Sunday, 29 September 2013

Christmas is Coming...

Okay, okay - I know that there are 86 days until Christmas but I have to secretly admit to loving every single drop of festive content that I find slowly creeping into the shops and onto the TV. Too soon, some may say, but anything that brings happiness and joy can start as early as possible in my book!

And speaking of books, I got a lovely thing through the letterbox the other day. Now, anything that comes through the letterbox that's neither junk mail nor a bill is exciting in and of itself. But this item was from over the pond and contained a very exciting gift - a beautiful handkerchief and bookmark that go along with the newest of Sabrina Jeffries' books. How wonderful!

There's something about a handkerchief that is just so pleasing. It's the same as having long painted nails, clickety high heel shoes or jangly bracelets - having them just makes you feel grown up and supremely glamorous (unless you're using one in the midst of a terrible cold, of course!).

Anyway, this was supposed to be about Christmas and so I have an interesting fact regarding robins and Christmastime that I heard on the telly the other day and I felt the need to share.

Why do we associate the robin with Christmas?

It's because when Christmas cards were first delivered they were done so by postmen who wore red liveried jackets. These posties were known as robin red breasts. Then, liking a bit of humour, people started putting pictures of robins (the bird) on their Christmas cards to show how they would be delivered and the tradition has stuck.

As an aside, day 1 of the challenge is going well. I'm not planning to eat anything less or indulge in less of the good stuff in life (hence the acceptance of my curves) but any exercise I add on top of my usual routines can never be a bad thing! Bring it on!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Erm, 87 day challenge?

It's been a busy and stressful old week. But...I have to admit to a certain amount of pride in myself because I did not break down. I felt like there were plenty of chances and I was teetering on the edge at points, but did I fall over? No I did not! Yay!

Ironically, at the end of the week I had a checkup with my doctor regarding my depression and the medication that I'm currently on. I was pushed up to the highest dose of said drugs a little over a month ago as I was beginning to worry that the drugs were starting to lose their potency. More pills didn't seem to make much of a difference but when I managed to get through this week - I was happy to tell the doctor that I felt so much better.

And then, like an annoying game of snakes and ladders, downward I went again. It's so frustrating and makes me so sad, not just for me but for those that I love and love me back. It's like someone teases me with happiness only to wrench it out from beneath my feet when I'm just starting to get my balance.

Sadly, I really think that I can pin all of this on one little thing - work. The big event is over and I survived but I suppose it's very naive of me to have expected some sort of thanks. Nope - not a bean of thanks was given. It's this kind of little thing that cements that the corporate world just isn't meant for me. Sadly, instead of an angel and devil on my shoulders - I've got my heart and health on one side and my responsibilities on the other.

Anyway, this minor set back is why I am now gearing up for my 87 day challenge rather than a 90 day one!

It's primarily a health challenge but it incorporates both physical fitness and mental fitness (the second being a term that I really enjoy saying for some reason!).

And why is this challenge limited to 87 days?

Because that's how long it is until CHRISTMAS!

I love, love, love Christmas but it also just happens to be a decent distance away to set myself a fitness goal.

So, in the 90 87 days until Christmas I want to achieve the following:

* Tone up so I'm comfortable in my own skin
* Own my curves
* Get a physical and mental fitness plan that I'm sticking to and loving

So that is where I'm aiming.

And going back to work, no - not one person thanked either myself or my team for our (even if I do say so myself) fantabulous event last week. However, upon hearing this, my sister gave me this:

A bunch of flowers to congratulate me. And, they mean so much more than anything else anyone at work could have given me.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The last binge now it's time to undo...

Practically every single Sunday I make a vow to myself that this next week will be the start of something good. I will make the changes that I need to make to allow myself to be happy. Every single time I mean it and I plan to follow through. Yet, every single time something happens during the week that knocks me down and while I always get back up, it means that each and every Sunday I plan to start again the next day.

My mum is always telling me that I'm too hard on myself and that I'm my own worst enemy. Perhaps I am putting too much pressure on myself to succeed. Changing my life in one massive swoop rather than doing it bit by bit and making it stick.

As with any end, I went out in style. And when I say style, I mean an absolutely disgusting binge that made me feel equal measures of shame and nausea.

I know that with my bowel disease, I need to make sure that I am eating good and nutritious foods. Yet I seem to be making poor choices more and more often. I'll be honest and say that my bad diet is also risking my healthy weight that took me a long while to get down to. I definitely don't want to go backwards. Or upwards as the case may be.

Not only that but my sister sent me this link that shows the relationship between anxiety/depression and your gut health. You can read it here if you're interested.

The long and the short of it is that if I improve my diet - every single part of me will benefit. When you think about it, that's not a lot of outlay for some major enhancements in my life. Especially when the enhancements are on things that are causing me some major stresses in my life.

The next thing that happened is that my mum emailed me with a link to a book.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you, Meghan Telpner's 'Undiet: Eat Your Way to Vibrant Health'.

Almost from the first I fell in love with this book and with Meghan. Her whole philosophy is one that I can really get behind.

She's not about counting calories or monitoring what you eat - she just wants you to eat cleanly. One of the best parts of this book is, for me, not actually the bits about eating. The bits about how happiness and health go hand in hand have really spoken to me. I'd be the first to admit that I'm not doing a job that I love. In fact, if I had to point out one of the major stress points in my life - my job wins hand down. It's well paid and while I like the income, it really isn't worth all the drama and ill-health that it causes me. I think that I'm just not cut out to be in the corporate world.

But more about that another day.

This book is definitely not a diet.

Basically, if I was looking for a sign, this is it. All these things - the universe must be telling me to get off my behind and get things done. And if it's not the universe that's telling me - I should still really get up and gain control. I'm such a control freak in every other aspect of my life - why not the one that matters most?

My first week's challenge is to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day. A lot of people suggest this as a healthy way to, ahem, flush your system and I certainly don't get enough to do so despite practically living in the toilet. (Sorry, bowel disease definitely leads to over sharing when it comes to toilet talk!) So, rather than just get started, I had to make it fun! So I bought myself this:

How lovely! Keeps all my water in an easy to measure container while also reminding me to SMILE! Plus it's made of something other than plastic which is apparently bad news for bowel watchers like me!

Mr Happy - makes flushing fun!

Anyway, I've still to finish the book but already I hope to make some big changes on the back of it.

This time I mean it and this time I plan to follow through.

Which, in view of the recent content of this post, is a little gross.

Oh well!

Friday, 6 September 2013

A bump in the road...

The other day I had a little bump in my road. This isn't unusual but it's the first since my doctor upped my dose of fluoxetine (prozac) to 60mg a day.

I have a stressful job. I think part of the reason that it's so stressful is that I know that what I do is hardly the stuff of life and death. It's actually so monumentally unimportant that it can be laughable to see others in the organisation treat it as such. That fact certainly doesn't stop them from putting all holy pressure on me and my team, unfortunately.

I'll admit it - I cracked. Cracked up, that is.

If I'm honest with myself, it's my heart that's my problem with my job. It's just not there and sometimes it's a struggle to hide that from people - including myself.

My head and my heart are at war. I know I want to indulge my creative side as far as my career goes. I also know that I have bills to pay and my practical side (aka my head) will not let me walk away from a paying job to do something that doesn't have a steady wage.

I'm a practical dreamer. Doesn't that suck?

Anyway, my breakdown was intense but, thankfully, fairly short lived. Some junk food, some mum time and a puff inducing blubber was all that was needed to bring back some equilibrium.

Yet the feelings haven't left me completely and little niggles over the week have just made me think about the future more and more.

I'm hopefully going to take this weekend to come up with an action plan to get myself back on track. Back on the road. Stepping stones not stumbling blocks.

Born to Hand Pie, Baby!

As I mentioned in my last post, I did some baking from a recipe found on Pinterest the other day and it was a HUGE success! Blueberry Hand Pies with an Orange Glaze.

Now, I really have no idea what makes it a hand pie. Perhaps it’s just the fact that it’s made by hand? Who knows? It was tasty anyway and it got a great little song in my head to sing while I baked!

I got the recipe from a pretty little blog called A Farmgirl’s Dabbles. Being a gal from South Dakota, the dabbling farmgirl’s recipe was perfect for those from across the pond but not so good for us Brits.

So, when attempting the recipe, I had to convert it and thought I would share my britified version for anyone else to try.

Check out the original version here.

Blueberry Hand Pies with Orange Glaze
Makes 12


For the pastry
11oz plain flour
1tbsp castor sugar
1 tsp salt
Orange zest from 1 large orange
8oz unsalted butter cut into small pieces
Roughly 90ml of cold water
1 large egg white beaten with 1tbsp water

For the cinnamon sugar
1oz sugar
pinch of cinnamon

For the blueberry filling
1 small punnet (about 250g/9oz) blueberries
2 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice
2oz brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cornflour

For the glaze
100g icing sugar
Approximately 1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice


So here we go...

First make the pastry.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and orange zest. Rub in the butter until your pastry resembles chunky breadcrumbs.

Tip in some of the cold water, a little at a time, and mix together until the dough forms and sticks together. Make a ball shape then divide it in two. Place each piece into the fridge for about 1 hour while you prepare the other bits for your pies.

In a small bowl, beat together the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water to create an egg wash. Leave this to the side for now.

Make the cinnamon sugar by mixing together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Put this aside.

Now it’s time to make the blueberry filling. In a small bowl, mix together the blueberries and orange juice before adding in the brown sugar, cinnamon and cornflour. Put this aside, too!

If your hour isn’t up yet, this recipe is a great one for allowing you to clear up as you go. I’m no neat freak in the kitchen so being able to do a little bit at a time really helped the kitchen not look like a certified disaster zone when I finished. This is especially important when all you want to do when the pies are done is to sit down and eat them!

Your hour is up so let’s put together the hand pies, baby!

Preheat the oven to 180˚ (160˚ for Fan) or GM4. You’ll need about 2 ‘normal’ size baking trays. I didn’t line my trays and found that the pies didn’t stick at all. Less clearing up for me!

Before you roll out your dough, you might be interested in a quick trick that I use to make sure that the pastry doesn’t stick to the unit top. I take a wet cloth and wipe over the unit, leaving just a very light glaze of water on the surface. Now sprinkle your flour on the surface and ensure it’s covered. The dampness should keep the flour steady and not transfer it to your dough (and change the make-up of your dough). It should also mean you don’t have to use so much flour and the dough should never stick. Hopefully!

Shape the first half of dough into a rectangle shape. Your rectangle should be 9”x12” which can then be cut into 12 3” squares. Move each square onto your baking trays.

Brush some egg wash over the surface of each square before dividing the blueberry mix equally into the middle of each square.

Now roll out the rest of the dough into another rectangle that measures 9”x12” and again cut it into 3” squares. Now place each of these squares over your first squares with the blueberries. Use a fork to crimp and join the edges of each pie. Now, take a sharp knife and cut a small ‘x’ into the top of each pie to stop it exploding when it’s in the oven.

Brush the rest of the egg wash over the top of each pie before sprinkling generously with the cinnamon sugar.

Pop in the over for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling out the top or through the edges. It looks so rustic and tasty!

If you can bear it, wait about 10 minutes before transferring the pies to a wire rack to cool.

Now you can make the glaze.

Pop your icing sugar in a small bowl and start adding the fresh orange juice until the consistency is dribbles but isn’t too runny! Drizzle over the pies (making a huge mess in the process) then leave to cool - again if you can wait.

The pies are best served hot or warm on the day they are baked. They can be frozen but let’s be honest, there probably won’t be any left to freeze once everyone’s had a taste.