Saturday, 20 January 2018

Aldi does it too? Well, so do I!

I'm an idiot! I can't believe I've had my Fitbit for 2 years and have only just figured out the weight loss calorie adjustment!

I wondered why the heck it kept telling me to eat as much as I was burning, and then I ended up gaining weight after guesstimating a bit too much. I've now started using the food log properly, and though the first 3 weeks of the year now look a bit candy striped as I've apparently missed my goals loads without realising, I'm now on track to do better. But, 2lbs lost every week so far regardless. Heeey! 😇😇

Might as well use these tools, they're free! If you don't have a tracker but do have a smartphone, try these. I also used a combo of Strava, Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal. And yes, I wasn't obese then, so those things did help.🏃

One of the things I've learned is that protein is such a huge factor in levels of satisfaction and avoiding cravings. And so is fat! I used to avoid fat and really load up on starchy carbohydrates. But, I actually think I've cracked this malarkey now. I eat nuts, seeds, avocados... the very things I used to avoid. I'm not hungry, and I feel great.

I must fess up though, and it pains me to say, but that First for Wellbeing thing may well have been right about the booze. I may have had my dreams haunted by missing bottles of Malbec, but I have not just gained in the wallet. I've gained actual time back. It means extra minutes in the morning, extra energy to fit in my exercise, less ennui generally. I don't get hangovers... but I now recognise I was extra tired and hungry thanks to booze. So happy to be weaning myself off that. Wonder what I'll do when it gets to February? (38 cans of cider in the kitchen...)

Absolutely no problem getting up for the last 3 weeks of Parkrun, and getting faster each week. 🏃 I even ran in the rain today! Plus I've already won 2 Workweek Hustle challenges on Fitbit.🏆

I'm also looking to save money and pay off my debts still, so this weekend I thought I'd address my new-found weakness for protein-rich snacks. I've tried various ones from Aldi: the Pecan Pie crush bars; the Macademia and Coconut Paleo bars and both flavours of Cacao brownie - almond and raisin and peanut and choc chip. They are tasty, have no nasty extras, and fit my macros. Unfortunately, they're almost as expensive as regular chocolate bars, which I wouldn't have bought every day, so they are adding significantly to my brought-in lunch costs.

I found this recipe for 'paleo' bars that looked so similar to something I was tempted by in a café near work, I just had to give it a go. But I tweaked the measurements to make them more Brit-friendly.

150g blanched almonds
55g walnuts
35g cocoa
20 dates (just the ones I had, bought from the awesome grocers in the arcade in Gold Street)
orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice
pinch salt.

What that gives me nutrition-wise is this:



And cost-wise, this:
almonds: £1.49
walnuts: £0.55
cocoa: £0.33
dates: £1.24
orange: £0.16

Total: £3.77 - 31p per bar.
This compares very favourably to the Aldi Peanut and Choc Chip Cacao Brownie, which at £1.49 for 3 is 50p per bar, and much the same size.

Also, I can confirm, delicious!

I'm a tad busy writing tonight, otherwise I'd cosy up with a library book. I found The Doctor's Kitchen, which I've been listening to the podcast of. Soon, soon...

Monday, 1 January 2018

Chicken Rescue!

As promised, here is my rather dishevelled attempt at 80s style icon Caron Keating in her bin bag dress!

Well, one person remembered her wearing it, anyway. She might have been humouring me...
The advantage of wearing a wraparound binbag dress was that I could stow it away as soon as it became a nuisance. But the fact that it became a nuisance was because it was made of binbags. They tend to stretch, and the thing was constantly falling off.

Total number of people who bothered wearing fancy dress: 4, I think. Ah well. Mind, OH dressed as the second Doctor, so didn't even have the right decade.

Well, maybe the above can be my "before" image. One day into the new year and my new fitness regime is going awesomely! While OH slumbered, I went for my traditional New Year hike. 

I thought I'd go the 'pretty' way to get to the walk I wanted to do. Mind, the pretty way is not so pretty right now... loads of abandoned alcohol cans littering the way into the park behind the industrial estate, but at least the boggy conditions by the nature reserve seem to have deterred inconsiderate drinkers from going past the river.

Conditions were pretty squelchy as I went through the park, which is on the site of an old mill. Here you can see little eddies in the fast-flowing river.

 In order not to lose my shoes in the mud, I picked my way through the bracken at the back of the church.
 But the way really was very muddy! Some straw for the horses in a relatively dry spot, or a bit of equine line-dancing?
 Then on to the N6, Brampton Valley Way. It was a very busy day. People out with their dogs, their kids, their chicken...
Oh yeah, there was a chicken. Wondered what to do about that at first. A lot of people just shaking their heads and worrying about foxes, but the poor chuck was clearly just as worried by some of the dogs on leads who were showing her some interest. I was close to phoning the RSPB, but a family were out walking their Labradors, and they knew the owner, so were able to alert her to the fugitive fowl.
I continued apace, and wow, my Fitbit is currently on 23799 steps, just over 9 miles walked today!

It's so tempting to throw money after keeping fit and healthy and losing weight, especially at New Year, but I'm using what I have (the Fitbit!) and won't be joining any clubs. All it has been doing over Christmas is logging just how far behind I am with my steps groups... no more. I'm winning, winning the Workweek Challenge I tell you! Mwa ha ha ha ha....

Won't last. There are some very competitive bods in my group. I can sense them getting twitchy...

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Bananas and Bin Bags

It's New Year's Eve, and I'm sleep-deprived but feeling great.

OH is very sensibly having a kip before we venture out into the madness of a pub doing a 70s/80s night. It sounds a very mainstream thing, but it's just our usual regular lovely real ale pub, with its predominantly rock and metal jukebox, and regular goth nights. 

Now, they haven't said it's fancy dress, but that didn't stop me making a fancy dress outfit. I felt some effort was required, you see. It's just a shame I've put on so much over Chrimbo, as I have a very serviceable puffball skirt in my wardrobe, but I think being able to zip whatever I'm wearing all the way up would be a bonus. Therefore I'm wearing a very forgiving chazza-sourced LBD (originally Autograph M&S, ooh swish!). And a tie-on skirt made of bin bags.

Bin-bags? 

Oh yeah!

I made this out of bin bags yesterday while watching old black and white films on the telly, and if you're thinking, ooh, that's very Blue Peter, that's exactly what it is! I remembered Caron Keating making a dress out of bin bags on the show in the 80s, and whilst it doesn't seem to have gone down in Culture memories as prominently as Anthea Turner's model of Tracey Island, I remember it. Can't seem to find any stills from that time, mind, but it definitely happened!


And the bonus is that it will fold away very easily in case of embarrassment!

Now bananas... I want to share a rescue recipe I tried when I discovered some mincemeat I wanted to use had opened to the air, so I needed a festive filling quick.

Festive banana pies!

You will need:

2 bananas, 8 almonds, a capful of brandy, 4 chopped dates, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

Oh, and the shortcrust pastry. Butter, flour, bit of water. I don't even bother measuring anymore.

Oven - 180 degrees C.

Just blitz the ingredients in a food processor (I would chop the bananas first to be honest), add filling to pies in a buttered patty pan. 

If you taste the mix now, it is sooooo sweet. Baking removes some of the sweetness, so don't panic if your teeth hurt.

Seal down pies, add prick holes, brush with milk or egg for glazing.

Pies are done in about 20-25 mins.

Whole like this, the bananas look very ostentatious, but won't chop down. 

Pieeeeeees!!!!!

Anyway... promise pics tomorrow, if not too hungover.

Friday, 22 December 2017

A Year to Save My Life!

It's 5.30 in the morning, and I am up ridiculously early because I woke up with indigestion, possibly because OH treated me when he came off shift last night to a massive trifle he'd picked up at the garage, and I sat in my PJs, eating it,  watching Bridget Jones' Diary...

In said film, Bridget notes, "I am 142 lbs."

OH quickly did an incorrect conversion, so I let him know, "No, that's 10 stone 2 lbs."

"Well, that's not really very heavy is it?"

I grimaced. "Well, depends on your height, but to a short woman like me it would be." I put the empty trifle carton on the floor. "Except, it's now my goal weight."

Seriously, though... I am back in the red zone. Unsurprising after the month of gluttony I've had, and I didn't have to step on the scales to know that: I am wheezing like the penguin in toy story; I am permanently wearing my looser combats; things get strangely crushed every time I try to tie my bootlaces. But what could be causing such a scenario? Well,  here's less than 24 hours of my life for context: last Sunday, I had a three course meal with the Arts Lab at 4, followed by the Northampton comedians' Christmas party at 8, where we went for a curry. And I forgot that the next day, my boss was taking me out for lunch as well.


I could do something about it today and go and do Parkrun (seeing as my lost trainers have miraculously been found!), but I have to go to a distant Argos to pick up a present for littlest nephew today, plus get all the very much not done domestic things done. I am not sure who I need in my life more - Chris Powell from Obese: A Year to Save Your Life to encourage me to eat right and get back in shape, or Kim and Aggy from How Clean is Your House? Clue: right riffy.

Even having had more holiday than I've had at this time of year for years, I've been struggling to fit in all my duties. I've been reading and editing, answering queries, getting frustrated... and I have also been out a couple of times this week, to my writers group and also to help out at the local theatre for James Acaster's last gig of the year.

We were in a bit of a hole last year, like we have been in previous years, but things are getting easier. I have been stressing since about September about whether I'd have enough for the tax man, but it's fine, and so, we are in a good place to face 2018. Still got a busted car to fix, a tumbledown house continuing to tumble, and there are some threatening bits of mail to sort... but it's all cool. I made get all chilled next year and do lots of Kirstie Allsopp-scale crafting. Oh yeah... need time. See above.

It's now 6.45, so not long now until the shops open, may as well crack on! I've been listening to Wolf Alice on Spotify. Hadn't heard any before, think I like it. Now listening to Stewart Lee. Well, an ad by the Turin Brakes in between bits of Stewart Lee.

So, got some resolutions. I'm doing them early as opposed to when drunk. You can't say the word "resolutions" without sounding drunk.

  1. Booze! I'm doing the Dryathlon. However, I am not signing up. If people are impressed and would like to donate to Cancer Research off their own bat that would be awesome, but I don't want to pester people. It is often said by cynical people on that there Facebook that if you feel the need to give up alcohol for a month then you have a problem. Well, yes... 
As it happens, I saw the poster for First for Wellbeing when I was in the library, and saw they could help with weight management. I thought - ooh, that will be beneficial, and perhaps save me from the costs of signing up to Slimming World or similar, so I did. I filled in the questionnaire... and this is what popped up when I'd finished.

Priority 1! One!

"Based on the information you have provided we are delighted to confirm that you are eligible for Alcohol support from our trained alcohol specialists. Once you have confirmed you are happy to proceed, we will pass your details onto to your chosen provider and one of their team will be in contact with you shortly


Our trained First for Wellbeing staff will deliver up to 3 sessions where you will have the opportunity to discuss and agree your goals to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, find alternative things to do and learn the health risks associated with drinking. Our advisors will then agree with you an action plan and give you resources to take home to support you between appointments."

What the heck did I put? I don't exceed the advised number of units, or drink when I'm not supposed to, or feel like I can't cope without a drink, or drink to get drunk. I like a cider in the Black Prince, or when I'm at my writers group, and some wine if I go out to dinner. I get tired, I get emotional... I do not ever get 'tired and emotional'. Good grief!

Now, I do know some of the First for Wellbeing staff. They are librarians. I hurriedly texted my sorry tale to OH and said, "I must have filled something in wrong. It says someone is going to contact me about my alcohol consumption as my first priority. Agh! ... oh my life. That someone could be Malcolm." Malcolm being the made-up name of one of our librarian friends... and OH happened to get the text just as he bumped into him in the street, read it, started laughing, and showed Malcolm.
Oh my life!

Anyway, no one has got in touch yet. I am dying in the gutter, clinging to a bottle of Frosty Jack...

2. I am determined to beat one of my crazy fitbit group pals one week and get a trophy. 100,000 steps Monday-Friday should do it.

3. I. want. to. swim.

4. Write more! Cook more! Eat good veggies! Make my allotment beautiful!

5. Lose at least 2 stone.

That should probably do it. anyway, let's forget about all that for now... it's Christmas! Happy Christmas everybody!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

One Day All This Will Be Over




It has been a rather chilled end to a busy week. Besides the day job, I have been editing and gigging keeping me very busy in the evenings, and this afternoon I was at the Love Kingsthorpe Library event, doing some Christmassy poems. Not many kids there for my competition, but I had fun, especially as my friend Wayne and my brother and sister-in-law and the nephews turned up, and we all went and had cake!

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As frugalling has gone, OH and I were both feeling a bit too boozyliciously overspent ahead of Christmas already, so we've avoided the boozer tonight and stuck to hot chocolate. Black Forest Gateau flavour, from Poundland. Got a gig tomorrow, so... mind it's a school night.

Having sorted out my tax return this week, and had a look at the progress of my debt repayments, things are going well. We've got to be sensible next year to whack the next lot, but we will properly hammer them. I'm happy with my lot anyway. But as to the nature of this blog... well, I'm a tryer, I'm a failer. Sometimes I do superbly well. Sometimes I'm a hypocrite. At the end of the day, I'm a human being, and while I'm working towards improving my lot all the time I don't expect anything to stay fixed exactly the way it is. I don't expect me to stay the same either. I spy a point on the horizon where I know there's comfort, security, more space to be me and do what I like doing. It doesn't seem to be an impossibility for me right now. I'm very lucky in that respect.

A few years ago, I found the most amazing and inspiring blog, written by a lady who lived in a beautiful little cottage. She'd paid off her mortgage and was now set on travelling the world. She wanted to travel in a line from North to South Africa ultimately, but had interim goals of getting to Japan, but also enjoying travelling in this country. Every time she planned to do a thing, then found a cheaper way of doing it, she'd save the difference. And the pictures! I lived vicariously through that blog. But then, something made her switch it to invite only. As I wasn't a close friend, just a stranger in the internet, that world closed off for me. Her blog, she can do what she likes with it, but I felt sad and hoped it wasn't due to unkindness.

But I found someone else whose blog I liked, recommended by the other blogger. Frugal Queen! I was hooked on her story. She wasn't on a low income, but she had got a whacking load of debt, and so she went to extremes to clear it down as quickly as she could. A lot of people were inspired by her early years of blogging when she battled the debt and she became quite famous as the debt was conquered. Many stayed to read once she was in better circumstances, myself included. But now she has gone. All social media shut down. And I understand trolls are to blame. Why? Why would you do that?

As I came back from my gig last night, three of my friends were talking about being trolled on social media. Different reasons. A lot of my friends from performing get the "women aren't funny" brigade... but in lifestyle blogs, a lot of the invective seems to come from people who seemingly don't appreciate that the process of blogging is to share experience as you change your life. People change too. They can't stay perfectly imperfect forever. They therefore become imperfectly perfect instead.

So yes, I fully intend Frugalwench to be gone one day. Then maybe she'll be Comedywench or Poetrywench. Maybe I'll change blog on that day; start fresh. Maybe I won't. But I know one thing - that's not going to be down to a bloody troll.

Merry Christmas, Froogs and SFT, wherever you are.


Sunday, 3 December 2017

My Body's Too Boozylicious

It's advent! I've not got my Christmas decorations up yet - I'll probably decorate my work desk tomorrow, but wait until after next weekend to do the house. OH likes to go overboard; I think we've got too much random clutter as it is without draping tinsel over it. Mind, what an excellent and easy way of feeling like you're embracing the minimalistic lifestyle in the New Year - just taking the damn things down again.

My homemade Christmas jumper has been making an appearance on my bod since about September, so I've succumbed and bought an Aldi unicorn one today. We're doing Christmas Jumper day at work on 15th. Plus, I like unicorns. At least I can wear this all day and not lose it on the train like I did my best pyjamas and onesie on pyjama day a couple of weeks ago. Round and round in circles phoning London Midland and Lost Property Euston, I was. They found it. They lost it again. It was probably between platforms 8 and 11, they said. Like sodding Harry Potter. Except this was Euston, not King's Cross, so he'd be lost as well.



Anyway, I didn't get it back. Bye bye, sheep onesie.😟

Blooming charities... I tell you I'm done. Especially after I got practically mugged by a Big Issue seller outside Sainsbury's the other day. "Oh I don't have change," I said. "I have change, he said, and then started throwing various copies of Big Issue at me. "Have this one, and this one. This is a bumper one!" Then he took my tenner. "For Christmas?" he said, with puppy eyes. What could I  do? I had so much to read of that excellent magazine, I should have been happy, but I saw my reflection in a window and I had the same facial expression as Melania.

But, needs must and it's time to embrace the frugal lifestyle a bit more thoughtfully as I've had to reach past the moths to get to monies for car repairs and other things that drained the emergency pot, and taxman needs paying soon, so will sort that out too. I'm also a bit worried about a thing that came in the post. Ah Christmas! The time for worrying things coming through the post that are not inappropriately humoured Christmas cards.

One of the things I have been doing with going to the library a lot is looking for good, healthy recipe ideas, and I came across Your Daily Diet by Dr. Ian Marber. You know, it's excellent, but I noticed something happening as I embraced this hunger-busting way of eating. It was getting expensive! And because of combining, and a super busy lifestyle, I kept running out of suitable things to eat at the different times. When you are in Marks and Spencer (one of the few places to buy food near the office), contemplating spending £2.50 on two boiled eggs and 4 spinach leaves, you know things have got ridiculous. So, back to my frugal-wenching quite carb-rich way of eating, with a vow to walk more and drink less. Not actually going to give up, but something's making me have to buy big girl's bras. and I think that something is cider. Almost had a can tonight, then slapped my own wrist and made a cup of tea instead.

So, I've taken the time to make my food for tomorrow - porridge is waiting for me in the pot when I wake up (I reckon about 20p), and for lunch, I have Aldi basic pasta shapes, half an avocado (from the awesome greengrocer in town), a tomato, a bit of basil and a tablespoon of past it's best before-date Spanish Heinz mayo, which was only 5p from the Okay After shop, as I call it!!! I think altogether that's less than 35p. Then for a snack I have a chopped carrot for 4p and homemade hoummous, which as the whole lot cost about 40p to make, this bit here is under 10p. So my food tomorrow will cost 74p, which is much better than buying a prepped sarnie from M & S, which can cost as much as £4.50 if you go for the pretty ones. 



Going to bed reading The Little Village Christmas, by Sue Moorcroft. It's a Sunday Times Bestseller, and it mentions people I know in it! Love Sue's books, and this one is very Christmassy - just what I need!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Gunpowder, Treason and Activism!

It's an odd morning for me, as I currently appear to be dog-sitting invisible dogs!

The owner has a theory his other dog sitter has taken them for a walk, but it's turning out to be a very long walk indeed, so I'm not sure what to do now...

Today is November 5th, Bonfire Night. A night for fire and fireworks, toffee apples, and burning an effigy of attempted regicide, Guy Fawkes (except it's a school night, so most people seem to have done their burning of things last night). I watched the BBC drama series Gunpowder, produced by and starring Kit Harrington as his gunpowder plotter-ancestor, Robert Catesby. Harrington's genealogical research, and the clear passion that has inspired has imbued the drama with an unrivalled verisimilitude, I think. With some slight artistic license  -  I believe it generally takes hours to die of the torturous method of pressing, but I thought it was amazing. Of course, it has attracted some criticism for its unfettered violence, but I think that's really important to know the pain and degradation felt by the Catholics under ever more stringent clampdowns on their religion and religious expression, and to give an idea as to why  Robert Catesby and the other plotters did what I did.

When I lived in the Black Country, I often saw the sign pointing towards Holbeche House, the manor where the gunpowder plotters, including Catesby, were found and arrested. I had no idea that it was the scene of a massive shoot out, though, and how many of them died in that place, and what was done to their bodies after they were buried nearby. A gruesome but fascinating part of our history. I wish I'd gone before it was turned into a care home for the elderly!

But last week, we were on staycation, and as a treat, OH took me for a drive to a "mystery location in Northampton". A trick to fool me, as in Gunpowder the manor house where the Catesby family lived was labelled in the series as being in Warwickshire. Well, nowadays, Ashby St. Ledger is in Northamptonshire. The manor is a private residence now, owned by Lord Wimborne, and a field separates the gates that would have led down to the house when it was in its own land with fewer neighbours.


It's a very beautiful house, and that's thanks to the current Lord Wimborne's efforts as just over a decade ago, apparently it was in very poor repair. the Crown Estate had to step in to buy the estate minus the manor house, and run by a "Rural Directorate" as an agricultural business. And Lord Wimborne might have inherited the estate from his grandfather, but it has been owned by quite a few people in between them - and businesses. British Airways owned it at one point.



Right next door to the manor house is the church, dedicated to Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Leodegarius. According to this website it has been there since 1100, but most of the buildings are 14th and 15th century. It's beautiful and has some fascinating frescoes, including one depicting the flagellation of St. Margaret.




Here at the side of the church you can just make out the famous "gunpowder room", a timber framed part of the manor house where the gunpowder plotters allegedly planned their act of terror.

Creepy skeleton commemorates the Black Death.

No more brass rubbing allowed!

This ornate tomb was beyond reach in a part of the church that looks like it doubles up as a storage area.

A wall memorial from early 17th century in which husband and wife are wearing ruffs.

This memorial plaque is topped with a harpie (blonde with very pink boobs)

Slightly closer view of the harpie

A Norman font.

 Next to the font, there is also a mini exhibition on the gunpowder plot... which gave us a clue as to where we could go next.

But first, we had a spot of refreshment in the Olde Coach Inn, and then took in a but of the Jurassic Way which crosses through the village.



 For our next destination, we had to cross the border into Warwickshire proper, to pay a visit to Dunchurch where the Old Red Lion Inn once stood, where the gunpowder plotters awaited news of the success of the plot, so they could nip off to Coombe Abbey to kidnap Princess Elizabeth and make her their sovereign. It is now known as Guy Fawkes House, and it's someone's house now. Someone who must have to get used to lots of people taking photos of their house!


 While we were there, we thought we might as well also visit the outside of 12th Century St Peter's church, which has some lovely miserichords.

We were trying to work out the dates on this for longer than wasn't embarrassing.
So, what else was I up to on my staycation? Not much chilling I'm afraid... rather I seem to have become a bit of an activist.

It's a dire time in Northamptonshire, as the County Council have announced that they have so little money, they are going to be forced to cut services, some of which are not only vital, but also statutory, so they ruddy well can't, never mind shouldn't. Therefore they have a fight on their hands!

In the first wave of cuts to save £9.6 million, they have proposed the closure of up to 28 libraries (out of 36 across the county), but 21 can be "saved" if the community finds groups to run them with volunteers. Well... remember when I did that gig in a volunteer-run library? That is typical of community-run libraries, in that it depends on the unskilled retired, rather than trained librarians. Yes, people can still borrow books (from a limited supply, also donated by other nice people), but modern libraries are about so much more than book-lending. They provide access to computers, homework help, jobseeker support, mental health resources, blue badge provision, bus pass renewal, playgroups and health visitor services, and more! They are a frontline statutory service and our local authority is obligated to provide a decent and comprehensive service for all who wish to use it.

It has made me so angry. In reaction to the 3 pitiful options the County Council has suggested, many of us are joining the campaign Option 4 - Save ALL libraries. I think the CC are hoping we will be divided by trying to just back our local library under threat, and indeed I am backing Save Kingsthorpe Library, my local library  (and it's crazy that this one only has 1 of the 3 options to stay open, seeing how used it is). We are investigating the figures for costs and usage provided by CC, and querying why other measures don't seem to have been taken with regards to budget reduction.

I can't believe this is a consideration for the council. It's the 21st century, and we need libraries more than ever. I am as baffled by this as I am incensed.

To help my campaign group I put together  this video.



And on 28th October, I took part in a demo outside Kingsthorpe Library, which I filmed.

Here are my banners!


And here is my video.



What you can do: