Where have all the city slickers gone?

We arrived in London at 7am! Perfect timing to travel in with the city commuters! I’m now stood outside the Chinese Embassy waiting for them to open so I can get my visa!

2 things strike me! Firstly, how many people are queuing an hour before the embassy opens. The second is, where are all the city slickers ?

When you think of London you can’t help but think of men in pinstriped suits and top hats! A cane in one hand and a black briefcase in the other!

The reality is so far from that! Casual seems to be the word to best describe most of the workers!

I have seen a couple of suits, but no ties! Most are in just shirts and smart trousers. Ladies in dresses and sandals.

The other thing is the way the phone has shaped our lives! Bluetooth headphones seem to be the latest accessory. We have learnt to multitask ! Yes men too! We can now walk and text on our phones all at the same time!

When did it all change ? I remember starting my first part time job when I was 13! It was in the day when it was allowed. A little corner shop where nothing was pre-packed or pre-sliced. I’d been asking to work there for years. The owners said when I was 13 they would give me a Saturday job. True to their word, when I had my birthday I started working for them. I was so so proud of that job. Earning my own money and getting my independence. It shaped the person I am today!

Vegetables and fruit were sold loose by the pound, weighed on manual scales. I had to slice the ham and cut the cheese to the customers requirement. The bread came fresh from the baker, just as it had come out of the oven!

Sweets were sold from jars by the quarter, and the cash register was manual! No auto adding or telling me what change I needed to give back. Everything was done in my own head!

My bosses and customers were all known by Mr, Mrs etc. No first names! That was rude.

‘This carried on right into my first full time job at Warwick Castle when I left school, to work in the offices!

Earning my own money at a young age helped me appreciate its value. I saved up to buy things myself. Sadly for many youngsters today they can’t start work until they are 16. Some never work until the finish education. I’m a firm believer that the earlier you earn your own money the more you will appreciate its value.

I get that life has become more informal. Things change. But are they all changes for the better?

I’m old school! I don’t like dress down days at work! I like to dress in my ‘work’ clothes. It makes me feel professional. I also appreciate it when I get home and relax in my casual clothes.

The sad thing is that the younger generation will never have the same experiences I had!

I have fond memories of my past and whilst I may seem old fashioned, I wouldn’t change it! I do think that some important lessons have been lost over the years!

I wonder what my grandparents thought about their previous generations? Maybe they felt the same? Who knows, maybe in 40 years time my niece well be saying the same about her next generation!

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And of course it rained!

It’s so typical of the great British weather! It’s absolutely gorgeous all week. Come the weekend and the sun decides to take a break too!

This weekend was no different. All week it was beautiful. Friday I worked at home. Temperatures reached 25 degrees. Did I go outside and enjoy it? No! Why? Well firstly I had work to do, but secondly, I thought I’d have plenty of time in the sun at the weekend.

We had 4 friends coming to stay and had planned outdoor activities!

Firstly breakfast on the patio followed by a lovely walk around Stratford-upon-Avon. It was the river festival. Bands would be playing and a few little stalls selling a variety of goods. As it is held on the banks of the River Avon, it was going to be a lovely few hours relaxing!

Well that was the plan! What wasn’t planned was the rain! Not to be put off we all still ventured out to Stratford, after eating breakfast indoors !!

Dinner was going to be a braai! We had the biggest piece of meat to cook!

Just as we thought the rain was going to stop, it started up again! The Gazebo it was then. Rain was not going to stop 3 South African men from doing what they do best!

As we 3 ladies watched them through the lounge widows sipping our Gin and Tonic, you can’t help but laugh at the body language of the men!

One of them checks the heat of the fire using the hand test! Then another checks it! Wait for it, yep, the third one has to check it too! Just in case one of them got it wrong !

The meat was a big beast and a challenge to cook. The fire to hot, the outside would burn but the inside would be raw. The fire too low and it would never cook. So, as with the 3 bears, it has to be just right!

After a couple of hours it was done. Absolutely gorgeous!

Sadly we had to eat indoors again!

My ice cream cake was probably the only thing that was pleased about the change in weather!

You know, the weather may have not been in our favour but it didn’t matter. We still had fun!

It doesn’t matter how much you plan things in life, something always goes wrong! Take it as an opportunity not a disaster!

Don’t put things on hold. Adapt and have fun!

Here is the video to my weekend:

This week the weather is going to be unpredictable. Don’t let that stop you enjoying life! Embrace it!

Have a good week.

How am I doing on my 50 things to do in my 50th year list?

Do you remember at the beginning of the year I decided to write a list of all the things I would like to achieve during my 50th year?  Well we are now officially half way through that year.  Where has all that time gone? 

How have I done so far?  Below is my update:-

1)  Travel to China

 Still on schedule to achieve.

2)Visit Croatia

We went as planned in May and oh wow!  How amazing.  Following where we went on my YouTube channel

I still have my last day to publish – but it is worth waiting for!

3)  Weekend away in a VW Campervan 

Still not on my radar!!


4) Re-visit Lundy Island

Well after a tricky time sorting out a boat, this trip is scheduled to happen and I can’t wait!

5)    Eat at a Michelin star restaurant

Still not happened!

6)   Bake with Paul Hollywood

Sadly Paul hasn’t popped over to help me in the kitchen yet!

7)  Be my own boss

I’m still searching for that ‘ah ha’ moment that will make me rich!!

8)   Buy a new car with the registration of the year I was born

It is still a few months away before the 69 plate is out. Sadly by bank balance isn’t matching this wish yet, but you never know!

9)    Get at least 1000 subscribers on my YouTube Channel

I’m at 149 at the moment so a few more to go!

10) Take a hot air balloon over my home town

Still need to do!

11) Have a weekend away with my parents

Sadly this hasn’t happened yet, but I hope to make it come true!

12) Fly first class

@Emirates – can you help me with this one when I fly with you to China in August? Pretty please!!

13) Complete a successful ‘Dry January’

Woo hoo!  I absolutely smashed this.

14) Walk 5,000,000 steps in 2019

As I am still half way through the year, I have time to complete this!

15) Learn to crochet

I think this is for a winters evening don’t you!!

16) Visit Stonehenge

I made this happen in March this year and loved it!

https://youtu.be/j9PDDkP5dg8

17) Swim with dolphins

Not sure if this will happen, unless they appear in Lundy!

18) Run 10k

This was always going to be a tough one!

19) Learn to decorate a cake with icing

Oh wow, I forgot about this one.  Work had a festival week and one of the sessions was about Cake decorating!  I’ve done it without even realising!

https://youtu.be/yOTVetHzo5Y

20)Learn to ballroom dance with Anton De Beke

Well I haven’t danced with @antondebeke but I did get to meet him at @thismorning Live this year.   He is still a delight to spend time with!

https://youtu.be/Qln3XrVmjgI

21)Be on the panel of Loose Women

I’m still waiting @LooseWomen

22) Own a designer handbag

Maybe I’ll get one for my birthday!  Hint hint

23) Replace my greenhouse

Oh it is looking pretty sad at the moment so I think this may need to happen soon!

24) Reduce my daily commute to work

I’m still having fun with the trains!!  At least the morning commute has changed thanks to 4 extra carriages, which means I mostly get a seat now!

25) Teach Lola to walk off a lead

Yer right!  Hmm, not sure this is not going to happen!

26) Teach Fido to not bark at the door

We have been trying very hard!  I’ve now applied to the programme ‘Dogs Behaving Very Badly’ for help!  Fingers crossed!

27) Teach Fido not to bark at noises

As above!  Eek!

28) Have 5 minutes of fame on T.V. – preferably on This Morning

I’m still waiting for them to snap me up lol!!  I did get to meet Ruth and Eamon at the @thismorning Live at the NEC in Birmingham.  Eamon even had his hand on my knee!!  Lol!  They were such a lovely couple!

29)Go to see a musical at least once in 2019

Still to do, but we are in London very soon so who knows!

30) Go to a music festival or concert at least once in 2019

No happened yet, but the summer isn’t over yet!

31) Write a blog at least once a week

I’m smashing this with 2 – 3 some weeks!

32) Improve my photography skills

I’ve not had chance much to take many photos but when I have, I’ve really tried to be creative.

33) Clean out the garage

Don’t tell my hubby but, nah, not yet!  I will though promise!

34) Help raise awareness of homelessness

I’m still promoting this.

35) Help out someone at least once a month

Ooh now I really have to think about this one.  I think I have, but I could do more!

36) Have a professional make over

Still need to sort this one out!

37) Have a ‘hot’ Christmas

This may not happen this year, but one day!

38) Remember friends and family’s birthdays

I’m doing better.  I could be a bit quicker poster but it is an improvement.

39) Be surprised

Not yet!! 

40) Have dinner out once a month

We have done this and it has been really nice to have someone cook for me.  It hasn’t had to be posh, but good food.

41) Take an hour out a week for ‘me time’

I’m trying but some weeks are just so busy.

42) Get 8 hours of sleep a night as much as possible

I’m totally failing this one.  Only 6-7 hours a night at the moment. 

43) Drink more water and less diet coke

Right now I am drinking a litre of squash!  I’m trying!

44) Have a girls night out at least once every 3 months

I’ve just about done this, but I really need a few more!

45) Have a date night with hubby at least once every 3 months

I think we have done this – yes, definitely.  It is good to spend quality time together.

46) Take a canal trip

Well I did say a trip not a holiday so does the 30 minute trip with work count?

47) Go to see Wasps at least 3 times during the year

We have been once but will go more later in the year – promise.

48) Learn the rules to Rugby

Oops!  I really must talk to hubby!

49) Take up a new hobby

I just need to find the time!!

50) Keep in touch more with family and friends who live away

Facebook is great, but I really need to put some weekends away to see friends.  We have managed a couple of weekends this year, but we should do more!

So, there have been some things ticked off, I really need to start doing a few more!  I will keep you posted!!

Feeling hot hot hot !

Wow, what great weather we had this weekend! So who has a Braai? Ok BBQ? Yep it has the be done.

We went the whole hog and had 2! First one Friday night and another last night. You have to love eating outside.

Last nights Braai was all about using the leftovers. It’s amazing what you can create with a bit of imagination.

Saturday temperatures reached over 34 degrees for us! Not that I sat out in it myself! Oh no! We had friends round on the evening so first things first I needed to catch up on the housework! It has to be done especially with 2 malting dogs!

Talking of malting dogs, they do struggle when it’s so warm! Fido thankfully knows how to cool down. He stands in the shower waiting for someone to turn the taps in for him!!

Anyway, back to the friends coming for dinner. As it was going to be such a lovely day I decided the menu needed to reflect that.

Hubby offered to make his prawn soup! It’s light but very tasty. Perfect for a hot summer evening.

For main, I opted for pineapple and salmon kebabs with Jerk seasoning, with home grown new potatoes and a pomegranate and feta salad. As a salad dressing I made a Dijon mustard dressing. So far all free on Slimming World, but still tasty.

Now, this is where it got interesting. For dessert, I decided on an ice cream cake. Well why wouldn’t you!

The cake requires 2 layers of ice cream and a raspberry coulis, topped with a ginger biscuit layer! Sounds fab doesn’t it! And it was apparently (I made a syn free version for me).

The problem I had was the weather! I mean, when it’s over 34 degrees outside, how are you supposed to stop the layers melting while constructing them!

It was a case of moving very quickly and having a hubby on hand to open freezer doors for you!

I published a video of it here!

I had to laugh when I watched it back. I looked quite fresh at the start of it! By the end I was definitely wilting !!

The main thing is the food went down a treat! Note to myself though! Don’t try it again unless it’s about 10 degrees cooler!

I’m not complaining though! I love it when it’s hot hot hot !

Have a good day.

The Pioneer Women – My current inspiration!

Do you ever read a magazine or see something on TV that gets your creative juices going? Over the years I have!

In previous years it’s been Jamie’s 15 minute meals, The Hairy Bikers and of course not forgetting, Ready Steady Cook.

My current favourite has to be The Pioneer Women. I’m totally hooked. I’ve even series linked all her episodes.

So who is The Pioneer Women? Ree Drummond! I love her nick name Ree. Her real name is Ann Marie. My own name is Maria but have always been known as Marie to my family. As a kid my nickname was Me Me. My nieces still call me it. Ree is such a great nickname for Marie!

Ree seems to have an amazing life, living on a ranch in Oklahoma in America. She is married to a real cowboy – Ladd – and has 4 children. How romantic does that sound?

Her cooking is every day cooking from dinners to desserts, to things that keep the kids happy!

She always starts the programme with the phrase ‘welcome to my frontier’.

Ree started off blogging about her time on the ranch back in 2006. Her blogs have even won awards.

In 2011 The Food Network awarded her her own Series called what else – The Pioneer Women!

She prepares every day meals from chicken pie, pork ribs, chicken dinner, pork chops to easy desserts and cakes in her lodge. I think she is now up to series 20!

What I love about her is that she showcases her food in such a way that you can easily transfer that to your own kitchen. She doesn’t use fancy gadgets, just everyday pots and pans like we have.

You have to sometimes translate some of the ingredients as we call some things a different name here in the UK.

I love sitting down in the evening and catching up on an episode. Last night she did a beef stroganoff. I haven’t done one for ages. It’s definitely something I’m planning for next week now.

Now when I say she inspires me, that is exactly what she does. I wouldn’t cook her meals exactly to her recipe as she uses ingredients I wouldn’t, because I’m on Slimming World. Don’t get me wrong, her cooking is amazing and my hubby would eat them just as they are. I just need to shift a few pounds as you know, so a tweak would be needed for me.

She uses cream, butter, oil and salt. All things I wouldn’t use. This is where the inspiration comes in! I look at what she makes and try to work out how I can do it for me on Slimming World. Most things can of course be changed. There are some things she makes though that you definately wouldn’t want to mess with, like her chocolate episode! Marshmallows covered in chocolate and cookie pieces! I think my nieces would have a great time making those.

On the whole though, her recipes easily transfer into syn free versions. This is what I love about cooking. Taking great ideas and making them your own.

I’d love to cook alongside Ree and create great meals together that taste good but work for Slimming World too. Obviously that isn’t her cooking style or requirement. I should image with the work they do on the ranch, they soon burn off any calories.

Ree is such a natural presenter. It’s like a friend showing you how they cooked dinner tonight. She is so easy to watch and I’m also loving following her life on the ranch. Watching her children growing up and going off to college!

If you haven’t seen her programme before, go along to The Food Network and check her out! Maybe she will inspire you to get into the kitchen too!

When it’s not quite how you expected!

So today I’d planned the topic of my blog out! It was supposed to be titled ‘The Sun is out, the sky is blue!’. Well the sun is definitely not out and the sky is a grubby shade of grey!

The weather reports have been promising us a heatwave. Europe is steeped in temperatures in the 40’s. We were not going to get those type of temperatures, but in the 20’s is still good for me!

Yesterday was a horrible day. It did start off around 18 degrees and humid, but oh boy did it rain. I really considered not taking the dogs out, but then that wouldn’t be fair. Being Border Collies they have so much energy. If you don’t exercise them you know about it! Especially Lola who is currently going through the terrible 2’s!

So I popped on a pair of shorts and raincoat. Yes you heard right, shorts. I figured that wet legs would be more comfortable than wet trousers or jeans! And I was right!

By the time we got back the 3 of us were dripping wet. I was able to jump into the hot shower but the dogs had to settle for a rub-a-dub-dub! In normal speak, a towel dry!

The downside to wet dogs is that smell! Eek! Lots of Scentsy wax warmers were needed. I tried opening windows but the rain was just heavy!

Thankfully it finally stopped late afternoon, but not before it had dropped around 50mm of rain! I know that as I bought my hubby a weather station for Christmas. It’s great for keeping a check on what the weather really did in our area.

Working at home yesterday meant I had time to be creative in the kitchen last night. I do love having that extra hour our so. I’ve posted one of my videos from that session here:

Tomorrow I will publish my gorgeous breakfast cakes.

After an amazing dinner it was time to relax, in anticipation of the heatwave today!

I woke up all excited this morning. I dressed in shorts and a fleece!

As I stepped out of the house it dawned on me. Instead of sun it was raining. That was not forecast!

We had a drizzly walk. Quite cool too! I’m not loving this.

It’s nearly July and I can count on 1 hand the sunny days we have had this year! I’m so disappointed.

I’m praying now that this is just a blip! Tomorrow I’m going to be swamped in that heatwave.

Fingers crossed guys!

When Life Gives You Lemons Do You Make Lemonade?

Sometimes, even after you have put you heart and soul into something, the outcome isn’t what you expected.

Take my current mission to hit target again by the time I reach 50.

I really want to be at my target weight by the time I go out for dinner on my birthday.  That is now only 6 weeks away.  I set myself a realistic target of 2lb a week.  I should reach target with a couple of weeks to spare, which gives me a contingency.  Well that was the plan!

Last week I made the conscious decision to make sure I wrote everything down that I ate.  I planned every meal.  I have the new SP Sensations cookbook from Slimming World as you know, and this was a true inspiration for me.

Every day I took breakfast and lunch to work with me.  For snacks I had plenty of fruit.  I had cleared the house of all temptation, so at night even if I felt tempted, there was nothing in.  When I was peckish one day, I popped to Sainsburys and bought a pack of sliced ham!  I kid you not!!

I had made a great decision that I would use my syns this time round.  Previously, I would try and get through the week without having a syn.  If I did, it was never on meals, but treats.  To help me keep motivated, I decided it was ok for my meals to have syns.  It would ensure I was able to have variety and keep me focused.

The meals I had were amazing.  Even hubby enjoyed them.  Many of them are on my Youtube channel for you to enjoy.

I wear a Fitbit so tracked my steps.  On average around 15000 steps a day.  It is easy for me to keep active with 2 border collies to exercise. I also go to the gym in my lunch break.  It all helps to burn those calories off.

In the evenings, I would try and make sure that I found 30 minutes to do sit-ups.  Usually this would be in front of the TV whilst catching up on one of my soaps.  I think last night was the only night I missed, as I just didn’t have even 5 minutes to myself!

We had a work event where cakes were in abundance.  I opted for the fruit bowl.  Later on, there was a basket of pretzels and fruit and nut.  I picked up a pack of each.  Before I opened them, I checked on my Slimming World App.  The pretzels were 4 syns.  I couldn’t find the fruit and nut, so looked at the back of the packet.  They were 250 calories.  That is potentially 13 syns!  Wow.  I was not wasting my syns on that.  I did decide though that as I hadn’t got any syns planned for the day so far, I would treat myself to the pretzels

I really don’t think I could have done any more than I did last week.

I arrived at my weigh in just as they were about to start group due to my train being late!  I was a bit flustered already.  As I stood on the scales, I watched the numbers!  Half a pound on!  That is right, on!  I literarily had to hold back the tears.  If my hubby hadn’t have dropped me off and wasn’t coming back for an hour, I think I would have turned around and left!  As it was, I sat in the group furious.

I looked at my food journal.  I read all my meals and snacks.  How on earth had I gained?  My consultant asked me what I could do differently this week.  Did I want an SOS log.  No, I didn’t and nothing could be different.  I had followed the plan.  I had been really good.

Suddenly I was no longer motivated.  I was never going to lose that last 11 pound now! 

I left group and went home.  I could have hit self-destruct, but thankfully there was nothing in the house for me to have.

All night it was going around in my head.  How could I do the plan and put on!

The next morning, I looked in the mirror.  Yes, I want that 11 pounds but if I don’t get it, it is ok.  As long as I can honestly say I’d tried.  My body has obviously decided it didn’t want to lose the weight this week.

If I quit now, how would I feel.  I’m gutted now and I had really tried.  If I gave in now, I would feel a million times worse. 

I’m not in a great head space at the moment because of this knock back, but it isn’t going to beat me.  I’m going to continue for the next 6 weeks.  I may not get the 11 pounds, but for every pound I do lose, I’m going to be a step closer.

Sometimes life doesn’t always go to plan.  That doesn’t mean you have to give up.  What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  It’s a saying I always live by.

So, the week ahead, I’m still on plan.  I’m still writing it down and I’m still exercising.  Hopefully the scales will be kind to me this week.  Whatever happens, I’m keeping the reason I want this in my mind.  It is to feel the best I can the day I turn 50!

So guys, don’t quit – be true to yourself.  Keep going!  It will all be worth it.

See my personal account on my Youtube video when it is published tomorrow.