Holding out

It’s a month since I lost a couple of pounds, and to my amazement I have kept them off. I haven’t gone mad on festive foods but with guests and birthdays and Christmas I’ve eaten and drunk (and thoroughly enjoyed) all sorts of things that would normally be off-limits. Keeping lost weight off in those circumstances feels like a rare old achievement.


Or trying to. As usual the wheels have come of my attempts to avoid carbs completely. A depressingly familiar scenario played out yesterday:

There was a birthday in the family so I hosted a tea party. I stuck the rules – mainly – eating lots of cheese and pate. I did succumb to one triangle of pizza, but I could live with that. I hd a small glass of Bucks Fizz too. I felt those were acceptable in the circumstances, and not too OTT. I’ll be honest, it was a stressful afternoon with the children pushing any button they could find, so when our guests left I fell into a whisky & ginger ale. Of course, once I had a little alcohol inside me, I got the munchies. I ate FOUR triangles of pizza – bad Heather. So, having eaten shedloads of fat at tea, I then ended up eating the carbs too.

I’m in the second half of my cycle so already feel like the Michelin woman. In an attempt to put things right I’m fasting today, until supper time. I like to eat with my children – no, let me rephrase that: I think I should eat with my children, but I don’t usually enjoy it much.

I’m ravenous. Not sure I’m going to last, but I’m hidden away in my office so as long as I don’t go through to the kitchen things are under control.


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I’ve just read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, published by Hodder. It was such a good read that I read it in one day – helped by not feeling too well so spending the evening in bed.

Water for Elephants grabbed me from the first pages. It opens with a stampede from a circus menagerie in America during the Depression and from that point on the story never loses pace. The story is told by Jacob Jankowski, who, following the shocking sudden death of his parents, finds himself very unexpectedly the not-quite-qualified vet for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

The circus is peopled by a motley crew of performers, workers and bosses, and of course the animals who steal the show – and the story – constantly. Gruen based many of the events in the story on real events which is

What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute

I’m a big fan of the WWII genre, but until I read this book (not strictly a WWII story as the events are fictional – perhaps apocryphal is a better word) I hadn’t realised how cosily plucky little Blighty’s fight has been portrayed. I’ve read books that detail the most appalling and life-shattering events but nothing ever before that has conveyed the sheer terrifying and exhausting grind of trying to survive while not being sure quite which is the right choice at any point.

At first I was so irritated by spoilt Joan who couldn’t manage without multiple maids and a nanny that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy the book, but I soon realised that I couldn’t put the book down. I have young children too and found myself wondering how on earth I would hold it together for a single night if bombs were falling around us. I knew water supplies were interrupted and various foods became scarce, but I hadn’t brought it down in my mind to the level of how long it would take to run out of water and then how you’d feel if you knew there was a chance that any water you did find could kill you all.

As the story wound on I was sobered by the fear and fatigue, the requirement to carry on finding something to feed your children, the squalor of the out-of-town camps that wore on, the mismatch between the official version of events and reality on the ground, the total inability to relax, ever, about anything – this must have been far closer to people’s experiences than anything else I have read. It’s my first Nevil Shute and has me wanting to read more.


I make these every year for a wheat-free friend. When the lebkuchen are cold you can paint chocolate onto their undersides, or dip them, but I’m not organised enough for that this year. One quantity makes loads, easily enough to give 2/3 as a present to my friend and put the other 1/3 on the plate school has sent home for offerings for the school bazaar.

4 eggs
9oz caster sugar
1t vanilla essence
1/2t ground cloves
5oz chopped peel
grated rind 1 lemon
7oz ground almonds
3 1/2oz chopped hazelnuts

Whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla, then add the other ingredients and mix to a thick paste. Put in pudding-spoon sized blobs on a lined baking tray and bake for half an hour at 125 degs.

If your mixture seems a bit runny add some more ground almonds.

The leftover lemon can be chopped up for preserved lemons, which make a lovely Christmas gift – one I’m adding to a motley collection of items that are filling a pretty basket for someone. I’m doing spiced oranges too, but not today!