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Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom
Join me on my eternal quest to find the easiest way to lose weight!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Bobbi Brown @ Balthazar Afternoon Tea

I love make up. I also love cake. Therefore I was delighted to read that the lovely people at Bobbi Brown (one of my favourite brands) and the equally lovely people at Balthazar had teamed up together to create, in my mind, one of the best afternoon teas in all of afternoon tea history!

I first discovered this concept when I was in the planning stages of my recent trip to London with Helen. Helen had, very kindly, given my carte blanche with regards to planning our trip but had mentioned that she would like to do afternoon tea if at all possible. Well, it wouldn't be a proper girly weekend away without such frivolities, would it? I had thought about returning to the Chesterfield Mayfair where I had taken the kids during October half term for their Charlie and the Chesterfield afternoon tea - trust me, if you like chocolate and all things Roald, this is definitely a great experience. However, that tea had been rather popular with parents and young children and as this was to be a debauchery-filled (well, as far as it is possible to be when you're nearing 39, holding down a full-time job and caring for two kids and a husband...) weekend, we felt that being surrounded by little darlings - particularly other people's little darlings - was not conducive to the relaxing, laid back tone we were aiming for!

Google, as always, came to my rescue and I happened across a number of reviews of Balthazar's special tea. Once I had seen photographs of the cakes and learned that the tea came with a complimentary 30 minute makeover at the Covent Garden store, I was sold!

If you've never been to Balthazar before (and I hadn't), prepare to be amazed. Step off the bustling streets of Covent Garden immediately into a smart Parisian brasserie. Subdued, almost sepia lighting; high, vaulted ceilings; a feeling like you've stepped back in time to the 1930s. Waiters and waitresses dart from table to table carrying towering trays of delicacies and glasses of champagne. The air is filled with the clink of glasses and animated chatter, a world away from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

We didn't wait at all to be seated and were led, pretty much immediately, to our table. There was no question from us regarding our order. Tea us up! The only decision we had to make was champagne, or Bobbi's Sparkle cocktail - a delicate blend of gin, elderflower, lemon and champagne. I love gin, but for me there was no choice: afternoon tea? It had to be champagne! There was also a dazzling array of tea blends on offer. Again, as quintisentially English as afternoon tea is, Earl Grey seemed the perfect accompaniment.

You can find the menu to Bobbi's afternoon tea here. I had seen photos and none of the shots that I took could ever possibly hope to recreate the beauty of the amazing delicacies themselves. (Add to that, whenever I add photos to the blog it is always touch and go as to whether or not they'll show up!) The attention to detail was breathtaking. How the talented patisserie chefs managed to get a cheesecake to look like a jar of cleansing gel is beyond me. We spent some time trying to work out if it was in a glass gar, was it surrounded by gelatine, was it just a miracle of science and engineering?


A Hollywood Red Lipgloss Kiss, a rhubarb and ginger Shimmer Brick, a pecan and jasmine Long Wear Eyeliner macaroon, a lemon and blueberry Smoky Mascara, a coco citrus Extra Balm Rinse cheesecake... Sheer perfection! My mouth is watering just thinking about this again, and I realise that this post is the complete antithesis to yesterday's lament (and probably a good reason for my return to SW)! The best bit about it? After we'd ploughed our way through a selection of sandwiches - gorgeous pastrami, but perhaps not enough smoked salmon - and then the lightest and most beautiful scones we'd ever eaten (and of which they offered more) and we found we couldn't actually face eating the cakes (Spanx were not the best plan that day!) they boxed up the cakes so we could take them away. I'll be honest, after being offered more scones and sandwiches, I wanted to scoff the cakes just to find out if they'd offer us more of those too!
If ever you find yourself in London and fancy an afternoon tea, I would honestly suggest you forego the likes of the big hotels and opt for Balthazar. Simply stunning!
One bit of advice - go hungry!

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Hi-ho, Hi-ho, it's back to Slimming World I Go...

I know, I know, we've been here before. Many, many times in fact! I'm fat. I know I'm fat, and I'm miserable being fat. However, (and I know I've said is before too) I finally feel like I've hit Rock Bottom (so far down it has to be capitalized! Crikey! It must be bad!)

Last week, probably as a major come-down from my fantastic weekend away with my best friend (and there will be more on that!) I was truly and utterly miserable. To compound things, my normally solo PT session (with my lovely trainer Rachel) had been double-booked with another lady. I'm sure this lady is a wonderful person and, to be fair, was nothing less than perfectly friendly towards me. But she was thin(ner). And when faced with wall to wall mirrors where you are, ultimately, forced to look at and compare yourself to others when in a squat position... Well, it's never good, is it? I'm ashamed to say that my usually buoyant post-gym self left that night feeling demoralized, frumpy and, well, fat.

So, fast forward three days later and I felt braver and confident enough to return to the gym. Sunday morning, I thought. It'll be quiet, I thought. Quick treadmill workout, a few weights. I can do this, I thought.

Sweating away on the treadmill, but quietly proud of my ability to complete the continuous interval jogs, I noticed a blur of pink to my left. And there she was... Ok, I'll finish up and move onto weights, I thought. Thirty seconds later, here she was... Chest press, there. Lat pull, there. In the end, I gave up. My morale couldn't take another beating. I'd completed a good half an hour. I could go home.

The evening before this I had been out for dinner with some friends. Both my friend and her partner
were extolling the virtues of Slimming World. Between them they'd lost two stones in a month following the plan. I've been to SW before. Many, many times. It does work, I know that, but in the past, I'd hated the classes, I hadn't stuck to it religiously and, after a few weeks of losses, I had convinced myself I knew best and then the weight began to creep back on. Following that, came denial: I don't need the classes; I can do this alone; I'm just wasting my money. And six months down the line I'm no further forward. So, I'll be honest, following the demoralizing gym debacle, something struck a chord.

Ailsa suggested I join her class on Saturday mornings. I was sorely tempted: I think going it alone can be quite daunting and the classes I'd been to in the past had seemed to have little cliques that a lone dieter could never be admitted to without some kind of painful yet secret initiation ceremony. The thought of being pre-approved to one such clique was appealing. However, like he majority of dieters, I'm impatient, to say the least. I thrive on instant gratification. I couldn't wait another week. I needed to be doing this, and now! (I'm guessing my need to see instant results is what has led to failure on so many diets in the past - the 'I've eaten nothing but lettuce and green tea all day so why am I not skeletal already' curse...)

I spent a couple of days reading mumsnet forums (desperation, I admit) and googling success rates at going it alone, before deciding that the only way I could actually prove anything to myself was to bite the bullet (but not eat it - too many calories, surely?) and join.

When I've attended SW classes before, one of he things that has most definitely deterred me from returning are the classes. I think it is easy to judge SW as the poor man's WeightWatchers. The displays never seem quite as polished, the material not quite as professional. However, SW has undergone a bit of a transformation in recent years. They've gone digital - chip and pin registration, card machines, a fairly decent app. Gone are the badly photocopied SW Quiche recipe sheets (base made with cottage cheese - never, EVER do that to yourself...)

The main thing, however, has been the structure of the class in the main. Once everyone has been weighed, the leader speaks to everyone individually about losses and gains. Hours have been lost discussing how Donna gained three pounds even thought she counted all her Syns and ate loads of free food and only had one night out. Yeah love, face down in a kebab after three liters of Lambrini... No clue!! This has always frustrated me massively in the past, and the idea of spending upwards on 60 minutes in this way was enough, almost, to make me accept my fatness for ever more. I was pleasantly, surprised, therefore, to find that s particular leader simply seemed to focus on the positive. Of course, it could be that no one had gained weight his week, but I'm a doubting Thomas at heart. Really?

One other complaint I've had about staying to 'Image Therapy' (yes, borksville...) is that the small losses (half a pound, a pound) are never celebrated. Of course, this in itself can be hugely demotivating, to think that no one cares unless you're a super ember can be enough to to make you consider hacking off chunks of your own flesh just to get a positive glance from the hallowed class leader! A couple of the anti-attendance blogs did flag this up and I have to admit, this has always been my experience in the past. It has been easy to feel like you're not part of the 'gang' when you haven't pulled off those giant infamous SW losses. Again, though, I was pleasantly surprised. The leader was lovely, and celebrated every loss, no matter how big or small. Of course, with upwards of fifty people in the class, this did take some time. However, the class was, all in all, quite positive. I left with a few hints and tips and ready to start my week.
As a 'new' member, I had to wait until the end to get weighed. I did try, of course, to insist that I'd only been a new member a few months ago and so knew the plan but the leader saw through that straight away. She must have known that, once I'd stepped of the Scales of Shame, I'd be running for the hills, my shiny new handbooks tucked under my sweaty chubby arm. However... I was asked to choose a target weight. Now this, I can do. I have visualised it many times. Ten stone. Ten measly stone. The leader was quite taken aback. I mean, come on! I'm a pro! There isn't a diet on the planet I haven't tried and failed at. I've spent many years fantasising about my ideal weight. Bring it on, love. Bring. It. On.
So, that's where I am. 3 stones 9lbs to lose. I'm going to do this. I can do this.
Now, where's that carving knife???

Thursday, 2 February 2017

A Really Marmite Weekend

As the saying goes, "Marmite: love it or hate it." I'm a lover of Marmite. Seriously, I cannot get enough of the stuff! And it's a dieter's dream. I mean, look at any commercial diet plan (you know, the ones connected to a weekly class in a village hall where you pay through the nose to be informed by Doris* that you've lost a pound having starved yourself all week...) and Marmite always features heavily in the 'free' or low-calorie lists of food. So what's not to love? I adore the stuff!

So, with my upcoming weekend to London in site, I was unbelieveably excited to stumble across this fabulous blog. (I actually discovered it looking for a review of Balthazar's afternoon tea. That's a whole other blog post....) Yes, that's right, a whole menu dedicated to the black stuff! I also adore Bill's restaurants and am living in desperate hope that they open one closer to Newcastle soon. If you haven't been, please do yourself a favour and go soon! I was really taken by the idea that I could whisper "Spread the love!" in a clandestine manner to the waiter and a whole Marmite-y secret world would be opened up to me.

Therefore, last weekend, hungover to such an extent that only My Mate and more booze would cure me, my best friend Helen and I set off in search of Bill's on London's South Bank. (In actual fact, the Covent Garden branch would have been far quicker to get to, but Google Maps let me down, believing I was still in the really swanky hotel bar I had patronised the night before!) An hour and ten minutes later, and ready to eat my own arm, we arrived at said Bill's to be greeted by a lovely waiter. By this point I was desperate to see what would happen if I surreptitiously whispered "spread the love" into his ear. It was going to go one of two ways: either I would be very quickly removed from the restaurant with or without an accusation of sexual harassment OR great things would happen. Oh, sweet Lord, thankfully, it was the latter!

Helen and I were greeted with a knowing smile and handed the cutest and tiniest little menu I have ever seen, along with a teeny tiny heart-shaped pot of Marmite! The wonder! The excitement! I felt so special!



How adorable? I know!


The menu itself wasn't massive, with only one food option and two drinks options. However, the Marmite Rarebit with two perfectly poached eggs was a must, particularly as the throbbing headache of my hangover was threatening to ruin a day that had been in the planning stages for months!




You have to excuse
my photography, and I'm sure the creator of this divine dish (should he or she ever see this blog post) would be devastated as this does the dish no justice whatsoever!

I had mine served with the Marmite Mary. I just needed the kick that comes from the spice and the alcohol. What's not to love about legitimately drinking alcohol at breakfast? Helen, far more sensible than I am, opted for fresh orange. And in seconds, our hangovers began to subside.

Oh, but the food! Heaven could not have served up a better breakfast dish! It was gooey, creamy and sharp in equal measures. Thick, crusty bloomer with just the right amount of Marmite, topped with thick, squidgy, mustardy cheese and creme fraiche. Topping that, two wonderfully fresh and delicious poached eggs, their golden yolks just waiting to ooze over all of that mouthwatering goodness! Personally, I can never get poached eggs just right; they're always too wet, or burst before I get them to the plate. I am in awe, therefore, of the chef who can present such a perfect plate!

I'd love to tell you to rush along now to Bill's to discover all of his for yourself. Unfortunately, the menu ended in January 31st. However, go and try their regular menu. Their fish pie is heavenly....


*names have been changed...

Disclaimer: Bill's have not paid me to say all of this. I just love the place!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

An Urge to Start Again

I miss blogging.


There, I said it. I miss pouring out nothingness onto the page and watching it take the shape of something unexpected, something partially interesting, something I like to look back on. It might be ramblings about nothing. It might turn into something significant and meaningful. It might be an account of what I ate yesterday. Who knows? Who cares?


So why did I stop?


The usual, I'm guessing - time, inclination, nothing to say... I'm trying now, however, to take this blog in a slightly new direction. I've been reading a lot of blogs lately that focus on reviewing and travel and just trying different things. I want to do that! Maybe it is an attempt to change things for me. Maybe it is simply the proverbial kick up the backside I need.


I'm due next year to hit a milestone birthday. That has got me thinking a lot recently about where I am and what I'm doing. It seems recently that, albeit sometimes subconsciously, I've started to care less about what others think and certainly to care less for the rubbish that is often spouted by others. I've come to realise, though, that this is possibly going to cost me friends (and consequently, my social life)! However, it also made me appreciate those I do have close to me a lot more.


Next weekend, I'm off on what has now become an annual trip with my best friend. And she is my best friend. We've known each other longer than either of us cares to remember; we've had our ups and downs but know that nothing is as important as how we feel about each other; I know she's a keeper!


So, next weekend, we're hitting the streets of London. I'm guessing, one of the reasons I've restarted blogging is that I want to keep a lasting record of the trip. It's a little bit of glamour for us; it's a moment out of our everyday lives - no children, no husbands, no stress. And cocktails! Lots of cocktails!


A very self-indulgent return post, but at least I've made a start!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

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Monday, 11 May 2015

It's Been a While

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. It has been five weeks since my last post. And this blog was supposed to be my accountability mechanism!


However, I have good news to report. I've avoided the scales completely (and will continue to do so) but I press ganged my trainer into measuring me on Saturday morning. The last time he took my measurements was on January 26th. I'll be honest, I was nervous, but I knew that I had to be smaller. I mean, I'm almost down two dress sizes. Yes, I'm at that awkward in-between stage, and I'll be honest, the smaller sizes are really only in those shops who are generously sized (ie Next and M&S)... So, the tape measure came out, I sucked myself in as much as I could, crossed my fingers and found... that I'd lost 11 and 3/4 inches!!! Five of those inches were from my lower abs, my least favourite bit, and only 1/2 an inch from that was from my boobs!


The feeling of elation was indescribable but, as my friend so delicately put it, the look on my face was one of pure disbelief and gormlessness!


So, after spectacularly falling off the wagon in London last weekend (but it was a planned falling off the wagon, so I don't mind too much), it has taken me a week to get back on track. However, the measurements have demonstrated that what I am doing is working, so it is with renewed vigour this Monday morning that I am putting myself back on track firmly!


So, what changes am I going to make this week. Well, for starters, I'm back on my clean eating with a vengeance. No more sugary treats. I have nine weeks and six days until we fly out to Venice, and I want to look gorgeous on that ship!


Secondly, I'm trying fruit detox water. All this means is that I have fruit infusing in my drinking water. I've read a few articles on it and it is supposed to help cleanse your system. If nothing else, it makes plain drinking water a little more bearable. I've ordered an infusion bottle rather than having the lemon slices (today's fruit of choice) just floating around in my water bottle.


Thirdly, I've joined a Clean Eating group on Facebook and taking on a 28 day challenge. I know I'm going to have a couple of issues towards the end of the month when I'm in Manchester for examiner training, but as long as I can keep it going until then, I'm convinced I'll be fine.


Lastly, I've got a fitness activity planned in for every night this week. I will beat the fat out of this body if it is the last thing I do!!


See, I'm just as human as everyone else. I have good days, bad days, and really really crappy days. But I've dusted myself off and I'm determined to do this.


Wish me luck?

Monday, 6 April 2015

Why? Whyyyyyyyyyy????

Oh hell's bells! It was all going so well!!  Until Thursday. To say the proverbial had hit the fan would be an understatement.

Lord above. Is there a person on the planet who hasn't overindulged this weekend?  Easter has become synonymous with chocolate and lovely food, and, er, cocktails...

I was doing so well. I knew I had a night out planned on Thursday. The girls of the family were going to see Wicked, with a meal beforehand. My food intake had been pretty much perfect in that it had been clean and healthy. I succumbed to a couple of glasses of wine, and I had pasta, but generally speaking I felt that was ok. I could cope with that. I was back in the gym on Friday, and then Saturday too. Things were going well. (I even managed, with the help of my PT, to achieve a personal best on the leg press, pressing 250.7kg for five reps!) Then Sunday happened.

To start with, I knew things might get slightly out of hand when I spent three hours on Sunday morning making desserts for today's Easter lunch. I made a chocolate, chilli and cardamom tart, and candy bar pie. One would have been sufficient, I'm guessing, but no... I figured I needed to give people a choice! Add to that, my PT had messaged me in the early hours to tell me he couldn't make our session. Rather than getting my backside to the gym and working out myself, I had a lie in. Big mistake. Big. Huge!

You see, the desserts aside, the real challenge of Sunday was an afternoon and evening out with the girls. I knew in advance it was going to be food and drink carnage, and I let the damage limitation slide. I know you can't outtrain a bad diet, but I should have at least made some effort!

Because a girls' day out can mean only one thing... Booze. Lots of booze. Oh yes, and a three course meal including creamy, carb-laden risotto and then tiramisu for dessert. There was no holding back. Oh and the cocktails. Oh my word, the cocktails... We were trying out a new bar so it would have been rude not to sample its finest wares. And they were made with fruit, so one of our five a day in each one, right? Yes, of course. I'll keep kidding myself.

I'm also annoyed at myself because I purposely didn't book a PT session this morning as I thought I'd be hungover. I wasn't!  But again, I used this as an excuse to do nothing. And then I went and ate the desserts I'd made. And I drank prosecco. It's ok. I'm about to stage my own intervention...

So here I am right now, on the sofa, disgusted with myself and eating Pringles. And yes, I'm also watching The Biggest Loser. The irony is not lost on me here.

But, all is not lost. I'm now 15 days Diet Coke free. I can hear it calling me from the fridge but I'm stronger than it is! I'm drinking water because I may have had a crappy weekend, but I can do this. This girl can!!

(And it wasn't a crappy weekend really ; I have the best friends ever!)

I'm human. I mess up. I admit it, though. Tomorrow, to quote Geordie Shore, I'll be back on it like a car bonnet. (I don't get that phrase either...). I'm drinking water to try to cleanse myself as much as I can. I'm going to do this. Yes, I'll slip up every now and then, but as long as the majority of the time I'm focused on my goals, I will get there.

Why does everything that tastes so good have to be so bad for us? Suckers!!!

And if all else fails?  I'll buy shares in Spanx...