27 December 2016

Stuff Christmas...

...and with all our energy we did just that!

The 24th saw us up bright and early (OK, cloudy and early-ish) and off to the gym to get ourselves warmed up for the season's fun and festivities.

We worked pretty hard and thoroughly enjoyed it, then went for a large, satisfying cuppa at our lovely, welcoming local greasy spoon cafe to wish them a Happy Christmas before going home to bacon and eggs for breakfast which set us up nicely for the day.

The afternoon was relatively relaxed and quiet as we had made plans for the evening. These plans were a little unusual for us, as they included meeting up with a bunch of strangers and concentrating single-mindedly upon food. Yep, you read that quite right. We planned to devote our festiveness (is that a word?) to all things edible. When I said 'stuff Christmas', had we gone Christmas crackers?

Well no, not exactly.

What we actually did was meet up at a church hall with a group of willing volunteers from all walks of life and started peeling and chopping megatons of carrots, also rather significant quantities of parsnips, butternut squash and swede to roast. Together we prepared a gazillion Brussels sprouts, made humongous quantities of piggies in blankets and stuffing balls, boiled up a gigantic cauldron of creamed sprout, leek and potato soup, and cut up two lovely bits of prime beef and veg for massive pots of beef stew to slow cook overnight. We generally got ready for Christmas Day, when dinner was to be cooked and served to up to a hundred and fifty people at two venues.

When I say dinner, I'm not just talking turkey. This was to be a serious dinner - there was the soup (with croutons and crispy bacon lardons too) and an array of lovely appetisers, both veggie and carnivore friendly, and then the full nine yards of roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

There would be roast gammon or the beef stew (and Yorkshire puds) for those who didn't want the traditional roast bird, fresh salmon or bass for those who didn't eat meat, and a variety of veggie options too. And that's before we even get as far as puddings. Not only was there to be the obligatory Christmas pud and mince pies, but loads of other delights, including lovely fresh fruit to dip into a chocolate fountain!

While we chopped and stirred and seasoned on Christmas Eve, outside the kitchen the church hall was being transformed into a Christmas wonderland, with a tree, tinsel, crackers, pretty lights and beautifully decorated place settings. Similar decorative arrangements were going on at the other venue, but since there isn't as big and well equipped a kitchen at that one we were preparing the food for both sites. Busy, busy, busy, and we got home around ten o'clock with interestingly orange hands from all those carrots!

Then, before we knew it, we were right back to the kitchen around nine thirty on Christmas morning. From then on we cooked, and carved, and served, and cleaned up and thoroughly enjoyed being a small part of this very special event. It was full on and we didn't sit down for a moment, but didn't even think about it until it was all over and we finally left to go home just after seven in the evening. It was great and the other volunteers were wonderful people. Every one of them worked as hard as possible to make the day as happy and successful as it could be... and a success it was!

This was all done, in the true spirit of giving, for everyone - people of different ages and faiths, for single parent families, for couples, for single men and women, for the homeless, for the elderly - for anyone who would otherwise have been alone, lonely, or needy at Christmas. What's more, this plethora of goodies was provided free of charge by an amazingly caring and generous woman, Mo Fayose. You can read more about her HERE.

Yep, we 'stuffed' our Christmas with joy, and friendship, and hard work and had fun doing whatever needed doing. In part, our gift was a sense of satisfaction in a job well done. Other gifts came from seeing the faces of the people who came to the dinner, and from those who popped their heads into the kitchen to thank us sweaty volunteers for sharing Christmas with them.

If I'm honest, I find Christmas a wee bit difficult these days - not least because I miss my darling Mum a lot. But this year I know she would have been so proud of the pair of us. That in itself was the greatest gift of all, and something that made this fat lass very, very happy.

21 December 2016

Fat Lass 1 : Social 0

Well, I'm delighted to report that the cunning plan worked from start to finish and I really enjoyed my night out. The company was great so being sociable and moving around to chat to people was easy, the venue was really good too (at least the second one was - the trendy cocktail bar where we met beforehand was dire!), and the food was just fabulous.

I'd chosen an Antipasto Misto of cured meats and cheeses for a starter, which was really tasty with more than plenty to enjoy, although I didn't bother with the bread or the red onion jam. I then had Tagliata di Manzo - an absolutely delicious rib-eye steak, served nicely rare as requested, sliced and drizzled with rosemary-infused olive oil and served with a luscious pile of buttered Savoy cabbage and those 'house potatoes' (which I cheerfully ignored). It could not have been better. Even the live music was good - very João Gilberto-esque.

Leaving those odd-looking cocktails for others to enjoy (I read through the menu and everything was sugar syrup loaded) was a no-brainer. They were pretty expensive too so I was happy to pass for more than one reason. Two glasses of white wine spritzer (albeit large ones) with my meal and plenty of water meant I had no fear of a hangover this morning, although I daresay a few of my ex-colleagues won't have had that luxury to wake up with! While the desserts looked very good (as did all the food) I wasn't remotely tempted.

Walked there, and walked home too, so a wee bit of exercise as well. Blessings counted. Onwards, ever... and off to the gym in the morning.

18 December 2016

The Christmas social...

...is coming to a venue near me on Tuesday evening. So am I prepared for this fun and festive foodie feast? You betcha!

I used to dread occasions like this and through the 'diet' years found it really hard to be moderate and sensible and to eat and drink responsibly. But, over the years I've sorted out a few strategies to help me. Hey, that grey hair has some use, huh?

One of these strategies is NOT to starve myself beforehand and go to the venue hungry - in the past I've tried that, saving myself for the evening, and I've decided it wasn't a good plan. It was actually a very bad move for me, as everything looks so tempting and tasty and seems like a good idea. Saying 'yes' in these circumstances is apparently a lot simpler than declining!

So, how to manage the food aspect? Well, Tuesday is one of my Oxfam volunteering days and I always take a pot of stuff with me for my late IF 'breakfast' meal.

This week will be no different, and my little box will contain chopped up bits of raw cauliflower stalk (from tonight's dinner), some small chunks of nice salty cheddar cheese and some lovely Turkish olives sprinkled with Palestinian zataar. I may add a cherry tomato or two if I feel like pushing the boat out. I usually also take a small pot of mixed nuts. That, being my usual fare, will keep me satisfied through the day so I won't go out for the evening hungry.

I try to remember to clean my teeth just before walking out of the door - residual minty toothpaste taste makes the first food/drink taste bleh, so slows down the start of things. Though I don't do it now, in the past I've found eating an apple about ten minutes before walking into the venue works too, and apples are a nice 'clean' food so there's no need to clean your teeth to get rid of odd bits that lodge between your gnashers after an apple!

The other food related tip is to look at (er, closely scrutinise!) the menu ahead of time. I go out having already chosen exactly what I am going to eat before setting foot into the joint. On that subject, two courses are quite enough - no need to go for three as I'd never do it any other time of year so why do it at Christmas. I also tell the organiser what I've chosen before I get there (helps them out in the melee), and carry a piece of paper to remind myself of my selections. This means a definite decision has been made - no room for shilly shallying, no indecision, no capitulating to anyone else's urging, no making impulsive choices. Just sensible choices that fit with the way I choose to eat.

If the set menu, and it's usually a set menu at Christmas, means my selection automatically comes with something I'd rather not eat (some form of potatoes, for example) there are a few options. Firstly, you could ask the kitchen to leave them off. The downside is that a lot of venues struggle with this at hectic times of year though - their aim is to serve as many (often not 100% sober) folk as possible in short order and they may not appreciate or be able to fulfill 'special requests'. No problem, when the dish arrives just push the offending articles to the side of the plate and leave them there. Not always easy though as they often look pretty yummy, so consider offering them to someone who doesn't eat kookily like me. In my experience there's usually a hungry man at hand who is all too happy to take them off my hands to pad out their meagre restaurant 'festive' portions. I often find the Brussels sprout haters are more than happy to swap my roasties for their little green horrors too.

Then there's the alcohol side of the equation. I'm not a great drinker usually, but it's easy to get carried away in company, especially when everyone else seems dead set on draining the bar dry and wants me to be 'sociable' and join in!

So, for one thing I always drink a large glass of water before leaving the house. OK, it means I'll doubtless need the loo on arrival, but it also means I'm not thirsty and can make a glass of white wine spritzer last a looong time. Note the spritzer bit - looks like you have a good large glass of a recognisable drink (which seems to be expected), but you can get away with a small serving of wine and lots of sparkling water or soda water. Then, when we sit down I always ask for a big jug of tap water to be brought to the table (and replenished regularly) and intersperse one glass of wine with several glasses of water. My bladder helps take care of the quantity imbibed!

The dessert course can be a bit of a trial (especially if, like me, you've just chosen a starter and main). But a coffee, black if you must, makes a perfectly acceptable substitute and there is rarely a problem sipping that while everyone else tucks into their sweet and sticky desserts.

A few other tips...

One is to wear something very close fitting (and definitely non-elasticated) at the waist. Amazing how conscious that makes you of the amount you consume.

Another is to be sociable - hey, this is Christmas after all! This means talking to people, getting up and moving around to speak to everyone, dancing (if necessary) and generally doing anything to minimise time and access to the food and drink.

Oh, and if your Christmas social happens to be a buffet... load your plate with salad (or the platter decorations) before anything else goes onto it. This usually tastes pretty good and leaves minimal room to load up with the stuff your own dietary preference views as 'naughty'.

Right, enough blether. Merry Christmas, chin, chin and onwards ever...

04 December 2016

Always the bridesmaid, dammit...

Oh pooh, bah and humbug! After the multiple stresses of the previous week, there appeared to be a positive start to this one. Unfortunately it has actually proven to be a challenging week. 

This week had a pretty upbeat beginning, going to the gym for a brilliant session on Monday, then day brought me down to earth with a bump. On my way back home I had a phone call with the result from the interview I attended a week on Thursday. Not positive news, as you'll have guessed. 

Yet another flaming job I didn't get, and I'm still surprisingly upset about this one. It seemed ideal, and my experience and qualifications fit their job description like a glove... apparently. I felt confident answering the interview questions and comfortable having met the people there. It was a small team and I felt that I could fit in and really give it my best. From the feedback it seems I came across well on the day, and had all the skills they were looking for, but... [insert appropriate swear words here]

Tuesday was alright, I suppose, even though I felt rather down for much of it. Not too big a shock there then. The volunteering at Oxfam cheered me up a little but not really enough to drag my sorry butt completely out of the doldrums. My poor lovely hubby was probably better off with me being out of the house for the day if I'm honest. Even the Christmas lights switch-on, pretty as it was, didn't lift my spirits.

And then came Wednesday - hey, it's another day. Let's see what this one had in store, apart from the breast screening appointment that is. Always a fun experience. Morning dawned, clear and cold, with sunlight catching the frost to sparkle on the grass outside my window. Maybe it was going to be a good one. 

But no, an email popped into the inbox to let me know I'd 'not been selected' to interview for another of the jobs I've applied for. You could perhaps say this one wasn't quite such a big deal as it was only a relatively short contract, but I am quite dejected by my repeated failure to land a decent post. 

What the F is wrong with me? Am I (as a friend suggested) overqualified? Is it my age? Could it be something in my CV? (hence the doctored cartoon)

Thursday went in similar vein - a slightly crappy session at the gym with no great motivation and seemingly less strength than on Monday. Probably in part down to lack of sleep, as that seems to be quite a problem at the moment, what between bad dreams, nebulous worries and negative two a.m. thoughts.

Friday was a bit better, with a trip out to get Christmas presents (mostly sorted now) and a carol concert in the evening. Still wasn't (and am not still) on top form though. 

Yesterday we had an appointment to discuss setting up power of attorney (we're getting to be old farts now), then finished the Christmas shopping. Today we went to the gym again. I'd like to say it was a fantastic session and everything went swimmingly, but it was just OK. 

I've been close to tears for no discernible reason for several days now. Not good, huh. All the ominous signs and portents are in place - it appears that this way lies that horrid downward spiral and the return of the bloody Black Dog. I have one foot on that slope, but I do not want to head there. So I need to take some time and sit quietly to remind myself of those blessings my darling Mum used to ask me to count.

Sorry for the doom and gloom. Be back once I've hauled my ass into a better place. Onwards... I guess.

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