Archive | November, 2010

Explain Yourself

14 Nov

This weekend has been an exercise in patience. Two of Patrick’s schoolfriends have been staying with us, and “school” is the operative word. It seems that when we’re around those who knew us best at a certain point in life have the ability to always take us back to that point. My husband is one of the most gently confident people I know, but something about old friends seems to take him to a place where he needs to explain his life choices.

Explaining why you’ve left London, moved to “the country” (the London-centric term for anywhere with a population under half a million) and got a Land Rover and a dog is difficult. They’re things that you do because you like them – because they make you happy. There are other reasons, but nobody wants to be negative about the place that people live to their face. Because paying three-quarters of your take-home to live somewhere with crime, litter and both poverty and wealth rammed in your face every day is somewhat soul-destroying. Because my face seems to be at the same height as the average commuters’ armpit.

I gave up women’s magazines some time ago for a couple of reasons. One was the absurd fawning over celebrities. Every issue would feature an interview with a celebrity who was “surprisingly” the nicest person ever, and oh-so-naturally beautiful without a hint of make-up. I kid you not – they would rehash the same actual article week after week,  changing only the name and a few personalising details. The main reason, though, was the unattainable lifestyle that they were pushing. A group of local, identical-interest girlfriends with whom you go drinking most evenings; a designer wardrobe with no mention of a career; a rich, successful boyfriend and acrobatic sex life (presumably after the drinks with the girls); holidays to far flung exotic climes or the Italian Riviera.

Living in a big city feels like living in one of those magazines. Where I am now, having designer labels and the fact that I’m not out every night doesn’t cross my mind until I have them dangled in front of me. The line “you can’t miss something you never had” isn’t quite it – more like you can’t miss what becomes irrelevant.

I’m happy here. It’s just difficult to put it into words, and any attempt sounds like protesting too much.

Anyway, it’s a new week, so I’m setting some goals.

1. Walk 10 miles.

2. Speak to my local Slimming World representative and get signed up for meetings!

3. Finish all the work I need to do for clients A1 and M1.

4. Book a doctor’s appointment! I know they won’t see me for two weeks, but I’m impatient and want to get started.

5. Have a total wardrobe clear-out.

6. Finish off our thank-you cards from the wedding. I’m 2/3 of the way there.

7. Buy all the copies of the Sun I need to get our £9.50 trip to Disneyland Paris! I swear I don’t buy that filth normally, but it’s too good a deal to miss.

8. Write up another honeymoon post.

Busy week! Is anyone else weirded out by the big picture of Jimmy Wales at the top of the Wikipedia page at the moment? He just looks so… sincere.

Is there anyone in your life who makes you feel 14 again?


How Do You Make A Hormone?

10 Nov

Please excuse the title. It’s a really bad joke, and I can’t even remember the correct punchline. If you can think of a good one, let me know!

I’m on a bit of a rollercoaster at the moment. Suddenly work has picked up through the roof – you’d think that was good but it’s a bit of a minimum-wage pity effort from my dear old Dad. Going from working part-time and with complete flexibility, to having to juggle clients is really quite overwhelming. Taking the financial weight off is a wonderful gift, though.

I don’t know if it’s pregnancy hormone stuff, but I’ve been really easily upset by things. Bloggers who giggle as their commenters gloat and shriek; pretty much anything I learn about Christine O’Donnell; the new McDonalds advert where all those people seek respite from their horrible journeys; the way some people have never used punctuation in their lives until they hyphenate their child’s name, Mollee-Faiye-Boo.

I’m at – as they say in the online pregnancy world – 5+1, five weeks and one day. Last time, the trouble began at 5+3. I know that once I pass that imaginary hurdle, there are still another 40 days or so until I’m out of the high-risk zone. I envy mothers-to-be who don’t even let this cross their minds and spend these first few months in giddiness, but don’t begrudge it remotely. Staying positive, cuddling beautiful Meg a lot and just taking good care of myself!

I’ve embarked on a pregnancy-friendly weight loss regime, inspired by the great success of Claire at Cakes and Bunting. Slimming World works on the principle of eating foods that are low in calorie density until you are full, ensuring that you eat nutrient-rich foods every day, and allowing room for treats. I don’t know why I’ve been ignoring it this long – I know several people who have been seriously successful with the diet, and I’m not talking about the “OMG! My size 6 jeans are a little tight!” types, but people who have actually improved their health and their life through weight loss.

I’m questioning whether or not the denial may be attributable to the same-old self-sabotage, but the navel-gaziness of it all seems a little pointless when considering the real goal – to start dejiggling.

For accountability’s sake, this is what I’ve been tucking into the past few days –

Tuesday: Lentil-rice casserole with Mulligatawny cup-soup for flavour; brussels sprouts with a whole roasted butternut squash stuffed with rice, parmesan, tomato sauce, olive oil and fat-free fromage frais.

Wednesday: Mushroom omelette; grapes; borlotti beans stir-fried with asparagus; salmon with lentil-rice casserole and roasted broccoli; fried bananas with sugar.

I’ve been delighted to eat such tasty stuff, and I’ve been inspired to eat more veggies. My big flaw when it comes to calorie counting is not being bothered to eat vegetables. I become so focussed upon calories and hunger that everything else goes out the window.

You may have noticed my new-found love of this lentil-rice casserole. I discovered the recipe via Frugal n Fit, and have become addicted – it’s just so creamy and filling and comforting. Essential in this godforsaken weather. The original recipe is here, a fantastic resource for recipes, but I’ve generally been going with (by volume) one part lentils, one part arborio risotto rice, six parts water, and whatever herbs or spices I think will be suitable with whatever it’s accompanying.

Questions –

Do you recognise habitual hurdles in your efforts to keep healthy?

Is there a dish that you could just cook day in and day out and never tire of?

Finding Inspiration

4 Nov

I’m an avid reader of many healthy living blogs. I love being motivated by their positivity. I feel inspired to go out and actually do some exercise. I try new recipes, and hunt for strange and unusual ingredients in health food shops. Admittedly, I skip over posts that are just about food and exercise, but still, it doesn’t always sit right.

Have you ever been in a situation in which the whole group suddenly starts talking about a topic to which you can’t possibly relate? Maybe it’s when you’re around friends who know each other from school; or when a bunch of work colleagues start talking shop. This is just how I feel when the issue of body image is raised on healthy living blogs.

Healthy living bloggers are lovely. They start things like Operation Beautiful – a scheme that involves leaving post-its in random places, with positive messages. The strongest message across the blogosphere is that your body is amazing, and you should love it no matter what.

One thing that links many of these bloggers is a history of restrictive-eating disorders. We see photos of beautiful, healthy teenage girls alongside stories of disordered eating (understandably no photos at that stage), and the road to recovery leading to healthy, athletic adults. Their message of self-acceptance is so important to encourage others out there to look after themselves, to love themselves.

But what if you’re the newbie amongst the old schoolfriends; the artist among bankers? What if your body isn’t healthy – all medically-recognised methods of measurement call you obese; and workouts leave you feeling wonky, broken and thoroughly down in the dumps? I’ve spoken before about my gratitude to my body for carrying me through infection, but you can’t help but feel, as Janet said, “What have you done for me lately?”

It’s a struggle to listen to the message to love your body when you just want to shift those 60lbs first. It’s tough to hear a natural size 6 girl say “don’t count calories! Just listen to your body, like I do” when listening to your body all your life has gained you a steady 6lbs per year since you left school.

This is why I was delighted to come across Lisa’s blog – 110 Pounds and Counting. This is someone I could truly relate to – she went through her early 20s being large; she recognised that there was more to it than the simple “Don’t diet, just eat less! Move more!” that the naturally-skinny bellow at us. While I will always love the blogs in my Google Reader, I am glad to have discovered someone whose life and attitudes are comparable to mine.

How about you, readers?

1. Where do you turn for inspiration?

2. Do you separate weight and health, or are you at the stage where the two goals are intertwined?

3. Do you find it easier to be inspired by people you feel are similar to you?


3 Nov

As I’ve said before, my recipes aren’t really recipes – more the assembly of stuff I like. Still, I thought I’d share! Some things I have been cooking lately –

Kinda-Mexican Eggy Bread

2 eggs

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp chilli flakes

splash of milk

2 slices of bread

Whisk all but the bread (duh!) in a baking tray or other fairly flat dish. Soak each side of the bread in and fry over a medium-high heat in a non-stick pan. Top with salsa and chow down!

Smoky Bacon and Pea Risotto

4 rashers of bacon

150g arborio risotto rice

300ml chicken stock

handful of frozen peas

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Snip the bacon into lardon-sized pieces and dry fry in a large saucepan. Add the risotto rice and paprika, then stir fry for two minutes. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, letting it simmer and be absorbed into the rice. Once half the stock has been added, add the peas. Keep adding the stock until it’s all gone and the rice is softer than al dente. Serve to yourself and your hungry companion!

Carrot Cake

I can’t claim this next one, because it was cooked by my beloved and not me, but I just think the colours are so pretty and autumnal!

Well, I suppose I’d better go for a nice walk to start burning it all off!

It Feels Like Sunday

2 Nov

Well, it kind of does. Patrick has been off work for two days, as he has an exam tomorrow and is revising/watching Dexter with me. Over the weekend, I went to Newcastle for a fun weekend with my baby sister, who goes to university in the city. It is so crazy the idea that she has a city that is all hers, and that she shows me around! I absolutely fell in love and would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants an affordable weekend away, or a trip to Europe on a budget.

I went on a nice almost-four-mile walk this afternoon, scaring myself silly because I managed to venture into the woods where it promptly got very dark. I convinced myself that every shadow of a tree or crack of a twig was some kind of axe murderer coming to get me. It was a really fun route, though, and I’ll definitely give it another try earlier in the day!

While walking, I listened to a radio documentary about a city called Maywood in California. The city had got to such a state of disaster, financially-speaking, that they had to sack all of their staff and contract out the work. One of the reasons why things had got so bad was the fact that they were reliant mostly upon sales and property tax for revenue, while the majority of their inhabitants were domestic staff or builders of Mexican origin, seriously feeling the hit of the recession. It was a desperately sad situation – there was no way for them to increase revenue because the local residents just didn’t have it to give. It made me feel terrible for the children who grew up in the area – what hope would they have for the future? How would they break the cycle that they were born into, by no fault of their own?

It made me think of the occasional resentment felt by the South towards some areas of the North, and of Scotland, for the feeling that we are down here generating revenue that is spent by the government up there. One of the people interviewed for the documentary expressed that the only possible ways out of their situation were to open a casino, like a nearby town had; or to obtain funds at state level, obtained through taxes. I think we can safely guess which would be the favoured option at the moment, and an increase in taxes to help a city where half the population was born outside the US isn’t likely to be it.

If we’re meant to look at these situations and thank our stars that it’s not us, then I thank them twofold. I’m grateful that my parents are the hardest-working people I know, and I’m grateful to live in a country where, had I been born to a different family, it needn’t have set out my path in the way that it appears to in some. Of course, we can all find examples of those who rose from extremely humble beginnings to excellence anywhere in the world, but for many places, they are truly exceptional. Here, unless there’s a massive clerical cock-up, you will have a roof over your head, a meal in your belly and medical treatment.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel that your area provides equal opportunities, no matter what your background? Do you think that it should, or is improved opportunity something we leave as a legacy for our children?

In other news… I got a positive pregnancy test result yesterday morning. We’re so delighted, but I must confess that I’m nervous as hell – every second that I don’t feel sick, I’m convinced it’s because there’s something wrong again. The terribly sad news about Lily Allen has meant that miscarriage has been a big news topic today. I can’t imagine what the poor girl is going through, and it makes me grateful as anything that my own miscarriage was comparatively straightforward. Fingers and toes are firmly crossed for a successful pregnancy this time.

I’ll leave you with a pretty picture of some exceptional artwork of mine (if you’re on a slow connection, please don’t wait for it to load; it’s not actually good). I’ve been checking out this HDR malarkey on the iPhone and I’m not convinced – it has a real tendency to flatten pictures. I’ll let you be the judge.

Please bear in mind that I have no formal training in politics beyond a big crush on the boy who represented Conservatives in our school debate club, so if I have missed/misunderstood something, please be gentle with me. These are musings, opinions and observations, not statements.

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