Friday, 28 December 2007


It is always these days between Christmas and New Year that I find difficult; a period of no-man's-land time, hours that seem to demand to be filled with the same partying excess as those in the days preceding them. Not that there was an awful lot of excess this year, but still I'm not entirely sure where to put myself right now. It's probably not on the sofa with a bottle of red.

I had a wonderful few days with friends and family. Christmas Eve canapes and fizz was immense fun, and enough people accepted last minute invitations to make it a lot more of a party than I had intended it to be - nothing wrong with that! Christmas morning was spent pottering in the kitchen and cooking at a lesiurely speed while P slumbered late and my mother went to church; we opened presents and had yet more fizz with the neighbours before I served lunch late, and after that we managed a bit of a walk before dusk fell and we huddled up en famille to watch tacky movies and read books and listen to music. Boxing Day saw P and my brother at the races, and my mother and I on an abortive sales excursion to Bath, and then in Bradford on Avon eating a delicious lunch with too much wonderful fresh warm home-made bread which I suspect was responsible for yesterday's wince-making figures on the scales (better today, and hopefully even better tomorrow).

Yesterday I tried to adjust to being on my own again, and am doing the same today. This morning I even made it back to the gym. Yay, go me. I am determined to keep that up this year, to get back into the habit of going. It's not so bad early in the morning. Since then I have pottered around town, drunk coffee, done some desultory clearing up of dried plant stalks and leaves in the garden and now I am waiting for some more neighbours to return from their holiday trip so I can steal their dog and force myself out for another long walk in my new woolie hat.

The past few days have reminded me, not that I ever need much reminding, how much I love cooking for company. I never cook much for myself; my food doesn't need much, if any, effort to prepare. I can quite happily eat broccoli florets straight from the bunch, straight out of the fridge (not that I often do - I do at least get the knife out). But I really enjoyed the cooking I did this year. There was the Christmas eve canape selection, which was pretty much how I anticipated it being in my last blog post. For Christmas lunch, P wanted ham, so I soaked a green gammon for a couple of hours the day before, and then poached it with star anise, celery, carrots, and onion studded with cloves. On Christmas morning I mixed honey, balsamic vinegar and whole-grain mustard into a sticky, sloppy glaze, poured it over the meat and roasted it in the oven. After an hour, to my relief, it stopped looking like, well, like what it was (boiled dead thing) and started looking picture perfect. Veggies were fennel braised in white wine and veggie stock; steamed chantenay carrots; steamed January King cabbage and broccoli, with chopped chestnuts. Roasted potatoes, as I had planned, for everyone else. I made cabbage parcels stuffed with a little mashed parsnip, and mushrooms and chestnuts cooked in white wine with garlic and onions for myself. We ate leftovers on Boxing Day, and yesterday I ate cold leftover veggies for tea, like a glutton straight out of the serving dish.

Today I have eaten pineapple and pomegranate seeds, several stalks of celery with low-fat cream cheese, a salad of rocket and chicory with beetroot and a balsamic/mustard dressing, a few almonds, a brazil nut, some grapes and a dried fig. Yes, I am grazing. :-) But if one is going to graze, grazing through a fridge of green veggies is not a bad way to go about it. If I don't cook for neighbours tonight, my supper will be salad made with lots of chopped parsley, pomegranate seeds, clementine, chicory, with a few pieces of pecan and chestnut, and some cottage cheese on the side. Baby steps towards CRON 2008.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Twas the Night Before Christmas

And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a mouse

Actually it's 6.30am on Christmas Eve, and I am wide awake and have been since 5, but the house with P and my mother asleep upstairs is pretty quiet. I've been pottering around, trying to sort out the chaos which is the fridge. There is a space issue - it's so crammed full of veggies and salad and other good-but-not-so-good things that... there is no room for fizz! The horror! :-)

Tonight I am serving champagne and canapes to neighbours and friends. My mother asked when her main meal would be... I said, you are having:

- oven baked sausages in some kind of sticky glaze
- mini baked potatoes with creme fraiche
- mini beef wellingtons
- grilled asparagus (totally unseasonal but what else is a CR girl to eat?)
- smoked salmon on blinis with (ff) cream cheese and dill
- oatcake canapes with goat's cheese and beetroot
- chicory filled with (ff) cream cheese and walnuts

... and you want a main meal?! Um, no - that's your lot. :-)

I suspect I am over-catering. I was expecting my brother, who is 6 foot 5 inches of strapping 34 year old with hollow legs, to be here, but he's not arriving until tomorrow. This evening's leftovers are not going to help my fridge-space problem.

So... Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope you all have lots of fun and delicious healthy food and all the energy and bright-bushy-tailedness that comes from the consumption thereof to see you through the season. Speaking of which, it's time for my festive breakfast of pineapple, blueberries and pomegranate seeds. Yum. Have a good one!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Season of Good Will

I'm coming to the end of a week in London and I am shattered. And coming down with a cold, which is more than slightly irritating. I really don't know how I dealt with living here full-time just a few years ago; I feel peeled raw by the noise and the crowds right now. Still, less than 24 hours and I can look forward to... oooh, almost ten nights with no bright lights!

Since it is the season of good will to all men, I suppose I should make a real effort at extending that towards myself and cut myself some slack. Inevitably, what with not going to the gym, and eating out, and not weighing and measuring my food, I've gained weight. I don't need scales to tell me; I can see it. It doesn't please me that I will end this year as I end most years, feeling decidedly below par and undisciplined. P is being a sweetheart and saying he likes me more curvy (and taking every cheeky opportunity to pinch my butt)... but I don't.

However, this is the body I live in. And it serves me well. It might have hands that are more yellow than I would like right now (though I think less so, yay!), and it might be more padded than I would wish, and it is certainly less toned than it should be. But it serves me well. It does not break easily; it rarely gets sick beyond a sniffle or scratchy throat. I should appreciate it more. I'm tired of being so down on myself.

So I'd like this to be one of my NY resolutions. It can co-exist with the usual ones (more regular gym, loose 8lbs, drink less, blah de blah de blah), but developing a more positive attitude towards myself really is something I need to do once and for all. Robin writes about developing better habits... and this is all this is. Being down on myself has become a bad habit that needs to be broken, more than any other bad habit I have. The rest will surely shatter along the way.

In other news, I have made a complete pig's ear of Xmas shopping this year, and now am trawling the internet madly for gifts that don't smack of last minute desperation. *sigh*

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

My Delicious Lunchtime Salad

1 small little gem lettuce, leaves torn
1 head of chicory (endive), leaves removed and torn
1 large handful of mixed herb salad (mine had rocket and coriander and lollo rosso)
1 tomato, chopped
2 spring onions (scallions), chopped
1 tsp wholegrain french mustard
splash of balsamic vinegar
generous sprinkling of dried thyme
freshly ground pepper
cannellini beans
1 tsp hemp seeds (or pumpkin, or sunflower, or whatever) - optional

Excuse lack of measurements (however, using about 100-150g beans (without hemp seeds) the calorie count is going to be between 150-200 cals the lot, max, I think). Put everything into a large tupperware and shake it up, a lot. Leave for 30 mins or so to marinate. Eat. Yum. It's good without the beans too. It's the chicory that makes it.

Follow with two cups of strong coffee and then wonder why you are no longer able to sleep at night. *sigh*

Monday, 10 December 2007

Letting It All Slide. And Some Festive Plans.

Oh dear. I don't think I can kid myself any more that my recent habit of foregoing my morning gym visits for extra duvet time is not having an effect. Damn thee, gravity! On these dark, cold and wet mornings it is all too easy to be lazy, to find an excuse (today I am waiting in for a delivery. I am still waiting, and have yet to set foot outside the front door. It is now growing dark again). And it is New Year in 3 weeks. Surely gravity can hold on for a New Year's Resolution to be in the gym at least 4 days out of 7, and a return to serious CRON? C'mon, play fair! :-)

I am hosting Christmas here this year, and am trying to work out foods that will suit us all... and won't do me too much damage!

On Christmas Eve I have promised champagne and canapes to the masses (P, mother, brother, two sets of neighbours)... I've decided that in actual fact this will mean a ton of smoked salmon, some baby potatoes roasted and served with sour cream and caviar (read non-fat yoghurt and lumpfish roe, actually!), chicory leaves with cream cheese and walnuts (thank heaven for extra light Philadelphia), and maybe some non-seasonal but totally delicious grilled asparagus spears. On arugala.

Christmas Day... P has put in a request for a full-on traditional glazed ham. I have no idea how to do this but I'm sure I'll work it out! I'm going to serve a salad as a first course - rocket, chicory, and sliced oranges (regular and blood-orange), scattered with pomegranate seeds and walnuts or pecans. I am loving the bitterness of chicory leaves at the moment and eating it whenever I can... To go with the main course... I think braised fennel, cavalo nero, glazed carrots. Roasted potatoes for everyone else, maybe with apples and quinces. I'll serve a traditional Christmas pudding but I won't be eating any myself. I want a platter of delicious cheeses, and dried fruits and nuts to pick at; maybe some fresh figs...perhaps some dark, intense chocolate.

There is no getting away from food this month so the best thing to do, I think, is to only eat what I want, to eat the best that I can afford, and be mindful that, however yummy cheese is, and however much dark mornings call for toast and bitter Seville marmelade, the calories still count at Christmas! As usual, I'm not eating badly, never do. But I really shouldn't have had toast this morning. Nor that piece of sheep's milk cheese... Oh well. Salad leaves and broccoli for dinner.

So, what are everyone else's healthy plans for the festive season?

I'm planning to take the week of Christmas off work, and the first week in the New Year. Unfortunately I won't be able to go away, but I can take the time for peace and reflection... and moving my lardy butt back into the gym, and eating a lot of salad. :-) In 2008 I am going to work on combining fitness training with CRON in a far more rigorous fashion than I have lately. I want my muscles back, and gravity defeated. I am looking forward to the challenge.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Shutting Up The Head-Pigeons

Blood tests all came back more or less fine (again). Liver function fine. My cholesterol is slightly elevated, which is bizarre (but then I hadn't been fasting so...); my blood sugar is slightly lower than it should be, and my white blood cell count is low (but then that always shows as low, and I'm always told it's nothing to worry about). All those things I can attribute to being run-down and stressed, and lack of oatmeal for breakfast. :-)

The results are being sent to me so I will probably post them here, for my own record if nothing else. Not that I will understand them, of course.

So anyway. Yellow but not dying. Time to plan a proper, relaxing holiday I think! Somewhere in the sun. With light.

Last night P and I spent a couple of hours at the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. We attempted to ice skate; we went on the big wheel and soared above the London lights, with the wind howling around our pod; P was a big kid and inner-tubed on the fake mountain; and I bounced around in the bungee-dome. Quite feebly I had to have most bounces orchestrated for me by the attendant because I'm too light to make a decent bounce for myself, but it was just soooo much fun. Afterwards, fired up with adrenalin and giggling like loons, we wandered off into Mayfair in search of dinner and ended up in the basement of Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly, and then home for a relatively early night.

This weekend I have more festive shopping planned, and dinner with friends in Bath in one of my favourite restaurants. Have a good one, everybody.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Wassup Doc?

- Do you eat a lot of carrots?

- No.

- Oh. Because eating a lot of carrots can...

- I don't eat a lot of carrots

- ... make you orange...

- No carrots.

- None?

- Not a one, no.

Got my full blood screen though. Might even have results by tomorrow afternoon.

Today, though, my thoughts and prayers are focussed on my friend's new-born daughter XJ, who has contracted Strep B Meningitis at 4 days old. Very worried indeed.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Still here

I've been feeling quite crappy recently, with rampaging hypochondria I thought best remained unleashed upon the blogosphere. In an attempt to shut it up I'm going to have some more blood tests done on Thursday (with luck, for lo! I am still yellow-handed and it is freaking me out) when I visit a GP in London. I'm hoping that since it won't be my regular doctor they won't have any preconceptions about my state of sanity (or lack of it!). I just want the reassurance of a second set of tests to say nothing is physically wrong with me. Then I can just assume I am mad and work on sorting that out. :-)

Still eating well, as ever, although probably not enough. Which could, of course, explain my recent lethargy that has me heading for the duvet whenever I get the chance. Yesterday I did record everything I ate over the day and when I came to put it into CoM it came to just over 800 calories, albeit with 90/85% RDA's, which really is low and I wasn't trying to keep it low. Today I am making more of an effort to bump things up - I have had oatmeal, and I have chestnuts, and goat's cheese. Yum.

I want to start feeling a lot better soon. I've got some Xmas decorations up, and made a garland for my front door yesterday evening. But I don't feel very festive yet. A friend showed me an Advent Calendar she had treated herself to the other day and it reminded me of how, as a child, every day in December was filled with wonder and excitement and anticipation, and that pulling aside that cardboard door to see the picture hidden beneath was the highlight of the day. My brother and I always bickered about who would get the privilege of opening that final door on the 24th, which was always bigger and more elaborate than the others. I would love to feel that excitement again, that simple joy. It's this time of year more than any other when I wish I had children, because that's how we live again, isn't it?

Right, enough with the morbidity! Some Christmas Carols are in order, I think!