If you only read two books this year!

One of the very few benefits of my hubby no longer commuting with me comes from the fact that I have had to change my own commute.  I now get a train closer to home as hubby can drop me off and pick me up, which avoids the £9.00 daily parking charge.  It costs me more each month in train tickets, but overall is better than the petrol I would have had to pay from having to drive myself each day to the other station, which hubby and I used to share.

So, what is the benefit?  Well it is twofold!  I now get a seat each day, rather than standing cheek to cheek with other passengers!  As the journey time is longer, I have time to relax and read a book.  This has completely changed my daily 3-hour commute.  What used to be a stressful time, is now quick relaxing.

Having the opportunity to sit and read has also awakened a passion I had almost forgotten.  A book I have been trying to read for over 6 months was finally finished.  It allowed me to move onto another book with I can only describe as a truly moving piece of literature.

I overheard a couple of colleagues at work one day talking about his book. Both were saying how good it was.  It was the word Auschwitz that sparked my interest.  I had been to Auschwitz and Birkenau twice.  Both trips were very different in some ways, but similar in others.

On my first trip in around 2006/2007 I remember there was an exhibition in Birkenau of photos taken by a prisoner.  Knowing what I knew about the camps, I couldn’t understand how a prisoner could smuggle a camera in.  It had troubled me for years.

The first visit was more of a relaxed tour.  We had our own private guide who had been our driver for the whole week while we were in Poland.  He took us around at our own pace, telling us all the stories and history of the two camps. 

I remember the silence that fell over them both.  It was like the world had stood still in remembrance of those that had lost their lives there.

I returned to the camps in 2018 with my hubby.  This time, it was an organised tour.  My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I felt that there was less huts open to us to visit.  Or maybe they were missed on the tour, I really don’t know.

The emotions I felt on the first trip returned.  The pain and suffering that had gone on was felt deeply.  I couldn’t imagine what these people could have gone through.

When I returned, I posted some photos of my trip on my Youtube channel and Facebook page.  Someone on Facebook criticised me for posting my pictures.  They felt I was dramatizing the camps.  I absolutely wasn’t.  My photos, I felt told the story of my visit, of how I felt, the conditions the prisoners lived in, and the life they may have lived.  They were not photos of people having fun.  I don’t think on either visit I could have found the emotion of being happy whilst walking around the camps.  I don’t know anyone who could.

With my visits brought back to the forefront of my memory, I needed to know more about the book my colleagues were talking about.  It was called ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ by Heather Morris.  It was based on the life of a survivor – Lale Sokolov.  The author had the pleasure of meeting Lale in his later years and was given the privilege of telling his story. I quickly ordered my own copy from Amazon.

I was captivated from the very first page.  The story she told was like an emotional roller coaster.  Of determination to survive against all odds.  The sadness of losing loved ones, newfound friendships, of loyalty, trust and so much more.   I finally understood how that camera could have got into the hands of the prisoner.  How he took the photos unseen will always remain a mystery.

I don’t want to go into the story in detail.  Firstly, because I couldn’t do it justice, but secondly because it is a story that has to be read.  I felt I knew the characters by the end of it.  Having been to the camps, I could picture them, I felt their pain and willed them on to survive. I cried when they died or were tortured.

At the end of the book, Heather sparks your interest in the sequel – Cilka’s Journey.  Unlike with Lale, Heather never got to meet Cilka.  Her story is from people who did know her and research.  Whilst not from Cilka, you still feel that you are with her.  I’m so glad as with Lale, her story has been told.

Whether you have been to Auschwitz or not, both books are a must read.  What happened in those camps is past anything I can ever begin to understand.  How someone can choose who should live or die based on their religion or looks is beyond me.  The things they had to do to survive.  Their bravery and strength.  The bonds they formed.  I am completely in ore of them.

So many people lost their lives, their only crime was being different from others.  As with my photos, these books keep the memories of those that died or survived alive.  I don’t think we should ever forget what happened in these and many other camps.  By knowing what we know, it should make us better people.  To not judge people by their race or religion.  To be kinder and not judge.

If you only ever read 2 books this year, these are the ones you should choose.

God bless all those that suffered in the camps.  May they rest in peace.


Where have all the city slickers gone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving house can be stressful enough!!!

So this weekend a very good friend of mine moved into her new home. My husband and I, along with others helped them with the move.

Now, for me, there are 3 types of house purchase you can make!

  1. Moving to a brand new house.
  2. Moving to a wreck of a house, but it’s ok as you only bought it for the footprint.
  3. The pre-loved house, that will soon be your dream home with a few of your own cosmetic changes to fit in with your taste!

So lets take each one of these in turn.

Moving to a brand new house. This is probably one of the easiest moves you can make, providing the builder has done everything you have asked them to! I’m not saying this is a stress free move, especially if you have a house to sell, but moving in day should be easy.

With a brand new house, the builders would have had cleaners in the day before, so when you walk in for the first time, it is sparkling. All you need to do is bring your boxes and furniture in, and work out where to put it all!

My hubby and I moved to a new house nearly 3 years ago, and I have to say, it was lovely not having to worry about replacing anything or decorating straight away. Although, we did want to put our own stamp on it, so hubby was painting the kitchen within a week! The beauty is though, is that you can take your time doing everything, because it looks so nice and clean!

Moving to a wreck of a house.  We all must know of some little house somewhere that you have walked past, that doesn’t seem to have been lived in for many years, then one day there is a ‘For Sale’ board outside.

This type of move is probably the one that you need to be a bit more organised with. You may love the house or location, but once you open the door, you know it needs completely gutting. You need to get plumbers, electricians, builders, you name it, you will need it before you can really live in it! It really doesn’t matter what it looks like inside, as its going to be ripped out very soon.

You may even only bought it for the land, so it really doesn’t matter if the window and doors are falling off, or there is a family of rats living inside. It is the start of a big project to give you your dream home!

Buying a pre-loved home. Now this is probably the most common move most people would make. My friends house was pre-loved. Now, when I say pre-loved I use that loosely! To me, when a house is loved it is well cared for. I’m not saying that everything has to look all shiny and new, but there are some basics I would expect! I has to be clean when you first walk in!

We are all very busy people, and when you are moving house, your time is even more precious. You have to pack everything up ready for moving day! Moving day comes and you are probably looking forward to your next adventure. Even if your move isn’t your choice, this is still your home that you are passing over to someone else!

I was so shocked when I walked into my friends house. I know not everyone is a ‘Monica’ when it comes to cleaning but I’m not sure whether this house had ever been cleaned properly before!

There was thick dust on curtain poles. Cobwebs on cobwebs! Dirt and grease in the kitchen! I could go on!

Thankfully 3 of use were able to give the place a really good deep clean. It looked so much better after, but I felt sorry for my friend. When you get the keys to your new home, you know you are going to change it. You are going to make it your own. What you don’t want though is to walk in and have to scrub the place before you can even bring your own things in!

It really takes the shine off moving day! Whenever I have moved, I have scrubbed my house within an inch of its life. I didn’t want anyone to walk in and judge me or the house. The house had been a big part of my life. I wanted it to be a big part of someone else life now!

It isn’t too much to ask is it?

Surely, even a quick clean wouldn’t hurt would it? Maybe my expectations are just too high? I don’t know – what do you think? Would you prefer to walk into your new home, all clean, or do you want to have to put on the rubber gloves and scrub it before you can start to think about unpacking?

After a disappointing start, I know my friend will be very happy in her new home, the pleasure of it was just delayed.

I used to be a terrible ‘Monica’. With 2 dogs, I have had to chill out a bit more, but I would like to think that if I ever moved again, my inner ‘Monica’ would come out again!

Breakfast – The most important meal of the day!


You would all have heard this said many times over the years, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day!   Overnight while we are sleeping we effectively put our bodies into fasting mode.  Breakfast breaks that fast which is where the name comes from.

Our body and brains need fuel to function.   Research has shown that those who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight than those that don’t.

We are all busy and having that extra half hour in bed may feel more tempting than having breakfast.  By planning well you can have your sleep and eat well.

I’m up around 5 am most days but there is no way I could actually eat a breakfast then!  I leave home at 7 am and still not in the mood for food.  They say that you really should eat within 2 hours of waking, but for me like some people i’m still not quite ready to eat then.  Plus if I did eat within 2 hours of waking, I would have to eat so early I would be starving by lunch time and am more tempted to snack mid morning!

My job means that some days I am at my desk by 8.30 am or  I’m on the road or working from home.  Over the last 12 months on Slimming World I have been able to come up with a variety of breakfast ideas that suit every occasion.  That way, I am able to have a healthy breakfast whatever my circumstances. I may be a bit longer than the 2 hours recommended but I always ensure I have it and its healthy!

I thought I would share with you some of my favourites:-

Overnight Oats

This is probably one of my favourite breakfasts.  Its easy to prepare and you can make them days in advance.  I tend to make a few on a Sunday to last me through the week.

40g Oats
Frozen Fruit (of your choice)
Pot of Fat Free Yoghurt or Quark

Layer the 3 ingredients into a jar or plastic container!  I prefer to sandwich the oats between the yoghurt and fruit but it doesn’t really matter as when I eat it I mix it all together.

This breakfast is great to take to work, eat at home or on the train!

Baked Oats

This is very similar ingredients to the above.  The only addition is an egg.  Mix it all together.  If using quark you can add a teaspoon of sweetener or a cap full of concentrate sugar free squash.    I also sometimes add grated carrot or courgette or both for added flavour.  Doesn’t sound right but try it.  It tastes delicious!

Place in a mould of your choice or muffin trays and bake for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees or until golden brown.

Serve them with more yogurt and a selection of fruit.  Ideal for when I ‘m working at home but if I am on the road, I will make them in muffin tins.  They are then handy to eat while I am driving – obviously without the yoghurt!  I will also have the fruit with it such as a chopped apple etc.


I am a massive fan of omelettes.  I have an omelette maker but you can make them just as easily in a frying pan (using Frylight) or in the microwave!  The beauty of omelettes is that you can literally use any fillings you want, or that are in your fridge!  Left over vegetables from the night before are brilliant fillings.

My favourite fillings include Kale, Spinach, mushrooms, peppers, and ham.  Anything works though so have a play around!

If I am at home I use my omelette maker and have them fresh.  If I’m going to be at work I use one of the plastic microwaveable soup mugs you can buy.  I make a couple at a time so as to save time the rest of the week.    I put all the ingredients into the mugs or omelette maker and cook for 3 minutes in microwave or until firm in the omelette maker.

I am totally addicted to baked beans.  They are also a good source of fibre.  If I am using my soup mugs, when cooked I top with beans and then leave in fridge.  When I get to work I just pop them into the microwave for 90 seconds to warm up.  If you didn’t have the beans you could eat it cold.  It is still delicious.

If I am on the run, I also make them in a muffin tray.  These then make great finger food to eat while I am driving etc.  I have also been known to mix baked beans into the omelette mix before cooking.  Try it – its delicious!

Good Old Fashioned English Breakfast!

Yes you can make this healthily!  Every weekend my husband loves a full english.    You too can have it and still keep on plan.  I tend to have bacon – all fat removed, mushrooms, beans, poached eggs and wholemeal toast.  If you have a food pan you can cook it all without fat!  See my previous blogs about the pans I use!

If I am going to the office I can still have a full english!  How?  I use my good old soup mugs again!  I layer the breakfast ingredients into the mug – well not the toast!!.  Microwave for 4 minutes.  Leave to cool and put into fridge overnight!  When I get to work I just reheat in microwave!

If you do want toast with it you could pop one in the toaster just before leaving for work and then wrap in foil.  Its not going to be warm but its great for mopping up the juices of your beans!  I also sometimes use a light cheese triangle instead of butter to keep the calories and syns down!

Eggs and Ham!

These are fabulous for a snack, breakfast on the run or just to have with a full english!  They are simple too!  Just line a muffin tray with a slice of ham! I use Frylight to stop them sticking!  Whisk eggs and add to ham lined tray !  Bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees! That’s it!

Boiled eggs!

Yes its as simple as that!  Boil some eggs!  You can take them out of their shells to eat on the run or wait until you want them and peel as needed!  They keep well in the fridge for a few days so again great for when you have a busy few days ahead!

Eggs are a good source of protein so keep you full!  I also love them pickled!

Lemon Cheesecake!

Ok its not actually a cheesecake but it does make me feel like I am having one!

Make up a batch of Slimming World Lemon Curd.  This keeps in the fridge for about a week.

2 eggs
1 Lemon Juice and Rind
2 Tablespoons of Quark
3 Tablespoons of sweetener

Whisk the eggs with lemon juice, rind and sweetener.  Place over a pan of simmering hot water and whisk until it thickens.  Remove from heat and add the quark.  Its as simple as that!  When cool keep in fridge!

Layer a bowl or a container with Grapenuts,then quark.  Finally add a couple of tablespoons of the lemon curd!  Heavenly!!

Banoffee Pie!

Ok again not the real thing but my take on it!

As above layer a bowl or container with Grapenuts and toffee flavoured yoghurt!  Top with chopped banana.  Gorgeous!


If you really are in a hurry grab an apple, banana or pear!  Simple but will help keep you going!

Alpen Light Bars

These are great when you really don’t have time to do anything!

So I really hope the above helps you to think that regardless of how much time you have, you can find time for breakfast.




Slimming World on a Budget

Slimming World on a Budget

12 January 2018

I joined Slimming World a year ago. In that time I have read many comments from people either thinking of doing Slimming World or currently a member concerned that doing the plan is too expensive, due to the cost of food.

You have probably all heard in the last 12 months about the rising cost of food and seen it at the checkout, however it is still possible to stick to plan and keep your food bill under control. I am going to try and help you overcome your worries and share some of my personal experiences and tips.


The key to ensuring you can stay on plan without breaking the bank is planning.

Look at everything you have already in your cupboards, fridge and freezer. You will be surprised what you have that is syn free or low syn already. Herbs, spices, Worcester and Soy sauce will be your new best friends. They will help you flavour your food without any syns. Baked beans, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree (oil free) are so versatile and classd,s as free food so you will see them in a whole new light!

Download the Slimming World App on your phone or tablet. You will find it extremely useful especially in the early months. A year on you will still see me in the supermarket looking up syn values.

If you have food that you are unsure of the value, check on the Slimming World app or web site. Write the syn value on them. Whilst they may not be’ free’ you may still be able to use them within your 5-15 syns per day.

If you have snacks around split them up into smaller bags to reduce the syn value.

Nothing has to be thrown away.

Sit down and write a list of all the meals you would usually cook during the week. Have a look on Slimming World’s web site for menus of your favourites. You will be amazed how many of your favourite meals can be made slimming world friendly.

I also think about where I will be for each meal. Will I be at home, work, in the car etc. When you are ready to experiment with new recipe ideas, this will play a key part. There is no point planning on making soup for lunch If you know you won’t be able to warm it up.

Write a menu plan of what you are going to cook during the week. I don’t think about what I’m going to cook on each day as I don’t know about you, but I don’t always fancy what I planned on that day. I usually plan how many of each type of meal I need for example, 5 lunches for work, 7 dinners, 4 breakfasts on the run etc. I then plan meals that fit each of them. This gives me flexibility as to what I will prepare on what day depending on how I’m feeling.

Where to shop?

I work full time with 2 border collies that also need 2 good walks a day so I don’t have much free time.

If you have ever watched ‘Eat Well For Less’ you would have noticed that whilst they have managed to slash the families food bills, the food they have given them is from numerous supermarkets for 1 weeks shop. I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t have time to go to numerous shops every week to find the best deal. I do however still want to save money on my weekly shop.

Over the last year I have managed to get into a nice routine that allows me to minimise the number of supermarkets I visit whilst still managing my food budget.

You will have supermarkets that are closer to you than others, possibly good markets and butchers. Think about all the places you buy food from and consider which shops offer the best value for money. You may be able to save 10p on a bag of carrots at another supermarket but how much will you spend in petrol or parking to save that?

I have 3 places I shop in. I split my monthly shopping over them but with careful planning, I only have to actually visit one of them per week.

I have Tesco where I put on a monthly on-line shop. This is great for the larger items such as dog food, and store cupboard food such as beans, tinned tomatoes, etc. By ordering on-line I save myself a good hour as I can be preparing dinner or housework whilst waiting for the delivery. I will also add other things like beans, tinned tomatoes etc which don’t vary much in price from store to store.

Lidl is my favourite for fresh fruit, veg and their quark is the tastiest by far! I’m always amazed at how much I get in my trolley versus the bill at the check out. Below you will see what I bought last week for the week ahead.

For my fresh meat I have an excellent butcher in the local garden centre near Stratford Upon Avon. Their meat is excellent value for money.  People think that butchers are more expensive than supermarkets but this isn’t true. The packs I buy are bulk purchases. I buy enough for the month. I split it all up into portions so that I can ensure no waste and freeze it. On average I spend £50 a month which includes, chicken breasts, mince, pork chops and joints and beef.

Shopping Traps

How often do you walk into the supermarket and see ‘buy one get one free’ or half price offers? How often do you end up with them in your basket or trolley feeling very pleased with yourself that you have a bargain?  Be truthful now, if you hadn’t seen the offer would you have bought it? No? So was it really a bargain?

Above I talked about the importance of planning ahead. You know what meals you want to cook for the week so think about what ingredients you need. Do you have any of them already in the kitchen? Can you bulk buy any of them? For example, if you are having chilli one night and lasagne another night (yes you can have lasagne on Slimming World) then buying a larger pack of mince will be cheaper.

Write a list of everything else you still need. Then consider where you think you are going to get the best value shop?

If I need a big shop with the dog food, I will tend to buy most of my weekly shop with Tesco as it saves me traipsing around numerous shops. I find shopping on line is great for keeping to a budget as you are less tempted to buy those special offers that you don’t really need.

Check sell by dates on everything you buy. The last thing you want is to start throwing food away because its gone off before you could use it. I always make sure I have at least 5 days left on the date. That’s not to say you can’t buy food with short dates if you know you are going to use it in time or it can be frozen.

If you are going to the actual shop, take your list with you and a pen. Tick off as you put it into your trolley and don’t start picking anything that isn’t on your list. Its amazing how much the odd extra item you weren’t expecting to buy can add up.

So how much can you do a Slimming World friendly shop for?

Ok, I can’t tell you exactly how much you will spend as it will change weekly depending on what you are cooking, what you have in your kitchen already and where you shop.

What I can do is show you my weekly shop this week to give you some good ideas.

This week my supermarket of choice was Lidl.

So how much do you think this table full of food cost? Would it surprise you if I told you it came to less than £40 for 2 people? In fact it was actually £36.45.  And some of the items will be carried over into next week!

Remember earlier when I said Worcester Sauce and Soy sauce will be your new best friend! I also make sure I have rice, pasta and oats in as they can be used to make many different menu ideas.

I cannot live without eggs and its always good to have a pack of frozen fruit in the fridge for my overnight oats for breakfast. I will share some of my meal ideas and recipes in later blogs.

You will notice that 5 of my yoghurts have 30% reduced labels on them. I love these yoghurts from Lidl as they are creamier than Muller Lights and still ‘free’.   These one still had 5 days left on the sell by date. I knew I would have 1 a day so I was confident to buy them and save money.

I would normally buy my meat from my butchers but I know that not everyone has a good value one near them so I wanted to show you its still possible to have meat and fish on a budget. A whole chicken is a great money saver. This one was only £2.35. It provided Sunday roast, a dinner the following night and also a lunch for 2 people. Now that is what I call a bargain.

You may be wondering where the potatoes are to go with the Sunday Roast! Tesco were selling 2.5kg bags for 29p before Christmas. I bought 3 bags. Some to use over the festive period. The remainder I peeled and roasted. Then I froze them to use later. They are even crispier baked again.

We all know that fresh fruit and vegetables are key to successful weight loss with Slimming world and many of them are classed as ‘speed food’. Lidl I feel offer a great selection at really reasonable prices. Each week they have great offers. If you are flexible about what vegetables you will eat with your meals, you can make even further savings. This week it was Kale. I note that next week its spinach. Both can be used in the same way so I would pick the one on offer that particular week.

I find onions, carrots, peppers and tomatoes are really good staples to create many different types of meals. Again I will share some of my recipe ideas in later blogs.

These are my favourite items that I can never live without. Tinned tomatoes, Passata and baked beans are so versatile and cheap. Quark is something that if you have never tried you must. It makes a great sauce for your lasagne, perfect for overnight oats or on jacket potatoes etc. Yes I do have 6 pots here but the sell buy date will take me into the following week so I stocked up just in case they were sold out next week.

Other top tips

Never throw left overs out without considering what you could use them for. I keep left over roasted vegetables and meat in particular. They make great quick and easy Slimming World pasties, casseroles etc. You could chop them up to make frittatas. With a bit of imagination you can come up with lots of different ideas.

If you can’t think what you can use if for tomorrow, put it in the freezer for one of those days when time is against you.

Try and avoid ready sauces or meals. You can make much healthier and cheaper versions yourself.

As I said earlier I don’t have a lot of time so my slow cooker is the most used gadget in my kitchen. They are not expensive. Tesco sell one for £12. Mine is 10 years old and still going strong. On this basis it’s a very good investment. I make bulk chillis, currys and casseroles. I freeze the left overs for future meals.

Another good idea is to put the whole chicken in it. It comes out so moist. I use what I need that night then the rest of the meat I ether use for other meals or freeze.

If you find you have vegetables that are coming to the end of their sell by date, chop them all up, put in your slow cooker with a tin of tomatoes and any herbs and spices you fancy. Leave it to cook. You now have a great base for a sauce which you can spice up and vary in any way you want. Freeze it, and pull it out when you need it. I vary it depending on if I’m serving it with fish, chicken, pasta etc. As I said, the more you experiment the more tasty cost effective meals you will come up with.

I hope you have found this useful and it helps you on your weight loss journey.