How did she do it?

Weight loss before and after

I accept that there is some ‘cheating’ in comparing these two photographs but, to be fair, neither was taken with the intention of showing off my figure. However, the question that everybody asks is “how did you do it?” Here is the answer.

Making a firm decision

The first photo was taken during a work trip to Jordan. I was really shocked when I saw the pictures from that trip and decided that the time had come to take action.

Joining Slimming World

I joined a local Slimming World group. I haven’t really been following the Slimming World plan as such, yet some of the ideas have been in the back of my mind and the weekly discussion of food and diet is helpful. The most useful part of the group, however, is the weekly weigh-in and being accountable. Getting little awards for progress is motivating too and being with other group members is supportive and shows what is possible.

Hitting snacks on the head

No eating between meals! If I feel peckish in the day I try to think if I am really hungry or if it is an emotional craving. If it’s real hunger (which is rare) then I have fresh fruit or a few nuts. Emotional hunger can be satisfied with a sweet tasting tea (liquorice tea, for example).

Eating more protein

This is a bit tricky for me as I am vegetarian and have been for all of my adult life. However, I make sure that I eat an egg every day for either breakfast or lunch. If I don’t have egg for breakfast then I have unsweetened full-fat yogurt. Eating protein and fat at breakfast means that I don’t feel hungry during the morning and can easily resist biscuits if they appear at a meeting.

Cutting out sugar

Generally speaking I don’t eat cakes, biscuits, sweets or puddings. If someone has made a cake or pudding for a special occasion then I will have a very small piece but this occurs only rarely. Apart from the odd (OK, daily) square of very dark chocolate, I do not normally eat any sugar except for fresh fruit. This includes alternative sugars such as honey, date syrup, agave syrup – I count them all as sugars that I don’t eat. I also don’t (normally) have fruit juice or dried fruit. I even make alternative ketchup with tomato puree because all commercially produced ketchups and sauces contain some form of added sugar. Cutting out the sugar seems to have reset my palate with the result that many foods are more tasty. I used not to like apples or herb/fruit teas but now enjoy the flavours of both.

Reducing bread

I love bread and in return it adores me so much that it sticks to my hips and tummy. I eat much less bread now – probably not more than a couple of pieces a week.

Taking lunch from home

In the summer I was making salads to take to work but as the weather became colder I started to take food to heat in the microwave at work. This is either leftovers from family meals or dishes that I have made specially and frozen in portions. ‘Veg box stew’ contains an assortment of vegetables cooked in the slow cooker with chilli and beans – flavoursome and filling! This means that I don’t have to buy sandwiches which is good for both wallet and waist.

Eating real food

I don’t eat ‘low-fat’ products and try to avoid processed foods in general. If I’m going to use oil then it’s olive oil rather than low-fat cooking spray and if I’m eating yogurt then it is full-fat rather than low-fat versions. If I wanted butter for spreading or cooking then I would use real butter rather than margarine or low-fat spread. This is because low-fat versions of food contain other ingredients (often sugars) to give the flavour and feel of fats. However, fat is filling, satisfying and tasty so I’m sticking with it. I have reduced the amount of cheese that I eat, though, and rarely eat butter because I don’t eat much bread. I also eat a lot of vegetables and fresh fruit (probably too much fruit, actually).  I make sure that the food I eat is tasty so that, although I am eating less, I enjoy it more.

Listening to my appetite

I mentioned this above in relation to snacks but I also pay attention to feelings of fullness at mealtimes. I try to stop eating when I feel full even if there is food on my plate.

What about exercise?

I haven’t mentioned exercise and for good reason.   It’s about a mile from home to the railway station and, at the other end, about a mile from the station to work. I had slipped into the bad habits of taking my car to the station in the morning and taking the bus from the station to work so I did get back into walking all of those journeys (about four miles a day in total). By coincidence, I subsequently started cycling (at one time was a very enthusiastic cyclist) and then bought a commuting bike that I now use for my journey to and from work. However, four miles on a bike probably uses less energy than the same distance on foot. I am not going to the gym or taking any other formal exercise. Of course I am fitter and because I weigh less then I have more energy to run up and down stairs. I am not convinced, though, that exercise has been a significant factor in the weight loss. I think that being more active is a result of being thinner rather than becoming thinner as a result of more activity.

To date I have lost 20kg or just over 3 stone. My next challenge is to find out how to maintain a healthy weight. Wish me luck!

Webcam Cosy mark ii

Webcam cosySome time ago I made a cover for my webcam and it’s been sitting on top of my office PC ever since.  One of my colleagues admired it on several occasions and so I offered to make one; she wanted the same colours.

Crochet in the pubSo… this is what I made.  It’s a bit silly with the turned-up brim and little flower but I like it (and so does she).  I guess silly is what you get when I do my crochet with friends in the pub!

By the way, Tuesday is music night at The Fox in Shipley and last night featured ‘foot-stompin’ blues’ from Ben ‘Blue’ Waters.  I really enjoyed his set, performed with passion and some very skilled guitar, although it was a little loud in the first half.



Flowering Cactus

Flowering Christmas CactusThis is on the table in my office.  I’m pretty sure it is supposed to be a ‘Christmas Cactus’ in which case the flowering is a little premature but I have two more at home, also in flower.

According to Wikipedia, the proper name for this plant is “Schlumbergera” and it originally comes from Brazil. I love the intense pink of the flowers and also the way that it comes into bloom to brighten the dark days following the clock change.

Poor Schlumbergera needs repotting though as she is looking distinctly top-heavy.

Birthday coffee cosy

Striped cafetiere cosy with flowers This coffee cosy was made at the request of a friend for her husband’s birthday.  She chose the colours but I have to say that I approve of her choices.  The cafetiere in the photo is the same size as the one for which the cosy was made but not the same colours; I would have used different shades for this blue and red cafetiere.

I actually made this in August but could not post it until after the birthday. The flowers were a late addition but not conventionally masculine so I hope that the recipient likes them!

The cosy is made from acrylic yarn (washes easily) and is a mixture of Hobbycraft WI  DK and Stylecraft Special DK crocheted with a 4mm hook.


PumpkinI no longer have children of trick and treating age but I keep a bowl of sweets by the door on Hallowe’en night in case any costumed visitors call by.  When my children were younger they would often be invited to  ‘Light Parties’ offered as an alternative to Hallowe’en by people who believed that Hallowe’en is a celebration of evil.  My understanding of Hallowe’en, though, is that, far from celebrating evil, the costumes and lanterns are intended to scare away wickedness.

This is what I used to tell my children about the meaning of Hallowe’en…

Many centuries ago, in the old calendar, the date that we now know as 1st November (All Saints/Hallows Day) was the start of the new year. People believed that at the turning of the year, the walls between this world and the spirit world grown thin and those who have passed over can return.  Many of these spirits are people who are loved and missed which is why in some cultures people go to graveyards to welcome back their departed family members.  However, some of these spirits will be less welcome: people who lived wicked lives and may wish to cause harm by returning.  To keep these bad spirits away we carve ugly, frightening faces out of turnips or pumpkins, put lights inside and sit them outside our doors.

I can’t explain where ‘trick or treating’ came from but it resembles two English traditions – ‘mischief night’ and ‘penny for a guy’.  ‘Mischief night’  used to be 4th November, before bonfire night, and children would commit acts of (fairly) minor vandalism.  I once had my back gate pinched; as it was made of wood, I assume it ended up on someone’s bonfire.  ‘Penny for a guy’ was the custom of showing the guy you had made for the bonfire and asking for money which could be used to buy fireworks.  However, dressing up on Hallowe’en makes sense: if people are disguised then they can create a scary (and riotous) presence in the streets and any malevolent spirits would not recognise them.

When I was a child the custom of trick or treat was an exotic element of American children’s literature; we didn’t do it in England.  We marked Hallowe’en with turnip lanterns, apple-bobbing and gingerbread.  When I walked home along the dark lanes, with the clouds scudding across the sky and the sound of autumn wind in the branches I would feel a frisson of fear.  On Hallowe’en night it was always possible to believe that maybe, just maybe… ghouls and ghosties might be abroad.

Lamp-post cosy

Lamp-post cosyLast weekend was Yarndale and, as part of the event, there was  a ‘yarn walk’ through the park between the station and the Auction Mart  and I have made this panel to decorate a lamp-post.
When the request came through I already had the little squares which were originally intended to be part of a  baby blanket.  However, the panel needed to be made quickly and I had the squares to hand so I joined them with coloured stripes and I think it works very well.  I had accidentally made one square too many; I had believed I was one short and after the panel was finished discovered the missing (now extra) square in my dressing-gown pocket.  My mother was staying and since her hip operation she uses a stick  (made by my father) so I used the last square to decorate her stick. Decorated walking stick

By the way, it was Kim in the office who called the panel a ‘lamp-post cosy’!  I thought it was a ‘yarnbomb panel’.


A fair exchange

Phone sock with pendantMy friend Sue saw the original phone sock, made for my husband and asked me to make one for her. She said that I could choose the colours so I used the ocean shades that made the ‘seawater coffee cosy’. Sue makes beautiful wood-fired pottery and runs workshops in which people make simple pots and then build a wood kiln to fire them. She said that I could have a piece of her work in exchange so I chose this pendant which, I have to say, goes perfectly with the phone sock. Originally the pendant was on a cord so I made a little silver wire fixing and attached it to a silver chain which I think sets it off beautifully.  Thank you, Sue.

Blackberry cosy

Blackberry cosyMy friend Gemma asked me to make a cosy for her Blackberry.  Gemma chose the colours from my stash; the pink and yellow are Stylecraft Special DK whilst the blue is Hobbycraft/WI DK.  I’m very pleased with the way that the colours work together; they have a real zing.

We shared a dorm whilst at Laurieston Hall recently and even though there was no signal Gemma managed to receive at least 20 messages so, as she says, the cosy will make her think of me 20 times a day!



Ripple cushion

Ripple cushion on sofa This cushion seems to have been a work in progress forever.  I was working on it in the car on the way to the Hot Aire weekend in Whitby and my husband asked , “Is that very difficult?  Because you’ve been doing it for a long time.” My answer was , “No, but it’s very boring.”  After I had finished and chucked the cushion on the sofa he said “That’s a cushion?  I thought it was a blanket for Lydia’s baby!”  Of course, the blanket was finished several months ago but he hadn’t noticed.

Nonetheless, although I loved the colours and loved them more as I came towards the end of the cushion cover, I found working the ripples rather tedious.  Partly this was because I could only work on it at home or as a car passenger; the project wasn’t quite small enough for the daily commute.  Ripples are rhythmic, soothing and all that but biggish stripy projects are not for me.  I don’t mind hooking a hundred squares and then putting them together and doing borders; the frequent colour changes on the squares keep my interest and in the joining/border stages I can see the finished work.  I’m happy with the completed cushion but I don’t think I will be doing another ripple stripe in the near future.

The cushion cover was made from Jarol Heritage DK on a 4mm hook using the Attic24 Neat Ripple Pattern.  The cushion pad is from The Wool Room.  I’m tired of cheap cushions that go flat as soon as you sit on them so hope that this will keep its integrity!

A gift from my neighbour

leaflets from the neighbour Amazon Logistics delivered a package but there was nobody at home so the package was left with a neighbour.  The neighbour called later with the package and a little collection of religious leaflets.  He explained that on the day of judgement, God will ask him if he told his neighbours about his faith and so he is making sure that he can answer ‘yes’ by telling his neighbour (me).

So, Neighbour, I would like to thank you for taking the time to pass your message to me.  You handed me your leaflets politely and respectfully.  Whilst you made it clear that you would be happy to talk, you left it open for me to take questions to you; you did not attempt to persuade me on the doorstep.  I appreciate that you care enough for me to take the trouble of telling me about something that is so important to you.  I appreciate that you care enough about your faith to reach out and pass on information to those who might not know.  This takes courage, especially in these Islamaphobic times, and I value that.  When you bring your message to me, and I listen, even if I do not agree, then we have community.  Thank you for your gift.