The Gambler

Just advanced warning… I'm really tired today and bordering on delirious so this may not make any sense whatsoever 🙂

On the weekend I was browsing at a department store beauty counter. A twenty-something sales assistant sprang out from behind a mirror and said, "Can I help you? How about this primer?" She waved a tube in my face. "I think you'll love it. It's great at smoothing fine lines and wrinkles!"

Yeah, thanks very much lady!

This trifling anecdote is the only way I could think of to start writing about the tangled pile of stuff I've been thinking about lately. Ageing and health and relationships and work and meaning and whatnot.

At times I've lived like I had a neverending bucket of time. Like no matter how poorly I treated my body I'd have time to Ctrl+Z the damage. But really, it's only luck that I've escaped relatively unscathed (thus far).

Recently I've been humbled by how fast life can change – seeing how the most healthy specimens can become fragile overnight. We humans are really are so vulnerable. It's left me feeling quite rotten for gambling with my own health so much.

Another thing that's brought clarity was hanging out in Brussels with my Up & Running compadre, Julia Jones (better known as Coach Julia to the ladies she bosses around with her virtual megaphone!). The premise of our meeting was to do lots and lots of work, which we did; but I came away feeling like my brain and heart had been dismantled, scrubbed and polished, then put back together again like new.

I dunno, maybe Julia hypnotised me or something? But hanging out with her makes me look forward to being 50 years old. She is kicking arse. Not just because she finished a freaking half iron man a couple of weeks ago, but because does things with purpose, thoughtfulness and consistency. She lives with the kind of structured mindfulness I've been striving for. She squeezes her running shoes into her carry-on luggage – it wouldn't occur to her not to move her butt on a long weekend away. She orders exactly what she wants and relishes a yummy restaurant meal, but eats lighter and healthier at the next meal without making a big thing of it. She works hard, on projects she cares deeply about, but knows when it's time to down tools and chill out. She gives so much to people, but she knows when to draw boundaries. I admire the hell out of her approach to life.

Does this post have a bloody point, woman? you may be asking. Yes! Sorta! I guess lately I'm feeling very conscious of time passing, and the cumulative effects of my thoughts and actions. I'm seeing this Making Healthy Choices thing in a different light. Sometimes a slice of cake is just a slice of cake, but when scoffed too often cake numbs; it dulls the edges and clouds the thoughts. I'm trying to be more thoughtful about what's going on when I reach for cake and what happens afterwards… both the immediate sugar crash and mood plummet, and the effects arteries years down the line.

Likewise when I choose to lift some weights, or go for a bike ride, or eat a salad… sometimes a salad is just a salad. But when it's bursting with colour and flavour it almost feels like a declaration of intent…

I want to live a long life
I want to have strong bones when I'm an old lady
I want to spend my days doing meaningful work
I want to walk for miles without hurty knees
I want to be a strong, clear-minded partner, friend, daughter, sister, business partner

And I really don't need a £30 tube of primer!

(I could really do with a nap, though 🙂 )

New Year Goals Check-In: February

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals. 1/6th of 2011 is gone. Yikes.

Once again I'm late with the monthly update. Aside from feeling lame talking about this stuff with earthquakes and tsunamis going on, I've also been in the kind of overly emotional mood where it's best to steer clear of blogging. The kind of mood where one says or does ill-advised things, as per this hilarious tweet I saw from writer Sali Hughes:

Playsuit
February was a good month with some nice small victories.

  • I spent a long weekend in Paris with Dr G (my birthday gift to him – "Here, have an Easyjet ticket! Yeah, I'm coming too!" Everyone's a winner.) and I didn't put on any weight. Blow me down with a feather, I ate mindfully in the land of pastry and cheese.
  • I started a Pilates class! For the past four years I've pined for the weekly class we had when I worked at the House of Sport. I finally found a place on a Beginners course (yep, back to Beginner level, d'oh) and really loving it.
  • I lost a couple of pounds.
  • Food diary still going strong.

Things that didn't go as well:

  • Very inconsistent with exercise in the early part of the month.
  • Got sloppy with meal planning post Paris. It really helps to buy some bloody groceries!

I am happy with my glacial progress. I'm working more on the exercise and planning this month, but overall it feels like I'm devoting the right level of brain power to the task. There are still the PMS-y moments of I should do more panic, but I know that would mean taking away time and energy from other parts of my life and would no doubt trigger nutty behaviour and serious overeating. So I'll keep plodding along.

It felt like amazing progress to walk around in Paris and not have my guts knotted with regret for stuffing my face nor fear that I'd blown a diet. Instead, somehow I was able to switch off the lard-related chatter in my brain and focus on being there. It sounds cheesy but for the past few years I've not properly savoured some really cool moments because I was too caught up in angstypants thoughts.

This time I tried to focus on all five senses, not just taste. The tiny details of the Notre Dame. The echo of our voices when the river boat went under a bridge. The bright smell of a Vietnamese dinner. The flaky pastry of a chausson aux pommes dissolving on my tongue. The icy night air in my lungs as I raced Gareth around the Louvre pyramids on our bike tour. Gareth's yelp of pain when I accidentally rode too close and stabbed him with my handlebar. The unfortunate stink of that dog poo I failed to ride around.

Good times, people. Good times!

Louvre
This photo is rubbish but you get the idea!

Baltimore Bound in 2011

I’ll be getting drunk with blogging pals and/or speaking at the second annual Fitbloggin’ conference in Baltimore in May 2011. Fitbloggin’ is a conference “for bloggers interested in fitness, wellness, good food and a healthy lifestyle”, organised by Roni Noone, fitblogger extraordinaire.

I was all set to go this year – I even bought a Boston guidebook! This is why you should read websites and not just idly scan them. Yeah I recall seeing a capital B on the Fitbloggin site. Must have been Boston. Clicky click, add Rough Guide To Boston to shopping cart.

I seem to have some kind of mental block with East Coast USA – I mixed up the White House and the Capitol the other day. But this year I’ve read the information properly and I’m confident that the conference takes place in BALTIMORE.

The schedule is still being finalised but the tentative title of the panel I’m on is Ditch the Diet – Eat Mindfully!

Despite the panel subject, I must confess when Roni gave me the green light to be a speaker the ye olde inner dieter was whispering urgently in my ear, “Hey lardy! 204 days til Fitbloggin! You could drop a good 30 pounds by then. Shall we cancel all birthday cakes and Christmas dinner with the in-laws?”

But I am just too old and grumpy for that crap now. The mindful eating is going so well and I don’t want to screw that up. I’ll be at the conference in whatever state I’m in, all fired up to see old and new friends. And to finally meet my podcast comrade Mizfit in person. Wonder if we could figure out how to record live? Rock and roll.

The Forbidden Eclair

Highlights of the past few weeks:

Soda-bread

Kicking off a mission to bake 50 different kinds of bread before I leave this earth.
This is brown soda bread, which is like Bread for Dummies since you just use baking soda – no faffing with yeast. It was bloody beautiful, especially dunked in Reassurance Soup.

Kids

Looking after the kids.
It’s still a “shove random things in pots and cross fingers” approach because gardening books and websites just make me scream in confusion after awhile. But it’s all looking green, so rock on!

Scruffy

Watching Scruffy, my new favourite Eating Disorder Pigeon, potter round the yard.
Maybe he got into a brawl or a cat tried to take him out. He was pretty much ignored by the other EDPs…

Scruffy makes a move

… but recently began to pursue a pretty little bird.

Scruffy in love

A week later and they’re inseparable, guzzling seeds and wandering side by side down the rows in the veggie patch. Until Dr G yells out the window, “Oi! Get arf my parsnips!”

Metallica

Dr G and I also spent a couple of days in Belfast and saw a Metallica gig.

Eclair
And Dr G ate a chocolate eclair the size of his head.

(I had a custard tart with berries on it but the photo was blurry; hands shaking from anticipation)

Gareth is usually indifferent to sweets so I was surprised when he said, “Oh man, I’m having that eclair!”

“Really?” I said.

“Oh aye. I always wanted to have a chocolate eclair when I was a kid and Mum never let me have one so now I’m going to have one!”

“Dude that’s a slippery slope,” I joked, “I spent years eating all the stuff my mother never let me have when I was a kid and I’m still paying for it!”

He only got halfway through before threw down his spoon in defeat, saying that maybe his Mum had his best interests at heart after all.

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!

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

Crazy Eyes and Cold Comfort

While in Australia at Chez Mothership, we came across a bulging folder of all the "stories" I'd written in kindergarten.

It was clear as a five year old I was already disgruntled with my appearance. I had very short red hair and hated it so much. As if my inability to hold a pencil properly wasn't already holding me back, but cropped ginger hair too? Dude.

I was spewingly jealous of my follically-blessed classmates. There were at least a dozen stories about my long blonde friend Marnie. This is Marnie, I would write. Marnie has long blonde hair. Marnie is very pretty. I like Marnie. I love Marnie.

Holy crap, run for your life Marnie!

In this story I daydreamed on an Ideal Me, all flaxen locks and pretty bows.

This is me wenn I'm pretty

Sometimes I would attempt a more honest depiction of my appearance, as in the April 1983 masterwork, "The world is big and we live on it".

The world is big and we live on it

Although if you look closely you can see the madness in the eyes.

Psycho killer

Another highlight of our Australian jaunt was the consumption of this here chocolate thickshake at Gus' Cafe in Canberra. There must be half a pound of ice cream in there! Just wrapping your paws around that frosty metal cup feels like home.

Thickshake

I'd already had a thickshake at the magnificent Paragon Cafe in Goulburn but I had to squeeze in one more in before heading to the airport. It tasted all the sweeter because The Mothership, Rhiannon and Gareth were there too… the first time the four of us had been in the same place since I introduced the future son-in-law on Mum's 2004 Scottish tour. I think she can actually understand what he's saying now.

Hei Suomi!

Dietgirl Finland Hello world! I know some folks get annoyed when I write about Book Stuff but I assure you this is the very last Dietgirl translation and it would be rude to give shoutouts to Germany and Norway then ignore poor old Finland

So… hello any Finns out there! I've already heard from some lovely Dieettitytön huimat seikkailut readers (thank you!) who said they particularly appreciated the passionate love story. Not Gareth, but rather Finnish chocolate. 

It was a brief but intense affair – just three days in Helsinki almost five years ago. But I still wake up drooling from Fazer chocolate dreams, especially the Tupla and Geisha bars. I think the chocolates got more adjectives in the book than poor Dr G.

Apart from the chocolate and the reindeer with mashed potatoes, my other lingering memory of Helsinki is of wind. Not the excess-broccoli-consumption kind, but rather the wild stuff that blows things over. I was still in my Avoiding Cameras phase back then so the only photographic evidence I've got is a self-portrait beneath the Sibelius Monument that still makes Dr G bust a gut laughing. A ferocious Finnish breeze is all you need for a stunning Flock of Seagulls hairstyle.

Finland

The book looks very cool – hardcover with lots of vowels. The acknowledgements are slightly confusing. In the UK version, I thanked Gareth in the last paragraph and ended with, "YOU RAWK" – the Finnish translation of this sentence is "SENKIN LIVERPOOL-FAN!" Very strange!

(Thank you Meri for your help with the entry title!)

Telly Report

The night before I laid out my outfit three different ways. First in a long line across the hotel room, in correct order of putting-on-ness. Then in alphabetical order. Then finally draped over a chair in formation, like I'd been flattened by a truck – dress splayed, tights dangling beneath, boots waiting below, bra and knickers in the right spot; I even balanced the earrings on the top of the chair. Just in case I couldn't remember how to get dressed by the time morning rolled round.

Yes, yes, the nerves again. I know you long-time visitors are bloody sick of hearing about them, but I still get frazzled before Big Unknown Events. I learned from the kickboxing grading that being ultra-prepared helps, so I slept better knowing that the clothes were in position and there were two alarm clocks and a wake-up call keeping them company.

I woke up by myself at the crack of dawn. Got dressed and then it was 6.15. Two hours to kill before I was due at CBS. I perched on the edge of the bed and practiced not slouching. All the different advice I'd been given played on a loop. Be calm. Enjoy yourself. Don't say anything stuuuupid!

Finally it was time to go and I walked with Christine the Most Excellent Publicist to the CBS studios, past the snow and stinky horses at the bottom of Central Park. We were taken to the Green Room, which was actually blue. It was full of televisions and coffee and food but I decided it would be best to not touch anything, knowing my tendency to scatter breakfasts on my chest. 

Greenroom

We chatted with the charming Green Room man then the makeup wizards spruced me up in three minutes flat…. zing! Then I paced and wrung my hands and let the terror and excitement buzz through me. Then the lovely producer arrived to go through the segment and I asked many panicky questions. 

"I can do a mock interview right now if you like," she offered, perhaps smelling my amateurism. But I said we'd best not, because if I answered questions now I'd use up all my brain juice and have no words left for the real thing!

The rest of it is a blur. It's like your wedding day, without the booze. I remember feeling like a goose for wearing a dress. If you wear a top and a skirt or trousers you can discreetly pull the microphone up the front of your top then attach the big lumpy battery thingo at the back on your waistband. But with the frock I had to dive right under it to pull the wee mic through, then they pulled the cord behind me and hooked it onto the belt of my dress, which meant I had walk across the set with the dress all hitched up in back, like when you see some lady come out of the loo in a restaurant and she hasn't pulled her skirt down properly and everyone whispers, Dude, poor lady's got her skirt tucked in her knickers. Shame job, as we used to say at my high school. Shame job! This was American Telly and they no doubt saw dress-wearing ninnies all the time, but still, thank goodness for 60 denier tights.

I sat down on the hot seat and looked around. It was so unreal. I wanted to laugh but stuck with shaking like the proverbial shitting dog. There was a teleprompter and cameras and bigass microphones and people with headsets and now a dainty lady sitting across from me, smiling in a calm and reassuring manner. This was Maggie Rodriguez, the anchor. We chatted for a few seconds and then she cleared her throat. Holy crap this is happening what's her name again what's MY name? Concentrate, concentrate

She asked me a question and I said something and my heart went brrrrrrrrrrrrt and I tried to tune out everything but her voice. I was full of wit and juicy soundbites the night before, in the hotel bathroom talking to myself in the hotel mirror – interview style, not Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver style. The real effort felt fine, competent with no real clangers. I was just getting into it when Maggie reached out to shake my hand.

I untangled the mic and restored my dress to the correct position. Job done, baby! Time to breathe again!

My only regret is that aside from the Green Room pic, I forgot to get photographic proof of the occasion. I walked back up to the CBS building right before I left for the airport and took some pictures through the window while some dude rolled his eyes at me. It's mostly a reflection of the Crate & Barrel store across the street but you can sort of see the spot. Top class!

Chair

I've been a rubbish blogger this week as I attempt get back into the swing of things at work and training, but wanted to say thank you for your comments and emails! Also a huuuuge thank you again to Christine and Pam and Jeanette and all the HarperCollins vixens for everything you've done for the ol DG book. You rawk!

Crumbs

Crumbs I can't wait to tell my sister Rhiannon that there's a chain of bakeries over here called Crumbs. Back when we were kids we used to play Barbies, as you do. The Barbies lived in a dinky dollhouse with doors that only came up to their waists.

But the fact that the Barbies had to crawl around their own house did not stop them pursuing their dreams. They didn't just lie in bed tangled up with Ken all day; these dames were entrepreneurs. They turned the kitchen into a restaurant and it was called Crumbs.

It was a fine establishment. It even had an elevator made out of string and an Avon perfume box. I lived vicariously through the whole operation – the Barbies could cook and eat whatever they wanted. If they whined about being hungry, nobody rolled their eyes and said, "Just have an apple!"

Rhi and I had big plans for Crumbs and the Barbies. They were going to expand overseas, Crumbs International. They would move from the tiny dollhouse to a swanky skyscraper. But that was 1985 and now some bastards have beat us to it!

I bought one of their red velvet cupcakes today. It wasn't a cup so much as a behemoth pint glass of a cake. I've gotta hand it to Crumbs – they may not have flowing blonde tresses and plastic legs up to their armpits, but they make a tasty cupcake!

Cupcake
It looked really pretty too, until I squashed it my bag.