Thursday 27 August 2009

Day One in the House

9am - Feel like I need the Big Brother diary room to come and report in on Lighter Life progress.
I was still reeling from the shock of my bust measurement when I awoke this morning, having been measured last night. Immediately after the measuring, your photo is taken and I'm sure that in mine I will have a look of total incredulity on my face and if I look closer I'll be able to see myself mouthing the hideous figure that she'd just read off the tape measure.

Porridge for breakfast and it was actually OK . Not only that but I almost couldn't finish it although I'm not sure if that was down to uncertainty about the taste rather than fullness. Ate it with a small teaspoon ( old Weight Watchers trick) to make it last longer . Haven't quite perfected the lump eradication yet but I will be getting plenty of practice as that's what I'll be having every day for the next 98 days. Ate it alone , didn't want the children saying " Yuk that looks disgusting " or 'Can I try some... Yuk that's disgusting" or even just plan "Yuk" . Felt quite lonely at the breakfast table and reminiscent of that famous scene from Oliver.

12am - sadly I've been clock watching for the last 2 hours . Ravenous. vegetable soup for lunch - let's be honest it looked like orange glue but tasted OK thinakfully - maybe that was the tablespoon of pepper I added.

So far I've had to cook breakfast ( french toast) and lunch (scrambled eggs) for the boys, had to queue up to pay for petrol alongside the racks of sweets and choc bars at the garage and buy soft drinks for their trip this afternoon . I'm realising that every hour of every day I'm surrounded by references to food, the sight and smell of food, questions about food ( what's for tea ?) . Not that I didn't already know this , I'm just feeling it more acutely.

Worst of all I'm feeling hungry and I've got a headache although maybe that was the "last chance saloon" bottle of Chianti I downed last night in the knowledge that it would soon become a distant memory.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Bring It On

Just got back from my first Lighter Life meeting with a small carrier bag full of sachets. This is my 1st week's supply of food.
Thankfully , it all starts tomorrow morning so I ate pasta and the best part of a bottle of Chianti for supper. I realised that it would be the last time I chewed real food for the about 3 months. Thankfully our group seems like a great bunch of women - they made me laugh out loud - looks like we'll all be getting along famously.
Incidentally - when they measured my chest , I had to ask whether the figure they gave me was in inches or centimetres - enough said.

Today's the Day...

... I wave goodbye (for 14 weeks ) to real food and instead , punctuate my daily routine with 4 packets of powdered nourishment - a grand total of 500 calories per day.
Tonight , I will be sitting in a room with 12 other people on the same mission - to lose a massive amount of weight. I have a million questions buzzing around in my head and I'm queasily apprehensive , well maybe not that surprising.
Yesterday I ripped my favourite pair of trousers whilst cycling. Ordinarily I'd have been mad with my clumsiness but instead I shouted Yippee - because these will be going straight in the bin in a c couple of months time because they will be WAY TOO BIG.

Here are my 3 big fears :

1. Not losing enough weight
2. Baling out after a month or even less
3. Putting it all back on again when the 14 week programme finishes

I have about 18 other fears to add to the list but I'll limit it to 3 for the time being. Can you tell I'm anxious ?

On a more positive note here are my 3 big incentives:

1. Rather frivolous to be No. 1 but what the hell ( if like me you've spent the last decade buying shapless things in black and grey you'll know exactly what I mean) .... buying nice new clothes. Shallow I know but hey
2. Not being the fattest Mummy in the playground at pick-up time
3. Not loathing myself for being weak-willed and out of control

I read those back and felt quite sad.

Just Looking

I have a pile of books by my bed and usually have 3 on the go at any one time. This morning I lay in bed and grabbed one off the pile. The cover was fascinating and inspired me to want to do a layout involving a hand cut tree with images hanging from the branches.
I leafed through a design book next , Jim Krause's Basic Design Index - always a fascinating source of inspiration.
Magazines spilled across the floor revealing an array of alluring ads , attention seeking colourways ... all in all a visual feast and I hadn't even got out of bed.
Too much inspiration , never enough time in which to capture it all .
SO ... today I decided that it's Ok just to look and see and enjoy without ALWAYS having to get it down in a scrapbook page.
It all goes into my subconscious mind anyway and will reveal itself in years to come in one form or another.. preferably creative and not frustrated.

Monday 24 August 2009

Lighter Life

Tonight I have eaten :

I large packet of plain crisps
Half a loaf of Banana Bread
I large Pack of Fruit Allsorts
6 Deep Fried spicy chicken wings

Why ? Because in less than 48 hours I will be replacing all of my meals with food replacement packs on the Lighter Life programme. This feels like my Last Supper or rather Penultimate Supper. Tomorrow night's dinner will probably top 1000 calories and include a whole bar of Galaxy for pudding. I will then drink myself silly with a whole bottle of Rose and collapse into bed feeling nauseous. With any luck by the time I wake up the following morning I will be hating myself sufficiently to welcome in the new regime with open arms. Actually , these Fruit Allsorts are beginning to taste a bit disgusting already.

I'm hoping I won't turn into a diet bore which is why I'm not going to blab to everyone that I'm doing this - they'll only find out if they read my blog. Apologies in advance.

Friday 21 August 2009

Day One in The Alps

No swine flu here or rather schwein flu. I feel like breathing twice as fast to stockpile enough clean air to last me after our return to Blighty.

It feels like paradise. Who needs a mosquito ( or worse - tourist ) infested tropical island, preceded by a hideous passage through Heathrow, when you can have heaven on a plate here in Switzerland. The sun has just risen over the mountain tops. Light wisps of cloud are swiftly disappearing from the horizon, the azure water of Lake Thun is sparkling and everywhere is an abundance of green lushness.

Window boxes bursting with immaculate blood red geraniums provide a burst of colour amongst the fairy story wooden chalets. Every scene looks like it has been plucked from the pages of a Hans Christian Anderson book.

Breakfast on the terrace of our hotel comprised a gourmet selection of wonderful smoked and air dried meats, pungent cheeses and our favourite seed encrusted bread rolls. The boys delight in ordering heisse milch for their hot chocolate. Never did a small bowl of stewed plums with yoghurt taste so good.

And here I am basking in the glorious sunshine , cooled with a delightful mountain breeze, tapping away at my Mac trying to capture a smidgeon of the loveliness in words which really can’t do it justice.

This morning promises a browse amongst the streets of Thun. The boys have a trip to the Swiss Army penknife shop planned and at some stage we’ll stop for a coffee which only the Swiss prepare to perfection - stuff the French and their brown soupy brew. Maybe it’s the spring water, maybe it’s the accompaniment of a sachet of sugar adorned with alpine views - the same as its ever been for decades.

This is one theme I’ll keep referring to - ‘the same as its ever been’. We’ve only been coming here as a family for 3 years but my husband holidayed in Switzerland for most of his childhood and the restaurants and cafes are still identical in appearance to the way they were in the sixties and seventies. The same brown and orange lampshades and patterned carpets. Trendy decor updates have been eschewed in favour of preserving the status quo which lends everywhere an air of comfortable familiarity year after year. It seems , fortunately, that the Ikea mentality has passed them by. Functional and well made fixtures and fittings survive the torrid ‘out with the old and in with the new’ fever that has swept Europe in the last 20 years. I would imagine that the boys could return in ten years time and have lunch in the cafe with the same crochet tablecloths and smoked glass tabletops that they see now. What a lovely thought.


I’m thinking of hiding in the cupboard in the bedroom designed to accommodate suitcases when not in use. The trade off between discomfort v. solitude swings toward the latter at the moment. We have just spent the hottest day of the year driving to Berne where H and FIL carry out their annual pilgrimage to the bank. Most people these days communicate via internet or phone but FIl being old fashioned likes to make appointments in person and needs to take H with him. Meanwhile me plus kids are given an hour ‘off’ to stay out of their way and entertain ourselves elsewhere. I head to a department store where we browse amongst the sweet ( their choice) and haberdashery departments ( my choice). On leaving the store youngest son announces that he needs the toilet. We’ve just passed one next to the ribbons and buttons but why mention it then when you can wait until you’ve left the store and so have to re-trace your steps back up to the 5th floor ?

40 minutes in and now that the sugar high has worn off, spirits are sagging. Time to stop for an ice cream. The streets are packed with interesting boutiques and myriad delightful shopping experiences but the only experience we’re about to have is another stop to buy yet another Coke. H and FIL meanwhile have finished their business at the bank and are looking for us. No peace for the wicked. FIL needs the toilet so it’s back to the good old 5th floor. The staff are beginning to recognise us.

No-one wants to stay in Berne except me , ever the frustrated shopper. FIL now needs feeding and the boys want to swim. Another hour in the car back to our apartment with my knees tucked up under my chin as I get the guest spot in the middle seat of the back of the car to break up hostilities.

I suggest that H and FIL go and have a nice quiet relaxing lunch by the lake whilst I take the children swimming ... again. They seem to think this is a great idea and who wouldn’t ... except me.

So you see the cupboard under the eaves of our apartment’s bedroom is looking like a definite improvement. Everyone's been fed, watered and enjoyed the opportunity to empty their bowels or bladders. With any luck and if I’m very good and well behaved I’ll get to go up to the local Co-op later to buy replacement beers and snacks because of course they’ll all need feeding in about another hour.


The perfect day in myself. The boys have gone off to do things in boats. This means I can take photos with abandon without the usual groans. First stop is a back road up into the mountains behind Sigriswil but I don’t get very far before having to stop to take pictures of the ludicrously beautiful church whose simple spire juts up into a pure blue sky. Feeling brave I venture further up the mountainside on a single track with no passing places. The only real danger, other than meeting a tractor en route, is that once up there I may never want to come down again. Pulling over alongside a water trough I find a curious metal door built into the rock. Presumably one of the many hiding places that the Swiss hid their arms during the war. The view from up here is breathtakingly beutiful and the peace and quiet leave me gasping. The serenity up here is food for the soul. I drink it in hoping to fill up my tanks.

I manage the drive into Thun without incident remembering to drive on the right. Straight to my favourite shop Krebser An odd choice for many people maybe but for me it is heaven. Books, art materials, wrapping papers, cards and all in one place. Not only that but downstairs is a place to drink coffee, dispensed from a machine but perfect nonetheless. I open the window to let in a cool breeze and find the river Aar racing past below . I have now gone to heaven.

On to Steinmanns where I indulge in a cake . I have no idea what it is or even what it tastes of but each layer packs a punch and is better than the last, crisp buttery pastry, chocolate nuttiness, creamy mousse and then some sort of cake oozing with liqueur. How clever - cake and booze ... what a fabulous way to get drunk.

Back to the car via the Swiss Army penknife shop where I try out a pink model complete with nail clippers. Hmmm , maybe later in the week.

Can the perfect day get any better ? Yes , at the Schloss Hunegg where they’re hosting a Steiff Teddy Bear exhibition. This brings out the child in me. Cabinet after cabinet stuffed with whimsical bears and animals , every shape and size. Enormous working panoramic models, bears in cars, Noah’s arks, trains, windmills, climbing trees. I stifle a squeal of delight. The only problem is how to resist the shop downstairs lined up wit row after row of smiling teddies. One in particular stand out a mile. A pleading little face and thankfully a small (ish) price ticket, the deal is done and he and and I retire to the garden for the perfect cup of coffee and a photo shoot.


Embarrassingly, I find myself 2,500m above sea level on the peak of the Stockhorn, amongst serious European climbers all wearing appropriate boots and walking sticks, wearing a daft pair of rubber flip flops.

The boys give me the heeby jeebies by pretending to fall off the cliff tops whilst I cling to pitiful clumps of grass and try to conquer my fear of heights. It’s not a full blown phobia but I do need a good hour to acclimatise myself to the extreme altitude and convince myself that we will all return back down to earth alive. I have visions of losing it and conjure up a wheeze that will get me down the mountain with minimum loss of face - a feigned heart attack and a stretcher ride down in the cable car. Thankfully it doesn’t come to that and within a short time I’m skipping down the steps like a mountain goat ... in my trusty flip flops.

The best lunch so far - Rosti with mushrooms (good choice) and a large stein of beer (bad choice). The boys are in heaven when their carafe of Coke arrives to wash down their pommes frites. The heat of the day catches up with me the lager and sun don’t mix well especially as the heat of the cable car is near roasting temperature. Still , there’s the lake halfway down to look forward to. What a gem. The camera can’t do it justice and certainly can’t capture the sound of the distant Swiss cowbells nor the smell of the woodsmoke from the fire slowly roasting a rack os Bratwurst by the water’s edge.

En route home we stop at an antique shop where I discover a handful of exquisite Sheerenschnitten pictures depicting the typical alpine scenes. What an unexpected treat.


Today’s Tages Post at the breakfast table shows a large icon of the sun on the cover. A good sign. I don’t think we’ve ever had such fine weather on any family holiday EVER.
Plans for the day include a trip to Thun to buy Theo his Swiss drumsticks, maybe a bar of two of chocolate and possibly my pink Swiss Army penknife. The boys are cavorting about in the pool which I can see from the breakfast terrace of the Solbad Hotel whilst I tap away at my keyboard, occasionally looking up to glimpse the snow-capped Jungfrua, Monch and Eiger in the distance. Perfect. Incidentally, I'd never realised how clever the Toblerone logo was . Have a look at the picture on the right ( Today I hav mostly been eating..). Toblerone is produced in Berne whose symbol is a bear. If you look closely at the picture of the mountain on the wrapper , you'll see a cleverly hidden bear.
Our shopping trip to Thun proved very productive. Highlight of the shops had to be the Cat Lover’s shop where a sleeping puss called Cherry lay squished into a cardboard box on the counter. Our own puss is now the proud owner of a Swiss flag cat collar. Cake in Steinmanns where we had difficulty choosing . Ended up with a mixed plate of tiny cakes and patisserie to accompany our coffee. I found the perfect scrapbookers Swiss Army penknife complete with USB stick, scissors and pen amongst other tools. Not only that but I also found a pair of proper scissors to try out my own Scherenschnitte and a couple of sheets of the special black paper. Seem to find examples of this traditional paper craft wherever I go now - they even had some in the cat shop.


Almost too hot for comfort today - temperature up in the 30’s. After breakfast on the terrace, a beautiful lakeside drive in the comfort of the air conditioned car and a stop at Brienz for lunch . Must remember to visit this place next year - the Wildbach Hotel, conveniently perched on the lakeside opposite the Giessbach Falls and the perfect place to take a dip in the icy lake after eating.
I’ve stopped taking photos - they just don’t do the place justice. Every shot turns out looking like a picture postcard.


Last day today - too bad , I’m just starting to feel relaxed. Went up the Niederhorn today. The drive there was nerve wracking but stunning - hairpin bends around craggy rockfaces with 1000m plus sheer drops to ground level on the other side. Standing atop the muntain peak within touching distance of the clouds and surrounded by the sound of silence does the soul good. You can only look around and wonder at the marvel of nature. I breathe deeply and soak it all in, reluctant to ever leave. And finally I realise what holidays are all about. Not the ‘glamour’ of travel or change of scene and not the amnesty from cleaning and cooking ( although that is a bonus) . It’s time to think and reflect and take stock. Life is so busy these days that you never get the chance just to stand still and let your mind wander.


Driving back through France where every motor way rest-stop smells like a urinal and every village and town is utterly spoiled by a rash of hideously gaudy advertising placards on the outskirts. I’ve never quite ‘got’ FRance and don’t suppose I ever will. For a start it’s full of Brits and the food actually leaves a lot to be desired. I suppose there’s always the cheap wine so one 1 out of 3 aint bad.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Home from our holiday

Maybe it's the sun, maybe it's the vino ( probably the latter) but does anyone else do that thing with their other halves when on holiday ? ... you know the thing where , after a few glasses of the local tipple too many, you start talking about what really pisses you off ? And you say things like .... "I really hate that my life has turned into one endless pile of laundry" and then your other half , in a moment of continental holiday madness, resolves to do one evening's ironing per week. And you think " Wow - everything is going to be better after all"

... and then one day after getting back you find it all unravels horribly ?

Well , here I am, 8 loads of washing later , after having filled up the fridge for all the cuckoo-like hungry mouths to feed and I''ve just hung out yet another load of underpants and where is my other half ? Watching the cricket with a beer of course.

Why do I fall for it every year ?


How gorgeous are these ?

I bought a book years ago in the US on this paper-craft and had forgotten all about it until I found these in a Swiss craft shop last week whilst on holiday. Felt inspired enough to buy some precision scissors and some special paper. Now all I have to acquire is the patience of a saint and a few hundred spare hours.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

My New Obsession

The weather .... but then isn't everyone obsessed with this topic at the moment ?
We're off to Switzerland next week . In eager anticipation, I googled the worldwide weather prediction service. To my surprise , the tiny village where we're staying was actually listed. You're then given 5 little icons in a row which depict the kind of weather you can expect. These range from blinding sunshine to the " Sodom and Gomorrah end of the world' type scenario , represented by a violent thunderbolt and the deepest shade of grey. Guess what we can look forward to in our little alpine resort next week ? Rather typically the icon line-up for Tenby, from which we've just returned after a week of grey skies , had , rather tantalisingly, a line up of 5 smiling suns , taunting me like a fruit machine jackpot.

I spent the morning musing about past Holidays from Hell . There was the Isle of Wight near death experience when my youngest son's temperature rocketed to sky high danger levels on arrival. Husband , dispatched to find emergency water to re-hydrate him with, returned with a fluorescent Slush Puppy. This little drama unfolded on Ryde Seafront . We were surrounded by 1001 scooters, convening to celebrate their annual convention. The sound was reminiscent of a swarm of buzzing hornets. I could have happily swatted all or any of them as we battled our way along the esplanade in search of a chemist selling Calpol. Happy Days.

Then there was the Great Flood of 2004. Groping my way downstairs at 6am, having been awoken by my youngest son to go watch some cartoon dross on telly , I reached the penultimate step to find the carpet mysteriously floating on top of a brown sea of muddy water. The persistent rain of the previous 48 hours had finally burst the banks of the rain sodden garden and had swept into the cottage, bringing with it the contents of the neighbouring septic tanks by the smell of it. The contents of the cereal boxes in the floor level kitchen cabinets had emptied themselves and the kitchen resembled a giant bowl of effluent coco pops.
Carrying a child under each arm, I made it to the car which was perilously close to being engulfed by the lapping water and drove , or rather spluttered out of the driveway towards the the A1 and the relative safety of home, stopping only when my youngest wailed " I need a pooh" . Judging by the look on the policeman's face whose cop car I parked alongside at the services, he must have thought I was a new escapee from the local asylum. It was only then that I realised I was still dressed in a nighty and one flip flop having lost the other underwater in the drowned garden. This was further confirmed by the fact that I left the car engine running whilst parked up in the car park for fear of it never starting again if I switched it off. It's at times like those that you usually bump into your boss or your children's Head Teacher. Thankfully neither on this occassion.

I'd almost forgotten the Greek Heatwave from Hell in 1988 . But then that's enough scary stories for one day . I'll leave that for another time.

Saturday 1 August 2009

Fish, Chips and Fudge

... in that order. That's what we've been feasting on this week. We've just got back from a week's trip to Pembrokeshire. Here are the highlights.....

Tenby - what a delightful little place. The Edinburgh Rock coloured Georgain houses were so beautiful - they looked good enough to eat. Nothing to do obviously with the fact that there are more sweet shops, ice cream parlours and fish and chip restaurants per square mile than anywhere else on earth. I learned that it's 5,000 population swells to 55,000 during the summer months ( well I say summer loosely, felt more like winter in the cold rain ) which must be a real double edged sword for the residents - income but overcrowding.

Welsh Cakes - I could live off these , in fact I think I did.

Stackpole Quay - what an absolute delight only I don't want to tell everybody or else it won't be so quiet and delightful. I can recommend the bacon butties at the tearoom.

Our £1 challenge in the Pound shop - now a firmly established family favourite on holidays. We draw lots for names then off we go armed with nothing more than a £1 coin and 5 minutes in which to buy a surprise gift for our secret recipient. What a hoot. I'm now the proud owner of a fake cowskin mobile phone cover.

Sea and Sand - a winning combination . You can't beat it on a sunny day. Shame we only get a handful per year. Anyone who says they don't mind whether it rains or not is lying.

Coming home - we had a great adventure but nothing beats that first night back in your own bed , a hot bath in a bathroom you recognise and to be re-united with your hair straighteners.