfortunate Duke of Mirepoix was "an incompetent and mediocre individual ... who owed his vast fortune to the affection Louis XV felt toward his wife and who had but one claim to fame: he gave his name to a sauce made of all kinds of meat and a variety of seasonings.""

Monday, 27 January 2020

It’s About Time Someone Willen Have Invented Time Travel

Three short, mostly-unrelated essays about time travel

Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

My dream job: editor for time travel writers.
“One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of becoming your own father or mother… The major problem is simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner’s Time Traveler’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations.” — Douglas Adams
About Time is one of my favourite movies; it’s a beautiful movie about love and time travel, in which the (“too tall, too skinny, too orange”) main character goes back and forth within his own lifetime...
The brilliantly whimsical Stephen Hawking once famously held a party for time travellers. Unfortunately, nobody showed up, thus proving that time travel can never be accomplished...


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