Thursday, December 20, 2007

Radio silence warning

Just a quick post to say that we're going to the in-laws' for Christmas, and I don't expect I'll be posting while I'm away (though you never know). I also have an end-of-module assignment for my course to write when I come back, so I definitely shouldn't be posting then...

A rundown:

J has put lots of pictures of our piggies up at this Flickr site. Cuteness abounds: comments welcome!


I have a rather anti-social cold/sore throat/cough. I am really disgusting. I feel my in-laws will recoil from me muttering "unclean!". Of course they're far too nice to do this really; also, their boy has it too.

Although I cycled about six miles (on two occasions twelve) every day from Wednesday until Monday, I managed to gain three pounds from somewhere. (And the body fat monitor on the scales doesn't think it's muscle). However, since I got the cold, I have not felt much like eating, and am hoping that they will be gone next time I weigh myself.

No, I haven't given up food altogether, but my throat is sore enough to rebel at the thought of eating anything vaguely cornery, acidic, or strongly flavoured. Which cuts out quite a lot of my normal diet. If only rice pudding was a health food, I'd be fine...

However, all my Christmas presents are wrapped.

And I'm going to have a hot bath to soothe my aches.

Happy Christmas, people!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The cycling and chocolate regimen

I have lost four pounds (I won't say "this week" because I forgot to weigh myself on Monday, and quite probably it would only be one or two since then). This is good. The current number is 182 (35% bf).

It's something of a surprise since I rather thought this had been an unhealthy week - they have chocolate biscuits at work, and I've been eating them. On the other hand, there's the cycling, and three flights of stairs to climb to get to my office - but would you have thought that was enough to make a difference? I only work three days a week.

I didn't get to bike in on Wednesday, indeed, because it was so windy that J was worried I'd be blown under a lorry. The wind is the main disadvantage on my route - the traffic isn't actually too bad, especially in the morning. Oh, and the Big Hill. That's fairly disadvantageous. It takes me about ten minutes longer to cycle up it than to go down it.

The weather's been fairly kind to me so far, but it doesn't really matter if I get wet. I wear aged tracksuit trousers and a T-shirt under my obnoxious fluorescent jacket, and then execute a quick change in the ladies' once I get to work. It's a slight pain, but probably better than getting one's respectable clothes damp/sweaty.

I never used to worry about that when I was at college. Almost everybody biked everywhere and we never gave a thought to whether we smelled sweaty in tutorials. Maybe everyone does, and they just don't notice because they're used to it...

I am about to head out into the dark to do some Christmas shopping (yeah, it's 3pm and the sun doesn't appear to have risen today). Meanwhile, here is a picture of Pumpkin sitting on my sister. Because it wouldn't do to have a post with no guinea pig content, would it?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The new job

In answer to your questions: everything seems to be going OK so far. Yes, I can see out of a window with a beautiful view over Edinburgh and down to the sea. My chair is all right, though it has no arms. I keep trying to rest my elbows on thin air.

I used to work in this place a few years ago, so I know many of the names already, and the staff fridge is near-empty, so plenty of room for my cottage cheese. Nobody but me seems to drink coffee, but I have supplied myself with some of my preferred brand (and some herbal tea). One of my favourite coffee shops is also just over the road. Other comments (about guinea pigs etc) have been responded to below!

The job is in the records field. I'm not going to tell you where it is, except that it is about 30 minutes by bike from my house, all uphill. Despite this, I have now cycled in twice, and intend to keep at it - it wakes me up a bit (I'm not at all a morning person) and it's a lot less frustrating than waiting for a bus. I'm really good at just missing buses.

The great advantage of it being uphill on the way out, of course, is that it's downhill all the way back. And I hope once I get my new whizzy bike, I'll be able to get up the hill a bit quicker.

I'm currently riding a purple hybrid mountain bike which I've had since I was thirteen. Yes, fifteen years. It carried me well through several years of university, but Oxford was a lot flatter than Edinburgh, and I'm beginning to feel the weight of the chunky steel frame and the limitations of the gears (five) as I toil up that hill. The road bike I have my eye on is nice and light and has 21 gears. I will try to find my old faithful a new home, though.

I haven't yet joined the gym, partly because I haven't got my staff card yet (which I'd need) and partly because... am I really going to have the stamina to cycle AND gym? Theoretically, of course, I could go to the gym on any of the four days out of seven that I'm not at work. But would I? I'm not exactly overburdened with spare time at the moment. I think I'll give it a week of biking and see how it goes. I'm pretty tired at the moment, but that happened last time I started working after a break, too, so it may pass.

But now, the news I'm sure you've been aching to hear: the guinea pigs have names!
On the left, Pumpkin; Cupcake in the middle; then Brownie. I suppose we really ought to have called Pumpkin "Gingerbread" or something. Excuse the fuzzy picture: it was taken on J's phone!

I did probably iron that top at some point, too.

The guinea pigs are already making their personalities felt. Pumpkin is the cheekiest (and obsessed with burrowing under and into things. Such as the gap between one's body and arm, which isn't always convenient.) Cupcake is the most docile with us - she'd let herself be picked up straightaway without running away, which the others didn't. She's also fallen asleep on someone at least once so far. However, she's quite assertive with the others. Brownie isn't bossy - she does definitely still have the loudest squeak, though!

They all like carrots, cabbage, hay, and running around like mad things.

At the moment, Pumpkin weighs one pound three ounces, Cupcake one pound four, and Brownie one pound four and a half. Which is a lot less than me (186 still on Wednesday, but that was almost certainly hormone-influenced). I will update next Monday with the current number.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pulses and pigs

What are pulses? They're the seeds of plants from the legume family: so chiefly beans, lentils and peas. The ones in this picture are mung beans (the green ones) with whole grains of wheat and radish seeds, which I've been sprouting on kitchen paper to go in our salads.

Mum used to sprout seeds - chiefly lentils, I think - when I was little and I'd forgotten how much I like them - they have a sort of fresh earthy taste (that sounds really enticing... but I can't think of a better description). You can add them raw to salads in small quantities, or stir-fry them.

There's info here on what you can sprout and ways to do it, but I just put damp kitchen-roll on a plate, rinsed the seeds and spread them out, put it inside a clear polythene bag near a window. I removed the bag once the sprouts had got going (about three days) and that seemed to work well. Apparently if you want your mung beans to turn into Chinese-style beansprouts you need to put a ripening banana in with them! I think that's the oddest gardening tip I've ever heard...

Sprouts, however, are small beer. This week's big news: we have guinea pigs!

Pleased but not proud

J finished building the Piggy Palace last week, and we are now the proud owners of three female nine-week-old guinea pigs.

Three sisters

This is an awfully dark photo, but as you can see, we've got one smooth-coated white one with a beige nose, one dark brown crested one and one ginger crested one. I would tell you their names, but we've yet to make the final decision.

They are, however, exceptionally cute and already making their distinctive personalities felt. The white one is extremely docile and cuddly, the ginger one is a bit skittish and bouncy, and the brown one is also bouncy, but quite bold and whistles extremely loudly!

J's quite pleased with them.

J and the babies

I start my new job tomorrow. Wish me luck. I may need it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Who lives in a fridge like this?

OK, nobody actually lives in our fridge. Or I hope not.

There's a competition going on over at I Ate a Pie, and all the cool people, such as Dietgirl, are entering. So I have leapt on the bandwagon.

We inherited the fridge from the previous owners of our house. As we didn't own any appliances, we thought this was pretty handy, and rather generous. Then when we painted the kitchen, we pulled it out of the very tight space it was in... to reveal a gaping hole in the plasterboard wall. I think we might maybe fix that properly before we come to sell the house.

We have just gone to the shops today - specifically, Lidl - which is why the fridge is so full. It does not actually lean to the right, however full it is. (If you really want, you can click on the pictures for big versions.)

Top shelf: lots and lots of lovely protein. To the left, we have some eggs and four big tubs of Linessa (Lidl own brand) low-fat fromage frais, which the husband eats for breakfast in industrial quantities. It's very nice, but I hardly eat it for some reason (maybe because it's probably quite sugary). Two pots of Hartley's fruit jelly, which is mine - they're only around 70cal each, and satisfy my sweet tooth. Five tubs of Linessa cottage cheese, which I tend to eat on its own for lunch - one tub is about the right quantity. A collection of live yoghurts (plain for me, vanilla for J) which also get eaten at breakfast. And orange juice, which is J's.

(As a semi-professional eco-worrier, I stress quite a bit over the number of empty plastic pots this small household generates. We recycle almost everything, but we haven't found anywhere that will take yoghurt/cottage cheese/fromage frais pots, and so they make up most of what we throw out. Any ideas? I've tried planting seedlings in them, but I don't need THAT many flowerpots.)

Middle shelf: Flora Light margarine, with mushrooms on top in the blue plastic thing. Bread (wholemeal sliced loaf), cherry tomatoes, and cheese (mild cheddar). It's just normal full-fat cheese. I have decided that we don't eat enough of it to make it worth getting the low-fat stuff. Next to those are some leeks, and the end of a loaf of multigrain bread baked at home from a bag of mix. It's got wholegrain wheatflour, rye flour, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds (and I added some more flaxseeds myself) and makes delicious bread without much trouble. Only trouble is, I've been trying to eat less bread... well, the slices are smaller than normal bread... There's also a bowl with the remains of some homemade vegetable soup. I keep leftover broccoli stalks and odds and ends of vegetables in the freezer and make some every so often.

Under that, we have a bag of potatoes, a giant sweet potato (yum!), some broccoli and the box in which J keeps his sandwich ham.

The crispers are stuffed to the gunwales with vegetables, because we eat a lot of those. I've noticed lately that I can't really be bothered eating apples (and so forth) - I'd rather get my daily dose from vegetables than fruit, unless it's fruit I really like. But all the fruits I really like are either expensive and unseasonal (berries, nectarines), or a bother (pineapple, pomegranates). So veg it is. We do buy fruit but J eats almost all of it.

The left-hand drawer usually has salad and the right has things you cook, but this depends what we can cram in. There's definitely Cos lettuce, spring onions (J's latest enthusiasm), celery, various-coloured peppers, cucumber and more cherry tomatoes on the left. And a courgette. On the right, carrots, red onions, a cauliflower, and a cabbage (and there are more onions further back, and half an aubergine).

The door! This is the repository for all sorts of strange things that I never normally look at. So we've got lemon juice, tomato purée, mango chutney (Marks and Spencer's, no less), two kinds of mustard, light mayonnaise, pickled onions, low-sugar apricot jam, sweetcorn relish, rasperry jam, two bottles of wine, mineral water, pineapple juice, and skimmed milk. I don't think I've personally used any of it but the milk and the mayonnaise, and maybe the mustard. And some parmesan cheese you can't see. The fizzy wine's been there quite a while, waiting on a sufficiently special occasion - I think it wins the prize for what's been there longest. We have a fairly regular turnover of stuff, and since there's just two of us, we don't tend to cook in quantities that leave leftovers.

Oh. There's also half a block of butter and some cream cheese for making cream cheese icing. I bought those, because I do the baking around here. I also (let's be honest) eat it. But it's like the cheese: you pick what you're going to be super-healthy about. As you can see, the baking-related items are practically the only "unhealthy" things. I don't bake very often - it's a treat thing - and so far, I have not got experimental enough to try some of the tricks for making healthier cakes, such as substituting apple purée for the butter. Maybe that's something to try in future.

It surprises me how often J and I don't eat the same things. Not so strange, given that I'm vegetarian and he isn't. But apart from the vegetables, almost everything in here belongs to one of us specifically. J never eats my jelly or cottage cheese; I never drink his juice or eat his pickles. Maybe all couples are like this.

Although we do keep some things (tins, dry foods) in a cupboard, I did not edit the fridge in any way. J has some beer, but being English he keeps it at room temperature. In the downstairs loo. Yes, I think that's a bit odd too, but he claims it's the perfect temperature and they're safe from being knocked over...

And that's the end of the tour!

Friday, November 16, 2007

8 random things

I have been tagged for a meme by Loth! (Why are you called Loth, by the way? Is it short for something?)

Don't think I've actually ever been tagged by anyone before, although I have answered many "I'm not going to tag anyone but if anybody wants to do it..." memes. I have done this one before on LJ, but I shall try to come up with a different eight.

1. I am very good at wiggling my ears. I can also make rhythmic clicking noises with them at will. This is a medical mystery, but definitely has something to do with childhood ear infections.

2. I am simultaneously very low-maintenance and quite vain. I can never be bothered with any beauty routines that go beyond keeping clean and presentable, hardly ever wear makeup, and spend most of my life in jeans and T-shirts. Yet I have a great many clothes and shoes and quite a lot of makeup, and am rather prone to thinking that I have to own certain items in case I ever need them. And I spend far too much time angsting over my ten grey hairs, even though it's highly unlikely that I would dye them.

3. It's possible that I read too much Victorian literature in my youth, actually, because I have this deep-down feeling that my skin "ought" to be good enough not to need any makeup (and my hair ought to look nice in its natural state, too). I only ever apply this thinking to myself, though. I suppose that I want to look good, but I want people to think it's effortless. In fact, I want it to BE effortless (see above).

4. I am very, very squeamish. I rather despise this tendency, but there's not a thing I can do about it. If someone starts talking about something vaguely surgical, I actually feel sick and weak in the legs and need to sit down. The last time this happened was last week, reading an article in the paper about new ways to treat varicose veins. It wasn't even that graphic.

5. I have a ridiculously good long-term memory, and a terrible short-term one. I will forget a phone number between page and phone, but remember everything anyone ever said to me. ("Your bum looks like it's made of wobbly jelly" - 1992.) I remember the good stuff, too, though, and a lot from my early childhood - the time when I was five, for example, and we were on holiday in Ibiza. It was my first foreign holiday, and one night Mum and Dad took L and me out to a café AFTER DARK, and we had strawberries and whipped cream with sparklers stuck in them, and "cold chocolate" (which I suppose was just chocolate milk, but I remember it as being delicious).

6. I used to seriously dislike my name when I was little. It's not that uncommon in Scotland, but there are a lot of variants which are equally common, and often teachers (and so forth) wouldn't remember it quite right. Which was annoying. These days I don't mind it at all... but then people usually get it right.

7. I am only good at cooking if I'm not hungry, or if someone else has to eat it too. If it's just me, convenience and nutrition will win out over deliciousness every time. (Lunch today was plain cottage cheese and a big handful of sprouted pulses.) On the other hand, I enjoy baking, but then I don't do that when I'm hungry, and no meals rest on the outcome.

8. I always have warm hands. J almost always has very cold hands that need warming up. A match made in heaven.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Waiting for things to start

My new job starts in two weeks exactly (yes, on a Tuesday). I have a feeling rather like being on hold on the telephone: I'm waiting impatiently for something to happen, and yet fear that when it does happen, I will be slightly startled by it because I'll have stopped paying attention and gone off into a dream...

As regards the feet: again, waiting. I can't "go get" the orthotic inserts because (according to my brother, who is a medical student) it will probably be a few months before I have an appointment to get my feet looked at. Everyone is supposed to be "dealt with" within 18 weeks on the NHS, but apparently that might just mean that I get a letter telling me when the appointment is. (As you can tell, I've never had to see a specialist about anything, or not for the past 15 years or so, so this comes as a surprise. It really shouldn't, considering what J's experiences have been.)

I'm not terribly impressed, but since I've been failing to notice there was a problem for the past 28 years... I suppose it's not that big a deal.

Question, though: will the orthotics affect the way my shoes fit? And if so, do I wait to buy new winter boots* until after I get them, or will there be no winter left to wear them in by then?

My brother says his orthotics don't affect the fit of his shoes at all; my sister says hers do.

In other non-feet news: yesterday, the scales said 185 (+1 since last week). Grump. However, this was a week which involved going out for an evening meal twice and to the pub once, so grumping is entirely unmerited. Also, J and my sister said, independently, that I was looking "skinny", and my sister thought I was thinner than at the wedding.

That isn't true, by about five pounds, but it demonstrates nicely how subjective body-image is. Because I was feeling distinctly lumpy all weekend (although one pound's fluctuation isn't likely to affect the degree of lumpiness to any visible extent) and then, after she said that, I felt perfectly fine.

Back in the summer, I decided that I wanted to make my bike my major means of transport. And then, when I'd proved I would get value out of it, buy a new one. But I didn't really go anywhere much in August or the early part of September... so I didn't ride the existing bike much. I'm doing better on this now: I've ridden it into town quite a few times and over to my parents' house a couple of times, which is about six miles each way. It's not a massive distance, but does include a fairly big hill on the way out. Which is good, because you get to coast for the last part on the way back. It doesn't actually seem that far any more.

As for NaNo... the less said, the better. I either have plenty of time, or I really, really don't. I don't think I'll be a winner this year, somehow.

*I like these ones, but they're... quite a financial commitment. So if I get them, they had better fit properly!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Mundane ailments

This is just a quickie, as I'm very busy this week... and also doing NaNoWriMo.

I've been having some trouble with my feet lately. The residual pain from the toe-stubbing incident is now gone, but it took about two months to disappear completely, and in the meantime I've been walking rather than running, and finding that my feet really hurt after a longish walk - more than I would expect them to, and it still seems to happen no matter how sensible and supportive my shoes. And they also hurt when I get out of bed in the morning: it feels as though all the bones have decompressed overnight, and it hurts to compress them again!

None of which is great news for exercising, especially as I really want to get back into running now. A few days ago, I idly looked around on Wikipedia and came to the conclusion that I might have flat feet. It probably would have taken me ages to get around to going to the doctor, except that I managed to do something weird to my big toe. I thought it was probably just a muscle strain, but it was so painful it actually kept me awake on Wednesday night, so I thought I might as well get it looked at and ask about my feet in general.

Conclusion: yup, muscular strain, take ibuprofen and wait for it to get better - but I do have flat feet. So the doctor's referring me to get them looked at, and I'll probably get orthotics (surgery is possible, but unlikely). I'm also to get an orthopaedic check-up, since I'm hypermobile, which increases the likelihood of joint problems as a knock-on effect. Both my siblings have had these, but I've been lucky so far.

Actually, the flat-feet thing shouldn't have taken me this long to work out, because my brother's got them too, and my feet have always been slightly ache-prone, especially when I've been walking a lot. I can see that my arches are pretty low, and I've always had trouble with new trainers not being comfortable - it always feels as though the arch-support is too high. I tend to get blisters in the inner arch, too (and I get more blisters than the average person, anyway).

One sign is a tendency for your shoes to wear down more on the outer edge, and mine certainly do that!

I'm hoping that once I have the orthotics, I will no longer be held back in my running by my feet hurting. That's definitely been the case - they'd blister or hurt long before I was physically exhausted - and I'm kind of kicking myself that I just put it down to not being fit enough yet. Which I mostly did.

I was slightly afraid that the doctor was going to say "Well, your feet wouldn't hurt if you weren't overweight, so nyah." But of course he didn't (and, you know, my feet weren't this hurt-prone when I was heavier - it doesn't seem to be directly connected).

Talking of weight: still at 184 as of this Monday.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Hallowe'en!

Coming atcha!

I like making pumpkin lanterns :)
Fortunately, we do not have too many mini Mars bars left. Equally fortunately, we do have a few.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mud and sawdust

I didn't weigh myself last Monday because I was in the grip of the crimson tide and feeling extremely terrible, and also bloated, so I was pretty sure the scales weren't going to say anything useful. And the in-laws were here on a visit, and we went out to dinner and then they came to dinner twice, and I didn't take much exercise because of feeling terrible, and, you know, not in the mood. And then I made some mini lemon bundt cakes out of How to Be a Domestic Goddess, because we both needed cheering up (see below). Very low-GI, I'm sure. No, they didn't have ground flaxseed in them or any other healthy modifications (if anyone knows where you can get ground flaxseed that costs less than several times its weight in gold, could they let me know?) They were nice, though.

The previous number was 186, which was up a pound from the week before that (sigh), so I wasn't expecting anything very good today. However, the human body is a strange thing, because I am now at 184. I don't understand it either, but I'm not going to complain.

Why we needed cheering: I had a job interview on Tuesday which I felt went pretty disastrously, and that day we also found out that the baby guineapigs we were hoping to adopt had suddenly died. (Not the ones we babysit, in the photos below - they're fine, but they've gone home now.) The owner was all upset telling me about it, poor lady. Not a good day, Tuesday. Although I did go to lunch with my sister, who cheered me up.

However, I was called up today and I've been offered the job! So evidently my prediction skills are completely useless. Either that, or I am very lucky. I think I'm going to take the job. This is the one that comes with a staff discount on gym membership!

We are definitely still going to GET guineapigs, but we're probably going to go to a pet shop and buy some that are already born and passed as healthy, as that seems a less stressful way of doing it. J is currently engaged in making a hutch, so the place is slightly full of power tools and pieces of wood and heaps of sawdust, mixed with bits of dried mud off my boots because I spent the morning planting bulbs so the garden will look pretty in spring. I am not so good at gardening - or anything, really - where you don't see an instant result, but those bulbs have been sitting around for weeks and were on my conscience.

I am all caught up with my work, and in general, everything seems a lot more hopeful.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ask and you shall receive

I have very little to report in this entry. My weight is exactly the same as it was last week, which is causing me to grind my teeth slightly. I have been good and entered everything into SparkPeople (but still haven't checked out the other site). I didn't get that job, but I've got an interview for another one closer to home. That was exciting, wasn't it?

However, by popular demand, here are some piggy pictures.


Doing what they do best - eating.

And a bonus video - taken back in the summer.

Friday, October 12, 2007


I didn't think there was going to be much to report this week. I've kept up the SparkPeople tracking; doing pretty well, except for Wednesday when my father-in-law came to tea. But I had a light day on Thursday to compensate! This may be the first time I've actually achieved this. (Loth, I hadn't heard of, so thank you! I should have deduced that such a thing might be out there. Not that I've got around to checking it out yet, or anything... And thanks for the comments, everyone else. I like comments.)

Weigh-in will be on Monday, same as last time.

I also went for another job interview yesterday afternoon, which I was very nervous about, especially since I had to give a five-minute presentation as part of it. I don't think I've done any public speaking since my European Youth Parliament days (at least five years ago). But in the event, it went fine - in fact, I think it's one of the best interviews I've ever given. Whether or not I get the job, I know I gave it a really good shot. (They're supposed to let me know today.)

But when I got back from being interviewed, I was exhausted. Completely poleaxed. I fell asleep on the sofa, which I never do, and J had to wake me up to tell me to go to bed at about 10! Not like me.

Today didn't start too well: we were supposed to be going to Glasgow to hear the Decemberists, but one of the band members is ill, so the concert is cancelled. Just as we were feeling disappointed about this, we got a phonecall...

We're looking after Snowy and Snuggles again. As in, they're here now, for a week. Still cute, still furry. Just what we needed to cheer us up!

Before too long, we should have guinea pigs of our own: we are first on the list for two babies that were born exactly two weeks ago, but we still don't know what sex they are. We're happy with either boys or girls, but not one of each...

Now to get on with some work, which has been sadly neglected lately.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Further ups. Further downs.

Well, this has been a very full week, one way and another. Lots of academic work, job applications, and J had a bit of a crisis on Thursday (he'd held it off until I'd handed my work in...) There was talk of his going into hospital, and it was all rather frightening for a while.

I know that going into hospital might not necessarily be a terrible thing, if it actually did some good, but given that J generally only wants me when he's feeling down, the idea of him being somewhere else daunts me. Not that it would be a bad thing if he had more people to support him, but... it's not that there is nobody else offering support; it's just that I'm always his first choice.

However, it doesn't now look as though he will go into hospital (he's not a danger to himself, so if he did go, it would be voluntary). His therapy is being changed a bit, and the doctors are considering whether to try medication again.

I'm kind of hoping they decide not to, because this would be something like the fifteenth different antidepressant J's been on, and none of them has had any visible positive effect. (Negative effects have been present and correct.) However, J seems to think it might be a good idea, and it's his decision.

Things improved a good deal on Friday, and the weekend's been not too bad; we went for a long bike ride, played with the kittens, and saw a good deal of my family. And he seems OK today, if a little panicky. I now have another job application to do and a five-minute presentation to write on the importance of local-authority archives...

On the other hand, it's been a good week for weightloss.

On Monday (possibly because it was also the first of the month) I decided to sign up for a SparkPeople account and do some food tracking. I've tried to do the tracking before while keeping this blog, but although I have written things down, I never get around to looking up the nutritional info. I do tend to lose while I'm doing it, however. This week, my intention was just to document what I was eating, rather than try to change it particularly.

Once, in a time long ago before I had a blog, I used to have a FitDay account and track EVERYTHING. Rigorously. This came directly after a period of more or less no exercise and fairly poor eating habits, otherwise known as the beginning of my first postgraduate degree. At that point I was living on my own, and that made it fairly easy to weigh everything I ate and so forth. The snag was that I didn't have any scales, so couldn't tell either what my start weight was or whether I was losing any, and that also made estimating my recommended level of food intake a bit hit-and-miss. I still have no idea whether I actually lost any weight during this period or not. Photographic evidence suggests I might have lost a bit.

When I moved back home, I stopped tracking everything because I was no longer cooking for myself, so I didn't really know what I was eating and it became too much of a faff. FitDay was/is somewhat cumbersome to use, and entering all the foods took quite a lot of time.

I got the impression that SparkPeople was better; it's actually not that different in that respect, although I'm being less obsessive this time around (I'm prepared to choose an equivalent if the food I want isn't already entered, and I'm not weighing every carrot). I've been at it for a week, and so far have not missed any days, although Sunday - salad buffet lunch at Mum and Dad's - was probably a bit approximate.

Things I like about it: it gives you an upper and lower calorie limit, not just a target to hit; it allows you to save "food groupings" (such as cereal and milk: handy if, like me, you eat the same things repeatedly). This feature also comes in handy for saving recipes you make from scratch.

What I don't like is the same problem that I had with FitDay: it's very US-centric. Often I've had to be a bit creative to find what I was looking for in the food database. For example, "peppers" didn't bring up anything, and nor did "capsicums" (my next guess). But "bell peppers" does. And there's a lot - a LOT - of pre-prepared US items, but not many UK ones, although there are some.

I suspect this is what you get with a database into which users can enter their own items: someone's found it worthwhile to put in Flora Light (a margarine) and Hellman's Light Mayonnaise, but not UK-style baked beans, for instance. (It matters a bit. US tinned beans have a lot more sugar in them.)

What surprises me most, so far, is that for the first couple of days of tracking, I actually fell UNDER the recommended calorie level, and well under the recommended intake of fat, although my protein levels (which I'd expected to be low) are about what they should be. I suppose that being vegetarian, I know I need to make sure to get protein, but maybe don't pay such attention to the proportion of carbs to fat. Although I'd said I was just going to record this week, and not change what I was eating, I seem to have self-corrected a bit: I notice that by the end of the week, I was more in the middle of the recommended levels, and that the proportion of carbs had gone down a bit. (This despite eating ice cream twice.)

But I've lost two pounds this week without apparently trying. I am not making any promises to myself that I'll track for X number of weeks, but if I can just keep doing it one day at a time...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Downs and ups

A couple of days ago, I was going to write a very moany post about how miserable I was feeling, but I didn't because I was feeling too miserable. I am now feeling better.

I don't know why, really, because the same circumstances still hold:

*I didn't get that job (unless a miracle occurs);

*I've put applications in for others, but I suspect I'm not going to get them, because I don't really have enough experience;

*my foot still hurts (see below);

*J is still off work, for complex reasons involving getting clearance to go back from his doctor and various official people at his work;

*I feel like I've spent too much money on things to cheer myself up recently;

*there are a whole lot of books I'd like to buy, and things I'd like to do to the house, but I feel I've spent too much money recently...

But still, I do feel better, so why poke at it?

Maybe it's because we've lately been doing various DIY jobs around the house; painting walls, putting up shelves. It is amazing the mental boost you can get just from putting up a little hook to hang keys on. J thinks I'm easily pleased in this respect, but what's wrong with being easily pleased? Doesn't that mean you spend more time happy than people that are difficult to please?

On the other hand (or foot), my foot still hurts. Not agonizingly, but it's rather hard to ignore when it's your foot: it aches, it hurts when I run, and I'm restricted to wearing my bigger clumpier shoes. (Fortunately, I have plenty of those.) Looking back, I seem to have bashed it on Monday 3 September, so that's nearly a month... so perhaps I should show it to someone. I don't really know who to take it to, though. I suspect my GP would say I just have to wait for it to feel better. And there's nothing to see any more, except a slightly bruised-looking toenail, and even that's looking a lot better now.

But I kind of need it to get better, because I want to enter the Great Winter Run again, and I can't train for it with a non-working foot.

And then in spring I want to do the Great Edinburgh Run, which is a 10K and the height of my distance-running ambitions. I think it would take me about an hour, and I would definitely get bored running for longer than that. I wouldn't say I'm easily bored, but that's because under normal circumstances I have a book on me at all times, so if my brain is unoccupied, I'm probably reading. But even I can't read and run simultaneously.

I want some new trainers, but I don't think I should buy any until my foot is fixed. Or maybe until I get a job. Or something. Something needs to happen, anyway.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Paragraphs that start with "I"

I am now feeling a lot better everywhere but my foot. Thanks for the comments (which I've answered within the thread).

I have been out on my bike again, and am beginning to get back into the swing of cycling. After a break, it's so hard, and you feel like you're never going to get up the hills, and afterwards you have sore places; once you've been out a few times it's fine. I would really love to get back to the point where the bike is my main means of transport, which I've never managed to do in Edinburgh before.

I have a job interview on Thursday - wish me luck! And I've come to the decision that if I get this job, which is part-time, I will join the gym again, because I would just about have enough spare time to go (and also to spend time with my husband, who is in a bit of a fragile state and who needs me around).

I would like one of these. But I have far too many T-shirts already.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Health. Again. And stuff.

I have no idea whether any guys read this dubious excuse for a blog, but - dear reader, if you're male, you have permission not to read this entry.

The older I get, the more I become aware of... my Cycle.

No, not the kind with two wheels. (I am hoping to acquire a new one of those soon, since my current one is fifteen years old and extremely heavy. But I haven't got around to it yet.)

The one I mean, of course, is the kind that poleaxes you once a month, if you're female. Mine's been doing that to me for about the last seventeen years, although it seems longer. Much longer. This is genetic; there's nothing much to be done about it (except take NSAIDs and keep warm) and I'm used to dealing with it.

Lately, though, the Cycle has taken to making me suffer before the main event as well.

I've noticed for a few years now that I get unreasonably weepy when premenstrual. Now I seem to get tired, digestively uncomfortable, and bloated as well. Oh, and hungry.

Most of the time, now, my eating habits are pretty healthy. We always eat balanced meals, with some protein, and avoid simple carbs; we eat tons of green vegetables. We don't keep snack foods in the house. However, there's a reason for that: I have no self-restraint whatsoever.

If you give me a box of sweets (for example), I will eat them much quicker than I intend to. This is not something I like about myself, but I've tried to change it, and it doesn't work*. I've got to the point where I can avoid buying unhealthy food, and that is progress: when I was at university, I was terribly prone to buy food when I was out and eat it, thinking to myself that it would be OK because I would eat less in the evening. And then I would forget to eat less in the evening. I'm fairly lucky in that I don't seem to put weight on as quickly as some people do, but over the course of time, that was basically why I needed to lose weight in the first place.

I might have no self-restraint when food is in front of me, but I have slowly trained myself to eat less by avoiding food when I'm not hungry. I don't think I could, physically, eat as much as I used to at college. And I don't usually eat any snacks at all these days.

Apart from last week, that is. I ate quite a few bits of toast and bananas and random pieces of cheese when I wasn't really that hungry, and if we had had more exciting instant food I would have eaten that. I don't really know what the trigger is; whether it's the tiredness, or feeling squishy and bloated (feeling fat has been a trigger in the past - yes, it's stupid, but it has) or what.

I'm not pleased with myself.

Oh, I know it's not that big a deal. Today the main event started, and the desire to eat things has gone. Vanished. (Probably because, as usual, I feel rather sick. I would love to think this was just my body's way of preparing for not eating very much for a few days, but I doubt my body is that intelligent.)

I just seriously dislike using my hormones as an excuse. And it's taken me so long to train myself out of bad habits that I really, really don't want to pick them up again, no matter whether there's a reason for it.

I happened to be in the doctor's office today and saw a handy self-help booklet on the very subject of PMS, however. Although a lot of it was fairly well-known stuff, it did reassure me that this stupidity most likely is PMS, rather than just me being pathetic. One tip that it suggests that I'm not doing already is to take vitamin B6 tablets, starting a few days before you expect symptoms to start. Which might take a little working out, but I'll give it a try.

Another thing you're supposed to do is exercise. Which, yes, did make me feel better for a while yesterday. All I can really do for the moment is walk and cycle, because my foot isn't exactly back to normal yet, which is a little frustrating - I think it's coming up for three weeks since I bashed it. It doesn't mind being walked on, but running puts too much pressure on the toes and it hurts. Might be time to consider taking it to a physio, but I keep hoping it'll just get better.

What other news? I've been mostly buried under a pile of job applications lately, or that's what it feels like. But! I have finally got a job interview. It's next Thursday, and I really like the sound of the job, so cross your fingers for me.

Travelling backwards through time, the weekend of my birthday (which was the 9th) I finally met up with Shauna, the illustrious Dietgirl! This coincided with a reunion with Rosemary Grace, whom I had met via Shauna's comments, only later realising that although she lives in California, we had gone to nursery school together when we were four. We met up in a coffee shop and talked of many things, including learning to drive, flats, writing, jobs and pets, but not really touching much on fitness that I recall. It was lovely to meet up with them - Shauna and I have been vaguely planning to meet for, oh, three years or so, but we've never managed to bring it off until now. I hope to see her again before too long, though. She is lovely.

Matt, Rosie's husband, took a picture of the three of us, but as far as I know this has yet to make it online. And Rosie gave me a fantastic early birthday present - a book by Lois McMaster Bujold. I am addicted to these, and it's all her fault, because she got me on to them in the first place...

I saw Rosie again pretty soon - the next day, in fact, because she asked my mum and me to coffee (Shauna had a prior engagement with a mountain). We had a very nice time, and I got to meet her parents and their cat. It is a pity Rosie lives halfway round the world, but next time she comes over Mum and I will return the invitation.

So I'm finally managing to get over my shyness about meeting other bloggers! Well, I meet my mum every week, but I'm not sure that counts...

(*There are exceptions to this. I'm quite good at resisting food that I have cooked myself, which is the only reason I let myself bake things. I do not know why food that others have cooked, or that's bought from a shop, should have so much more of an allure, but it does. So I can make cake or whatever for J and not eat it myself.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I hurt myself

I had a busy time in London. We got off the train at King's Cross and then caught a bus to South Kensington and went to the Science Museum and then got a tube to Islington and went to our friend Dan's 30th birthday party and then got a taxi to Vauxhall and spent the night with Tom and then got a tube and a train to Hertford to have lunch with Dave, Becca and Freddie and then got the train back and another tube to Balham where we met Jon and Jonny in a pub and then got a train to Mortlake with Jonny to spend the night and then got a train and a bus and a tube to King's Cross and got on the train to come home.

So we basically spent the entire trip whizzing from north to south London and back again. We were a little exhausted by Sunday. But it was lovely to see everybody.

On Monday, running downstairs in my usual fashion, I stubbed my bare left foot very hard against the doorframe of the sitting room. I couldn't actually scream and fall on the floor - however much I might have liked to - as the flooring men were here to put vinyl on the floors of the bathroom and downstairs loo, and I didn't want to startle anyone who might be wielding a sharp blade. So I settled for silently hopping and clutching my foot like someone in a cartoon.

I stub my toes quite frequently, being a clumsy person, but usually the pain wears off fairly quickly. This time, it didn't. By the evening, my fourth toe was extremely purple and bruised-looking, and I began to worry that it might be broken.

However, it was less sore in the morning and I managed to walk and cycle with it (inasmuchas you cycle with your toes. You know what I mean). And the bruising is now less purple and it hurts only a little, so I don't think it is broken. My sister tells me they don't do much for broken toes anyway.

That was a non-story, wasn't it? Maybe if it feels better tomorrow I'll go for a run.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pathetic excuse for a post

This is just me shouting hello as I dash past, because I'm about to go to London for the weekend, and it's been a very busy couple of weeks (academic work, then job application) and I have been slack.

Weight: slightly down - official numbers when I come back.

Exercise: not been running much, but been cycling.

State of mind: slightly frazzled. We're only going to London for two and a half days, and we're packing in the activities while we're there.

Back on Sunday!

Monday, August 13, 2007


So, after that very good start, my weight did nothing in any direction this week, and nor did my bodyfat percentage points. Humph. Well, OK, maintaining is better than gaining.

I am very good at maintaining, actually. My metabolism seems to be the kind that doesn't really care much what I do, because I neither gain nor lose weight very easily. Which probably means that I get away with nutritional negligence when I shouldn't.

Actually, last week was OK, food-wise, although Sunday included some chocolate which I rather regretted afterwards. But, I don't know... I don't think I was being as mindful as I need to be. No major dietary crimes, but I'd lost concentration a bit.

I've been trying not to eat bread, on two grounds: firstly, I don't seem to digest it very well (I get indigestion if I eat toast for breakfast). Secondly, in the absence of any actual snack foods in our house, I have a tendency to grab a slice out of the fridge mid-evening. Not that this is a nutritional crime, but I don't NEED it.

And I didn't entirely avoid doing that. I also made some muffins, but I don't regret that (and I didn't eat them all myself!).

The main thing about last week was that I didn't go running at all, although I have been lifting weights like a good little person. I went out on my bike a couple of times, and for walks, and I springcleaned the entire house (which feels like exercise, although I seriously doubt that it has any benefits). But evidently this wasn't enough. This would fit in with my previous experience: it doesn't matter how healthily I eat - if I want to lose, I need to do lots of proper sweaty cardio. As in running.

I need to work on scheduling that, though. It's too hot to run on the local cycle path during the day, but if I go near sunset, J has conniptions, because it's not very well-lit. (He came with me once, but he got nervous and was bitten by midges.) I wouldn't run there myself after dark had properly fallen. But it's so much better than running on the streets, which I really don't like. I can never get into a rhythm in between dodging pedestrians, wheelie bins, and having to stop to cross the road. And most of the streets round here are pretty steep. And I suspect J still won't like me running in the dark. Sigh.

However! New week, clean slate! I shall go and skip in the back garden, and then I shall do some work for my paleography assignment. And later perhaps I shall go for a run. Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Endings and beginnings

What's ended? My job.

While I knew this would happen, because it was a temporary contract, I'm sad about it. I liked the people, I liked the work, and I felt as though I knew what I was doing. I like knowing what's going to happen next week.

So I've started (once more) on a round of phone calls and e-mails while I try to find something new and wait for a paid position to come up. Which I'm sure it will. I hope it doesn't take months this time, though.

Moving on: the serious disadvantage of this job was the commute. I am convinced that commuting is as tiring as using the same amount of time to do anything else, and I was very tired while I was doing this. So while I had many good intentions, I never really managed to get into an exercise routine that went anywhere while I was doing this job.

That is going to change. For the next little while, I will undoubtedly have more free time than I've had for months. And I'm going to profit by it by getting serious about fitness.

I don't like the phrase "to struggle with one's weight". Struggling doesn't sound much fun, does it? "Come and help me, I'm really struggling here". It sounds as though you're expending a lot of energy but not getting anywhere. It sounds like thrashing around and still going under in a sea of frustration.

I don't struggle with fitness. Either I take positive action and become fitter, or I do not struggle. Rather than drowning, I float. I do nothing. I let the tide wash around me. The trouble with floating is that you have no control over where you are going.

So. Enough floating. The weekend before last, I finally bought a scale. It was something of an impulse buy, and in an ideal world we'd have done a bit more research, but I am tired of not getting on with things.

Last week, I went running three times. I lifted lots of weights. I ate sensible things. And between Sunday and Friday I lost two pounds.

I also set myself a mini-goal: I'm going to lose ten pounds by my birthday, which is a month away. I'm including this week's loss, so that's eight pounds to go. My start weight was 187 pounds (38% bodyfat, according to my fancy new scale), and it's now 185 pounds.

Yeah, I know 10 pounds isn't that much. But given that I've been doing all this floating, I need to start with something I'm fairly sure I can accomplish. Without a struggle.

ETA: I tried to post this yesterday, and it looked fine, and then I came back and it had disappeared. Very mysterious.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Four reasons why...

I haven't posted very much in the last week or so:

These two little chaps have come to stay with us for a couple of months. Their names are Snowy and Snuggles, and we’re babysitting them while their owners are abroad. We’ve been talking about getting pets for ages, and of the animals I have lived with before, guinea-pigs seemed the most suitable option: they don’t make me sneeze, they don’t seem to mind living in a hutch too much, and they don’t need taking for walks. Also they’re cuddly.

Although he’s very fond of animals J has never had a pet of any kind, so this seemed a good way to find whether we really have the time to care for guinea-pigs, and whether he’s allergic to them. So far, the pigs have been a joy. They’re young and lively and chirp away to us entertainingly when we pick them up, as well as mowing the lawn for us (well, when it’s not been pouring with rain). And just to add to the excitement, my brother suddenly phoned me up last Saturday and made mewing noises down the phone. This almost counts as normal behaviour for my siblings, so I wasn’t too surprised. Then he announced that his cat campaign, which he’s been carrying out ever since I moved out, had suddenly succeeded when he least expected it: my parents were adopting two nine-week-old black kittens.

Here they are, trying to ooze out of the box in which my parents were taking them home. They are very cute indeed, but also extremely lively. The boy is called Sirius (because he’s black, obviously) and the girl is Cassiopeia, Cassie for short. Or Puss. Or Trouble. They’ve only been home a week and it’s already clear who rules the house.

I have not been exercising terribly strenuously, though, mostly because I have a cough – the kind which makes it hard to draw a deep breath. Although I’m hardly ever ill, I’ve had various little health problems over the last few months, mostly infections. Not major, just annoying: I’d like not to go to the doctor in July, if possible. The last thing was an infected insect-bite on my arm the week before last, for which I had to take strongish antibiotics (and was threatened with an IV if they didn’t work – scary biscuits!) That cleared up fine, but I have reason to suspect the pills killed off all my friendly bacteria as well as the unfriendly ones. I’m alternately eating live yoghurt and vitamin-C-containing foods and hoping to feel better soon...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Back in the saddle

I had a lovely time with my family in sunny Crieff. Here's the score:

Badminton - two sessions; got beaten by J a lot.
Tennis - one session*;beat Mum, got beaten by J.
Swimming - went every day; swam 1km on my best day.
Gym - went with L**; we ran for 10 minutes, stationary-biked for 20 (I think) and did some weights.
Dancing - one evening. Very energetic.
Climbed one hill (see pic).

So I'm feeling a bit better about fitness-type things. Witness that in the photo above, I am wearing my Great Winter Run t-shirt, which requires a bit of optimism and not feeling ridiculous.

Probably the thing I enjoyed most was the swimming, which must mean I have conquered my feelings of squidginess, especially as I was adding to my general unattractiveness in a swimsuit by voluntarily wearing a swimming cap. These were compulsory when I was at school, and I'd have thought then that it would require very large sums of money to get me ever to put one on again. They were ugly, they were uncomfortable, they didn't stay on, and they left corrugated welts in your forehead. Yuck.

But last time I went to Crieff, my hair got so chloriney I couldn't comb it. And I was assured (by various people in the know) that modern silicone caps are much better. Well... they are. Though still not exactly alluring.

J also likes to swim***, and we're investigating the possibility of making regular trips to a local pool. There was a time (when I lived five minutes from a pool) when I used to get up early to go swimming. I'm not sure I'm going to do that regularly, but there's no good reason why we should only swim at Crieff.

The other thing that happened while I was away: I found a scale (in the gym) and weighed myself. And if the scales were accurate, I am in fact only four pounds over my lowest recorded weight last summer. I must have a very forgiving metabolism or something.

I am pretty sure that I've swapped some muscle for fat, but nonetheless it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd been imagining, and it gives me hope. I've been doing a fair bit of walking and trotting this week. Weights next week. (Decorating this weekend.)

Molly - thanks for the comment! Casting my mind back to 1986, I'm sure I never mastered proper Hula-hooping (though I spent a lot of time rotating it round my wrists and elbows). I do have a skipping rope which I use from time to time...

RG - It's Friday... it's not like it's a school night... (And I'm afraid most of my blogreading gets done around this time of night. I'm just not sleepy this early!)

And Mum, what are you doing asking if I regained my motivation? You were on holiday with me!

*It was rainy the other days. Tennis balls do slow down a bit when saturated.
** My sister, who also took the photo.
*** Although he did somehow manage to strike his chin on the bottom of the pool while doing so. As you can see in the photo.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Good news, bad news

Good: J went to work for some of last week, and seems to be feeling better.

But that’s still only four days he’s been feeling better. Fingers crossed.

We are going away for a short break for a few days later this week.

Bad: I feel fat. The holiday will involve wearing a swimsuit.

I have decided to buy a bathroom scale, so that if I am actually getting fatter, I can find out and take decisive action (though not before I go on holiday).

Bad: I have not actually bought one, or taken any action other than looking at pictures online and saying to J, “Look! The ones with body fat monitors aren’t that expensive.” J (if he has a fault, it’s a certain unwillingness to spend money) makes non-committal noises.

Good: I’ve nearly made up my mind that I’m going to do this 10K.

Bad: But I haven’t actually been running AT ALL this week. Or any other activity which involves moving faster than a walk.

I ate fewer biscuits and less cake this week than I did the week before.

Bad: You don’t want to know about the week before.

And so it goes on.

If you have seen my motivation, could you tell me where I left it?

I can make excuses for myself. I have been busy, and work has been rather full-on lately, and there’s been stress about J. It’s too easy. None of those things is really to blame. I’m not unhappy; I just seem to have fallen back into a mindset I thought I’d left behind a long time ago. It goes “Nothing I do will make that much difference and I can’t be bothered right now.”

However. My plan is that the holiday’s going to get me back on track. This is not going to be a sitting-down-reading holiday. There will be some of that (I’ve got five new books! Five) but there’s also going to be tennis, badminton, swimming at least once a day, and – I hope – country dancing. I know it’s supposed to take 28 days to make a habit, but how about four to reset the system and remind me that I actually like exercise?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Keep on running?

The road to Lindisfarne
Yes, thank you, we had a lovely time in Bamburgh, and we did indeed go on lots of walks: we felt very well-exercised. This is J setting out along the Lindisfarne causeway.

We also saw a lot of nice scenery

and birds

and went round several castles and historical sites, most of which I seem not to have photographed for reasons unknown. The weather was mostly good.

(Enough of my holiday snaps. But look at my nice Flickr mosaic thingy over there! -->)

Back to business: exercise, then, was good on holiday. Food, not so good. Although we managed to go to a different pub every night but one… that meant we ate pub food every night. Frankly, there wasn’t much else available. It was perfectly tasty, but we came home with quite a craving for vegetables (they usually make up at least two-thirds of all our meals). Maybe we will try self-catering next time, if we can find somewhere which is affordable with just two of us.

I hadn’t been terribly virtuous the week before, either, because I was writing an essay to submit for my degree, and J kindly provided me with various forms of comfort food. And although my diet hasn’t been appalling since we got back, I don’t feel entirely back on track. There’s been the odd random bit of toast and so forth.

I’m not very much given, these days, to wringing my hands over my bodily imperfections, but I’m not too happy right now. I feel squidgy. This is probably because I haven’t – not really – got back into a routine with exercise yet.

Irrespective of my actual weight/size, I feel good about my body when I’ve exercised vigorously within the last day or so, and less good when I don’t. Simple as that. So why the lack of routine? I don’t really know. I could do with being a bit more obsessive about it. Yeah, I’ve been busy. But we’re all busy. Yes, I’ve had other things to think about (J, mostly). But we all have other things to think about. Life doesn’t stop so you can catch up with it. You have to keep going regardless.

So: exercise over the last few days. I went for a run with J on Saturday morning (blistering my feet, but hey), and did my weights after that. On Sunday, I did some skipping (checking that none of the neighbours were in their gardens, because I don’t really want an audience. I know it’s good cardio but it makes me feel a bit silly). On Monday, which was a bank holiday, I went into town and walked around a lot (about four miles, according to Gmap Pedometer). Today, well, I had a bit of a stroll at lunchtime. Which doesn’t really cut it.

Another thing I did on Sunday, though, was go to Musselburgh to meet up with the legendary YP, fresh from running her second marathon that morning (and knocking an hour off her personal best!) This is the first time I’ve actually managed to meet someone from the fitness-blog community in person. I was more than a little nervous, because YP’s extremely focused, and… as I’ve just said at length, I’m not. However, she (and the other people there) were uniformly nice, welcoming and generally encouraging.

This had the salutary effect of making me remember that, although I might not be exactly a natural runner, I have done some proper running. It was only a few months ago that I used to run three times a week without fail, and that I was really beginning to get somewhere. I was hoping to do a 10K, and feeling good about the possibility (despite my feet). OK, life is busy. But life will always be busy.

So… shall I sign up for the Loch Ness 10K in the autumn? Or am I mad to think I’ll actually train for it?

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Just a quickie - we're going away on a short holiday, and I wanted to post before I went.

I've just had a very busy week - I had to submit the final essays for the module I was doing for my course, and then I kind of collapsed in a heap. Exercise (and, alas, healthy eating) went out of the window ever so slightly.

However. We are now going for a nice restful few days by the seaside, and are going to go on lots of walks. I will post properly when I get back!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The weekend before last, while I was spending a lot of time with my family, my brother (who is wonderful in many, many ways) disappeared and came back bearing a set of very pretty shiny chrome dumbbells.

My newest toy

So now I can claim to have a home gym! I’m planning to follow routine 1 of Krista’s “All Dumbbells! All the Time!” programme. I have to work a bit on learning the lower-body exercises, though, as I’m used to doing those with a barbell. Learning is good. After all, eighteen months ago I hadn’t done anything with free weights, ever.

I had a kind of finding-my-limits workout with them straight away, and although nothing hurt at the time, my right bicep ached so much the next day that I had difficulty straightening my arm. However, it wore off, and since then I’ve managed not to hurt at all, even a tiny bit, and to work back up to the same amount of weight. I don’t know why it hurt. Maybe my arms were just protesting for the sake of it.

J and I have been having an interesting time, diet-wise. He has been on medication recently which has the side-effect of making him crave sweet foods, and I kept coming home to find him saying guiltily that he’d eaten all the cereal, or worse, the ice cream. He didn’t like this and is convinced he’s gained lots of weight*, something (one of the many things) he continually worries about.

We had made sporadic attempts to rid the house of trigger foods (such as cereal) but this tended just to shift the problem on to something else. So we bit the bullet and got rid of EVERYTHING that comes under the heading of snackable complex carbs. Essentially we’re both going to do a low-GI diet until his side-effects wear off (he’s now off the medication, thank goodness).

I’ve actually been doing this for a while out of sheer laziness. The local supermarket’s cottage cheese comes in tubs that are just the right size for lunch, and if it’s a choice between making a sandwich and grabbing a tub out of the fridge… I take a packet of soup as well, and the office provides fruit (something I will miss when I stop working there, I can tell you). So that’s lunch sorted.

I must start running again now the days are getting longer. Somehow my motivation is just not there, though. J is just getting back into running again: he ran two miles in 24 minutes this evening, and was gloomy because he used to be able to do it much faster when he was in training. I told him my best time for 1 mile is 11 minutes (which is true), so I would cheer him up by coming with him and being slower than he is. I hope he’s going to hold me to this.

Meanwhile, over at my Livejournal, there’s a food meme if you like that sort of thing, grabbed from Jeni. Bear in mind that if the question asks what I like, it isn’t necessarily what I’d consider a healthy choice…

*This is for J values of "a lot of weight". We're not talking anything visible to the naked eye, and I have told him so. But it's his body, poor boy. And if he wants to get fit, I'm not going to discourage this.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

At peace

Grandpa died very early this morning.

I went to see him yesterday. He was indeed peaceful.

Friday, March 30, 2007


My Grandpa, who is 87, is very ill. He’s been in hospital since autumn, and for the last couple of days he’s been unconscious. Granny and Mum are with him. Mum's been in touch regularly and says he's "peaceful".

Everyone seems to think it’s just a matter of waiting now. I will go over in the morning, whatever happens.

He’s been unable to get out of bed by himself for months now, and he’s been increasingly confused and not himself. So… but… it’s really hard to think about. He has been a big presence all our lives: my grandparents live nearby and we’ve always seen them a lot.

Last time I saw Grandpa, he was fairly lucid and asking about my new job, and saying that we’d cheered him up by coming to see him (which is unusually gracious, for him, but would you be gracious if you were in pain and unable to get up and apparently surrounded by idiots who wouldn’t let you go home?) Which is something, I suppose.

Poor Mum and poor Granny.

I can’t talk about this any more at the moment.

Last Saturday. That was a good day. It was sunny and warm and I planted a lot of nice things in the garden, as well as the seeds for our vegetable plot. J helped and mowed the grass. Later I made a cake. It was a good cake.

Answers to kind comments on my rather trivial previous entry below. Thanks, people.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Circles and good intentions

I promised myself that when I got paid from my new(ish) job, I'd buy myself some weights. Of all the things I can't do since the gym became impractical, I miss weights the most. I've tried to keep myself flexible by doing the motions unweighted (especially the squats, since it took so long to get any depth) but it's not the same.

My brother bought some lovely shiny dumbbells with removable plates a few months ago, which seemed just the sort of thing.

So on Saturday I duly went up town to try to get some. Could I find any? No. I think I was looking in the wrong shops. Still, I got some exercise jogging along Princes Street in an attempt to go to as many shops as possible in the time I had.

I still seem to be able to run without wanting to die, which is lucky, since I haven't been running properly since early December. Stephanie, a friend from livejournal, offered to go running with me last Saturday, but we got our wires crossed and it fell through. Next Saturday. Maybe. If she's free.

The trouble is, my spare time for doing anything at the moment is extremely limited. I know this sounds pathetic coming from a twentysomething with no children, but it is. Here's my daily timetable:

7.00 Alarm rings.
7.10ish. Get up - unwillingly, because I am not a morning person - dress. Eat oats with muesli topping, bring J cup of tea.
7.35 Leave house. Catch unpredictable bus as soon as it comes. Read on bus.
9.00 Arrive at work. Work like mad thing to be impressive so they'll write me a nice reference when my contract runs out.
5 to 5.30 Leave work. Catch unpredictable bus again. Read on it.
Anything between 6.15 and 7.15 Arrive home. Cook tea with J, eat it.
8ish Start work for course.
12ish Go to bed.

This is slightly exaggerated - I don't have work to do every single evening - but not much. I don't feel I'm exactly starved of me-time, given that I get two hours every day in which to read, but I've yet to work out a way of exercising while on the bus. And I feel slightly tired a lot of the time because I'm not getting quite enough sleep...

There is my lunch-hour. I could go running then a couple of times a week, but the temptation not to is strong, because my workmates are pretty nice and it's more tempting to stay in and talk to them, given that the schedule above doesn't leave much time for a social life. And there are the weekends. During which I really want to garden. (We're trying to grow our own vegetables this year. Or rather, I am trying to grow them. J looks on with mild interest.)

I do like the job. But the next one I apply for won't be quite so far away. How do other people do it? I can't be the only non-morning-person who works nine to five, commutes and also studies...

Any ideas?

Thursday, March 08, 2007


That was several weeks shooting past in a blur.

I started a new job on Monday last week. It is good. The people are nice, and there is also free fruit. There's also a dress code, but hey.

Not unconnected with this, I had occasion to wear the smart black trousers I bought just before Christmas. Now, when I bought these, they fitted quite snugly. Snugly enough that I had to try them on at home to check that they did indeed look OK. I have trouble buying trousers that fit - I have short legs but a really long body, so I can't wear anything even vaguely low-rise if I want to be able to sit down.

Anyway, when I put the trousers in question on last week, they were... roomier than I was expecting. They haven't been washed (they haven't been worn), so the only explanation is that I'm slightly smaller than I was at Christmas.

I was at a loss to explain this. Really. I haven't been doing much strenuous exercise, and I've been feeling kind of fat. It's been one of those stupid periods when you can't quite get into a routine - and not having any scales doesn't help.

When I think back, however, my diet has been overwhelmingly sensible lately. Not that that's ever had much of an effect before... but I'm not exactly complaining.

J had to stay home from work again for another couple of weeks, but is now back again. We're taking it as it comes. He has some new medication to take, so we'll see how that works.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How to hurt yourself

Our green keyboard

On Monday, I cycled 7 miles (round-trip) over a fairly hilly route, accompanying J to see his doctor. This possibly wasn't the best route to choose for the first ride in several months, because as well as the seat-ache I was expecting, the backs of my thighs were seriously complaining yesterday. Which meant that I didn't do anything terribly strenuous.

I can't help feeling it would be better if muscles let you know when you were doing something that is going to hurt, rather than saving it up so that you can't move the next day.

I did clean the oven, though, which ought to burn lots of calories if there were any justice in life.

The big news of yesterday: J went to work. And didn't have to come home. (And he went back again today. This is real progress, although he's only there in the afternoons until he's feeling a bit stronger.)

In order to cement positive feelings of achievement and what-have-you, we had a healthy salad tea and then spent some time looking at kitten videos on Cute Overload. Exciting stuff like that.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Something resembling a proper post!

OK. It’s now February. The last time I posted anything with any actual content in it was Hallowe’en. This is rather pathetic. Where have I been for the last three months? Nowhere much.

I think I’ve said in the past how difficult it is for me to write sad posts. Some people enjoy venting, and it gets it out of their systems. Others, like me, don’t like to put it down on the page, because then they have to think about it. So, the short version: I didn’t have a job, and I needed one for both financial and logistical reasons. J was off work with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and general exhaustion. Grandpa and Granny both ended up in hospital over Christmas. There was general family stress. It was wet and windy and dark. I didn’t take any exercise to speak of between mid-November and mid-January.

If you read my mum’s blog (do I have permission to link to you, Mum?) then you already know some of this.

Archives is a small field, and because I can’t move or commute a long way away (I don’t drive) I was limited to looking for jobs in the Central Scotland area, and there weren’t very many to apply for. And those I did apply for, I didn’t get. But… a couple of weeks ago my luck changed, and I now have a job again, or at least a contract - I start later this month. This is good. It does involve about an hour’s commute, which is less good, but I can do it all by bus, so it’ll be do-able and I’ll get to read in transit. I won’t mention my new employers on here, but it is in a nice shiny new archive and I’m looking forward to it.

My grandparents: Grandpa has been in hospital for a few months now. He broke his hip a while back and since then has been unable to stand, and because he’s now confused, he doesn’t accept that he isn’t able to, which isn’t ideal. There’s no way Granny could look after him on her own, but he doesn’t really see why he can’t just order a taxi and go home… Which is really sad. He’s always been a very forceful person and until recently, was still very sharp. And while you can feel his frustration at (apparently) being surrounded by idiots who won’t do as he says, that doesn’t make it easier for those who have to deal with him.

Granny had a lot of fainting fits on Boxing Day and also spent a few nights in hospital, but she seems to be a lot better now. Which is good. Mum is staying with her for a while, though.

I’m sure my parents have been worrying about my grandparents for much longer than I have – but it does seem as though they’ve quite suddenly lost their independence. Which I suppose is inevitable, given that they’re both well into their eighties. But still sad.

J’s problems started a little before Christmas, when he had a flare-up of his OCD – it got so bad that he was having great difficulty leaving the house, because he couldn’t quite convince himself that the gas was turned off and that the door was locked. The trouble with OCD is that it’s often an exaggeration of sensible behaviour: obviously you SHOULD check if the door is locked before you walk away from your house. But not twenty or thirty or fifty times, because that begins to make you late for work, and then you can’t go to work because you can’t stop checking.

His psychiatrist prescribed antidepressant no. 10 (clomipramine), which does seem to have cured the OCD. Unfortunately, it has various side-effects, the worst of which was that it made J really, really tired. So he’d try to go in to work, and be too exhausted to think after a couple of hours, and have to come home. And it appears to have no effect whatever on his depression, which seems to be resistant to all the antidepressants he’s tried over the years.

So his doctor has agreed that he can come off it, slowly (as you have to) and we’re trying a combination of gentle exercise, sunlight when available, and Eating More Protein and Less Breakfast Cereal. (Another side-effect is a craving for sweet foods. Because we don’t tend to buy biscuits and sweets much, J found himself eating four bowls of Weetabix a day, which we agree isn’t a balanced diet or very GI-friendly.) He is not exactly cured. However, he’s currently playing his guitar downstairs, which is a really good sign – when he’s really depressed he doesn’t have the energy or desire to do anything.

J and I have been doing a fair bit of walking recently, and he has just fixed my bike, and the weather is improving. So I have hopes that the Time of No Proper Exercise is over. I’m still thinking I won’t rejoin a gym; my old gym is nowhere near my new work, and I’m only on a six-month contract. However, I’m hoping to spend some of my first pay on some proper dumbbells. At the moment, I feel weak and flabby and I don’t like that very much. I don’t know what I weigh either, so perhaps buying a bathroom scale ought to go into the budget too? In a month and ten days, this will be my two-year blogging anniversary. Blogiversary. Thingy. Let’s see if I can write some proper, accountable posts between now and then.

Blogger at work