Thursday, 3 December 2009

Letting It All Go

So, at the end of August I was hoping to make a Fresh Start on various things - exercise, diet, attitude, direction. And with that Fresh Start, there would have been lots of wonderfully fascinating blog posts that would have kept you hooked, on the edge of your seat, thrilled by my adventures, my daring, my skills, my achievements, gasping at my success...


Yeah, well. That didn't happen. Life got in the way, as life does - and it was always next week, next week, next week... Consequently I am writing this feeling unhealthier than I have done for a very long time, and looking it too. That photo I titled Gratuitous Vanity Shot? Vanity indeed. Serves me right. If I could fit into those shorts now without a muffin top, I'd be happy... Well, not happy but you know what I mean.

So, this post is a kick up my own backside really. A note to myself to Get A Grip. Yes, Christmas is coming up and yes, my diary is jam-packed full of meals out and parties. But that's not excuse to end 2009 feeling like a whale, so. Belated damage limitation ahoy. Wish me luck.

(It hasn't all been bad bad bad. I have more or less completely redecorated the upstairs of my cottage (admittedly after the ceilings fell down), and it looks so much nicer now. I lie in bed and look at my lovely wallpaper (such an exciting life, isn't it?) and coo with pleasure. And I have booked myself on a month-long professional cookery course, in March 2010. To see if I really can stand the heat in the kitchen.)

Friday, 28 August 2009

Summer Holidays

I spent 4 wonderful all-too-short days in Portugal on the Algarve last week. Lots of pottering around, and lying in the sun (well, in the shade but there was lots of sun!), and generally relaxing. It must be so easy to be CR'd in warm climates; all I wanted to eat was lots and lots of the wonderful tomatoes and cucumbers that were in the markets.

Some random pics of interesting things, and a gratutious vanity shot.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Feeling Blue

I think that this article about the places in the world where people live the longest, healthy lives is something I need to flag here and read again and again myself. Simple, no nonsense, straight-forward commonsense. And it's *not* hard to live life as if one were in a Blue Zone.

But I don't do it.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Clearly I have failed to put anything into the new blog, which shows shamefully on my profile. Flake.

Still, have some flowers.


Borage. Perfect in Pimms, apparently. But I don't like Pimms, so I don't know. I eat the flowers on salads, and scare people by putting them on cupcakes.
Sweetpeas. After I'd done the picking for the day. Triffids have nothing on them.
And now have some veggies:

View up the veggie patch...
Squash gone mad... yummy though.

Radicchio (sp?!) and swiss chard. We had chard for dinner tonight... the patch is, shall we say, somewhat denuded. I can eat A LOT of chard.

My enchanted asparagus forest. Unfortunately, this was something I could not eat a lot of this year, and here it is, taunting me with all its flowering glory.

As for CR.... Usual story - loads of veggies, but not counting calories. Probably far too much bread and cheese and, yes, wine, lately. Which I am feeling.

As for life, a hell of a lot of horrible stuff which paradoxically makes CR very hard. Life is too short v life cannot be long enough.

Anyway, xxx all.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Cholesterol Test Results

Sainsbury's are doing them free, so I thought - why not?

Anyway. I think these are okay in themselves, but wonder if I practiced CR more rigorously (or, indeed, more often at all) whether they would be better?

Total Cholesterol Reading - 4.22 (I feel this should be lower)
HDL Reading - 2.26 (... and this should be higher?)
Ratio Reading - 1.9 (er...)
Glucose (non-fasting) - 5.0

And I weighed 110.2lbs on the scales this morning. The scales are mad. I probably could have gotten on them 30 seconds later and been 2lbs heavier.

(The last time I had some tests done was Dec 2007. Then my total cholesterol was over 5.00 and my blood sugar was, as I recall, 3.8).

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

May Morning

I woke up early this morning just before dawn and lay in the gathering light, listening to the bird sing and breathing in the damp clean air that smelt and tasted of childhood holidays in summer. A gentle drizzle has been falling all day, and the garden is lush and green and glimmering, wearing the droplets of rain like jewels. Before my coffee, I planted rows of yellow climbing beans in the veggie patch and trained their grasping tendrils around their canes, patting their roots into the damp soil and tucking the loose earth around them.

Some pictures that I took last night, before the rain.

The veggie patch. On the left, from nearest to furthest: sweetpea canes, over-wintered endive lettuces, beetroot (grown mostly for leaves), peas, strange random leafy vegetable (that was supposed to be rocket but isn't and has come up again from what I failed to dig out last year when I cleared the ground), spinach; behind the spinach are rows of salad leaves, heritage carrots, rainbow chard and spinach; raspberry canes; various fruit bushes and rhubarb, and right at the back of the patch, runner bean canes. And then on the right, from furthest to nearest: peas under fleece; supports for yellow climbing beans, flowering asparagus, rows of parsnip seedlings; supports for borlotti beans (looking very sad at the moment; I think they are shocked by cold), and membrane laid down ready for squash, sweetcorn and tomatoes.

The flower bed above my courtyard. Lavender, sweetpeas, catmint, geraniums, and pots of various spring bulbs that are dying back.

The path from the courtyard up to the garden, with snaking hose that I was using to water the veggies with last night.

Flowers in the courtyard, and the beans waiting to be planted. I am particularly happy with the way the clematis in the pot is scrambling up into the yew tree and pyracanthus and am really looking forward to it flowering; last year it had amazing white blooms, blousey and elaborate, like old-fashioned ballgowns. I love my aquilegia too.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Ever Contrary

After the last few weeks of a) holiday and b) mega life stress, I'm not too sure that it isn't such a bad idea to keep this blog going purely to keep me on the straight and narrow, literally and figuratively. And also while I have actually set up another blog, I've yet to post anything to it and am not sure what I would post anyway so... I may ramble on here for a bit. I might even count the occassional calorie, but I think the sheer numbers consumed thereof lately might terrify me so I might equally well not.

It hasn't all been doom and gloom though, thank heavens. It's the time of year where I can now count on eating fresh leaves from the veggie garden every day, which always makes me happy. I do love to see things grow; it is such an every-day miracle. I'll post some garden pics later on, when I am home. I've spent almost an entire week in London with P now and while his company is, of course, wonderful, I am weary of town and noise and concrete and pollution and excess of everything. Yesterday I was desperate to plant things and get my hands dirty and so headed for a garden centre, armed myself with implements of destruction, and spent the afternoon hacking through the wasteland of P's garden, uprooting brambles and couch grass with the intention of planting him pots of herbs and tomatoes and peas and lettuce this evening after work. However, I forgot that the only key to the back door is on his keyring, which is in the pocket of his jeans, which he is currently wearing and he is at work several miles away so the planting is unlikely to happeny. Boo hiss.

Prior to gardening I was at the farmer's market and bumped into MiniCronnie and G at the leaf stall. Small world! Lovely to see you both and look! I am blogging, even if it's only you reading it.

I was buying lots of leaves to take to a friend's house for dinner. In the end they didn't get eaten (so that's my tea sorted for tonight) but we did eat piles and piles of white asparagus bought over from Germany by my friend's friend. It's a very strange thing... I've only ever had it canned before, and wasn't too sure I liked it - slimy, over-salted, over-cooked... but I guess that is the way it is eaten in Germany; the friend's friend boiled it for 20 minutes and it was much as one might expect a veggie to be after that; very soft, but not unpleasant for all that. I think I prefer my asparagus the Sara way though - green and steamed or roasted, or sliced with a knife from the allotment and eaten raw before I make it to the back door, which is how I've been eating it the last few weeks, because I am asparagus glutton with novelty asparagus shoots.

Er, yes. Amazing how much I can ramble about nothing at all, really. Anyway, photos to follow and maybe something a lot more interesting than this, either here or on the new blog. We'll see.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Au Revoir

In comments on my last blog entry, Matt asks me if I am still on CR.

I said quite breezily, oh yes.

But I think I probably need to say again that I don't do CR properly. I eat lightly naturally; my diet is mostly veggies, fruit, low or non-fat yoghurt, and cheese. I have cycles with what I want to eat and sometimes that means more grains and some times it means more fruit and sometimes it means all I want to eat is broccoli. Purple sprouting or just plain calabrese. Mmm.

But the CR label, especially with all this new Oprah generated interest on the CR lists, is not one I want to have. Of course I want a long and healthy life. I also want one free of worry and stress, and I have a temperament that puts me in danger of obsession and guilt. I read postings on the CR and CR Community Lists and (with no offence meant) it depresses me. Life is too short for so many worries about means of sustenance. Life is too short anyway. I have lost too many people in the two short years I have been blogging to... well, I guess I have to put my eggs into the basket of my genes rather than those of 50 years of controlled, deliberate eating. Not that my eating will be anything other than controlled or deliberate, but that is Sara. And not CR.

Hell, does that make sense?

Love to all,

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Green Smoothie Fail

I've been meaning to try a green smoothie for well over a year now; I don't know why I never got around to it - I guess a natural aversion to the concept of smoothies; I really don't like the idea of drinking something so... viscous. If that's the word. I even went as far as buying a smoothie maker last year, but after the first dramatic attempt to get it going resulted in nothing but a horrible smell of burning and some defiantly solid blueberries, I just gave up and the thing gathered dust and irritated me by taking up counter space before I sent the thing off to a charity shop, hoping it was my incompetence that produced the burning and not a faulty machine...

But inspired once more by Matt's postings to the CR lists and on his own blog, I decided to take the plunge yesterday.I used my food processer which seems to be fairly powerful rather than investing in a blender this time (live and learn). In went half a pack of young spinach leaves, and a cup of tap water. Blend blend blend... Then a banana, in pieces, and a handful of blueberries, and another cup of water. Blend blend blendalotandthensomemore.

And I had a jugful of green gloop that looked just like all the other jugs of green gloop that one can find courtesy of google. I had a cautious taste. It was okay. Tasted a bit more bananary than I'd like, but... well, packed full of green goodness as it was, who could complain about that. In fact it was pretty good.

So I poured it out and sat and drank it. Fairly slowly. I didn't just chug it down.

I'd like to say that afterwards, I was buzzing with energy and vitality; I'd like to say that it had the same miraculous effect on my feeling being completely totally knackered all the time and infused me with new life and enthusiasm. I'd like to say I am a complete convert and nothing will ever touch my lips but green smoothies twice a day and I will be forever RAW and GREEN.

But no. I had the worst attack of indigestion I have EVER had an hour afterwards, which sent me curled up back to bed shuddering in agony for most of the day. GRUMP.

It's bizarre. I'd say that 90% of my diet is green and 75% raw anyway. I love green veggies. I love fruit. But clearly green and fruit together do not do it for me. At least not in that combination.

I can't say I'm tempted to repeat the experiment.

Green smoothie Fail. :-(

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Winter Wonderland

Snow. Snow snow snow snow, snow snow snow... *Happy Sara*

Sunday, 1 February 2009


It's 5pm and still light outside, although the sun is setting and it won't be more than a few minutes before I can see the first few stars glittering in the clear and freezing sky. It is very cold. Apparently there is snow in London but not here yet; maybe later... Nevertheless, I will shortly diving beneath a lovely woollen blanket with a hot water bottle and curling up with tacky movies and books for the rest of the evening.

It's been perfect weather to indulge my current obession with making soup. Inspired by this post on one of my favourite foodie blogs, I have been making lots and lots of green soup recently. My creations have turned out far, far greener in colour than the picture shown; incredibly so... but then I have been ramping up the kale and adding spinach and other green goodies big time; I've never been one for following recipes meticulously at all. But this base is a winner. Yesterday's variation on the riff included cauliflower rather than potato as a thickener, and onions and leeks and january king cabbage in addition to the napa cabbage (or chinese leaf, as we seem to call it here). I also added 2 packets of a spinach / rocket / watercress salad mix just before blending and... well, the colour was neither shy nor retiring. And the soup was pretty delicious as well - possibly a bit too brassica-ry, but it would carry some blue cheese really well and if I wanted to bring it out at a dinner party, it would dress up fantastically with some yoghurt or creme fraiche. So I have some leftover in the freezer waiting for its Cinderella moment.

I also made a huge pot of hearty winter veg stew, to use up a pretty poor bottle of wine that I had picked up as part of a meal-deal for P mid-week. Lots of root veg (onions and leeks and carrots and parsnips and rutabaga and celery and the essential garlic), said wine, fresh and tinned tomatoes, lots of dried and fresh herbs, and puy lentils. Again, all mostly frozen to bring out later on, for convenient deliciousness. I think this would be great as a filling for little tartlet cases, perhaps with some blue cheese melted on top, and served with some cauliflower puree, brussels sprouts and red cabbage - a complete winter warmer, a comfort food dinner for friends.

It makes me happy to have my "ready-meals" to pull out when I want them. It's been a life-saver in London recently since P and I have such different foodie requirements. To know that I have something nutritious and wholesome just ready to defrost or microwave for me, which lets me put dinner for both of us on the table without wasting lots of money on veggies that he won't eat, takes such a load off my mind. I really hate spending the working day thinking about what I am going to take home for dinner that evening that will suit us both, and my mindset is such at the moment that I think about it far too much (stress, and stupid stupid recession and lack of job for P).

Right, the first star is in the sky and my blanket (maroon, welsh wool, snuggly wholesome comfort in yarn) is calling me. As is the rather delicious purple sprouting broccoli that I picked up on the organic veg stall in the market yesterday. For all the cooking that I love to do, I would far rather eat just plain, steamed veggies if I am on my own. Hopeless case!

Love to all.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

*expletive of your choice* the Credit Crunch

If I read one more newspaper article about how to cook great food cheaply, how to furnish your house on a budget, how to buy cheap wine, how our (still incredibly prosperous, people!) society has been plunged into the chasm of recession with no lifeline - I swear, I am going to do more than scream.

This media hysteria is driving me wild. Yes, it's a shitty time. Yes, people are losing their jobs. P hasn't worked since November. He might lose his house. He probably will lose his house if he doesn't find work soon. It's a bummer. It sucks.

BUT. We are still lucky beyond measure in what we have. In fact, for most of us, I dare say nothing much has changed since the beginnings of this recession but perception. And for food - now it seems to be as trendy and fashionable to buy a cheap chicken as it was practically social death, darling to do it this time last year; hell-oh!

For heaven's sake we were getting there. We were getting towards responsible, considerate eating; we were considering provenance, and the care of the flesh we were eating when it was alive (well, we doesn't mean me here, but you follow me) and now - now we are steps away from "I don't care how it came to be on my plate, I just care that it's there (and also that I scored a miraculous bargain at one of the cheap-as-chips supermarkets, aren't I clever?)", and the farmers, the growers, the artisan producers who care about their craft can just go hang.


See? One more word, and I am going to go postal.

And breathe.

Tonight, I am cooking for friends for the first time this year. We are having leek, onion and jerusalem artichoke tarts (which means I am making a veggie filling and putting it in pre-made pastry for them and not for me); the most beautiful January King cabbage I have ever seen and that I want to frame and treasure for ever in its majestic brassica-ry-ness rather than slice and steam; rosemary carrots; and possibly sweet potato mash or roast potatoes. And I'm going to pull the last of last year's gooseberries out of the freezer and make gooseberry crumble. It will be a frugal meal but by happenstance (chance?) and not because it is fashionable.

I admit I am naive. I know we are in dark times. But I cannot help feeling that we are mentally driving ourselves into deeper times and I wish it would stop. Just look at the hope that arrived this week in Washington. I'm not expecting miracles because that would be foolish but a spread of optimism across the western world is very much needed and then we can stop focussing on our "collapse" and help those who are already collapsed and already in need. Shift those priorities back to where they always need to be. Is MHO.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Back To The Land

This morning was the year's first venture back into the garden, to dig the rest of the Jerusalem artichokes from their winter bed. I've got some kind of flu-ey bug again so the whole thing took longer than it might, what with me stumbling around weakly and tripping over my own wellington boots and, at one point, burying myself knee-deep in soil when the pile of earth I was trying to shake the tubers from collapsed around me. But now there is a huge pile of artichokes sitting under running water in the sink; some destined for my neighbours, and the rest for soup. Mmm, soup. Granted they aren't the most low calorie vegetable in the world but as far as I remember they are packed full of iron and good things.

I don't even try to calculate the calories in the batches of soup I make anyway. I've never quite worked out how to do that with CoM. This morning, because I was feeling a little better than I have been, I made a batch up with half a leek, a couple of celery stalks, onions, garlic, a tin of tomatoes and 100g of red lentils, simmered for hours and topped up with water every so often, flavoured with thyme and sage and oregano and a little chilli, cinnammon and a teaspoon of demerera sugar to balance the flavours. It was just what I needed after a morning's digging and I have 2 batches frozen and 1 more in the fridge. Today's CoM report will be incomplete because of it but considering I have been invited around next door for pizza and salad this evening, this is probably a good thing.

I've been tracking calories and nutrition again when I can. I'm not surprised by the results. Eating as I do (if I don't give into the temptation of yummy bread and evil dairy, which I tend not to do when I am eating alone), my calorie intake is low but the nutrition is high. I still need to work really hard on protein though. Yada yada...

I'm already looking forward to this year's gardening although I can't believe it's 12 months since I was planning last year's with the neighbours. We'll probably spend some time this evening making up our planting plan and sorting through the mountains of seeds we've acquired. I think I need to organise a village seed-swap. In fact, that's not a bad idea... Hmm. Must think more.

Hot lemon and honey and Saturday papers and a nap now, I think. Hope this bug buggers off soon; it's really annoying me.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Broccoli Kitten

In lieu of actual content...

Saturday, 3 January 2009

The New Start (# 1)

2009 brings me success in downloading the right version of java to run Cron-O-Meter again! Yay yay yay. So now I have no excuses not to watch what I am doing. I remember how interesting logging my nutritional intake was two years back (two years, what happened to 2008??) and I wonder if it will hold the same fascination this year. I can only try and see. Given that the scales had me leaping off them in horror this morning this can only be a good thing. Surely 3lbs in one week has to be water retention. :-( I suspect, however, it is the legacy of evil dairy and (being honest) wine. Sigh.

Today is a gorgeous frosty blue-skied freezing winter's day. My friend L and I took a walk around a nearby town, Bruton, this morning. Not only did we manage a bracing walk up steep narrow lanes and woodland paths, we had wonderful coffee that gave us both caffeine shakes, shopped in a vintage shop that had 50% of the vintage clothes and yielded me up a gorgeous cafe-noir faux fur jacket for twenty quid, and then stumbled like giggling kids up the still-frosted slopes to the Bruton Dovecote (scroll down to bottom of page for pic) after driving down several narrow lanes trying to find the thing (now you see it, now you don't, over and over again). Then we headed home to my place and had the butternut squash / lentil / tomato soup that I made for lunch yesterday from the remains of NYE supper. Now I am contemplating heading out into the blue yonder once more to hunter-gather a Saturday Guardian and do no more with my day than curl up reading with a blanket.

My New Year with all its good intentions will begin on Monday. I want another few hours of wallowing before I have to face reality and all its horrors. I want this to be a good year, better than last, but I know (with no desire to be melodramatic) that there is no way barring infinite miracles that it can be. I need all the strength I can get to give to those who will need it.