Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Diet Update

Well, despite a few slips this week ...

Ok, in the spirit of honesty, these weren't slips. These were dinner parties, and I knew full well I wasn't going to be nibbling dainty little half portions. I amended the rest of my diet to compensate for chowing down, then threw caution to the wind and wolfed it all back. First came an invitation from Assisi (friendly lady from the village) for Friday night. She was incredibly nervous about cooking for us, but by god did she do herself proud. 3 courses, including 2 puddings, and her only mistake was forgetting to serve roasted mushrooms, which she discovered in the oven the next morning. I'm not sure how she managed. When I cook, I always have Fisher to help. She did everything on her own, without a finger of help. We ate like ravening hounds, drank like parched nomads, and woke on the morrow with heads the size of Uranus (fnar fnar). This actually helped in the diet amendment stakes, as we didn't feel like eating anything, but I wouldn't recommend it.

On Sunday we went and met Ceegar and Meeper at Loch Leven Larder, where I failed myself by being unable to resist bacon, sausages, poached egg, black pudding and mushrooms. I didn't eat the mushrooms as they were watery, but everything else was shamelessly consumed. We then went for a 3 mile walk through the nature reserve, found an old mausolem and 18th century kirkyard hidden in the undergrowth, and gave the dogs a good bounce. We were accosted by huge goats on the way back to the car, but luckily they responded well to being advanced upon (slowly) and having a hat waved at them. I tried my best Maltese goatherd's "hut-hut" cry, but they obviously don't speak Maltese goatherd. They shifted reluctantly and we made it back to the cars ungored.

We then popped into the village to show our faces at the gala, held to celebrate the opening of the re-located shop. Shah was the compere, and while he threatened to put me on stage with a guitar, I managed to persuade him that such an action would cause the clearing of the streets faster than the descent of a nuclear warhead. We escaped unmolested, and went home.

That evening we had Shah, Epona and Assisi round for Sunday supper. Poor Epona is very down in the dumps. Her Argentinian mare received a nasty wound from kicking some fencing when spooked in the night, and a splinter of wood jagged into her joint. The synovial fluid was cloudy so they've had her on antibiotics, but she's not doing well. They think they'll have to put her down, but she's clinging on at the moment so we've all got our fingers tightly crossed. Anyway, it meant that Epona was in a glum mood that night. She was slightly cheered by the food, I'm glad to say. We roasted a leg of lamb and stuffed it with brandy-soaked apricots, figs, prunes and walnuts, with a few breadcrumbs to bind. I boned the lamb myself, and didn't massacre it, which I was pleased about. Fisher did the veg and spuds, as usual, which is pretty much to say that she did all the work and I got all the glory (except her spuds were very well received). We then had tart au citron from Tesco. So, all in all, not a very light day on the calorie front.

To amend for the evils of Sunday, I ate very little yesterday. I missed breakfast owing to laziness, and had half a fisherman's platter and half a starter of paté for lunch (Fisher and I shared). The fisherman's platter was smoked salmon, smoked mackerel paté and a fishcake. The fishcake was probably the thing highest in fat, but it was all delicious - and only half a portion. Half a slice of brown bread and butter doesn't make me feel guilty, either. Then, later, Fisher decided to go and try out the new yoga class at our gym, so I felt compelled to come too. Yoga ... god, I hate it so much. But it is something I should really do, what with my short hamstrings and long abdominals. Unfortunately, when we arrived I realised I just could not face it, so I opted for a run instead. Turns out it was a good choice. I ran along the river bank to the end of the road and back again. It was a beautiful evening, with the evening sun glittering on the water, keeping the midges away. I did 3 1/3 miles of undulating terrain and got as close to enjoying a run as I've ever done. Unfortunately, Fisher had a terrible time at beginner's yoga. I popped in to wait for her to finish and just got the tail end of it. There was an awful lot of 'Mother Earth'-ing, breathing, and gentle waggling of ankles - but no actual exercise. Fisher was fuming! An entire hour of planned exercise, wasted by a chubby hippy (or a hippy chub).

* * * * *

Right - the above was written 2 days ago, to mark the week's dieting. Basically, I'd lost 3lbs at that point and was cock-a-whoop. Now, of course, I've put an inexplicable pound and a half back on, and the future looks somewhat ... bleak. I'm off on a culinary tour with Koi, to mark the occasion of her 30th birthday, and while I will do my damnedest to remain circumspect, I'm also not passing up the opportunity to sample new and exciting cuisines. I shall simply have to do so in small amounts.

I say it's an inexplicable pound and a half, but in actual fact, while I've not really slipped badly on the food stakes I probably haven't been as strict as I should be. I had a slice of lemon cake on Wednesday, which I tried to make up for with vegetable stir fry for supper - but the damage was done. However, yesterday I went for a mile run at a 10 minute pace and then followed it with some circuits in the gym. Not a full-on circuits course, like we do on Thursday nights, but a good half hour or so of 40 second exercises. To be boring and list them would be seriously dull for my reader ... so here we go.

Straight arm pull-down
Chest Press
Lunges with 6kg weights
Lat pull-down
Wall squat with 4kg weight
Press ups
Back Extensions
Plank (which I managed for a pathetic 30 seconds before having to rest. I did complete another 10 seconds, but I am SO bad at core strength!)

I then entertained myself with a Precor fitness test on the static bike. I got 20. This, apparantly, puts me in the 'good God, child, how are you still able to walk around under all that lard?' category. 'Course, you're supposed to do it from a resting heart rate, and I'd done all that exercise before hand, so I hope to GOD it's not accurate.

And the net result of all that activity when I got on the scales this morning?

I'm still up a pound and a half. I had a cheese and ham baguette for supper with a packet of Frazzles (ok, not great, but I was starving and there's only 121 calories and just over 5g fat in Frazzles). For lunch I had cajun prawns ... ok, also in a ciabatta roll. And about 8 chips. That's pretty carb heavy. And I had chips. But that's got nothing - nothing - to do with my gained pound and a half. Oh no. That can all be put down to the time of the month.

Yes, it can.

Oh fuck off.

Fine. Well, today I've had some cereal. I think Phid is cooking for us, so I have no control over supper, but I shall eat sparingly and sensibly to accommodate for any eventuality. So there.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Dieting again. Again. Rant. Again.

This time, I've managed to persuade some of the fellas to join me in my weight loss bid for health. Those fellas are Pro and Spar, neither of whom would I consider in the same category as me when it comes to needing to shift the poundage for reasons of health, although Pro has a history of heart disease in his family. Being as tall as he is (6ft 11"), I think the problem is probably more to do with general circulation than anything else! But keeping slim is definitely the way forward, no matter what height you are. This has been hammered home by the fact that all the women I play sport with are older. Post 40 older. And they're mostly small and slim, light boned and energetic. Unfortunately, I will never be anything other than robust in figure. My bones are not light, they're solid and strong, while my frame is broad shouldered, wide hipped, and perfect for dropping babies like marbles. Of course, I won't be doing that, so I have no excuse for struggling with my weight. It's sheer greed and laziness - nothing else to it.

So - the bet. Spar, Pro and I have agreed these terms:

* In 7 weeks, we will endeavour to lose 1 stone. That's 2 pounds a week and eminently do-able, in a safe and healthy way. In fact, it's going to be much tougher on Spar, who actually has no real need to lose weight. He's in a healthy bracket, but he likes to be skinny as a rake for his marathon running, and has put on a bit of chub since becoming a father. Unlike with Pro (and, in theory, me), the weight won't just fall off him, so it's going to be a bit of a slog.
* All contestants must be healthy and entire at the conclusion. No donating inner organs, or limbs, in order to shift swift poundage.
* The winner is EITHER he/she who reaches 1 stone loss, or who loses the most weight. The winner gets taken out for dinner by the losers. If all contestants reach a 1 stone loss, there is no forfeit. However, those who can be considered 'losahs' must undertake a forfeit for the length of ...


These forfeits are as thus:

* Pro must not watch and television, except cricket highlights (for else he would surely die).
* Spar must not watch any television, save that which Blar wants to watch. This means he will not watch any television, as watching Jeremy Kyle would surely kill him.
* I must not play any PS3, or PS2. No exceptions. I will surely die. Also, I will surely kill.

We started on Tuesday 18th, and will finish on Tuesday 6th October. 2 lbs a week really doesn't seem that bad, but I know from experience that it starts out easily, and finishes with increasing difficulty. It's now Friday and I've already lost my first 2lbs, taking me from some stones and 3.5lbs to some stones and 1lb. Alas, Badger sent us a lovely thank you present of a box of 'serious' chocolates, which we've just spent half an hour sampling. There are 6 chocs and they're all small, after-dinner size, so I don't feel too bad about it.

Diet tips, that I have gleaned over the yearfor anyone interested:

* Do not deny yourself totally. If you drastically change the way you eat overnight, you'll soon realise that being fat is preferable to eating shite. Enjoy your food, but if you eat something fattening, adjust the rest of your diet to accommodate. Want a bowl of ice cream? Then have miso soup for lunch. Want chips? Then have plain white fish with them.
* Venison is food from the diet gods. Burgers at under 7g fat, 165 calories? Sausages at 3.2g fat, 12o calories? Get in!
* Vegetarian chilli is a filling and tasty meal. No, really.
* Salad cream may save your life. Use it as a substitute for mayonnaise. 40 calories and 4g of fat in a serving of regular stuff, as opposed to 101 calories and 11.1g fat in Hellmann's mayo. If you drop down to the light salad cream, which, to be honest, I can't really fault, you've got 37 calories and 2.8g of fat. Get yourself a lovely pitta bread (170 calories, 1.3g fat) and stuff it full of lettuce and tomato, with a serving of salad cream, and you've got yourself a filling and genuinely tasty lunch. Not only that, but seeing as it comes in at around 260 calories (with lettuce and tomato - but it's just a guess) you can even, if you're craving it, put in a little cheese and not beat yourself up about it.
* Cheese. Forget the low fat alternatives, unless you genuinely like the flavourlessness and slight plastic texture. Instead, substitute mature cheddar for extra mature, grate it finely, and use half the amount you usually would. You get all the flavour and half the fat.
* Get past the first couple of weeks. After that, the food you're eating really does start to taste better than the high fat alternative.
* Exercise. For anyone who hates the thought of getting hot, sweaty and tired, remember that anything is better than nothing. But - on the other hand - remember also that, at least for the first few weeks, cutting down your diet will make you feel slightly lethargic. Don't beat yourself up about not wanting to exercise. Try and do something - go to the gym and lift weights, sit on the cycle machine for 2o minutes on low resistance, have a 20 length swim doing breast stroke at a slow but steady pace, take a 1 mile walk ... it doesn't matter, as long as you're out and doing. Not only will it help your weight loss (every little helps) but, more importantly, it will get your body slowly used to exercise and, just as importantly, your mind used to the idea of fitting exercise into your day. Believe me - after a while, you'll actually want to exercise.

All of the above comes from years and years of trying to lose weight and only occasionally succeeding. This means I've learnt what works and what doesn't. The most successful period, where I obeyed all the above rules (and built my exercise up to being able to run 7 miles ... probably more, but boredom and a general loathing of running kept me from going longer) lost me 2 1/2 stone. I've now put a stone of that back on. I'm not getting any younger, and I have no desire to leave this planet with untimely haste, so it's diet time for me.

Watch this space. I shall chart my losses and gains. Best o' luck to me, eh?

Oh - one more diet tip. If you're feeling particularly energetic, fly off to the USA, find Tracy Anderson, and beat her to a bloody pulp. Any woman who genuinely believes our sex shouldn't lift weights is plainly pig ignorant. What do you think women have done throughout the ages? Got a man to help them lift their baskets of potatoes? To do their washing in the stream? To cut their wheat, carry their sheaves, heft their baskets of fish to market? To carry their children? Fucking idiot. The idea that women aren't supposed to be strong and muscular is a modern day nonsense, born out of the fact that we have very few physical jobs nowadays, and technology to combat those jobs that would, traditionally, have required physical strength. Ever tried washing clothes by hand on a washboard in a river? First you've got to carry a big basket of clothes (and these would have been thicker and heavier in days gone by) to your local river. You might have done this by carrying the basket on your head, supporting it with one hand while you carried your baby on your hip. Then you'd take out your washboard and soap - which you'd also have to have carried - and start dousing, scrubbing, pounding, all this heavy material. Once the clothes were washed and rinsed, they'd have to be wrung. They might need another rinse and another wring. Then you put everything back in your basket and take it home. You don't think you need muscles for that? And that's just one example of one job. The act of living used to be pretty physical. Gathering food, carrying butchered meat (not to mention the hunting and butchering itself), carrying children, travelling from one place to another on foot (or horse), chopping wood, building fires, cooking, cleaning ... you name it, you needed muscles for it. So if some prissy little fucker like Tracy Anderson comes along and tells you that women aren't meant to be muscular, I recommend you go straight to the gym, build up your muscle tone to an impressive degree - then smack her in the kisser. Skinny, waif-like, delicate females with thin, rope-like muscles that can't lift more than 3lbs are purely for the make-believe world of Hollywoood.

Also - women do not bulk up in the gym by using weights. They don't have the testosterone levels to support masculine bulk. True, some women claim they do get bulky, but this is usually for one reason alone. They're eating more calories than they need. Fat converting to muscle might make you bulky, but better to be bulky than fat anyway. Muscles burn more calories and don't clog up your arteries with LARD. Another reason might be extra testosterone, which some women have. Anyway - why do women have such an averson to looking muscular? I don't mean bulging Miss Universe type muscular, 'cos, frankly, that's ugly (to me) on women and men, but a healthy muscularity - why is that a bad thing? I know which one I'd rather look at out of these two.

By the way - I don't know who either of these women are - just pictures I found on google images, so if the muscular one turns out to be a freaky Tracy Anderson cult member, I'm going to look pretty dim-witted.

Anyway, rant over simply because I have to go out for dinner. Lady from Bankfoot is cooking for us, and we're running late!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Restaurant Night ... Again

Sorry to be so remiss with the old blog. I really should get back into the habit of updating regularly, but to be fair I've been a bit busy of late. First of all there was a trip down to London with Koios for the first leg of her birthday treat. We went to St John's Restaurant in Smithfield, which was excellent for traditional British cuisine (although a little let down by cheating with things like capers and, frankly, tomatoes) but not actually wildly brilliant cooking wise. I mean, it was great, but nothing terribly exciting. That's the problem with traditional British food. What can you do with it? I had chitterlings, which they fried up with some white beans. It was delicious but, in the end, just fried chitterlings and white beans. Kno' what I mean? But more to the point, we had a truly lovely night with much chat, much wine and slightly mushy waxings lyrical about our splendid partners.

Next day I spent with Brother and Gaura, eating brunch at Fortnum's (poor, poor pancakes, undercooked in the middle) and then dinner at a Chinese - which was excellent. I was feeling slightly delicate of tum after all the rich food, and won ton soup with some rice and garlicky veg was absolutely perfect. It was good to see them, and I was very thankful for a free place to rest my head in the big smoke.

Back home it was nose to the grindstone for my latest bout of insanity. I'd decided to do one of my restuarant nights - this time for Phid, Wheeler, Phid's parents, and all the neighbours. That's 10 in total. We decided on only 3 choices for each course, and after much humming and hawing - and enormous quantities of free food being showered upon us by neighbours, who kill things with gay abandon - this was the menu I ended up printing out:

Fishysoisse - Chilled leek and potato soup with a hint of haddock. (The hint of haddock was a little spoon of haddock ice cream).
Trio of Mezze - Bite-sized moussaka, chilled Greek salad soup, and prawns - possibly with tzatziki. (The 'possibly with tzatziki' reference was to the fact that I'd made tzatziki and, with the help of Epona's hypodermic syringes - which she uses on the horses, and which I obviously boiled to within an inch of their lives, despite them already being clean - injected it into the prawns. I used a skewer to make a little channel inside each king prawn, but the amount of tzatziki I could get in there was minimal. People noticed the taste, but didn't really know what the hell was going on until I told them. Not sure it was worth the effort really!)
Epona's Shrooms - Local chanterelles, plucked lovingly from the earth by The Mushroom Fairy (or Epona, to you), fried in butter with shallots and a soupçon of cream.

Main Courses
Rambling Duck - From the spices of Araby adorning its skin, to the deep freeze of next door from whence it came, this wild duck has seen the world. And now it's cold roasted and served with local plum & Greek ouzo relish. Huzzah!
2. Teetering Timbale of Woodcock - Gaze at its magnificence! Gasp at the beauty of the little pastry bird adorning its crust! Guffaw as it all crumbles to rubble beneath my knife! My first ever timbale. It's got woodcock in it*. God help us all.
*Also fois gras. But no dolphin, whale or fur.

3. Fifi's Robust Cullen Skink - Looky! Something Epona didn't kill! (It was probably our other neigbour, Ku'ula Kai). This is Cullen Skink with a little more va-va-voom - squid, prawns and mussels, to be precise. Served with Auntie Fisher's Rosemary Rolls.

All main courses served with cold parsley potatoes, English Breakfast salad, and a smile*.
*Subject to availability.

A Selection of "Afters" - Cheese course, coffee, flavoured teas.

Now, a thing or two about the 'afters': Phid's dad is mad keen on ice cream, but hates cheese. Won't eat it, the dam' fool. So, to throw him a bit of a curve ball, as our colonial cousins would say, I decided to combine the two. O yes. That'd fox him. So, with great glee, I proceeded (basically, by using Fisher's mechanical genius and getting her to actually do it) I removed the skin of half an Edam cheese. I then filled this with salty caramel ice cream. I also filled a camembert box with creamy apple ice (different to ice cream - it's much rougher in texture), and instructed Fisher to make my vanilla ice cream into Stilton by putting it in a Stilton pot, and watching as she made blue lines with food colouring.

It fooled him ... not for a moment. But it was a success, I think. Certainly the caramel ice cream was delicious, and I shall make it again. The apple ice was too grainy for my liking, but the vanilla was excellent. Vanilla pods are so much better than essence it's ridiculous.

The other 'afters' were either an apple jelly (not good - didn't go down very well, but were meant really as a garnish for the apple ice than a proper dessert) OR a chocolate mousse with peppermint cream. I used fresh mint from the garden for the cream, and Fisher made the mousse with a little rum. We made the mistake of making a first batch with incredibly dark chocolate, and while Fisher liked it a lot I couldn't stand it - way too cocoa-y. So she made it again, this time with Bournville. Much, much better - and she didn't melt the chocolate entirely either, leaving little bits of unmelted chewy bits, which were delicious!

The trouble with this situation was: I'd foolishly given one person in each couple a different sweet thing. I thought this meant there would be a sociable exchange of food. But no. All the people with the chocolate mousse devoured it with the speed of Gonzales, and promptly looked around for more. Those with the crappy apple jelly just looked affronted and sad. I shall know better next time.

Afterwards, we went to the sitting room, where Shah promptly fell asleep in his chair and Epona regaled us with stories of him conducting auctions in his sleep where, on numerous occasions she'd been sold, and never for a very flattering price.

The neighbours hung on til about midnight, then made their separate ways up the road. The rest of us stayed up a little longer, but it wasn't too long before we hit the hay.

Next day, Epona took us mushroom gathering, and we came away with a big basket full of beautiful chanterelles. They're the only mushroom I'd ever be confident picking. They look like nothing else, with no gills, and are a nice, distinct yellow/orange colour. Phid and her parents took the mushrooms away with them, to cook up for a risotto that evening, and I hear it was a triumph.

We went for lunch at Gloaburn, then to Branklyn Gardens for a brief wander. All very pleasant - and then we parted. I spent the rest of Saturday playing PS3 and generally chilling - and today I've sorted the Blind Soc newsletter (I hope), written my blog, and tried not to think about exercise. I have to do some, but my loins are distinctly ungirded.

Hey ho. The time approaches. Might as well bite the bullet. To run or not to run, that is the question. To swim? Perchance to bike? Ach ... they're all crap. I hate everything. Boo.