Sunday, 20 July 2014
Oh, and we have finally booked our holiday to Croatia in September! These days of course, we can't really plan too far ahead, but fingers crossed that all is well at that time, and I finally get to fulfil one of my outstanding holiday ambitions at long last.
One thing which never changes is my continuing quest to lose weight, and have started yet again. I've lost 3lbs in two weeks, a slow but steady start. The unexpectedly warm weather of the past few weeks - no, I never thought I'd ever see myself writing that sentence either! - has been very nice, but it's been too warm to throw myself back into an ongoing exercise programme. I have been back on the exercise bike though: it's a great way to exercise, although I'll need to get back to doing my aerobics if I want to get the desired results in the coming weeks.
Friday, 11 July 2014
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately (that's what the noise is) and after the stresses of recent months, I'm trying to find a way back to the old happy me, rather than the current unrecognisable unhappy variation. They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. 7 years ago, when I started blogging, I was in a bit of a dark place. I know that it is a bit of a cliché, but blogging really rescued me and changed my life.
Over the past couple of years I've had other priorities, other things eating into my time, and just not enough hours in the day, which has completely irritated me, and the blogs have suffered as a result. I want to get back to that good place. I want to start blogging again, to recapture the buzz which I once felt. Times have changed: mainstream music is mainly crap, and I can't really connect with it any more. But there are so many things which I still want to write about, and it's about time I got back there.
Sunday, 29 June 2014
Firstly, I've been on holiday over the past week - a welcome "staycation" with a couple of fab day trips which I'm hoping to blog about very soon (my version of 'very soon' at the moment is any time between 4 to 7 weeks...)
Talking of hair, I have made several attempts to lighten my too-dark brown hair, and now I have some kind of half red, half brown dip-dye-in-reverse thing going on.
After weeks of outrageous weight gain, I managed to lose a few pounds by sticking to WeightWatchers Online. Then proceeded to undo all the good work over the past 9 days. Oh well...back to work tomorrow and back to the discipline of counting daily points. I feel I'm in a good position to lose a few more pounds/inches for our big summer holiday, which is just 11 weeks away. Croatia is calling - but there are so many options that I'm getting a headache just deciding where to go!
So I believe there's some football tournament on at the moment? Yes we are in the midst of the World Cup, but if I'm honest, the first phase has pretty much passed me by - too many matches, too little time, and no prime time highlights programmes. I'm trying to keep up with the knockout phase though.
At long last I managed to post my Eurovision 2014 reviews over at EuropeCrazy. Hoping to post the Copenhagen holiday diaries pretty soon too :)
Sunday, 1 June 2014
Although I briefly swayed towards voting yes, I still have some major doubts about whether we could succeed on our own, for example in terms of economy and defence, so the yes camp still has a lot of convincing to do. However, the idea of establishing a fairer society is highly appealing. The opportunity to create a fairer benefits system, or abolishing the bedroom tax, would be a positive aspect of independence.
Historically, this country has always been more left-wing than its southern neighbour, and I still believe that a lot of the SNP's success in the last two Scottish elections was down to protest votes and disillusionment about Labour's failings during the Blair era. However, in an independent Scotland, we will inevitably be led by politicians. With all their MPs removed from Westminster, this would be a perfect opportunity for Scottish Labour to reinvent itself as a party to represent ordinary people in Scotland, who watch on in horror as the Cameron regime drags the UK further down into a climate of intolerance and hate, with seemingly no opposition in sight and the possibility of a future Tory/UKIP coalition ruling the country. Do we really want to be part of that? It's interesting that Salmond and Sturgeon are now targeting disaffected Labour voters like myself and trying to convince us that a Yes vote does not necessarily mean a vote for the SNP.
I have still to be convinced however, about how independence would work in practice, in a number of areas. Even the most simplistic matters become complicated. Just over a week ago, I queued with my fellow passengers at border control at Edinburgh Airport, on our return from Denmark. At that point I wondered about the differences in our national status, post-independence, as travellers from Scotland to Europe. Would we then need to join a different queue, for 'non-EU' travellers? As a newly independent country, Scotland would need to reapply to become an EU member. How can we really be sure that acceptance into that 'club' would be a formality?
There are so many unanswered questions around our national status, and the economic cost of independence from the UK. On the one hand - yes, in an ideal world we should be an independent country. Why not? But the whole 'UK' thing has been around so long - give or take 500 years - that it's only natural to wonder whether we would be doing the right thing by divorcing from the UK. How do we defend ourselves, for example? How do we pay for all the transition, when many 'UK' businesses are already getting uncomfortable about the idea of an independent Scotland? You can't count on oil, Mr Salmond, no matter what you say. Just where will all the money come from?
As I said, so many unanswered questions. Perhaps the referendum should have been extended to the whole of the UK, rather than just Scotland: that would have provided a more accurate result. Oh, and by the way, could they make referendum voting compulsory please? It's hard to take something seriously when only 30-odd per cent actually bother to turn up at the polling station. This is the future of our country, after all.
To conclude: I'm still in the 'don't know' camp. With 3 and a half months to go till the referendum, will someone please convince me one way or another?
Saturday, 26 April 2014
Anyway it's looking good for myself and faithful travelling companion for our planned short break to Copenhagen in just over three weeks time. In an ideal world I would have been there for ESC week but the rip-off hotel prices would have blown our holiday budget for the year (and beyond). It was a difficult decision to make, but eventually we decided to hit the Danish capital a couple of weeks after ESC.
The flights were booked some time ago, but now we will need to book a hotel. After some considerable research over the past couple of weeks, I'm none the wiser. What's the best area to stay in, for a short break to Copenhagen? All helpful suggestions welcome :))
Saturday, 12 April 2014
Saturday, 5 April 2014
However, it is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another: the recovery. Which is going to take a bit of time, due to her lack of mobility and general state of health. But on the plus side, out go the hospital visiting marathons :) Now she is home, and no-one's clock-watching and she can recover at her own pace, in her own time.
As for me, being my mum's carer is a pleasure and a privilege, so it's all good :))
Monday, 31 March 2014
I forgot how therapeutic (and messy!) painting can be. You do feel some sense of reward at the end of it, seeing a room transformed into something fresh and new again. I thought it would be a good idea to paint mum's room, to make it all fresh for her coming home, whenever that will be. Last night, I painted for 3 hours and really enjoyed it. Oh, and I would recommend 70s disco tunes for a painting soundtrack :) I'm hoping to finish the room tonight after coming home from evening visiting.
It seems no time since a couple of weeks ago when I was shortlisting my clothes for the holiday-that-never-was, when I discovered so many items of nearly new or unworn clothing in my wardrobes. Some good stuff in there too, but it's taking up too much room and it has to go. (Top tip: never buy clothes and say you'll slim into them later, it doesn't work). I am an obsessive clothes-shopper and hardly a week goes by without me buying something new, so it's definitely time for another clearout and bag-filling for the local charity shops.
And as for the cleaning, well I've invested in one of those steam mop thingies so hopefully once I get to work with that, the place will be gleaming!
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
I never lost all the weight I wanted to lose - but I lost 7lbs.
I got an exercise bike and went from crippling pain to power-walking fitness again.
Work's still tough, but it's getting easier.
Weeks of insomnia completely stopped me functioning, but I'm finally sleeping again.
I caught another very nasty cold, but I'm now trying to shake off the leftovers.
I'm still a long way from where I want to be, but I'm getting there.
Best of all: I'm going on holiday in a few days, and that's the best feeling in the world. Now I need to get on with the packing and preparation for our first ever trip to Cyprus :)
Of course you can expect all the usual gratuitous food photography and travel tales when I eventually publish those holiday diaries...!
Thursday, 27 February 2014
I've only been using it for 6 days but can tell you that it has made such a difference to my physical fitness already, and I'm able to walk again at a speed beyond crawling, after months of inactivity, weight gain and comfort eating saw my legs just virtually give up, in sympathy with the recurring left foot problem. Although even that is beginning to subside and I'm no longer in constant pain.
Unfortunately, I'm struggling to pull myself out of a pretty dark place just now. Insomnia night after night can leave you struggling to function - that's just one of many things getting me down.
God this is getting to be such a depressing blog. I want happy Laura back!
Thursday, 6 February 2014
I've decided to wait until June before having it repaired, for the sole reason that February to May is the most crucial period of the year - national finals, Eurovision, spring holiday planning, summer holiday planning - in other words it's a time not to be separated from ye olde laptop and all the worry about how long a repair will take. And then of course when it's wired up to the telly with the HDMI cable, all is well :)
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
There is some happy stuff coming up very soon though, so it's not all bad.
Monday, 3 February 2014
As I said earlier, Dino's has always been there. Sitting proudly slap bang in one of Glasgow's busiest shopping areas, not down a side street or a back alley, it was a special place. It was, for me, "the people's restaurant", a place which was inclusive to all, and always welcoming. Many a cold winter's day was immediately made better by a trip to the 'cafe side' and no trip to the equally legendary Glasgow Pavilion theatre was complete without a lunch or dinner at Dino's.
Step through that door and you immediately step into Italy - Italian music wafting through the speakers, waiters busily buzzing around, and the smell of pizzas, coffee and ice cream. This restaurant has a special atmosphere which is a rarity - only the now defunct Bath Street eatery Sannino ever managed to capture that same unique atmosphere for me. The fast-growing and impressive Tony Macaroni chain may be growing in popularity, but while it has good food and a good atmosphere, it's not the iconic Dino's, is it?
You always were guaranteed a good meal at Dino's, whether pizza or pasta or anything else on the varied menu. And you always got a damn fine cappuccino.
Time is running out to enjoy the Dino's experience, as the restaurant is due to close on March 16th. Get in there while you can and show your support. I doubt if anyone will be as enthusiastic about the Halifax bank which will replace it :(
(pictures courtesy of www.dinosglasgow.co.uk)
Saturday, 25 January 2014
So, with January almost over, I'm taking stock. 6 lbs lighter than I was at the start of 2014, feeling considerably fitter, the foot injury's gone from crippling to manageable. I've had a new mattress for exactly two weeks which has improved my sleep immensely, and the other health problem I've had since September is finally being kept in check. There has been a lot of decluttering at EuropeCrazy HQ, so I'm not going to end up on one of those 'world's biggest hoarder' documentaries after all, and the local charity shops have been the beneficiaries of some rather fab brand-new-but-doesn't-fit-me-anymore clothing. So, it's all good.
However, it would appear that in my day-to-day life that I seem to have reached a level of social detachment of Saga Noren-type proportions, which has raised some concern that I might be depressed again, when in fact I'm not. I may have 'shut down' for the winter but I'm just in the zone. I'm focused. Just trying to get stuff done. You know how they always say on a flight that you should fit your own oxygen mask first? Well, that's what I'm doing....getting my own life in order so that I can deal with all the challenges ahead, including forthcoming changes in my working environment. The next few weeks will be very trying, but there are also good personal things happening which might just balance the trepidation which change brings.
So, all in all, I'm getting organised. Blogging, as ever, has been a casualty of 'other stuff' but I'll try and fit a few posts in here and there when I can :))
Saturday, 18 January 2014
When little Mikaeel Kular was reported missing from his home in Edinburgh a couple of days ago, he immediately went from being just an ordinary three year old child to being the centre of attention in all our lives. The little boy had been put to bed by his mother on Wednesday evening, and the next morning he was gone, seemingly having disappeared overnight. Fuelled by non-stop news coverage, he was the main topic of conversation. Where could he be? How could he have got out of the family flat on his own? Who could have taken him when there was no evidence of forced entry? We all hoped and prayed for his safety, but this morning the country woke to the devastating news that Mikaeel's body has been found in Fife, the home of a relative is being searched, and that his mother has been detained. That's all we know just now.
I can't find the words right now to describe how angry, hurt and horrified I feel about this. But plenty of others can, because Twitter court is in session. We don't know the full story as yet, but one thing is for sure: Twitter court is already passing sentence and is ruling that it's all social work's fault.
Yes, yet again a child dies and the social services are to blame. Just sit back now and watch the media outcry, as the usual indignant suspects take to their laptops. They will say that Mikaeel died because social work was not doing its job.
They will not say that social services budgets have been cut to ribbons, a caring profession brutally undermined by the most uncaring government since the Thatcher regime.......as inexperienced social workers with unacceptably high caseloads, face burnout almost from the minute they're qualified. Social work staff are doing the best that they can do, with the minimum of resources, to help families exist and survive amid a timebomb of mental health issues, drug and alcohol misuse and real poverty - the DWP's got to meet its benefit sanctions target, remember - and in these sick and sad times, it's harder than ever to improve the quality of people's lives when they are being eroded by the day.
Never mind that the high profile murders of children in recent years were, in many cases, an act of unforgivable evil by a parent, a relative, or a mother's partner who was not the child's natural father. All services involved with children, not just social work, have a role to monitor children but they can't do this 24/7. Short of having someone live-in with every family 'known to social work', or CCTV cameras in every home, this is an impossible task.
There will of course, be an inquiry. But the strange thing is that at the time of every inquiry into why a child was murdered, we don't hear the government of the day stepping in to increase the funding for social services, for increased free nursery provision, for mental health support/counselling, for services to empower women, for better education, for valuable services such as the Citizens' Advice Bureau or Women's Aid. We don't hear anyone banning those hideous payday loan providers or those high street shops which will sell anyone a sofa or a large-screen TV as long as they're willing to pay it back at 50% interest. We don't hear anyone taking steps to reform the buy-to-let housing market which has led to people living in unacceptable housing conditions whilst the landlords make big money - the sections of the media which demonise people on housing benefit always forget to mention that this goes to those landlords. And we don't hear anyone attempting to improve the quality of vulnerable people's lives. Who would have thought in this day and age that we would need food banks?
None of this, of course, may have had anything to do with Mikaeel's death. It was, as I said earlier, an act of unforgivable evil. Yet in such a dark time there was one positive factor - the way the local community in Edinburgh came together to search for him, in the hope that he would be found. In a time when 'community spirit' is a thing of the past - how many of you even know your next-door neighbour's name? - it was inspiring the way everyone came together. It's just a shame that it had to be in such dark circumstances.
Rest in peace, Mikaeel.
Saturday, 11 January 2014
Since my last (rather gloomy) post on here, some things have changed.
I have a new moose, which I bought at the Edinburgh Christmas market last month. That was a pretty fab day, despite the torrential rain which has been pretty much a daily occurrence over the last few weeks.
The Christmas and New Year break was pretty fabulous, thanks to the most simple pleasures in life - lots of rest and relaxation and quality time spent with my two favourite people, lots of lovely gifts, a Christmas dinner triumph and ....happiness.
After the stress and weight gain of recent months, I decided to rejoin WeightWatchers Online between Christmas and New Year, and have very positive news to report. I have lost 5lbs in the past two weeks, and am pretty delighted about it. A combination of hard work, determination and being very focused on mini-goals rather than less achievable targets. Unfortunately I'm still struggling with the (inexplicable) foot injury/cramp, which has slowed me down to power-limping rather than power-walking :(
Nevertheless, onwards and upwards! Better times ahead, and hopefully some holiday news soon!
Sunday, 8 December 2013
And nothing raises my grumpy levels more than this time of year. Not Christmas itself - I actually love Christmas and if it didn't exist they would have to invent it to brighten up these cold, dark winter days. However, the irony hasn't escaped me that for what is supposed to be a happy, hopeful and peaceful time, it's anything but.
The torrent of Christmas TV ads with dreary slow songs (a.k.a. "the John Lewis effect") all urging you to spend spend spend, as if that will really make a difference to your life. TV shows and ads building up an unrealistic expectation of what Christmas should be like, rather than the reality.
Particularly in these times of economic gloom, Christmas overspending is not only wrong, it's offensive and obscene. Cash-strapped families are being placed under further stress and resorting to vile moneylenders in the respectable guise of 'payday loans' so that their children won't be bullied at school for having the wrong type of presents.
Our parents, growing up during and after the war years, literally had nothing. This period, when all you got in your stocking was a piece of fruit and an annual, or a doll if you were lucky, is often mocked by comedians. Yet when you speak to those who lived through that time, they have only happy and fond memories of their childhood Christmas.
Now, people buy televisions for two year old children - WHAT???? - and it seems that your love can only be measured by how many multiples of £100 you spend on someone. WRONG. Will they love you any more? No. They'll just wait for you to top that, next year. While there are people in the world who don't know where their next meal is coming from.
Then there is the 'I must buy a present for...' syndrome. Why must you buy a present for some obscure nephew or other? I'm with the money saving guru Martin Lewis on this one: 'ban unnecessary Christmas presents'. Give the money to charity instead.
(Oh and whilst I'm on a rant, if you're clearing out good stuff, give it to a charity shop, rather than one of those places which give you about 50p for 10 kilos or whatever. I once saw someone I know, who is so well-off she only needs to work part-time, going into one of those 'we buy your clothes for cash' places with bags and bags of stuff. Is there no limit to some people's greed?)
Then there are the subtle reminders that your Christmas experience is never going to be worth as much as theirs...
"of course you don't have many people to buy for, do you?"
I am regularly reminded that you-are-not-a-parent-therefore-Christmas-is-immediately-devalued. The "Christmas is for the children" brigade. There seems to be this notion that Christmas is irrelevant if you live in a child-free world. Well, it's not. It's better.
"of course you're not having a big dinner, are you?"
The subtle reminders that you-don't-have-a-big-family-therefore-Christmas-dinner-is immediately-devalued. I'm not the person slaving over a hot turkey for hours on end! (We have never had turkey for Christmas dinner).
The Christmas Card list
As almost all of our closest family relatives are no longer with us, the 'family' is more a group noun for various cousins and second cousins whom you never see from one year to the next. In fact, they only get in touch with you when there's a family funeral. Funny how they never get in touch when there's good news!
But they should know how to spell your surname. Or at least write the name of the town you live in on the envelope. Oh, and it would be nice if they told us that they had a new partner so we could include their name on the card. And one more thing, can they please tell us when they've moved house before we sent their card to the old address? These are not just hypothetical gripes, they're all true and have all happened to us over the past couple of years. (Before you suggest 'e-cards', my mum's in charge of the card sending and she'll have none of that).
The forced jollity
This one's mainly in relation to office night outs. I know it's the season of goodwill and all that, apart from the people you like (who happen to be all the people in my section - yes I'm very lucky) would you really want to be stuck at a table with someone you can't stand? And what's the point of getting yourself glammed up to go to a night out to eat mass-produced substandard food followed by dancing to the musical equivalent of Guantanamo Bay? Doesn't sound so appealing now, does it?
Let's get the deccies up!
Last week, the office Christmas decorations were going up and I couldn't even raise a smile, never mind any enthusiasm. Which is a shame really, as the more enthusiastic and festive members of the team put in a lot of effort and did a great job. I'm just too stressed, anxious and agitated at the moment to care. The lead-up to Christmas in my office is always a stressful one, and this year is more stressful than most. It's been the busiest year I can ever remember, and some of us will still be feeling the fall-out of it for a while to come... :(
Shop till you drop
I've bought most of my presents online this year. It's the best way to go if you want to avoid the 'joys' of the traditional town/city shopping experience, bad-tempered parents, screaming children and Bing Crosby singing 'Happy Holiday'. Oh and if you need to go to Primark, you'd better be prepared to queue just to make your way from one end of the shop to the other!
All these rants aside, I do love Christmas. Because the best Christmas is what you make it, the one that makes you happy, the one that is on your own terms, not the one that people think you should have. Now, I'm off to wrap a few (necessary) presents!
Sunday, 24 November 2013
Persistent calling about the same thing. "You receive this service from us, but did you know that you could save blah blah blah per cent if you switch your phone/TV etc....".
Now times are hard these days and everyone's out to save money wherever they can, but do we really need reminding 3 or 4 times a day that "if you switch....."? I know from talking to some other people that they've had some negative experiences when they switched phone/internet/TV services.
Even though you tell the caller that you're not interested in changing at this time and you will contact them should you change your mind, that's not enough for them. They will call and call and call until they break you down. But I've got news for them - this is just making me more and more determined not to take what they're offering. I've even made a complaint to the ISP about it. Which is presumably going straight to Deleted Items.
Strangely, since I made that complaint there has been a noticeable drop in my internet connection speed....
Sunday, 6 October 2013
- returning to work after 2 weeks off
- The-Virus-Which-Refuses-To-Die despite antibiotics and every lozenge and decongestant imaginable;
- the impending doom of jury service.
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
Holidays excepted, the last 11 days have been pretty horrendous thanks to what started as a cold and turned into a horrible throat infection, leaving me with one of the worst, prolonged, forceful, painful coughs and sinus infections ever. Every decongestant, pastille, lozenge and the always-reliable Olbas Oil (pictured above) was tried but only turned out to provide short-term relief. Finally, I admit defeat. I give up. The doctor's appointment is made - bring on the antibiotics and whatever else they want to prescribe!
Hopefully whatever I'm prescribed tomorrow will help to salvage the last days of my fortnight off...
One year from now we will know whether or not Scotland has voted for independence from the UK. The independence referendum takes place on 18th September 2014
The question, of course, is "Should Scotland be an independent country?". Well yes of course in an ideal world it probably should be, but we are a country already. We have our own flag, national education system, justice system, parliament, banknotes, national football team, etc etc.
But it is not an ideal world.
Scotland has not recovered from the destruction brought by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s as a brutal punishment from our traditionally left-wing country not voting for her party. Unemployment, child poverty, declining living standards, lack of housing have all been major issues in this country, even in the 'boom years' before the banking crash hit in 2008. There are particular cultural issues in this country which remain unresolved - sectarianism, anti-social behaviour, alcohol and drug use. Would independence change any of these issues? I very much doubt it. Scotland needs fixed before it can even consider going down the independence route. Slap bang in the middle of a worldwide economic recession is the worst possible time to even think about the financial costs of independence for example.
The SNP's win at the last Scottish parliament elections gave them a mandate to run an independence referendum. After all these years in power, I'm still not sure what the SNP stands for apart from independence, and the cult of personality around its leader Alex Salmond and sidekick Nicola Sturgeon. I'll say one thing for them - their management of the media is fantastic. Not a night goes by without them being on the Scottish news on TV. Do they ever take a day off? Probably not. But they are also supposed to be running this country. Yet they remain a one-issue party, only occasionally throwing out crumbs to all the disillusioned socialists, myself included, but always coming back to "....in an independent Scotland..." and so it goes on.
Salmond has been very smart in his choice of 18th September 2014: coming off the back of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games which I guess he's hoping has the same national-pride effect as London 2012 had on the UK as a whole.
My disinterest in the independence cause could probably be traced back to my own non-Scottish ancestry which has always given me a more international outlook. But regardless of our origins and ancestry, apathy is in our blood - just look at the turnout for local/European elections, for example, and most people you speak to are more concerned about trying to find enough money to feed themselves or to pay bills, and couldn't give a hoot about the whole boring political circus. (Contrary to TV anchorman 'I'm John MacKay' on the STV News at Six who seems to think everything revolves around the tedious independence debate).
I'm no patriotic flag-waving Brit either though: the 'English-as-British' dominance of our media and day-to-day life can be a major pain, especially around the time of the football World Cup/European Championships/royal weddings/Queen's various jubilees etc. Those times suddenly make you proud to be Scottish! There's a lot of things wrong with being ruled by a UK government - especially one with David Cameron in charge. Where there is poverty, recession and hopelessness, may we bring more poverty, recession and hopelessness....every blow administered by Cameron is further fuel for the Yes camp to boost their campaign.
It's a shame they didn't give us the option to vote on 'devo max' - a more appealing option which would allow Scotland to remain part of the UK whilst being given extra autonomy on issues like taxes, welfare benefits etc. This option could also be offered to the other countries within the UK, thus keeping everyone happy. That may be a simplistic view, but I'd have voted for it as I'm sure would many others - unlike the straightforward 'yes/no' option - the result of which, regardless of whatever it will be, will only bring an unsatisfactory conclusion. Except, presumably for John MacKay, who will have more newsroom fodder to bang on about for a long time to come. In the immortal words of Avicii: "wake me up when it's all over"!!
So anyway, self-determined digital detox is fine, but not when it's forced on you. Especially the week before our holiday, when the control freak that I am goes into overdrive and needs to research every aspect of a trip.
In these days of smartphones and tablets, people may question the need to have a laptop at all. But there's a lot of tasks which you need a laptop for, apart from the internet. I do a lot of "word processing" as it was once quaintly known back in the day. You can't print to your old-school wired printer, or scan to your old-school scanner, or access that digitised recipe archive. You can't shop and print off that confirmation email. You can't watch obscure telly clips with the hdmi wired up to the telly. So there in so many words this is my digital life, my friends. Which needs a laptop.
Anyway, it was out with the old ....
...the seemingly future-proof Acer Aspire. I thought we would grow old together, being parted only for system upgrades as and when. But that was not to happen, as it came to the end of its life just 3½ years after its arrival. For this is 2013 and electrical equipment is not built to last - that's how the manufacturers make their money after all. A computer is almost instantly obsolete the day after you buy it, depreciating in value to zilch with the arrival of faster processors, bigger memory, bigger drives.
In with the new....
Meanwhile, I've started up a savings fund and putting by a couple of quid per week to save up for the next one....! #ohyeoflittlefaith
Friday, 13 September 2013
Sunday, 1 September 2013
The unseasonably hot weather of July gave way to more traditional Scottish summer weather - i.e. lots of rain and four-seasons-in-one-day although it has to be said that the temperatures were still fairly agreeable and all in all, it has probably been one of the best summers in years, weather-wise.
However, this month the stress of the working week which has built up over the last few months crossed over into my personal life and I found myself unable to handle it all - anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and a very noticeable personality change from a usually happy, cheerful person to a sour-faced miserable wreck. Although when you reach that low point there is only one place to go, and that's up. And there are always some sobering things in life which make you realise just how lucky you are.
So I am starting September with a new, blank page and ready to write a much happier story. After all, September is always my main holiday month, with two weeks off work and a lovely city break to look forward to, and I am back blogging again which always makes me happy :)
Saturday, 27 July 2013
Monday, 22 July 2013
It's all in the name: a summery, lightweight scent of cherries, which is one of my favourite smells anyway. I wasn't so keen on "Sexy Graffiti" which I bought last year, as the initial strawberry scent gave way to something more reminiscent of a household cleaner or a washing-up liquid. (!)
Cherry in the Air has been perfect for this lovely warm summer, and as a fan of all fruity/citrus smells I would thoroughly recommend it. The only negative thing I can say is that, as with all summer fragrances, the smell doesn't stay around for very long, I've checked out some online reviews and this perfume doesn't really appeal to everyone, but I like it anyway.
I'd been thinking for a while about trying the Universal Contour Wrap to kick-start my inch loss regime. This is a treatment offered in many beauty salons and involves being smothered in clay and wrapped up in bandages, then when they are unwrapped after an hour or so, you should have lost some inches as all the horrible toxins are removed from your body. So far so good, however it has to be said that in these times of reecession and watching your money, the cost of around £200 for 3 treatments is a bit steep.
Happily, there is another, cheaper way to do this treatment - at home. The Universal Contour Wrap people sell a "Self-Slim Kit" which includes all the equipment you need for approximately three treatments, and it only costs £40. One other thing you need for the treatment is a "sauna suit" which is a top and pair of trousers made of silvery metallic-plastic material, which you put on after wrapping up the bandages. This costs £35 from the Universal Contour Wrap people, however you can get it at the moment from Argos for £6.99.
So, I ordered the Self-Slim Kit and bought the Sauna Suit, and was ready to transform myself yesterday morning into a spacesuit-wearing bandage-wrapped mummy, all in the cause of inch loss. You must measure the areas where the clay is being applied before the treatment, and note the measurements so that you can compare this with the results after the treatment.
The 'Slim Clay' is applied first. This is rather runny, so it's a little bit more difficult to apply than expected. The bandages are soaked in warm water then the water is squeezed out and you proceed to wrap the bandages around the area you are treating. After applying the bandages, it's on with the "spacesuit" and lie down and relax for 60 minutes.
After the 60 minutes, it's off with the spacesuit, unwrap the bandages, wipe off any extra clay and then the moment of truth - measuring time. You need to be very careful that you are measuring the exact same area before the treatment to get the correct result. Over the waist and thigh-to-knee area which I treated yesterday, there was an inch loss of - are you ready? - 8½ inches in various places. The skin is so much smoother and there has been a definite reduction in cellulite.
Of course this treatment is only a quick-fix, and long-term results are only guaranteed with a healthy eating/exercise regime. As it is a detox, it is a good idea to keep the nasty toxins away for a while, so I'm having a few follow-up 'healthy days', drinking lots of water and avoiding coffee and cola. Which is a major challenge as caffeine is my drug of choice. However, it is a small price to pay to get started on what will be a long task ahead. This time there are no goals, no targets, no deadlines. I'm focusing on inch loss rather than weight loss this time round, and not becoming a slave to the scales.
But having a few weeks of sunshine, dry weather and clear skies has completely changes our lives and given us a glimpse into what life could be like if we actually had proper, defined seasons. People are smiling more, they're in a better mood, they're being nicer to each other. We're all happier.
For the first few months of this year I struggled, not just with my usual winter blues/SAD but also with stress and anxiety, and completely lost my confidence. (One particular benefit of this nice summer has been the vast improvement in my mood and getting my confidence back, particularly at work, which has helped me through all the challenges presented by a heavy workload and staff shortages).
However, in the first half of the year, I turned to comfort/binge eating, gaining a stone over a short period, and my physical health plummeted. Where I previously power-walked uphill to work, it became a struggle to even power-crawl.
You will know from previous posts that I did try to get the weight off, but these were only very short-lived with no commitment. Over recent weeks, the realisation about what I've been doing to my body became very apparent, firstly going on holiday and then during the recent hot spell. All those summer clothes hanging in the wardrobe, which can't be worn because they don't fit any more. Going into fitting rooms and not recognising the person staring back at me. How did I allow this to get so bad? It has finally given me the motivation to do something about it.
Tuesday, 9 July 2013
Compared to the last couple of years, we've actually had quite a decent last few weeks which probably constitutes "summertime". From May into late June, the sun remembered to come out, the rain actually remembered to go off, and the temperatures were just perfect - for us, that would be the 21/22 degrees as stated above.
Then we were plunged into winter again, and even had to resort to central heating. In June!
In recent days however, the real hot summer has arrived, with temperatures heading up to 30 degrees. Now regular readers will know that Scotland is not known for its good weather - a "good spell" is two dry days in a row. So as you can imagine, it doesn't take much for all the "weeds" to come out - and I'm not just talking about my much-neglected back garden here - as the parade of fashion disasters hits the streets. I'm still in a state of trauma from the guy with the 9 months pregnant belly and the dangerously low-slung shorts who was walking in front of me all the way down the road on the way home yesterday.
Being the pale-skinned impersonation of a milk bottle that I am, I take the same precautions at home as I do abroad: cover up and slap on the factor 50+. So please excuse me if I don't want to join in the sun-worshipping. But a few more weeks of dry, reasonably warm weather, would do nicely.
Thursday, 27 June 2013
Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Needless to say, my back "garden" a.k.a. jungle, hasn't seen a lawnmower all year. Until today when we had the annual ritual of the first cut of the year, closely followed by me complaining all night about aches and pains and how flippin' exhausted I feel. In other words, the usual.
The little fitness regime does seem to be paying off though, as I am actually beginning to feel fitter and today I was able to walk uphill and downhill without the aid of the knee support bandages. Getting there slowly but surely!!
Saturday, 4 May 2013
Recent weeks haven't been great. I've been experiencing lots of stress and anxiety, or more to the point I've been struggling to deal with it. Last week was particularly distressing as I was 'nominated' to speak at a work event in front of a very large group of people in a large hall. It was a pretty embarrassing experience all in all, but I'm beginning to laugh about it now. Which is a big change from last week, when I couldn't laugh about anything.
My mood swings are on the up again, and I'm getting back to my usual upbeat cheery self (although still increasingly grumpy about almost everyone and everything in the world). I have so much to be thankful for and that keeps me on the bright side.
I'm heading into one of my favourite times of year, the spring holiday. Although it couldn't be more different this year... Out goes the short break and in comes a week long Eastern Mediterranean cruise! Just a few hours after the credits roll on the Eurovision final, we'll be heading off on our adventure. It's a whole new experience for us and of course I'll be writing my travel journal every step of the way and publishing excerpts from the cruise diaries over at EuropeCrazy.
In the meantime, there's lots of planning and preparation to be getting on with, so that's what I'm concentrating on this weekend!
Monday, 1 April 2013
During one of the coldest spells a couple of weeks ago, the boiler at EuropeCrazy HQ developed a major fault which resulted in us being left with no heating/hot water for various periods of time and a continuous 48 hour spell. No wonder I was comfort eating (more about that later....)
I thought it would be a good opportunity to post a pic of my two little Easter chicks. Aren't they cute? These are knitted by the mum of one of my friends at work, who is shortly due to deliver a little chick of her own in May. There's a massive baby boom in my office at the moment which makes me wonder -was the TV really that bad a few months ago?? :)
So what happened to the fitness regime, I hear you ask? Well, sad to say, it crashed and burned. The snow/bad weather put paid to my long outdoor walks, I've been comfort eating and snacking relentlessly, and some days I'm so mentally and physically exhausted that I have no energy to exercise after work.
But with only 7 weeks to go until my holiday, can it be turned around? I think it can, although not with as significant results as I'd hoped for. If I'd continued the February fitness regime I might have been looking at a dropped dress size by now. Oh well these things happen....as that well-known saying goes, "the diet starts tomorrow" and it'll once again be time to start paying in sweat. And that's no April Fool!
Monday, 4 March 2013
I tried very hard to keep the momentum going and got yet another good result, with another 2lbs off, making it a total of 5lbs lost in 2 weeks.
My fitness levels are on the up, as demonstrated by a 2.5 mile lunchtime walk in town last Wednesday which took 30 minutes and involved some rather steep climbs. However since Friday, my willpower seems to have taken some time out and I've decided to take a break from the scales this week. Next weigh-in will now be on 15th March.
Saturday, 23 February 2013
By Thursday, my body ached all over, but there was no pain when I took to the scales to discover that I had lost no less than 3lbs this week! That's a shock result, as I'm not one of those people who loses a lot of weight very quickly - as all those years on Weight Watchers Online would testify.
Needless to day I'm very happy with the rewarding end to what's been a non-stop week.
I'm not walking today as it's snowing outside and there's lots of housework waiting to be done :( however I'll be back into the exercise routine again today after a couple of days' break from it. Not expecting to lose so much weight next week but will start to focus on inch loss: after all, that's my main goal this time so that I can get back into my holiday clothes for the cruise which is now just 3 months away....
Saturday, 16 February 2013
However I have been galvanised this week for one very good reason: the holiday is booked. As I mentioned the other day over at EuropeCrazy, we're going on a cruise and I'll need to get myself ship-shape (groan).
I've decided to focus on improving my fitness and losing inches over the next three months, and thanks to the offers of the week in Lidl I now have two extra weapons in my war on weight! Ladies and gentlemen: sauna shorts and sauna belt!
Saturday, 26 January 2013
I have had an utterly miserable week, my mood's been at rock bottom and when I feel like that I can't stand being around people (with a couple of notable exceptions). I have also been experiencing nasty headaches and needless to say there has been a whole lot of comfort eating, no exercise and no self-discipline. I hate feeling like this, but I've been there a million times before and know that this feeling will only be temporary.
So I have decided yet again to make another fresh start, as time's getting on, chop chop, we're almost at the end of January!
Next update in 2 weeks.
Monday, 21 January 2013
Today The Local (link) published the list of the most popular baby names in Sweden for 2012. What immediately strikes me is that many of the names in the list don't sound that "Swedish" at all - William is top of the boys' list, where you can also names like Elliot, Kevin, Julian, Colin, Levi, Eddie and - wait for it - Elton (!).
Meanwhile, Alice tops the girls list where there are more conventional Swedish girls' names alongside the likes of Nellie, Tyra, Alicia, Nova and Siri.
On the whole though, some sense has prevailed, unlike in my own country where there is a horrendous fashion for mis-spelling names to make them that bit more original. Why call your daughter Abigail when you can call her...oh...Abbiegayle? Abi-Gale? Abby-Gail? Sounds like an Abi-fail to me.
Or maybe you want to keep it brief. Why give your son a name when you can call him AJ? CJ? DJ? TJ? Tee-Jay? Tea-Jae? Tea-Bag? (right, that's enough!!)
And don't start me on that 2012 crop of Kayden, Jayden, Jaydyn, Cian, Kayleb, Kristofer, Maddisyn, Mirren, Murron, Summer, Storm, Rain, Willow....the list is endless. And I pity those poor schoolteachers having to differentiate between Jaden, Jayden and Jaydyn!
What the hell, maybe I'm just bitter and twisted because Laura is out of fashion :)))
Anyway I'll stop now and direct you to a really funny old website http://www.stupidkidnames.com/ which truly does what it says on the tin.
Sunday, 20 January 2013
Initially I wasn't going to weigh myself but changed my mind and now the weigh-ins will take place fortnightly and I will measure on alternate weeks.
Almost three weeks in and things are going reasonably well, considering that I'm still polishing off the great post-Christmas mountain of sweets! I have lost 2lbs so far, but am particularly delighted that I've lost 4 inches from various places. That's probably thanks to the mini-stepper and the extra walking.
It's only the beginning and there is a long long way to go, I'm not expecting miracles overnight but I'm hoping for some big results by the time of my holiday in May. (I'm very excited about that: expect an announcement within the next four weeks or so, all being well). My plan will have three phases: between now and May, between May and September, and between September and Christmas.
January hasn't really been easy though. Stress, almost daily headaches and a nasty sinus infection so far. I've also been very tired, too tired to blog. Nice things have happened too, though, and on the whole I'm keeping the January blues at bay.
Fortnightly updates to follow....
Tuesday, 1 January 2013
The days of staying up all night after the bells are now long gone: these days, staying power is in very short supply so I retired very early to listen to Radio Five Live for a while and then it was lights out just after 1.00 am. Living life on the edge eh!!!
I finished work on Christmas Eve and have been on holiday since then: it's been a brilliant, relaxing time but all good things have to come to an end. Talking of which, the dismantling of the EuropeCrazy HQ Christmas tree (pictured above) ceremony also took place today. It's like the closing ceremony of the Olympics, only without the flag being lowered, or a speech from Seb Coe, or numerous rotten musical performances. (Although with regard to the latter, we did have a 'top tunes of 2012' show playing on one of the music channels: insert witty remark here...!)
Tomorrow is the last day of my Christmas and New Year leave and then it's back to work on Thursday :( I feel completely unwound, but no doubt that feeling will be short-lived once Thursday morning comes!
As ever, I got my hopes up for the sales but only Boots and Matalan delivered: I'm sorted for bath stuff, perfume and cut-price knitwear for the rest of the year :)
Over the past 6 months I lost my dieting-mojo and the weight-gain went out of control. As usual, the shops are full of fitness DVDs and the newspapers are full of the usual old 'new year, new you'-style rubbish. Yes I absolutely do need to lose weight and get fit, but this year however I'm flying solo on the dieting front and not following any official weight-loss plan: only the EuropeCrazy Frank Sinatra "I Did It My Way" diet and exercise plan between now and the end of April. No crash diets here folks: just a sustained period of healthy eating and sensible exercise, punctuated by the good things in life - this time of the year is dark and depressing enough without denying yourself some treats! I will only weigh myself on the last day of every month, so check back here on 31st January for a progress report.
So what's ahead in 2013? Well, it's an odd-numbered year so there's no Olympics and no summer football tournament to distract us: let's just hope that the weather is better this year so that there will be lots of exciting adventures to write about over the summer months. And then there's the small matter of our spring and summer holidays to plan :)))))
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Sunday, 25 November 2012
Since an illness a few years ago threw my metabolism into chaos, I've been fighting the weight loss war ever since, with mixed results. Of all the weight loss plans around, I would definitely say that Weight Watchers Online is the very best, the easiest to follow, and it does bring definite results. I would always defend it in an argument when those followers of other weight loss plans tried to convince me that their diet was right and mine was wrong. What any weight loss plan requires is constant commitment for it to work, and unfortunately, for whatever reason, I can't manage that level of commitment any more.
Since returning to WW exactly two years ago this month, I worked hard and by the spring of 2011 I'd reached my own preferred target weight and did the impossible - dropped a dress size.
It wasn't long before the good work was undone and I proceeded to comfort-eat my way through the past 18 months. There were brief bursts of effort but for every two steps forward there were three steps back. I'm just not mentally focused on the rules of dieting any more, and the weekly weigh-in has become a thing of dread.
Which is why I've made a big decision: to quit dieting and the weekly weigh-in. I am stressed and anxious enough as it is, without the added tyranny of the scales. Why do we torture ourselves in this way?
That's not to say that I have given up on losing weight and getting fit: the method is just going to be a bit different, that's all, and I know what I need to do to get back into my "thinner" clothes again. I know it may sound trivial but you can become obsessed with what weight you are. What really matters is being fit and healthy. Here goes....
Monday, 19 November 2012
Saturday, 13 October 2012
Where have the last few weeks gone? One week is racing into another and I've been either too busy or just too tired to blog, as it's been quite a busy (and slightly stressful) time.
Inevitably I'll be dragging the SAD lamp out of the cupboard soon - yet another unavoidable symptom of "summer" (although we didn't have one) turning into autumn and winter. However I am tackling it head-on with a diet and fitness regime to take my mind off it all.
Drastic measures had to be taken, so over the past three weeks I've gone back to basics with the combination which works best: doing Weight Watchers Online combined with lots of walking and exercise. There have also been social events, lunches, dinners etc, so it hasn't been easy! I have lost 2lbs in 3 weeks, which maybe doesn't sound much to those people who lose about 5lbs in a week, but I like to go at my own pace and that just suits me fine. Most importantly I've lost 4" from various places (!) in the past 3 weeks. Early days, but so far, so good.
Saturday, 29 September 2012
Now, I love music, always have done, always will do. And lots of that music demands to be played loud (although as a long-time flat-dweller that also has to be balanced against respect for your neighbours and avoiding an ASBO).
Then there is the issue of personal music through headphones: when I'm out walking with the iPod on, the volume is only ever at background-music level and I'm always aware of the surrounding street noises. As I sit here typing this post, I am listening to a random set of tunes through a powerful, high-quality pair of headphones but at a lower and more bearable volume which allows me to think at the same time.
So what is all this leading to, I hear you ask? I refer, ladies and gentlemen, to the curse of noise. Specifically, the need for music to be played at as ear-shatteringly loud as possible within the most confined space in any social setting. That was probably one of the main reasons I quit the social scene - my hearing isn't great and I don't have a loud voice, so it's double-difficult to attempt a conversation or hear what someone else is saying as they try to compete with 10 million decibels. Some people seem to manage, but over the years I haven't yet mastered the art of conducting a conversation all night whilst being blissfully unaware of the racket. By the end of the evening your throat is wrecked by shouting and you end up with a voice as deep as Barry White's.
But what if the DJ turns it up even louder, the thumping hum starts to feel as if it's vibrating through your stomach, and unpleasantness turns to distress? Where's the fun in that? Call me a killjoy, but when that happens it stops being fun for me.
It's a shame really, as many a good night in good company is ruined by the volume being turned up to the max :(
Sunday, 23 September 2012
One of the best things about going to Nice for a holiday is, of course, the food. I particularly like the local speciality, Socca, which is a savoury pancake made from chickpea flour.
Needless to say I like it so much that I vowed to recreate the experience at home. After scouring the country and finally getting my hands on the elusive chickpea flour (otherwise known as gram flour if you're looking for it), it was time to put my grand plan into action. My first effort, made about an hour ago, is pictured above. And if I may say so, a fine first effort. It looks like Socca, it tastes like Socca - success!!
(Unfortunately it's quite high in Weight Watchers points so I'll just have to work it into my weekly allowance and cut out a few other things....)
It's been great fun - our few days in Nice was the absolute highlight of course (blog post and pics coming very soon over at EuropeCrazy), as well as a couple of rather good days in Edinburgh and Glasgow, when the weather actually stayed dry and bright for a change.
Time at home was a bit more unsettled due to circumstances outwith our control - work going on inside and outside our home, so there were less opportunities to just laze around and relax. I did get some though, so it wasn't all bad. Even enjoying the simplest of pleasures like having a double espresso and a Danish pastry is a joy.
But as Debbie Allen might have said in 'Fame', "Danish pastries cost, and here's where you start paying - in sweat". I have gained a ridiculous amount of weight over recent months, so I am about to begin yet another dieting journey where I will commit myself to losing 14 lbs over a realistic period of 7 months. All this whilst still enjoying all the good (bad) things in life. But it can be done! It worked for me two years ago and it will work again!!
Sunday, 9 September 2012
Unfortunately things haven't gone so well on the weight watching front. Comfort-eating my way through spring and summer has meant that I am now 16lbs heavier than when I reached my goal weight (and blogged about it on here) back in April 2011. Actually putting this down in black and white is pretty shocking, but then again I need to shock myself into taking action. So after my holiday I'm going to take the same approach which I did from November 2010-April 2011, which involved six months of exercise and very hard work, but which brought rewards = I dropped a dress size, felt fitter, happier and more confident.
But now my BMI is back up to 29, which means that I am officially overweight but teetering on the edge of the obese category. So that's it. Enough is enough. Time for a fresh start after my holiday.
In the meantime, the "fat clothes" are in the suitcase. It is a holiday after all, so I want to feel comfortable whilst leaving room for all that pasta, pizza and wine consumption in France, where the last time I looked, there were no fat people. But do you know what? I'm going to leave the hang-ups at home this time and relax and have fun.
The real challenge will come at home during the staycation-part of the fortnight, however there will be plenty of time to exercise and hopefully the 'holiday weight' won't stick around too long.
Saturday, 8 September 2012
It's also been one of the most spoofed. Whilst watching the Vuelta a Espana on ITV4 the other night, they showed a spoof video of cyclists lip-synching to that song. However, a few weeks ago I discovered the definitive spoof which my friend at work initially introduced me to, however we were talking about it again the other day so I thought it would be well worth a mention on here. Enjoy!
Monday, 16 July 2012
This evening there has been a slight breakthrough as it managed to remain dry for approximately five hours which was enough for me to go and cut down some hedges. Or "topiary" as I like to call it :)
I am finally beginning to come out of that dark tunnel of depression and fatigue which started in April and hit a rotten low in June. After a sickness bug it felt as if I ceased to function. I lost interest in almost everything, and had no energy for weeks. It has now been a week and a half, early days I know, but it feels like I'm finally getting the old me back again.
Unfortunately I gained a lot of weight during that time, but I'm working on it and lost 2lbs last week. Again, early days but the motivation is back. I'm enjoying getting fit again.
Thursday, 28 June 2012
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
I've posted my very brief review of our day at Stirling over at EuropeCrazy, and over the next few days I'm finally going to write something about our recent holiday in Turkey.
Monday, 18 June 2012
Checking out the odd bit of football when I can - from what I've seen so far, Euro 2012 has been an inevitable disappointment so far, with very few outstanding performances. Germany are my hot tip to win the whole thing, which has probably jinxed their chances :)
Since that sickness bug, my energy levels have been shot to pieces, and I've been so down in the dumps over the past week that you wouldn't believe, for one reason or another. On the plus side though, I've got a week off next week which will hopefully be sprinkled with sunshine rather than showers!
Friday, 15 June 2012
A week and a half later, I have lost 3lbs which is a massive achievement. Of course I'm still recovering from that sickness bug, but it's still a good start all in all.
Onwards and down with the weight :)
Thursday, 14 June 2012
The older and more grumpier and intolerant I get, the more it never ceases to amaze me how other people seem to think that they know more than you do about what you'll enjoy. After all, one man/woman's enjoyable experience is another man/woman's idea of hell. It's the strict social code of expectations. It's like North Korea, only with fake tans/false nails/hair extensions.
Everything from "team building" to the dreaded "social event" is a disaster waiting to happen. Don't-be-such-a-killjoy/You need-to-go-to-this-cause-it'll-be-a-great-laugh, they say.
No thank you.
Oh and by the way, we're not killjoys, we know how to have fun too: just don't force it on us.
Saturday, 9 June 2012
This week, I was ill. Very ill, actually, as 48 hours ago I fell victim to one of the worst bouts of sickness I've ever had. I won't go into detail, suffice to say that a full night of projectile vomiting etc resulted in an overnight weight loss of 4lbs and a further 24 hours of extreme nausea where I couldn't even sit up or stand up, not to mention the headache from hell.
Happily, I'm slowly beginning to recover and am beginning to reintroduce my body to food again. Hoping that progress continues tomorrow and that I can return to work on Monday after my first day off sick in 3 years!
If you've had this horrible bug, you have my deepest sympathy....and if you haven't had it yet, then I really, really, really hope you manage to escape it!