Embracing 2017 – ?

I’ve had a bit of a stalling start to 2017 one way and another. I’m just coming off the back of my second nasty cold of the year and feeling like all I’ve done for the first 51 days of this year is be ill and too tired to do anything or been working hard to catch up with myself with a bit of food preparation and sleep thrown in along the way. Basically, I don’t feel I have done anything personally productive or worthwhile, which is disheartening as I had big plans for 2017 being a year of real personal achievement.

I spent a lot of December carefully crafting a list of things I wanted to try/do/achieve in the new year. I keep writing these lists, mostly because I wish I’d done a ‘Things to do before I’m 30’ list, but didn’t and now my 30th is nearly 2 years behind me. I also find it useful to set goals and record my achievements as part of my constant efforts to bolster my mental well-being – all well and good until I feel like I’m failing at life and then it is all just counterproductive.

Anyway….I’ve been meaning to write a bit about my list of ambitions in order to make them more concrete and hold myself more accountable to them than if they’re just scribbled in the back of a notebook that no-one ever sees and even I might never look at again.

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  • Read 10 Books

I love reading and am a terrible book hoarder – I buy books at a much faster pace than I can read. I’ve possible got worse since I got a tablet last year and started reading Kindle books, although at least they don’t take up physical space in the house.

So far this year I finished reading The Unbroken Line of the Moon by Johanne Hildebrandt, which I really enjoyed and finished within a couple of weeks, and have moved on to Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, which is interesting but hasn’t gripped me like The Unbroken Line of the Moon and is taking me longer to get through. As a result of Kindle offers and sales I already have another 13 books waiting to be read – so I really shold get a move on with them!

  • Lose 7 Pounds

The ubiquitous weight loss goal! My success on the weight loss/management front has been really mixed over the past couple of years. I lost 8 pounds in the last 5 months of 2015, only to put it all back on over the Christmas period and subsequent months in which I was very ill. It took a while for me to find my stride again with watching what I ate and exercising but by the summer of last year I had got into a good habit of using the exercise bike between 3 and 6 times a week and lost around 6 pounds. The descent into autumn/winter and the festive season took it’s toll again and now I’m pretty much back at square one.

If I put my mind to it then 7 pounds really isn’t very much, but it’s the motivation and willpower that I lack. I have recently started doing Pilates as part of an initiative at work and am really enjoying that. Unfortunately it’s only a 6 week introduction though and I’m struggling to find a class locally that I can join once this is over.

  • Get another Tattoo & Get another Piercing

Both of these have been on my mental wish list for a while. I’ve had tattoo ideas in my mind and several occassions on which I intended to get inked – finishing my PhD and turning 30 in particular – but lack of funds, confidence and also knowing a good studio to go to have all contributed to me not actually doing anything about either.

I now have funds and think I have found a good studio, so it’s just the confidence to go in and talk to them about it that I need to work up! I know it’s silly, but my social anxiety usually does get the better of me still.

  • Climb Snowdon

We moved to North Wales 3 and a half year ago and now live around 25 miles from Snowdon. Despite this, and the fact that both Pete and our dog have made the ascent on more than a few occassions, I have still not made the trek myself.

Apart from the fact that it seems like something you should do if you live up here, it ties in with my general fitness and personal challenge aspirations so really want to tick this one off as soon as I can, hopefully in the spring once the weather is a little better but before the busy summer tourist season.

  • Have a birthday party

I’m less keen on this one than I was when I wrote this list. Since moving to Wales I haven’t had a party to celebrate my birthday, not even for my 30th, which was/is something that kind of upset me. As a result of Pete being away every summer for his research (my birthday in in July) and most of the people I know being 250 miles or more away, it’s just always seemed like more hassel/stess/upset/disappointment than it’s worth.

Pete turned 30 just over a week ago and had a party to celebrate last weekend, which kind of spurred me to want to do something for myself this year, but even organising his was a turbulent experience for me and being let down by people who I thought should care more is still a real kick in the gut for me that I’m not sure is really worth it.

  • Go to Iceland

This one is as good as ticked off already. As my birthday present to Pete for his 30th I am taking him to Iceland at the end of March. Flights and hotels are all booked, now we just need to work out how much of what we want to do can be fit into 8 days!

  • Clear out more junk

This should probably be broadened to ‘Clear out more stuff’ – I’m not a hoarder exactly, but I do own a lot of stuff and have trouble getting rid of things, either for sentimental reasons or because, well, you never know when that might be useful! I know it’s been something that has annoyed Pete for a long time, but now even I am getting frustrated with the amount of stuff I have everywhere and would like to have some clearer spaces in the house. I really need to get better at getting rid of things that I really don’t need – I’ve already sold a few things on eBay and have a box to go to the charity shop, but need to get more serious about it if I’m ever going to make a real dent on my accumulations.

  • Write a short story

I always wanted to be a writer and as a teenager I would write stories regularly, although never anything I would dare share with anyone! I can’t guarantee it’ll be any different if I try again, but I at least want to try and see if I still can, so short stories seem like a good place to start.Β 

  • Renovate the Bathroom

A bit of a boring practical one. We’ve been quite slow on working on the house due to time and finances, but this year I really want to get the bathroom sorted. What we have is functional but very old – it still has a pink enamelled cast iron bath that is ugly and the surface is a bit pitted and marked. The tiling is old and the grout is patchy, the window needs replacing and there was an electric shower fitted by the last owner but without additional tiling so there is wallpaper that gets drenched and is peeling away from the wall.

I’m a bit intimidated by how much work it might be and I hate coordinating different tradespeople (plumber, window fitter, plasterer…..), especially up here where they can be a bit ‘relaxed’, i.e. hard to get hold of, but I really want to get it sorted now.

  • Learn how to be less afraid

This is both a big ambition and quite an abstract one. As part of my longterm depressive issues I suffer from varying degrees of social anxiety that are often quite debilitating and definitely stops me from doing things. I hate it. Sometimes it feel like I’m just afraid of life and I can get so frustrated with myself especially when I’m stuck in a spiral of being too afraid to do something that part of me wants to do, or at least wants to be able to do.

I don’t have much of an idea how to go about fixing it though.
As an additional one, as always, I’d like to blog more. I’m already doing better than last year, which is somethings. Hopefully I’ll manage to keep it up and keep you updated on what I’m getting up to.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love,

Betty

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Fitspiration and Body-Shaming

This isn’t something I’d ever given any thought too before last night when I was messing around on Pinterest putting together a Bad-Ass Body Motivation board.

I have gained a fair bit of weight over the past six months, through the combination of doing little other than sitting down to write my thesis, stress and comfort eating, followed by Christmas indulgences and now, comfort eating because it’s cold! Getting back into exercise, shedding the extra pounds and getting back into decent shape was one of my primary goals on completing my thesis – unfortunately I have struggled getting off my butt and actually doing anything about it so far. Hence the inspirational pin-board.

It was while searching for fitspiration pins that I came across a whole raft of #stopfitspiration images, which really surprised me. It seems that, for the people promoting #stopfitspiration, fitspiration is more-or-less the same as thinspiration – promoting unhealthy body image aspirations that are ultimately harmful and addressing the problem in entirely the wrong way. #stopfitspiration-ers take the view that you should love yourself before you change yourself, not work on changing yourself to help you love yourself. Whilst I will acknowledge that that is an admirable stand-point, I honestly don’t think it’s practical for most people and I also don’t think that wanting to improve your body and your health through increased fitness is actually that unhealthy (unless of course you take it too extremes, which I’m not advocating).

So, in your opinion, is fitspiration – or, in proper English, encouraging exercise and fitness – just another form of body-shaming? Is promoting a healthy lifestyle and improved fitness really a bad thing and sending the message that the way you are/look now is deficient or wrong?
Maybe it comes down to the way you look at it – is fitspiration about encouraging exercise to change the way people look or encouraging exercise to improve people’s fitness and health?

As far as I’m concerned, it isn’t. I see the promotion of fitness as a promotion of health, and there’s no way that can be bad, right? From my point of view, it isn’t about saying that any body shape or anything about the way you look is wrong, it’s about saying that everyone benefits from being fit, any changes in the way your body looks are just a side effect – if you’re fitter, you’ll feel better no matter what your shape, size or style.

I’d really love to hear your thought on this as it still baffles me a bit,

New Year: 2012

This time last year I set out a short list of resolutions, things I wanted to achieve and develop during 2011 (here). Looking back over this list one year on, I’ve done ok, better than I expected anyway πŸ™‚ This is a bit of a wordy post I’m afraid, but is something I really want to write about.

Reviewing my 2011 Resolutions

1. Lose Weight/Tone Up
Over the summer I put in a lot of effort and lost half a stone in about 2 months. While the amount of effort I’ve put in since has tailed off a bit, I haven’t put any of it back on, just lost a little bit of tone.

2. Invest in a more grown up skin-care regime
Well, I’ve written quite a lot about this over the course of the year (here). I’ve experimented with a fair few products and have found something that is certainly more suitable for my skin than what I was using before.

3. Make more time for the important people in my life
My efforts on this haven’t been wholly consistent. I’ve gone through phases in the amount of effort I’ve made, and overall probably haven’t made as much effort as I had intended 😦

4.Β Work on being happier/more confident and enjoying life more
My mood has fluctuated a lot this year, for various reasons, but I have definitely made significant efforts towards being happier and enjoying life more. Pete and I have made more efforts to do fun things together and I have really tried hard to stretch myself and do things that wouldn’t normally be within my comfort zone (eg. Blogger Meet!).

5. Work harder
This had probably been my area of least success. My dedication and motivation has taken a fair few hits at various points, and I think I’ve probably spent more time wishing I wasn’t doing a PhD than I have feeling positive about finishing 😦

So, that’s probably 3 and a half out of five? Could have been better could have been worse. But it’s important to keep focussing on the future, moving forward and continuing to better ourselves, not dwelling on the past and the things we could have done better.
Which brings me nicely to my resolutions for 2012. I’ve actually written a big long list of things in my ideas book, but I’ll limit myself to the key ones here.

1. Lose more weight/Regain my tone
I am very happy that I managed to lose half a stone this year, but my ideal weight is about 10 stone, which is still another half stone away. I’ve done it once so I am confident I can do it again this year πŸ™‚
While exercise is going to be the biggest part of this (Gillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred), I want to improve my diet too, largely by reducing the amount of unrefined carbohydrates I eat.

2. Continue my efforts to be happier, confident and to enjoy life more
Again, I laid a good foundation for this is 2011, but there is more I can do. While money is always a limiting factor, I hope to get out and have fun as much as possible, with friends, family and Pete. I need to do at least one thing this year that scares me (another Blogger Meet couldΒ fulfilΒ this one).
For the sake of minimising the number of resolutions, I should also throw making more efforts with the people I care about in here too. These people are so important and it’s too easy to forget this before you realise they’re gone.

4. Get more work published
In 2011, I had my first article published by an online magazine. I intend to get more work published, by the same magazine and, hopefully, beyond! Writing is still a career I think I might like to pursue, so I’ll need all the experience I can get.

5. Develop my skills
Specifically, I want to improve some of my craft skills, take a class on cupcake decorating and learn more about photography.

6. Leave Southampton
I have been in Southampton for more years than I care to think. It’s not a bad town, but after so long it seems a bit boring to me. I don’t want to be limited by location, there has to be somewhere better!!

7. Grow my hair
Well, it might be a bit overwhelming if all my resolutions were big ones! I’ve tried to grow my hair before and always got annoyed with it at that in-between stage. This year I really want to try and get past that. I might still want to go back to being short, but I at least want to try it longer πŸ™‚


The prospect of an entire new year spread out in front of me, with so many things I want to achieve, is quite daunting. I am hopeful for a year of positive developments and making happy memories.
Have you taken any time to think about your ambitions for 2012? Whether you have or haven’t, I hope the year holds good things for you too.

Love,
Betty
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The conundrum of baking whilst on a diet

As you may well be aware, I have been on a ‘diet’ of sorts for about six weeks now. I say ‘diet’, it’s more trying to eat sensibly and with fewer snacks than I did before, significantly fewer snacks, with a greater awareness of the calorie content of things. Ever since sitting down and calculating the calorie content of a cupcake I have been too terrified to bake, with visions of taking a bite and every seam of my clothing splitting open as I instantly gain a stone. Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but not actually a million miles from the actual fears racing through my mind.
Finally, this morning, I got on the scales to discover I had reached the weight that I had been hoping for, 10 and a half stone! Although I didn’t feel quite the level of elation that I had anticipated, I am still pretty pleased with myself. In celebration I decided it was time I indulged my baking passion once more, by breaking out my slightly-adapted-for-a-lower-calorie-content cookie recipe.

Pure Dairy-free Sunflower Spread

Agave Syrup

The base recipe came from the Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar book by Isa Chandra Moskowitz except I replaced the oil for Pure Dairy Free Sunflower Spread and some of the sugar for Agave nectar, as both contain fewer calories than the original ingredients.
I wasn’t totally sure the recipe would work, as the recipe goes on about some sort of reaction between the oil and sugar, and I had no idea how essential this would be to the finished product! Fortunately, they came out well. The mix didn’t spread as much in the oven as when made with oil, but that’s hardly the end of the world. Maybe the finished products are a little soft, but I honestly don’t know if that’s down to the recipe or my rubbish oven, I’ll bake them longer next time to see. On the most important point, taste, they are definitely a success. Also, with getting 14 out of a batch, based on my calculations, they’re only around 100 calories each, which isn’t bad for a cookie!!

Mixture with Vanilla, pre chocolate chips

Mix with chocolate πŸ™‚

Cookies!

Now my next task is to control myself so I don’t eat them all in one sitting :/
I have used the agave syrup before, but only in recipes where it was prescribed. I think I shall be trying it out as a sugar substitution in some other recipes. I had never heard of it before I started my journey into vegan baking. It come from the agave plant, which I have been led to believe is a cactus and is also used in the production of tequila. Apparently, it’s popular in vegan baking as an alternative to honey, as vegans class honey as an animal product. I’ve also heard things about agave being potentially suitable for diabetics, but I’d check that out for yourself, don’t take my expression of vague hear-say as fact.

Anyway,
Hope you are keeping well,
Betty
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Catching Up

I am a bad, bad blogger. In all honesty I’ve felt very drained recently, I’ve had words to write but no energy to actually write them with.
Prior to my lack of energy, I was actually feeling pretty good πŸ™‚ The diet and exercise have already begun to pay off, I’ve lost nearly 4 pounds in 2 weeks which I think is pretty good. It already shows when I wear my skinny jeans, almost no muffin tops, which were one of my biggest drivers. It hasn’t been easy though. I have next to no will power, especially when it comes to cakes, biscuits and chocolate, but I’ve been very, very good. I’ve even surprised myself! I do miss baking though. I’m also almost enjoying exercise. Almost. It’s still a hideous process, and I hate being sweaty, but, once I’ve recovered, I do feel good for having done it πŸ™‚

Also got my hair cut last week. I’ve had short hair since I was about 18, and no matter how many times I think I’d like to try and grow it longer it always gets to a point where I get so frustrated and annoyed with it that I just go to the hairdresser and have it all chopped off again. Sometimes I regret going too short, but not this time, I’m loving how easy it is to manage and style πŸ™‚ I’m pretty sure my hairdresser likes being given more-or-less free rein over my hair. I’m not really too scared to try anything, at least once. It’s only hair, it’ll grow back! Even if it doesn’t, I can buy wigs and have different hair every day!

Hmm, nice background of piles of work :/

Having my hair cut actually made me feel loads better, more so than I expected. That combined with the weight loss gave me a very good few days πŸ™‚ I’ve also managed to get to see most of my really good friends over the past week. I didn’t go out, just had people round for chats, but it was still nice. It’s good to remember that there are people who want to see me and that I can manage social situations, hold conversations and not totally bore people.

The good feelings have been wearing off a bit over the past few days. Weight loss has hit a bit of a plateau and I don’t have much energy to boost the exercise, although I am going to try later. I sort of miss doing it, in a really strange and unfamiliar sort of way. Lack of energy and enthusiasm has also taken a bit of a toll on my work rate and I haven’t got as much done as I feel I should have done.
Tried going out with some work friends last night, but that might have been a step too far. One of those situations where being around a lot of people actually leaves me feeling more alone than ever. It wasn’t bad, nothing bad happened, but it just reminded me of how distant I am from all those people and their lives.
All I want is someone to hold me today, so I’m probably not going to be very productive.

It is my birthday a week today and my mum is coming to visit, so my diet and exercise regime may not be easy to maintain. I suppose I’m just hoping I don’t put on any weight, I’m definitely not expecting to lose any. Need to try and get as much work done as I can before my mum gets here. Really need to find some get-up-and-go, any ideas where it got-up-and-went to? :/

Best Wishes
Betty
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Time Out

I’ve taken a little time off this morning to run some errands and get my head in order.
Needed to pop into town for yet more printer ink and some foundation, as I was running at a critically low leve of bothl. I’ve spent more than my monthly clothes budget on printer ink this month, which is very, very sad. Hopefully, I won’t have to buy more after this, but I’m not counting my chickens yet.
For a change, I went to John Lewis instead on Boots to get my foundation. Foundation is one area of my make-up where I don’t skimp and have accepted that Β£30 is actually a bargain for a good one. I wear Lancome Colour Ideal in 010, I like the colour and the coverage, and I also can’t be bothered with scouring the beauty counters looking for an alternative. It was my first venture into liquid foundation when I first tried it, previously I had been using a pressed powder type product from Max Factor, which went on very thick and creased easily but as a teenageer I was even less inclined to engage the beauty counter ladies than I am now. Needless to say I haven’t looked back, and these days my foundation is about the most grown-up part of my beauty regime.
Anyone who has stuck with me for a little while, may remember that part of my New Years Resolution list was to invest in more grown-up skin care, not that I’m concerned with being grown up or acting my age, but my skin isn’t 16 any more and should probably be being treated better. So, as part of my encounter with the Lancome lady in John Lewis, and completely caught up in the little bit of glamour the experience exudes, I have an appointment for a ‘complimentary’ skin consultation next Tuesday. Now, I say ‘complimentary’ because, while there may be no charge for the actual consultation process, it would be naive to think that I will be able to leave said session without having made a couple of purchases. At least I am aware of this prior to the appointment, but I figure every girl eserves a treat once in a while, especially when she’s been doing as much tedious work I as have lately. I will certainly set myself a limit of how much I will spend, but I’m pretty sure it’ll need to go on the credit card til the end of the month :/ The slightly crazy part is the fact that I am a) planning what I should wear on such an occasion and b) planning on putting extra time into my skin care over the next few days to ensure I look the best I can without my make-up to impress the consultant, it’s a bit like cleaning before a cleaner comes round so they don’t think you’re untidy. I’m all for getting a bit of glamour into everyday life, so I am actually really looking forward to being indulged.
I’m also hoping that a little bit of pampering might lift my mood a bit, as the past week or so I’ve been feeling a bit low. Largely it’s a result of all the work I’m having to do, with no time for anything I particularly enjoy, but also the fact that the lack of time has meant my exercise programme has been put on hold and somehow I’ve gained about 4 pounds, taking me back over 11 stone 😦 It’s got me down quite a lot, so anything that can lift my spirits quickly would be very welcome. Sorry, didn’t want this to be another moany blog.
Anyway. I hope it is sunny where you are. Almost feels like spring.
Betty
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Ingredients

I’m not sure how relevant the title will be to the post, but I wasn’t sure what else to call it. I hadn’t meant to leave it this long since last time, but, between actual work and feeling screwed up, I haven’t had time or inspiration to write.
I have, thus far, not followed through with my near acceptance of joining a gym. I have, however, been making significant efforts to work out at home. I have been trying to find out more about the best types of exercise to o given my thyroid condition and the specific areas I want to target. Unfortunately, I find the more I read about exercise the less inclined I am to do it. Largely I think this is due to how difficult some people can make it sounds, expecially compared to the amount of effort I think I will reasonably be able to muster. My biggest concerns at the moment are my thighs, bum and hip area, so the advice largely seems to be aerobic exercise (ie. jogging), squats and lunges. Doesn’t seem too bad, except, I read on one site that, for a woman, it can take at least 30-40 minutes of aerobic exercise before you start to burn fat. So, factoring in my lousy metabolosim, I could be looking at maybe 50 minutes or even an hour of aerobic exercise BEFORE I started to burn fat. Now I just know that that is beyond me, not even being defeatist, an hour of jogging!? No way. I have been making my best efforts so far, with a couple of 30 minute Wii aerobic sessions and a couple of 20-25 minute non-computer aided jogging sessions in just a week. To be honest I think I can already notice a difference, which is nice as I normally give up from lack of visible results. No change in scale readings yet though :/
I have been wanting to make brownies for about a week as well, inspired by seeing Katie last Wednesday. Unfortunately my exercise and calorie related guilt has prevented me, alongside a lack of some ingredients, most notably, silken tofu. Yesterday I finally got around to getting out to the international food store and getting the necessary tofu so I can now make brownies whenever I wish. Ideally I should wait until I will be seeing people so I can share them and not pig out all on my own, but I’m only human πŸ™‚
I’ve also been looking into how to make a vegan caramel slice. I have the recipe but need to source some ingredients like powdered soy milk to make condensed soy milk with. I’ve found it on the internet but I have heard there is a new health food shop not too far from my flat so I intend to walk there tomorrow and check it out. There are some other things I’m interesting in getting hold of for other vegan recipes, like agar for meringues and egg replacer just to generally test.

I saw my friend Hannah today, who I have known since secondary school (maybe 12 or 13 years ago!) but am very bad at arranging to see regularly. As seeing people more is one of my resolutions I will definitely be making more effort to see her. I had a good afternoon just sat chatting with her, we talked a lot about movies. I like movies but am bad at getting to the cinema to see them (you may know my opinion on cinema prices) and then even worse at remembering the films I wanted to see after they have been released on DVD. Hannah seems to see a lot of movies, particularly less mainstream / more interesting movies, which I generally find more appealing than blockbuster, big name, hollywood drivel. The discussions have inspired me to make a list of movies I want to see, and subsequently start watching. I would start watching them this evening but Indianna Jones and The Last Crusade is on BBC1 at 8, and I have always liked the Indy films πŸ™‚

That’s quite a lot of waffle considering I didn’t really have a plan when I started out.
Hope you are well
Betty
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