Happy Hogmanay

Happy new year, comrades!

This is my sixth Hogmanay in Scotland, which is what the locals call the last day of the year. For the first time I'm actually going out on the town, to a fancy black tie dinner and ceilidh! Usually we just vegetate with friends and play Guitar Hero and eat crisps so it'll be nice to do something different. And Gareth has to wear a kilt! I had to bully him into wearing one for his own wedding so this is very sweet… he's gotta wear a bow tie too. Mwahaha.

Wishing you all a happy new year and thank you for reading. Thanks for your support and comments and emails and may you have a ripsnorter of a new year. Just remember – 2009 rhymes with wine, fine, dine and having a good time. How can we go wrong?!

Okay it also rhymes with whine, but let's just gloss over that. See you next year!

Dietgirl at the DailySpark

The Dietgirl book is out in America today! And so begins my mission to spread the good word. I'll be linking to a number of interviews and goodies over the next couple of weeks, including multiple chances to win a copy of the book. But I'll also keep up with the usual everyday tales so you don't have to mutter "sellout!" over your morning coffee 🙂

Today there's a great review and interview on the DailySpark blog at SparkPeople. I've always liked the SparkPeople philosophy – small, realistic changes with no crazy stuff. It's a free site with a strong community and oodles of useful information. They'll also be giving away ten free copies of Dietgirl this Friday 2nd January, so if you're a Sparky person look out for that one.

Update: Here's the link for the SparkPeople/Dietgirl giveaway

USA! USA! USA!

Don’t Stop Moving

One of my favourite blogs this year has been Jen's Perfect In Our Imperfections. Sometimes you get lucky and find someone on the other side of the world who seems to be working through the same issues as you and is articulating thoughts you didn't even know you were thinking. In this case, it's been the JOY of maintenance. I enjoyed her take on That Oprah Article today:

"The thing that we both forgot, that most of us don't realize, is that we can't just grab onto the new set of circumstances and hold on for dear life. We have to keep moving forward, keep letting go, keep rolling with new circumstances. That's why weight maintenance is so hard, I think. It's easier to take risks to move toward a big exciting goal and an imagined better life. It's harder to keep living in the present when you realize it's not just one big shining moment where you feel great all the time. You can't 'conquer this battle once and for all,' you can just keep living and working through your new stuff."

. . .

Hope you had a Merry Christmas, if you're Christmasly inclined! If not, hope your December 25th was generally ace.

Headbanger

My friends' little 18-month-old seems to be going through a phase of whacking his forehead against various surfaces… tables, people, bookshelves. He just totters up and thrashes away like he's at a heavy metal concert. Quite often the surface is unforgiving and it all ends in tears. Then two minutes later he's back for another go. Whack whack whack. Same result.

That is how this weight maintenance malarkey feels to me: bashing my head against the same brick walls, over and over again; seeing how it feels and testing my limits, before eventually concluding, Actually, bloody hell… THAT HURTS.

I mentioned a month ago there's a little corner shop near our new place. It has taken me almost that long to be able to go inside said shop without feeling the need to buy Something Nice every single time. I kept dropping in for a pint of milk or a newspaper and winding up in front of the sweets display, flushed with the thrill of having goodies so conveniently close to my place of dwelling and feeling compelled to take advantage of it. A Twix here, a Freddo Frog or two there.

I've been fighting this stupid compulsion all my life. I've written before about growing up on a farm where the food was ultra healthy and the nearest shop was a twenty minute drive. Every second spent away from there – Chez Grandparents, friend's houses, in line at the school canteen with a fifty cent coin burning in my palm – was a precious, desperate Opportunity To Eat The Good Stuff. Of course it got worse when I moved to a big town for university – endless shops and possibilities with no supervision.

Kitteh Over the years l've slowly learned the obvious lesson that there is always going to be shops with delicious things in them… the supply is not going to dry up. The problem is I keep forgetting that lesson. I keep needing refresher courses. 

Last Wednesday night I went out for loo paper. The best value was KittenSoft, pictured here with the docile beast on the packet. I tried to interpret his expression as I joined the checkout queue. Yes, I am soft and fluffy, but must you wipe your butt on me?

The queue was conveniently located next to sweets display, so the familiar flutter kicked in. OMG! Chocolate at 20 paces! What do I want what do I want?

But this time, unlike the last bazillion visits, I stopped. Just like when my wee friend tested his noggin' on the washing machine, the novelty suddenly wore off. 

Hang on. I even don't want a chocolate. Sure the wrappers are shiny but the contents are not that thrilling. Also, I'm not stranded on a farm anymore. The shop will still be here tomorrow. So there's no need to stock up like the world is about to end.

But WHY do I have to experience the "thrill" of a dozen Freddo Frog expeditions before I remember this? And also remember that tight jeans feel unpleasant? That I don't actually like Freddo Frogs?

There's nothing wrong with eating chocolate. It's just the crazy brand of eating chocolate that gets on my goat. Just when I think I've figured it out, that I can have a calm and considered relationship with food, I falter. Like when the Christmas goodies flooded the office last week, I went all Free Food cuckoo and had to five different Quality Streets before remembering they're stinkin' and I've never liked them.

Well, no profound conclusions here, comrades. Just the endless frustrations of a slow learner.

Comments for a Cause

In the spirit of the holiday season, blogger extraordinaire MizFit is donating ten cents for every comment she receives on her latest entry to Safeplace, a local domestic violence shelter. She's already up to 356 comments, so soon she'll be crawling round the floor of her car and lifting up the sofa cushions trying to find more change. Why not drop on over and leave a comment? It won't cost you a dime, but it will cost her 🙂

Dinners with Gingers

Meanwhile back in New York, it was time for another dinner with a blogger. Well, it was time three months ago when this actually happened. Our appointment on that breezy September evening was with Beck of Not A Fat Opera Singer

Beck is the Queen of Planning. We had been emailing for weeks beforehand, trying to decide where to meet. Or more accurately, where to eat. She had suggestions for every borough and every cuisine, and it all sounded good. In the end I suggested we go somewhere that was special to her, so I could get a good stickybeak into the Life of Beck.

I was a little nervous as Dr G and I headed to Union Square for our rendezvous. I'd never met an opera singer before, let alone a redheaded opera singer. How do you talk to an opera singer? Would she greet us in song?

She chose a traditional "hello" instead, and was not wearing a horned helmet. She was also tiny, thus destroying the last of my opera singer stereotypes. The three of us jumped on the subway and chatted merrily all the way to Bayridge, Brooklyn, one of Beck's old neighbourhoods. 

Tri Our first stop was a wee Italian bakery where Beck purchased some of these crazy tri-colour cookies that she'd been telling me about, for our dessert later on. This was my first American Bakery Experience. I was amazed that you can buy items by the pound. So instead of saying, "Two cookies please. No! Three. I mean, ten!", you have say you want half a pound or whatnot. Then they put the goods in a little white box and tie it with red string! That charmed my pants right off.

That weigh-and-pay system would take some getting used to. So much mathematics involved! You'd have to decide if a particular cake looked dense or fudgy, and was that frosting whipped or heavy? How substantial are those chocolate chips? Etcetera, etcetera. 

Maestro Next we met up with Beck's handsome companion, the Maestro. An opera singer AND a maestro in one day – this was very exotic for a farm girl like me.

My only experience of orchestra drivers was the recent BBC reality show Maestro, in which celebrities had to learn this fine art including Blur's Alex James. It looked like a bloody difficult thing to do, so it was good opportunity to quiz a real live Maestro about his profession as we ate a delicious dinner at Beck's favourite Indian restaurant. Really profound questions like, "Do you have a favourite stick?"

Seriously though, Beck and Carmine were two of the most deliciously interesting people I've ever met. Dr G and I grilled them with nerdy questions about how voices work and how the hell you conduct orchestras and why opera singers aren't so large these days. Television, that's why. Bloody television.

After dinner we walked for miles in the beautiful evening, over to the bay and down to the Verrazano Bridge, which I'd previously only known as The Bridge From Saturday Night Fever. We then walked down a really long street that I can't remember the name of, but being New York it was probably named after a number. It was full of shops with amazing old school fonts on the signage. And there was one shop with dresses in the window, and Beck and I said at practically the same time, "That dress is so my colour!" Holy fellowship of the redhead, Batman. (Although Beck pronounced it color.

Finally we wound up in a coffee shop, in which Gareth was completely bedazzled by the fifty varieties of coffee on offer. "Can I just get… coffee?"

Beck sneakily distributed chunks of tri-color cookie under the table. The cookie was more of a cake; almond-flavoured and so very tasty.

ETA: Serendipity! Smitten Kitchen has a recipe today for homemade seven-layer-cookies, tri-color cookies, whatever ya want to call 'em!

Alas, soon it was time to head back to Manhattan. The four of us piled back onto the subway and gabbed the whole way, with Beck remembering at the last minute, "PHOTO!" We arranged ourselves around a pole and The Maestro took about twenty million shots.

Dudes, I feel misty-eyed just looking at these pics. Beck is such a good egg and likewise the charming Maestro. I wish they lived closer so I could go see Beck sing and Carmine wield his baton, although there's not much call for opera singers and maestros in our wee town. We do have a Carnegie Hall but we don't have red-string bakeries or a subway. There is a regular bus to Tesco, however.

Thank you again Beck for showing us your 'hood. I really hope we make it back someday 🙂

Beck
Beck called the pic on the right the Get Away From Me, Crazy Lady shot. Bwhaha!

Twas The Night Before Christmas Party

Thighstrangler Time for the Annual Christmas Party Eve Clothes Shopping Rant! 

I was going to wear the same skanky purple Going Out Top I've worn for all occasions this past year but it's so grandmotherly and sensible I thought I'd hunt down something groovier. Admittedly hitting the shops the night before the party was a crap strategy; all the ho ho ho and jingle jangling in the shopping centre made me cranky after ten minutes and I soon gave up.

This year's gripe: why the bloody hell why are they putting elastic on the bottom of Going Out Tops?

I thought I'd hit the jackpot with a slinky gold number. I pulled it over my head and felt a rush of hope as it draped over my sturdy shoulders, hugged the boobs and flattered the belly. But then it went quite literally pear-shaped because the top kept on going, all the way to mid-thigh, engulfing my butt… then finished with an elasticated hem. It strangled my thighs like a lasso, making the top billow out between boob and thigh so I resembled a shimmering, arseless Christmas bauble.

Why would I want a lasso round my thighs? I know where my thighs are!

. . .

A lovely former colleague visited us today along with her five-month-old twin girls. I held one for two minutes and didn't break it.

"Are you sniffing her head?" Linda asked.

"Yes! It smells like babies."

"What did you think it would smell like? Coffee?"

For the first time in my life I felt a very faint twinge that babies might not be the most revolting idea in the world. Very very faint, mind you.

I raised the possibility with Gareth this evening.

"Nah," he said. "Too much work."

"But we could raise them under a fascist regime like The Mothership did. It would be the total opposite of too much work. Teach them to do dishes and weed gardens as soon as they can lift their own heads. You'll never do chores again!"

"You can't do fascist regimes with kids these days! They just get resentful and steal all your money then stab you in your sleep."

. . .

Hello to anyone who found their way here from People magazine! Just to explain in case you came looking for super duper speedy weight loss tips, there was a wee typo in their review of the Dietgirl book - the lard-busting took around 333 weeks, not 33. Hehe.

Livin On A Prayer

Note: Comments are behaving strangely at the moment. If you ignore the weird text and just type your comment and press Post, it is received but the page won't reload like normal. I'm investigating and hope to sort soon!

"Today's class will feature no less than three Bon Jovi songs," our Body Pump instructor gleefully announced this afternoon.

Oh hell yes! Way to turn around my bitcharse disposition in one sentence. You cannae beat a bit of the Bon. The tunes turned out to be a really dodgy techno remix of Living On A Prayer and two inferior newer songs, but it did the trick. I don't know where I'd be without exercise to elevate my mood. In jail, probably.

I had a Bon Jovi Flashback in the middle of the Tricep track and nearly dropped the bar on my nose from laughing. The day before my last high school exam, me and three good mates went to Sydney to see Bon Jovi in concert. My first concert ever! Unless you count that Elton John tribute guy who played at the local greyhound track when I was ten.

When you lived in a far-flung rural town the only way for kids to get to concerts in the Big City was by charter bus. It took about five hours, excluding vomit stops. Since this was 1995 there was only a cassette player on the bus and the self-appointed Overlords of the Cassette would sidle up to the driver and bat their eyelashes until he put their tapes on. It always fascinated me how on a bus full of strangers a clear hierachy of popularity would establish itself within the first fifty kilometres. Anyway, we were approaching the outskirts of Sydney; so close to Bon Jovi we could smell the acid wash, when a rather tired and dull blast of guitar dribbled forth over the speakers.

"What the hell is this shit?" I snorted to my friend Jenny.

There was an outraged intake of breath and one of the Cassette Chicks spun around in her seat, fixing  her kohl-rimmed eyes on me in what we call back home a Death Stare.

"This shit," she hissed, "Is Bon Jovi's latest album!"

Oh. Well. It was shit.

Anyway that has bugger all to do with anything, doesn't it? I have an almighty backlog of posts but had pangs of self-consciousness every time I sat down to write. It's been odd trying to get back into the groove after my Internet Exile. It's like I had amnesia and stumbled across my belongings like a stranger… I write about my blubber? On the internet? Why would you do that? Why would anyone read that?

And then I watched some really depressing documentaries about wars and poverty and felt guilty for writing about trying not to eat things for almost eight years.

More soon, comrades! 🙂

Now you’re back from outer space

My exile is over! It was less than three weeks but that must be about eleven Internet Years. A brief summary of goings-on:

  • Green Belt – Training has begun for our next kickboxing grades. I'm again wrestling with my inferiority complex as my friend V nailed the 75 elements of the set movement in one bloody class while I'm still struggling with the first sequence. But Grading Day is not til February. My brilliance tends to lie dormant for a few months until you flush out of hiding with a big stick and a bucket of panic.
  • Operation Tightarse – After a year of idle whinging about my tight hamstrings and glutes I decided to do something about it and dusted off all my stretchy DVDs. I'm hoping the regular yoga, pilates, etc will help my flexibility, with the main aim of kicking better. Note: this Pilates DVD is gold.
  • Soup of the Year! If you want a marshmallow-free way of consuming sweet potatoes, may I recommend this Sweet Potato Soup Topped with Sautéed Halloumi and Mixed Seeds. It's a real hearty mother of a soup. Since the recipe is from a poncy supermarket it specifies own brand ingredients like frozen sweet potatoes and Five Seed Mix and chilli-infused oil, but I just used dried chilli flakes, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and normal unfrozen potatoes. Don't be tempted to skip the halloumi and seed garnish, it really ties the room together!
  • Commercial Break – There's only 27 sleeps until the Dietgirl book comes out in the USA. Woohoo! It makes me squirm to slip into Book Tart mode, but did you know that around 180,000 books are published in the States per year? One must sing from the rooftops, HEY put doon that Steven King, have I got a tale for YOU while one still has the chance.

    So, the book is out soon and the lovely folks at HarperCollins have done an amazing job pouring my ramblings into a portable package. A package that might very well look cosy underneath your Christmas tree. Or the tree of your Mum or Nanna or Aunt Bethel or Steven the Goldfish. As they used to say on the Toyota Mitsubishi adverts, PLEASE CONSIDER.

    In January I'll be rattling around the web on a virtual book tour visiting some fabulous blogs – there'll be interviews and reviews and podcasts and free copies to be won! In the meantime we have your choice of two snazzy widgets that you can splash on blogs, Facebooks and MySpaces:

    Widget #1. Countdown clock – count down the minutes to publication day (advent calendars are sooo 1851!)

    Widget #2. Browse Inside! – Have a good ol stickybeak at the actual pages. You can even search the entire book. 13 results for "chicken", 117 results for "fat", 19 results for "arse", for example.