Monthly Archives: March 2016

March and Winter End

The whole of March we just couldn’t wait for Spring to arrive, it seemed to take ages this year to appear. We had a birthday celebration this month and we marked the beginning of Spring with “Topienie Marzanny”.

IMG_20160305_112637Early March, the daughter turned 7 and for this occasion she asked for a strawberry cake and small gathering of girlfriends. We have a local Polish shop selling very flavoursome frozen strawberries. I mixed them with mascarpone and Big Son sandwiched the cake with it and Daughter decorated the birthday cake herself. Girlie Wirlie was very proud of herself and we all enjoyed a glimpse of summer, but as it’s England, on that day it snowed again!

This year, we’ve made the effort to celebrate Spring Equinox. “Topienie Marzanny” is the Polish pagan tradition of saying farewell to Winter on the Spring Equinox with dropping Marzanna into the rivers, so it carries away Winter with it as it flows to the sea. Traditionally children would make a doll with straw, dress it up with scrap cloth or now tissue paper, make some hairdo or head gear, just letting the children’s creativity speak. Then you’d take the doll to the nearest stream or river. Sometimes the doll is set on fire before being dropped into water, but we gave it a skip due to H&S issues.IMG_20160305_135725

The day was sunny enough, the children quickly assembled the doll and adorned it with quite unruly hair made of golden, glossy tape secured with a staple. Girlie Wirlie threw it into river Lea which flows through a nearby village. It was quite quick affair so we hardly caught any photo of it. So that was it: out first Spring Equinox!IMG_20160320_153056

This month the children continued star gazing, with Big Son finishing an online course on the Night Sky: Orion and we all joined the local astronomical society one evening to observe the Moon and Saturn. We saw a close up of the Moon’s craters and a bit of Saturn’s rings which looked a lot like a small line across the planet.

The new telescope is still a fascinating tool to watch night skies or planes landing at the nearby airport. Big Son became very enthusiastic about astronomy, ticking off from the winter and spring sky maps planets he observed. He gets quite upset when cloudy nights prevent him from gazing the sky.

So here we are now, end of March, Easter done and my mother and sister who were here for Easter have now gone back home. I’m looking forward to the warmer days, more sun, more fun and new projects I’ll be putting my teeth in. I can truly say, we deserve to enjoy the Spring! So do you 🙂IMG_20160329_133425

Still HIT

My HIT training is coming along nicely. I am growing in strength all the time and this is reflected in the notes I keep of my workouts and what I am capable of doing during my daily life.

I regularly lift up the two smaller children while playing games at home. The smallest loves being a bird high above my head, safe in my outstretched hands. Big son is a challenge at 170cm and 45kg. I suspect the weight is doable but he is gangly mass

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I do an exclusive HIT workout, the Big Five, on Sunday mornings at my local gym. I now train myself and for me it is my meditation time. I have not invited anyone to work with me at this time and have no plans to. This is the workout that I track closely in a notebook. The aim at the moment is to work one weight for a total of two minutes. If I have to rest, I take five intakes of the breath and go again, adding five seconds to the count until the two minutes are done. I judge progress by being able to go without a rest and then I up the weight.

This is a slow approach to strength training but I am building a foundation to last many years. I focus on technique exclusively and there is no peer pressure to achieve rapid gains. I am also training my brain to endure that level of stress for two minutes. There is a lot of thinking that takes place during that time. I am trying all kinds of tricks to keep the fear at bay and it is a glorious feeling when you achieve the two minutes under a heavy load and the accompanying pain.

On Wednesday evenings I work out with a buddy at the same gym and we have a three week rota of (a) bodyweight to failure, (b) bodyweight time under load and (c) drop sets on machines. They are all very concise because we do not rest any more than it takes to move from one exercise to another. We are generally done within forty minutes whatever the workout. There is some randomness in that rota too because we are often making changes to the sequences and the equipment we use.

I also use a morning and evening bodyweight rota that takes me through from Monday to Saturday. Each workout takes between five and ten minutes. The schedule goes like this:
Monday /am – abdominals /pm – forearms and push ups
Tuesday /am – pull ups /pm – forearms and push ups
Wednesday /am – hips /pm – forearms and push ups
Thursday /am – abdominals /pm – forearms and push ups
Saturday /am – hips

These are automatic exercises for me. I never think twice and find that I can now achieve them under all sort of conditions. Guests in the house, dinner almost ready, have to take a call; whatever is happening around me is never enough to present an obstacle to what I have to do. It is a great feeling and adds to my confidence that I can set goals and achieve them without falling short with excuses.

“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire, likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos: you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.” – Nassim Taleb

Nettle Diary Entry 02.2016

In January I went to Warsaw and spent one afternoon checking out few shops with natural fabrics to inquire about nettle or hemp samples.

I didn’t manage to google any shops myself, but with a little tip off from the old friend, I started at a fabric shop in Mokotow. It was recommended as the long established and well supplied shop for all those with zeal for tailoring or home sewing. Astonishingly, the place was buzzing on Saturday afternoon with all types of customers, from older ladies trying to find a fabric matching the existing outfits to funky dressed younger crowds scouring for some unique pieces. I was taken in with their stock, unfortunately only natural local cloth I came across was Polish linen.

Nevertheless, I was prompted to call in to another linen shop, just two tram stops away. Before hopping on a tram, we popped in the adjacent shop, enticed by interesting and quite eclectic stuff, like second hand or recycled fabrics, hand made laces and oddish clothing.

The next linen shop in Mokotow, looked like run by one family and it had nothing of hemp or nettle though the owner was quite intrigued by my inquiry. As he walked us to the door, he admitted that since he runs the shop for 20 years, no one ever came by to ask about fabric made of nettle.

It didn’t dampen our spirits, we simply loved the tram ride up north towards Centrum – it was bright sunny winter day and you can feel Saturday buzz of the city. We changed by Politechnika for metro, again changed for a new metro line and resurfaced right on Aleja Jana Pawla.

On the next stop off Hala Mirowska – the old indoor market hall, we visited another fabric shop. We were told it is a must to see since it opened in PRL times and still continues the same style of service. It was bizarre to step into the past, all display and older ladies selling the cloth as they used to for decades. Once you decide on fabric, it will get measured, cut and you receive a hand scribbled piece of paper to take to a cashier across the shop to pay. Though this time, no nettle  or hemp fabric was available and with no smile on her face the lady bid us goodbye.

Tracing our footsteps from years before, we strolled to a last linen shop on our list, situated right on Marszalkowska. The owner was closing for the day but she let us in. It stocks Polish linen only, fabrics and ready made outfits alike and it turned out the owner was quite chatty and well informed. Although, she could not help me in my research on Polish nettle fabric as such, but mentioned a company producing a hemp clothing, possibly from Lodz, and encouraged me to check out the Polish Chamber of Flax and Hemp.

It was a quite productive Saturday afternoon, funny and filled with trips down the memory lane. Warsaw was buzzy, filled with tram noises and getting ready for Saturday night fun. I truly felt like I got a few good leads to follow in my research. And a cherry on my cake was the Saturday evening in beautiful Warsaw just starting as the sun was setting and the lights were turning on.