A Smart plan

My New Year resolution invariably has something to do with losing weight and it usually goes along the lines of the imaginative…’I’m going to lose weight’. Sometimes there’s a supplementary resolution to ‘eat more healthily’. I can’t say that I fail in the first because I do lose it. Unfortunately I also put it back on. The pattern of lose/gain/lose/gain repeats throughout the year and come January, I’m generally not far from where I started.  So far as the second resolution goes, I eat pretty healthily most of the time but whether it’s as healthy as it could be is questionable.

I had decided not to bother making a resolution at all, but then I got to thinking that perhaps the reason I don’t really achieve what I want is because my aims are too vague. Maybe I need to treat the issue as a work problem and make them SMART. I believe this acronym is now considered a little ‘old hat’ (meaning ‘out of date’ for my readers who are unfamiliar with our quaint English turns of phrase) but it’s fine for my needs.

Specific: I want to lose 28 pounds.

Measurable: I’ll weigh in at Slimming World every Monday at 5.30pm.

Achievable: Yes, if I plan my meals, shop accordingly and stay on the SW plan.

Realistic: I’d love to lose 5lb a week but that’s unrealistic. One pound per week is not.

Timebound: Six months i.e. by 30th June 2018.

Without going into the fine detail, Slimming World  advocates eating regular, balanced meals made from good sources of protein, unrefined carbohydrates, vegetables and fruit in reasonably unlimited quantities. The plan also includes two ‘healthy extras’ which ensure sufficient quantities of fibre and calcium, and allows from between five and fifteen ‘syns’ per day (each syn equating to roughly 20 calories though this is dependent on the fat and sugar content of the individual items which are ‘synned’).  When I’m in the right zone (i.e. on plan) I tend to use these to enhance meals rather than choose chocolate or biscuits, for example. I just need to be in that zone more often! The medical profession considers the Slimming World plan as one of the most sensible eating plans around.

At the group I attend there are around one hundred members including several life-members. These are people who have achieved their target weight and continue to say withing the range of 3lb either side of it. We have members who have lost six stones plus and continue to attend classes. The classes are termed IMAGE therapy (individual motivation and group experience) and they are key to staying motivated. Not everyone stays (usually around half) which is their loss, I reckon. A group may not be for everyone but Slimming World works, even though some people like myself are not very good at it. I know that when I really put my mind to it I can do well, but goodness, do I need that weekly shot of motivation! Our group also has a private Facebook page which is great for mutual support.

I weighed in on 1st January and had gained 3lb over Christmas.  I weighed in again today, and despite the cherry scone I ate when out with my daughter (which I counted as my syns for the whole day, I lost 4lb.

It’s a good start.

Quiet Friday

Dawned the day and it was DULL. Early on it had rained heavily so it was very damp too. No one was in a hurry to get up and when we did no one felt very inclined to go out. Luca was therefore promised an extra long walk later and gently pushed out into the garden but even he wanted a lazy morning and spent most of it lying along the back of the sofa on the blanket I crocheted for daughter, not for the dog!


Later, when the rain had stopped we visited a garden centre close to Shrewsbury where the cafe (grandly referred to as a restaurant) offers mouthwatering cherry scones. We’ve indulged previously and today repeated the experience. There were some excellent bargains on Christmas decorations and other Christmassy goods but I just can’t get very excited about it all in January. Nevertheless, I bought a half price jar of brandy butter for Husband (we still have an unopened Christmas pudding) and a jar of smokey salsa similarly discounted. And then we came home . After Luca got his promised walk  we then spent the rest of the afternoon very quietly in front of the fire.


I read and watched television snuggled up on the sofa with Willis, one of the cats (did I mention that daughter also has three cats?) whilst she did a bit of marking. Although on annual leave from her main job, she also does online tutoring for The Open University.

Below are Viktor (white), Willis and Austin (black).


We had a lovely roast for dinner (she’s not a bad cook, my girl) and now we’re about to settle down and watch ‘A street cat named Bob’. It’s been a lovely couple of days.

Postscript: What an absolutely brilliant film!




Raindrops and Raspberries

A Happy New Year you all. I do hope that you will be joining me often in 2018.

It’s the last day of my thirteen day Christmas break … not a nice feeling. We cleared away the Christmas decorations this morning and so, despite the fact that I don’t  put a great many out, the place is looking a little bare. I gained 3lb at Slimming World last night, not the worst gain of the group by any means, but something to sigh about, nevertheless. Outside it’s a rainy, grey day. Come March, we can at least look forward to spring but right now that seems an awfully long way off.

However, it is our wedding anniversary. We went out for lunch and I ate delicious lemon sole so that made it somewhat better. We had intended going further afield but given the dismal weather and the fact that Husband isn’t feeling great as he has a cough (the first I can ever recall him having) and cold, we stayed local. I don’t like this time of year.

BUT ……  there are many things in my life for which I am grateful which include my lovely family, great friends, general good health and a warm and comfortable home. Oh, and raspberries; I have an abundance of raspberries.

Son and grandson are coming for tea tomorrow so I made raspberry jelly


And raspberry & apple crumble (with an extra one for my brother)


And raspberry brownies. They are inclined to sink where the raspberries are, but they taste amazing! I say this only from past experience … that 3lb has to be gone by next Monday’s weigh-in!


Best of all – I still have TEN 250g boxes left!  I just popped into Tesco to buy some flowers as a gift and there they were – a huge cage of them were being reduced. There must have been a couple of hundred boxes there! The shop was almost empty and not a single customer was looking at them…just me! From £3.25 to 32p.  Whoopee!

Bouquets & Brickbats 2017

The 2017 thisissixty.blog WELL DONE and COULD DO BETTER awards!

Not that the recipients will be in the least bit interested, indeed it is highly unlikely that any of their representatives will ever read my blog. I’m sure I could come up with lots more in both categories, but here are a few that spring to mind this morning:


The Blue Lemon, Shrewsbury. Best free-from nasty additives, reasonably priced toiletries. The owners are very knowledgeable,  their geranium & lavender and tea tree ranges are excellent, the online ordering system simple and straightforward, and delivery is super fast.

Benecos produce make up with similar credentials to the above. I actively try to avoid parabens, phthalates and aluminium so it’s great to know, without having to read the excessively small print that so many manufacturers use, that the products will meet my requirements.

Cross Country trains. Now there’s a surprise – a train company getting a ‘well done’ but praise where it’s due. You may remember that we had had bad luck not once, not twice but three times with train journeys. The final disappointment occurred only days before our complimentary tickets ran out so I wrote to the company explaining the situation and asking if they would consider extending them for a month so that we could make use of them. Without quibble, they gave me new first class tickets valid for a whole year! We now have a three night break in Edinburgh to look forward to in 2018.

The Entertainer toy store must surely be one of the most understanding of ‘staff needs’. The owner did not open on Christmas Eve. He never opens on Sunday stating that  “The Entertainer [is] dedicated to putting family first. For this reason, The Entertainer closes on Sundays so staff can spend time with their family and friends.” Good for him.


Marks & Spencer has to have the worst sale displays. I won’t be going to the current sale but I did unwittingly visit my local store on the very day their summer sale began. Do they specially buy in those racks and racks of garish, shapeless, poorly made clothing nowadays?  I never seem to see these particular items on offer outside sale time so I think they must. I’d rather forego the sale and buy fewer items when the store is less busy, taking my time to choose well. I think this is why I have never purchased a single thing from the jumble sale-style mish-mash that is TK Maxx. I just can’t be bothered to plough through it all. Much nicer to view things properly in a less frantic environment.

Next.  Inexplicably they begin their sale at 6am on Boxing Day. Why? It’s bad enough that any shop feels the necessity of opening on Boxing day but there is no valid reason whatever for such an early start .How about they consider their staff who have to be in store from a ridiculously early 5am. I understand that they are also expected to work until late on Christmas Eve to prepare the sale.  I’d hate to work for a company that was so needlessly dismissive of its employees’ family life. Would the queues be shorter and would they sell less if they opened at 9am? Of course not. I’d bet on the reverse. It’s a gimmick, and not a very nice one. I know that staff in the NHS, police and fire service (and others) work over holidays  and I am very grateful that they do, but I’m talking here about a shop full of frocks and fripperies.

Birmingham Hippodrome theater’s website is B-A-D!  I booked some tickets a couple of days ago and it was a very poor experience. Each time I wanted to check out certain seats, I had to begin the process from the start. When I had chosen and tried to pay for my tickets I had to ‘register an account’. This, of course, is so that they can bombard me with unwanted marketing material. Then, when I tried to register I got a message saying that I was already registered and needed my password. It’s ages since I bought tickets and had no idea what it was so I clicked the ‘forgotten password box’. The system then took me out of the booking page and I had to go through the process of setting a new password.  By then, I had ‘timed-out’ on the tickets I’d reserved and had to start the booking process all over again and the seats I had decided upon were no longer available.

Iceland…please train your staff! Like most other food stores the frozen food specialists issued a booklet showcasing its Christmas specials. Now, as you know, I like to cook but it’s a busy time of year and I’m not averse to the odd ready-made item that promises deliciousness. So loving the sound (and look) of the Roast parsnip, mushroom, spinach and hazelnut pithivier, I made a special trip to the store to buy one.  “Pity what?” said the first assistant I asked when I couldn’t find it in any of the freezers. I described it. “No, never heard of that,” she said. I pointed out that they were advertising it in their Christmas food booklet and she responded that I must be confusing it with somewhere else. I assumed that they had sold out and ascertained that the next delivery would be the following morning. To cut a long and repetitive story short, I went in twice more, spoke to three different staff and a more senior person (the manager was apparently not available) and not one of them had a clue what I was on about. On the the third occasion I had produced the booklet but even that didn’t help. “Probably sold out,” I was told. Probably? Well had you or hadn’t you?  My question to Iceland is this – when advertising specific items, with (presumably) the intention of encouraging customers to buy them, why not inform your staff  of their existence? I’ve completed their online contact form so await their response to this.  During my working life I’ve delivered a fair amount of training and my rates are reasonable. The offer’s there!

And finally, WH Smith. Will you please stop trying to sell me bars of chocolate at your till. Seriously, when I am buying a bottle of ink, what makes you think that I am interested in your super-sized bars of Dairy Milk? OK, OK, I admit it – I am ALWAYS interested in chocolate but I am perfectly capable of sabotaging my diet by myself. I do not need your encouragement!

What companies do you rate for great service, and which could you happily see disappear without trace?

Enjoy your New Year’s Eve, whatever you are doing. And thank you for your continued interest in my blog.

Bits and pieces

I won the Christmas raffle prize at slimming World. Our group leader does one of these herb & spice ‘crackers’ each year and I’ve always coveted it. I could, of course, make my own, or even just stock up on new jars but it’s just not the same as winning!


The ‘S’ in the middle is for star anise. I don’t think I’ve ever used it so look forward to trying it out. Apparently it is the fruit of an evergreen tree which is native to southern China and is mostly used in savoury dishes.

Our dedicated Slimming World group leader is running our usual Monday class on Sunday (Christmas eve) morning. The next class will run as usual the following Monday (New Year’s Day). All designed to keep us on the straight and narrow – though she’s not unrealistic! I think attending on New Year’s Day is a perfect time for a new start (and I’m sure to need it by then).

We had an unexpected overnight visitor last night. Youngest granddaughter decided that, at seven, she is now brave enough to stay over without her big sister (who has always been happy to stay unaccompanied). It was lovely to peep in late at night and see her fast asleep. They always look so gorgeous, don’t they?  I recently wrote about Elf (on the shelf). He came with her so we had to think of an adventure for him. Quite what he did, we have no idea, but he was found this morning driving a Playmobile dustcart and eating a happy hippo wafer biscuit. Granddaughter seemed happy with that.

I finished work yesterday for a thirteen day holiday. HOORAY!! Although we’re only closed for two days, because of how my work days fall, I’ve only had to take two days annual leave to get almost two weeks off. This morning eight of us gym ladies met for coffee and mince pies.  A couple of glasses of Bucks Fizz, shortbread, chocolates, macaroons and sausage rolls later, we got around to the coffee and mince pies!  We also had a secret Santa with restrictions ….no chocolate, no alcohol and a budget of £4. It certainly tests ingenuity! I received a useful shopping bag which folds up into a tiny package that fits into even a small handbag. If only I remember to take it with me! The boot of my car is always well stocked with shopping bags but do I remember to take them into the supermarket? Rarely.

My night-cramps have improved, though not completely disappeared. Peculiarly, it mostly attacks my shins or across my instep. Rarely does it occur in my calves which is, for most people, the common place.  Whether or not my four-pronged attack is working (see below) or I’m just going through a better phase, I really don’t know. The banana, in case you’re wondering is a source of magnesium, a lack of which is thought to be a cause of cramp. The Epsom salts are reputed to help. The hot water bottle is probably the greatest help. As soon as the warning comes (I feel a tightness in the muscle) I make sure the bottle is in the right place and it really does seem to ward it off. Fortunately by the time it’s cooled,  my legs seem to have relaxed. Who knows – perhaps it’s all in my mind.






Continued … a post about blogging

Following on from my recent (apparently well received judging by the comments left) post, I’m going to write a little about some of the other blogs I like to read. Links can be found on the right hand side of this page.

Simple Living 31 is hosted by Marlene who, like Jane at Shoestring Cottage loves a bargain and is kind enough to share her information about where to find them. Marlene’s blog has an added dimension though – she posts some fabulous photographs of birds, particularly those that visit her garden. I don’t know how she does it – visitors to mine are few and far between. It’s not like we have a cat or any other predatory resident. We even have a lovely safe, cosy (in bird terms) home for them but we never get any takers. Marlene also shares recipes and collects pretty china. Like many of us, she writes about whatever takes her fancy at the time (at least I think she does. It could be, of course, that she has it all planned out for months ahead! Do you, Marlene?)

Sue at the cottage at the end of a lane ( http://attheendofasuffolklane.blogspot.co.uk/) writes on similar themes. Having been self sufficient on a smallholding and campsite, she now lives in a Suffolk cottage where she shares with readers the ups and downs of life. It’s an interesting thing – most of the blogging community know each other only via our blogs and yet, in many ways, we know more about each other than, say, the people we see every day at work.

Food, finance, fitness, family and flowers…things that, to a greater or lesser degree, interest us all. Faith writes the Much more with less blog and has won awards for her financial writing and was a finalist in the UK Money blogging awards earlier in the year.  A bit like me, she dips in to any subject that takes her fancy. I really like her flower photography.but have to admit that her food posts and recipes are what interest me most.

I like people who find contentment in the every day and for this reason I enjoy Bless’s posts (http://bless2cents.blogspot.co.uk/). She has great ability to see good in the smallest things. She ends her posts with five things that she’s grateful for that day and its  a sharp reminder to celebrate the good in our lives.   A recent post describes the ceremony of almsgiving at the Buddhist temple which she attends and the sermon which focused on the importance of good friends – something which I have often mentioned as being of great consequence to me.  I always find it interesting to read about other cultures and beliefs. Earlier this year I visited a Buddhist temple and it was fascinating. I keep meaning to write a post about it. I will endeavour to do so soon.

Now to Leigh (it’s a girl thing) … what a coincidence that we both ended up becoming mature students in our fifties and studying similar degrees. Leigh did it whilst travelling around Europe in a motor home, and later England on a narrowboat! There’s dedication for you. During this time she’s also published a couple of books on direct selling and network marketing, another about her travels (from her dog, Martha’s perspective)  and yet still found time to write her blog on girl-stuff.

Finally mummy and me is written by Charlotte who, as well as having an academic career, writes travelogues for people who travel with young children. It’s not advice I need currently but Charlotte is a friend and its nice to keep up with what she’s doing.

And that’s enough about blogging for now. Tomorrow, I’m changing the subject!