Saturday, 31 October 2009

Tamworth Castle 30th October 2009

We went to Tamworth Castle yesterday. We'd been planning to 'go somewhere' for a little Halloween treat, but we weren't sure where and didn't want to travel far. Then on the Gadget Show the other night, they featured Tamworth Castle as being haunted, and wouldn't you know it's only a 30-minute drive from here. So off we went. It was a lovely day, not too cold or windy, and I've noticed that you can actually see some autumn colours this year. (Some years, summer seems to slide right into winter in a misty, grey, shivery slippage, with hardly a sign of yellows or reds). There was a tree in the park outside the castle grounds that was absolutely showering yellow leaves, but I didn't think to photograph it.

So anyway, we were pleasantly surprised that admission to the castle was half price, so we got in for £5.00 total! Bargain.

Mwah ha ha! A suitably Hammer Horrorish angle on the castle front...

This is the entrance to the castle itself, passing through a courtyard. This castle is a hodgepodge of different eras...

Here's a view of the Elizabethan courtyard from above, when we went up to the Tower. (Every castle has to have a Tower!)

From the castle Tower, overlooking St Editha Church. (We went in that church. It was okay. Kind of Norman-y.)

So, Tamworth Castle is supposed to haunted by two ghosts, The White Lady, who haunts the Tower and is supposedly mourning for her suitor who was killed by a guy called Sir Lancelot (yeah, right!), and the Black Lady, who haunts a bedroom and Elizabethan staircase and was supposedly photographed in 1949 by some ghost hunters.

Spooky light by the Haunted Stair...

And that's the Haunted Staircase. I was kinda hoping I'd get a weird shadow, but I don't see anything here. I will say that the stairs are very creaky and if I were wandering around in there by candlelight in the dark of night, I'd sure think they were haunted.

At the entrance to the Great Hall, we were greeted by this random skull...

But the Great Hall not only had lots of other horned skulls, it had wrought iron candleabras from the ceiling and looked for all the world like a suitable setting for the movie, 'The Devil Rides Out'!

Here I am in a less creepy room.

And here is a stairway we found that leads up to a wall. It's a good thing I'd already been up to the top of that wall via another way, because there was no way I was going to climb those stairs. The camera flashed and illuminated this staircase, but when you peered up it in natural light, there was barely enough light to see where you were going.

And we're back out again...

It was a good Halloween visit with some spooky moments, especially in this child's room where there was an absolutely eery portrait of a little girl looming out toward you from over the fireplace, and on the opposite wall, a painting of a sleeping child--but it looked like it was either on its deathbed or dead already! Then I spotted some antique china dolls with faded eyes and I got the absolute willies and beat a hasty retreat--especially when I was trying to photograph the portrait and Derek shouted, 'Don't photograph it, it will come to life!' I yelped and got the heck out, I tell you!

Monday, 26 October 2009


My trousers are beginning to get looser!

I decided to weigh only once per week for the sake of my sanity during the weight-loss phase, and to my surprise yesterday, I was down 3 pounds from the beginning of the month. This morning, I took a good look at the way my trousers are fitting around the waist and butt, and yes, they are marginally looser. So I am heading in the right direction at last. I have faithfully written down every single thing I've eaten each day since 5th October. I'm not closely measuring it and definitely not counting calories, just writing it down.

I think the best thing I'm doing, though, is a good tough exercise rotation. Cathe's Slow & Heavy 3-day split, interspersed with cardio kickboxing (Chalene Johnson, Amy Bento and Cathe). I have been working hard, and I am seeing renewed definition in my upper body. Yay!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

'This'll burn some calories--and isn't that why we're here!!'

Chalene says this early in the workout I tried today, and boy was she right.

My new Chalean Extreme DVDs arrived today. I got 7 workouts in all, Disk 7 from the original Chalean Extreme (3 workouts), and the new set of 4 workouts that's just come out as cardio add-ons to the Chalean Extreme program.

Of course the first thing I did when I got home was do the first workout on Disk 7: Fat Burn Challenge. It is 30 minutes long and is probably the most intense cardio workout I own--but then, I haven't done the others from this set yet! Here's a breakdown:

1. Jump rope drills, 2 minutes.

2. Jumping Jack Drills, 3 minutes.

3. Plyo Lunges, 2 minutes 25 seconds. This consists of stepping into deep lunges, the deeper the better.

30 second break.

4. Football practice, 1 minute 12 seconds. You've surely seen the football players doing this one. You get in a squat stance and run in place really fast. Chalene calls out left, right, and 'HIT'. (That's where the coach usually gives a sharp whistle) That's your signal to drop to the ground in a push up stance, jump up, and keep running. Tough! But as Chalene says, at least you're not wearing full football pads and helmet! I cannot imagine those poor boys doing this in 100 degree Arkansas heat. I feel for them!

5. Plyo sculpting, with toner band, 3 minutes. This move has you side stepping side to side, and Chalene alternates with a standing thigh toning exercise. So you lunge side to side, then stop and raise alternating legs to the side working the thighs. Then back to lunges etc. This nearly killed me, as I did Cathe's Slow & Heavy Legs and Shoulders yesterday which has some really intense concentrated leg work in it. I didn't know this workout had leg work, or would have opted for a different one, but never mind.

6. Modified Burpee, 1 minute. You jump into a wide squat, put your hands on the floor, shoot your legs back into a pushup stance, then hop back into the squat stance and stand up again. You do 16 total burpees.

30 second break.

7. Moving Prisoner Lunges, 2 minutes. You step forward to a lunge, then step to the right (3 o’clock) for a second lunge. Then back to the front for another lunge, and continue. This move is modified by moving your hands from your hips during the lunges, to behind your head, and then straight up in the air. Then you’ll switch sides and do the opposite leg.

8. Crosses and Zig Zags, 2 minutes. Turbo Jam! Cross punches, mixed in with zig zags (for the obliques), and some knee lifts. Compared to what we'd been doing, this was almost like a break!

9. Squats/Sumo, 1 minute 24 seconds. You hop from sumo squat to standing up, jumping in and out. (Although to be honest, my sumo squats were a bit lame. But then, I was feeling literally lame! Legs like jello!)

10. Giant Leaps, 2 minutes 30 seconds. Leaping from side to side, like a skater's sweep. Very fun, I loved this segment.

11. Squats, 1 minute 30 seconds. Football again. You go from a regular squat to a 3 point football stance, back to the squat, continue to football stance etc. Chalene jumped these, but all I could do was squat and stand. Whew!

12. Lateral Lunges, 1 minute 30 seconds. Side lunges to one side, hold and repeat, then switch legs. This feels great after all that legwork.

3 minute cool down

After this short workout, I was dripping. I didn't wear my HRM, but I bet I burned loads of calories. It was pretty much all jumping, but there is a modifier to show you how to keep it low impact with high intensity. Chalene rocks!

Can't wait to try the next ones! Yay, I love new workouts. :)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Three rules create an eater's manifesto. Read this book.

In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan. I read it in 2 days. If you haven't read it yet, read it. Get it right now, seriously.

Here's Michael Pollan lecturing at University of California:

In Defence of Food with Michael Pollan, University of California

This lecture is an excellent encapsulation of the content of the book and definitely worth watching.

And here he is in an interview:

Food News: In Defence of Food Part One

Food News: In Defence of Food Part Two

Food News: In Defence of Food Part Three

Food News: In Defence of Food Part Four

(This is a follow-up to his previous book, 'The Omnivore's Dilemma', which is truly excellent, but you don't have to have read that one to enjoy this one. Read them both, though. They're fantastic books. By the way, I emailed John Robbins a year or two ago asking him what he thought about the whole concept of 'orthorexia', and he doesn't believe there is such a thing, and that being concerned about what we eat is a good thing...however, I think Robbins and Pollan agree on nearly all points.)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Lovely Sunday

We went to HMV today and bought some Hammer Horror Dracula flicks for Halloween for 3 quid each:

We watched 'Dracula has risen from the grave' (1968) today. It was completely ludicrous but strangely enjoyable, like all Hammer Horror schlock. (I read somewhere that Christopher Lee thought 'Risen from the Grave' was crap. But then, he thought that about several of his own films.) This one is a direct sequel to 'Dracula Prince of Darkness' (1966), in which Dracula is trapped under some ice right outside his castle. In 'Risen from the Grave', a priest exorcises Dracula's castle and places a big cross across the front door, so when Drac gets a little taste of some blood and revives, he can't get back in. He's truly pissed off about this, so seeks out the priest who did this so he can exact his revenge by killing him and his beloved virginal and buxom niece, Maria. Along the way, Dracky enslaves the local vicar whose church is 'in the shadow of his castle', lunches on a busty barmaid called Zena, pulls a giant stake out of his own heart because the guy who stabs him (Maria's boyfriend) is an atheist and refuses to pray while doing it, then manages to impale himself on a giant crucifix. Pretty gruesome stuff! Amazingly, while this film got banned in Finland and received an X rating in England in 1968, the Americans gave it a rating of G. We've never been much bothered by violence in the old US of A. But if there'd been any nudity or humping, hello! A little religious imagery, blood sucking and walking dead, though--eh, the kiddies can handle that.

After Dracula, we did Cathe Friedrich's Kick Punch & Crunch and now we're about to settle in and wait for episode 3 of the new season of House.

I can't believe the weekend's over already. They should be 4 days long.

Best chocolate cake ever

I made this cake yesterday and it was so good hubby and I ate it ALL. It is very, very easy and will make an 8x8 (or 9x7)" cake--so nice and small, just enough for 2 people to have cake 3 times in one day! Ha ha

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a cake pan and set aside.

In a bowl, combine:

200g wholemeal spelt flour
150g raw cane sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
5 tablespoons of cocoa powder

In a jug, combine:

250ml water
6 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cider vinegar

Mix wet ingredients into the dry and pour batter into greased pan. Bake until done.

While it's baking, combine the following in a saucepan:

150-200g sugar
2-3 heaping tablespoons cocoa
enough water to make a medium thick paste
soy milk

Heat and stir until the sugar starts to melt and grains disappear. Add soy milk a tiny bit at a time to loosen up the mixture and stir and boil until it is glossy and thickening. Remove from heat, cover and set aside while the cake finishes baking. (I know these instructions are a bit vague, but I always eyeball this and do it by feel, so I'm not sure how to describe it. To be honest, I didn't measure the icing ingredients but just dumped stuff in the pan. You could always get a vegan icing recipe somewhere else online, but avoid ones that call for vegan margarine. Ick!)

When the cake comes out of the oven, allow it to cool a bit, then pour and spread the icing gently over the warm cake. It should not be too runny. It will firm up and make a glossy coating on the cake.

This cake is soft, moist, and the icing is fudgy. You would never know it's vegan or that it contains wholemeal flour. Now, if I could figure out a way to get rid of the sugar...

You could use different flour, different oil, and different 'milk'. You could use almond extract instead of vanilla...doesn't matter. Play around with it. But above is the exact recipe I used yesterday.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

2 workouts today

I did Turbo Jam Live Booty Sculpt + Abs today, then when hubby got home, we did Chest and Back on Cathe's Slow & Heavy. Two workouts in one day! Yay!

Booty Sculpt is a good workout, my legs were screaming. You use light dumbbells and a resistance band in this workout, and the leg work is a lot like that seen in Turbo Jam Lower Body Jam, except the workout is more informal (more dancy stuff during the moves) and Chalene walks around a bit instead of doing all the moves with the exercisers. It finishes with some pretty tough ab work.

Slow & Heavy is a 3-day split. One day you do legs and shoulders (we did that on Tuesday night), one day you do chest, back and planks (that's what we did tonight) and one day you do biceps and triceps (we've got that planned for Saturday). You can do them 3 days in a row, or you can do cardio on days in between. I'm doing the cardio in between option.

I really like the Slow & Heavy series. You lift heavy weights and for each move you do 3 sets of 8 reps, 2 beats on the concentric contraction, 6 beats on the eccentric. (So, for example, on split-legged squats, you put a barbell on your shoulders and go down for two, then slowly come back up for 6. On a chest press, you go down for two, slowly push the weights back up for 6. Etc. In the picture on the cover, she is doing plie squats. You go down for 2, back up for 6. She's holding a 40lb dumbbell there. I used my 12kg kettlebell as that's the heaviest weight I own. That's roughly 27lbs. Believe me, even though I was pulling only half the weight she was, my legs were FEELIN it.)

Today's work was Chest and Back. You do chest presses (3 sets of 8 supine, 3 sets of 8 on the incline), pec flyes (3 sets supine, 3 sets incline) , push ups (2 sets of 8 using the down for 2 up for 6 beat), bent over rows (3 sets of 8), ribcage pullovers (3 sets of 8) and deadlifts (3 sets of 8). Then you get on the mat and do supermans (32 total) and a killer series of planks. It's not an easy workout. But it's one of those that when it's over, you're so glad you did it! I just wish I owned some heavier weights and a really good, cushiony pair of weight lifting gloves.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Return to me

I read something this morning that has stuck with me all day:

If you aren't hungry enough to eat an apple, you're not really hungry.

Think about the times you've been really hungry and you managed to find an apple. Maybe it was on the trail during a long hike and you found it rolling around in the bottom of your back pack. Or you'd come in from yard work and found an apple in the fridge, all cold and juicy. It was so good, it was so appealing. It was the best thing ever, and you ate it and enjoyed every bite.

Now think about the times you were just foraging out of boredom and found an apple. Yuck, an apple. You pushed it aside to make peanut butter and toast, or stand and eat honey straight out of the jar, or maybe you got lucky and found a stash of snack cakes or some cookies. You didn't eat the apple, though. Mealy old apple, it's got a bruise. No way. Don't like apples.

If the thought of an apple doesn't appeal, you're not really hungry. I like that. It's a great rule of thumb.

I started recording my food in a little tiny notebook (NOT the Streaming Colors Food Journal, which made go very OCD over fat grams and protein grams and all sorts of grams no one should be spending time measuring) on 5th October. I decided not to put any pressure on myself to eat 'well', just to write down every single thing I eat. The first five days are not pretty reading. But then, the snacking began to slow down. And for the last 2 days, I have eaten 'clean'. No snacks. Lighter meals. Drinking more water. The first 4 days, I just wrote everything down. Then I started writing the time beside each item. That helps me see at what time I'm eating. You have to really be vigilant because it's easy to eat something, think you'll write it down later, forget about it and then remember it at the end of the day when you're looking over the list. Seeing it all written out is almost like seeing it laid out on the table in front of you. Sobering.

I haven't lost any weight yet, but as I'm in the normal weight range and I've only been eating relatively well for 2 days, that's no surprise! Conventional wisdom has it that you need a calorie deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound. As I refuse to count calories and start down the slippery slope to that OCD madness, I haven't got a clue how long this will take. I'm hoping by February, the clothes that used to be loose will be loose again, and the rolls on my belly that used to be smaller will be smaller again. That's my goal!

Here's what I ate today:

6.50--smoothie made of brown rice protein, frozen banana, water, psyllium husks, ultrafine scottish oats; black decaf; pint of water

12.00--(I seriously wasn't hungry until 12.00--amazing!) homemade celeriac soup (leftovers) and a sandwich made of 2 slices seeded wholemeal bread, sliced tomato, roasted red pepper and iceberg lettuce; 1 onde-onde mochi cake; pint water

3.30--half a cup oats soaked in soy milk with added brown rice protein powder

4.30--(pre workout) 3 small handfuls fruit and fibre cereal from the box, maybe half a bowl? Pint water drunk during and after workout

5-6.00 Slanted Riser workout, then Fat Blaster

7.30--chickpea, courgette, red bell pepper and red onion korma; brown basmati rice; 1 wholemeal pita, toasted

That's it!

Yay, this is pretty much like I used to eat when I was doing great.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Celeriac Soup

This morning we had Isa's 'Fronch Toast', then after working out I had a pea protein and red berry smoothie, lunch was a veggie burger and a few homemade oven chips. So for dinner, I just wanted something kind of light. We bought a celeriac on the market yesterday, and so I made it into soup. This soup turned out to be so yummy! It is thick, and somehow creamy with a buttery mouthfeel. I have no idea how, as this is all I did:

Celeriac Soup

1 small yellow onion, peeled and minced
1 Tbs olive oil
1 finely minced peeled clove of garlic
approx 1/4 cup dry white wine
1 good size celeriac, peeled and cubed
1 medium red-skinned potato, peeled and cubed
2 bay leaves
8-10 grinds pink salt
pinch ground nutmeg

Heat olive oil in stock pot and saute onions. Let them sweat down but not colour much. There might be some light golden sediment--deglaze with the white wine. Add the finely minced garlic and cook a bit. Add the cubed celeriac, cover the pot, reduce heat and allow to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the celeriac begins to soften. Add the potato, bay leaves, and enough water to cover all by 2 or 3 inches (or more). Cover and simmer gently until the potato and celeriac are very soft, about 30-40 minutes.

Remove bay leaves and puree with wand hand blender until creamy and smooth. Keep blending until silky smooth. It will happen. Add the salt and nutmeg and serve. The soup will be thick enough that you can dip into it and it will hold its shape on the bowl of the spoon. If you wanted yours thinner, you could add water, but most of the pics I found online show a thick soup, so I guess I got it right. It is really yummy!

After we ate it (as usual, I forgot to make a photo, because I forgot I was doing a vegan recipe to blog--it was just dinner after all), I looked online for celeriac soup recipes. They are all pretty similar. I think mine is the simplest, though. Most of the time, simple is best. I just wanted to keep the flavours light and simple so the delicate taste of the celeriac would shine through. It worked! And it's always so satisfying when I think I've made something up then I find out it's a classic recipe. Surely that means I can cook...Hubby had his with toasted bread drizzled in olive oil. I just had mine straight. Try it!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Lentil Soup with garlic and tarragon

Hey, it's Vegan Month of Food again! As last year, I'm not posting fancy recipes, just the yummy stuff I make for our real meals.

So....this is what I made for lunch today.

Lentil Soup with garlic and tarragon

1 onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
3 handfuls of dry puy lentils
1 Tbs Marigold vegan bouillon powder
ground black pepper
ground pink salt
pinch dried tarragon
water to make soup of thickness you want

Saute onion and garlic, add remaining ingredients, simmer until lentils are very tender. Use a stick blender to puree the soup. Enjoy!

I had this with wrap made of wholemeal chapatti and a roasted red bell pepper.

here's what I ate yesterday

I'm writing down everything I eat in a little book. Not measuring or counting calories as of yet, just writing it all down. Yesterday was not good. I ate a lot of junk at work. Here's what the day looked like. I'm not going to divide it into meals but just make one long list:

1 slice wholemeal toast with 1/2 tsp coconut oil and some strawberry jam

shake made of 20g soy protein isolate mix and water

1 cup black decaf

sandwich made with: 2 slices wholemeal bread, Cheatin' Meats ham, fresh spinach, sliced tomato, roasted red bell pepper, mustard and burger sauce

1 oatmeal biscuit (Hob Nob) (ate this during tea break at a training session because I didn't want to open the falafels I had brought as a snack...stupid)

2 Jaffa cakes

2 Mingles

1 mini flapjack bite (this plus the Jaffas and Mingles were eaten in the staffroom after everyone else had left the room--yes, that old habit of thinking if no one sees you eat it you didn't really eat it has returned)

2 Cadbury Roses

1 chewy sweet from Portugal (Roses and chew picked up from staffroom table while doing lockup routine upstairs)

Salad made with: iceberg lettuce, shredded carrot, fresh spinach, roasted red pepper, 3 green olives stuffed with garlic (packed in olive oil), 1/2 small baked potato (cubed), 6 small falafel patties, nutritional yeast flakes

1 'veggie dunker' (like a veggie finger, made by Sainsbury's) and 2 oven chips (these were nicked from hubby's leftovers--he didn't have salad)

1 bowl of Special K with unsweetened soy milk, then when there was some soy milk left in the bowl, I went back and refilled it half way with more Special K (a favourite old trick of mine)
So, I have no idea what the calorie content of this day was, but that's not really the point. Calorie counting is not something you can keep up forever. The salad was my attempt to salvage the day after eating so many junky nibbles, although it's probably still pretty high in calories with the potatoes, and falafel and olives and all that. It's the junk food that concerns me. This is not untypical for me for the last 10 months or so. This is why I've gained weight.

Also, I had to work until 6.00 again last night. The timetable I've been on since April has me doing two 6.00 finishes each week, and I find it so hard to work out when I don't get home until 6.30 or 6.45. So last night I didn't work out. Fewer workouts, more food.

I also think I'm starting to feel my age. I am so tired on those 6.00 finish nights. And my workouts sometimes torque my knee a bit, and I feel it more in my left hip, which always made itself known to me in the past during workouts, but is now making itself known to me even more. I'm not saying pain, I'm just saying I 'feel' it. It bothers me that I never managed to get my body where I wanted it and now I'm feeling like I'm on a downward spiral, age-wise.

I forgot to weigh this morning, but I've written down my breakfast. Today is my day off--thank GOD--and I will work out today. Must keep trying.

And, Anna, you posted the 'dreaded butt-shot' on your blog...well, here's mine! Hubby took this picture of me when we visited Hardwick Hall a few weeks ago and when I saw this I was appalled. These jeans used to be loose. Now they're like leggings! If they weren't those 'stretchy' denim ones, I wouldn't even be able to get them on anymore. I was not thrilled with this photo AT ALL. (You can see by my expression I wasn't thrilled with him taking it at the time! ha ha) Click on it to get the full gruesome effect. LOL

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Day two of journaling my food!

Today is the second day of food journaling. As usual, my weight has gone UP. It's like the weight-loss gods are testing your mettle--you start trying to eat more strictly, your weight goes up the next day. Yesterday I was 140.2. Today 140.6. On the other hand, I was surprised by the arrival of TOM. So that might be it.

Anyway, longer entry later. Off to Warwick today for enquiry desk training--never mind that I've worked the enquiry desk every single day for the last 5 years. Ours is not to question the logic of local government.