Monday, September 30, 2013

Getting Adventurous... my old age. It's the only thing I can put down to my new found focus on food. Now, don't get me wrong, I've always enjoyed food. But more in the eating, rather than the preparation thereof. Dinner parties round mine are always a bit haphazard. Guests arriving in the middle of potato peeling, wine being poured, guests doing dishes... It can't have been that awful, people still turn up again when invited and no one's been hospitalised with food poisoning; yet. 

But recently, I've been flexing my culinary muscles. You may remember these at the beginning of this year? Whilst, we were perhaps a touch over enthusiastic and made too many, I've been enjoying popping the odd slice into a dish or two. I'm told they'll be good for awhile yet. 

Last week, I had a dear friend over for dinner. I sorted out the mains and then scratched my head for the dessert. The next minute I'm throwing the fruit in my bowl into a pan with a good slosh of sherry and then suddenly, there's a crumble! 

WTF?! Me? Made a dessert? From scratch!

I know. Who is this person in the Pink Fluffy Dressing Gown? I'm not sure I know her anymore. 

I'm a bit perplexed at this. But I'm going with it. It feels quite fun really. The cooking part of it, if I'm honest, is made a lot easier by my new shiny toy - my dishwasher. This was a housewarming present by Dave (you see why I adore him so?). It's fantastic. I love it. It's like a magical cupboard - you putting dirty stuff in it and Hey Presto! they're clean! I knew how much I hated doing the dishes, but man, I never realised how much that hatred informed my cooking!

So, a couple of weeks ago I was in a large chain supermarket. It's a place I prefer not to go. I had to go for work purposes. While I was there, I noticed purple potatoes. Now, I like red-skinned potatoes like Desiree, best of all. I love the flavour and texture to the point where I don't peel said spuds. Granted, some of that is down to laziness. But given most of the nutrition in a spud is under the skin and I don't have enough roughage in my diet, I think there is a bit of sense there.

Anyway,  yesterday, I worked up the courage to give these bad boys a go. It turns out they are indeed purple all the way through. With purple juice. I made wedges. Roasting them was interesting, it's hard to tell by just looking at them when dark purple goes crispy and isn't burning. To be honest, the eating of them wasn't that much to write home about. For all their purpleness, they tasted like normal spuds, but with the wrong colour. 

I think they just mess with your head. They're purple, but don't taste purple. Or taste more...anything. It's just like a boring white potato...but purple. Dave poked the couple I left and refused to even try them. When I said that to him, he made an excellent point: we are programmed not to eat blue and purple food. Historically, they are a sign of foods that have become inedible or are poisonous.

I like blue berries and they're purple, so it's not that I can't or won't eat purple. Those spuds just didn't do it for me. Well, I tried them. But I won't be repeating the exercise any time soon. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Over Sharing and Cheerleading

Tonight's Activities

I sit here, hot and sweaty from my workout. I've just done a Davina McCall 30 minute Cardio Box in my new workout gear and rather fun new shoes. I'm beginning to feel like I'm getting back to the point before I had the time off for the move and everything. This is a very happy feeling indeed.

The exercising I believe has made a huge difference to my energy levels. I'm doing stuff now as soon as I think about them and without having to psyche myself up for the task. I'm now looking at all the things I'd like to do exercise-wise in the coming weeks and what I'd like for myself long-term. 

It's a small change in my lifestyle that has had a huge impact. I think it's because striving for fitness and seeing the small gains I've made has made me realise that I can achieve other things too. It's a generalisation - a term from NLP that describes a pattern of learning. Once you've learnt to open one kind of door, you've got a pretty good idea how to open others and it then becomes the task to seeing how each door is different from the original. Also, exercising is tough and requires determination and motivation. Doing this has reminded me about physical and emotional resilience.

How often when confronted with a situation have I said "oh, but this is hard." 

Yeah, it has been hard. But you know what? So what. I'd rather be sweating through the difficult stuff (and yes, moaning about it) and do it, than sit on my butt doing nothing (and moaning about it even more). It's not that it gets any easier, I'm just able to do a little bit more each time. And that little bit more has felt like a huge triumph over my own laziness, fear and negativity.

The best part about this process is the support I've been given from the people around me. Dave has been an absolute star. He's never laughed when I said I wanted to do something, in fact, he's worked to find a way I can do it, even if it's meant adjusting my expectations. I've made some new friends and strengthened old friendships, both IRL and online. And it has made such a difference to me. The cheerleading totally over-rides the little internal voice being all sarky and disparaging about my very small triumphs. I see other people's accomplishments and I celebrate with them, even if I'm not even a fifth of their level.

I've seen people around me who've started, made real progress and stopped. They've run out of motivation, real life has got in the way, they just can't be arsed. They talk the good talk: they'll get back to it tomorrow, or next week or next month. They'll cut down the booze, give up the fags, stop eating crisps and cake - but not today.

It took me about a year to stop smoking. I started and stopped several times. But I didn't give up. December will be a year I will be nicotine free. This time next year, I don't want to be looking at my cool new shoes, still pristine, thinking 'next week'. I don't want that to be me. I may not ever have a body like Davina, but I will be fitter than I was 6 months ago and fitter than I was 6 weeks ago and I won't stop trying.

So, thank you Ladies and Gentlemen for keeping me company, cheering me on and taking the piss. I've really appreciated it. 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumn Equinox - All Change

It is the Autumn Equinox, the second harvest festival and the time when it's clear The Wheel of the Year is turning towards winter. We are on a waning moon that brings endings, darkness and is used to banish unwanted influences, situations and people in spell work.

Yesterday, was my dad's birthday. Particularly poignant given his sister, my aunt, who was such an influence throughout my childhood passed away on Friday. 

Yesterday, I took my son to university.

So if I say the weekend was a bit of a wringer, you'll understand it's not an understatement.

However, it's all good.

At the last minute, I decided to try to book a room for the night in Lincoln. I figured it would take the pressure off and would mean Dave and I wouldn't have to worry so much about the return journey. It was a good plan. Unfortunately, a plan that every other parent dropping their child off also had the foresight to make. In the end I could only find a room in a guest house in the middle of nowhere, or Ragnall as it's otherwise known. 

I insisted we had an early start. Ladies and Gentlemen, you know I am not a morning person. I struggle if there are two 6 o'clocks in one day. Yesterday, there were two 4 o'clocks. We ended up waking up well before time. It meant we were on our way by 7 am. I'm so grateful Dave was with us. He teased and comforted me as needed. He understood and didn't judge. Damn, I'm a lucky woman.

Our journey was interesting to say the least. We had an encounter with the EDL tour bus in the Swaffham McDonalds. Made far more amusing by the fact one of their bright sparks kept pulling the Push door. Yes, we've all done it; but not 5 or 6 times while swearing the door was locked! It's hard to be intimidated by people who have balloon fights and tie said balloons to their minivan.

Boy appreciated the early start when he was pretty much established and unpacked by 1 o'clock. We had lunch together, did the compulsory food shop and then said goodbye. I suspect university life is going to come hard for Boy - he's in a great room - two and a half times the size of his bedroom in the flat, he's sharing with 4 pretty girls and a nice guy, he's pretty much in the middle of Lincoln, on the river and within spitting distance of the university. I hope he enjoys it as much as he can. It's such a hardship! Fingers crossed the course suits and engages him.

Coming back to the Flat this afternoon was hard. I wasn't really an adult until after I had Boy. I was married young, had him, then divorced and, well, never really alone whether I was in a relationship or not. I was a mum. He lived with me. We had an intense relationship. Now he's off. He's flown the nest. Exactly as it needs to be. I would be troubled if he felt he couldn't leave home now. I am so proud of him. 

I kept on saying to him 'I'm a phone call away', 'I can be with you in hours if you need' and 'you can come home at any time.' Thankfully, he understood I wasn't saying that because I doubted his ability to cope. On the contrary, I know he'll be totally fine. More than fine. 

This is all new territory for me. I'm an adult by myself now. Life is going to be what I make of it, without the limitations of my responsibilities to him. It's exciting, scary and wonderful all at once. I am excited, scared and in awe of the Life before me. It's all good. Even if my heart hurts so. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Breaking In the New Shoes and Old Legs

There's mud on them there shoes - from running!

Yesterday, I finally worked up enough courage to lace up the new shoes on my feet and go for a run. It took me all day to gather my motivation and determination. And I did it. I did it a couple of hours after I got home from the office.

I did some stretching and then walked briskly to the park near me. By that time, it was dusk and there was a lone teenager who acted like he was desperately trying to hook up with his drug dealer. After I managed my first round of walking then running, he gave up and buggered off, leaving me to huff in peace.

Dave worked out my running schedule for me. It's a very gentle schedule. The idea is that I walk a minute, run a minute and do 10 rounds of each. Then next week, I increase the running, decrease the walking and again the week after, and so on until New Years' Day, when I will be running for 30 minutes non-stop. Or at least that's the general idea.

The first lot was a peace of cake, the second lot I started to slow down and the third was a bloody nightmare. I walked for another minute and I couldn't do another set of running. My shins were hurting with each step. I listened to my body and headed back to the flat.

I'd hoped to be able to do more than I did. But there you go. This is the reality of the situation that can't be argued with: this is my starting point. 

But the fact of the matter is, I still ran more than I did the day before! I actually got off my chair and went running. Me. The person whose favourite position is horizontal. The person who used to say that running was an evolutionary response to a charging mammoth. That's right. Yesterday, I ran.

Today, my shins hurt. I don't think I warmed up enough. I've been trawling through running apps to see if I can find one that does a video tutorial to lead me through the right warm up. All I've done is confused myself thoroughly. Besides, I like Dave's schedule. Even if he's going to have to re-calculate it to take into account the low starting point.

I've been thinking about fitness and health quite a lot recently, testing my motivation. I don't want to be unfit anymore. I don't want to feel flabby. I don't want to feel out of breath when I do things. In a year's time, I want to be working out at least half and hour every day doing something that moves me and gets my heart rate up: swimming, aerobics, running, cycling, dancing. Something that's fun to do. Something I can do by myself or with other people. 

I know people who've done the exercise fad. They said they would loose weight, get fit and managed it for 2 months tops. A year later they're actually worse off physically and emotionally than they were before they tried. It's almost as if the fact that they failed at this meant they failed at everything else. Next year, I want to be even stronger. 

Today, I've rested. Yes, I could push it, but I don't want to. I want to do this and enjoy the journey. In this, I suppose I'm lucky - I don't have an immediate medical condition that requires a huge amount of weight loss quickly. Therefore, I'm going to move a little more every week, eat a little more healthily, have a little more fun.

Seems to me that's a good schedule for a bloody good life.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

New Shoes

Last week was very busy and very energetic. I got back to my exercise regime and my goodness the difference it made to my mood. All in all, I did two home workouts and then swam twice in the UEA pool. I also walked into town a couple of times and not at my usual slow pace either.

In all honesty, I can't say the exercise has upped my energy levels because when I went into work on Friday I needed matchsticks to keep my eyes open. After a few weeks of scatty sleep patterns, I've been sleeping very well again. 

On Thursday, on Dave's advice I called into the The Runner's Centre on the way back from swimming. I'm really glad I did. The guy who served me really knew his stuff. He assessed my stance and walk and pointed out my right arches weren't particularly strong. He then brought out a couple of pairs of shoes. He ignored my shoe size completely. He put shoes on my feet, let me lace them up and then he'd whip them off and kept trying until he was satisfied at the fit. He flat out refused to show me the cheap option.

This is the first time I've ever bought running shoes. With my dicky knee and dodgy back, I'm not entirely convinced this is a great idea. But there are so many benefits associated with running, I'm going to go for it anyway.

When I finally told Dave about my new shoes, he quizzed me on the whole process and then said "well done, they're a good investment." I was relieved. Ill fitting running shoes can cause joint issues, as well toe nail loss.

The best thing though was being able to go in and say what I wanted to do, without being laughed at. He was so helpful. He made several suggestions about having a look at Park Run and getting a running app to help me get started.

It then made me think about the shoes I currently wear for my workouts at home. The pair I bought were cheap and they've lasted me very well. They're 9 years old now. But when I felt the support around the arches, there's nowhere near the support I've got with my new running shoes. So, I went off to the sports shop and got some new cross trainers as well. They are so amazingly light and comfy. 

The runners are the flash ones with the pink soles. The cross trainers (grumpy shoes as I've taken to calling them) are the white with purple! 

The thing that I find so frustrating about myself is why I've waited so long to do this. I knew it was something that would be good for me to do and I should be doing it. Honestly. I suppose all that matters now is that I'm doing it and that I do it as long as I enjoy it. 

Oh, I also went for my post-40 health check. I'm not entirely sure why I should have much faith in their findings at all. It was supposed to be an assessment of my risk for cardiovascular disease. They checked my blood pressure, my pulse, height, weight and BMI and took blood to check my cholesterol. On the back of my results my risk has been calculated at 1.7%. This isn't too bad, I'm told. I'm told I'm well within the bell curve. 

Except my cholesterol wasn't a fasting test. And I have high cholesterol in my genetics. My cholesterol results came back high, but within non-medicating limits. Colour me unsurprised. Is it worth me taking any more action? I don't think so. The advice on the email with my total results was as generic as to be almost a waste of time: exercise, don't smoke and drink appropriately. Given I always drink with my legs either crossed or at least ankles together, I'm not taking it terribly seriously at all.

I begin to wonder if it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a proper fitness test at the UEA gym. 

Oh. Dear. Gods. 

Did I really type that out loud?

Thursday, September 05, 2013


Ladies and Gentlemen, I climbed back on that horse and whipped it's arse! Oh yes I did.

Monday morning I was up early and I did my 30 mins of Pump with Davina. I had lost some ground; I had to go back to lighter weights and I couldn't do all of the intervals. But I did it! And in the grand scheme of things that's all that matters. 

Note to Self: when on a Fast Day, do not spend the evening watching food programmes. First there was Come Dine with Me and then Jaime's Super Saver Meals. When Gordon Ramsey came up, that was it. I went to bed. Of course when I could eat what I wanted, I wasn't hungry. Just goes to show eh?

Tuesday I went swimming with a friend. She is one of the most active and sporty people I know. She goes kayaking, camping, swimming in lakes, in the ocean. She has been very kind to me. We used to go swimming in the UEA pool. I'd do a couple lengths, we'd stop, I'd try and catch my breath while we had a chat and then swim a few more til the next breather. We'd probably get out after half an hour and go have a large meal afterwards. On Tuesday, we got in the pool - me bitching about the temperature, of course - we started to swim. We haven't seen each other since February/March time and there's a lot of news to catch up with. After about 3 or 4 laps of swimming and chatting, she turned to me to point out we hadn't stopped! Good grief. We just kept swimming and chatting and I made sure I did another 3 laps after I was tired. And yes, we did have a yummy meal afterwards.

Yesterday, in the office, my boss was talking about a cycling challenge he wanted to do for charity and then he opened it out to everyone in the office. He wants to cycle from Norwich to Amsterdam. No, he doesn't mean cycle 2 seconds to Norwich Airport, grab the next flight out to Amsterdam either! He means cycle from Norwich to Harwich, catch the ferry and then over Amsterdam. He reckons that's 2 days of cycling, plus of course 2 days recovering in Amsterdam itself! 

In a moment of abject stupidity, I signed up for it.

I'll tell you why.

My default position is horizontal and slightly melancholy. I am a lazy shit when it's all said and done. 

If I want to achieve the things I want, my default position needs to change. Since Monday night, I've had a growing sense of determination. I'm tired of apologising for myself and the way I live my life. Last week was the last time I will apologise for living life by my rules. If I have to sell every last Shiny Thing in my Life, so I have the money to write, I will. If I have to eat lentils for the rest of my impoverished life, I will. Boy is off to university. I have given him the best start I can, it's now up to him, he will have to make his own way. And I know he will. Whatever roads he chooses to travel on, they will be exactly the right roads for him.

But now, it's all about me. 

Exercising is a physical metaphor I am generalising across my Life. If I can set my mind to get up half an hour earlier to work out and work hard at it, I can edit my 15,000 word story and get it in on time. I can apply the seat of my pants to the seat of my chair and bash out 2,000 words a day of my next story.

I signed up for the Amsterdam ride because I want a goal to strive towards.

I texted Dave and waited for the disbelieving laughter. As I waited, I realised I didn't want to do it without him. He knows bikes, he knows challenges and he knows me.

When he came back it was with good humoured teasing. When I went over to his home last night and we talked it through, his concern was that I wouldn't be ready in time for Spring. The training regime I'd have to adopt would require far more time and money than I have available to me right now. He looked me straight in the eye and said I would do it, just not this coming Spring. 

I have thought about it and ultimately I trust his judgement. I think he's right. For me to do that challenge I need a bike, I need the time on said bike and I need the equipment and everything else that goes with it. At the moment I'm borrowing his. It's a mountain bike, not a road bike. The mountain bike is more comfortable for my back on the road, but for 150 miles? Not so much. It's too heavy. It's going to take me awhile to save up to get a bike that can do that kind of work. 

Do I feel disappointed? Not at all. On the contrary, I am energised. 

There's the Norwich 50 next Summer and there are some really groovy coastal rides to get my teeth into. I've also got my eye on the Norwich Park Run. I will be sitting down and working out what I want to do and getting it in the calendar.

I also now have the bones of my next project. It's another novella, but this time 25,000 words. It will be a paranormal romance. And before you even go there - no, there will be no sparkling vampires!