Imperial Jewels of China – Day 13- The Great Wall

It’s another early start with a 5 am alarm call!

Although yesterday I said this was my third favourite hotel this trip, I think the bed was the most comfortable so far. I slept so well.

We have a good routine going in the mornings. I wake up and make a tea for me, and coffee for hubby. While my tea cools I grab a shower.

As our case left the night before us in Xi’an, I didn’t have my Avon So Soft Spray on yesterday. As I look in the mirror now, I see that this was the perfect opportunity for the mosquitos to have a party on me. I have 6 bites around my neck and chest and 3 on my legs.

After my shower I completely cover myself in the spray. I’m not given them another day of fun!

We go for our first breakfast in this hotel. The dining area is beautiful with colourful lanterns everywhere.

There is a great selection once again from western to Chinese.

After dinner last night I felt so bloated, so I decided to just have fruit today, however I did allow a small smoked salmon roll to sneak in too.

We leave the hotel at 7.00 am for the 2 hour drive to the Great Wall. I am so looking forward to this, I just hope my bladder holds out for the duration of the drive!

I’m pleased to say I made it. The trip reminded me of when I was a kid going to the seaside. Searching the landscape for my first sight of the sea. We drove through the Badaling Hills which is the highest point of the Guangou Gorge. As I look around it is all so beautiful, and then, there it is, my first view of the Great Wall. It was amazing.

During the drive Terry our guides tells us all about how it was made, the staggering length of over 6200 miles in total.

We get off the bus and all quickly head to the ‘facilities’ as Terry calls them before starting the final part of the journey to the wall.

To get to the wall you take the Funicular up. I’m so pleased as I was expecting a climb! It takes just over 3 minutes and gives you a chance to take in the gorge a little.

Once at the top, you walk out and it’s there right in front of you. We take our first steps onto the wall and I can’t believe I’m here.

Terry is there ready to take our cameras so that each couple or group can have photos together.

The section we are on is part of the best preserved section. We decide to walk up the steep part first while we have fresh legs.

Some of it is steps , other parts slopes. Going up is very steep at times, but the views are amazing. 360 degrees of outstanding views in fact.

As we walk along the wall I have to keep pinching myself that I’m here.

When you see how far into the distance the wall goes, I can’t help wonder how on earth they got the bricks up here, nether alone to build it. It is a really beautiful, incredible landmark.

After the wall we visited a Jade factory. Hubby and I loved a table and 2 chairs made of Jade. It was only $1.8m, so we ordered 2 sets!! In our dreams!

They showed us how they cut the stone and the different colours. I always thought it was only green, but you get all variety of colours including red, yellow, blue and white.

After a tour we head upstairs for lunch. We have the usual array of dishes, but this time as well as the beer they gave us a bottle of ‘fire water’. We all take some on our table and toasted each other before downing it in one! Jeez, I now know why it’s call fire water! It was so bad we had to have a second toast!

After lunch we had time to walk around the shop. I decided to treat myself to some lovely blue earrings. I wanted a pendant to go with them, but sadly they didn’t have one in the same colour.

Some of the pieces were quite expensive like the table and chairs. These bracelets were from £1000-£1300 each, although they did offer 30% discount!

It was lovely walking around though looking at the pieces, especially when you know they were cut from one piece of rock!

We then took a walk along the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs. The walk is lined by 18 massive statues of elephants, lions, camels, and mystical beasts, protecting the tombs of Emperors. As we walk through the tree lined avenue, Terry explains the meaning of each of them and the old customs and suspicions. It is so peaceful and the smell of the pine trees adding to its calmness.

At the end of the Avenue you pass through the Great Red Gate which is more than 400 years old. With its 3 archways, it is one of the largest stone archways in China.

We start the journey back to the hotel. As we drive we pass buildings for the Beijing Olympics, which Terry points out for us. One of the beauties of Viking, is that you get a whole lot more than you expect every day and Terry is such a fabulous guide, explaining everything to us. He also cracks quite a lot of jokes which gets the whole group in stitches.

Back at the hotel we have a few hours to ourselves before leaving for dinner.

In the basement of our hotel and across the street is a big, high end shopping centre. The memory card on my small camera is already full and Hubby’s camera is close to being full, so we decide go on the search for a camera shop. Jimmy from Viking had suggested there may be a store in the basement of China World opposite the hotel. After a while we find a shop and are pleased to buy two 32MB cards for less than £12 each.

We arrive back to our room with 1.5 hours to spare before going out to dinner.


I’m so full, I really can’t cope with any more food. It’s a different style to normal with custard filled dim sums at the beginning as well as custard tarts.

I sample a little of some of the dishes, but I’m just still so full from lunch.

After dinner we join Kellie and Joe, a lovely couple from USA, who we have met on this trip, for a drink in the bar before heading to bed! It is the end of happy hour so Prosecco is 2 for 1 until 9 pm. We made it with 6 minutes to spare!

The mini bar in the hotel is free so we finally retire to our room for a drink before going to sleep.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 6 – Jingzhou – school and old wall

I woke up around 6.20 am and looked through our patio doors. The sun was just rising over the Yangtze River, it was so beautiful. I quickly grabbed my camera and took a couple of pictures.

Today we are mooring in Jingzhou where we will visit a school in the morning then this afternoon visit the old wall.

We dock just before 7 am so I watch the boat as it moors. Our balcony faces the port side so after breakfast we sit on the balcony watching the comings and going’s. Men are fishing on the bank, others just walking around.

Each day the staff give us a small booklet with has the latest news from home. We obviously get one on Britain which is a great idea.

Our bus is leaving at 9 am to take us to the school so we have plenty of time to sit and read before we need to leave.

We are just back from our school visit. I wasn’t sure what to to expect. When we arrived we were greeted by 100’s of children ranging from 6-12, all waving at us. They would come up and high 5 you.

We were treated to a little show where 3 groups of children performed different dances. We were then taken to see them in their classes.

Each child came and took one of our hands and asked us to sit in their seats. They are grade 2 children so haven’t learnt English yet. We tried to talk to them. My hubby was across the classroom from me and I could see about 4 children around him, fascinated by his camera and beard!

Many of the children board at the school while there parents work in Shanghai or Beijing. They only get to see them about once a year. The little girl with me was a boarder too. It broke my heart to think of her not going home to her parents each night.

Their grandparents would be playing a big part in their lives, but there is nothing like a mothers love and I’d imagine she must have missed her parents so much when first sent to school.

She was so cute. When I left she gave me a big hug and I can’t help but wonder if she is missing affection? I have nieces her age and I couldn’t imagine them not seeing their parents for long periods of time!

In China the parents devote all their money to make sure their children get the best education possible, so I can see why they have to board their children if they want to earn good money in the city for them, but it is still very emotional.

When you leave you can give a donation to the school which of course we did.

Now back on board I’m chilling on our balcony after another great lunch of prawns on toasted bread to start, pork ribs for main and green tea icecream for dessert. I mustn’t forget my glass of fizz!

When we returned to our cabin we had a lovely surprise. We have got friendly with another couple on the boat. They have a suite which also came with a bottle of champagne. As they don’t drink it, they had it sent to our room. I couldn’t believe how thoughtful they were. Hubby and I will certainly enjoy it, so thank you Joe and Kellie.

As I sit here on the balcony I notice a women on the bank. She is washing her laundry in the river. If you look at my photos above you will see how dirty the water is and I can’t help but wonder how clean she gets her clothes.

She first wets the item in the river then lays in on the bank where she takes what looks like soap and scrubs the items, first with her hands and then her feet. She takes a long time with each item before rinsing them in the river. It seems sad that this is her only way to wash her clothes.

I could sit here forever watching the world but I need to head to the bus again to go to the old wall.

It’s only a short trip but gave us an opportunity to visit the city walls and experience some of the locals selling fruit. It was nice just to walk around and see how they live. A man was carrying 2 buckets of water hanging then on either side of a plank of wood balanced on his shoulders. Little moped trucks were piled high with boxes or scrap metal etc.

The county really fascinates me.

We get back to boat around 4 pm so we have time to chill in our room catching up on the BBC news before we have to get ready for dinner. It’s a western menu tonight.

As I look out from the balcony there are now some men swimming. I give them a wave and they happily wave back. They swim over towards our boat for a closer look. Others are fishing. We decide to go up to the top deck for a walk and people watch more.

It was perfect timing as we were just setting off again down the river. We stayed a short while just soaking up the quietness and reflecting on their way of life. Eventually it was time to shower and change for dinner. But not before watching a he sunset.

Before dinner there is a briefing on what is happening tomorrow, as we travel through the 3 Gorges. I am expecting a huge change in the landscape tonight as we sail towards them.

After dinner there is a show where we will be shown different traditional dress. Sadly hubby has come down with a cold today so I’m not sure if he will make it.

We decide to go to get he shied after all and it’s good fun. The staff are dressed in an array of costumes and perform traditional dances for us. It’s all bright and colourful. A lovely end to another good day.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 5 – Sailing up the Yangtze River

Today is a sailing day so there is no need to get up too early however as we have a safety exercise at 9.30 am we decided to set the alarm for 7.30 am. I have to say this was a good decision as I had the best nights sleep last night in so long. I think it was the sound of the water that must have relaxed me so much. If the alarm hadn’t have gone off, I’m not sure when I would have woken up.

There are no kettles in the room so hubby was keen to get up and head for breakfast so he could get a coffee.

I really wasn’t that hungry today so settled for just some fruit and a mint tea.

After breakfast I’ll be honest I went back to bed for a couple of hours, while hubby sat on our balcony reading and watching the activity on the river.

I think we are both very surprised how wide the river is and how much commercial traffic is on it. I don’t think we have seen any other passenger ships on the river yet. It’s so peaceful you can’t help being relaxed.

As I had a light breakfast I was getting quite hungry so around 12.30 pm we headed to lunch. You can either eat from the buffet or off the menu. You will never starve on this trip that is for sure.

I opt for a tuna salad to start followed by spaghetti bolognese and Chinese green beans, while hubby had the same starter with a lamb curry. I really fancied sorbet but it wasn’t on the menu. I asked Eddie our waiter who said it wasn’t a problem and quickly returned with some.

Drinks run freely over lunch so I opted for the fizz while hubby had a beer.

During the day there are activities going on. I was gutted to read I’d missed a lecture on the Yangtze River this morning. Now reading the programme I see there is a talk on Chinese medicines after lunch and a lesson in Chinese. I am planning on going to the latter. In the meantime I’m going to chill out on the top deck watching the world go by.

It’s nice and warm but there is quite a haze today. As I sit watching the activity on the river it’s hard not to fall asleep. It’s really is calming sitting on the deck. There are fishes jumping out of the river. I don’t know what they are but they come right out.

The staff come round offering ice tea or water to keep you hydrated.

When we pop back to our room the maid has been. Again, they have left some really lovely extra touches such as bookmarks. Hubby had been reading his book but didn’t have one so had folded it over. She had noticed and gave him a Viking one. She also left a card each for us with our own Chinese year on and what it means. They must have got our years from our details. Hubby is a rabbit and myself the rooster. The description for both of us was actually quite accurate.

I did go to the Chinese lesson but couldn’t get into it so decided to return to our balcony to chill. Later we have welcome drinks with the captain as well as a Chinese themed menu. Eddie assured us at lunch that if we didn’t like Chinese they would make us something else, but you can’t scare me with Chinese food.

Before dinner we were invited to deck 5 for the welcome party with the captain. On arrival we were given champagne which was continuously topped up. Canapés were offered too.

The evening started with a dance performance before the key staff were all introduced to us. The captain had been sailing this river for over 30 years so we are in safe hands.

As we were listening to the speakers, we looked out of the window and saw the most spectacular sunset. Sadly we didn’t have any cameras with us but will definitely be making a plan to get some photos tomorrow night.

After a quick briefing about the next days tours it was time for dinner, and what a dinner.

As it was a Chinese menu, food plates of different dishes were placed on our Lazy Susan for us to help ourselves. Kung po chicken, ribs, fried rice, fish etc etc. It kept coming. A lovely dumpling soup and banana sorbet completed the meal. Oh of course more bubbly.

After dinner we retired to the bar for a couple before bed! Tomorrow we are off to visit a school and the old wall.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 4 – Saying Goodbye To Shanghai

It was a bit of a lay in this morning. The alarm was set for 6.40 am. Today we leave the Westin hotel in Shanghai to go to the airport, to fly to Wuhan where we will board the Viking Emerald.

I’d packed most things last night so this morning I only had to shower and pack the toiletries into the case, ready to be collected at 7.30am.

We don’t leave the hotel until 10.45 am for a 1.25 pm flight, but Viking are sending our luggage ahead. We don’t see it now until we are on the boat!

After the cases are outside our door, we settle to have our last morning cup of tea in our room before heading to breakfast.

As we have scales in our bathroom hubby thought it would be good to get on them as see how much Our weight has changed in the last 5 days. We seem to have eaten so much I wasn’t sure I wanted to know! In for a penny, in for a pound, I got on them. I had stayed the same! Woo hoo I was so pleased. Then hubby got on. Drumroll please………….. he had lost 1.4 kg!! How on earth did he do that ? I was gutted! He is always lucky that he can eat and drink what he likes and not worry too much about it. That’s men for you ladies! I can put weight on just eating lettuce!

Talking of food, we then went down for our last breakfast in Shanghai. I’m sure the breakfasts for the rest of the trip are going to be just as good but in the meantime we savour the selection available to us.

We now have just under 2 hours before we leave for the airport so I relax on the chaise lounge in our room and catch up on @MYDIY on YouTube with Kathy. Today she is making scarecrow wreaths. They are so cute. I do enjoy watching her videos. The only challenge is in China you have to use a VPN to use your phone or iPad. It keeps cutting off, which frustrates me. I do finally get to watch it all though.

Right, it’s time to check out. We still have 2 weeks left of the holiday, but it’s still sad to be leaving Shanghai. We really have had a great time and our room has been so comfortable. The bath especially which is free standing and big enough to fit 2 people side by side! The boat will only have a shower but fingers crossed our rooms on Xion and Beijing will have baths too.

We are now on the bus to the airport. Terry is giving us an update on what will happen when we get to the airport. He is a character. He was telling us that when he sees phrases on movies he has to check it is suitable for tourists.

We arrive at the airport and are given our passports and boarding passes as well as our lunch boxes. Viking do make things so easy for you. All we have to do is go through security again.

We head to our boarding gate and all open our lunch boxes. It was supposed to be a club sandwich. When we all opened the bags there was a roar of laughter. Many of us instead of a club sandwich got something with a purple and orange layer! It tasted of butternut and yams. Hubby was lucky and got a club sandwich so kindly split it with me.

We were also given a banana and 2 madeleines which were nice. I was craving bananas so it was timely.

Our flight is boarded as I settle down. Hubby has taken the window seat again. The gentleman next to me has an awful habit of picking his nose. Not a little go by a full on rummage for most of the flight. To make it worse he was flicking it or wiping it on his table. I was literally heaving. I was desperately trying to not look, but it was so difficult. I was desperate to get off the flight.

There was some positives though. The air hostess noticed I was reading my book so put my light on for me. They also brought around water for us which I kept on my lap, not wanting to put anything in the seat pocket.

I did have a look at the duty free shopping magazine though. Now, I have to say I have never seen anything quite like it. When I first opened the magazine I came to knives, saucepans and kettles! If that wasn’t bizarre enough, I turned over and saw fridge, cooker and bikes! I couldn’t wait to see what their trolley looked like. Sadly I didn’t buy anything as my baggage allowance might have been exceeded!

The flight landed and thankfully the guy next to me rushed off so I was able to get my antibacterial wipes out without offending anyone !

As Viking were taking care of our luggage we just had to identify it so they could check everyone’s had arrived. As we left the airport Terry informed us that the sandwich issue was a mistake and had ordered us all a KFC to eat on the bus. That was a really thoughtful gesture and went down well with everyone.

Unlike UK KFC this wasn’t fried but marinated chinese style and was delicious.

Before going to the boat we did a detour to Hubei Museum where we first were treated to a traditional bell performance followed by a tour of one of the exhibitions.

The Bell performance was so relaxing I could have fallen asleep. I was so enchanted. The musicians and dancers were in traditional dress using old musical instruments, which were beautiful in themselves.

We were then given a private viewing of an exhibition of Marquis Yis. When he died, he had buried with him 13 girls and women whose ages ranged from 14 to 26. All were killed as human sacrifices. Within the tomb were musical instruments, food and wine vessels along with furniture. He believed in the afterlife, so all the items were placed in the 4 chambers for him. The women were to care for him and play him music. The tomb was discovered when some soldiers were trying to build their houses. It was really fascinating.

After the museum, we headed to the boat. As I got off the bus and I walked down the gang way I was so excited.

When on the boat we are greeted by the staff who take us to our stateroom and show us around. The staff are all very friendly and really want you to have a good experience.

The stateroom has a king size bed, sofa, coffee table, dresser and plenty of wardrobe space. On the balcony we have 2 more chairs.

The bathroom is basic with just a shower but I was over the moon when I saw they use l’octaine products. They had these on our previous cruise with them, and I have to say I do love them.

As it was after 7pm we went straight to dinner. Tonight was a western menu. You choose off a menu and as is Viking, they cater for all tastes.

I had ham and melon to start, salmon with new potatoes for main and sorbet to follow.

Alcohol is free during mealtimes so they keep you topped up with a drink of your choice. Mine was white wine.

The dining room is set out in tables of 8 so you get a good chance to meet and get to know the fellow passengers.

After dinner we have a briefing on floor 5 in the bar area so get ourselves a drink. Carey who took us to our room earlier serves us and he has already learnt our names, which I think is brilliant in such a small amount of time.

We are due to sail at 9.30 pm so hubby and I go onto the top deck. The buildings around us are lit up and change colour in unison. It is spectacular.

We sit on the desk for a while over a glass of wine, until the lights are now a distant memory.

We planned to have one last drink in the bar before bed, however we got talking to another couple and settled in for the rest of the night.

As we were outside of meal times you pay for your own drinks. We were recommended the drinks package. For £250 for both of us, we could have unlimited drinks. We decided this was a really good deal and signed up for it. I was even more glad I did it when I found out you could have fizz too.

Finally it was time for bed!

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 1 – Shanghai

After the long day yesterday we had an early start this morning. The alarm was set for 5.45 am so we could have a cup of tea before shower and breakfast.

Tea was a bit different to what you usually get. It was loose tea leaves. As I don’t speak Chinese I couldn’t tell you what it was but it was delicious. After adding the hot water it looked almost like fresh leaves.

Breakfast was amazing. We are staying at the 5 star Westin Hotel. Breakfast options are vast. You can have a full on Chinese breakfast which includes rice, noodles, dumplings etc. Alternatively you can have a selection of fruits, cereals or an English breakfast.

By the time we had got ready we now only had 30 minutes before leaving on our tour so opted for something quick and easy. I had a chicken sausage, baked beans, an egg boiled in tea, bacon and a steamed bread roll, followed by fresh fruit. Tomorrow we have more time so I plan to be a bit more adventurous. It looked so amazing that it would be a shame not to try some traditional foods.

Our tour left the hotel at 7.15 am for a full 9 hour trip to Suzhou. It takes about 2 hours To get there from Shanghai, but this gives us a chance to look out of the bus window and take in the views. There are lots of high rise buildings, which just reflects the high population here in China.

Suzhou is known as the ‘Venice of the East’, with its canal network . Unlike Venice though it isn’t sinking as the canals are all man made.

Our first stop is for a trip along the Grandcanal in a traditional boat. The houses are very basic, many with no private bathrooms or in some cases, kitchens. People are washing clothes and shoes in the canal as we sail by. Washing is hung from most windows from bamboo canes. It’s so pretty in a kind of way it’s hard to describe. We have taken lots of photos which will be transferred to my YouTube channel when we return home.

Lunch is next on the agenda. It’s a traditional Chinese lunch at the Garden Hotel. We sit on tables of 10 with others on our trip. Plates of food are placed on a lazy Susan. Dishes included rice, noodles, chicken gung po (which I made a slimming world version a few months ago for my YouTube channel – https://youtu.be/mkD4RFWz7uM ), aubergines in hoisin sauce, egg with onions, fish and tomatoes, tomato and potato soup, just to name a few. This was washed down with a bottle of Snow beer. Yes Snow! It made me laugh in view of the current heat.

After lunch we headed to the Silk Museum. I found this really fascinating. You get to look close up at the silk worms, the cocoons etc. They take you through the process from start to finish. At the end you have opportunity to shop. Silk quilts or as they call them ‘comforters’ are so reasonable. Less than £100 for a king size. If I hadn’t just bought one at home I would certainly have brought one back. Instead I bought a large scarf and glass case. I was worried about my luggage allowance for the internal flights so didn’t buy more. I’ve since discovered the China airlines are a bit more flexible. I’m kicking myself now as I know some friends and my own mum who would have loved a Silk scarf too. Maybe on my trip I will find more.

After leaving the museum we went to a gardens. It is down a little alley, tucked away. The garden is built around the house. Ponds, rocks and trees are beautifully set out. It’s called the Master of the Nets Garden. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Yes there are many people there at the moment, but somehow it is so quiet and romantic!

There are a group of Chinese people who seemed fascinated by us and and taking many pictures. I can’t help wonder what they will do with them! I do play to them for a while. They then notice my camera holster and seem to like it. I show them how it works which pleases them. I had it for my birthday and have to say it is amazing. It’s called a camera holster by Spider. It fits comfortably on my waist so I don’t have to have my Camera around my neck in this humidity!

It is here I experienced my first squat toilet! It was a choice thing as the normal toilets had a massive queue! I can see why Chinese ladies have good legs!

It’s been a lovely day. I am certainly going to sleep tonight and although the tour laid on by Viking for today has come to an end apart from the trip back to the hotel, we still have this evening to explore more.

I think our plan is to head towards the river to explore it lit up. We want to do a boat trip tomorrow so may see if we can get one booked. In the meantime I’m chilling out on the bus for our return journey back to the hotel.

I can’t believe the traffic. What should have been a 2 hour trip home now turned up into over 3 hours. To make things worse it’s started to pour with rain.

As we reach our hotel it’s still raining hard. We decide that as it’s also after 7.30 pm the best thing is to get a bottle of wine and a few beers to take to our room, have a bath and chill.

We aren’t hungry but could do with something light so pick up some salads from the cafe in the hotel to take to our room too.

It’s a shame it’s raining but in someways we are both tired, so it gives us a chance to recharge our batteries for tomorrow. We are free to explore on our own so plan an early start.

We are both loving this trip and it’s only really just begun!

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.

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!

Be Inspired!

If you are a member of Slimming World you will know there are so many recipe books out there. I think I have most of them.

Every so often, if you buy a 12 week countdown you get one for free!

I must be honest, recently I’ve been a little bit negative about them producing another book. What else could they come up with. I mean, they have the BBQ, Soups, One Pot, Meals for One, meals using 5 ingredients, desserts, the list goes on!

The recent one is called SP Sensations. I received mine as part of a 12 week countdown a few weeks ago!

I took it home expecting it to go into my recipe book cupboard, never to see the light of day!

That evening as I ate dinner I flicked through. Suddenly I found myself leaving markers of things I liked! Oh wow, this book truly was different and amazing.

Suddenly I had an increased urge to be more creative in the kitchen. I got my groceries app out and started my weekly shopping list!

Turkey with Chorizo, Tuna Niscose are my first dishes. Hubby tasted them and was amazed at the flavours!

Another dish was cinnamon prawns! I think I actually got ‘you have excelled yourself’ from hubby on this one!

Even where I haven’t used the recipe exactly, it’s inspired other dishes.

The other night I made the Gong Bao Chicken. The recipe is for 4. As I only needed it for 2 I still made up the oyster sauce mix for 4, so I could use the left over to create a dish last night. Which I have to say was amazing. I will be posting that dish on my YouTube channel on Friday!

Suddenly dinner times are exciting again. I’m no longer tired or bored of having to think of meals every night to cook. I can’t wait to get home and produce something amazing.

When you have only 2 hours every evening to cook, prepare breakfast and lunch for the next day, eat and do everything else that you need to do before going to bed to start the day again the next day, it’s easy to get into a rut. This new book has completely reenergised me!

So if you are able, go get this book. If you can’t, then make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel to see my creations, as I share them with you!

It’s time to try something new!

As with most things in life, if you do something long enough you can get into a rut!

I have been on Slimming World now for over 2 years, and food is no exception to that. Don’t get me wrong, just joining Slimming World opened up a whole new array of goods. Who knew about quark before Slimming World? I didn’t. And now I have it every day. I absolutely love it! It is fair to say, I think it has transformed my life. I use it for breakfast, sauces, desserts, dips etc. You name it, I’ve probably used it for something. Its also a free food on the plan. Bonus!

Another new food for me was Grapenuts. Great to add into yoghurts and are a HEB. That was 2 years ago, and I have since kept to the same sort of food groups. Don’t get me wrong, I am very good at making different recipes up, and being creative as my Youtube Channel will show, but as my weight has sort of settled down, I wanted to try and see if I could find other food items out there!

The best place to find new things is certainly by staying to group, but also social media is a good place to look.

The last 2 months, I decided to start pushing myself to try something new every few weeks.

The first one was by complete accident. My mum bought a health bar but didn’t want it, so gave it to me. It had been sitting in my bag for a few weeks! With SW you can have up to 15 syns a day, but I always try to avoid syns. The only time I really allow myself to have them is at the weekend for my @slimlinewine. At 3.5 syns for 125 ml, I can enjoy a good quality wine, and still protect my weight!

I had been looking at this bar in my bag but too nervous to eat it! It was going to be so high in syns wasn’t it! I was hungry one day at work, but was avoiding the biscuits and chocolate. I decided to have a look on the SW App to see the syns of this bar. It was 11 syns! I decided I should go for it. It sounded a lot, but it was in my syns so why not! I’m so glad I did, as it was absolutely delicious. Packed full of nuts, it really filled me up for the rest of the day until dinner!

It got me thinking about what other snacks were out there that would fill me up, but not break the syns bank. 11 syns is very high for me, but surely there must be other foods out there not so high that I could enjoy.

I was looking through Facebook the other day and came across an advert for Missfits. @Missfitsnutrition they sell protein snacks and shakes, which are also suitable for vegans. I decided to have a look on their site. They were formed in 2016 by a group of ladies who felt there wasn’t much out there for ladies looking for protein items.

They were offering a taster pack for £3 from £11.99. I thought this was too good an opportunity not to explore. I looked on the SW App for their syns, but couldn’t find them. I decided to buy them anyway. I could work out the syns when I get them!

Now I have to say, the service from start to finish has been absolutely excellent! When I put my order in, it wouldn’t allow me to put in my discount code (Taste3), so I was charged the full price. When I contacted them, they immediately refunded me the difference!

Their products have no refined sugar and all natural ingredients. Delivery was free and quick. The pack arrived yesterday and I was so excited to see what was in it.

I received:
2x Chocolate Vegan Protein Multitasker (25g), 
2x Vanilla Vegan Protein Multitasker (25g),
2 x Cacao Orange Protein Wonderballs (35g),
2 x Coconut Protein Wonderballs (35g)

I was so excited to try them, but first of all checked out the syn value on the SW Syn Calculator. The shakes were 4 syns whilst the coconut wonderballs 6 and orange 5. I was really impressed.

Obviously it would be rude not to sample both flavours of wonderballs wouldn’t it! Wow, they were both delicious.

The orange flavour is a cross between a truffle and a chocolate orange, while the coconut tastes like one of my favourite childhood sweets, coconut mushrooms! I had to finish the opened bag of coconut ones last night! I was tempted to finish the orange bag too, but decided they are just too good to rush!

I haven’t tried the shakes yet, but I will be very soon. I’m planning to have them after a gym session one day!

They help you overcome your sugar craving without breaking the syn bank. Because they are high in protein, they fill you up longer too!

I was absolutely blown away by this product. If you are in the market for protein or vegan snacks or shakes, you seriously have to visit this website:

All

I’m not vegan, but these are still high on my list of must haves. I’m going to be ordering more. I’m especially interested in trying the salted caramel and cocoa ones.

I’m looking forward to getting home this evening to enjoy my orange wonderballs! I doubt the other 2 packs will be around by the end of next week. I am certainly hiding them from hubby! They are too nice to share!

So guys, for 5-6 syns you could have a really healthy, delicious, nutritious, high protein snack. Why would you use your syns on chocolate when you can have a bag of Missfits?

Give them a go with their taster pack and don’t forget to use the code to buy them for £3. You won’t regret it, I promise!

Enjoy!

Rules of Ready Steady Lets Cook Slim

Well today, I have officially launched my Ready Steady Lets Cook Slim challenge.

Although I am a keen Slimming World member, and I will be looking to make dishes that fit that programme, I also want to be able to open it out to anyone who is looking to eat more healthily.

I’ve done Weight Watchers in the past, but don’t know how the points are done now. I anyone would like to send me anything to help me give them their points equivalent for Weight Watchers please to do so.

I want this challenge to be inclusive of everyone, whether you are vegetarian, vegan, dairy free etc also.

So what are the rules?

Each week, I will be inviting my followers on YouTube and my Blog to put forward virtual bags. Each virtual bag will have a maximum budget. I will pick at random each week 1 bag.

After I have chosen the virtual bag, I will go shopping for those ingredients. I will then create dishes based on those ingredients and store cupboard staples. So what will those store cupboard staples be?

Store Cupboard Staples

  1. Anything from the Spice Rack
  2. Vinegar – all varieties
  3. Salt & Pepper
  4. Stock cubes, bouillon powder or stock pots
  5. Mustard Powder
  6. Soy Sauce
  7. Oyster Sauce
  8. Tomato Puree
  9. Fat Free Dressings
  10. Sweetener
  11. Low Calorie Cooking Spray such as Frylight
  12. Gelatine
  13. Bovril
  14. Marmite
  15. Mint Sauce
  16. Thai Fish Sauce
  17. Tabasco
  18. Vecon
  19. Vegemite
  20. Worcester Sauce

All other ingredients will need to be part of the bag.

The Virtual Bags

  1. Budget Bag – Maximum Value £3.50
  2. Classic Bag – Maximum Value £5.00
  3. Bistro Bag – Maximum Value £7.50
  4. Gourmet Bag – Maximum Value £10.00

What can you put into the virtual bags

You can put anything you like in the bags as long as it can be bought at most supermarkets.

If the value of your items doesn’t reach the maximum value and you want some additional ideas, you can give me the remaining balance as a wild card. This wild card will allow me to spend the remaining budget on any other ingredients I feel may enhance the dish.

You may tell me if you have any special dietary requirements for the dishes. You can also say if you are looking for specific meal time ideas such as dinner, lunch or breakfast or a mixture!

I will cook the dishes and publish them each week on my YouTube channel. I will let you know how they were made, how many they serve and anything else you might need to know to help you replicate it yourself at home!

To ensure I provide you with the best food options possible and have the chance to go shopping, I will be looking for the virtual bags by 5.00 pm on the Tuesday each week.

I’m really looking forward to this challenge and I hope you are too.

So start thinking about your virtual bags and leave a comment on my YouTube video here.

See you next week for the results!!

Ready Steady Lets Cook Slim

Does anyone else remember the TV cooking programme ‘Ready Steady Cook’? I was absolutely obsessed with it. In fact, it would be true to say that this programme turned me into the cook I am today!

The programme was hosted initially by Fern Britton, and then later on by the chef Ainsley Harriott.

The first episode hit our screens in October 1994 and went on for many more years, with the last episode in February 2010. In total, there was a staggering 1859 episodes.

So what was the programme all about? As the name points to, it was about cooking! Two contestants would be paired up with a celebrity chef. One team called ‘Green Pepper, the other ‘Red Tomato’.

The contestants would have brought with them a bag of ingredients to the value of £5. This was called ‘The Classic Bag’. The chef for their team would then have 20 minutes to create a few dishes from the ingredients. They did have store cupboard staples to help them, but it certainly tested the chefs knowledge and skill.

At the end of the 20 minutes, their finished dishes were explained and tasted. The audience then got to vote for the best dishes. Was it green peppers or red tomatoes?

The winner received £100 with a runner up prize of a hamper, which contained many cooking items and ingredients.

In 2000 when Ainsely took over the show, the programme was extended to 40 minutes from 30, and a new section was introduced. At the end of the show, there was a final section called ‘Quickie Bag’. Here the chefs would get another bag of ingredients. They would have a little time to consider them before saying what they would make with them. Ainsley would then say which dish he preferred. The winning chef would have 10 minutes to produce that dish!

Each episode had different chefs. My favourites were obviously Ainsley (before he became the presenter), Gino D’Acampo, Brian Turner, Phil Vickery, Lesley Waters and not forgetting Anthony Worrall Thompson.

Other variations to the bags included:

Budget Bag – This was the same as the first bag above, except the budget was only £3.50!
Bistro Bag – The budget was increased to £7.50.
Gourmet Bag – The budget was a staggering £10! The chefs loved this one!
Doubling Up Bag – Both contestants would bring in identical ingredients. Fern or Ainsley would use a coin or dice with the green pepper or red tomato on it. The winning side got to say what they would do with the ingredients first. The other side which have to quickly change their ideas to do something different if they were thinking on the same lines!
Forfeit Bag – The chefs chose a card at random. The card contained an item from the store cupboard that they were not allowed to use!
Gamble Bag – The chefs were given 3 mystery ingredients. They can swap one of them for another mystery item. They don’t have to swap, but once they have seen the alternative ingredient, they have to swap it!
Lucky Dip – The chef is given a bag containing 10 items. They close their eyes and pick 5 items out. After 10 minutes of cooking, they get to pick another item which they have to incorporate into their dishes.

There was a lot of hype around the show. Everyone wanted an apron with either a red tomato or green pepper on it. Ok, maybe not everyone, but I did! When they launched their magazine, I was there!! I have volumes of the recipes from the show. You would buy the magazine every week or month (I can’t remember how often it was). Within that would be different types of recipes, that you divide and place in the lever arch folders that came with the magazines!

As I said above, this show really did make me into the cook I am today. I used to go to my fridge and pick out a variety of ingredients. I would then create dinner for that day. I continue to do this almost every day now!

Thinking about this programme today, gave me an idea! I know that a lot of people worry that being on Slimming World can be expensive. They also may run out of ideas to make different foods each week that are on plan. So how about I do a slot each week on my YouTube channel – Slimminginspirations4u where subscribers can send me virtual bags each week. Once a week, I will pick at random a virtual bag and create a dish or dishes from it!

To make it more interesting, even though we are potentially 25 years later, I won’t increase the budgets for the bags!

This Sunday, I am going to launch this idea. If you are interested in taking part, or seeing what I create, subscribe to my channel and hit notifications. You will then get to know the bag I have picked and the dish I produce.

So what are you waiting for? Hit Subscribe now!

https://bit.ly/2TgveXk

Ready Steady Slim!

Letter to my scales!

It is with deep regret that I find myself writing this letter!

We have been together for many years now! You have always been a trusted friend. We have seen some highs and lows. You have always been honest with me. You have never hidden the truth from me, regardless of how bad it has been!

You have ensured my clothes on a Wednesday don’t exceed 0.3kg! You have even made sure I have never exceeded my baggage allowance when I went on holiday!

We have fond memories of my puppies when we checked how much they were growing! It was lovely to see them grow week on week.

You have been such a huge part of my life.

It saddens me now that you have suddenly changed towards me! I don’t understand why! There seems to be no explanation!

I’m doing everything I can for you. I’m eating well, I’m going to the gym. I’ve even done dry January ! What more do you want from me!

I really don’t want us to part company but this attitude towards me has to change!

I hope this letter will clear the air between us.

I look forward to seeing the changes in you when I see you again soon!

Your ever hopeful friend

Xx

When the scales are not kind to you!

So, from 1 January I have been trying to shift a stone in weight, which I had put on last year.

I decided, as well as getting back fully into my healthy eating, I would also do dry January. Anyone who knows me, will know that I love my wine. Especially Slim Wine, and in particular their sparkling wine!

So when I suggested I would do dry January, everyone laughed, and said there was no way I would do it! Now if you know me, you never say things like that to me, because if you do, I will make sure I prove you wrong!

27 days into January, I am still going strong. Even an opened bottle of fizz in my fridge has not bothered me!

I honestly thought that not drinking alcohol would really help me lose that stone quickly! The plan was that I could lose 3.5lbs per week for the 4 weeks of January.

I started again writing what I was eating each day in my journal. I ensured I planned every meal. I have completely stayed on plan every day. I am allowed 15 syns a day with Slimming World, but gave myself a 12 syn allowance each day. Most days I have had less that 3 syns a day!

Everything was in place for a fantastic month.

The first week I lost 3.5lbs Woo hoo. I then went down with the flu. This meant, that I went from planning to go to the gym 4 times a week and doing 17,000 steps a day, to doing only about 1500 steps!

On top of that, my asthma flared up! After a visit to the doctors, I was given steroids! That week I dreaded the scales, but was over the moon to see another 3.5lbs off! Happy days.

After 2 weeks off, I eventually returned to work. I had continued to eat so well, I was sure that now I had increased my walking, I would achieve the 3.5lb again if not more! I was so disappointed when the scales said only 1.5lbs!

I could easily have fallen off the wagon, but I didn’t. I have a goal in my head, and I want it more than anything.

When I started this journey, I measured myself. Today, I revisited those measurements. I may not have seen the scales moving in my favour, but the inches had. I was so pleased to see 1.75 inches off my bum and an inch off my waist.

Sometimes, you also need to look at the non scale victories to see how well you are doing.

I have 6 more days on dry January. I have 3 opportunities to go to the gym before month end!

I may not be at the target I want on 1 February, but I will certainly be closer to it than I was on 1 January.

So what ever you have to lose, whilst it is good to set yourself a goal, don’t give up if you don’t reach it when you planned to!

Our bodies are funny things! Sometimes, they take a bit longer to catch up with us.

I’m going to hit that target, I know I will. Why? Because I want it!

If you believe in yourself, anything is possible!

Watch my personal account of this week! https://youtu.be/UYYyPGo37kM

Week 2 with the flu!

So this week has been a really tough week, due to coming down with the worst flu I think I have ever had!

It’s my own fault in some way, because I had been gloating that I had managed to avoid it. My husband had it really bad before Christmas. Both my parents have had it, and colleagues at work. I was convinced that the flu jab had made me resistant to it!

So on Monday when my throat started feeling scratchy, I thought I may just have a sore throat. I had a headache, but nothing a few paracetamol didn’t cure.

On Tuesday, I felt worse. I’m suffer from asthma and could feel my chest tightening. I thought if I could just have a bit more of my inhaler I would be ok.

By Wednesday morning, that was it! I literally had zero energy, my throat felt like I have eaten a bag of razor blades, and my head felt like it was going to explode!

I reached for the one thing I know always helps! Day and Night Nurse!



These are usually miracle cures! On this occasion, although they helped me feel a little better, I was still struggling. Since Wednesday, all I have done is sleep, lay on the sofa feeling sorry for myself or had something to eat. That is literally all I have had the energy to do.

Even today, 4 days in, I feel absolutely awful. Bless my hubby, I had used my last Day and Night Nurse last night. He went out today on the hunt for a chemist still open after 12.00 noon to get me more (I didn’t wake up until late!)

It would have been so easy for me to have just eaten rubbish this week. With zero energy, I really didn’t have the motivation to cook, however there were 2 drivers in my head!

  1. Eating Healthy would help me recover quicker!
  2. I want to lose 14 lb in January!

Thankfully on Tuesday night, I was still planning to be well enough to go to work the rest of the week. I had put into the slow cooker all the ingredients to make a thick healthy soup. I had made enough to get me though the week! Phew! That slow cooker was my saviour for lunch!

Breakfast was also easy. I really needed stodge. Chocolate Orange Oats cooked in the microwave was quick and easy, and very filling. (Check out my website for the recipe).

In the evenings, because I had already planned what I was going to have in the week, all I had to do was put the food into the oven or pan to cook. Nothing I ate took very long, but it was all home made and healthy.

So what saved me? Planning! If I hadn’t had planned my meals for the week, I could easily have fallen off the wagon. I had my 2 drivers above, but if I had had to put a lot of effort into eating, I am not sure I would have been able to stick to it.

This was last nights dinner! Packed with goodness and very quick and easy to make! It helped that hubby chopped all the vegetables for me too!

Chilli packed with speed food

As with last night it helped having hubby chopping some of the vegetables in the evenings, but breakfast and lunch would have been such a challenge, I could just have eaten rubbish.

I got on the scales today. I haven’t done hardly any activity this week. Not sure you can call walking up and down the stairs activity! I am very happy with what I saw! I have lost almost 6lb in 12 days!

If I can do that with how I have felt this week, there is no excuse for the weeks ahead.

I’m still on target for Dry January! I have been tempted to have a hot toddy a few times, but I am not going to give in on that either! I have a bet with hubby that I intend to win!

So if you are on a weight loss journey, don’t let anything stop you achieving what you want. If you want something badly enough you can still achieve it.

Good luck for the week ahead!

Gammon on a bed of roasted root vegetables and kale, topped with mushrooms and cheese.
Salmon on a bed of saute vegetables and broccoli
Lemon Chicken with cabbage and broccoli

First week in!

So, today is the 6th day of my 2019 Slimming world Journey. As weeks go, it has gone really well.

I decided, as well as healthy eating, I would also embark on Dry January. I think my hubby has finally stopped laughing at that one. I know its only the 6th day, but weekends are when I would usually have my Slimline wine. I’ve really missed it, but I’m determined to go the full 31 days without touching a drop.

I know Slimline wine is low calorie, but it isn’t really about the wine. It is about giving myself a good detox and reducing my total syn intake to maximise my weight loss.

During the week, its easier as I never touched it, but come Friday, I was missing the taste. I don’t think it was about the wine itself, but the habit of it. I decided, to make sure I don’t fail, I would buy some alcohol free wine. I called in at my local Sainsbury’s hoping to buy a couple of bottle of Eisberg sparkling, non alcoholic fizz. I’d had it before and it is really nice. Sadly they didn’t have it, so I opted for a bottle of Eisberg flat white and another one, both non alcoholic. I have to say, neither of them did it for me, and at 3 syns for 250 ml, I didn’t think they were worth it.

What I did pick up also though, was a bottle of Winter Spice Ribena. I know from my Slimming World group that it was supposed to taste like mulled wine. I thought I would give it a go. It is actually gorgeous. The first one I made was too strong, but after that, I’m hooked. As it has been so cold recently, it is perfect. And it is syn free!

I have also been so good with my meals and syns. During the week, I struggled to have more than a couple of syns. Even at the weekend, with my non alcoholic wine, I was well within my syn value.

I’m allowed 5-15 syns on Slimming World, but I have set myself a personal target of a maximum of 12 syns. That way, I should hopefully have a better weight loss!

Below is an idea of some of some of my daily meals:

Breakfast

Omelette with Ham, Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Cheese
Overnight Oats
Egg Muffins with Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Peppers
Smoked Salmon, Eggs and Wholemeal Toast
A Slimming World Full English. Wholemeal toast with light cheese spread, bacon, mushrooms, baked beans and eggs

Lunch

Dinners

Sirloin Steak, Potato Wedges & Peas
Chicken Breast cooking in chopped tomatoes and Chorizo, served with mushrooms, tomatoes and potato wedges
Chilli with Rice
Cheesy Pasta Bake

In addition, I also had a beautiful pork medallion, topped with Stilton Cheese from my HEA, served with a selection of vegetables.

I know I probably could have had more speed vegetables, but I hadn’t done my shopping for some of the meals, so it was what was in the fridge!

All the meals were completely on plan.

For snacks, I would have fruit, bananas, satsumas, apples and grapes, Baby Bell Light (you can have 3 as part of your HEA), Muller Light (1 Syn each) or a slice of ham.

I haven’t been tempted to have any sweets, even though they would have been in my syn allowance!

Every day, I have managed to get my 10,000 steps in, if not more, and I have also done 30 minutes of sit-ups, while watching the TV!

I don’t have my official SW weigh in until Wednesday, but according to my scales, I have lost 2.5 lbs already since 1 January, so I am very happy with that.

Tonight, I am still going to have my roast beef dinner. I haven’t had any syns today, so I will have Yorkshire Pudding, but I will make mini ones, with frylight which will only be about 2 syns each! I will make everything else, including my gravy syn free!

I’ll let you know what my SW weigh in is on Wednesday!

Have a good week

Here are the links to a couple of the recipes above

Follow me on YouTube https://youtu.be/0_-AScYkZVg

Dairy- why it’s good for us!

This week Slimming World announced that it was going to be increasing its Healthy Extra A (HEA) portions.

For those not on Slimming World, HEA is a diary product, such as milk or cheese.  Currently, you can only have 1 portion a day.  This will also depend on what you are having, as to how much of it you can have.  For example, you could have 30 g of full fat cheese, or 175 ml of full fat milk each day, but not both.

Under the new changes, we will be able to have 2 portions of HEA per day.

We all know that dairy products are a good source of calcium.  This is particularly important for women and children.

A single glass of milk can contain a third of your recommended intake of calcium each day.

Calcium is needed in young children to help their bones grow strong.  In adults, there are conflicting reports on the benefits.  Human’s are the only adults that drink milk in adulthood.

Dairy products are supposed to help increase your metabolism due to them containing calcium and protein, however there is a warning here!  Most dairy products contain high levels of fat, so if you eat too many full fat dairy products, you could increase your weight.  Aim for fat free or low fat alternatives.

Calcium is needed to build strong bones in childhood and adolescence and helps maintain bone strength in adults, to prevent osteoporosis. Although 50 per cent of the adult skeleton is formed during the teenage years, but its not only children and teenagers who need calcium. We lose it from our bodies every day, so it needs to be replaced on a daily basis. Milk and dairy products are the main sources of calcium in the British diet although later on, I will explain that it isn’t the only way of getting it.

Teeth need calcium too.  Did you know, cheese can be particularly good for teeth when eaten after a meal, as the calcium and protein it contains helps to neutralise acids in the mouth.  My dentist told me to eat it after things like grapes, tomatoes, fizzy drinks etc.  Again, you need to be careful how much you eat as you could add the calories up very quickly!

Dairy products are also said to reduce blood pressure, risk of colon cancer, heart disease and strokes.

I have to admit, I am absolutely rubbish at making sure I eat food rich in calcium.  I had a dairy intolerance many years ago.   It developed after a failed pregnancy.  For 10 years, I suffered terribly if I ate anything with dairy in it!  Thankfully its reversed itself, however it will flare up if I eat it in any volumes.

I no longer can eat things like butter or cream, and struggle with milk.  Cheese and yoghurts are really the only things dairy I now have, and in moderation.

Some people become Lactose intolerant.  This is completely different from dairy free!

The main carbohydrate in dairy is lactose, a milk sugar composed of the two simple sugars, glucose and galactose.

As an infant, your body produced a digestive enzyme called lactase, which broke down lactose from your mother’s milk. However, many people lose the ability to break down lactose in adulthood. This is known as lactose intolerance.  About 75% of the worlds population is reported to suffer from it.  Although that said, it is rare in North America, Europe and Australia, but very common in Africa, Asia and South America.

People who are lactose intolerant have digestive symptoms when they consume dairy products. This includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and related symptoms.

Good Sources of Calcium

You don’t have to drink a pint of milk a day to get your allowance of calcium.  There are so many other food items that will do the job as well.  So how can you get your recommended daily allowance?

  • Milk and milk productsMilk, yoghurt, cheese and buttermilk. One cup of milk, a 200 g tub of yoghurt or 200 ml of calcium-fortified soy milk provides around 300 mg calcium. Calcium-fortified milks can provide larger amounts of calcium in a smaller volume of milk – ranging from 280 mg to 400 mg per 200 ml milk.
  • Leafy green vegetablesBroccoli, bok choy, Chinese cabbage and spinach. One cup of cooked spinach contains 100 mg, although only five per cent of this may be absorbed. This is due to the high concentration of oxalate, a compound in spinach that reduces calcium absorption. By contrast, one cup of cooked broccoli contains about 45 mg of calcium, but the absorption from broccoli is much higher at around 50–60 per cent.
  • Soy and tofuTofu (depending on type) or tempeh and calcium fortified soy drinks
  • FishSardines and salmon (with bones).   Even canned salmon!  Half a cup of  contains 402 mg of calcium
  • Nuts and seedsBrazil nuts (milk chocolate coated ones don’t add to it!), almonds and sesame seed paste (tahini).  Fifteen almonds contain about 40 mg of calcium.
  • Calcium-fortified foods
    This include breakfast cereals (watch out for sugar content though),  fruit juices and bread.  One cup of calcium-fortified breakfast cereal (40 g) contains up to 200 mg of calcium. ½ cup of calcium-fortified orange juice (100 ml) contains up to 80 mg of calcium, and two slices of bread (30 g) provides 200 mg of calcium.

How much calcium you need varies too.  According to the Better Health Channel the following is the RDI:-

Babies 0–6 months approx. 210 mg (if breastfed)

approx. 350 mg (if formula fed)

Babies 7–12 months 270 mg
Children 1–3 years 500 mg
Children 4–8 years 700 mg
Children 9–11 years 1,000 mg
Adolescents 12–18 years (including pregnant and breastfeeding young women) 1,300 mg
Women 19–50 (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) 1,000 mg
Women 51–70 1,300 mg
Men 19–70 1,000 mg
Adults over 70 1,300 mg

As with everything, its all about variety and moderation.

If you eat a well balanced diet you should be absolutely fine!

When the clocks go back!

So this weekend sees the clocks going back!   That means one thing for me!  Shorter days!

It’s not my favourite time of year.  Ok, the sunny autumn days are beautiful.  The red and gold tones of the leaves against a clear blue sky, are a photographers dream.   None of this takes away the fact that I am now going to be leaving home in the dark, and coming home in the dark!

The temperature is dropping, so more layers, hats and gloves are coming out of the wardrobe!

The route I take for my dogs, when I am on my own, now has to change, as I don’t feel comfortable going down the alley in the dark!

The other big thing that changes, is my food!  Those light salads no longer do it for me!  I might get away with them for lunch after the gym, but after a walk in the cold or wet with the dogs, I’m going to be craving hot, stodgy food and snacks.  These are my danger zones for weight loss.

If I plan, I can actually have all my favourite foods without gaining the pounds.  So what do I go for?

Breakfast

Overnight oats are still a firm favourite.  I enjoy them all seasons, as they are filling and tasty.

If I’m looking for something hot, it has to be an omelette, topped with baked beans.  For work, I will do it in a mug the night before and just warm it up in the microwave when I’m in the office.  This is my recipe.

https://slimminginspirations4u.godaddysites.com/recipes-1/f/mugomelette

If you are at home, then you can easily make it in your omelette maker, or in a non stick frying pan.  See how I make mine.

Lunch

Again the omelettes are a great choice, but if you have had them for breakfast, you will want something a little bit different!

Pasta is a very quick and easy dish to make, and you can make a few portions up at a time, and leave in fridge.

For my basic recipe, I will just cook wholemeal pasta, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, chopped peppers, mushrooms and onion.

I will then separate that into separate air tight containers.  Rather than having the exact same every day for 3 or 4 days, I vary what I then add to it.  Some days it will be chopped ham, another boiled eggs, another tuna or mixed beans!  Top off with a bit of grated cheese just before you microwave it and you have a hot, healthy lunch.  Don’t worry if you don’t have a microwave as it is delicious cold too!

Have you ever melted Dairylee Light triangles into pasta with mushrooms?  Delicious and so so quick and easy.  Add a bit of ham for extra protein!

Rice salads can be done just the same.

Don’t forget last nights left overs warmed up too!  Perfect the next day, and I think some meals such as lasagne and curry taste better the next day!

Jacket potatoes with baked beans, chilli or dairylee triangles are a good hearty lunch.  Bake them in over the night before with your evening meal, then reheat the next day!

Dinner

My slow cooker is my absolute best friend during the whole year, but this time of year, it is even more valuable.  You can literally throw anything into it, put it on low before you go to work, and then you walk in to a ready dinner.

Mexican chicken is a real favourite.  You can make it as hot and spicy as you like, or mild for the kids.

Lemon chicken is perfect for week days and weekends.  Imagine walking in after a nice autumn Sunday afternoon walk to the smell of this dish.  Just add potatoes and veg and you have a perfect Sunday dinner!

https://slimminginspirations4u.godaddysites.com/recipes-1/f/lemon-chicken

Don’t forget the family favourite – Lasagne.  This is perfect to bulk cook, divide into containers and freeze.  You can then take it out when you are in a rush.  Its also good to take to work for your lunch!

Keeping it Healthy

It is so easy during the winter months to hit the chips!  Don’t get me wrong, if you want to lose weight, you can still enjoy a trip to the chip shop, but it must be factored in.  Normal fish and chips from the chippie for 220g serving is around 14 syns, 100g is only 6.5 syns.  If you take the batter off, the fish becomes free!  Even if you don’t take the batter off, with 15 syns a day you can still have them!  And don’t forget that mushy peas are free food too!

One of the great things about this time of year, is the increased number of vegetables on offer!  Pumpkin, sprouts, parsnips and many many more root vegetables.  You can make great tasty meals quickly and easily.

If you chop a selection of root vegetables up and place in a slow cooker, with a tin of tomatoes or passata, add a few herbs and spices, you have a great base for soups, casseroles and sauces.

If I have vegetables coming to the end of their life, this is a perfect way to use them up!  Its perfect to freeze too!  I can then defrost it and add any left over cooked meat from the night before, to make a quick and easy meal.

Tinned of mixed beans with tinned tomatoes, chilli powder and less than 5% beef mince, in the slow cooker is quick and easy.  Serve with rice or over jacket potatoes!  Yummy.

Winter can be a really great time to experiment in the kitchen.  Don’t be afraid to play around.  I’m always making up different recipes from left overs, or whatever is in the fridge.

I even do this when friends come to dinner.  This was quick, easy and perfect for a light lunch this time of year or as a starter, as I used it.

For other ideas and recipes, visit my website http://www.slimminginspirations4u.com or my Youtube channel.

Stay to Group

I’m ashamed to admit it but after reaching target last year, I lost the drive and motivation I had getting there!

To begin with, I would gain only a few pounds.  I thought it was fine, especially as my hubby felt that my target weight was  too low.  I stayed to group every week and tried to pull it back.  One week I would lose, the next week I would gain.

Then life just got really busy and stressful.  I found that I didn’t have the time to stay to group.  Working away, late trains, birthday meals etc,  meant that I would run in and weigh, then leave.  I thought just weighing in was enough.  I had been doing Slimming World for over a year.  I know what to do.  Why did I need to stay?  It won’t change what I am doing.  Oh how wrong I was!

As I said, I have been doing Slimming World for over a year so I know about free and speed food, syns, and my Healthy Extra’s!  I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and never cook in oil, eat the fat off meat or the skin on the chicken!  All said and done, my 3 main meals a day are on plan!  Ok lets think about this.  If all this is true, then why did I put over a stone back on?

The one main thing was breakfast.  Because I was always tired or in a rush, I stopped weighing my HEB’s!  I mean, we all know what 40 g of oats looks like don’t we?  I got complacent.  I thought I could guess how much I was having.  Then the other day, I went to put granola into a bowl.  There was hardly anything in the box left.  I was just about to pour it into my bowl when I thought out of interest I would weigh it!  It was 75g!  Wow.  That is more than double what I was allowed.

Lunch was always ok.  I can be honest with that!  I would have salad without dressings, using ham or roast skinless chicken and boiled eggs.  Perfect!

Dinner again fine.  Lots of fresh vegetables, lean meat and no sauces!  Oh hang on, there was the pre-packed burgers from the supermarket.  They were their finest range so must be healthier!  Ah, and I had that chilli and rice dish the one day!  We have had lots of Braai’s so there were those nibbles and garlic bread!

At work, everyone used to say how good I was as I never went for the biscuits or samosas.  One day recently there was a big box of samosas for staff.  One of my team was shocked when I asked her if she wanted one!  As we both went to get one, I was then tempted to have a spring roll too.  I even went back later that day for seconds!

My boss saw my staff member with the food and said to her she should have eaten it when I was at the gym so I didn’t know!  She was shocked when told I also had one!  If only she knew it was more than 1!

I might have prepared a healthy lunch, but I was now snacking during the day!  It is amazing how the extras can add up!

The long hot summer also meant more wine!  Whilst I was drinking mainly Slimline Wine, I was still having more syns than I am allowed!  In my head I was drinking a low calorie wine so it didn’t count!

When I look back, no wonder I have put weight on!  Going to weigh in was just to tick a box.  I was no longer passionate about my journey.

The day I stepped on the scales and saw a number I did not like, I realised I had to put a stop to it.  I decided staying to group had to happen.  I needed my motivation back.  I needed to listen to other peoples journeys and get ideas.  More importantly, I need to take an hour out of my busy stressful life just for me.

So at my first week back to group, with a heavy heart and close to tears, I listened to the group.  In previous sessions, I have been known to put food ideas onto my Tesco shopping app to try new recipes from the group.  I started doing this again!  I bought the magazine, and made a promise to myself to read it cover to cover!

I left group determined.  I went home and planned my meals for the week ahead.  I vowed not to have anything at work unless it was planned in.  I would save my syns for the evenings, and then only have them if I really needed them.

I chose the gym rather than work lunches out!  I cooked at home rather than a takeaway, even when time was limited and I was absolutely exhausted.

The following week, I walked back into group.  I was hoping for a big loss!  I know I have a long journey ahead of me to get back to how I was.  I stepped on the scales and saw a 3.5lb loss.  I was absolutely gutted.  I wanted more!

I feel stupid now feeling like that.   Most weeks I would have been overjoyed at that loss!  I wanted more because I am so desperate to get back to my target weight.  The reality is, it is going to take me a few weeks for that to happen.

I decided to buy myself a 12 week plan. That way, I could take the pressure off myself.  I could give myself small loss targets per week.  That way I won’t be disappointed.  I can also give myself treats without feeling deprived.

I really want target again.  When I get there I am also not going to fall back into the trap I am in now!

Nothing feels better than looking in the mirror and liking what you see.  I know to achieve this, I need to keep going to group.  I need to keep recipes ideas fresh.  I need to take time out for myself.

The next 12 weeks will be a journey but I’m going to do it.  I know I am because I know how much I really want it!

Best laid plans!

For weeks leading up to the recent bank holiday, everyone has been saying it was predicted to be the hottest weekend this year so far.  May Day bank holiday was a scorcher, so if this was going to be even hotter – woo hoo!

As like many others, we had made a plan for the whole of the weekend based on this beautiful weather we were going to have!

Saturday – Hubby was to paint the fence – paint and new brushes were bought in anticipation, and I was going to clean the house and visit the butchers and supermarket to buy steak and salads for the Braai we were having for our neighbours.

Sunday – A lovely long walk somewhere in the Cotswolds with the dogs, then home to wash and clean car myself followed by a relaxing Braai.

Monday – A relaxing day, maybe a short walk with the dogs then home to start packing for our trip to Scotland and Italy later on in the month.  Probably a final Braai of the weekend.

So what actually happened?  Well I think someone forgot to tell the sun to come out!  Instead we had a mixture of showers, thunder storms, a little bit of sun and greyness!  It was all change for our plans!   The difficulty was, the weather seemed to change on the forecast daily!  From our amazing planned weekend, we then went to deciding very last minute based on the weather at that time.  So how did our weekend turn out?

Saturday – A trip to the butchers and supermarket for me, but this time to look for something to cook inside.  Sadly the housework was still on my agenda.  For hubby, a day relaxing at home on his computer and watching Rugby on TV.

Sunday – A lazy start and then a trip to get my car washed and cleaned inside.   We were hoping to call in on my parents but I couldn’t get hold of them!  On the plus side, my friends invited us over for Sunday dinner, so that was a really nice change to our plans.

Monday –  It was dry, woo hoo,  so we quickly took the opportunity to paint the fence!  I say ‘we’ as suddenly it became a job for both of us.   I have to say it does look amazing and very satisfying when you finally get the job done!

Being flexible and open to change

This weekend is, like so many others. With the great British weather, we can make as many plans as we like, but sometimes they just have to go out of the window.  Whilst we didn’t do half the things we planned, (I certainly didn’t even start to think about the Scottish and Italy trip), we did have fun.  On the negative side, I now need to fit a lot of jobs into my evenings after work, which is never my preferred way.

It is always good to have a plan but, trying to always stick to it can cause you a lot of stress and unhappiness.  This over time this can manifest itself, and bring on health problems such as depression and anxiety.

By being flexible, you are allowing yourself to experience new opportunities and skills.  If the sun had come out last weekend, I wouldn’t have gone to see my friends and had a fun relaxing evening.  If my husband had started the fence on Saturday, I wouldn’t have helped him on Monday.  You might be pulling a face at that comment, but actually, I had fun doing it with him, and I too can share the satisfaction of looking at it now its done.

This was one weekend, but if you think about your life in general, you will experience a lot of change, both in your personal and work life.  Some of them may not always be good changes, but by building up your resilience to change for the smaller things, it will help you cope with the bigger changes.

They say divorce, death and moving house are the most stressful things you experience in your life.  I’ve had all 3 of them and I can agree.  So, what can you do to help you get through these times?

  • Acknowledge the changeTrying to pretend it isn’t happening won’t help you. Understand what the change is and how it will impact you.
  • Write it downWrite down how you are feeling? Make a list of the positives and negatives of the change?  When you write things down, they sometimes don’t seem as bad as they did when they were just in your head!

    Keep a diary.  It is amazing how every day putting down how you are feeling, what you are thinking etc will help you.

  • Focus on the PositivesBy looking at the positives you can start to feel more relaxed and calm about the change.
  • Turn the Negatives into PositivesList next to your negatives at least 1 positive. For example, if you are getting divorced, think about something you didn’t like about the person – i.e. No more listening to them snoring!  The funnier it is the more relaxed you feel.   Could this be a new opportunity to meet new people, travel, have more time to yourself?
  • CryIt’s ok to show your emotion. Don’t bottle it up.  Having a good cry can sometimes make you feel better!  And that goes for men too!
  • Find a focusFor me, taking my dogs out for a walk really helps. If you don’t have a dog, you can still go for a walk on your own.   Exercise even just walking or the gym will help you.  Maybe read a book or play some music.  Anything that helps you relax.
  • AcceptanceAccept what you can’t change and focus on what you can.
  • Take Control
    By focusing on what you can change you once again take back control of your destiny.  You might not like the change but knowing about it means you can control what happens next.  Embrace it and make  the decisions you need for you!
  • Ask for helpIf you really don’t know what to do, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Use your friends, family or support groups.  Counselling is also a good way to get through major change.  Don’t be afraid to open up.  It isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of taking control.
  • Step Away from the alcohol

    Whilst alcohol will make you feel better in the short term, it can lead to you focusing on the negatives.   You may say things you regret especially on social media.  The hangover the next day doesn’t help either.  And do’t forget the calories will increase your chance of putting on weight which won’t make you feel good about yourself either!

  • Don’t comfort eat

    As with alcohol reaching for the biscuits, chocolates etc may make you feel good in the short term but the weight gain won’t.   Healthy eating will help your mental state much more.

Whatever life throws at you, remember you are the only person who can make that change work for you.  It might not be your choice initially, but once you know the impact, you can take control and decide on your own destiny.

So, the next time something doesn’t go to plan, think about what happened next.  Think about the positives that have come out of it.  This will help you when change comes your way and you are not expecting it!  Take back the control and move foreward!

 

 

 

What a week! Thank you fridge and freezer!

I don’t know about you but I always find that whenever there is a bank holiday the week drags!  This week was no exception!

For some reason every 1st of the month this year I have developed a cold!  So on 1st April as I was having a lovely walk around Stratford Upon Avon, I could feel my throat start.  You know that feeling that you are swallowing glass.  For me that is always the first sign!    I would have liked to have spent Bank Holiday Monday in bed, but had my stepdaughter staying so that wasn’t an option!

As the week developed the cold got worse.  I really didn’t have an appetite which meant planning for meals was really difficult, as I didn’t know what I wanted.  It is so easy to just pick at junk when you are feeling like this!  I was in the office for the 4 days this week and despite feeling as bad as I did, I still made myself go to the gym!  I couldn’t go at the same pace as other weeks, but decided any exercise was better than none!

When it came to food, I was really good and decided that I would make sure I had every meal planned out for work at least.  That would be my biggest challenge as there is always a lot of biscuits and cakes around.  I decided that carbs was the way to go, so made a big batch of pasta salad which I split over a few days.  I reheat it at work with a couple of light cheese triangles.  Melted they make a lovely cream sauce which is part of my HEA.

Evening meals were more of a challenge.  I would take things out of the freezer that morning.  The problem was I really didn’t have any energy when I woke up, so by dinner time my levels were even lower!  Thankfully I always have a fridge full of fresh vegetables.  Again I loaded up with carbs by slicing up new potatoes and cooking them in garlic frylight with every meal!

By Thursday my motivation was rock bottom!  To make it worse, on the way home our train was stopped between Stetchford and Lee Hall stations.  The conductor said there had been an incident at Marston Green Station and so we had to wait.  Eventually after what felt like hours, they advised us that they were taking us back to Stetchford where the train would terminate.  It turned out that someone had run in front of the train in front of us!  You must be in a terrible state to feel that is the only option for you!  The train driver must also be so traumatised.  Its such a horrible thing to happen.

We are now though stuck at a train station miles from where we need to be.  If any of you commute regularly you will know that we are all creatures of habit!  We stand on the same spot on the platform each day so we meet the same people.  One of the ladies on our train quickly got onto the Uber App and ordered a taxi.  It was going to take 20 minutes but that was better than waiting to see what was going to happen – i.e. could there be a bus service laid on?  Even if there was it wouldn’t take us to our station as there is a low bridge!  My husband and I and another lady who also gets our train with us decided to join Natalie with the taxi and share the cost.  As we were quite far out, Natalie’s husband offered to come to Birmingham International to pick us up, so the taxi didn’t have as long to travel.   We finally got to our car at the Station an hour later than normal.  We still then had to drive the 30 minutes home.

I have 2 border collies who would be expecting us home.  I checked the CCTV to see if they were ok.  Bless them, as soon as the time comes for when we are normally home, both move to watch the front door.  I wonder what goes through their minds when we are late!

They were so happy to see us when we got home.  No accidents either, although Lola quickly told us to stop saying hello to her and let her out!!

I’m already exhausted from the cold, I’m now late home and the dogs still need to go for a walk.  We decide that it really is too late for me to start cooking!  Phew I was so relieved! But then the decision of what to eat!  If we had still lived in Warwick it would have been easy!  Fish, chips and mushy peas  for my husband and chicken kebab meat with salad and lemon juice for me!  We do have a chip shop in our village but it doesn’t do kebab meat as far as I know, and I don’t really like chips and definitely don’t like fried fish or anything in batter.  So that leaves Chinese or curry.  Hubby didn’t fancy a curry so a Chinese it was!  We didn’t have a menu as I have only eaten there once when I first moved to the village so went in blind.  I know what hubby usually likes so decided to play safe.  Beef and black bean sauce with Singapore noodles for him, and chicken in oyster sauce for me.  I should have ordered boiled rice but really couldn’t face it, so decided to pinch a few of the noodles! It was actually very tasty!

My cold was getting worse by Friday so I was so pleased I already had lunches sorted in fridge.  I quickly grabbed a lamb, chicken and dhal curry from freezer for dinner that night which I would add boiled rice to!  I am so pleased I have free food in the freezer for times like this.  It would be so easy to turn to junk food right now!

By Saturday morning I have had it!  I feel like death and decide that I’m staying in bed for the day.  I don’t have any real plans for today so I don’t need to get up!  I am not one for staying in bed.  I am the one up and out walking the dogs at the crack of dawn, or doing housework!  I knew the dishwasher needed emptying and the washing basket was full, there was dog hair on the carpets and don’t get me started on the kitchen floor!  Right now none of that mattered!  Well until  the postman woke me at 2 pm to take a parcel for my neighbour!  Then my OCD kicked in!  I couldn’t just lie around when there was so much work to do!

After a couple of hours cleaning I finally curled up on the sofa, only for my hubby to ask if I wanted to join him to walk the dogs.  I didn’t have to, he knew I was unwell, but I thought the fresh air might do me good and anyway, I needed the steps!

I decided I needed to pull myself together and make something for dinner!  I had some turkey mince in the fridge which I was going to make a pizza with (I will have to share the recipe with you sometime!) .  I didn’t fancy that now but I did fancy a lasagne!  Its amazing how you crave carbs when you are ill!

My husband doesn’t really like turkey but what he doesn’t know doesn’t kill him!

I mixed the mince, 1 chopped red pepper, chopped onion, tinned tomatoes, 10 slice chestnut mushrooms, 1 pint of beef stock (to hide the flavour of turkey!), pepper, 4 tablespoons of Worcester sauce, 2 tablespoons of tomato puree into a frying pan and cooked it for about 15 minutes. Just before the end I added 2 large handfuls of mixed frozen vegetables.

I lined a lasagne tin with sliced courgette.  Added a layer of the mince mixture then topped with lasagne sheets.  I repeated this until all the mixture was used up!

I then mixed 500 g of quark with 3 eggs and topped the pasta.  Baked at 150 degrees on low shelf for 50 minutes.  Then added grated cheese and cooked for another 10 minutes.

I served it with garlic bread.  For hubby it was the shop bought bread but for me I took 2 slices of wholemeal bread (HEB), sprayed with frylight butter and spread with Lazy Garlic.  Both were baked in oven for 10 minutes until golden.  Absolutely delicious.  I also have another 4 portions left for the freezer for lazy days!

My husband was even heard telling my parents today how nice it was !!

Today i’m treating my parents to Sunday dinner.  I’ve booked Charlecote Pheasant by me.  Its a carvery and really good value for money.   I had pate to start, that was the healthiest option, then a lovely roast for main.  I was trying to keep on plan but its very hard at carvery’s as you don’t know what they have cooked the veg etc in.  I opted to fill up on the protein so had a slice each of ham, pork and beef, 1 yorkshire (well its not a roast with out one!), carrots, beans, red cabbage and 2 of the smallest roast potatoes I could find.  It was all cooked so well.  I decided to skip dessert.  I did have a look but nothing took my fancy so decided not to have one for the sake of it.  If you ever want lunch out I would recommend it.  For 4 adults, 3 having 3 courses, me 2,  including 2 glasses of wine, 1 pint Cider and 1 pint of coke it all only came to £80.

The restaurant is bright and traditional.  There is plenty of room if you want to bring a large group.

I’m now suitably full so I won’t need to eat again until tomorrow.  Lets just hope the week ahead is better!

Looking back this week could have been a complete disaster.  You can’t plan when you are going to feel ill, but you can plan for those times when you need something quick any easy.  Keep your fridge full of fresh vegetables and the freezer full of healthy options.  Batch cooking is your savour on weeks like this.  Planning is the key to successful food optimising !