Saturday, 31 January 2015

101 Things in 1001 Days: #12 Keep a Food Diary

Number 12 on my 101 Things list was to keep a food diary for a month. I managed to keep it up for the whole of January, so I am counting this as done even though I skipped the four days we were away, which would just have been a case of trying to remember menu descriptions and guesstimating large numbers of calories. It has been a useful exercise from which I have come to the following conclusions:

- Keeping a food diary occasionally is a useful check on how well (or badly) I am eating, but it is definitely not something I would want to do all the time. Too much focus on calorie intake could make my diet worse rather than better, I think, as I might become inclined to avoid some healthy but higher calorie foods, and be more likely to slip in more junk if it didn't add too many calories. For me eating well should be about eating healthily, not about counting calories. I suppose I could keep a food diary without counting calories but...

- MyFitnessPal is genius! It makes keeping a food diary very quick and easy as so many foods, including branded packaged foods, are in its database. Crowdsourcing is a wonderful thing! As well as recording calories in and extra calories used in exercise it gives a nutritional breakdown of each food which makes it easy to keep track of the amount of protein, fat, sugar etc. consumed. Data syncs between PC or laptop, iPad and iPhone so diary entries can be made anywhere, anytime. 

- I need to eat more protein. I tend to get hungry and snack too much between meals. Even when I have healthy snacks to hand it is easy to rack up quite a lot of snack calories in a day. I noticed that when I ate eggs for breakfast a couple of days last week I was less hungry. I think if I can get into the habit of eating more protein-heavy, easy breakfasts and snacks with a decent amount of protein I will naturally snack less.

- Chocolate is my vice, unless I stick to dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa. I can easily stop after just a couple of squares of dark chocolate, but if I start eating sweeter, milk chocolate I find it much harder. The same applies to biscuits and cakes. One chocolate or biscuit (cookie) will lead to four. I can resist the first far more easily than I can resist the second and third. I need to get back into the habit of having two squares of dark chocolate every day and being intentional about eating other sweet treats - if I will truly enjoy a piece of cake or a couple of biscuits, then I will eat it, but I need to get out of the "see cake and eat it" habit (my office has a cake culture!), and to stop taking that first biscuit or chocolate just because it is there. 

- I don't drink enough water. Finding regular points in the day to drink a glass shouldn't be difficult, but I need to get into the habit of drinking more. 

So ... time to stop keeping my food diary, and to start eating more protein, more "good" chocolate and less bad sweet stuff, and to drink more water.  

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Questions That Will Free Your Mind #2

What is worse, failing or never trying?

Never trying. Absolutely. I am probably fortunate in that I have very little fear of failure. My natural inclination is to charge into things hoping for the best but without any particular expectation of success. That way success surprises and delights me and failure does not worry me. I totally agree with G. K. Chesterton's statement that "if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly", which I read not as a justification for making a half-hearted effort resulting in a poor outcome, but as an encouragement to try even when something is difficult and not to let fear of failure, inadequacy or lack of ability sidetrack me from attempting something worthwhile. I know that if I reach old age I will not want to look back and regret the things I never had the courage to try. Will I look back and regret the times I tried something and failed? I don't think so.

I found a few quotes about failure to share (this is partly because I like the quotes, and partly because I want to play with the Pushbullet app which allows me to copy on one device and paste on another. Assuming it doesn't fail!)

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." -- Theodore Roosevelt, 1858

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” - Winston Churchill

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” - C.S. Lewis

“We are all failures – at least the best of us are.” - J.M. Barrie

And no, Pushbullet didn't work! Back to the drawing board on that one. It did nicely zap a link from phone to iPad, though for some inexplicable rreason it did it in French. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

This Week: Monday 26th January

The weather ... supposed to be a bit warmer today after a wintry couple of weeks.

I am reading ... still The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. Enjoying it but still only half way through.

I am watching ... enjoyed watching The Importance of Being Ernest on Netflix. A 2002 (or thereabouts) version with Colin Firth, Rupert Everest and Judi Dench. 

I am listening ... to How The Girl Guides Won The War on Audible (non-fiction) and still listening to Sibelius.

This week's goals ...
Drink more water (again)
Read for 1/2 hour every day (again)
Sort out baking trays and cake tins, also box of pasta, rice etc. which is rather a mess

How I did last week ...
Badly! Although I did manage to read most days.

Coming up this week ...
A speeding ticket :(. M had a letter on Saturday saying our car had been caught averaging more than 50mph through a section of roadworks on the M1 motorway. I was the culprit. 
A pub quiz night with friends from work.
A meal at Pizza Express with a friend. 
Seth Lakeman in concert at The Stables, Milton Keynes next week (folk / rock / fiddle).
(At least I have nice stuff to look forward to to outweigh the speeding ticket!

Highlights of last week ....
The internet is fixed!!!!
Our broken car wing mirror and senior daughter's broken windscreen wipers are also fixed.
(The shower on / off switch is, unfortunately, not fixed, and we have to rush round to the airing cupboard after a shower to turn it off at the plug).
An orchestral workshop day yesterday. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Experiment Gone Wrong

I spent today at an orchestral workshop, playing through, briefly rehearsing and then performing Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. While I was out I left M in charge of small daughter. No need to ask how things went. This Facebook update (quoted with his permission) said it all!

"My peaceful Sunday afternoon was shattered by N's cry from upstairs. "Help! I'm having trouble with my experiment." Turned out she was tring to put loads of tops on to see how hot she could get. Having got to the 11th layer her thermostat hit overload. Trouble was, by then they were so tightly packed on her torso she couldn't get any of them off and panicked. Dad to the rescue!"

He was relieved that the experiment only involved clothing and not chemicals.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Reading, Drinking, Tidying (not so much)

I'm still keeping up with trying to do more reading, rebooting my eating and drinking habits and (sort of, just about) tidying the kitchen. I am managing to read a bit of my current book (The Innovators by Walter Isaacson) most days, though it is taking a while to get through. Non-fiction usually takes me longer than fiction and it is a 500 page book. I'm hoping to finish it before the end of the month. 

Our long weekend away inevitably threw my attempts to eat better out of the window, so last week I was back to trying to keep an eye on what I am eating and drinking. I have used the My Fitness Pal app as a food and exercise diary for a while, but only tend to use it sporadically as a check on how well I am eating. This year I would like to get into the habit of using it more regularly. It doesn't stop me eating when I am hungry, but I do find that making myself record the biscuits or slice of cake sneaked from the communal supply at work makes me more inclined to assess whether I really want them. I realised in my first week of this attempt to keep a food diary that I had got into the habit of eating too much sweet, junky stuff, and have found it surprisingly easy to cut it out. I have also realised how little water I have been drinking and I am now making a conscious effort to drink more. My Fitness Pal recommends 8 glasses a day, but for now I am aiming for 6. 

I am trying to keep up with the 52 Weeks to an Organised Home challenge, even if I only manage one tiny thing each week. Anything must be better than nothing! Last week I cleared out a kitchen drawer full of tea-towels, aprons and junk. This week I am planning to tackle the baking trays and cake tins that are stuffed into a drawer in a muddle. The challenge for the week is supposed to be food organisation but on the whole that is not too bad. I only have limited space so it has to be reasonably tidy and organised to fit everything in. 

Book Review #1: Excellent Women (Barbara Pym)

This has been on my list of books to read for a while. I had never read anything by Barbara Pym but had seen good reviews and thought this would be a good place to start. She writes with wry observation about small things happening in small lives - I think I remember seeing her compared to Jane Austen for this reason. The book is written from the perspective of an "excellent woman" in post-war London - single, daughter of a vicar, works for a charity helping distressed gentlewomen, pillar of the local church and friend of the vicar and his sister. She is sharper and sparkier than this implies - perhaps all excellent women are? As a result she becomes caught up in the lives of those around her as confidante and support: the vicar, infatuated with a new parishioner; a female anthropologist in love with a fellow anthropologist and neglecting her army officer husband; the vicar's rather drippy sister; the parishioners who imagine her to be distraught that she is not the object of the vicar's affections; an old school friend and his bird loving brother. All the characters are well drawn and Pym is one of those author's who can convey a lot in a few words. I found it an enjoyable and easy read.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A Snowy Weekend In Cumbria

Once a year we usually manage a weekend away without the girls - much as we love them, a bit of time out from busy lives to spend time with each other is wonderful. Our neighbours look after our eight year old, and the teenagers now look after themselves. More often than not we use our weekend to visit our all time favourite hotel in Cumbria. This year we timed it so that the weather was fine to drive there and back but snowy while we were there. As a snow lover this to me is perfect! The Lake District in the snow is stunningly beautiful. 

On Saturday we did a Treasure Trail in Penrith - essentially a guided walk with things to spot!

Loved this quirky house with its mock Latin inscription (translation "never let the bastard grind you down") slightly at odds with its green and pink decor.

This old fashioned grocer's shop and deli was beyond mouthwatering.

On Sunday we visited Keswick and Derwentwater. More quirkiness with this giraffe statue.

The views of the snow-covered fells were stunning.

We walked down to the wintry looking lake.

It wasn't all white and grey!

Back to our hotel and more snow.




Monday, 12 January 2015

This Week: 12th January 2015

Yesterday I decided I would do one of these "start of the week" posts, but it seems I can only write half a post in the small amount of time between waking up and having to get out bed. It takes a while to come round sufficiently to think and type. I am not a morning person.

The weather ...
nasty. Wet and windy.

I am reading ... The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. A history of the inventors of computing from Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace through to the whizzes of the World Wild Web.

I am watching ... DVDs of Miranda. I binged on the entire first series yesterday. 

I am listening ... to The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris on Audible; podcast of Composer of the Week on Sibelius; Sibelius 6th Symphony. I went to an orchestra rehearsal last week for the first time in a year and that is one of the pieces on the programme for the next concert. One of my 101 things to do is to listen to music by unfamiliar composers so decided to make a start with Sibelius. 

This week's goals ...
Drink more water
Read for 1/2 hour every day
Sort out one kitchen cupboard and one drawer

How I did last week ...
Average 9 portions of fruit and vegetables daily - I averaged 7. I am keeping a food diary so should be able to see how to add in an extra couple of portions into my day. 
Finish a book - done!
Clear kitchen surfaces - I tidied the windowsill, which was the messiest surface. I am taking the view that anything I do is progress, and progress is good. 

Coming up this week ...
Engineers! Three of them. One to lay a new phone line between the junction box(?) and the house which will RESTORE OUR INTERNET!!! I hope. One to fix the dishwasher which appears to be the culprit which blew out the fuse on the plug socket circuit twice. And one to do a chemical flush of the heating system. 

Saturday, 10 January 2015

50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind #1

One of items on my 101 things in 1001 days list is to answer these 50 questions that will free your mind which I stumbled across on the Day Zero website. I added it to the list thinking the varied questions might be interesting fodder for blog posts. So, here goes with question number one:

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?

Younger than I am! I wonder if everyone into middle age or older would say that? I presume this question is a slightly roundabout way of asking how old I feel, and I definitely don't feel my age, which is 54. I am thinner, fitter and healthier than I was in my late 40s, when I spent about three years feeling permanently run down, low on energy and lurching from one chest infection to another. As a result I feel considerably younger than I did five years ago, which is a rather nice place to be in. Most of my friends are in their 30s and 40s, not through conscious choice but simply due to office demographics and having had my children in my later 30s and 40s; I rarely remember that I am older than they are. I am also told that I look younger than my age, which I think is not just flattery as I have seen too much genuine surprise from people when I tell them how old I am. I guess this is genetic as I don't make any effort to try to stay looking "young" and my father always looked much younger than his age. 

I am also lucky in that I still feel a childlike excitement in new and small things. Mostly I manage not to act inappropriately, and have so far resisted the urge to slide down my friend's spiral bannisters (she worries her landlord might not like the results if I did!). I still enjoy rollercoasters, fairy lights, snow, playing in leaves, and would still enjoy freewheeling on a bike if I had one. Having an eight year old also helps to keep me young and active. Yes, there are times when I do feel my age physically. If I don't exercise I get stiffer and have less energy; if I do exercise I ache! My knee joints aren't what they were and although I am having a pretty easy menopause there are times when I "glow". If I tried to pack in the amount my teenage daughters do I would be exhausted, but I mostly I manage to keep one step ahead of exhaustion despite leading a very busy life. Age has its good sides to; I appreciate the more balanced perspective that comes with knowledge and experience. 

So how old would I be if I didn't know how old I was? I think I'll settle for 44 with a dash of 8!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Goals for This Week

The three goals I gave myself for this week are:

* Average 9 portions of fruit and veg a day. I am usually very good at eating lots of fruit and veg, but tend to slip a bit in the winter as I eat less salads. I haven't quite made it - 7 or 8 portions each day so far - but I am working on it.  I am also keeping a food diary.

* Finish at least one book. Done! I finished Excellent Women by Barbara Pym.

* Clear the kitchen surfaces - this is the first 52 Weeks to an Organised Home challenge. So far I have done nothing. 

I am counting my weeks as Monday to Sunday to tie in with the 52 Weeks challenge. Realistically not much will happen during the working week, certainly in the home organising and probably also the reading. Between Monday and Friday I seem to barely come up for air. At weekends I have more time to think about decluttering and sitting down with a book. I'm not going to expect too much of myself. Anything I manage is a good thing, right? 

In other news, still no internet. Groan. An engineer is supposed to be coming to look at the line imminently.  

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Ups and Downs of 2015

Yes, already! The downs ... I sincerely hope that 2015 is not going to continue as it has started in terms of practical hiccups. So far senior daughter has had her windscreen wipers broken by the wind while driving down the M1. Thanks to the RAC's wizardry with a piece of string she managed to get home but is still trying to get it fixed as it broke the fixing mechanism (?) and needs a part. At home the list of minor catastrophes reads as followss:

* The off button for the shower has become very erratic. Sometimes it works, sometimes one has to run round from the shower to the airing cupboard and switch it off at the plug socket. If the last person to use the shower forgets to switch the plug back on again the next showerer finds it doesn't work at all!

* The electric socket circuit fuse blew. Fortunately nothing major, but required an expedition into the dark and cold garage to flip the switch on the fuse box. (How glad I am that we no longer have those old fashioned fuses which meant changing fuse wire!)

* The shower room door became unhinged and my lovely but non-technical husband (M) got stuck holding it up and had to be rescued.

* The internet broke. Really broke. There is something wrong with the line and we are now waiting for TalkTalk's engineers to get in touch to arrange to fix it. Oh joy! Fortunately with a combination of hotspots, helpful neighbours, and all-you-can-eat mobile phone data plans we are surviving without too much trauma. I have a horrible feeling this one could be a long-running saga. 

Fortunately there have also been ups! Relaxing down time with most of the family off work most of the time. As M put it on Facebook New Year's Day was a day of "seriously planned and well executed intense inactivity". We don't have many completely chilled, lazy days like that, and there has been a fair bit more lazing since. Then on Saturday I enjoyed an evening out with senior daughter, with dinner at Wagamama's (a UK noodle bar chain) followed by the final Hobbit film. I have enjoyed the Hobbit movies for what they are - very different in style (and at times in plot) from the book, but great cinematic action and drama. 

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Three Outcomes for the Year.

I am feeling inordinately pleased with myself for coming up with a system to organise myself for the year. Actually putting it into practice will be a whole different ballgame, but hopefully it will at least give me a push in the right direction. I pondered the Rule of 3 and came up with three outcomes I would like to see at the end of the year:

1. Be thinner and fitter - really I am more concerned with fitter than thinner. I lost about 30lbs over the course of a couple of years by changing my eating habits and ideally would like to lose another 7 to 10lbs (plus the small amount I put on over Christmas and the New Year, though I know that will go easily enough). That would take me officially into the healthy BMI range, although I am not sure I am truly overweight despite having a BMI of 26. I wear size 10 to 12 (UK) clothes - one reason I would like to lose a few pounds is to be a comfortable size 10, rather than sometimes finding I fall in between sizes. I did pretty well with exercise last year, mostly doing either circuit training or weights at the gym and yoga at home (though I now try to do a class at the gym most weeks). It did slip over the last couple of months though, and I need to get back into a good routine. 

2. Be enjoying more productive leisure time - lots more reading, listening to music, watching more films and TV (I typically watch very little, maybe 1 or 2 hours a week, and end up missing things I would like to see), spending time with my daughters, doing things that leave me feeling calmer and more relaxed.

3. Have a cleaner, less cluttered house. Badly needed! Living in the same house for 22 years and raising three children here has meant more and more stuff has accumulated. Getting it all truly under control is more than I can manage in the short term, but if I can at least turn things around so that they are getting better rather than worse I shall be happy. My plan is to try this 52 Weeks to an Organised Home challenge. 

For the first month I came up with the following three goals, one for each longer term outcome I am aiming for:

1. Get my eating habits under control - getting back to exercise too, but healthy eating is going to be my main focus for January.

2. Develop the habit of reading regularly - because I have got out of my reading groove.

3. Get kitchen and food storage organised - the first four weeks of the 52 Weeks to an Organised Home challenge focus on the kitchen.

More about how these break down into smaller steps later. Time to go and do some yoga!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Testing Out BlogGo

Thank you for all the helpful comments about blogging on an iPad. I am baffled as to why BlogPress has suddenly let me down by refusing to load pictures. I have a WordPress account and almost set this blog up there, but at the last minute defaulted to Blogger. I have been using the Blogger platform for years - when I first started I think it was the only reasonable free option - and decided to stick with the format I was familiar with. If I can't find a good solution to iPad blogging on Blogger than I may have to bite the bullet and switch, but if I can I would rather stay put here. 

I did a bit of rooting around on the App Store and came up with what looks to be a fairly new and little used app for writing and editing Blogger posts, BlogGo. At 69 pence it seemed worth giving it a try. This is my second ost written in BlogGo. Formatting and links seem to be working fine and it is quite easy to use. It allows me to schedule posts for future posting, to see and edit existing posts, to read and reply to comments, and also links to my Feedly feed, which is where I normally read blogs. I have yet to test out posting photos. The only glitch I have noticed so far is that it defaults to portrait orientation and seems a bit reluctant to swing round to landscape which is what I prefer. 

For the sake of research here is a picture of my small scientist at work.

That was nice and easy! It gave me the option to use any of the standard Blogger sizes for the picture and it was simple to centre the photograph. I'm optimistic BlogGo may be just what I need.

New Year, New Start

Happy New Year! 

I have the sort of brain that likes tidy numbers and tidy dates, so can never resist thinking of a new year as an opportunity for a new start. Often I set myself up with a list of New Year Resolutions which I then proceed to ignore. Probably coming up with the list is the important thing as it gives me an opportunity to take stock of where I am and what I would like to change. This year I have a single thought and a single "resolution". 

The thought is that I start 2015 in a much better place than I started 2014. A year ago I was in the eye of a stressful storm: an old and dear friend had recently died, far too young; things were going on in my extended family which caused a lot of pain and heartache; and restructuring at work had turned into a long-running nightmare. Not all the problems have resolved, but things have improved in a number of ways and I have got much better at dealing with the residual messes. A couple of months ago I noticed that for the first time in a long while my shoulders felt relaxed - funny how sometimes you only notice tension when it disappears. I am going into 2015 feeling positive and looking forward to the new year, which is a good place to be. As a naturally positive, glass-two-thirds-full person that is my default setting, and it is wonderful to feel back to my normal self. 

The resolution is simply to make better use of my time. I want to be more intentional about what I do and to stop frittering away too many hours on mindless iPad puttering (yes Facebook, I'm looking at you!), leaving myself feeling guilty about the things I should have done but haven't and regretting that I haven't made time for the things I truly enjoy. I am never very good at translating good intentions into actions. My lack of self-discipline means I need some sort of plan or method to have any chance of keeping myself on track. I also know from experience that my best chance of success is to keep it simple. In the course of writing this post I had an "Aha!" moment and think I may have hit on my plan! I half-remembered reading something recently about the Rule of 3. I found the link to the article, read through it, and think this is exactly what I need. The idea is to manage your time by nailing down: 

     * 3 outcomes for the day
     * 3 outcomes for the week
     * 3 outcomes for the month
     * 3 outcomes for the year

Sounds simple enough! Pin down what I am aiming for and then gradually break it down into smaller, manageable steps - what do I need to do today to make progress towards where I want to be at the end of the year? Now I need to put my thinking cap on and decide what my outcomes should be.

And finally ... best wishes for 2015 to everyone reading this. I hope it will be a good year for you all.