#MealPlanningMonday w/c 29th April

Meal Planning Monday
It's Monday again, which means not only is it Meal Planning, but it's also weigh-in. Not unexpectedly, I put on 2.5 lbs, however I had a brilliant time putting that weight on! I had a meze one night, loads of slices of takeaway pizza (someone on Twitter said the trick to having a pizza is to eat it fast, before your body realises its actually full up. Wise words!) bacon sandwiches until they were coming out of my ears and loads and loads of white bread, with lashings of butter. I also managed a cream tea and a pasty, but I was on holiday in North Cornwall, its against the law to not have one of those......isn't it??

However on Sunday, I was back on track, kept to a Syn free day with grilled bacon sandwich, brown bread (no butter) and a lovely roast chicken dinner. I'm using the leftovers for a chicken stew and a chicken and noodle soup.

And leftover's leads me onto a beautiful blog I've discovered called A Girl Called Jack. I saw Jack on BBC breakfast over the weekend, talking about the campaign to eat for a £1 a day for five days called 'Live Below The Line'. Jack's blog is all about living frugally and her recipes piqued my interest. I try to keep my food bill down, it averages about £80 a week (for everything including washing powders, toilet rolls, that sort of thing), but know I could do better. When I first married, I had 3 months of feeding my little family of three with the child benefit which was about £10, twenty years ago and although a struggle it gave me a sense of achievement. Jack however has been doing it through necessity for 2 or 3 years now and she's got it down to an art form.

So, I'm going to be trying one of her recipes each week and being more mindful of the food which gets wasted in my house.

Onto my menu planning this week.

Chicken Noodle Soup (Syn free)
Chicken Stew (Syn free, although MrC and James will have dumplings with theirs)
Cottage pie and vegetables (I made three portions a few weeks ago and froze it)
Liver and onions, mash and vegetables. (Syn free)
Carrot, Kidney Bean and Cumin burger from Jack's blog (I think about 2 Syns for the 4 burgers)
Bolognaise (Syn free, made with lots of vegetables and lentils)
Kidney Bean Chilli and rice from A Girl Called Jack (I won't use the wine or the chocolate so Syn Free)

Lunches will be leftovers from the night before with salad with plenty of fruit to keep me going throughout the day.

(The cottage pie, liver and bolognaise were all made and frozen a few weeks ago, love it when that happens!)

So I am planning for success, I will lose that 2.5 pounds very soon, I'm determined! 

What have you got planned? Let me know by leaving a comment or why not join in yourself with At Home With Mrs M who hosts this linky. Click the image at the top of the page for more meal planning inspiration.

Fay's Meal Planning Monday 22nd April

Meal Planning Monday

Monday, again! And time to plan for the week ahead. Wasn't going to join in this week, didn't see much point as I'm going away to the lovely The Olde House in North Cornwall on Wednesday for three nights. We generally tend to eat a lot of bacon and egg sandwiches, crisps and chocolate! Didn't see much point actually posting that, as I won't be staying on Slimming World plan, no incentive as I'd had a bad week.

I felt a little out of control, not sticking to plan. I ate a lot of bread (fish finger sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, peanut butter and jam sandwich. You getting the picture?) I was also given a huge bar of chocolate while staying away with work. I packed it in my case, so I wouldn't be tempted but ended up leaving the M5 at Bristol and unpacking it to scoff on the way home! How bad is that!?

However, look what I got today in group

I managed to lose 3.5 pounds this week and also won slimmer of the week! How did I manage that? No really, How did I manage that????

In my defence, as well as the rubbish choices,  I've also had some great Slimming World meals too, and chose really well when I was away. Chicken salad with dressing on the side one night (we'll not count the chili squid I had for a starter!) and a rump steak with baked potato and green beans another. (what I really wanted was chips and a pudding, but I resisted)

When home, I did have SW Chinese five spice gammon with salad and chips and chicken cooked in paprika tomato sauce with rice and greens. I also think I ate smaller sized meals, little and often. So looking back, the good must have outweighed the bad! Yay!!!!

Which has inspired me to post and menu plan this week and try to limit the damage while I'm on holiday. I did say in group I wasn't staying on plan. (I think I actually said I was just going to SOD IT). Been a tough few months and I deserved a blow out. But this weeks loss has helped me reassess, given me a boost and made me want to keep the good work going.

So onto THE PLAN

Beef Stew
Bacon Sandwich
Takeaway Pizza
Bacon Sandwich
Slimming World Roast Chicken, potato, vegetables
Bacon Sandwich

I'm having beef stew tonight ( I can smell it as I type) which is Syn free, as all the fat is trimmed off the beef and I won't be having dumplings. When I'm back from holiday on Saturday I've already planned to have a takeaway pizza (Well, I'm still on holiday) But Sunday it will be a SW roast chicken with all the free veg. 

I'm going to take away with me my lovely Tefal frying pan, which makes fantastic fried eggs with no fat! The bacon will be grilled, the bread brown, with no butter or ketchup. I'll also take the fruit I won as Slimming of the Week, which should help me cut the chocolate down a bit. And when I'm eating out, have what a fancy, but smaller amounts.

So what do you think? Tell me what you are having and join in by leaving a comment.

Don't forget to check out At Home With Mrs M for lots more inspirational menu's

#MealPlanningMonday - w/c 15th April I need help this week!

Meal Planning Monday

Another week has flown by, we're in the middle of April already. Can't quite believe it. Although the weather is a little warmer, its still very wet down here, so my weekly menu's haven't changed very much. Still hearty comfort food. 

Saying that, they're all Slimming World friendly and contributed to my two pound loss last week. YAY! I weigh in later today, will let you know how I get on. But am not holding my breath. Although I chose well from the hotel menu, (a salmon starter the first night, then grilled salmon with new potato and a summer pudding for desert) I couldn't fall asleep one night and raided the very expensive minibar at 3am. A packet of complimentary biscuits and a cadbury chocolate bar, which cost £1.95 (!!!!!!) later and that was that. (Didn't help me sleep either!) 

However the next morning, stuck with it and had a slimming world friendly cooked breakfast of bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and poached eggs, which saw me through the day and getting back to a chocolate and goody free house.

The Sweet Onion and Lentil Stew from Nigel Slater from last weeks menu, was delicious. I made it without the oil and butter and used trimmed smoked bacon. I believe this made it syn free, without compromising on the taste. One I'd recommend! However, for my taste buds (which are slightly screwed from the chemo) I'll use more paprika to give it a bit of kick.

This weeks menu is

Spicy gammon, potato wedges and salad
Liver, onions with potato and vegetable
Stuffed baked potato with smoked mackerel and leeks, beans and salad
Beef casserole with couscous

What do you think? I'm away this week for two nights again and really need to keep motivated and make healthy choices. Any tips????

Don't forget to check out Mrs M's Meal Planning Monday linky, for other meal planners especially of you're stuck on what to have on yours! 

#EmailFromMyBrother - Playing Catch up from 24th of January Bunk Beds and Nerf Guns

This one was sent to me on 24th of January

Hi Fay,

How's it going?  I'm into the last week of the summer holidays with Eva going back to school next week.  To celebrate everyone's going back to Waihi Beach come Friday for a three day break.  Yes, everyone is celebrating Eva going back to school.  Not really, it's just me who's celebrating that.  But we are going back to Waihi so you're getting this e-mail early...

This week we've had a couple of Eva and Sam's cousins come for sleepovers.  This always means I have to pump an air bed up which is really hard work so instead I decided to finally assemble the bunk beds we bought a couple of months ago and let one of them sleep on the bottom bunk.  I had made the top bunk with it's in-built guard rail some months ago and we'd been using it as a normal bad for Sam to sleep in our room.  All I had to do was assemble the bottom bunk, move Sam's top half of the bunk beds into Eva's room, move Eva's old bed out and into our room to replace the top bunk and then slot the top bunk onto the pegs of the lower bunk with all the pinpoint accuracy of a safe mechanism locking into place.  I ended up doing this on my own because Juliette took one for the team and played with the kids to get them the hell out of my way.

How did I drop the top bunk bed onto the bottom bunkbed?  Easy, I used my forklift truck.  Only joking.  I can't get my forklift truck into Eva's room.  Plus I don't like to move my forklift out of the barn where I keep it next to my SR-71 jet plane and my 1960s era Batmobile. I'm joking again.  I don't keep them in the barn, I keep them in the playroom in a box marked "vehicles".  And of course they're not mine, they're Sams and are 1:43 scale toys.  No, I lifted up the top bed and placed neatly down on the pillars of the bottom one using my X-men powers of telekinesis.  Ha, joking again.  I don't have any X-men powers, unless really sweaty feet count.  Which they don't because otherwise there'd be a use for sweaty feet.  You could put out fires by simply walking through them and dousing them with sweat from your feet or something.  Actually my feet don't sweat that bad, it's just I wore my slippers for a couple of nights without any socks and now they smell like cheese.  The slippers that is smell like cheese, not my feet.  On their own my feet smell like schadenfreude.  Anyway ... how to drop a top bunk onto a bottom bunk on your own...

I sat on the lower bunk, lifted the top bunk up and shifted it onto my feet, lent back, swiveled around and lowered it down onto all four pegs at the same time using my legs.  It was like something from a circus act.  That is if the circus act allowed lots and lots of swearing.   The whole bed swap and bunk bed operation only took three and a half hours and I'm now on pain killers for my back but it was totally worth not pumping up that goddam air bed.

We had Eva's cousin Rachael stay over for two days and one night this week because her parents were working and needed a hand.  It was kind of tough I have to admit.  Juliette may have noticed an extra level of testiness when she came home and failed to empty the crap out of her lunch box after dumping it on the side for me to do, leave two drawers and one cupboard open for me to close and drop a full nappy bag in the kitchen bin rather than the outside bin for me to back up and stop the house from stinking.  I found that Eva and Rachael wanted to play their five year olds' games while Sam being two wanted to play their games too.  However what Sam wanted to do wasn't always what the girls wanted to do which caused some "problems".  Also Sam loves climbing up on the new bunk beds but he can't actually get himself down again so he stops half way down the ladder and cries.  Plus he likes to take Eva's breakable objects up there and throw them off which makes Eva cry.  Plus he likes to stand up and sway near the edges of the top bunk like Harold Lloyd and generally makes me cry.

There was a minor miracle that did happen this week.  I placed an online order for a couple of Nerf Guns for the kids to play with (for me to play with too) because we played with their cousin's Nerf Guns over Christmas and everyone enjoyed them.  Nerf Guns are basically air soft guns that shoot little foam darts.  The genius thing about them is that they come in all shapes and sizes with gun rails and sights and all sorts of gizmoes that makes me forget Barbie dolls ever the f*ck existed.  The miracle was that these two Nerf Guns were ordered on the Tuesday and they were delivered the next day.  Usually it takes a week for anything online to turn up so I was kind of blown away.  Anyway they arrived at a time when they were needed the most because we all played with them in the garden and I've got to say two five year olds with Nerf Guns just proves that if ever there was a zombie apocalypse you'd want to ditch the little kids rather than arm them.

These toy guns were like full sized, had magazines, you have to cock them to load them and came with detachable sights.  Apart from the fact that they're made from primary coloured plastic and were designed by someone who'd watched one too many sci-fi shows they had all the movable bits of real fire arms.  Okay so guns and little kids don't mix but I did think that I could teach the kids some range discipline for when we started archery.  Yeah, not really, I just want to shot little darts around the garden and pretend I was John McClane from Die Hard.  But there were a few things I noticed ...

First things first, five year olds need eight or nine attempts before they can load a magazine with all the ammo the right way around.  Secondly five year olds don't know what the cocking handle is for and often forgot to load a round into the "firing" chamber.  They were like pulling the trigger and expecting some sort of semi-automatic experience.  Come on Eva, you expect daddy to have the cash to spring for semi-automatic?   You've got to wait for your birthday for that... Thirdly, five year old arms don't have the muscles to hold the rifle up for long so they wave them around like dousing sticks as they aim.  I was like two feet away and could dodge their "bullets" like Neo in the Matrix just by "not moving at all".  Fourthly they take the sights off because "they don't need them".  When I say "take them off" I mean slide them off the rails and smash them on the ground like eggs because they can't hit anything.  Like the sights were the main reason they couldn't hit anything.  Fifthly if you can't hit a target with the first shot ,five year olds take a step or two forward.  They repeat this until they can touch the target with the end of the rifle.  This would be perfectly acceptable if we dressed them up in red coats and pretended we were fighting in the Napoleonic Wars but not when we amped up the action by letting daddy have a gun to shoot back with. Sixthly when five year olds run out of ammo they just keep shooting and walking forward in the hope that maybe a magic round will appear in the barrel.  It never does.  Seventhly when your cousin has a misfire and starts walking towards the nearest adult for help (me), the other doesn't give a sh*t about the other one and just keep shooting while I shout "stop!" at both and get ignored as per usual.  Next week I'm ordering throwing knives online.  Juliette's totally cool with that.

Take care,
Love Mark xxx

#Reasons to be Cheerful - Retail Therapy, Photography and Clippers

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart
I'm linking up again with Michelle at Mummy From The Heart, which is a reason to be cheerful in itself! Good to feel part of the community again, get yourself over there and take a look!

My week saw me out walking the dog on Saturday with the camera. It felt like Spring could be on its way. Great to get some fresh air and enjoyed seeing things from a lens perspective, actually seeing and not just looking

Work has been great, very busy, which is the way I like it!

As you know I've joined a Slimming World group, which meet on a Monday, and this week I've lost 2lbs. Very pleased with myself. Just what I needed, a great start to the healthy eating plan.
Then over the weekend, my hair started dropping out again. I knew it was coming, it followed the same pattern as last time. The hair lost it's vitality, was losing colour and felt wiry. However as my hair was still so short, it made it look really scruffy very quickly, so think I noticed it more.

No way this time a good hair cut could buy some time!

The clippers came out last night and it's off, all gone again. Lot better than the patchy look! In fact, I don't mind it. I posted a picture on Twitter last night, which was quite brave of me. Not because I've no hair, but because I don't like to see photo's of myself. I would pop it on here, but I know my Mum sometimes reads my blog and she doesn't like to see me like that. Although 43 I'm still her little girl and I know it would be painful to see my daughter sporting the Yul Brynner look (However if she does read this, Amy, you would totally rock it!)

If you would like to take a look here's my Twitter Page

It has however given me a great excuse to go and buy more scarves. Retail Therapy!

Here's to the next week

Hospital misses cancer targets

This news report (Link to reporthas really gotten to me and I'm trying to work things out.

It's a small number, 4.  They've missed their target by 4%. However here's a bigger number, 15. 15 % who had no chance of getting treatment within the 62 day deadline.

But those numbers are people. People who've been told they've got cancer. People who are scared and overwhelmed, frustrated and angry. I've been that person.

They aren't just a number. The statement
 "they tried hard to ensure cancelled patients got their operations within four weeks"
 just doesn't cut it. Like that makes it all better. 

Four weeks is a long time, it's an eternity when you're struggling to keep things together and not think about cancer for 4 minutes let alone 4 weeks. 

This hospital won't be the only one in the same boat. I'm not directing my comments at the people who work there, doing an amazing job, under difficult situations. It's the situation I'm angry at.

This is my hospital and I was seen and operated on within 6 weeks. I was treated incredibly well during my stay, but post op and referrals were a little fraught and MrC's post op appointment was nearly two years after his stay. Yes really, two years!!

The numbers on this page are tragic. And each of those numbers represent a person and their families. The numbers are people not a statistic.

And we need to remember that.

We need a change, we need to put the patient at the centre of the NHS and not the numbers .... but what do you think?

#EmailFromMyBrother - Catching up, the one that might make you cry a bit

We're getting there, this was sent to me on the 24th of January

Hi Fay,

How's it going?  Two things happened this week that's surprised me.  They're both to do with feelings and stuff things like that, so don't get too weirded out because that's not what I'm usually into (unless those feelings are my normal ones like puzzlement, annoyance and hungry).

The first thing that happened this week was Eva went back to school on Tuesday.  It was kind of odd trying to get back into the old slick school day routine but I had both kids fed, dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, faces wiped and sun screen applied all by ten past eight.  Eva's bags contained all her new books, her swimming stuff (towel and togs - they call swimming costumes togs here), her packed lunch and her water bottle.  I even had her sun hat (they can't play outside in summer without a sun hat).  We were all a green light for a go, go, go ... so we went.  It was kind of quiet when we arrived at the school and my suspicions were confirmed that it wasn't the first day of the new term when the caretaker told me that it wasn't the first day of the new term.  It was tomorrow.  I told him I'd looked on the school website but it didn't tell me the start date so I guessed at the day straight after the Monday public holiday because that would logical and a lot of other schools went back that day.  He kind of looked at me strangely (eyes unfocused with a nodding grin) and that night Juliette pointed out that the website did have the new start date on it's "Welcome" page (in big letters).  This explained the odd look from the caretaker.  I however countered that it didn't have that information three weeks ago when last I checked.  Because it totally didn't.  They must have updated that info in the last week or something which makes me both puzzled and annoyed.  Why do schools get to pick their own start and finish dates here?  Why aren't they synched?  It's all mixed up like a tin of alphabetti spaghetti.  Mmmm, alphabetti spaghetti.  I'm feeling hungry now.

So I felt kind of foolish for the rest of the day but this is a feeling I'm used to, so no problem.  Now, the weird feeling thing was I'd been looking forward to getting Eva back to school for six weeks and here she was on the day I was supposed to be getting rid of her now coming back home.  The weird thing was I wasn't disappointed, I was kind of glad to have her home for an extra day.  I don't know if I was happy because I really love my daughter or that I could kind of dig the fact that if I was in her shoes how many times as a kid did I fantasize about going back to school after the summer holidays only to find that the school was closed and I'd got an extra day off!?   I was making a kids fantasy come true!  Or we can go with me loving my daughter thing, what ever.

The second thing that happened was Sam had a bad accident.  As you know I let him climb into his car seat but this morning he climbed up and decided he wanted to drive the car.  So this meant he looked like he was getting into his seat but instead bolted for it and scrambled into the front.  We needed to get Eva to school so there was a bit of a time element to his shenanigans so I asked him to get into his car seat by the time I counted to three otherwise I'd have to pick him up and strap him in.  One, two, three came and went so I walked around to the drivers side to open the door and pull him out.  He on the other hand had decided to clamber into the back to vault back into his car seat ... and that's when he fell out of the car and face planted onto the gravel drive.  I knew it was bad when he lifted his head to cry and there was lots and lots of blood down his face. He'd managed to gash an inch long deep cut into his scalp and boy, do those type of cuts bleed.  By the time I'd got him into the house we were both covered in blood like we'd been filming a scene from Alien.

So Eva was great because she tried her best to keep her little brother happy while I tried to apply pressure onto his gaping scalp wound.  I got the blood to stop, cleaned it enough to put a temporary plaster on, change his and my T-shirts, washed the blood off us both and got Eva to school on time.  So I'm coping with this disaster feeling like a super dad for getting Eva to school while carrying Sam through the school grounds with his hair spiked up with dried blood.  Yeah, I'm a super dad, look at me .... no,  look away from the boy, look at the girl, she's on time godammit!

The thing was we were due to go to his granny's for the day and when we got there and got the cut properly cleaned up it was apparent it needed stitching.  So a call to the doctors and an hour later I was hugging Sam while he had a stitch put in without anesthetic.  I was totally ready to high five his Rambo attitude but he was more interested in the lollipop he got out of it at the end from the nurse.  I stayed with him and his granny until after lunch to make sure he didn't rip his bandage off/drop into a coma/head butt a wall and then I set off home alone as planned.  Here's the feeling thing.  When I came home (alone) I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if I was coming home alone because something much worse had happened to Sam.  I then had to clean up the blood in the entrance way to the house which just heightened that feeling of loss.

Of course I cheered up mightily that afternoon when I picked Eva up from school.  Firstly, it occurs to me that if you were to clad all the parents waiting for their kids to come out of a primary school in orange jump suits the general scene (bar the mix of genders) would resemble a prison exercise yard from a movie.  People in little groups having nervous chats, people stood alone scoping out the other people and that little corner of people with neo-nazi tattoos pumping iron.  Secondly, for a fraction of a second after Eva asked where Sam was, I did contemplate telling her he'd had to have his face amputated because of the fall and when he comes home he's going to have a different face.  He's going to have the face of a rabbit because we couldn't afford a human face.  I didn't do that of course because I suspect that would've got her hopes up.

Love Mark xxx

#EmailFromMyBrother - Playing Catch up 19th of January

This was sent to me on the 19th of January

Hi Fay,

How's it going?  I read that you're embarking on a weight loss programme involving diet and exercise for a new slimmer 2013 you.  I too must lose some weight as now I'm riding the lawnmower instead of pushing it around I'm finding myself silhouetting like Laurel and Hardy.  That is I used to have the shadow of Stan Laurel but am beginning to have the shadow of Oliver Hardy.  What am I going to do about it?  Have another beer and think it over, that's what.

Last weekend we all went to Auckland.  That is Juliette, Eva, Sam, me and the in-laws all went to Auckland on Sunday lunchtime, stayed the night and came back on the Monday afternoon.  The reason was Juliette had an eye appointment at quarter to nine on the Monday morning in Auckland and what started as a planned day trip ended up as a mini-break for all of us.  It's a long way to Auckland so what was the eye appointment about?  Well basically Juliette has a medical condition called "being blind as a bat" so she's going one step beyond corrective laser surgery and instead is going to have her eyes sliced open and lenses inserted right into the jelly in the hopes that they correct her vision.  She's a bit wary about the procedure for some weird reason especially as the kick off for the while whole dice-and-slice operation is to correct another problem that the little plastic lenses cause.  Apparently in a healthy non-plastic lense modified eye when there's a slight pressure build up eyeball fluid can seep out of the front and be wiped away by blinking and/or vigorous buffing with a strip of chamois leather.    However if you slot a plastic lense in there this stops this process and the pressure builds up behind the lense until the eyeball eventually pops like a microwaved grape.  So to keep the flow you have to create another way for the gunk to come out and science's solution is to go right on ahead and jab permanent drain holes in the sides of each eyeball so that the fluid can leak out when it needs to.  It's supposed to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch when they drill it too but I don't know what the problem is.  Who among us can possibly have a problem with someone holding your eyelids open and cutting a permanent gutter hole in your eye like it was a finger hole in a bowling ball?  Not me.

Anyway Juliette has in her quest to find out if she wants to have the procedure done gone to two extreme sources.  The first source is the "for" source.  It's the actual doctors website who wants the business where Youtube clip after Youtube clip of happy, successful, care free, glasses free people emote on the benefits of the surgery saying positive things like they can see further than the Hubble Telescope and after the surgery angels sang hallelujah every time they blinked.  The other source is the "against" source.  It's a website called OhMyGodI'mNowF*ckingBlind.com where the message board is full of people saying they had their eyes drilled and the doctor who did it used a sharpened ice lolly stick and goddamit if it wasn't a Magnum Gold ice lolly stick when every fool knows you've got to use a Magnum Classic for that type of procedure.  What do I think?  Well I think I'll have another beer and think it over, that's what.  Not my eyes is it.

During the mini-break we went to two attractions in Auckland.  The first was Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium.  Don't pick Kelly Tarlton's Antartic Adventure on the satnav option like I did, this takes you to a suburban address in Auckland which probably was some address registered purely for tax reasons only.  This could have been a great practical joke on Eva (yes, no.12 has the penguins, no.14 is home to the sharks, but let's not dilly dally, time to head to the hotel) but unfortunately grandparents don't go in for that kind of sh*t and we had to go to the real aquarium. 

The real aquarium was okay, but they seem to have expanded the gift shop since the last time we went back on our Honeymoon five years ago (It was seven years ago, eight in April - Juliette).  I remarked in a loud and obnoxious voice while perusing the tat on offer in the gift shop that if ever there was a zombie apocalypse you do not want to be caught in a gift shop.  Pens, pencil sharpeners, paper weights, stuffed toys, themed plastic grabbers, T-shirts, jigsaw puzzles ... nothing would be useful if a wall of zombies crashed through the door.  The thing is, if there wasn't a zombie apocalypse I still wouldn't want the crap that was stocked on a gift shop shelf.  (And if there was a Zombie Apocalypse attraction the gift shop would still stock the same generic crap that would be of no use during an actual zombie apocalypse because that is the nature of gift shops.  Full of crap.)

The second place we went to was Butterfly Creek.  This was a butterfly greenhouse on an industrial estate next to Auckland airport which kind of made me think there was a bit of false advertising with the name.  Butterfly? Yes.  Creek?  No.  Butterfly Trading Unit 12c more like.  The one thing that stuck in my memory was the fact that the place had crocodiles too because butterflies and crocodiles go hand in hand obviously and the guy who fed the crocodiles while doing a talk to the audience also drove the Butterfly Creek kiddies train for us and was later seen cleaning the Butterfly Creek toilets.  Earlier I'd seen pictures of the same guy in display pictures of Kenya or where ever he'd swiped the crocodiles from actually dart gunning crocs, strapping them up to the skids of a helicopter and thumbs upping to the camera as he took off.  I reckon if that dude took a day off than Butterfly Creek did not open.  I did not see him working in the gift shop though which was good, because after you've seen a man feed a chicken to a massive rearing crocodile you'd lose all respect if you later saw him shilling butterfly shaped plastic paper weights in a gift shop that did not stock one useful thing if ever there was a Crocodile Apocalypse.

We're away next week so I'll have to miss your weekly e-mail again. We're off to the beach again - enjoy your snow...

Take care,
Love Mark xxx

#MealPlanningMonday w/c 8th April

Meal Planning Monday
Hoorah! I joined a Slimming World group and loved it. Hopefully by the time you get to read this, I'll have weighed in and got some good news!

And if it's not, that's ok too. I've eaten really good healthy meals this week. I haven't binged or eaten anything which wasn't Slimming World friendly, which was the whole reason for joining a group. To give me the incentive to get back in the groove.

I've created a collage of some of the meals, they tasted better than some of them look, I promise you! The mango and chilli salsa was amazing  which I had with sausages on a wholemeal roll and potato wedges. Felt very much like a posh takeaway, but all very low syn.

Anyway, onto this week's menu, which I'm, sure I will chop and change around a bit as the fancy takes me!

Sweet onion and lentil stew
Chicken casserole, rice and vegetables (didn't have it last week)
Cottage pie (one I made earlier and froze) with extra vegetables
Pasta bake and salad

Bit light on the meal front as I'm working away in sunny (please be!) Birmingham for a couple of days, so will be eating out. Eeeekkkk! We'll see if I can stick to plan!

Check out At Home With Mrs M, by clicking the badge at the top for more meal menu inspirations. (and maybe check back later and see if I've lost any pounds)

#EmailFromMyBrother - Playing Catch up from 11th January

Part of my five point plan was to start posting 'emails from my brother' again. He's still been sending them to me, I'd just gotten out of the habit (probably due to apathy and maybe the doldrums) of publishing them. So I'll be doing two or three a week until we catch up.

This one is from January 11th


Hi Fay,

How's it going?  This week I'm writing to you on a New Zealand Friday night instead of a New Zealand Thursday night because Juliette has changed jobs and now has Mondays off instead of Fridays.  This means that I used to stay up later on a Thursday night to write to you because Thursdays used to be my Friday where as now Friday is my Friday just like all you other muggles. Make sense?  Good.

Juliette actually started her job last Tuesday (which is now like her Monday) which meant she was a little bit nervous and didn't get much sleep on the Monday night.  I know this because she woke me up at 1.30am to tell me she hadn't slept a wink.  "Mark, wake up, I haven't slept at all since coming to bed!"  I suggested drinking some warm milk.  I have no idea if warm milk actually works but my honest response "Do I look like a fifteenth level f*cking wizard?  I don't have a Sleeping Spell in the breast pocket of my jimjams y'know.  Shut the f*ck up and let me go back to sleep crazy woman!" would not have gone down well.  I was awake enough to realise that the quickest way for letting me actually get back to sleep was to sympathise rather than launch into sarcasm.  You have a problem, I suggest a solution, my work here is done, now let me get back to sleep because it's 1.30am and I was sleeping because of the tiredness and the 1.30am-eness of the situation.  Ironically that night Sam had the best night's sleep ever and didn't come into our bed until about twenty to six so if she had slept we would have had the best unbroken night's sleep for months.  For months!

This week I'm into the second half of the summer school holidays and I've got Eva and Sam to look after on my own for the next three weeks.  Mum says that when your kids are little you should treasure this time because they are quickly gone forever.  It does not seem like the time is quickly going for ever.  It feels like someone's hit the slow button on the playback remote.  I think I'm at 1/8 playback speed.  There's a certain point in the day, usually after Sam has taken his fifth My Little Pony off Eva or after the sixth time Eva has launched a Thermonuclear Strike at Sam for threatening to dare to look at her My Little Ponies that I find myself raising my voice a little.  Once that point has been reached there's no quality alone space where I can go to get my sh*t together because little kids just love to find new ways to hurt themselves, each other, expensive electrical equipment, pets etc and so I stick with them and just remain in the bad mood for the rest of the day.   Juliette comes home and makes one innocent comment about the bin bags smelling of used nappies or something and it's like finally someone I can vent this frustrated pent up annoying anger at.  Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaboooooooooooooooom!

Speaking of which we had a blown fuse in the Honda this week too so I was down in there trying to find the problem with Sam and Eva "helping" out because when you really, really want to do something productive then a couple of little kids is what you need.  I've got a car kit I use (plastic bag full of crap) and they'd pulled out the pump bottle of soapy water I use to squirt on tires to find air leaks.  I just let them play with that for a while while I pulled out fuses to inspect because the car is a Japanese import so the fuse diagrams are in Japanese and I didn't know what was what.  If the car had been French you could give is a go - it'd be "le radio" and "le conditioning avec air" and "le brakes de le power" and such like.  Guessable.  This looked like an ants  nest had tap danced over some carbon paper.  My subconscious told me that the kids had been a bit too quiet for a bit too long.  So I get up and go and find them with the Guinea Pigs where Eva and Sam were about to "wash" Bubbles the Guinea Pig with the pump bottle.  You can't do that I say, but how does Bubbles get himself clean asks Eva.  I lie and say he licks himself clean because I don't know sh*t about Guinea Pig bathing habits.  Seriously, Bubbles is eight inches long, has such long hair that he looks like an animated toupĂ©e big enough to give Humpty Dumpty's head and Emo fringe and his tongue is the size of a Tic-Tac.  No way does he lick his fur clean especially after Bubbles had a claggy bum a couple of weeks ago and Juliette had to take the scissors to him and cut the fur off around his arse.  Eva however bought the story.   I said that if she'd squirted him then Bubbles would have got sick because he would've swallowed the soap when he licked himself.  Okay she says, we'd best find Tom now because we "cleaned" him first. 

This week Eva showed me her new jewelry box in which she keeps her most treasured possessions.  I know this because she showed me.  I put it up on the mantelpiece by the fire for Juliette to check out .  Juliette reads these letters too so when she does she'll be able stand up and have a peak.  Oh the excitement!  You obviously can't see so I'll tell you now.  but let's wait for Juliette to have a look first ....  did you hear that?  Yep, she's looked.  So now I can tell you.  Eva's most treasured possessions is ... drum roll ... I'll tell you next week.

Lots of love,
Mark xxx

P.S. I'm not that cruel.  Eva's most treasured possession is ... Bubbles' cut off claggy fur.  She picked it up off the floor when we weren't looking.  Nice one Eva.

Reasons to be Cheerful 6th April - Life is a little more rosy

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

It's Saturday and I know I'm a bit late with this, but first chance I've had to write this, however it's been brewing in my head like a builders mug of tea all week.

I spoke with Michelle the other day after she tweeted (I'm paraphrasing, because I'm too lazy to find the actually tweet)  'what do our tweets say about us, what image does it portray?' I thought about it, and it pains me to say, my twitter persona has turned into someone who whinges and whines. (not sure the real me has been much different to be honest, I must be a pain to live with)  Not a person I would want to engage with, let alone actually be. So, my five point plan, was well over due! 

It's not been a week of amazing revelations or earth shattering life experiences. More of slow warming up, a bit like our spring. And like a new born lamb, I've got a bit of a spring in my step. I couldn't say one thing in particular has made a difference, more of a collective of small things which have affected the whole.

1 - Work has been great, started the week thinking I had a huge mountain of work to climb up. But like most things, once I got started, I loved it. I've felt I've achieved something this week and pulled my weight. I know I'm not working to my full potential, but I saw and more importantly felt, glimpses of me!

2 - I joined a Slimming World Group on Monday, it was the first time I've been to one, having followed the plan on-line. I enjoyed it more than expected. I'm even looking forward to weigh-in, although if I'm being honest I don't think I'll have lost anything. However I won't have gained! 

3 - Been taking part with #FMSPhotoADay for April. And oh my goodness, I'm loving it! For those not in the know, you take a photo everyday which relate to the daily prompts and post it, either on your own blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter....there are so many ways to join in. It's given me 'permission' to get the camera out and just take photo's. Over time, I'm sure my ability will catch up with my enthusiasm! I've posted them on my sister blog Depiction

4 - Got a brilliant routine going for my feet. Twitter followers will know, one of the side effects of the drug trial is very sore feet. This coupled with the resulting nerve damage from the treatment, means they are permanently cold, as well as sore. Not a good combination.
I splashed out (Well, MrC did) on a Shiatsu Foot Massager which I use for 15 to 20 minutes every evening. I then heat up some wheat filled slippers, a bit like these, which Mum gave me, and they are toasty for the rest of the evening. (I've even started taking them to work with me! No-one has dared object when I heat them up in the microwave. Maybe they've not noticed.....sssshhhhh if that's the case, don't tell 'em, will you? Our secret)  Then a good old fashioned hot water bottle in bed and voila, a good nights sleep.
Feet still hurt, but its not as bad, result! 

Think my five point plan is working, life is looking a little more rosy.

My #MealPlanningMonday on w/c 1st of April

Meal Planning Monday

I posted yesterday my new five point plan to get me out of the doldrums, and today is my first proper weigh in at a Slimming World group. I committed to join a group, not only to get me back on track, but to eat healthier and encourage me to feel more positive (with the side effect of getting me out of the house once a week, which isn't connected to work, my Mum and Dad or Tesco. Honest, my life has come to that. It's so sad)

Although I won't be weighing in until later on Monday, it doesn't stop me planning my meals, I know the plan (just have problems sticking to it at the moment....) 

I've been doing batch cooking at weekends to help me stay on track. It helps as I'm tired in the evenings and can't then make excuses about not cooking. This weekend I've made two huge cottage pies, with plenty of vegetables and lentils and a potato and swede mash for the topping. I've also got the makings of a bolognaise type sauce, which can be portioned and frozen for use with pasta, baked potato or in a lasagne. I've also got a butternut squash to roast, which will make a lovely filling soup. It freezes really well too, so should see me sorted. You'll be seeing these on future menu's I'm sure and am hoping to keep you updated with my steady weight-loss too.

Onto this week's menu, in no particular order

Lasagne and tomato salad
Stuffed baked potato with smoked haddock and leeks, and a green salad.
Cottage pie with green beans
Butternut squash soup
Slow cooker chicken casserole with rice
Roast pork and trimmings

The roast pork will be Slimming World style, which means all the fat is trimmed off before cooking. I like to put seasoned potatoes, parsnip and carrots in a roasting dish which is half filled with stock before the meat is put on the top and covered with foil before roasting. For the last 45 minutes, take the foil off to brown the meat and vegetables. Any stock left in the pan will make a lovely tasty gravy, and it's served with plenty of green vegetables. Doesn't feel like diet food one little bit! 

Well there you go. Enjoy your week, and don't forget to check out other menu's over at Mrs M's