Healthy eating seems to work!

I wanted to share my happy evening with all of you – I was at my Slimming World group last night and annually each group chooses its ‘Woman of the Year’ that has done well on the plan and inspired other members and when they announced that I had won… well I own up I did cry a little bit!

I joined just over a year ago – not for the first time at a group down here in the South West – but the first time in this particular group at Cheddar in Somerset, just near my daughter. As it’s held on a Monday evening, and I am official Granny child minder if needed over the weekend and on Mondays, I rarely go into the office those days.

This is a before picture of me – on holiday about to go kayaking if I remember rightly … poor old kayak I say, no wonder it wasn’t very stable! Early 2016 was a tough time for me as all the Create and Craft viewers probably know as I lost my mother and father one after the other in the same week in January.

Having surfaced after the funeral and still being more than a little weighted down by the sadness I took a good look at the carrier bag full of medicines that I collected from the chemist every few weeks and decided I had to do something to make sure it wasn’t me joining them any time soon!

I had heavy medication for diabetes and still very high numbers, two different meds for high blood pressure and various other things I took and yes, it really was a carrier bag full every couple of weeks or so.

I joined Slimming World (again) but this time at a totally different group with possibly the best leader in the world (Cathy you’re so good) and began to relearn my eating habits. You know how annoying it is when people say this isn’t a diet it’s a lifestyle change well… nah I’m not going to say that… but it’s true.

I lost eight pounds in my first week and a stone in my first month, I focussed so hard and was very determined to make it work this time. And so it did for many months. Then I found it harder and harder to shift the pounds. It was a combination of my failings and also being older and having lost so much, maybe my body got mean!

However I concentrated on keeping my blood sugar readings good (for those in the know my levels went from 14.6 down to 5.1 where they have been for many months now) and am now no longer listed as diabetic by my doc, no more checks, no more meds, no more high blood pressure and all is good.

For now, I need to keep plodding on, I need to keep those blood levels steady forever and some more weight off would be fab – I am just under four stone lighter than at my heaviest and I would love to see another couple of stones disappear into the ether!

I hope my Mum and Dad would be really proud of me!

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Seals and Surf!

This lovely card was made by Sylvie Ashton for the last TV show. Apart from demonstrating beautifully how fab our Seal Family die is, it also has a fascinating use for our Ocean Corner die.

I think it’s really important to encourage everyone to look at dies and think of different ways to use them. Dies are an investment, they aren’t going to perish or evaporate, they will always be there. So let’s try and get the best use from them that we can.

What this design does is take the coral edging from our Ocean Corner and round the edges a little, snip a little and turn them into the foam on the waves. Very effective and a great additional use for a corner die!

The waves and rocks are also worth pointing out – these are cut/torn papers from our Paper pad volume 3 – so often it’s easy to flip through a pad and say “Nah, not my kind of patterns” but backing papers have many uses and gorgeous flowers and lace are indeed some of my favourite backing papers (see Volume 1!) but we also need creatively inspiring colours and designs to help do something just a little bit different.

The last point I want to make is the sky. Any of you that caught the show will have seen the post it note demo, but for those that didn’t …. the sky is so very simple but effective I reckon! It needs a post it note and a pad of Tim Holtz Distress Inks – one of the blues – and an implement to apply the ink. You can use a lovely whizzy fat brush as I do, or a foam applicator as he does or just use a screwed up old tissue…. it works! Cut the clouds out from the post-it (making sure there’s a piece of tacky left somewhere on the cloud) and position them on a suitably sized piece of white card. Splodge or whisky around the clouds and across the sky …. then remove the post it notes and ta-da … clouds in a blue sky.

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It’s a tall story…

Spot the difference – there are nine sub-species of giraffe, and each one has different patterns on their skin and also some different colourations

Whenever I post anything about giraffes, I get great feedback and a feeling that you all just love these amazing creatures. There are so many things about giraffes that are technically wrong – they look like a poor police photo fit, a peculiar job lot of bits and pieces stuck together – and yet so many people adore them.

They are gentle giants, huge herbivores grazing the treetops in Africa, using their 45cm black tongues to bring the food into their mouths. At the end of that ridiculously long neck is one of cutest faces you will find, a head more suited to a small deer than an 18ft ruminant!

As well as its pretty face, the giraffe also has the most amazingly languid slow motion gait. A running giraffe is never hurried and always graceful, its long limbs making it impossible to make quick movements. A giraffe has only two gaits – walking and galloping, but once it is moving, wow can it move! A giraffe can reach a sprint speed of up to 60 km/h (37 mph) and can keep going at 50 km/h (31 mph) for several kilometres.

The giraffe’s coat is another thing of beauty. There are nine sub-species of giraffe, and each one has different patterns on their skin and also some different colourations. From the pale West African giraffe with widely spaced red blotches on a pale background to the reticulated giraffe whose distinctive coat is made up of sharp-edged, reddish brown patches divided by a network of thin white lines looking very much like crazy paving!

Although generally very quiet animals, giraffes have been heard to communicate using sounds. During courtship, males emit loud coughs, not exactly romantic, but hey… Females call their young by bellowing and their calves will emit snorts, bleats, mooing and mewing sounds. Giraffes also snore, hiss, moan, grunt and make flute-like sounds. And if all that wasn’t cute enough, during the night, giraffes appear to hum to each other! I am so smitten with these animals!

They are sociable creatures, but they don’t form herds. Instead, they meet in groups each day and the makeup of a group changes from day to day – how good is that? No fear of getting stuck with the neighbourhood bore! So, basically, if given the chance, I think I’d like to be a giraffe. But having said that… there are drawbacks. Gestation is 400–460 days… that is an awfully long time to be pregnant. And, while the mother gives birth standing up, a new-born giraffe is between 5’6” and 6’6” tall!!

After more than 400 days of pregnancy, the baby giraffe can be up to 6’6″ tall at birth!

The males, or bulls, establish a pecking order by neck-wrestling. If a strange bull wanders into the area, a resident bull will challenge it, and the two will bang their heads together until one of them retreats! I confess I can think of several leading ‘bulls’ in our world today who I would happily encourage to bang their heads together –­ but no Joanna, don’t go there!

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Lettuce make soup!

We have had huge success with lettuce this year. So huge in fact that I am worried about how to use it all! So I started asking friends and reading up on the internet – hmm I wonder if you can make lettuce jam? Lettuce fritters?

Well, the sensible answers I got, bearing in mind this is a one person family for feeding lettuce related dishes to (Richard doesn’t like greens very much) were all headed by lettuce soup. My first reaction was yuk, how can that be nice and the answer is – try the recipe and see! I used mainly Cos and Romaine lettuce as that’s what was threatening to bolt in the garden.!

I am now definitely a fan of lettuce soup, I have multiple pots sitting neatly in the freezer and if I have another glut in a month or two, I will be making it again. I have to say if I was being given a blind taste test I would just say it’s a green soup but would not have guessed lettuce. The butter I think adds flavour but of course, if you really can’t have the fat content there are ways around it like using a spray oil instead for cooking.

The other thing I must mention if we are on the topic of lettuce, is how often I use the leaves as a wrap. So my smoked salmon/lettuce or hard boiled egg/lettuce sandwiches are just that – no bread just a wrap made from a large crispy lettuce leaf. I like it – give it a try and see what you think!

Lettuce Soup

The quantities in this are fairly arbitrary, I tweak them to match what I have coming out of the garden or in the fridge at that moment.

Ingredients

  • Large handful of chopped spring onions
  • 1 garlic clove chopped (or skip if you don’t like it)
  • 3 tablespoons or so butter
  • Salt (small teaspoon) and pepper maybe half a teaspoon
  • I medium to large potato chopped into slices or diced
  • Then about 12 ounces of lettuce – I often use even more
  • 3 cups of really nice chicken stock – or use a chicken stock cube

Method

  1. Sauté the spring onion and garlic in a large saucepan with about half the butter. Stir gently until they are soft and then add the salt and pepper and cook for another minute or so.
  2. Now add the potato chunks, the lettuce roughly ripped to pieces and the chicken stock. Bring to boil and simmer for 12 minutes or so, until the potatoes are cooked. I leave the lid on the saucepan to preserve the liquid.
  3. I have been known to add more lettuce at this point if I felt it was too thin, in which case I just simmer a little longer to soften the lettuce (it wilts pretty fast) and then continue.
  4. Let the mixture cool a bit and then purée with either a hand blender or a food processor.
  5. Finally, stir in the rest of the butter and then taste for seasoning. This freezes well, just defrost and then warm in a saucepan.

I realise this is a fairly loose recipe but each time I have made it, I have tweaked the amounts of the main ingredients. It is a very flexible concept that can work with whatever you have to hand!

25 Comments

It’s a boy …

Would that be for a boy giraffe? No, I suspect it would be aimed at a small human! But I thought this was a lovely use of the Giraffe Panel die.

I am often stumped for a novel twist on a new baby card. It’s fun to be able to send new Mums and Dads a card with a difference that still send the same congratulatory message. Using giraffes is rather fun.

Obviously, you could instantly tweak this to a new baby girl by using pink instead of blue – or if you were being super efficient and making in advance without prior knowledge of the gender of the baby, how about a lovely cream colour scheme or pale green. The giraffes could be made sepia rather than shades of grey.

I often find a monotone themed colouring process is a lot more successful than I expect. Try using sepia or shades of grey on your next project and see what you think.

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