28 March 2012

Being looked after?

I'm not a particularly religious person - indeed I sometimes wish I had the faith my Mother has, which is a huge support and comfort to her. But me? No, 'fraid not, I guess I'm just too cynical.

However,there seems to be some sort of higher power at work at the moment. No sooner do I talk about looking for 'good' things in every day, than I get a full-on, glorious demonstration.

On my walk to catch the bus to work every day I cross a river. It's a nice, broad, gentle river (for the most part) and I see little fishes, ducks and swans almost every morning. Sometimes I'll see the odd cormorant, and (if it's a particularly good day) I may even spot a glimpse of electric blue as the kingfisher passes by.

But never in my wildest imaginings did I expect to see what I did this morning. The little fish were coming to the surface in a welter of ripples just under the bridge, as usual. I spotted a log, low in the water, sort of drifting just under the surface, but moving upstream. Hang on a minute... a log? Upstream? Huh?

Nope, the log rolled over and revealed itself to be an otter! My word - I've never in my life seen one before and have always wanted to. I stood entranced.

What's more, after a moment or two, another couple of disturbances in the water revealed that it had two more otters with it and this little family group of three were ready for breakfast! The fish stood no chance as the three converged from different directions, above and under the water. Those little ripples turned to all-out fishy panic as the poor things tried to scatter. Nature at it's most natural.

I couldn't tear myself away - could have stayed all day to watch them. In fact, I had to run like billie-oh to catch the bus and I only just made it on time!

But what a privilege to see these magnificent animals hunting and how fortunate I am to have seen this rare treat. Whatever my worries may be, that old black dog can just go hang - what a lot there is to be thankful for.

Definitely onwards ever...

27 March 2012

Good stuff

Sometimes, when things don't seem to be going my way, I need to remember this. Life couldn't be described exactly as 'bad' right now, but I'm short on patience, a tad teary and rather closer to my black dog than I care to be.

Weight is fine, eating is fine and the daily exercise is fine (and I'm off to the gym tonight, actually) but somehow I just don't quite feel fine. As lovely as the sunshine and spring weather has been, something is slightly out of kilter and my worries magnify themselves in the early hours far too often.

Ho hum, just get through it I guess. Onwards ever...

21 March 2012

Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy!

I rarely post recipes (mostly because I'm nowhere near as good a cook as my lovely hubby) but this is all about a rather fishy 'sharing' dish and it's a real doozy. My darling and I are rather partial to these sharing-type dishes, romantic fools that we are.

Wish I'd taken a photo to show you but, before we begin, it isn't exactly a paella, or a kedgeree, or even a risotto, but it's something along those lines. It's warming, filling, tastes good and it's pretty healthy so I'll pass it along for when your Boat Comes In

I will warn you now though - this does make rather a lot, but it's good cold for lunches the next day too, so you don't have to hoover up every scrap... unless you really want to.

Start with an onion, chopped and gently softened (but not browned) over a gentle heat in just a teensy drop of oil in a shallow pan. Add half a cup of rice to the pan, stir well and coat with those lovely oniony flavours. Arborio rice would doubtless be great but we used Basmati as that was the only type lurking in the storecupboard this time.

Add the leaves from a sturdy sprig or two of fresh thyme (lemon thyme is good too), a little cumin, and a generous dose of sweet paprika. If you have any saffron knocking about, then add a shred or two for the beautiful colour it gives the rice. A little turmeric would do it too. Add cayenne pepper to taste - we like it quite punchy so I use quite a bit here.

A good old dollop of a decent fish stock would be good here, but we didn't have any so a vegetable Oxo came to the rescue, made up in about 500ml of warm water. This was added a little at a time, stirring all the time having increased the heat a bit, so the liquid simmers and the rice fluffs up and cooks nearly through without getting soggy. You can add more liquid (plain water'll do) if you need to but the rice needs to have some 'bite' at the end so don't go too mad with the cooking just yet.

Once the rice is nearly done, add a cup of frozen peas (thawed), a very thinly sliced red pepper, a small tin of chickpeas (drained) and our secret ingredient, a cup of frozen chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed to remove as much excess liquid as possible). Stir through and cover the pan until everything gets nice and hot. At this stage, the rice and so forth should be beautifully flecked through with green and red. Check liquid levels and adjust if necessary - you want this dish dry-ish, not swimming, but not welded to the bottom of the pan either!

While this is all happening, hard boil two eggs in another pan and set aside in some nice icy-cold water to use for garnish later.

Uncover the pan, and to your rice mixture add a pack of frozen mixed seafood (fishy bits, prawns, mussels, squid rings and whatever else is in there) and keep stirring through until it completely defrosts and thoroughly heats through. Better yet, if you have a decent fishmonger nearby, ask for oddments of fish and shellfish (just not the oilier fishies) and go with whatever he/she provides, making sure all of the fish pieces cook through. You want lots of lovely fishy flavours so even surimi (crab stix) will work at a push, but it does have a tendency to fall apart in strips.

Serve heaped up in ONE large pre-warmed bowl or platter (told you it was a sharing dish). Quarter the two hard boiled eggs to reveal the beautiful contrasting gold and white, arrange artistically on the rice and sprinkle with a little sweet paprika to make 'em look even prettier. Chop a small bunch of coriander (quite roughly, stems and all) and chuck over the top to decorate the rice heap and eggs.

Grab a fork each, then it's 'on your marks... get set...' and dig in to enjoy. Take your time to savour it though - first one to get down to the pattern does the washing up!

20 March 2012

A sense of relief

OK, it's just as well I stayed calm (after a fashion) and didn't hit the munchies after the sudden, unexpected gain at the end of last week.

Still don't know what happened, but...

1x busy weekend
+ lots of running about
+ decent food (mostly)
= scale needle back to where it ought to was.

Yep, I'd say that was a 'phew' moment!

16 March 2012

What the heck???

Bleary-eyed, I hopped onto the scales this morning. I hopped back off rfather more quickly, then tried again. It was an 'aaaaaaargh... OMG!' moment.

What on earth happened? How, when I've been exercising and eating sensibly, did that darned needle go up again? Not impressed at all.

But, hey, what the heck. It may just be a glitch... she says, hopefully. I won't panic just yet, I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing and see where we are in a few days time.

Onwards ever...

12 March 2012

Feeling fighting fit

OK, so that isn't strictly 100% accurate but it ain't too far off either. Life feels pretty good.

Lovely hubby and I went for a fabulous two-hour stint at the gym over the weekend and had a whale of a time. It was brilliant, really quiet (there was a local half-marathon on which kept the numbers down), and even the showers were warm this time. We both LOVED it, and came out of there into the glorious spring sunshine buzzing with energy and dancing with joy! In fact we went for quite a long walk afterwards too.

That pesky asthma-beast behaved itself quite politely and let me do everything I wanted to, with only a little coughing to remind me he hadn't gone away completely. C'mon beast... it's about time you went into hibernation!

As to feeling fit, well a small proportion of me (mainly around the pecs and shoulders) is a tad achy-sore this morning, but that just proves I did some work, n'est ce pas?

I decided to mix things up a little and do some different cardio stuff, rather than my usual routine, and also to add in some additional weights work. It went really well, although I struggled with the newer version of the elliptical (see picture) to begin with, at least until I got the hang of it and got into my stride. For some reason I started off backwards on this new one!

It's amazingly different to the old-style one that I'm used to using, but in a good way as it's very smooth. I shouldn't really be surprised, I guess. After all, the new stair-stepper is a world away from the squeaky, clunky older ones too. Hmmm, one other thing I noticed was that I am urgently in need of a new gym bra. The old one doesn't really fit any longer and certain parts of my anatomy were somewhat less comfortable than the norm. Must do something about this, pronto.

I do love our gym - there's none of the neon-lycra-clad poseur brigade about it's clientele and it is so good to have well-qualified and helpful staff at hand to show you exactly how to set up and use 'new' bits of gym equipment correctly. I had almost worked it out for myself, but confirmation from one who 'knows' is very reassuring.

The daily morning rowing stints are going pretty smoothly too (if still a bit of a daunting prospect when the alarm goes off at 5 a.m.!), and I'm looking around for other abs exercises I could use in our all too short period of time in the mornings, to give me a little variation in what I do.

From a food standpoint, things are also back to going pretty well. I was a bit naughty last week (actually quite a lot naughty, and paid for it with a smallish gain) but am back to sense and good healthy eating again so that excess should come back off without too much trauma.

Onwards ever...

02 March 2012

A bad way to lose

Me and my big mouth!

Oh boy, I had to do it, didn't I? Go and open said big mouth and suggest that, when lovely hubby came to meet me from work last night, we visited out local Chinese restaurant for dinner.

So we did, and I chose pretty sensible options, I thought - a mostly grilled meat startery type thing and a soup noodle main (of which I could only manage less than half).

Unfortunately, my 'sensible' choice has rather backfired on me in the sense that, last night, I spent an inordinate amount of time visiting the bathroom. This hit me as soon as we got home and, while I shan't go into graphic detail, just leave it that the region between my navel and knees is not at all comfortable and anything other than plain water (warm please) is not remotely on the cards today!

My lovely hubby kindly pointed out this morning that this 'event' undoubtedly meant I would see a drop in the scales. Er, he may be right - in fact I'd guess he probably is. Frankly, right now, I would rather forgo the loss. Grrr!

Update: OK, I don't feel 100% fabulous, but the 'episodes' seem to have reached their conclusion and a walk in the fresh air has helped me feel a whole lot better. Talk about Spring cleaning!

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