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Archive for May, 2010

Photo Credit: Petra Röder, Photo Express

I’ve been feeling a bit depressed about my weight recently and have been completely unable to shift the excess kilos. Any efforts at dieting have been short-lived and resulted in adding to my surplus rather than reducing it. My ludicrous attempts to loose 10 kilos in 10 weeks (see this post) were quickly thwarted by life, and I actually managed to put on 5 kilos along the way!

I have tried to take some steps to loosing weight in the recent weeks. I used to be a dancer. It doesn’t seem like an eternity ago but it must have been, as after a 40 minute drive across town to a dance studio I’d found on the internet I was bitterly disappointed.

As I walked in I realized the receptionist and all the dancers loitering around were about 18 and made me look ancient. They all looked like extras from Pineapple Dance Studios, and I looked just like Louis – the old one (if you don’t know about Pineapple then have a look at some of these videos, they’re a scream!Pineapple Dance Studios on YouTube).

The receptionist showing me around asked how many years ago it had been since I had danced. Note: Not just how long ago, but how many years ago… She kindly advised that their lessons were not really for beginners (she obviously didn’t believe that I had once danced professionally, albeit on ice!) and invited me to attend an open day if I wanted to try… it was a nice let down but I’m a very busy lady and 40 minutes drive across town is just too far and too much time in the car to reflect on the fact that I can no longer move as I once did.

MC Hammer Pants

Things came to a head on my holiday in Portugal when I was forced to wear MC Hammer style pants under dresses, as my dresses had turned themselves into tunics and had become indecent to wear in public. The MCH pants were actually supposed to have been tracksuit bottoms (but are actually harem pants or so I’m told) which I was expecting to wear elegantly with high heels. Not so.

Determined to look better, get fit and loose weight without being so strict that I set myself up for failure as I did last time. So, last Monday I set myself a target of loosing 4 kilos in 4 weeks before my next trip. To celebrate the setting of a realistic target, Hubby and I order Pizza Domino one final time and then weighed ourselves the next morning, hopefully being at our heaviest.

Not just content to do a gentle diet, I decided to embark on a keep fit routine as well and this, my dear readers, in where things started to unravel at an alarming rate.

Tuesday night: 30 minutes on the cross trainer followed by floor exercises and weights. At some point the blood circulation in my feet was cut off (my feet are too fat for my trainers?) and I lost all sensation in my toes! Manically rubbed my feet after and eventually all feeling came back. Great! This might just work, or so I thought.

Wednesday night: Time to add some diversity to my routine. If you’ve bought a packet of Fitness cereal recently (yes, this is how serious I am, even my breakfast cereal is called Fitness!) you would’ve received a free Les Mills DVD; Either Body Balance or Body Pump. I’d managed to eat my way through two boxes so had both DVD’s. I’d heard great things about these DVD’s so aching all over from the day before (don’t laugh, because I couldn’t so much my abdominal muscles hurt), I motivated myself to get stuck in and popped the Body Balance on in the machine.

Piglet’s Comedy Club

Setting: Living room, yoga mat on floor, television playing fitness DVD, a mixture of Yoga and Pilates.

Character: Piglet, dressed in holey tracksuit, bare feet (trainers too tight) and looking motivated. Spare tyre round middle held in place by too tight t-shirt.

Scene 1: Lady on DVD starts demonstrating the routine, Piglet to follow. Downward Dog. Grunt. Lady effortlessly slides from position to position, throwing in a plank from time to time. Piglet scrabbles around on all fours, bum in air, back on all fours in order to stand up, whoops, she’s toppled over. Another grunt. Ridiculous laughter. She tries to do the Plank but fails miserably and then splat on her face. Scene repeats.

Scene 2: 15 minutes later.
Frightfully fit ladies on DVD still doing graceful pilates moves. Piglet still flailing around in all directions. Time to lie on front on the floor. Extend arm and opposite leg, bend both and grab foot from behind. Piglet’s body will not move, hand grapples frantically trying to find foot. Ladies on DVD carry out said move with elegance, Piglet falls over without having held foot.

End Credits: Ladies on DVD are honed, toned and fighting fit. Piglet cannot get back up. Stays on floor. Crys. Is old. Spare tyre still there.

Yep, that’s right; I must have done something wrong as I wasn’t able to walk for three days after! Imagine the old ladies you sometimes see at the Dr’s surgery or at the market. The one’s wearing the contention tights and super sensible orthopedic shoes because they’ve had a hip replacement job? Well I was walking just like them. I couldn’t stand up, sit down or even turnaround without being in dreadful pain so I had to add to the hole in the French social security budget.

Miracously my hip is better now, but the Dr wants me to get an x-ray to check it out as he thinks there could be some joint damage. He’s also banned me from any sporty activity for the time being. Is this what ageing is about? And what about loosing weight?

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Blooming Berries!

All the recent rain has done wonders for my garden. Sitting in it now, it looks like a pot jungle – all my flowers have taken and are doing wonderfully. A true array of pinks, reds and whites dotted around the garden in terracotta (or whatever I could find) pots, not to mention the blues of the forget-me-nots.

I think some of the success is due to Hubby’s installation of an automatic watering system. Certainly it rained a lot (and I mean a lot!) before we left for our holiday, but I believe last week was quite dry and yet the garden is thriving without me watching over it.

My strawberries are doing wonderfully. I truly didn’t expect to be able to eat them yet – when I left they were so tiny and white and now they are great big bright red, ripe berries beckoning me over to eat them! Yummy!

Strawberries

Strawberries

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After the cold weather of the past few weeks, last week’s holiday was a shock to my system and to my wardrobe.

Having carried out the necessary prepping allowing me to bare my legs in public, actually committing to and wearing summer dresses and sandals seemed like a strange experience. My tootsies weren’t prepared but thankfully I was having a lazy beach holiday so didn’t need to share my un-pedicured feet with anyone as they were safely hidden in Crocs.

But, did you know about a new fashion faux pas? Forget strap lines or white bikini marks, you now have to watch out for Croc Spots!

Bearing in mind the weather was so awful before I left, I didn’t really expect everyone in the city to be in full summer mode when I ventured out in long trousers and trainers whilst sporting my new beach tan. How did all these French women get their feet done, their legs waxed and a fake tan so quickly? It seemed as if every woman in my local Carrefour was in sandals and summer dress mode. They must all be extremely organised, I bet they all had in scheduled in their diaries as I can never make an appointment that quickly! The beauticians must have made an absolute killing last week.

As for me, well, I’m busy exfoliating and will be going to get a pedicure this week to try out a new gel type varnish devised especially for toe nails. It’s supposed to be long lasting so we will see about that.

I also need to sort through my wardrobe and devise some city suitable outfits for my larger shape given that all the clothes I wore last year are now too small and all the clothes I bought this year (so far!) are suited more to the beach than the city. If I can’t find anything then I think a trip to New Look will be programmed, not the best quality clothing but at least I know they’ll fit!

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Last Saturday I was praying for the Volcanic Ash cloud to stay away and yesterday I was praying for it to come back so that we could stay in our Paradise for a little longer. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be and I am now consoling myself in the Lyonnais sun, knowing that I’ll be going back to the Western Algarve in just 4 weeks so I’m now back to hoping that that Icelandic volcano that no-one can pronounce stays away again.

My Suitcase

I’ve unpacked and have spent the morning wondering how men can travel so lightly? How on earth do they do it? I was quite proud of myself last week when packing, as my pile of clothes on the bed waiting to be packed appeared to be quite small compared to what I had been used to packing over the years. I congratulated myself thinking that my sailing trip last winter where our baggage was restricted in size and quantity had done me some good. Maybe, but not as much as Hubby! He put me to shame and my pile seemed like a mountain next to his little hill.

I was so worried that he really hadn’t taken enough clothes and had forewarned my Mum that we would need to do some washing. He had packed 1 swim shorts, 4 t-shirts, 4 shirts, 1 pair of shorts, 1 jumper, a pair of Crocs and had jeans which he was travelling in.

I on the other hand packed 4 dresses, 2 bikinis, 7 tops, 2 pairs of trousers, 3 pairs of shoes, 2 beach wraps, 4 jumpers/cardigans plus the clothes and shoes I was travelling. This really didn’t seem like a lot and I definitely had plenty to wear, but unpacking the suitcase now I’ve realised that half of it has gone unworn! I was never a Girl Guide but did go to the Brownies a couple of times so could it be them that trained me to pack for every eventuality?

Our suitcase weighed in at 25 KG so I’ve made a mental note to myself that if I ever travel Ryanair I will have to get Hubby to do my packing, otherwise my excess baggage charges may just be as much as my ticket! Thankfully we were travelling Easyjet so no problems, how I love Easyjet!

What really annoys me though, is that I had left a load of my toiletries in Portugal to save weight in the suitcase and to save me having to pack them again in 4 weeks time. Shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen… you name it, I’ve left it there to make more room in my suitcase (for more shoes maybe?). I was seriously regretting the sunscreen this morning though as I’d vowed in my quest against ageing never to go in the sun without adequate protection again and to my horror, this morning I realised that I had left all my sunscreen in Portugal bar my special factor 50 face cream!

Determined to be able to enjoy the sun whilst respecting my resolution to protect my skin, I searched amongst the hundreds of lotions and creams I appear to collect and eventually came up with some spray on sunscreen, factor 20. Perfect I thought, until I started spraying it on. A weird odour of celery caught my nose before the stinging sensation on my skin started. I think the lotion has turned into a celery scented vinegar! Anyway, it’s on now and I’m writing this sitting in the sun and so far no adverse affects…

Jims British Market

Jims British Market
When we arrived back in Geneva yesterday, I remembered that there was a British supermarket not to far away so I convinced Hubby to take us there on the way back to Lyon. Battling with TOM TOM who did not appear to want to go anywhere, yet alone a British supermarket we eventually made it there and I entered into English heaven as I explored the aisles of food and delights.

I noticed how brightly coloured all the packaging was compared to French supermarkets and everything just seemed to scream BUY ME, YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT ME! I was shocked by the prices, everything was so expensive but compared to some of the websites some people here had suggested at least I wasn’t having to pay excessive delivery charges and I suppose that Jim (whoever he is) had gone to the trouble of getting all this to France to start off with so given the price of petrol these days and the fact that he is a French business, mark up does have to be high for him to even begin making a profit!

Anyway, not put off by the prices I indulged in several items such as proper bacon, tomato and onion relish, sticky toffee pudding, Kettles Crisps (how good are they compared to the skinny Lays crisps in France!), Angel Delight, Lazy chilli and my favourite, a chicken and mushroom pie amongst other items.

I did notice that they didn’t have any Cadburys Cream Eggs with dismay, but it’s not really the season and I am well stocked up again thanks to my Mum and Dad who made sure that they bought me some more stock :)

Jim’s British Market & Tea Room Website

So this morning, not only am I sitting in the sun all relaxed and covered in sunscreen, but I’ve also enjoyed a somewhat English breakfast of bacon, egg and tomatoes!

Yummy Breakfast!

More yummy - with delish HP sauce!

Now I think I’ll have a go on the Google Pacman they’ve set up to celebrate Pacman’s 30th anniversary – you can actually play it by using your arrow keys, quite addictive! Gosh, who’d have thought I’m nearly as old as Pacman? I hope I haven’t aged as much as that game has!

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No gardening for me this week, I’m on holiday! Thanks to a lot of luck, I managed to fly from Geneva to Faro, Portugal last Saturday for a much needed week of sun and total relaxtion. I’ll leave you to enjoy some snaps of Earth’s garden taken with my iPhone (so please excuse the quality) this week:

Arrifana Beach

Arrifana Beach

Racing Pigeon who came looking for food and drink

Another Beach!

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Red Ant Sauce

Have you ever eaten anything strange or so beautiful that you just had to take a photo? On a trip to Cambodia in 2008, I happened to eat Red Ant Sauce and took a picture! I’m using the pic for this months Expat Focus photo comp which is entitled ‘Foreign Food’. To see my entry and other entries click here.

Wish me luck!

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I watched this door so long I fell asleep!

What a week! I haven’t been so intrigued by what’s going on in the UK for a long, long time. I’ve felt more British than in years this week and rather nostalgic that I was missing out on all the fun.

Despite regularly watching the news, first of all I missed the election results; ‘A Hung Parliament’ I was told,
‘yes’, I thought, ‘I would rather like them all to be hung.’

Then I missed Gordon Brown resigning (after watching the TV for ages I was so bored watching the black door of Number 10 that my eyes shut) and then the Cameron-Clegg combination being agreed (too busy working this time). Oh well, I was obviously not meant to partake more than that, serves me right for living in France! Not that any of it really matters to me anyway, we’ll probably be voting again in less than a year.

I didn’t manage to miss two stories that would further confirm the circus politics and electoral saga in the UK:

1) Boy 14 voted – investigated by police. Yes, the incompetent people organizing the voting not only didn’t know whether to let people vote or not, but they also let a child vote!

2) Councillor looses seat by draw of a card. A Tory former councillor lost his seat to a Labour opponent after they obtained an equal number of votes and the winner was decided by drawing a playing card… the highest number wins. WHAT? Maybe this is democratic but it seems absolutely mental to me.

Doesn’t the political voting system seem more logical in France somehow? I honestly never thought I would even think yet alone say out loud such a thing but the events of the past week have changed my mind!

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Jardinage Jeudi

Yet another week of crap weather has come and gone and yet another week of no gardening for me. The grass is sodden and needs to be cut and the plants all look as if their swamped in water. In fact, the garden is beginning to look like a swamp rather than a romantic courtyard where one can relax with a nice glass of chilled rose.

My re-potting plans are put on hold and I can’t say that I’ve been enjoying my garden. In fairness, I did say I was a fair-weather gardener in my first JJ post so it is only to be expected that I have nothing to report when it has been raining all week long!

However, the rain has made for some interesting progress in the garden; My tomato plants are growing second to none and the strawberries are everywhere. In a very bored moment I decided to count how many strawberries were growing – I got up to 106 and then stopped counting. Now all we need is for the sun to come out and make the things turn red!!!

Tomato Plants

A plant I have had for a long time now is a Rhododendron which my parents gave me when they left England and which I then subsequently moved to France. I’m told that it’s over 20 years old and I have memories of it looking lovely when I was much younger, but it has looked like this for at least the last 4 years:

Why I ask? I have given it flower food and fertilizer but it won’t move. See those buds? I’m not sure but I think they were there last year so I’m not entirely confident that I will have flowers this year. I really don’t want to risk killing this plant as it’s been in the family a long time now, but I am at a loss as to what to do with it. Any suggestions welcome!

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Rather than write about politics and the UK Election results today I thought I’d share a recent gastronomical experience with you.

My French family in law are quite the gastronomes and my Belle-Mere is such a good cook it’s a really daunting experience whenever I have to cook for them. I’m sure everyone knows someone like her; the type of person who can throw together a feast from nothing and who can easily follow a recipe and have the food come out looking like it’s supposed to.

Anyway, last Sunday I was brave enough to face the supermarket after everything in France closed on the Saturday for the Fete de Travail national holiday. It was a nice change to visit a different supermarket in a different area of France and I leisurely strolled around admiring all the produce which I could buy (but didn’t as I had to take back a sofa suite to Lyon – see yesterdays Jardinage Jeudi). At lunch I was commenting on how my beaux parents (BP) were lucky to have such a wonderful choice of interesting produce in their local supermarket.

You can buy all types of things that I’ve never seen in Lyon, such as delicate little cheeses filled with fig or honey for the aperitif, fig bread or olive sticks for dipping. Our conversation continued as we each recalled different produce that we purchase and enjoy.

Then the conversation turned to things that we couldn’t find anymore and my Beau-Pere mentioned that they couldn’t buy buns anymore. I immediately thought he was referring to a sweet delicacy that I was obviously missing out on given how highly he was speaking of them. I was then really confused when everyone started talking about the pros and cons of Bolognese and Leek fillings.

I’m proud to say that I didn’t cotton on, as ready-made frozen food isn’t really my thing (except for Picard, but that’s another story) so I eventually asked. As it turns out they were talking about frozen fast food, no less than McCain’s Buns!

Now who would have thought that you would hear such a conversation at a French dinner table? Not me for sure and it’s not exactly what I thought I would be hearing from my In-laws!

A really missed delicacy - My French BP's cannot find these in their local supermarket!

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Well, contrary to last week when I started Jardinage Jeudi, temperatures have dramatically declined and it has been tipping it down, so I’ve not been in the mood for gardening. I did mention in my last post that my lack of talent in the gardening department is probably due to the fact that I am a fair-weather gardener.

My Belle-Mere told me last weekend that its normal for cold spells to arrive in May, and that until the Saints de Glace (11th, 12th and 13th May) are finished we are still at risk of frost and traditionally you’re supposed to avoid planting anything sensitive until afterwards. Ah well, if I’d known that before…

Looking at Pissou’s blog, we’re getting off lightly in Lyon compared to other places. Check out the photos of the snow that she had on May 4th – unbelievable, somebody tell the weather we’re in May for goodness sakes!

So, not being very keen on the gardening this week I have turned my attention to improving my comfort in the garden and stuff that can be grown indoors.

On a previous visit to the Beaux-Parents (BP), Hubby and I spotted a lovely outdoor sofa suite, complete with cushions and all. The price was right (and so much cheaper than anything I had seen over the past two years) but the location was not. Not too worried about how we would get it from Provence to Lyon, we bought it and had it delivered to the BP’s house. We weren’t feeling quite so smart this weekend when we were confronted with an absolute mammoth box! How we were going to get that back to Lyon was another question entirely.

Hubby as always, was full of bright ideas and eventually we set off, in gale force winds, with a sofa and a table on the roof and the rest of the chairs in the car. Fearful of being stopped by the police on the motorway (and also for ours and other drivers’ safety) we set off on a long drive home, Nationale 7 all the way. Despite the bad weather, it made for a nice change and the scenery was lovely (I of course was not driving so could fully take in my surroundings). If it wasn’t for having a sofa on the roof and for fear of having it nicked if we stopped (yep, I am too used to living in a city now) I would have loved to have stopped at some of the vineyards and quaint little villages we crossed along our way.

The whole experience reminded me somewhat of the Maghrebin families that return to their home countries with plenty of goods for their families in the summer. You often see them on the motorways with loads as big as their cars tied to their roofs and I’ve often wondered how long it would take them to arrive at destination. They are certainly determined people and it must take a lot of courage and patience to go all that way with that much stuff on the roof.

Photo Credit: Code Clic.com

Anyway, the outdoor suite is now back safely and installed in our garden. Unfortunately it hasn’t stopped raining for long enough for us to sit on and enjoy it, but it looks like it may stop in time for the weekend, so fingers crossed…

A big thank you to Gillpj and Rosabell who helped me in identifying my flowers last week. They are looking a bit worse for wear after all the bad weather but I am confident that now I know what they are I should be able to grow them successfully. I guess only time and TLC will tell! On Rosabell’s recommendation I have even purchased a new hanging basked (PIC) for my ‘special geraniums’ officially called Tirol Geranium. I will be waiting until the weather improves though before re-planting!

So, onto what’s been growing inside. A few weeks ago I planted some Basil seeds in yoghurt pots, in the hope that they would grow big enough for me to be able to plant them outside with the tomato plants. I did this last year and had three lovely Basil plants. This year is not proving to be as successful though, unfortunately my cats got at the seedlings last weekend and I only have two little spurts of a plant left! They obviously preferred the taste of Basil plants to their cat biscuits! I guess I’ll be planting some more soon.

Poor Basil Seedlings

Possible Culprit 1


Possible Culprit 2

Here’s hoping the sun comes back out in time for the weekend so I can get back in the garden.

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