An obsession.

I am obsessed with anything to do with food these days. Since my last post which was some weeks ago last December, I have struggled to lose weight, going up a few pounds, going down a few pounds.

Nothing too dramatic; I put it all down to winter and the great greyness we are experiencing at the moment. I enjoy all the rib sticking, carb-laden and warming foods that make these days bearable so its not surprising that weight loss has come to a grinding stop.

I enjoy reading recipes but find myself being drawn to the glorious heavyweight casseroles, creamy, butter enhanced mashed vegetables, one pot roasts and heart warming classic puddings.

In those rare moments of clarity, usually at 7.30 in the morning whilst sipping a welcome morning cup of tea, I vow to be sensible and good that day. Drink plenty of fluids, eat carefully prepared low calorie meals and keep off the snacks unless they are part of the daily plan. By lunchtime I am doing well but after lunch the way is definitely downhill as I plan and prepare the evening meal. The weather outside is grey, damp and cold and I have just made some fresh bread. The house is filled with the glorious smell and my thoughts turn to stews with dumplings, partridge and guinea fowl casseroles, black pudding stuffed chicken breasts with crisp roast potatoes or a glorious, silky buttery mash and all the wonderful foods that are so satisfying that also brighten the day.

While I set the table I battle with the decision to have only a small plate, not a full sized dinner plate. Then carefully balancing the low alcohol G&T, feeling saintly, I fill in my daily meal planner on my phone, then the LSO calls from the utility room to ask if I would like wine with the meal. I hear a titter from the little devil sitting on my shoulder as with hardly a pause I reply ‘yes that would be lovely!’

Oh dear, well tomorrow is another day although we of a certain age, know that tomorrow never comes.

But I will not be beaten. I will stick to a small portion and a small plate, just no second helpings. Anyway, tonight is pan fried plaice with new potatoes and peas, that should work.

Another crossroad.

All through life we come to crossroads where decisions are made working with conditions we are living with at the time. Later retrospective views often look as if other choices should or could have been made to have a better outcome. Oh the joy of hindsight! How many times have we all said and have heard others say too, if only……………….. then everything would have been better.

But that thinking is always skewed because it is how we want to see things and it is a mistake to look back and have regrets. We are never going to be able to go back and have another shot at the way we live our lives.

Recognising mistakes is a different matter. I regret ever having the AP living with the LSO and myself but we made the decision, had five utterly dreadful years but they are past and gone although the AP still sails onwards. She is heading towards one hundred and four years of age and is quite oblivious to anyone or anything much in her life, she really has become the centre of her own universe.

It has taken me over two years to get rid of the angst created by her attitude and adjust to a better life and to realise the importance of pushing all regrets away and to avoid looking too far ahead. There is nothing to be gained by second guessing or wishing for the unattainable. We are luckier than many and although in our mid-seventies we are remarkably fit and well and hope to remain so for many years to come. We have finally made the monumental decision to sell my car and go down to one which was quite an emotional moment. For more than forty years I have had my own transport and been totally independent so I have had to make a shift in my perspective, as has the LSO and be prepared to plan things with thought for the other.

On the subject of nothing gained I am still on a plateau with my weight loss, not going up but neither am I going down. It’s a strange kind of limbo land of dieting but I am not despondent about it, just endeavouring to fool my body to shift its set point.

It will happen, I just must be patient.

Tempus Fugit.

To say time flies is an understatement. As I get older it is speeding up and the more I pack into my day the faster it goes. Just to throw in a useful bit of information; the expression comes from book 3 of Virgil’s Georgics, (a ‘georgic’ for those interested, is a book dealing with agriculture or rural topics) where it appears as ‘fugit inreparabile tempus’ which translated as: ‘it escapes, irretrievable time’.

How immensely true that is, we cannot have back what has gone!

It’s a while since I posted and that is partly due to the disastrous meeting with the AP at the Care Home. It was a gloriously sunny day so we were able to meet outside which we felt was a bonus but we were wrong. She had just eaten her lunch and started moaning from the moment the care assistant wheeled her out. The meal was not good, although she couldn’t remember what it was, the sun was too bright although she was in the shade and there was no proper greeting or interest in anything other than herself and what the AP felt she needed. I was referred to as ‘she’ throughout the 30 minutes and the LSO was greeted with enthusiasm and told it was lovely to see him. The conversation moved swiftly on to how she needed money and why was I handling her affairs anyway when she could do them herself. The LSO gently told her that she was incapable of handling her own affairs and had been for many years. It was all very uncomfortable because she continued to be rude and unpleasant and I felt the old angst rising as a knot inside and knew we needed to depart before something was said that could never be taken back.

So it is a return to the weekly phone call when the AP is positive, almost friendly and reasonably pleasant to talk to, in fact it would appear she herself prefers things this way which is fine by me and far less upsetting.

But back to the speed at which time is passing. I have almost completed my first sunset painting and have decided to do some much smaller images of skies as a project but have sidetracked myself with the complexities of sourdough. Some years ago I attempted to make this wondrous bread but failed miserably producing a large number of doorstops; not for me I decided and went back to normal bread making with yeast. The LSO started making it and had much more success, producing beautiful, well risen and airy boules with the required holes but that all stopped when the AP who was living with us then complained that the bread was too chewy and tough.

Recently I bought Vanessa Kimbell’s ‘Ten Minute Sourdough’ and started from scratch making my own starter and what a joy it has been; success at last. There is something hugely satisfying and zen-like about bread making in general which calms and nurtures the soul.

On the subject of success, my weight loss has continued with a few blips along the way but is much slower than I had hoped. Could that have something to do with the sourdough bread? Indeed I had thought I would have achieved my goal at least by Christmas but I am having to accept that it will be a much longer journey than originally anticipated. I am not letting this get me down but I do need to plan better. I have a tendency to wing it with food; looking in the freezer and fridge in the morning, asking the LSO what he fancies and making snap decisions using what is available. Not perhaps the best way to do things, so now I need to think ahead to get to my first target which will be three stone off and I am a tantalising 5 pounds away from that, then a mere 14 pounds to go afterwards.

Emotional eating.

I had never actually considered the emotional attachment I have to food until recently. I have cooked all my married life, enjoying moments of serious entertaining as well as cooking for family and friends on a more casual basis. I also love eating out and have been fortunate in visiting some exceptional establishments during the last fifty years.

But during these pandemic days I have had time to assess how and why I eat and what triggers certain reactions, such as the need for a G&T or a piece of chocolate. I used to think it was just a habit and I am sure some things are just that but there are definite triggers that have me mindlessly heading towards the cupboard.

I don’t binge eat or drink but I do have an emotional need where food is concerned. I am naturally shy but have learned to control the urge to hide or disappear into the background but how, in heavens name, did I manage to teach 11 to 18 year olds for 35 years! Lockdown has forced me to look at myself which I have found uncomfortable at times. I discovered I have spent years hiding behind the cooking and the social drinking because I could.

I am a good cook and love experimenting but I would never have wanted to be a chef. I would have loved to have been a food critic sampling superb cuisine in fine establishments, in an ideal world of course. Dreaming aside the reality is that I enjoy company and also cooking for people who like eating.

The last sixteen months or so have been such a change in lifestyle that initially I just cooked, baked and ate what the LSO and myself fancied. He put hardly any weight on and I ballooned but he is generally more active that me. So unfair I cried but he just had another beer and smiled enigmatically.

But I am two stone plus lighter and a bit less buddha shaped but need to come off the plateau I have settled on for the past week and address the situation sensibly. Food has always been a refuge for me whether I am preparing it or eating it and I guess it will always be like that so I need to watch portion sizes and find something to do when the 4 pm urge to eat chocolate arrives. Today I am writing this blog as a diversionary tactic. Tomorrow? Well tomorrow is another day, walking the dogs with the LSO could be a good plan.

In fact a daily plan is what I need, I will start that tomorrow.

Another life.

After a spell of really warm weather, then some torrential rain, we are back to the great greyness and it is cold. Cold enough to tweak the central heating on which comes as a bit of a shock three-quarters of the way through June.

It doesn’t help with dieting either; I was enjoying the barbecued meals with lots of salads and vegetable kebabs which are spot on for a low carb diet. Now I find my mind lingerering, be it briefly, on more wintry casseroles and soups but no, I will not succumb to these thoughts and tonight it is a warm salad which I suppose is a bit of a compromise. I have now lost 30lbs, another 6 lbs off will put me about halfway to my target which I am hoping to reach before my 76th birthday.

My cousin and his wife came down from Scotland for a few days last week and although I was a bit concerned about how I would manage, especially as with so many of our friends and relatives we have developed a culture of ‘wining and dining’ but it was fine and I even lost some weight. The G&T’s were definitely off the menu replaced with fizzy water with a slice of lime and lemon.

But the recent visits of relatives and our children with their families has all been a challenge, be it a lovely one, to not slip into old habits and so far, so good.

I really do feel that I am finally throwing away the shackles that have seriously blighted not only my life but the life of the LSO. It is two years since the AP went into the care home and it has taken all that time to get my ducks in a row. I still speak to her every week and sort her affairs out but in truth lockdown has done us a favour because at the moment we don’t have to see her, well only infrequently, which is giving me the time I need to mentally and physically heal.

An Update.

After a rather rickety start to my new weight loss programme I am finally losing pounds, twenty-one to date so I am feeling not only a lot better but more positive about everything.

It’s a calorie counting regime that verges slightly on low carbs but allows me to eat most of what I like within reason and doesn’t put me on a guilt trip. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? No, I’m not getting smug, therein lies disaster and the inevitable ruin of the weight loss and yes, it has it’s restrictions such as logging everything I eat and drink.

That’s another issue of course and I’m not talking about the gallons of water I am drinking, this time it’s the reduction of my alcohol intake. I have ditched the habit of decades which is the evening, pre-dinner G&T and the LSO and I only share a bottle of wine three days of the week. Astonishingly it hasn’t been such a miss and I feel almost saintly about it all but some may say that the wine will have to go eventually and the answer to that is, never. Life is too short, especially at our age to not have some pleasures in the week and a fine bottle of wine shared with a delicious meal is a joy.

I may just have to run up and down the stairs!

All hasn’t been completely fine and dandy though; I had a little blip last week when we went to visit the AP in the care home because she had reached the grand old age of 103 years. We booked the visiting pod but it was all a bit of a disaster because she was particularly vinegary and apparently couldn’t hear us or chose not to and said we had forgotten her birthday even though she was wearing the rather elegant top we had bought her. It’s difficult to really understand but she seems to save her nastiness and spleen to vent only on the LSO and myself which can be hard to take given how much we have done for her over many years and continue to do so despite her attitude. The visit also brought back some of the past and was a reminder of how thoroughly divisive she had been whilst living with us. This really saddened me because I had finally arrived at a good place regarding my mother; needless to say after about half an hour of a non-conversation that was mostly about her we departed, having had more than enough and headed home to sanity and the dogs. Fortunately the angst didn’t last too long but I did indulge in a G&T that evening. I think for the moment we’ll stick to the weekly telephone calls when she is generally nicer, although dotty.

But all in all, life looks brighter even if today is wet and cold.

Just a hint…

….of Spring. Our Snowdrops were a little later than usual this year and at one point were covered in a frosty coating of snow thus living up to their name. I just love it when they finally appear because although it is still a bitterly cold winter this year, these delightful little flowers are definitely a hint of hope and rebirth, of better and warmer days to come. They are such a cheerful, fresh flower and yet so robust, arriving during the dark and cold days of Winter. They always make me smile.

We are all still in the grip of the pandemic and the road ahead is not looking particularly smooth just a great deal more of the same old, same old. In the midst of all this the LSO and I realise we are not getting any younger. We have limited contact with our family who are all flat out coping with it all and we have been unable to see them for months.

News programmes continue to dredge up a continuous stream of inane comments accompanied by equally nonsensical and repetitive questions for politicians. The powers that be never learn to stop making definite predictions that just cannot be upheld. But nevertheless, thanks to one small snow white flower I feel there is hope on the horizon and that better days will arrive eventually.

In the meantime I will make a plan for my weight loss and head to the studio to begin a new project.

Winter 2020.

The first snow of the year arrived last week. We woke up to an absolute blizzard with almost horizontal snow falling and a winter wonderland for a brief hour or two. I do love to look out on a snowy landscape; there is something quite magical about it all but for the past nine years we have had pretty mild, virtually snow free wet, grey winters. Even morning frosts were few and far between so it was all pretty monotonous; sadly it’s looking as if we will be repeating the great greyness again this year.

There is something hugely comforting about the changing seasons and I am particularly fond of Spring and Autumn. Spring, for all the new growth and wonderful fresh colours that lift the spirits and Autumn because it is the end of what have become of late, hot and humid summers. I am definitely not a fan of 100 C, 75 to 80C is fine, sleep is not affected in the cooler weather and sitting out especially if there’s a breeze, can be a pleasure.

It’s ironic how advertising and songs always emphasise a white Christmas and everything is distinctly old-fashioned and unreal, it almost makes me feel a teensy bit nostalgic and I smile when I see windows frosted from a spray can, what fun cleaning that off afterwards, and imitation icicles hanging, twinkling from eaves and porches. But the reality is often a very different story with many spending more than they can afford. Maybe this year it will be different, the advent of the coronavirus has changed much in our lives, perhaps out of the horror of it all something good however small, will emerge and Christmas can be something special.

The LSO and I had a brief nostalic moment at lunchtime today and brief it was. We both remember as children, the freezing cold winters in the North East and there is nothing at all christmassy about scraping the ice off the inside of the windows, thank goodness for triple glazing and central heating. Our wood-burning stove is a joy and does heat a great deal of the ground floor giving the radiators a well earned rest.

Like many this year we have put our Christmas lights up earlier than usual in an effort to bring some cheer to the great greyness. The snow lasted for less than 24 hours and once gone revealed wet, muddy roads and sad verges that are almost an echo of life in general these days. But negativity never gets anyone anywhere so it will be positive thinking even if we have to put the lights on in the daytime.

At least we are not having to scrape the ice of the inside of the windows!

Big skies.

We woke up this morning to a truly magical sight, fog coloured by the sun to a glorious naples yellow with hints of pink and gold. Living where we are the big skies are incredible and they are an ever changing vista that bring such joy.

Most of us are all living a strange straight-jacketed existence that seems so un-natural. I was speaking to a friend the other day, and inevitably the conversation came around to the current situation. well it does sort of dominate everything and, yes, it is difficult, it’s boring, and seemingly pointless because after all the hard work and social distancing there is to be a five day party. Come the new year we will be back in lockdown, facing further restrictions as the number of infections rises again. It’s not a very happy merry-go-round to be on.

She agreed that the idea of freedom for five days over Christmas will be a recipe for disaster for some but said she takes great care and makes sure that she wakes up every morning and says ‘this is a good day and I shall enjoy every minute as much as I can, things could be much worse’. Great philosophy and certainly food for thought.

In truth the LSO and I are lucky in many ways, we have a lovely home, a lovely family and generally a pleasant life now that we have it back. There is never a good time for a virus like Covid-19 to appear and it is heartbreaking to see how many have died, not just here but around the world. Sadly it is with us, unseen and for some deadly and no-one really knows when it will be less of a problem.

But thank goodness for our big skies; they can lift the spirits and even the grey days have a beauty of their own especially when the will-o-the -wisps appear.

Sometimes I sits and thinks.

Well, here we are again, back in lockdown. It was looking pretty inevitable a couple of weeks ago when the number of people testing positive was beginning to rise quite alarmingly but you just hope it won’t happen.

As usual the same old comments were bandied around and the blame game started all over again, echoing and creating a definite ‘groundhog day’ feeling. Whatever happened to kindness, consideration, caring, friendship and tolerance? Maybe they were never there in the first place and just to add to the general air of doom and gloom we have the merry-go-round that is the American Presidential Election.

The news only seems to centre on those two issues, obviously the rest of the world no longer exists. Stop the world I want to get off has become a muted cry from many as we all witness the chaos and madness that is happening beyond our walls. The muffled world indoors has once again become the centre of many people’s universe while we try to fill our time and thoughts with something worthwhile. It’s not a good plan to dwell too much on what should, could or might of been because therein lies madness.

I am firmly integrated back into my little wooden studio and planning my next project, having just completed a request from a friend for a picture of her dog. This was definitely a first for me. I used pastels which again I haven’t used for years and years but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Now I have to self- motivate and that is a slow process for me having wound right down to rock bottom during the five years the AP was living with us. But there is no rush so I am doing a little each day which sometimes just amounts to thinking. That brings to mind the old saying, ‘Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.’ I’ve no idea where it came from but it certainly sums up my feelings at the moment.

I guess the next thing on the horizon is Christmas which is shaping up to be a strange affair this year. The family are all staying within their areas and we will be spending the first ever Christmas in fifty years of marriage, on our own.

I feel a bit like a rudderless ship!

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