Our first harvest!

Oh botheration! It’s raining! This is, of course, well needed and good for the garden, but why does it have to come at the weekend and not while I’m stuck inside an office?  I managed approximately ten minutes in the garden this morning before it started coming down too heavily to contemplate staying out there. Let’s hope tomorrow is better.

I did manage to get my first haul (haul may be a slight exaggeration but I’m sticking with it) of produce from the garden in those ten minutes.

Whoop! Homegrown goodness! The strawberries are from my three plants that I’ve had in a pot for a couple of years now. I’m still having no luck with the new plants in the raised bed. I’m going to put straw underneath them to see if that’ll deter the slugs, or whatever it is that’s eating them.

The potatoes are Maris Peers. I have three different types of potatoes in three bags up by the greenhouse, and while all three have (or had, in the case of the Maris Peers) humongous stems and leaves sprouting out of the top, the Maris Peers are the only ones which have flowered. They all got really battered in the heavy rain we had a couple of weeks ago so now I don’t really know what to expect from the other two bags.

I’d been waiting for some of our own potatoes before trying a recipe from my Pinch of Nom cookbook that I’ve been drawling over for a while. Pinch of Nom is amazing and is helping me immeasurably with Slimming World. It’s not strictly aimed at followers of any particular diet plan but is full of lower fat/calorie dishes and alternatives for people who are watching their weight.

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Bacon, onion and potato bake. Doesn’t it look yummy? It’s completely Syn free on Slimming World as long as you use bacon medallions (or cut any excess fat off) and count the cheese on top as part of your healthy extra A.

My version looked a bit different!

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Not a million miles off though, and it tasted delicious!

I had some potatoes left over, and certainly didn’t want to waste any after growing them myself, so I made my own version of the bacon and onion frittata from the cookbook.

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We can have this cold for lunch tomorrow. I’m supposed to fill one third of my plate with speed food (most fruit and veg) so I could do with serving this with some salad but unfortunately we don’t have any in! Maybe I’ll have some carrot sticks.

I whipped up some dessert so we could have our massive crop of five strawberries! I’d seen people talk about this in the Pinch of Nom Facebook group and decided to give it a go.

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Game changer! It’s so simple, yet tastes like a proper indulgent pudding. It’s just a couple of spoonfuls of quark mixed with an Options mint hot chocolate sachet (one Syn for half) and put in the fridge for a while. Obviously the strawberries made it!

Speaking of food, we had our first barbecue of the season last night. Slimming World friendly for me, obviously!

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We have the smallest barbecue in the world! It does for us though. I am quite tempted to invest in a gas one but can’t decide if it’s worth it.

My burgers were the anaemic looking ones at the back. I went to Tesco to get their meat free burgers because they have no Syns. Quorn burgers are two and a half Syns for some reason. I’m not vegetarian (obviously, given the bacon in my lunch) but I’m not a meat lover, especially red meat, so I’m more than happy to have veggie burgers, and it’s a bonus that they’re less Syns.

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Look at that! Double decker burger! On a diet! Look at Minnie sneakily eying it up!

I added cheese from my healthy extra A and I made a Syn free sauce with fat free natural yoghurt, mint and garlic. The barbecue was an impromptu decision so I’d already had my healthy extra B for breakfast, which meant I had to count the Syns in the bread roll but if I’d been more organised I could’ve had a wholemeal roll and counted it as my B option which would mean the whole thing was free!

I made some pasta salad to have with my sausages so I didn’t have to use more Syns on bread.

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The sausages are Linda McCartney veggie ones which are yummy. Much nicer than Quorn ones. I would’ve loved to have a couple of hubby’s real sausages but it’s a small sacrifice to make if I continue to lose weight. I tried to keep the Syns down by mixing the pasta with quark and fat free natural yoghurt instead of mayo, but I think next time I’ll use lighter than light mayo and Syn it.

I’m not losing weight super fast, but, as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Let’s hope so. Having switched from WW to Slimming World this time around, I feel like Slimming World is more sustainable. The diet gurus all say that you need to change your habits forever to keep the weight off and with WW that seems really restrictive and life altering to maintain forever because of the nature of the plan, whereas Slimming World is more flexible. We’ve had some really delicious meals which I would be happy to eat over and over again so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to stay on plan and that maintaining will be possible once I get to goal.

Support is crucial to anyone trying to lose weight. My hubby has no issue with weight, and he doesn’t put any pressure on me to change the way I look, but he knows it’s important to me so he tries to help as much as he can.

It used to be that you had to go to a diet group once a week to get external support, but these days social media plays a huge role. Writing about my weight loss journey (gosh that’s cliched!) on my blog and posting on Instagram is helpful to me, but there are millions of people on Instagram who post every meal they eat and give the recipes which helps to inspire me and give me new ideas. As I mentioned above, there’s a Pinch of Nom group on Facebook and most members seem to be following Slimming World so it’s a great community of like minded people sharing tips and tricks which are really helpful.

Let’s hope in a few months I’ll be able to report that I’m at target and planning to stay there forever! Right now, it’s nearly time for a takeaway – all counted and within plan, obviously!

Mexico in Mexico

I can’t actually believe that tomorrow is our last full day here and that soon I’m going to have to contemplate wearing shoes, drying my hair and, you know, adulting!

As I write this I am lying on a sunbed, with my wireless headphones (thank you NLMK) pumping my holiday playlist into my lugholes, barely inches from a very inviting swimming pool. There are guys and gals regularly wandering past asking me if I’d like a tequila sunrise, a pina colada or any other manner of delectation.

Of course, we could’ve chosen to go and imbibe our choice of poison at the swim-up bar in the next pool, but we prefer the quieter more relaxed vibe of this pool (and we’re drinking Diet Coke so really no need of swim-up bars).

There are coatis wandering around in the foliage behind me, cats lounging in the shade trying to keep cool, tropical birds chattering away to each other in the trees above me and occasionally a flamboyance of flamingos soaring high over head.

Spot the imposter!

This truly is an animal lover’s paradise. Not so good for those not so fond of the fluff and the feather, but really, we’re in their home, not the other way round. A guy flicked water at a coati yesterday on purpose as he got out of the pool (the guy, not the coati). The coati didn’t give two sniffs of his turned up snouty nose and carried on about his important business of snuffling and being cute, but hubby and I were both incensed (in a most internal and private British way).

We’ve had such a fantastic time (and it’s not over yet). We really are so lucky that we have the means and the opportunity to take holidays like this every so often. The luxury of doing nothing, or everything, depending upon your mood is something to be thankful for. Admittedly we’ve spent the vast majority of our time doing the nothing rather than the everything, that’s exactly how we wanted it.

We went to the beach one day. I couldn’t tell you which day as I have very little comprehension of time at the moment. It certainly wasn’t yesterday, because yesterday was somewhat spectacular, but more of that at a later date when I have photographic evidence. Maybe it was the day before? Maybe not. Who really cares?

The beach is just over the road, through one of the sister hotels (where you can also make use of their all inclusive facilities). We walked over, down a lovely sheltered promenade, but for the infirm, over-heating or, dare I say it, exercise-shy you can jump on a golf buggy to be deposited a stone’s throw from the white sands.

The beach was very pretty, although, I think hubby and I have been spoilt by the indescribable, and untouched, beauty of the Maldives and any other beach will now struggle to match it. Still, first world problems and all that.

Hubby went snorkelling but reported slim pickings (or should that be viewings?) on the fish front. I had a bit of a paddle. We stayed at the beach until lunchtime and then headed back along the promenade to our hotel. The only shade on the beach was provided by palm trees and the sun beds were somewhat crammed in and the humidity was high so we were in need of a few minutes of air conditioning to cool down.

Today we could’ve joined in with a coconut party at the next pool. We politely declined due to a serious lack of botheredness, but I have to say, I was slightly intrigued as to the specificities of a coconut party. The entertainment staff promoting it were dressed a la Carmen Miranda, sporting coconuts on their heads, but I assume the actual party entailed more than careful balancing of fruit on one’s bonce. I wasn’t concerned enough to extract my derrière from my sunbed, but from what my ears could detect, there was much whooping and singing of the Macarena. Not sure what that has to do with coconuts, but whatever!

I was just interrupted by a passing band of coatis (I just guessed at the collective noun, but then googled, and I guessed right. Score!) This happens every day towards late afternoon. They’re around all day and evening, but they like to patrol the pool around now. Presumably they’ve learnt people are likely to have dropped (or disposed of) food by now.

This is a common sight. Coati bottom protruding from a rubbish receptacle!

Look at the teeny tiny baby!

Hubby has just gone off to the shop to dispose of another 160 MXN (£6.11) on Cheetos crunchy.

Totally worth it (even though we’re all inclusive), they’re amazing!

Anyway, silly boy left his Diet Coke unattended and a coati, having a very sweet tooth as we’ve discovered coatis do, has knocked over and pilfered said Diet Coke.

This really is a real-time post today!

It was supposed to rain today, but we’ve had about three and a half spots! Hubby is now back with Cheetos, so I think we may make our way back to our room before the weather changes its mind, and also before the dreaded mozzies come to consume our blood. So far I’ve managed just two bites (both before we realised they’re active in the day and therefore had neglected to liberally apply the deet!)

Having re-read my post, I realise that Eleanor Oliphant (fantastic book that I finished in two days at the start of the holiday) has rubbed off on me and my parlance is somewhat loquacious and elaborate (I did that bit on purpose!) Sorry!

Anyway, the coatis are now trying to steal my bag because they can smell my Cheetos so I shall vacate my sunbed forthwith! Chat later!!

That’s my knee bottom right of photo – they get that close when there’s a chance of dinner!!

WarHorse

I’m a big fan of Michael Morpurgo, as it would seem are a huge number of people. His Facebook page has forty one thousand likes and the film version of WarHorse grossed almost one hundred and eighty million dollars at the box office.

Like lots of people, I think, it wasn’t until WarHorse came to prominence that Michael Morpurgo came to the forefront of my mind. You may have noticed the slightly strange turn of phrase there ‘came to the forefront of my mind’. This is because he had been in my mind for a long time, but I had completely forgotten until I did some browsing of Amazon that I did actually read a Michael Morpurgo book when I was twelve. This one.

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I know I was definitely twelve because the book was a gift from my Dad and C when I broke my leg. I always remembered the book but didn’t remember who wrote it. I read it in one day while I was stranded on the sofa, up to my hip in plaster.

I read WarHorse on my Kindle a few years ago and loved it so when I saw that the stage show was touring and coming to the Hippodrome in Birmingham I headed straight on line to book tickets, and last Saturday we headed into town for the matinee showing.

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It was a packed house, not an empty seat anywhere as we waited for the show to start.

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The puppetry was amazing. The two main horses, Joey and Topthorn had three people operating them, two inside the body representing the hind and the heart and one alongside representing the head. Somehow the knowledge that the horses hearts were being represented made the depiction all the more poignant. I obviously couldn’t take photos during the performance but I’ve found a good pic online.

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On the left is Joey and Topthorn is on the right. You can see the three puppeteers. This is when they were first introduced to each other behind the lines of the battlefield in France. There were also supporting horses, but these were differentiated by being less formed, their bodies ended at their tail with no hind legs, and they were operated by just one person.

As well as the horses, there was a puppet goose. It was operated by one person using a handle attached to it, and it waddled around the stage on a wheel. The goose provided a very necessary touch of light relief.

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The title of the show is fairly self explanatory, but until I read the book, it had never occurred to me that animals were involved in the First World War. We all know of the enormous human suffering and loss of life, but less is known of the plight of the million horses that were sent to France. Only sixty two thousand returned. That’s approximately ninety five percent that perished.

The book is written from Joey’s point of view but I guess it would be hard to portray this on the stage so in this case you watch the events unfold in front of you. You see Joey bought at auction by Ted Narracott and then see his relationship grow with Albert, Ted’s son. He has to learn to become a farm horse, ploughing the land, and it is this which ultimately saves his life out on the battlefields of France.

I don’t want to ruin the story, just in case anyone hasn’t read it/watched it, so I won’t delve any more into the plot. The portrayal of the fighting, the torture of uncertainty and no news back home and the agonising choices having to be made at the front line is incredibly moving. In fact, at times I found myself squirming in my seat because I actually found it quite uncomfortable viewing. The thought that this is real, people and horses actually went through this. Millions of lives were lost, millions more changed forever. So much bravery and valour, but oh so much pain and suffering.

For me, as an animal lover, and someone who’s had to go through the pain of losing a beloved pet, seeing the First World War portrayed in this way, using animals, drove home to me how absolutely devastating the war was, to the world, to our country, to families, to individuals. It made me incredibly grateful to the men, women and animals who bravely suffered the atrocities of war, whether it be on the front line or away from the action keeping the country ticking over, and so so relieved that this isn’t our reality today.

The show has a happy ending, but put against the backdrop of such horrors, this just serves to heighten the emotion. I never normally get upset at shows or films, but I just couldn’t help it and the tears were rolling down my cheeks at the end. It was harrowing. I felt utterly emotionally exhausted, but then guilty for not being able to hold it together when real people endured the reality of the war with stoicism and resolve. The actors got a standing ovation as they came on to take their bows, which was absolutely deserved. I’m glad we went to see the show, but I don’t think I would put myself through it again.