Quick Catch Up

Here I am again! Twice in as many days. This is going to be a very random outpouring of news I fear! Sorry in advance – think of it as eclectic!

I’ve entitled this ‘quick’, but in reality it is anything but because my nails have got so long, it’s really hard to type accurately! I was recommended a new nail technician and I’ve been religiously going to her for beautiful sparkly gel nails every three weeks.

These are what I’ve had so far.

The last set had to be less glitterified because I had a very important work event which required professionalism! I’ll tell you more about that enough another time, but suffice it to say, it worked! It led to another work event which happened to be on the day that I was due to get my nails re-done hence they’re now REALLY long! I’m not due to get them done for almost another two weeks, but I will be going for full on sparkle overload ready for the festive season.

What else have I been up to? I did some baking. I bought some fabulous cookie cutters a few weeks ago and I really wanted to try them out, but didn’t want to completely scupper my diet plan so I scoured t’internet for a diet friendly cookie recipe and found one that didn’t break the diet bank.

It swapped sugar for sweetener and only used a small amount of low fat spread instead of butter.

Here they are pre-baking.

They lost some of their shape in the oven but I was still pretty pleased with how they turned out.

I won’t lie, they weren’t as tasty as Millie’s or Maryland cookies, but I was happy enough to offer them to my Dad (sweet things connoisseur) and C when they came to visit.

That visit was a mercy mission for our little Olive. She recently learnt how to hop up on to the banister at the top of the stairs.

Doesn’t she look pleased with herself?

Cats aren’t always as surefooted as they’re reputed to be and our poor Olive slipped off the banister and fell top to bottom, right down to the hall below. We put the cardboard turrets on the posts, as you can see in the photo, but it didn’t stop her jumping up.

So, Dad to the rescue ……

We have a safety shelf to catch floundering felines! Of course, to the best of our knowledge she hasn’t toppled off since it’s been safe to do so, but at least we have peace of mind.

Last weekend was super busy. On Friday I was in London for the annual ISTA (International Steel Trade Association) lunch at the Brewery. I completely forgot to take any photos which is a shame because the food’s always beautifully presented. We enjoyed salmon mi cuit for our first course. I’m glad I didn’t know that mi cuit means half cooked until after I’d eaten it because it would’ve put me off but it was really tasty. The main course was Hunter’s Chicken but it wasn’t Hunter’s Chicken like you get in the pub down the road! It was super posh Hunter’s Chicken and was scrummy. The dessert was pear sponge pudding with ice cream and completed a trio of deliciousness.

The speeches were shorter than usual, which I think was a good thing because the state of the steel industry isn’t good so many more words would just have added to the gloom. The ‘celebrity’ speaker was Dr Phil Hammond, who I’d never heard of, and after hearing him, I think I’ll just forget him again! It was a good day though, I caught up with some old friends, met some new friends and ate some yummy food – what’s not to like?

On Saturday I travelled back down to London. If I’d known further in advance I could’ve stayed overnight on Friday to save all the travelling, but hey, never mind. I’d already arranged with my Dad that he’d drop me at Uxbridge tube station and he’d go to the Harry Potter Studios in Watford whilst I jumped on the tube to South Kensington. Destination? The Royal Albert Hall …

… to watch the Champions Tennis.

I arrived a little early so I had a quick wander around the Prince Albert Memorial statue in Kensington Gardens.

Prince Albert is surrounded on all four corners by representations of Europe, America, Asia and Africa.

I took my seat in the Royal Albert Hall in good time and, whoop, I was on the front row! Great view!

I was slightly disappointed to have a net in front of me, and I experimented with taking photos through the holes, until, that is David Ferrer and Juan Carlos Ferrero took to the court and started practising their serves! I’ll take a net on my photos over a one hundred plus mile per hour tennis ball in the nose!

My photos aren’t great because of the net and because the iPhone isn’t great at capturing action photos, but as well as Ferrer and Ferrero …

I also saw Tim Henman and Goran Ivanisevic …

… playing with Mark Philippousis and Xavier Malisse.

There was also an exhibition doubles with Heather Watson, Martina Hingis, Thomas Enqvist and the ever popular Mansour Bahrami.

I had a great day. Dad, meanwhile had a great day at the Harry Potter Studios. He reported that the studios were dressed for Christmas …

… and he was very impressed with the new Gringotts exhibit which hubby and I saw back in May.

On Sunday we went to the Good Food Show with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law and again I forgot to take any pictures! It was a good day though. We sampled lots of gin, cheese and curry and managed not to spend too much money on gimmicks! Last year we all bought frying pans which were supposed to revolutionise our cooking lives. Needless to say, said frying pans ended up in the bin quite quickly when they failed in their promise! I did buy several skinny syrups which I’m now enjoying on my porridge and baked oats in the mornings.

This weekend has been much more about upcoming festivities. On Friday I went to Resorts World to check out the shops and grab a bite to eat, and they’re in full on Christmas mode.

It seemed the right time to get festive at home, so, the decs are up!

So, there you have it. A round up of the last couple of weeks. Hopefully it’s not too disjointed, but if it is,just remember …. eclectic!

Slimming World

I’ve had a little bit of writer’s block lately which has led to me being less present on my blog. Or is it just that I’m leading a dull life lately and have nothing of interest to say? There’s been a couple of times when I’ve been tempted to write a negative post because I’ve had a few blues days recently, but I’ve decided against it because I don’t want to have blue days recorded in writing to haunt me forever and a day. I’m sure you guys don’t to read gloom and doom either. Anyway, I’m working through the main thing on my mind and hopefully there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

I did do one definitely not dull thing last week.

I went to Birmingham uni with one of my very best friends (was supposed to be two of my very best friends but the dreaded lurgy struck!) to Birmingham Literature Festival where we saw Adam Kay. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, he wrote (as the photo shows) This is Going to Hurt. It’s a fantastic book written from diaries he kept during his days working in the NHS and it really gives an insight into the life of a doctor. It is, in pretty equal parts (if we’re judging by emotional response rather than actual work count), funny and heartbreaking.

His performance last week was brilliant and well worth venturing out on a drizzly Thursday evening for, and, just like the book, very funny but ultimately heart rending. Turns out he’s a pretty good musician as well as a writer, and a portion of the show was based on him singing and playing the piano when he also got the audience involved. I’d highly recommend going to see him if you can.

Another exciting thing that happened is that my company car finally arrived.

Isn’t she beautiful? I was a bit confused by the colour at first. When I built her on the configurator on line she was very green, like the old Rover colour British Racing Green. In the flesh, so to speak, she looks almost black. I’ve got used to it now though and she is definitely green. Look!

Anyway, on to the topic in hand. I’ve been following the Slimming World plan since the end of May, and it’s been going pretty well. I’ve lost over a stone, all my clothes fit again and I’m starting to feel a bit happier with myself. However, this last couple of weeks have been tough and, I admit, I’ve cheated a little bit which means I’m not seeing movement on the scales (or not in a downwards trajectory anyway) and I’m getting a little despondent.

The problem is, I’ve got back down to the weight that I’ve got to so many times before where it starts to get harder. It’s like my body doesn’t want me to get any lighter and my brain starts playing tricks on me.

It should be an oxymoron for your own brain to trick you into sabotaging yourself, but mine does! It starts seemingly independently thinking things like, you may as well stop because you never get any further than this, or, oh go on, have crispy chicken with pineapple – you deserve it, and most of it’s free (never mind the fact that it’s deep fried!) or if you stop now you won’t have to spend a fortune on a new wardrobe or everyone’s expecting you to fail so you may as well stop trying (rationally I know this isn’t true but it seems so real when faced with the choice of either an apple or a chocolate bar!) or you won’t be able to maintain it if you go any lower so you may as well eat cake! It’s really hard to fight with yourself and retrain your brain.

I’ve only got half a stone to go to get to the initial target that I set myself and I really want to get there to see if I’m happy with myself at that weight so I’m going to share some of my favourite meals that have got me this far in the hopes that I might find my diet mojo again.

I’ll start with that most British of meals – a chicken roast dinner.

Here we have chicken cooked in the slow cooker (tastiest and most convenient way to cook a whole chicken in my humble opinion) served with potatoes parboiled and roasted in frylight, potatoes mashed with milk and a bit of grated cheese from my healthy extra a allowance, broccoli, petit pois and roasted carrot batons and the only items with any syns, an Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire pudding (4 1/2 syns because they were fancy ones left over from Christmas) and gravy made with Ah Bisto (showing my age there – 1 syn). Such a yummy meal and doesn’t taste ‘diet’ at all.

Also very British whilst not being British at all!

Chinese chicken curry made with Mayflower extra hot curry powder. I got the tip off for this delight from the Pinch of Nom Facebook group and it’s become a firm favourite in our household. You can get it in B&M Bargains or Iceland and it tastes as good as from the Chinese takeaway. 4 syns for the sauce and the rest of it’s free.

I’m switching to breakfast now (probably should’ve done that first, eh?)

This is a slightly modified Pinch of Nom recipe – Bakewell Baked Oats. I make them into muffins rather than in one big dish. They have almond essence in them which really makes them taste like Bakewell Tart and I top them with berries and a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt. It’s like having cake for breakfast and the combination of egg and oats keeps you full till lunch.

Sticking with breakie.

Overnight oats. I’m not sure I could get through the week without my overnight oats. I LOVE them! I usually make a few portions on Sunday night and they keep for a week in the fridge, in fact, they get better as the week goes on and the juices from the frozen fruit seep through into the oats. Yum! I normally do them in takeaway containers, but I treated myself to a Kilner jar so I can have posh overnight oats once a week.

Next up, the great British fry up (Slimming World style!) Good for breakfast, lunch or tea.

Egg and mushrooms fried in frylight, baked beans (has to be …… erm, Branston for me), bacon medallions, a slice of wholemeal toast for half my healthy extra b, a Quorn sausage for 1 syn and a tablespoon of ketchup (which does have to be Heinz – ketchup of kings) for 1 syn.

Back to the first meal of the day.

Third attempt at making a sweet omelette and I finally cracked it (no pun intended). Two eggs with sweetener, almond essence and vanilla essence fried in frylight till it’s golden filled with berries and yoghurt (raspberry doughnut mullerlight in this case).

Back to teatime.

Pizza and chips. This uses my healthy extra b which is usually done and dusted by the time I’ve had breakfast, so I don’t have it often but it’s lovely. It’s a Weightwatchers wrap topped with tomato purée and bbq sauce and then whatever pizza topping you want. This one was leftover chicken, peppers and mushrooms with my healthy extra a of cheddar grated on top and then shoved in the oven for five minutes. It’s nice with blue cheese, onion, sweetcorn and peppers too. The chips are made from Maris Piper potatoes (any decent potato works well, Charlotte ones are nice too). I chop them, soak them in cold water to remove some of the starch, drain and pat dry and then spray with frylight and cook in the air fryer for fifteen minutes. We have these a lot – they’re really nice and they’re free. They’re nice reheated for lunch.

Speaking of lunch, do you notice a distinct lack of lunch recipes? This is where I struggle most. Can’t have a sandwich because I’ve usually had my healthy extra for breakfast so would have to use syns for bread, soup doesn’t satisfy me – I find myself craving something nice like chocolate, not because I’m hungry but because I’m not satisfied. I normally end up with leftovers from the night before or a Mugshot which is low syn. Today I did better. I bunged four potatoes in the slow cooker yesterday so all I had to do was heat one up in he microwave at work. I weighed out my healthy extra a of cheese and walked round to Tesco and got some beans (Branston, of course). I’ve got the same tomorrow. There are a couple of good options for eating lunch out. Most Subway salads are free as long as you don’t have cheese, dressing or olives, and they’re really nice. If I have some spare syns I have Subway tuna salad – it has mayo in hence the syns. Nandos is good too, my go to is butterfly chicken breast with the skin removed with spicy rice and macho peas. It’s a huge meal for 4 syns.

One thing that I’ve found invaluable on my weight loss journey (ugh, I hate that phrase) is the Pinch of Nom recipe book.

Somehow (through lots of experimentation I think) they’ve managed to make low/no syn alternatives to lots of classics and original recipes, that actually taste great. Dare I say it, much better than the official Slimming World versions. Their chip shop curry sauce is amazing and tastes just like the real thing. Diet Coke chicken has become a regular feature of our week night kitchen, as well as creamy garlic chicken.

Well, you know what, I think writing this out has actually helped. I feel ready to attack it again with gusto. I’m going to look back through the book to refamiliarise myself and I’m going to check out the syns in my favourite Gousto and Hello Fresh recipes. I may get a small gain this Wednesday on weigh day, but ….. tomorrow’s another day and I can and will do this.

Not Six on Saturday

Oh my goodness it’s been a topsy turvy old week! I feel like I’ve had a bit of insight into what it feels like to be bipolar! I hope that’s not disrespectful to anyone who is unfortunate enough to actually suffer from the disorder, it’s certainly not meant that way, but oh boy, I’ve been down as far as I go this week but I’ve also flown pretty high too! More on that another time maybe, but suffice it to say, normal service is resumed for now.

Phew, I was really ready for the weekend.

I spent Friday night with three of the best friends that a girl could want (minus the fourth because she’s poorly sick – get well soon J). We met up at the most supreme Indian restaurant in Birmingham (www.bhujondining.com in case anyone’s interested) in honour of my birthday. I decided to dress up in my favourite jumpsuit for the occasion – I’m starting to enjoy clothes again since I’ve been following the Slimming World plan.

The girls spoilt me with lovely cards and gifts and we enjoyed, as ever, a delicious curry and I came home feeling more relaxed and happy than I’d felt all week.

Today I met up with my best friend at Dobbies garden centre (which used to be Wyevale). One of my favourite people at one of my favourite places. We settled down in the restaurant to put the world to rights over a diet Dr Pepper and a pot of tea before buying half the shop (in my case!)

I bought six items, but they’re not all flora related, hence this is Not Six on Saturday!

I’ll start with the three things that I bought which are garden related.

Two of them are now happily hanging up in our kitchen window.

It’s so hard to take decent photos in this perpetual greyness! This one really doesn’t show my acquisitions at their best.

I picked up a succulent in a sustainable pot first, but then I saw these Cacti in the same pot, and swapped it. I don’t have much success with succulents but I do seem to be able to keep Cacti alive. I hope I haven’t spoken too soon.

Having said that, in the bluey/green pot I did go for a succulent. I decided to take a risk on it because it’s not the normal spiky type which I’ve failed in the past. Keep your fingers crossed!

Here’s the whole window arrangement with the new additions.

The other planty purchase is on the opposite side of the kitchen on our fireplace ledge, and I’m a little bit in love with it.

Apparently it’s a Ginseng Fig. I’ll do my very best to keep it alive.

Here’s the whole ledge.

Moving on to the non garden purchases.

I love giraffes and I love reading so what could be better! I’ve always got a book on the go, but usually I prefer to read on my kindle. The exception to the rule is biographies because they tend to have photos which don’t translate well on the kindle. Hubby bought me two biographies for my birthday, so I thought I’d treat myself to a pretty bookmark for them.

Sticking with the giraffe theme (and adding an elephant) I couldn’t resist these cookie cutters.

The slight sticking point now is Slimming World! Cookies and Slimming World don’t tend to go together remarkably well so I’m either going to have to be inventive, or I’m going to have to bake cookies for other people to eat and enjoy them by proxy!

Finally I got a kilner jar.

This was an absolutely unnecessary purchase but I keep seeing photos of people’s overnight oats creations on Instagram and I want to join in! Yes, I know, I know, they won’t taste any different than they do in an old takeaway container, but look how pretty they look when you can see the layers.

By tomorrow, all that frozen fruit will have melted and the water and juice will have soaked through to the oats at the bottom making a delicious gooey breakfast that will keep me going until lunchtime.

So there we have it, my Not Six on Saturday. I’ll try to do an actual Six next weekend if I can, but it’s getting less and less pleasant to be in the garden by the day (which I hate!)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.