Poor decisions / how not to exercise

If you have ever met me and Cat, you will know that I love cricket. I know that most people think it is boring and not exercise, but I don’t care, I love it. However, there is no cricket in America,* so I have had to adopt new forms of exercise. My thought process was:

  • Q. What are main American sports? A. American football, ice hockey, basketball and baseball.
  • Issues: I’m not tough enough for Foosball, am not coordinated enough on the ice to skate backwards, I’m not 7 foot tall and I am not excited about a watered down version of cricket (queue long banter arguments like this one).
  • What other sports can I find?
bascketball 3
You ever heard of the Dream Team? Well, we’re the Mean Team, wussy man

In February, I was asked to join a volleyball team with friends from my work. I stupidly thought, “yea volleyball how hard can that be?” even though not only have I never played before, but I have never even seen a match.

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How I thought I would look

It’s difficult to put into words how entertaining and frustrating it is to not be able to do something that seems like it should be easy. The only thing I can equate this too is when you are injured or ill and you find basic tasks like walking / dealing with stairs / cooking difficult.

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How I actually look

I am still fairly rubbish, but our team have won 5 games and lost 13 so far (which is apparently much better than last season!) so that’s not too bad. Everyone is coaching me lots as well which is very nice.

Colorado is actually the fittest state in the US with a 20% obesity rate (compared to 35% in Mississippi and 25% in the UK). Part of this is because everyone LOVES cycling and running here. It also helps that it is very pretty and ~5000 ft above sea level.

In fact Cat has taken the sensible decision to join a local gym (maybe 20 meters from our front door) which is nextdoor to a coctail bar / club. I however have joined the Fort Collins Running Club and decided I needed a target to get me going… so I signed up to the Horsetooth half marathon in April. It is a really beautiful run, around a reservoir and through the countryside finishing at a brewery 5 minutes from our flat/apartment.

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So sun, much pretty, very view

The only problem is, it’s reeeeeeaaaaally hilly (353 m gain).

hm
Source

At least once you are up the top of the hills, it’s mostly downhill after, and a brewery at the end of the race is nice. Cat did take a picture of me after my first long run of the year, but I look such a mess and the internet does not need that picture (even if a certain Tyrannosaurus Peck thought it was hilarious).

4 Bonus Rob points if you got any of the pop-culture references in this one.

Rob

*In fact I found some Indian x-pats who play sometimes in Fort Collins in car parks with a tennis ball, but I was not invited to their muck-arounds. Also there are apparently only 6 proper cricket pitches in the country.

Snow day

I know it can be quite tedious for readers of this blog to hear us saying – oooh look how different stuff it – all the time…

…having said that, here is a typical winter weekday morning in Fort Collins:

5.54 am text from university saying campus is closed for students and administrative staff today (but not for research staff like me) because of all the snow (we had 4 inches of snow yesterday daytime and another 4 inches last night).

7.30 am contemplate working from home / having a snow day, decide that need to do some work and love the snow so should go outside (though angry becuase can’t make snowballs as too dry).

7.35 am decide to drive in as too cold and slippery to cycle (-4 C) and can’t be bothered to wait for the bus (which still runs in the snow BTW).

8.00 am emerge from the apartment and realise that:

a) they have ploughed the roads during the night,

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b) they have also cleared the sidewalk, (yes, ‘sidewalk’, not ‘pavement’)

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c) our car is now trapped with a 3 foot layer of snow surrounding it.

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8.25 am finish digging out the car, and regret wearing running shoes (as they are treaded and I have volleyball later) instead of walking shoes (which would have kept my ankles warm).

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8.30 am call in my favourite coffee shop to get a fruit smoothie, because the cold never bothered me anyway.

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8.40 am decide to park 10 minute walk from work as parking closer would require digging out my own space (smile at how quiet it is in the snow – no sound of mr train)

8.45 am help somebody with a front wheel drive car rock their car out of a space.

8.50 am laugh with international friends from work about snow and how crazily hot and humid it is in Brazil and Thailand where the other international student are from (fun fact 1: in Thailand, nobody has heaters in their home because it never gets cold enough to need them, fun fact 2: moving here is the first time my Brazilian friend had seen snow).

weather

9.00 am establish that even though 8 inches of snow is enough to close campus, it is not enough to stop our volleyball recreational league match this evening, so that’s still on.

Rob

The tray game / shameful behaviour

At Channon Christmas parties in years gone by, the tray game is played. Basically, a tray containing lots of silly items (e.g. scissors, golf ball, Lego man etc.) is placed in front of a room for 1 minute, then after being covered, everyone must guess what was on the tray.

I’ve always quite liked this game. It is fun, silly, quick and best of all: kids are as good at it as adults! (if you have scored 5 or less in the argument game for 10 years beside victories by Uncle Les, Evil Uncle Barry, Grampy Channon or Uncle Brynley, you will know where I’m coming from…)

Anyway, here is a ‘tray’ of British items we bought from an international shop in Fort Collins as we felt in need of some English delicacy’s. Try looking at the picture for 1 minute and guessing all 14 items (the kettle and toaster in the background do not count).

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Did you guess them all? You should have 15 including the table (previously the tray) otherwise you lose, hard lines my friend.

I will not pretend it’s not quite shameful going and buying English things in America, but it did make us laugh and we really needed the gravy granules for a steak sauce. Also Americans think spotted dick sponge sounds hilarious so we had to get that.

Rob

Five more things you probably didn’t know about America

It has been two months since my last five-things post and I felt it time for another. Let’s see what I have learnt since.

  1. Every day I’m shuffling

So several times we had been in bars over December and seen a long board in the side of the bar and wondered what it was.

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Is it a hard napping table for inebriated patrons?

Turns out it is a bar game called shuffleboard. America still has pool but it doesn’t have darts, so I guess this is kind of the US version of darts. This is also a good comparison as the game is lots of fun, a little silly and is best (and most often) played inebriated by people who are really rubbish at it.

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The table is also covered in sand.

For anyone who is coming out to visit us, you will be forced to play this game. The rules are really simple (you have to roll it to the end without it going off  – a bit like curling / skittles) and it’s good fun, so don’t fret.

  1. Take me out

Now the US has a reputation for having massive meals. I previously assumed that Americans managed to stay thin by not snacking as much as the English. Turns out I was mostly wrong. America has lots of sweets and chocolate (candy) but there is a very clever system for dealing with massive portions:

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Borrowed from source

Some restaurants even have it down to a T, like my favourite ‘Mexican’ place – Cafe Mexicali. Their burritos come in foil boxes and are way too big to finish. But after you finish you just put a foil top on the box and you have a ready-made take home box for lunch the next day.

Disclaimer – this assumes you don’t be a fatty (me and Cat’s term for eating all the food even if you feel awful afterwards and continue eating once you are full up).

  1. Welcome to the (jungle) bus stop

I can’t remember if I have mentioned this before, but I was stood at the bus stop in December and all of a sudden noticed some really strange noises coming from a lamppost. Here is a recording from my phone (bear in mind it is about 3 times louder in person and at least 4 times weirder):

I have no idea what these are supposed to be or their purpose, but I guess it’s one of:

  • The builders of the Fort Collins transport system are really into Jungle music
  • There is a miniature jungle inside every bus stop in Fort Collins
  • The sounds are to scare birds / squirrels / bears away

No clue…

  1. American Comfort

One thing that America has absolutely down to a T is comfort. For example, many cinemas have electronic recliners and moveable side tables to eat your food off of.

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Also, if you go to many supermarkets, they automatically bag your groceries for free. Almost every car I have been is has at least 2 drinks holders between the front seats… ok this one isn’t that special but it’s A LOT easier holding a coffee or ice smoothie in a cup holder than between your legs as me and Cat used to in our old Micra!

  1. Language part 2

So I know I have posted about English vs American before, and I know it’s obvious, but even now after living here for 3 months I continue to not speaking the language correctly.

Some aspects of this are just plain annoying. For example I just went and bought Cat a Hazlenut Mocca with marshmallows from Starbucks today. I asked for it and the server had no idea what I wanted, so I had to translate. Whereas Brits prounounce it “Mocka”, Americans pronounce it “Moe-cah”.

How to do it properly apparently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4XcN7-Ocxs

They even have “English muffins“, which we don’t even have in England? It’s like a crumpet but cooked on both sides, definetly not a muffin though, It’s so confusing!

muffin
Girl, you thought he was a man, but he was a muffin.

The one me and Cat have been working on most is ‘sorry’. It’s not that Brits are in any way more polite than Americans, but nobody here would do the following:

  • Somebody gets in your way as you are trying to get past, you say sorry as you squeeze through as if it was your fault.
  • You are ahead of somebody in a queue, e.g. at a microwave to make lunch. You say sorry to apologise for existing and stopping the rest of the queue from eating.
  • Yesterday I was playing volleyball in a local recreation league. After making a shot I walked backwards to get out of the way the next shot and tripped over another player falling flat on my back. Did I need to say sorry for causing myself to fall over? No. Did I anyway? Of course, we are British good sir!!!

So we have had to just keep quiet or replace ‘sorry’ with ‘ok’

sorry
Credit to source

It’s not all bad though, for some unknown reason American’s quite like the British accent.

I was told today that the way I say ‘chocolate’ sounds lovely. Also Americans absolutely love Downtown Abbey and they have just gotten Bake Off on the US Netflix, so I think it’s just an obsession with polite posh British people.

Still, I never thought my Bristol-twanged accent would be described as lovely!

Sweet wheels brah

Fort Collins is a beautiful city and Old Town – where we live – is especially lovely. However, the public transport is not what it is in England. Buses tend to run north to south or east to west along the city gridlines and the trains are virtually non-commercial, so getting about – particularly if you want to go for example south west – is challenging.

So as a new year present we decided to procure ourselves some wheels.

We went to a local used car dealership suggested to us by our friends Rosemary and Chris and after much debating we ended up with a 2005 Subaru Legacy GT:

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Yep, we still have snow.

Most importantly for us, it has all wheel drive so we can get about in the snow, and has room for suitcases and skis so we can transport visitors around in style.

For those petrol-heads, the relevant specs are: 5 door, Automatic, air con, anti-lock brakes, 160,000 miles, heated seats, cruise control, 2.5 litre engine, 22 miles per gallon, and only $25 (£17) to fill the tank!

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Also, it’s like… really fast.

The mileage may seem like a lot to an English driver, but considering everyone drives EVERYWHERE (we know people who have done 12 hours straight drives home for Christmas), it’s not that unreasonable.

car 2

The heated seats are of course appreciated when it gets down to -18 C, and the gas (petrol) here is crazy cheap.

We can also now take Colorado driving tests, so we need to learn about all the US and local state rules e.g.

  1. In Larimer county, when you have an accident, each person pays to fix their own car, irrespective of who hit who.
  2. There is no such thing here as an MOT, so we have sent our new car into the Subaru garage to give it a full check over.
  3. Upon meeting or overtaking from either direction a school bus that has stopped, a motor vehicle driver must stop at least 20 feet before reaching the bus and not proceed until the visual signal lights are no longer being used.

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We are yet to name our car as we wanted something that alludes to it’s slightly boy-racer-ish-ness but don’t want to call it Gaz or something and have to get Neon’s and a subwoofer.

We are open to suggestions if anyone has any ideas?

Rob and Cat xx

Chips, Kebab, Sausage and Mayo.

There are two things you need to know to understand my excitement as I write this post.

  1. While we love it here, there are of course some things we miss. One of these is that you can’t find a good curry house and there is no such thing as a chip shop here. No chip cobbs, rolls, butties, batches or barns. It’s a case of you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
  2. The other is that as mentioned in our Christmas blog post, our fish “Fish” passed away on the 23rd and we have been waiting to get our remaining fish “Chips” some friends.

So today we went out and got three new additions to our aquarium.

Meet Sausage:
sausage

Kebab:kebab

and Mayo:
mayo 2

When letting the new fish adjust to the temperature of the water, Chips hid behind the reeds as we assumed he was scared of the new additions.

However when we let Sausage, Kebab and Mayo out into the tank, Mayo and Kebab hid behind the reeds with Chips and Kebab as if Sausage was some sort of… monster?

scary saussage 1

scary saussage 2

scary saussage 4
Eventually, they all joined forces to hide behind the reeds. I think we have some very dysfunctional fish…

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Rob and Cat xx

PS/ New post tomorrow once it’s light enough to take pictures of our new wheels.

Christmas is Awesome

This year we experienced a very different version of Christmas than we are used to.

Instead of seeing all our friends and family and enjoying classic family traditions, we spent this December in Fort Collins. However rather than just be mopey, we decided to take advantage and enjoy all the Christmas things we don’t usually get to do.

Firstly, decorating has to be one of the best bits about Christmas. I love getting all the trimmings up and we made our flat / apartment no exception!

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Fairly light… HA

Notice our possible over use of fairy lights (although can one ever have too many?…)

We also got a Noble Fir Christmas tree – notice a sensible height for the room. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a fairy for the top, but we did manage a small squirrel and our lucky Shinto cats.

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It’s not the picture, it’s your eyes.

Thanks to the wonders of Amazon and varying success of international posting, we got a lovely bunch of presents and cards – including several warming aids (jackets, socks, hats, gloves and long johns) so thanks for those (it has been between -2 and -18oC since Christmas day). Perhaps the most unusual and innovative was a Cat calendar featuring our friend Rachel’s Cat Cooper dressed up in a series of movie poses.

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Purrrrfect

We wanted to go out on Christmas Eve but weren’t sure where to eat or go. But, having walked passed the “English pub” (the Crown Pub) maybe 10 times and laughed at how stupid it would be to go there and not explore new places instead… we went on Christmas Eve. It was actually really nice and had pictures of the London Underground on the wall and served ‘pub chips’ (English oven chips), although hilariously our waiter couldn’t understand our accents at all.

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London underground, london underground, london underground

Two things we would not normally be allowed to do on Christmas would be to cook our own meal and spend the day in a dressing gown. We could not find crackers, Yorkshire puds or stuffing, but we did have roast chicken, all the veg (including Brussels sprouts), sweet roast potato and my attempt at homemade gravy (I still have NO IDEA how to make homemade gravy, is it black magic? Do you have to summon it? Is this just something only mums know? Pffft!)

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Believe it or not, I actually drank the most wine and Cat only had one glass!

We also got to watch Love Actually and Die Hard – two fantastic Christmas films. In fact, the only bit of Christmas that did not go to plan is that our fish – “fish” was found floating on the top on the morning of the 23rd (/ gone to meet his maker / he is an x-fish / ad infinium). We plan to get our remaining fish – “chips” some friends after the holidays and come up with new matching names…

But not wishing to end on a sour note and wanting to make everyone across the sea jealous, we did have a white Christmas (about 1 inch in the afternoon, plus 2 foot already on the ground) and as proof:

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Oh the weather outside is frightful…

Rob and Cat x

PS: the title is still my favourite Christmas song ever. Here is a link to it, but be warned; it’s pretty loud!

Trains, snow, pigs and victory.

So a quick update on some exciting things we have been up to recently, also, 5 bonus points for each pop culture reference you get:

VICTORY

Firstly, we have made some new friends since arriving and we were invited to join them at a local pub quiz at an Irish bar called Mulligans. Unfortunately, many of the questions were on American history, American geography and TV shows from the 80’s – so were not able to contribute that much to the team. Cat did however get a fantastic question right namely;

Q 1// Which US president got stuck in the bathtub so insisted a bigger one be installed that could fit four people? (Answer at the end of this post)

Luckily for us, the pub quiz had a skewed points system so the final (and supposedly most difficult) question of the quiz was worth double your total points for correct, lose all your points for incorrect and you could opt out from answering and leave your score intact. The question was;

Q 2//In the cult film Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino, who performed the song Jungle Boogie?

Considering ‘You Never Can Tell’ from this film was our first wedding dance and it was the first date me and Cat went on (to see the film), we knew the answer. As no other teams did, we went from 7th place to first in one question and won the quiz for our team!

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Team team team team. I even like saying the word team.

PIGS

In other fun news, we have found some interesting things in shops around town. The best example of this is a life-size pig grill shown below (with me for scale). It’s true what they say; everything is bigger in America.

Makin’ Bacon (well done if you get that game reference!)

SNOW

Being English, we of course must comment on the weather here which has got pretty cold all of a sudden. It’s between about -6 to 15 Celsius most days and we have had our first snow – although we are told to expect much more snow and colder weather early next year.

TRAINS

So I might have had a falling out with a train…

My cycle route to work passes beside train tracks which run right through Fort Collins (and were in fact here before the city). As the tracks run down a main road, the freight trains must go at around 15 mph and sound their horn loudly at each junction.

So there I am last week, cycling home and I hear the train coming in the distance. So the traffic lights at the junctions all turn red and I wait, with a little traffic behind me. As the train comes closer its horn gets louder and louder. It’s difficult to put into words just how loud this horn is, maybe like being at a Disaster Area concert.

Now I’m at the lights with my fingers in my ears to dampen the sound and as the train comes level with me, our junction turns green so cars can go straight on. As I take my fingers out to quickly move away for the traffic behind me the horn goes off and almost knocks me off my bike.

Cat says I have a fear of trains now (Siderodromophobia), but I just wanted to say this to warn people that come visit us: I hope you like trains!

e44uAVu
HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNK!!!!!
PS/ Answers are William Howard Taft and Kool and the gang

Decorating, more like decorate-win!

Hey friends, Rob here.

Before I begin, a fair warning:
Me and Cat are competing to see who can get the most / worst puns in a post.

So since moving in we have started filling our flat with things to make it seem more homely. We started by buying two sofa’s from a consignment shop, then covering up the somewhat unappealing teal/beige/fail colour scheme with some lovely soft cream throws:

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Much sit, very chair, so-fa

Although we have now adjusted to the time difference – 7 hours behind the UK on mountain time (that is not a pun but the actual name for our time zone, take that GMT!) – we still don’t really understand betimes thanks to American Netflix.

So we bought a nice clock to lighten up our walls:

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Hickory dickory dock, some hands go around the clock.

Also, I had a massive fail and bought a bike from Walmart. Needless to say after 4 days of riding the handle bars were falling off and the brakes did not work in the rain.

I have upgraded now to this lovely second hand bike described by Cat as “pretty badass”.

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Bike.

Finally, Cat decided to setup and art gallery to brighten our kitchen/living room. We got these lovely three pictures from a hospital craft sale and they depict local and US scenes of interest.

Unfortunately, we kind of, sort of forgot to write them down before putting them up on the wall…

From left to right we have (we think),
1) A rock formation from Arizona or something
2) Aspen trees from Aspen
3) A national park in southern Colorado

Rob and Cat xx

New Apartment Time!

Hi All,

We have now passed step one of being successful adults in Fort Collins – we are no longer homeless! Yay! We have put down a deposit on a beautiful newly built apartment, just to the north of Old Town in Fort Collins. It is a one bedroom apartment with a big open plan kitchen/ lounge area, as well as a separate bathroom, closet and utility room. It is extremely clean and white, and we love it:

Lovely Lounge
Lovely Lounge
Our Kitchen Up Close...
Our Kitchen Up Close…

Fortunately for us the kitchen comes furnished with all the big essentials, so we have a massive fridge (I think both of us could sit inside it), oven, microwave and dishwasher! There is also a lovely double sink, a breakfast bar and a crazy amount of storage space, which is good.

The bedroom also has a built in wardrobe and a lovely view, although strangely no lighting of any kind. Apparently it is not uncommon in the US for apartments to be ‘naturally lit’, so whilst we have light on the kitchen end we will need lamps for the side near the windows. Lamps are very cheap and can be controlled from light switches so this is not a problem, but we did find this a bit odd…

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Happily, our bathroom makes up for this by being almost impossibly bright:

Much Light. So Bath.
Much Light. So Bath.

It is also very lovely/ clean/ new, and has a big bath and shower and again, lots of draws for storage.

We’re now in the process of the worlds biggest thift shop pillage with the help of the amazing Rosemary and Chris (our US hosts), so hopefully we can show some pictures of it looking nice and furnished soon!

More to follow… 🙂