Elie Chain Walk

"What are you doing on the weekend?" asked my lovely boss.

"We're going to do the Elie Chain Walk."

"Is that the one with the chains and cliffs along the coast?"

"Yep!"

"Did you know a man died doing that last year?"

Hmm, thanks boss.

Elie is a charming village on the Fife coast. We've passed through it many times on our way to Anstruther's famous fish and chips but had no idea the Chain Walk existed until someone posted about it on Gareth's favourite hillwalking forum.

Named one of the Best Walks In Britain by the Daily Telegraph, we were hooked by this description:

"The Chain Walk forms a side-loop to the tranquil, 90-mile Fife Coastal Path… The fun chained section – a kind of British via ferrata – hugs the sea from Elie village, careering round the cliffs of Kincraig Point to Shell Bay…

Together with footholds, a series of eight fixed chains 10 to 50 feet long provide something to cling to as you slither up, down, along and over alarming rocks while waves crash in from the Firth of Forth. Children aged nine and over can tackle this breathtaking route, which defies being termed a mere "walk". This is adventure. Stay away near high tide."

It turns out the poor man was walking along the tops of the cliff when he fell, not doing the Chain Walk itself. Still, it was unnerving on Saturday to be greeted by a sign featuring stick figures in peril:

Elie Chain Walk warning sign

It was very windy but the tide was low and it was miraculously bright and sunny. There's no way in hell I'd have done it if there'd been the slightest hint of moisture on those rocks!

Chain chain chaaaiiin

Nobody seems to know exactly when or why the chain walk created but most seem to think it was during the 1920s. I'd like to think they made it just for fun. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking and the whole time I wanted to yell HURRAH in a jolly Famous Five manner. I haven't climbed anything since the monkey bars in primary school. I loved hauling myself up the rocks, grasping the chains with shaky hands, heart pounding as the waves smacked the cliffs.

Here's Dr G in action…

Dr G

And here's me inching along not realising Dr G was snapping away on his phone. The resolution is shoddy but you can just see how the seat of my trousers almost wore away from sliding down rocks on my arse. Not good with descents as you know, so an arse makes a handy fifth limb!

Bumcam!

Just have to note that for once I was not the clutz of the day! Gareth slipped on a slimy rock in a flat, non-perilous part of the journey. He even did the comedy flapping hands as he tumbled onto his butt. He was not injured which left me free to cackle, which is totally acceptable since he has mocked my misadventures many times before.

Dr G is most triumphant

My photos don't really do the Walk justice as I was too busy trying not to fall into the sea to take proper ones. I tried to make a video of Gareth darting across the rocks but forgot to switch off the time-lapse mode. So hope the words convey that this was a ripsnorter of a way to spend a Saturday morning! If you ever find yourself in Scotland in decent weather I'd highly recommend it!

Here's some good photos elsewhere:

The End of Summer

Have you seen the tomatoes? Do you want to see the tomatoes? Come closer! Let me show you the tomatoes!

I'm hoping that this tomato hysteria means I'll get all the excess exuberance out of my system now, so if I ever become a parent I won't bore folks to death by shoving dozens of blurry photos of my shriveled offspring in their faces. Here it is sleeping. And here it is screaming. And here it is screaming from another angle. Here it is screaming with snot streaming out its nose. Isn't it stunning?

Seriously, the tomatoes are ace. They've turned the greenhouse into the jungle.

Tomato Jungle

I can't believe we grew enough stuff to fill a bowl. I wish you could smell how good this smelled. Also shown: a few kickarse little chillies.

Behold our wonderous bounty

Five months of labour has produced approximately two punnets of cherry tomatoes. It may not be time and cost effective but it's been excellent learning something completely new. And the mind-blowing taste made it all worthwhile. If you think I'm exaggerating just ask Gareth. I think I've mentioned before in the six years I've known him he has only ever used three different phrases to positively describe anything in life: food, holidays, hot chicks, concerts, books, thrilling sporting events, etc:

  1. Pretty good!
  2. Not bad!
  3. Alright!

But when he ate a tomato straight from the vine on the weekend he actually paused in his tracks and said, "Whoa. That is amazing."

!!!

Now summer is most definitely over and things are happening on the farm behind Cow Poo Manor. Namely, the complete destruction of the Cow Poo Pile!

Sunday morning:

Poop scoop

Sunday afternoon:

Poo begone!

Indeed the mound was not just for decoration. They ploughed it all into the fields once the hay had been harvested. Now they've put in something else (gee I'm down with the farmer chat). I spent Tuesday evening watching seagulls chase the tractor.

Giving chase

I want to be a French librarian

Now these are the kind of working hours that I aspire to. I was briefly in Picardy, France for the day job this week and saw this sign at a library:

Bibliotheque

It's good to be back home. Once I've tackled my mega pile of laundry I'll wrote a proper entry. Bon weekend, mes amies!

Pretty Darn Healthy Homemade Granola

Granola-05

O granola, how I love thee! Such sweet, oaty, crack-like goodness, cunningly marketed as a health food.

I've wanted to make my own for years but was put off by the oil and sugar found in most recipes. I don't mind a bit of oil or sugar but The Mothership raised me to believe those things have no place on the everyday breakfast table. Coco Pops were more evil than Stalin in our household.

I've obediently stuck to unsweetened muesli or porridge as an adult, but I'm haunted by the memory of a Marks & Spencer number called Seriously Nutty Crunch. I bought it just the once in 2003 when I first moved to Scotland and finally understood folks who ate cereal straight from the box. Phwoar. Nutritionally speaking it was basically crushed up cookies, but ever since I've longed for CRUNCH in the morning.

Last year I bookmarked Orangette's acclaimed adaptation of a Nigella Lawson recipe, but it had quite a bit of honey and brown rice syrup so I knew I'd go Seriously Nutty if I made it. I also found a few apple juice-sweetened recipes but they still contained a fair whack of oil or butter.

Then recently in one of those random blog excursions, I was staring at a photo of a cupcake then clicked a link then another then another and landed on a blog called Delicious By Nature where there was a granola with no oil, just one tablespoon of maple syrup and a blasted-up banana as the main sweetener.

It sounded too weird to possibly work, but work it did! It was proper crunchy like the Seriously Nutty stuff, but with a mild sweetness that falls into my personal definition of a genuinely healthy breakfast. No bullshit calories here. I was worried it would taste too banana-y but the flavour is subtle.

You could go as poncy as you like with the ingredients but the basic version contains ordinary things I already had in the cupboard: oats, seeds and/or nuts of your choice (I used sunflower and walnuts), cinnamon, vanilla extract, maple syrup (I subbed honey), a pinch of salt (optional) and a trusty banana!

Granola-01

All you do is whizz the 'nana into oblivion along with some water, the cinnamon and the dod of honey, resulting in an unsightly brown goo.

Granola-02 

Stir that into the dry ingredients, spread it out on a baking tray then bake for about 40 minutes, stirring regularly.

The original recipe said put it on a foil lined tray which gave me soggy granola welded to foil.

Granola-04

I hacked it off into a non-stick roasting tin then fluffed it up, returned it to the oven and it turned out beautifully.

BANANA GRANOLA

Serves: about 6
Source: Delicious By Nature

200g (2 cups) rolled oats
(I used jumbo oats. You might need more if your banana is huuuuge and the mixture looks too wet)
1 ripe or frozen banana
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp sea salt
30g (1/4 cup) walnuts, chopped
30g (1/4 cup) sunflower seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F.
  2. In a blender or wee food processor, zap together the banana, water, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, and sea salt until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the banana goo with the dry ingredients.
  4. Lay out the mixture in a single layer on a baking tray, either non-stick or lined with baking paper.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes until oats are starting to brown. Check every ten minutes and give it a good stir, breaking up any big clumps. Don't panic if it looks really soggy to start with, it does crisp up eventually!
  6. Remove from the oven or let cool inside the switched-off oven if your oven is rubbish like mine.
  7. Crunch away with milk or yogurt n fruit. Huzzah!

I don't know how long this would last, considering it contains a fresh banana and all. This batch lasted less than a day in our house as Dr G was particularly enthusiastic. I can't wait to try again with different nuts or seeds. Maybe a shake of nutmeg too. You could add dried fruit of course but I like my granola fairly plain. I reckon pecans would be brilliant but they can be pricey… walnuts are a good value nut.

Granola-05

(I don't eat breakfast on the grass; it's just impossible to get decent natural light inside our house of an afternoon now that summer is dead and gone. Sniff sniff.)

UPDATE:
For those who were asking about the calorie content, Banana-granolaclick here. This is based on 6 servings. Personally I would get 8+ servings out of it, but a lot got stuck on the foil! It also depends on the way you use granola. You'd get less serves if you like a bowlful with milk, but I use it more as a condiment on top of my fruit and yogurt, so it goes further.

Greetings from the Lake District

Catbells

Dr G and I have escaped to the Lake District this week. Hooray for holidays!

Grumpy I was planning on a week of tea and scones and reading books but of course with Gareth around it's always slightly more strenuous than that. So we stomped up a wee hill and I must confess I did a bit of bitching and grumbling because it was raining and it was windy and it was slippery and there were loose rocks and I forgot to bring my sticks.

My main issue was that it was steep, because who would have thought a hill could be anything but flat and gentle? Honestly it was such a pathetic display that I cracked up laughing at my own ridiculousness. I really do try to like hillwalking for the sake of our marriage, but some days you just can't even fake it! 🙂

Gareth-golf On Monday we played Pitch n Putt golf. I'd not played golf before but both my grandmothers were ace golfers so surely it would be in the genes? Not quite. I came this close to manslaughter charges. On my very first shot, somehow I whacked the ball into the safety barrier net thing, which I still do not understand as I was clearly aiming for the green. It freakishly whizzed through a tiny gap between the net and its metal frame, ricocheting off the frame then smacking hard into the wall of the golf shop… missing the head of a little old lady by an inch!

She had been quietly sitting on the veranda of the wee shop well behind what she rightly thought was the safety of a GIANT SAFETY NET. I rushed over to make sure she was okay and apologised profusely and she really was far too gracious about it. She was laughing! Maybe a brush with death makes you laugh? I would have demanded I buy her a KitKat at the very least.

Meanwhile Gareth had dropped to his knees – I thought he was shaking from laughter but he said it was sheer relief because he saw it all in slow motion and thought I was off to jail, for sure. Holy crap what a terrible moment. Very Nice Lady, if you ever find this website somehow (perhaps by googling "pitch and putt ginger menace") once again, I am so sorry!

Incidentally Gareth kicked my arse, 2 holes to 7.

So I'm keeping things low key for the rest of the week. Thank you everyone who listened to the podcast! We have no idea what we're doing but we're having a lot of fun doing it. Once I'm done with hols and a work trip next week, we'll get cracking on a podcast website and a new episode. Thanks again for giving us a go!

Pub-dog

Drumroll Please…

Radio Announcing the As Of Yet Unnamed Podcast, featuring me & my mysterious cohort. In order to find out who, give us a wee listen!

Serving suggestions:

  • Bring us along on this weekend's run.
  • Tote us in yer mp3 player to the gym for a listen while you lift.
  • Crouch in your office or cubicle while you pretend to work

Why is the podcast as of yet unnamed? What on earth do we plan to cover? Why have we chosen to inflict this all upon you, the innocent masses? Have a listen to find out all the answers and more.

Click here to download or listen now with this handy widget thingo:

P.S. Please be gentle… we're flaming amateurs! Still learning how to press the buttons, etc etc. 🙂

Why did you get so fat?

Howdy! I am having a busy bugger of a week so I found this entry that I wrote back in January 2008 but couldn't find the nerve to post at the time.

Lately I've been doing a bit of publicity for the book; email interviews and the like. I always get stuck on one inevitable question:

Why'd you get so bloody fat?

(not actual phrasing)

Every time I see that question I sigh at the laptop screen. It sounds so accusing, like I committed a terrible crime.

"I don't knooooow" is always the initial answer. Then I poke Gareth in the ribs. "What should I say?"

"Just say you were really hungry! I dare ya."

Seriously, it's a difficult question. It's easy to be flippant like I was on the About page: It was a love of Nutella that knew no bounds. Then there's the basic mathematical reason: Ate more food than my body required.

Calories in, calories out; who ate all the pies. Just like losing weight was just eating less and moving more, right? If it was really that simple, I'd have just posted a food log for the past seven eight years instead of these endless sprawling brain dumps. Calories in calories out is a how explanation, not a why.

It's especially tricky to answer the question in a precise, soundbitey manner. It took 23 pages to explain. And of course being a chronic procrastinator I left that section right until last. I thought the other 90,000 words were a bastard to put together, but the 5000 words of Introduction were the worst. I was eager to drive on to the guts of the story with all the happy adventures and improved self-image, but the allegedly fabulous transformation wouldn't be convincing unless the scene was properly set. How the bloody hell does someone reach nearly 160 kilograms at the tender age of 23?

I gave my sister the shoddy first draft of the Introduction back in April. She told me bluntly that I wasn't being honest. "You're glossing over everything," she said, "And hiding behind jokes. You have to dig deeper."

Of course I got defensive and bawled my eyes out, because I didn't have time to bloody dig deeper! And I didn't want to, either.

But we talked it through for two whole days, picking over the past. I was afraid of offending people. I was afraid of sounding sorry for myself. I was afraid people would think I was making excuses. I was afraid of looking like a dickhead in print. It was confronting to stop and think about how I got into such a big fat mess. Why did I let it carry on so long?

The Introduction was finalised five days before the manuscript was due, after endless consultations and rewrites. I was happy with it in the end, but be buggered if I can reduce it to one simple sentence. There are no easy answers. I really did love my Nutella, but food was more than just food. From a very early age it was always there, easy to find when lonely or angry or anxious. And the more I ate the more I felt detached from my body and just lived inside my head. I'd barely notice another layer of fat wrapping around me, then another and another, like rings on a tree.

Baltimore or Bust

Hey there Americans! Have you heard about the FitBloggin Conference in Baltimore next March? It's the brainchild of Roni Noone of Roni's Weigh fame:

The FitBloggin conference is for all those that blog about fitness, wellness, good food and a healthy lifestyle.

The goal of the conference is "to educate, inspire, share, network, and learn how to blog your way to a healthier you" but one could also see it as, "most excellent chance to meet lots of blogging pals in one go and bring back a dozen jars of American almond butter".

I'm pinching my pennies and wondering if I could swing it. March is often a bargain time for airfares. Anyone out there going along?

FitBloggin