Monday, 30 July 2012

The Accidental Runner

You've heard of that film "The Accidental Tourist", well, last night I was sort of an accidental runner.  I fully planned to run my first session of Week 7 (these weeks have gone by mega-fast!).  Walkmeter called for a 5 minute warm up walk, 6 minutes running, 3 minutes walk, 16 minutes running with a five minute cool-down walk.  This didn't stress me out in the slightest - I had just run 18 solid minutes for the first time on Friday, so I was pumped and ready to go!  But when I started out, I must have accidentally skipped forward on the plan because when I got home I realised I had actually done session TWO of Week 7, which comprised of: Warm up walk 5 minutes, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes, run 20 minutes!

I suppose it was a good way to get in a 20 minute run - completely by surprise!  It was a good surprise though and glad that I did it without realising :-).

And this morning, I had an even better surprise on the scales.  I've dropped one pound since last week!  Clearly, my low-low calorie intake was taking its toll and now that I've upped my calories to 1623 per day (there, or thereabouts), it seems the weight is slowly coming off again.

Yesterday was also a good day because my son played his first tennis tournament in over a year and came second in his group!  First he had to play a boy two years older and about two feet taller too!  But, he beat him in straight sets!  The second match he lost, as the first match was played indoors and for the second match he was switched to an outdoor court.  I'm not sure if he would have beaten the boy he played, because he was super good, but he probably would have given him a tougher match if he'd been warmed up outdoors.  His third match again he won in straight sets.  I was really proud of him and pleased that he played so well.

This pic is just crazy!  He's actually serving!
I'm off work again on Wednesday and am trying to find something for the kids and I to do.  I've been toying with the idea of walking a trail (it's actually a disused railway line) in the north of the county.  Today I found a map that incorporates part of that trail in a circular 9 mile walk.  It's pretty much a flat trail, and the weather forecast for Wednesday is good - so I'm thinking we might go for it!  Watch this space for pics and sore feet!

Hope you all have a good week and are enjoying watching the Olympics!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

A very British weekend...

The Olympics have officially begun!  I stayed up til midnight last night watching the impressive opening ceremonies (well done, Danny Boyle!) and I must say I was really proud to be British!  (I took dual nationality in 2002).  It's been a long time in the making, but I think the Olympics will be fantastic!  Shame we didn't think to apply for tickets!

Yesterday I took a day off work.  My husband has been off for the past two weeks and has been taking the kids on various day trips, etc.  I thought it would be fun to have a day off with the family and we could go to Cambridge.  Unfortunately both my husband and my son have been coming down with cold and sore throats and when we woke up on Friday morning, it was apparent that Cambridge was off the cards.  Not wanting to waste the day, I decided to take my daughter for tea and cake at a sweet little antique shop about 10 minutes from where we live.

I hadn't been to Blackmore in about 14 years.  When we got there I wondered why on earth I haven't been more often.  It's such a picturesque little village.  When we arrived, I noticed a sign that said the church was open, so I thought we would have a look.

I love looking around old churches - it amazes me that they've stood for hundreds of years and are in continued use today.  This particular church is over 600 years old!  This is why I love England.  Buildings 600+ years old ten minutes from my house!  That's awesome.  The tower was open, so we went in and had a look.

The beams were amazing!  It was quite dark, and my iPhone doesn't have a flash, but I think you get the idea from the photo above.

After we had a look round the church, we walked down the lane and headed for Megarry's Tea Shop.

I took my mother here when she visited some 14 years ago and remembered it fondly.  It's like an old curiosity shop.  At the front there are a beautiful collection of antiques for sale and at the back a lovely tea shop selling freshly baked cakes - bliss!  I knew Verity would love this - a proper afternoon tea!

Divine carrot cake

One happy kid :-)
I decided to have a slice of carrot cake.  I know I would be going out for a run later, so decided to reward myself early!  It was delicious, moist, everything carrot cake should be.

My training session last night was the last session of Week 6 and comprised of a warm up walk for 5 minutes, run for 3 minutes, walk for 3 minutes, run for 18 minutes and cool down walk 5 minutes.  This would be my first attempt at running for such a length of time and I was quite nervous as I set out.  I did the 3 minute run with no trouble.  Almost immediately my left hip started hurting - this has been my latest ache and pain.  I can't figure out if it's from running or if it's from the kettlebell workout, but thankfully it eases after a couple minutes of running and doesn't cause me too many problems.

When I started the 18 minute interval I didn't feel great, so I slowed my pace way down and kept at quite a slow pace throughout.  18 minutes is a loooooonng time, but I did it!  I was seriously sweaty when I got home!

Why the long face?  Seriously, how long does my face look in this pic?!
Today there was a village fair at Navestock - again about ten minutes from the house, so I decided to take both kids.  It was quite a bit bigger than I expected, complete with bouncy castles, magic teacups and they even had a little dog show called "Scruffs"!  The kids enjoyed themselves and were happy to have ice cream, plus to look around all the different animal displays.  There was a man who had the funniest looking chickens I've ever seen - shame I didn't think to take photos of them!

So, once again, I'm taking part in Melinda's Blog Hop.  This week there's an Olympic theme - and how fitting :-)

This week's question is:

What is your favourite event to watch in the Summer Olympics?

This is not an easy question!  I really like to watch most of it - I won't say all because I seriously lose interest when it comes to volleyball, table tennis, and that weird indoor cycling (yeah, lets ride a bike in a circle - hell I'd fall asleep doing it, let alone watching it!).  I suppose I most enjoy watching the racing - both men's and women's.  I like the hurdling - it staggers me that people are able to do this!  I can barely lift my foot up above knee height without fear of tripping over something, so kudos to hurdlers!  The swimming and rowing are both quite exciting to watch and I also enjoy some of the gymnastic activities.  As I type, the badminton mixed doubles is on and again, I'm just staggered at the speed!

So - now it's over to all of you!  What do you enjoy watching most in the Olympics?  You can join the blog hop by entering your details via the link below and then answering the question in a post on your blog.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Liebster Award

Exciting News!  Abby over at Back at Square Zero has chosen me to receive a Liebster Award!  I'm really thrilled about this for a few reasons.  Firstly, it's a way of sharing some not so commonly asked facts about myself with all of you, and secondly, it means that (hopefully) I get to learn a lot more about all of you too!  So, here it goes...

So what is the Liebster Award:
The Liebster award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers.  The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome.

Rules for receiving this award:
1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Then answer the questions the tagger sent for them, plus create 11 questions for the people they've tagged to answer.
3. Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
4. Notify the people you have tagged.
5. No tag backs.

11 Things About Me:

1.  I’m originally from Indiana, but moved to England at the age of 18 with my university (Ball State University).
I still have no idea what's in the box!
2.  My husband and I used to be penpals.  He’s British and when I moved to England to study, I turned up on his doorstep!  This in itself is a bit of a miracle because he hadn’t written to me in a while and so all I had was an old Christmas card with most of his address – [  ]8 Marlborough Road… I knew that I was missing the first number, so I proceeded to walk down Marlborough Road and knock on all the doors that ended in 8!  He lived in the last house!
3.  My husband and I are passionate about amateur dramatics – we have our own club, Mustard Seed Players.
4.  I love Twilight – the books and the films.  I’m not proud of this, it’s taken me quite a while to own up to it, but now that it’s out in the open I feel so much better!  In case you’re wondering, I’m Team Edward without doubt! 
You are the glow...
5.  I love curry.  I love to cook it, I love to eat it.  I actually think I should have been born in India I love it so much!  Oddly, I never actually tried it until about 8 years ago when I worked in London.  A colleague of mine was Indian and took me to the most amazing restaurant called Bombay Palace (I later discovered that literally every other Indian restaurant in London is called Bombay Palace!) – but this one was fab.  It was the start of a lifelong love affair with spice!
6.  I am an only child.  Growing up my parents decided that they would like to host a foreign exchange student, so when I was 14 years old my ‘sister’ Nina from Germany arrived!  She was 18 and we fought like cat and dog for the year she lived with us!  But, 22 years later (yes, I am 36 now), we are still in contact and either she comes to visit me, or we go to visit her in Germany at least once a year.  She became and always will be my sister :-).
Me, Nina, and Will & Kate (and a plate of chips!) at the Royal Wedding
7.  My favourite place on earth is the English Lake District.  It’s in the north of England, about a 6 hour drive from where I live.  We go there at least once a year and climb the mountains there.  The mountains, or “fells” as they are called in the Lake District, are quite small by most standards (ranging from 1000-3300 feet), but they’re still quite a challenge to climb.  And the views from the top are utterly amazing.  I can’t think of a more rewarding experience than climbing a mountain.  There is sheer beauty and utter silence.  It’s an unforgettable experience!
Buttermere Lake - doesn't get much more perfect than this
8.  I love to sew.  My mother passed this passion onto me.  I’ve made various things to sell from time to time, mostly for church fairs, but I have sold some pretty amazing cushions in London!  I went through a period of making wedding dresses to earn a bit of extra money, but the stress that this put on me was SO not worth the reward!  I still make myself and my daughter dresses in the summer and handbags from time to time.  I love vintage fabrics.
One of my own handbags
9.  My favourite colour is green.  I think this stems from my love of nature and being outside.  I grew up in rural Indiana and played among the dogwoods.  I had loads of toys, but nothing captured my attention more than just running outside and playing in the mud!  One of my favourite things is to walk barefoot through the grass – I love the cool feeling of the soft grass between my toes on a hot summer’s day!

10.  I am completely and utterly terrified of flying.  I appreciate this sounds totally absurd coming from someone who clearly had to get on an airplane to get to where she is today – but at the time I came to England I didn’t have the fear.  It only came later and it wasn’t really anything in particular that triggered it, I just suddenly decided that I liked to have both feet firmly planted on the ground!  I never let it stop me going somewhere I really want to go, or need to go, but I am a nervous wreck the entire time!
11.  I have two tattoos.  One is an ankh on my ankle which I got when I was 17 and went to Australia for the summer.  The other is horrendous and I wish it would go away!  It’s a very ridiculous Egyptian eye shade around my belly button (seriously, what was I thinkin?!), which has been stretched and distorted over the years through weight gain, weight loss, stretch marks, pregnancies, blah!  I can’t tell you how many times I heard a midwife say “that’s…interesting” when I went for antenatal checks or scans during my pregnancies!  I’m not anti-tattoo – I still love the one on my ankle – but I wish that someone would have made me think about the implications of getting a tattoo on your tum before you have babies!  Maybe eventually when I lose all the weight I’ll be able to have a tummy tuck and they’ll just cut it off!  Here’s hoping :-)

Abby's Questions for me:

1.    Why did you start blogging?

I actually started blogging after I came across a very inspirational blog called Runs for Cookies.  Katie was such an inspiration to me both in terms of her weight loss and her journey to become a runner.  I really loved how her blog chronicled that journey.  I thought a blog would be an excellent way to keep a record of my weight loss and fitness journey, but also a way of connecting with other people who are going through the same things.

2.    What has been your favorite part of the experience so far?

My favourite part of the experience so far has definitely been connecting with so many amazing people!  It has been so encouraging to read about other people’s experiences, trials and victories!

3.    If you could gain one thing from blogging what would you hope it brings to you?

Well, the main reason I blog is to help me mentally through the weight loss journey, so if I could gain one thing from it I would hope it would be an understanding of how to maintain my weight loss for good.  I have previously lost 100 pounds, but gained most of it back because I didn't incorporate permanent changes to my lifestyle.  I am hoping that by blogging it will keep me on the straight and narrow!

4. What are you most looking forward to right now?

Without doubt, my holiday in the Lake District in August!  I am already planning which mountains we're climbing and studying maps!

5. What do you do when you are stressed?

In times gone by I would have binged.  I would have gone out, bought a huge bag of Mars Planets chocolates and many Dr Peppers, along with pretzels, popcorn, etc and eaten the lot - probably in one sitting.  Now I either go to Pinterest (somehow looking at pictures of stuff I can never afford relaxes me!) or I go out for a walk/run.  In addition to this, I will generally talk it out with a friend.  Nothing compares to good friends when you need to relieve some stress!

6. What is one food you could not live without?

As mentioned already above - CURRY!  I love ALL Curry, chicken curry, prawn/fish curry, beef and lamb curry - from Kormas right up to super, knock your socks off spicy Vindaloos!  And most of all - the Peshwari naan.  God bless the little Indian man (or woman) who thought to put coconut in naan bread!

7. If you could only watch one TV show a week what would it be?

Hmmm... I'm not a big TV watcher.  What my husband and I tend to do is to buy whole series on DVD's and then watch them in bulk.  This is mainly because all the good American TV shows take ages to get over here, whereas they're available much earlier on DVD.  If I could choose only one, however, it would have to be The Office.

8. Where is your dream vacation?

I would love to go to New Zealand.  I went to Australia when I was 17 and loved it, but having seen so much of the New Zealand landscape (confession: via Lord of the Rings!), I would love to go and spend a good month down there just exploring!

9. What is one goal you are currently working towards?

One goal I'm working towards is actually becoming an Interior Designer.  I'm doing a course at the moment through KLC and will have a qualification at the end of it.  It's quite tricky fitting in the time to study with kids and everything else that goes on in my crazy life - but I'll get there eventually!  I love design, fabric, colour and everything associated with it, so think this an ideal career for me!

10. Do you have any children or fur babies?

Yes!  I have two children.  Josh is 12 and Verity is 10 years old.  They are both equally as crazy as I am and I love that about them!  Josh is without doubt more like me and Verity is more like her dad - both in terms of personality and looks.  Josh is very easy to panic (ahem.... yes!), he worries about things (again... yes!), but he's also very outgoing and determined (yes and double yes!).  Verity is incredibly artistic - a trait she gets from both her parents, but she's also very quick tempered (dad!).  The kids get along well together as a general rule and I'm pleased having grown up as an only child, that they have each other.

11. Favorite ice cream or fro-yo flavor?
Favourite ice-cream flavour is coconut!  I love good ol' plain chocolate too - but coconut is awesome!

And now my questions to all my lucky recipients:

1. What inspired your blog name?
2. What do you like most about blogging?
3. What was your dream job when you were a child?
4. Where is the furthest place you've ever travelled?
5. What is the strangest or most exotic food you've ever tried?  And did you like it?
6. What is your favourite film?
7. Who is your favourite TV show character?
8. Do you have a crazy, far-fetched ambition and what is it? (for example - mine is to be an Oscar winning screen writer, or to climb Mount Everest!)
9. If your friends could describe you with one word, what would it be?
10. If money were no object, where would you live and why?
11. What is your favourite book of all time?

And finally here are my chosen recipients for the Liebster Award!

Does this scale make me look fat?
Eating Away Ernie
Minus One hundred
Hello Fitness…We Meet Again
Can I borrow that?
Losing It
Burning lbs by Bridge
Goal of Losing
Spicing up my life
Skinny Sonja

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Conquering the plateau

I'm not loving my scales at the moment.  I'm on a plateau.  From previous posts you'll all know that I'm not a plateau girl - I like the challenge of climbing a mountain, not standing around on the flat!  My weight actually went up by 0.7 pounds since last week and I'm struggling to understand how this could happen.  I mentioned in a previous post that I really struggle drinking enough water, so understand this could play a part in the weight not coming off.  I have now been making a conscious effort to drink more water each day and hope I can stick to it.

Another possible factor recently is my serious addiction to Pimm's and Lemonade.  This is my summer drink of choice and I would go so far as to say that I'm a Pimmsaholic.  It's about 85 calories for a glass - ish and lately I've been having one a day.  The biggest problem with this, aside from the alcohol content, is the sugar in the lemonade.

In England 'lemonade' is like Sprite or 7UP - it's a carbonated drink and is quite often used as a mixer.  Our summer had thus far been such a wash out with loads and loads of rain that I hadn't been craving Pimms until a couple of weeks ago when I had a party and bought two big bottles of the stuff.  Of course I used a smidgen at the party and am now left with the remainder in my house, calling my name every night!

So, here are two obvious factors for my weight not shifting.  The other possible problem could be that I'm not consuming enough calories.  I seriously struggle with this because my brain automatically flips out when I even think of eating more than 1500 calories a day "Are you crazy?  You'll gain weight!"  Even though my actual caloric needs for weight loss are 1623 per day!  Somehow I just can't get my head around eating more to weigh less!  Having said that, I struggled with a plateau in May and when I increased my calorie consumption, sure enough the weight started to drop again.

I suppose it's even more difficult because when I started losing weight back in January, I put myself on a very strict 1200 calorie per day limit.  So now, of course, anything higher than 1200, seems like I'm overeating!  In retrospect, I would definitely not recommend starting off with such a low calorie intake because moving forward from that - as I'm discovering - is exceedingly hard!

The final factor which may be playing a part in the scales not budging is my exercise.  Aside from my 5k training programme, which consists of 3 sessions per week, I've not truly been pushing myself as I should with exercise.  I've been for a few lunchtime walks and done a few sessions of 30 minute aerobic DVD's at home - but nothing that is pushing me to the limit.  Ultimately, if I want to see drastic results, I need to make drastic changes!

On Sunday night I decided to try another Jillian Michael's DVD called Shred it with Weights.  I bought this because I was intrigued by kettlebells and I wanted a workout that incorporated some weight training.  When I did the workout on Sunday, all I had was a dumbbell (which Jillian says is fine), however at the end I didn't feel as if I'd had a really good workout.  So, on Monday night I borrowed a friend's 5kg kettlebell and tried it again - flip what a difference!  By the end of the 30 minutes I was seriously sweating like a pig and felt as if I had really pushed myself, so I would definitely say that this workout definitely needs a proper kettlebell to be effective.

I suppose that workout has taught me that it's very easy to fall into a pattern.  If I want to prompt my body to change, I'm going to have to keep it guessing about what is coming next - so I think the key to this is to make sure I'm doing a variety of activities.  I need to mix-up my workouts.  A bit of kettlebells, a bit of running, maybe a bit of swimming if I can summon the courage to put on a swimsuit!  I need to increase and vary my calories to keep my metabolism guessing.  And I need to watch that I'm not consuming too many 'dead' calories in things like alcoholic drinks!

I found this on Pinterest, and need to keep reminding myself that it's true!  Let's hope that changing things up a bit will give a better weigh in next Monday :-)

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Stop by Saturday on Sunday!

Happy Sunday Everyone!  I am sipping a cup of coffee with a full belly on a restful, sunny, Sunday afternoon and am thrilled that at long last, summer has come to England! To welcome the season fully, we decided to have a small barbeque at lunchtime today - reasonably healthy grilled chicken, sausages and salad - so I'm feeling quite virtuous for a Sunday (unusual, as this is always my most calorific day!).  I will be going out for a run later, so the trifle I had for dessert should be balanced out by that (I hope!).

Man cook food!

Delicious bbq chicken breasts and pork sausages :-P

One happy kid :-)
So, this is actually my entry for Stop by Saturday, on Sunday!  My fellow blogger, Melinda Ott over at Does this scale make me look fat, has designed this fab blog hop!  She asks a question on her blog and we all answer it on our own blogs.  It's a very clever way of getting to know some other blogs and some other bloggers :-).

This week's question is:

What is your exercise of choice?

Given the title of this blog and my love for walking, my exercise of choice would have to be just that.  If distance were no issue, my everyday exercise, without doubt, would be fell walking (that's climbing up small mountains).  Sadly, I live nowhere near the mountains, so have to settle for the hills of my local country park instead!

On a daily basis my exercise consists of my 5k training which is three or four times per week (I sometimes repeat a session), the occasional 3 mile walk during my lunch break at work, and less frequently (but should be more frequently!) a Jillian Michaels DVD in the evening.  I am not a member of a gym a) because I cannot stand the gym,  and b) because I can't justify the cost.  I love swimming though and would do much more of this if there were a pool closer and more convenient.  I'm a very slow swimmer, so if I do go, I generally go to our local church pool, but it's outdoors so depends largely on the weather.

So that's me - now it's over to you!  First join the linky, then answer the question in your blog post and be sure to include the code below in the body of your post.  Then enjoy reading everyone's posts - simple :-)

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A new 'do', a 12 minute run and a pain in the neck!

Sorry it's been a while since my last post - my week has been hectic as usual and most of my 'spare' time has been spent with my nose in my book!  I mentioned in a post last week that I had bought "Where the Red Fern Grows" for my son to read, but ended up re-reading it myself.  Well, last night I finished it and was a complete blubbering mess.  If you've never read it, I won't spoil it for you, but suffice it to say you need a very large box of Kleenex nearby for the last 30 pages!

I had intended on completing week 5 of my 5k training with a session last night - but with my nose firmly in this book, but arse did not move from the sofa!  I also was slightly nervous about doing any exercise yesterday because I woke up with the most tremendous pain in my neck.  I found an old workout DVD from years ago which incorporates some weights and kickboxing and for Monday and Thursday evenings, this has been my main workout.  The workout incorporated a Tricep weight exercise (like in the image below), and unfortunately 3kgs of weight was apparently more than my neck can bear!

It is better today thankfully, and I will be completing my running program later this afternoon.   Wednesday was my midway point in the 5k training and comprised 5 minute warm up walk, 5 minute run, 5 minute walk, 12 minute run, and cool down walk for 5 minutes.  My longest continuous run by this stage had been 8 minutes, so understandably I was a wee bit nervous about adding another four minutes to this!

When I went out my iPhone was acting a little weird.  I bought this new iPhone armband so I can run without taking a jacket with pockets, and the clear plastic cover sometimes doesn't work entirely right with the touch screen of the iPhone.  I'm a very impatient person anyway and when you're trying to concentrate on running, the last thing you want to be doing is fiddling with an armband!  Anyway, I was trying to skip a song on my playlist during the middle of the 12 minute interval and for some reason the Walkmeter app stopped.  But, I didn't realise that it stopped!  So, I just kept on running, and running, and running...  A good few minutes later I thought 12 minutes seemed like a long old time and finally managed to get Walkmeter to come up on the screen.  It had a notification that it has stopped unexpectedly! So, I restarted it, but I do reckon this added at least a couple more minutes to my 12 minute interval.  I suppose this can only be a good thing, but it's so frustrating when technology fails!

Earlier this week I decided it was time for a change.  Summer has literally arrived TODAY in England - we have had more rain in the past few months than I care to remember.  I've been wearing my hair in a ponytail more and more lately and that's generally a sign that I need a change of hairstyle.  I decided to go for a bob.  This is my old standby.  It suits my face shape, it's easy to maintain and I just like it.  So here's me - maybe a few ounces lighter from all the hair I've just had cut off!

Speaking of ounces - my weight is starting to really make me angry!  It's partially my own fault because I've been weighing myself every day this week (I really shouldn't do that!) and I'm not seeing numbers go down, but instead go up!  At the start of this week I was 192.3, and this morning I was 192.9!  What the hell?!  I know it's not a big jump, but it's still frustrating!

I have seriously behaved myself this week, food-wise, haven't gone above 1600 calories and I've exercised every day, except for yesterday.  I suppose two areas that can be improved on is to skip the evening Pimm's (seriously amazing summer drink!) - this is only about 85-100 calories, but obviously has a lot of sugar which I could do without.  The other thing is water.  I really am not great with drinking as much water as I should.  I don't drink anything else apart from coffee, water and the occasional Pimm's - but I know I'm not getting as much water as I need.  That will need to be my challenge for the next week - drink 2 litres a day!  Watch this space!

My question then to all of you - what part of a healthy lifestyle do you really struggle with?  

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

This week in photos...

I've been taking a lot of pictures this week.  The mini-challenge this week for the Marathon Weight Loss was to take a photo of everything you eat.  It's basically a way of logging all of your food (which I do anyway with My Fitness Pal).  However, I thought it would be a very useful thing to put on the blog to show exactly how much food I eat in a day (to lose weight).  A sort of - "This is what 1400 calories looks like" idea.

In addition to all the photos of food I've been taking this week, I have also attempted to load a selection of before and current photos onto a new tab on the blog.  I'll be honest and admit that most of these pics have been "hidden" on iPhoto because I was so repulsed with how I looked that I didn't want anyone else to stumble across them!  However, I can look back at them now and not feel bad because I know I'm a changed person now.  Looking back at old photos is a very tangible way of seeing how far you've come, so I really do recommend taking lots of pics during your weight loss journey.  I almost wish I had taken more photos - like every ten pounds or so - to really see a gradual difference!

My glass pebbles arrived earlier this week, so my "Pounds Lost" and "Pounds to go" jars are now displayed proudly in my dining room.  I haven't included all my pounds lost, but rather kept this visual illustration specifically for the purposes of the Lose a Marathon challenge.  Earlier today I had to move some of the pebbles back into the Pounds Lost jar because one of my kids had sneakily transferred them back into the Pounds to go jar!  No thank you, I don't want those pounds back!

So, here are some photos of what I've been eating this week:

My usual breakfast, 100g low fat natural yogurt, 40g low GL granola.  Including my cup of coffee, my breakfast calories normally come in at about 330 calories.  Now, I know this doesn't seem like a lot of food at breakfast time, and while it's not - because it is low GL granola, it releases the energy slowly throughout the morning, and so keeps me filled up til lunch!

I can't get enough of this salad at the moment - unfortunately for my American followers, it's a bought salad from a shop here in England - basically it has Hot Peppered Salmon, King Prawns, couscous (of course!), green lentils, chickpeas, peas, red pepper and a lemon vinaigrette dressing - all for 320 calories!  I'd thought of trying to figure out how to make it myself, but fish is ridiculously expensive here (we're an island - go figure?!), so I actually think it's cheaper for me to buy the ready prepared version!  This was my lunch on Monday :-)

This Spicy Cod recipe I featured recently - again it's served with couscous and is incredibly yummy, not to mention a very quick meal to make.  452 calories.

Do not adjust your monitor, this sorbet really is this bright!  This is raspberry sorbet and it's a fabulous way of getting in a little indulgence that doesn't hurt too badly!  This serving was 105 calories.

Now I'm normally a 1300-1600 calorie a day kinda girl and it just happened that on this particular Monday, I ended up being a 1200 calorie girl!  Personally, I think 1200 is a bit too low most of the time, but that Cod and couscous is really filling, so I didn't feel like having much afterwards.  I ended up doing a workout DVD and then had the sorbet straight after.

So now a question for all of you!  What does a typical food day look like for you?  Are you adventurous with food or a creature of habit?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Catch up Sunday

It's been another busy weekend!  We had my son's 12th birthday party yesterday (a bowling party), and I was SO exhausted when I got home yesterday.  You'd think I would have slept like a baby, but sadly no.  I drifted off only to wake up at 2:30am and just couldn't get back to sleep!  I ended up watching The Big Bang Theory (my latest craze - a bit late!) until about 5 and then managed to get a couple more hours.

The birthday boy
The party went well and my son had a good time with his friends.  The bowling place we went to provided a really good spread of food and we even had our own party hostess who did absolutely everything from taking the kids to get their shoes, putting the names in the computer to serving the food.  I thought it was really good value for money.  The food was incredibly hard to resist and I must admit I did have a handful of potato wedges.  After that I went to get a cappuccino, in the hope that the warm drink would suppress my desire to pick at the junk food!

A selection of the food for the boys - there was a mountain of potato wedges!
Today, it seems I wasn't the only one that was tired.  We headed into London to have lunch at my niece's new flat and on the journey there the kids fell asleep - I had a take a photo because they were both leaning exactly the same way!

I just got back from my 5k training session - today was Day One of Week 5.  The running intervals are getting longer now, today was a 5 minute warm up walk followed by 3 minutes run, 3 minutes walk, 5 minutes run, 5 minutes walk, 8 minutes run, cool down walk 5 minutes.  It was all OK and I'm actually finding that my breathing has come on leaps and bounds in the training.  In fact, I could probably run for longer distances with my breathing at the moment, but I'm actually finding that the thing stopping me from doing that is pain.  It's not horrible pain and it's not even the same pain each time!

At first it was my left knee, but now that seems to have gone.  Now, my calves really ache when I first start running - it does ease up and it never stops me from running.  I can only assume that it's just my body getting used to all the changes that regular running brings!  My training sessions are going to get much more difficult from here on out.  The next session involves a 12 minute run!!!  Flip!

Tomorrow is weigh in day for the Marathon Weight Loss challenge and as usual I am not expecting great things!  I've weighed myself a couple few times this week and can see that I've lost a pound and that's it.  Whether that pound remains after my niece's roast chicken today, well, we shall have to wait and see!  Fingers crossed!


Lastly, I decided that this summer would be a productive one for my kids and one of the first things we did last week was get library cards for them.  In addition, I decided to order them each a book from Amazon that they could read after they finish their library books.  For my daughter I bought 'Anne of Green Gables" - a book I've never actually read, but have heard lots of good things.  For my son, I bought "Where the Red Fern Grows" - a book I read in school when I was about his age and for which I have the fondest memories!  So much so, that I couldn't resist picking it up the other night and now I'm halfway through!  It's just as good, if not better, than I remember and reminds me of growing up way out in the country in Indiana.

So - my question to all of you - what was your favourite book(s) as a child and do you ever find yourself re-reading them as an adult?

Saturday, 14 July 2012

My very first guest post!

A bit slow on the uptake today - just got back from a birthday party for my son - forgot how exhausting that is!  I will sleep well tonight!  More on that later, for now please check out my very first guest post over on Divya's blog Eat Teach Blog.  I really want to thank Divya for the opportunity to share my journey with her readers and of course I hope all of you enjoy what I've written too!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A soaking wet run and a cracking new recipe

This evening tested my resolve to get fit.  It was raining - quite heavily - outside and I don't own a treadmill.  I've already waxed lyrical in a previous post about how I loathe the gym, so it was run outside or not run at all.  My husband had already been out for a run on the field opposite our house and I reckoned if he could run on that (which would have been like a swamp), I can get out and do my usual circuit on the sidewalk.

Tonight I decided to bite the bullet and start my 5k programme straight from the door - that's a 5 minute warm up walk, followed by 2 x run 2 minutes, walk 2 minutes, run 5 minutes, walk 2.5 minutes.  I knew that this would mean that I would hit "the hill" running.  I've been avoiding this like the plague - it's not a steep hill, but it's a steady incline of about 1/3 mile.  Because I knew I would have to run continuously for five minutes in this programme, I avoided starting my official time until after I walked up the hill!  Tonight I thought "sod it!" and decided to tackle the beast head on.  And, as usual, I needn't have worked myself up about it.  It wasn't easy, I was sweating quite a bit when I got to the top and cursing every additional minute of running after I reached the top, but I'm glad I did it.

Can you see how soaked I am?!  Thankfully no panda eyes this time!

I did take my rainmac with me, but at the top of the hill it was tied around my waist because it was making me far too hot.  Needless to say, I did get absolutely soaked!  I seriously need to invest in some proper running gear, because running in a cotton t-shirt in the rain is not the best idea!  When I got home I noticed not only was my t-shirt soaked, but my bra too!!!  So, it's another session ticked off my 5k training and I think when we can get ourselves out and exercising even in not ideal conditions, it makes the victory taste even sweeter :-).

So, tonight I tried a fab new recipe, which I want to share with all of you.  I am really adventurous with food - I love to try new things, but I am limited in what I can cook at home because my husband is a stick in the mud with food, as is his father who lives with us.  However, everyone in the house likes lamb, so when I saw this recipe I thought surely I'm onto a winner!  It's from Annabel Karmel - a lady who specialises in recipes, food and nutrition for families with young children. I've always found her recipes to be very yummy and my kids love them, so that's even better!  These lamb koftas are basically little lamb burgers served in pitta pockets with salad and greek yogurt.  The lamb burgers are about 132 calories each and my pitta bread was 161 calories - but I know these can vary quite a bit.  One large pitta bread with two lamb burgers, a dollop of greek yogurt and loads of salad was enough to fill me up tonight.

         Lamb Koftas

2 onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
500g ground/minced lamb
80g fresh breadcrumbs (breadcrumbs don't weigh much, this was equivalent to about 1 cup)
2 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro)
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp mild curry powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 lightly beaten egg
1 beef stock cube, crumbled
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper

vegetable oil for frying

7 pitta bread pockets
salad with tomato, cucumber and lettuce
a pot of greek yogurt


Saute one of the onions in the olive oil until softened.  Mix together the sauteed onion, raw onion, minced lamb and all of the remaining ingredients (aside from the pitta bread, salad and yogurt, of course).  Transfer to a food processor and chop for a few seconds (I didn't do this because I only have a spice-grinder).

Form the mixture into 14 koftas (small burger shapes) and saute until golden and cooked through.  Drain on a bit of paper towel to soak up any excess oil before serving in the split pitta pocket with salad and greek yogurt - enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A swift kick up the arse!

I am now into week four of the Marathon Weight Loss challenge and I'm incredibly frustrated with my weight loss.  The first week I lost nothing, the second week I lost four pounds and this week again I lost nothing.  There are just over 9 weeks left to go and I know that there's no way I'm going to hit the magic 26.2 pounds in that time.

Last week was a bit of a washout what with 2 parties and my son's birthday cake to contend with - to be honest I am relieved that I didn't gain any weight.  But again, this week has been difficult with exercise because my husband and I were out on Monday night, Tuesday night I had drama group here at my house (so again, no exercise).  I have no excuse tonight, so I will be doing the Jillian Michaels DVD, and thank goodness for it because at least I can see some calories coming off on My Fitness Pal!

I think sometimes it is so easy to get stuck in a rut.  Life gets in the way and it almost feels like we are treading water where weight loss is concerned.  Part of my choosing to take part in the Marathon Weight Loss challenge was extra motivation - so to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening.  But what it really comes down to is that I need a swift kick up the arse!  I need to make time to exercise, instead of all these excuses.  The fact is that I could go out for a walk in my lunch hour, if I were really serious I could wake up 40 minutes early and do my DVD workout then!  I would still need to fit in my 5k training, but that is three times per week (32 minutes each time) and if I'm struggling to fit that in - well - I need to re-evaluate my priorities!

It's a tricky situation because whilst I am still utterly determined to lose the weight and ultimately I know I will succeed - it's purely the length of time it takes to get there that is frustrating!  I can't ever see myself going back to the way I was before.  I know I have implemented positive lifestyle changes and that's all for the good.  But, I guess with a week and a bit of falling out of routine, it's just shaken me a bit and it becomes easier to make excuses for not exercising!

If I really put my mind to it and aim to lose 2 pounds per week to see the Challenge out, I would have lost 22 pounds by mid-September - which would mean that I would only be 11 pounds off my goal weight.  I need to keep reminding myself that victory is SO close!  But I need to stay focused to reach that goal!  One of the ways I thought I can do this, is my implementing one of Jess at Run with Jess's suggestions for seeing weight loss.  It's one thing to look in the mirror each day and to notice physical changes, but this clever jar idea with glass pebbles is fab!  Each pound you lose you move from the jar "Pounds to go" to "Pounds Lost" and slowly you'll see the balance tip!

The plan is to put this somewhere prominent where I will notice it every day.  I also want to take more photos of my journey.  I think it is important to record every 10 pounds or so and that way, sometimes if you hit a bit of a rut (like I have now), you can look back through the photos and remind yourself how far you've come!

So - no more excuses!  I'm off to change into my workout gear and exercise!

By the way - I have done my first ever guest blog at Eat Teach Blog which will be featured later this week (Saturday 14th July), watch this space for a link to the entry :-)

Sunday, 8 July 2012

No gym membership required!

I started Week 4 of my C25k training programme today.  As per usual, I was super nervous just before I started!  Seriously - has anyone ever heard of someone getting nervous before running?  I don't know what's wrong with me!  I suppose I'm just frightened of failing - which is understandable.  But, I needn't have been nervous because the intervals went fine.

This week consists of the usual 5 minute warm up walk, followed by 2 mins running, walk 2 mins, run 5 mins, walk 2:30 - repeated twice, then a cool down walk.  It was purely the "Run 5:00" that scared me!  It was fine - the first 2 minutes of running are always the hardest for me - usually because my route starts uphill.  Once I've got that out of the way the rest of it is fine.  For some strange reason I got it stuck in my head that the intervals were repeated three times, so on my way back home I was expecting to hear "run" in my ear and instead heard "cool down walk" - I must admit I was a bit disappointed! ha!

And these are my stats - still hovering around 4mph average - but this includes my walking intervals too.  I'm not concerned with speed at this stage - I'm purely interested in building up my running distance and then I'll work on speed.

So, when I started today's training session, it occurred to me looking at the path ahead of me that this was effectively my"gym".  Most of the 143 miles I have run and walked this year (by the way, my daily mile gadget doesn't include all my mileage!) have been on this path.  So, most of the weight I have lost has been burned off either walking or running this circuit.  And the wonderfully, blissful thought that crops into my mind now is that it hasn't cost me a penny - only my time!

"My gym" - and the hill at the start of my running circuit!
Whilst I would never discourage anyone interested in getting fit from joining a gym and pursuing their fitness goals there, I will forever more avoid the place like the plague.  But instead of writing about all the things I hate about the gym, I will write about the reasons why I love to exercise outside of the gym!

  1. As already mentioned - it's FREE!  Yep, I hate spending money to sweat!  Even more, I hate spending money to watch other people sweat!  For me, fitness is a personal thing - I want to do it in my own time, with my own initiative, my own way and I don't want to do it in an aquarium.  Many of the gyms I've been to in the past have huge mirrors so you can watch yourself wobbling in every conceivable direction, and huge windows so that passers by can mock the wobbling!  And - I paid for the privilege!  No thanks!
  2. I love nature!  Thus the name of this blog.  If I can burn 400 calories outside, breathing in fresh, clean air and taking in the stunning views of countryside, it can't get any better than that!  More than that, give me a mountain to climb and I'm in my element!  Nothing compares to reaching a summit and the amazing views at the top.  I would take that experience over sweating on the treadmill any day of the week!
  3. It's unnecessary!  I can walk, I can run, I have weights here at my house along with a selection of very reasonably priced fitness DVD's (The 30 Day Shred, for example, cost me all of £5).  For an aerobics class at my local gym it costs £6 and that's for an "hour" - but the instructor easily spends the first 15 minutes of the session talking about fitness injuries, etc (which no-one in the class has!).  When I do a DVD at home - I know I'm going to get a solid workout and I don't have to wait around for 15 minutes before I start.
  4. "What about the weather?"  I hear you ask.  Trust me, this is a major consideration - especially living in England (it's been raining virtually ALL summer!).  However, what I have found, especially recently, is that if you want to train - you will find a way to train!  If the weather is not bad, I simply take my rainmac or get wet!  If it's absolutely diabolical outside, I simply pull out a Jillian Michaels DVD.
  5. It's Personal.  I'm not discouraging anyone here from having a fitness or exercise buddy.  I quite often go walking with a friend.  But I also know that the major way I am going to measure improvement in my fitness is through ME.  In a gym environment I'm constantly reminded of comparing myself against OTHERS, and I really don't think this is how we should progress.  It all goes back to the glass bowl scenario.  I want to feel free to wobble and jiggle in private, and to rejoice when I don't wobble and jiggle so much!  I used to find it so discouraging going to the gym in the baggiest clothes I could get my hands on and literally be on the stepper next to some tiny, young thing in spandex.  We should feel encouraged in this journey because every day we are making great strides to fitness!  
So, that's it - my encouragement to anyone who, for whatever reason, refuses to join a gym!  I may be a work in progress at the moment - but every ounce I have lost has been through my own blood, sweat, and tears at home or on the road/path/mountainside!  Long may it continue until I reach my goal and beyond!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Stop by Saturday...

My fellow blogger, Melinda @ Does this scale make me look fat has had a fab idea for sharing both blogs and recipes!  Basically, she has asked a question on her blog and invited her readers (and fellow bloggers) to answer that question on their blogs.  So, today's question is: What food or recipe are you loving right now?

Well, without doubt, the food I am eating copious amounts of (and thankfully, requires no cooking or recipes of any kind!) is STRAWBERRIES!  Oh Dear Lord, do I L-O-V-E them!  English strawberries in June and July are, well, in my humble opinion, as near to heaven as it's possible to get!  I never thought I could enjoy a food that is good for you so much!  I have already mentioned that we had a party earlier this week and I stopped by the local farm shop for some olives (OMG - another fabulous food that I love!) and noticed this beautiful basket beckoning me!

And yes - they did taste as delicious as they look!  The wonderful thing about strawberries (and all berries actually) is that they are low in calories and high in vitamin C (one cup of strawberries has 46 calories!).  So not only are they a low fat snack - they're also super good for you!

Not wishing to cop out of actually contributing a recipe, the other food that I've been mental, mental for lately is Couscous!  We went to a BBQ a couple of weeks ago at a friend's house and she made the most delicious couscous with raisins, cranberries, blueberries and chickpeas - it was amazing!  Since then, I've been seeking it out for my lunchtime salads - I can't get enough of the stuff!  So, here's a Jamie Oliver recipe, taken from his fantastic 20 Minute Meals app on iPhone (if you don't already have this - get it!  It's great for working moms looking for a quick after work dinner for the whole family!).

Spicy Cod with Lemon Courgette Couscous

(Serves 4)
4 garlic cloves
1 small bunch fresh coriander
1 fresh red chilli
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 medium courgettes
1 medium red onion
4 x 150g skinless fresh white fish fillets (such as cod or haddock)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Get a frying pan on a medium heat.  Peel and finely slice your garlic (I just put it through the mincer).  Finely chop the coriander stalks and reserve the leaves for later.  Finely chop the chilli.
Add a splash of olive oil to the hot pan along with half of the garlic, all of the chopped chilli and coriander stalks.  Fry for a couple of minutes, tossing occasionally, until the garlic is golden brown.
At this point, add the tinned tomatoes.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, then simmer gently on a medium heat for 5 minutes.
While the sauce is thickening, roughly chop your courgette and slice your onion into wedges.  Add your fish fillets to the pan and cover with a lid, simmer for 10 minutes until hot and cooked through.
Heat a splash of olive oil in another frying pan and add the rest of the garlic, the courgettes, and onion with the cumin and pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss around and allow to soften.  Put to one side.
Put your kettle onto boil.
Tip your couscous into a bowl and pour over 200ml of boiling water. Cover with cling film and leave for 4 minutes, then mix in your fried veg and recover with cling film.
Check your fish is cooked through, then take off the heat and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper.
Grate the zest of half the lemon and put to one side.  Cut the lemon in half.  Remove the clong film from the couscous, squeeze in a good bit of lemon juice and fluff up with a fork.
To serve, out a big spoonful of couscous on each plate.  Spoon over the sauce with the fish fillets in it - it doesn't matter if they break up a little.  If the sauce is too thin, then reduce it on a high heat for a couple of minutes.
Sprinkle over the lemon zest and add a good pinch of salt and pepper and the coriander leaves. 

You get a lot of food here - I would go so far as to say there is too much couscous (am I complaining that I've been given too much food?!).  But, even given the amount of couscous, this dish works out at 452 calories per serving - which is not bad at all for a full main meal!

So, I hope you all enjoyed Stop by Saturday!  And thanks Melinda for a fantastic post idea!

Friday, 6 July 2012

A New Look...

If you've visited my blog before, you'll notice things have changed a bit!  I've been trying to design a logo that goes with the title and something that reminds me of walking in the woods.  It's been quite tricky, but the logo that is up now is very nearly there!  I hope everyone likes the new look, and most importantly finds the blog easy to read and to navigate - any comments or criticisms please message me - I would love to hear from you on how to make things better :-)

So, my week of freedom is nearly at an end.  My kids return from camp tomorrow evening (and my washing machine will doubtlessly be employed non-stop for a considerable length of time after!).  I've missed the kids a lot this year and can't wait to give them both a big cuddle!  Plus it's my son's 12th birthday tomorrow, so we will have a bit of a family party tomorrow night.  Though, if the past two days have been anything to go by, partying is not something I need at the moment!

On Thursday, I invited some of the other parents who've had their kids at school camp around for a sort of "free parents" party!  The evening was a great success, but I did far too much food (as usual), though thankfully I didn't eat copious amounts of it (there are, however, copious amounts of leftovers in my fridge!).  Tonight I was invited to a friend's BBQ and had every intention of leaving early, coming home and doing my third 5k training session.  However, it is now 11pm and I've been home for a grand total of about ten minutes - the running will have to wait until tomorrow.

Again, I was relatively well behaved with food tonight - I had a burger, but no cheese and no bun, plus about 1/2 a cup of Boston baked beans (haven't had these in years, and oh, my, goodness they are yummier than I remember!).  I did have a half a glass of wine and might have had a slice of cherry pie.  I seriously must get back into a routine tomorrow though.  This makes three full days without exercise and I'm definitely feeling guilty, not to mention worried!  If I'm taking this Marathon Weight Loss Challenge seriously, then I really need to take the bull by the horns now.

I can imagine this week has been a bit of a struggle for a lot of my American friends too - what with the 4th of July celebrations.  This BBQ I went to tonight was hosted by an American friend of mine - a very strange occurrence to have a 4th of July party in Britain (I wonder why the Brits don't like it? hee hee!), but it was nice to get together and to have some good American home cookin!  Plus, afterwards we all played Apples to Apples - easily one of my favourite games as it's just SO funny!

Well, I better sign off now and just say that tomorrow is another day.  Hopefully if I can squeeze in three days worth of exercise tomorrow all is not lost? :-)

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Free as a bird (and bored stiff!)

My hectic week came to an end early this morning as my husband and I dropped off our kids for their week of school camp.  This means that we are now free agents until next Saturday.  It's a rather weird feeling and not one with which I am entirely comfortable.

I'm a control freak.  I'm badly organised at it, but still it is inbuilt.  I'm not coping well with my kids growing up.  My son will be 12 next Saturday and my daughter is 10.  When I was 10 I was already staying home by myself for short periods, I was very mature for my age.  But, I worry that my kids aren't ready for that kind of independence yet (and by law in the UK, they are not allowed to stay home by themselves until the age of 14).  But even small things like going to the shop around the corner (quite literally RIGHT around the corner from our house!), I worry about them!  There comes a time when a mother needs to let go and let the children grow up - and well, this week is sort of my time.

Many parents would be reading this thinking "Are you crazy?!  You've got a week alone without kids to worry about - you should be celebrating!".  And while it is nice to just worry about yourself for a time, after a while you really miss the silly things they do and just them being around!  So, that's my emotional rant out of the way!  As the title suggests, I've spent A LOT of time on the internet today!  No kids around does something strange to a person - suddenly you realise that you can do precisely anything that you would like to do - and you can't think of anything to do except sit and go on the computer!

Still, today was not a total loss.  I took my husband and my father in law out for a carvery lunch today.  It was very indulgent and delicious and wonderful, I must say, to have a roast dinner on a Sunday that was not prepared by me!  I came home and fiddled around on the Mac for a while.  I've been looking for a decent graphics program for general photo editing as well as something that would enable me to design a snazzy logo for the blog.  I downloaded a couple of free applications and proceeded to mess around with those for hours, not really achieving anything in particular.

I did my first training session of the 5k programme week three at 4 o'clock.  I was reallllly nervous about doing that one.  This week's programme consists of:

This was the first time I would be running for three minutes in the programme.  It was SO windy outside and Murphy's Law states that when running, of course it will always be a head wind and it was!  I just took the pace verrrrryyy slow and kept going.  Thankfully it seemed most of my running intervals were either on level ground or downhill, which was useful given the headwind.  Here are my stats:

I won't say that I found it easy, but I'm pleased that I managed to complete it without walking during the runs.

On Thursday night and Friday night I took to running at the field opposite my house.  The local boy's football team (soccer team, we call it football here in England!) train there, but it is quite a large area, so I just run/walk around the perimeter.  I could not believe how much harder it is running on a grassy field!  It is easily 10 times harder than running on asphalt!  I might mix up my training a bit and do a bit of my running on the field and a bit on the road (sidewalk - of course!).

Well, I'm off to Pinterest to find a good chocolate cake recipe for my son's birthday.  I was very proud of him this week - his school was competing in the Independent School Association's Festival of Sport this week and on Friday the boys competed in the basketball tournament.  Basketball is only really getting started over here, which may seem strange to my American friends.  I grew up in Indiana, so basketball is in my blood!  Anyway - his team won the gold medal!  I'm so proud of my boy!  He may have been born in England, but he's a true Hoosier :-) and he's very proud of his achievement (and shiny gold medal!).

PS - I did a sneaky cheeky weigh in this morning and I've lost four pounds this week!  Not quite sure how I pulled that one off, but will just say thank you very much!