2010 – The Year In Dirt

Summer is over – the days are shrinking and we're huddling under the duvet when watching telly coz we're too stingy to turn on the heating. A good time to look back at my second year of novice gardening!

Potatoes – the Grow Your Own Carbs experiment worked a treat. I wholeheartedly endorse the tatties-in-a-bag method for lazy gardeners short on space:

  1. Fill an old compost bag or some sort of container with potting mix
  2. Bury the seed potatoes
  3. Wait four or five months (watering when necessary – here in Scotland you rely on the sky for that)
  4. Empty bag
  5. Eat your glorious tattie bounty!

I tell you what, if you can't afford skydiving there are cheap thrills to be had in growing potatoes in a bag because that suspenseful MOMENT of ripping open the bag and wondering if there'll be anything inside… that's gold, baby!

Silverbeet, a.k.a. Swiss chard – this tiny crop was my favourite of the whole summer. Every man and his dog seemed to grow it when I was a kid in Australia, but you rarely see it in the shops around here. It has a really iron-y kind of taste that makes the best pie with feta. I only chucked a few seeds in a pot so ended up with about half a cup of cooked silverbeet but it was so good. I could quite happily dig up the whole back yard and grow nothing but silverbeet.

Baby carrots – Another "chuck seeds in a pot, cover with dirt and wait" effort but somehow yoinking that first carrot out of the grown was so freaking triumphant you think we'd tended them daily, played Mozart and massaged their leaves. You can see them here for with one of the two strawberries we managed to grow.

Brussels sprouts – FAIL! Poor Dr G had been nurturing these babies from seed since New Year and once planted out they soon shot up well over four feet high… only to be gnawed to bits by the evil spawn of cabbage white butterflies. The butterflies has managed to infiltrate the mesh fortress he'd built around the plants, the bastards.

Spring onions – grew about a dozen of these from seed… seemed like an awful lot of faff for 12 bloody spring onions but of course we convinced ourselves they were the most mindblowing onions in the world EVAH. Shown here with a bar of chocolate for scale, wtf.

Blackcurrants – turns out that Ugly Brown Stick Thing I was threatening to rip out last December was a blackcurrant bush! By the time I remembered to pick them they'd started shrivelling up, whoops.

Butterhead lettuce – grew two in a pot and two in the ground. Slugs liked the ones in the ground but were too lazy to munch the potted ones. The lettuces had big fat tasty leaves perfect for rolling things up in. Generally food type of things.

Chillies – I grew two pots on a sunny windowsill indoors. The tiny wee Habaneros got chomped by some weird bug but these Hungarian Hot Wax fellas are doing well.

Buttercups – we didn't grow these deliberately; they just appeared in the lawn. But I have to tell you what Gareth said to me one day in June: "Do you know if you hold a buttercup under your chin and there's a yellow reflection on your chin it means you like butter?"

"What kind of bullshit is that?" was my elegant reply.

"It's true," said Dr G, "Well. We used to say it when we were kids."

"You did not say that. I know you're making it up and I'm not falling for it!"

"I am not making it up!"

"But it is completely ridiculous! It means you like butter?!"

"You're just mocking because you probably didn't even have buttercups in your barren Australian homeland. You probably said instead, If you hold this dry stick under your chin and there's a brown reflection it means you like… dirt!"

Turns out he wasn't making it up, it is an old wives' tale. It's still ridiculous though!

UPDATE: From your comments it's evident that everyone but me has heard of this bloody buttercup thing. Dr G is probably right with his theory of my ignorance – we didn't have any buttercups where I grew up… but lots of brown dead stuff πŸ˜›

Leeks – this is where I just can't get over the wacky magic of growing stuff. I mean look at that tiny, tiny seedling… it was barely 2 centimetres high. Somehow those spindly little seedlings turned into big fat leeks. They were incredibly tasty… I dunno if it's coz they were good leeks or because I braised them in white wine, thyme and butter. Hehe.

Here's a leek fresh out of the ground, with a pint glass for scale. And on the right a pint of Dr G's homebrew, which would no doubt be the highlight of his summer!

Now all that's left are few parnsips in the ground, but apparently you have to wait til after the first few frosts before they're ready. Soon it will be all bare branches and grey skies. But it was a great summer at Crooked House with some yummy food without too much fuss! Next year I think I'll have a go at growing some flowers.

Any gardeners out there? How was your summer?

The slobbering hounds

Praise-the-lord Disclaimer: I've got a cold and feeling quite delirious today! Everything seems mildly hilarious for no good reason. But that's not a bad way to feel about the world, is it?

Anyway. I wanted to clarify that I've not gone all Intuitive Eating bonkers. I wouldn't call myself an Intuitive Eater in the way that people might declare, "I'm a Weight Watcher" or "I eat Primal" or "I'm a naked tap dancer". I'm not carrying a card and I'm not a delirious convert shouting to the world I have fouuuund the answer!

All I've done is read a few books and blogs* then experimented with some ideas and techniques. As I have always said on this blog, there is no single answer. There is no hallelujah moment where you find The One way of doing things. All you can do is explore all the wild and wacky options then adopt what works for you, then change it again if it stops working.

I don't see IE as a set of rigid rules that one would accept or reject like a diet – it's more about ideas and guidelines. Some of the IE stuff I've been doing I'll keep doing forever, then other stuff leaves me scratching my head and asking a bazillion "yeah, but" questions.

You also can't take it all too literally. Example: Eat only when you're hungry is a common refrain in the IE stuff I've read. That has worked beautifully in the context of pausing before scarfing into a block of chocolate to to ask myself, "Do I actually want to eat this? Is something else going on here?". But when it comes to a 9.30AM Zumba class, I will eat beforehand even though I'm not hungry. As an experiment I skipped this once, and by 9.45 I was ready to spew on my shoes. Result: I eat a small snack before intense exercise, regardless of hunger. And that's okay, because there is no rule here to break.

The IE experiments are just one part of puzzle. As we head into autumn I'm feeling chirpy and appreciative about life, a much stronger position than this time last year. Lots of simple little changes are working together to keep the slobbering depression hounds in their kennels:

  • Going to bed earlier
  • Getting up earlier
  • Cutting WAAAY back on internet usage
  • Watching less telly
  • Shrink sessions
  • Some CBT exercises
  • Reading novels
  • Getting back into a regular writing habit
  • Meal planning – having food in the cupboards and a list of possible dinners breaks cuts out so much stress and faffery and crappy choices
  • Walking in the woods
  • Seeing new places and doing fun stuff

* will write a post later in the week about specific resources.

I can't remember what else I wanted to say, so I'll wind this up and go blow my nose!

May you all have a rock star week and thank you for all your insightful thoughts and opinions on these posts. Debate away!

Gone fishing

Earlier this summer, after weeks of grey skies and gale-force winds, there happened along a still, clear, airbrush-perfect evening.

"I'm heading out the East Neuk to go fishing," said Dr G, "Want to come?"


"Yeah. I don't really want to catch anything; I just fancy going to the sea."

"And to the chippie afterwards?" The chippie being the famous Anstruther Fish Bar, home of the chip buttie.

"Of course!"

And that is when my brain did a freaky little flashback almost ten years. "No!" I blurted, all panicky. "You go. I'm staying put."

Since we got hitched Dr G and I have gone to Anstruther about twice a summer. I'd eat my fish and chips and enjoy every crispy salty piping hot morsel. No big deal, just one of those treasured rituals. But this time round I went into crazy full-on freakout mode. I've got to get my lard under control. That'll never happen if I eat fish and chips. I'll never get back into my winter coat. I'll be a wobbly failure forever.

I grumped on the couch while Gareth organised his fishing gear. After ten minutes it occurred to me, Dude, am I really back to this bullshit kind of thinking?

I mean, a sunny evening in Scotland is rare as a copy of Heat magazine without an article about Katie Price. You can not just sulk on the couch with a salad on a night like that. And furthermore… did I really want to become a diet-obsessed hermit again, hiding away in the house for fear of running into tasty calories? Did I really want my life to be that bloody DULL? Whatever happened to the good old days of balance and moderation? Let's bring 'em back!

Did you know in the United Kingdom you are never more than 70 miles from the sea? Historian Neil Oliver told us so on the BBC series Coast, and he would never tell a lie.

So I ended up going and it was a quality evening. Sitting on rocks, watching the sunset, getting out of my head and into the fresh air….IMG_0891

Wondering if Scottish jellyfish are as lethal as Aussie ones…


Watching Gareth land a rare seaweedfish….


And marvelling at how the clouds arranged themselves into a letter G to celebrate Dr G's astounding catch.

The fish and chips were pretty good too πŸ™‚

Intuitive Eating – what and why?

Before I start writing about my intuitive eating dabblings, I thought I should define the concept and explain how I reached the point of giving it a red hot go. I started talking about this in the Scott The Strawberry post but need to go a bit deeper.

(This has all been churning round in my head for months so it’s rather long. If you’re not interested in the whys and wherefores just skip this one!)

Here is a definition of intuitive eating from the lazy person’s pal, Wikipedia:

Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body’s natural hunger signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight; rather than keeping track of the amounts of energy and fats in foods. It’s a process that is intended to create a healthy relationship with food, mind, and body.

Intuitive Eating, just like the many books available today, goes by many names, including non-dieting or the non-diet approach, normal eating, wisdom eating, conscious eating and more.

That bit in bold is what’s really driving me. I said on the podcast that, “my interest in intuitive eating has come from a lifetime of dieting and disordered eating”. It felt good to admit that. I was convinced I didn’t do diets any more, but I had sure starting engaging in the old all-or-nothing diet-y behaviours, such as:

  • alternating saintly calorie counting with binging
  • sneaking food
  • obsessing over the scale
  • exercising for punishment, not enjoyment
  • constantly thinking about food
  • feeling like my mind and body are at war
  • equating weight with self-worth

A brief recap of how I got to this point:

  • Put on my first diet aged about 8
  • Serial Weight Watcher throughout my teens and twenties
  • Hit 351 pounds by age 23
  • Lost 175 pounds over five years using one year of Weight Watchers, a six-month stint at SureSlim, then 3.5 years of my own method of eating mostly whole foods, regular exercise and counting calories.
  • Kept weight off for a couple of years – sometimes easily and other times it’s a rather stinky battle.
  • Life got crazy. Long murky period of depression. Old habits sneaked back in. Increasingly turned to food to switch off from crappy feelings and situations. Weight climbs upward.
  • Realised that despite losing a stack of weight, I had never formed a truly healthy relationship with food.
  • Became determined to find a sustainable, forever kind of approach to food, mind and body.

For awhile there I was convinced I had things licked and that I had found my own version of “normal”. I wrote in 2006-07 that I exercised regularly because I loved it, not to punish myself. I ate good clean food 90% of the time because it made me feel good. I felt like mind and body were in harmony.

But after digging deep I see now I’d created a huge undercurrent of pressure that kept me from diving into a slab of chocolate… pressures that had nothing to do with a genuine desire to Lead A Healthy Lifestyle, such as:

  • I’ve got to lose weight so I can write an ending for my book
  • I’ve got to keep this weight off so I look decent to promote my book
  • I’ve got to keep this weight off so I can go on the telly in America
  • I’ve got to keep this weight off so people don’t think I’m a fraud and a failure

So when life got really difficult and overwhelming – all those motivations were completely meaningless. My self-belief had nosedived. I thought horrible things about myself and my body that I thought I was no longer capable of.

It wasn’t a conscious decision, but at some point those motivations were not enough to keep from diving back into old, comforting habits. I just plain stopped caring about myself. It showed in my thoughts, my actions (or lack thereof), and eventually showed up on my body.

It finally dawned on me after nearly three months of Shrink sessions why I had “f*cked things up so badly” and “failed at maintenance” and “couldn’t get my eating back under control”. It was because I wasn’t losing or maintaining my weight for me. It was all external reasons, events and pressures. I didn’t keep up the healthy habits because I wasn’t doing them because I wanted to, for myself.

(Which strikes me as so nutty now, because who else really bloody cares!?)

So I asked myself the questions that I now ask myself every day: What do you want? What kind of life do you want to lead? What kind of person do you want to be?

I don’t think I’ve ever written a cheeeeeesier paragraph on this blog but those questions have really helped change the way I think and act. I’ve said it before but I believe that unless you are making changes to your life because you truly, wholeheartedly desire them for yourself, they are never going to stick.

I’ve long been a chronic people pleaser and worried endlessly about what people thought of me. When I started losing weight way back in 2001, I genuinely wanted to do so for me – but there was also a strong desire to look acceptable to the general population. As I lost some pounds, moved overseas and travelled around my confidence really took off. For the first time in my life I felt comfortable in my own skin and loved the fit, healthy person I’d become.

But when these new beliefs got tested – when my weight got all mixed up with my writing and career and thus my self-worth – I gotta admit, it messed with my head in a major way.

So I’ve been unravelling all this stuff. Asking if I am doing something because I genuinely want to, or if I thought it was the right thing to do or would please other people. Wacky times, dear comrades. Learning more about intuitive eating has been part of that process. But I think I’ve rambled on enough for one day!

Ciao comrades!

I’m away on my holidays and failed to set the timer on my stealthy pre-prepared blog post, and now I’m on a tiny wee phone screen so I can’t do a sense check.

Anyway! I’m at a campsite near Rome. Long story. We’ve been commuting in to the big smoke each day. I’ve been trying to travel mindfully, i.e. relishing the amazing ye olde ancient bounty before me and not just whining about the weather.

Yesterday’s highlights included a Naples jaunt and chomping a molto tasty pizza! Today: meditating in India then onward to handsome chap in Bali, etc etc.

(Hope you’re all well πŸ™‚

Two Fit Chicks Episode 17 – Behind The Bloggers

For your aural pleasure!There’s a new episode of the Two Fit Chicks and a Microphone podcast today and the theme is Behind The Bloggers.

The topic arose when we announced that the famous Caitlin of Operation Beautiful would be joining us and put out a call for questions… turns out lots of people wanted to know about the dark art – do we ever got sick of blogging? How does one lure readers to one’s virtual den? How do you deal with nasty comments? There is also a non-blog question about negative self-talk.

If you’ve never listened to the podcast why not give it a red hot go? It is a true labour of love and oh so easy to play on your computer or zap down to your iTunes! πŸ™‚

More soon but for now in my continued quest to re-establish an enjoyable exercise habit, I must go pedal on the exercise bike while watching Mistresses on iPlayer. Trash-o-rama!

Β» Check out Episode 17 over at the Two Fit Chicks website