Saturday, 31 May 2008

Economic Hardship

I've waited a long time to write this post. I wanted to wait until my blood stopped boiling from another post I read written by someone else some place else. You know who you are.

I waited because I didn't want to be overly emotional but I reckon that even after waiting this long that is going to be hard to do.

Sure there are people out there who live beyond their financial means and use their credit cards when they should be using cash. They buy houses they can't afford and Starbucks every morning instead of their utilities every month. They overindulge their children with expensive toys never teaching those children the value of money. These people are irresponsible and should suffer the consequences of their bad decisions.

These are not the vast majority of people suffering from the current economic landscape.

The people suffering are those who have managed their money carefully making sure to put away a little bit each month into their emergency fund for a rainy day and a little bit more towards their retirement fund. But the fact that wholesale gas prices have risen from $25/barrel to over $120 in just 5 years has meant that you have to make a decision to pay either the gas or the electricity because you simply can't afford both. The same price increase has meant that people can't afford to fill up their cars with fuel to get to work. and don't give me that nonsense about go buy a car that gets better gas mileage. If they had the money to buy a new car they'd pay their gas and electricity. and the increase of food prices at the grocery store have risen by over 7% in 6 months have meant that their food bill has gone up so dramatically they no longer have money for retirement or rainy days. They struggle to pay a mortgage on a home they've paid for 10 years due to the misguided attempt to control inflation with interest rate manipulation.

You can live in your big cushy house with your big salary smiling that smug smile whilst you look down on those who have less than you warm with the feeling that you currently reside at the top of the economic pyramid. I hope that you never lose your job particularly as you get older and the younger generation proves your ideas old fashioned, skills obsolete and your experience irrelevant. I hope your family is blessed with good health and no one close to you is critically injured or diagnosed with a terminal illness not covered by your medical insurance or for which there is no cure. Heaven forbid you even find yourself in the middle of the pyramid because the path from the middle to the bottom appears to be getting shorter every day.

In the meantime I am looking for pennies in the sofa.

Friday, 30 May 2008


A fabulous article for those of you who want to be millionaires (and who doesn't?).

Editors Note: Thanks Clare Bear!

Thursday, 29 May 2008


Before buying another present for someone who doesn't need or want it, visit Kiva.

And give. Generously.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The Last Juror by John Grisham

I got bored with John Grisham years ago. His plots were the same he just changed the names and the genders of his main characters. My favourite Grisham novel was actually his first novel, A Time to Kill, which was re-released after the runaway bestseller, The Firm, which was later made into a film starring Tom Cruise.

So I've skipped the last 10 or so Grisham cookie cutter novels, particularly after his cookie cutter novels became cookie cutter films.

The Last Juror was given to me by Gill after she had powered through it and thought I might enjoy the quick read. And I did indeed!

Willie Traynor is a 23 year old, who just happens to have a rich aunt and be perhaps the luckiest fictional characer I've read about in the last 10 years. He also happens to be the bravest when he takes over the local small town paper to starts telling the stories no one else is telling, eg local corruption, racism, school integration. The story really takes off when a young widow with 2 small children is murdered. It's an open and shut case against a young man who just happens to be a member of a renowned family of hoodlums. But then he vows revenge on those who sentenced him.

The novel is filled with wonderful caracaitures of southern eccentrics, my favourite being Callie Ruffin. Like all of Grisham's novels, it is set in the south and the story starts its telling in the 1970s which must have been an incredibly interesting time to be in the south (of the USA, people!). The ending is sweet although I saw the twist coming a mile away.

This is one of those page turning, read in a couple of hours, entertaining books. Not gonna change your world but a whole lot of fun!

Monday, 26 May 2008

The Rug

I've been meaning to post a photograph of my rug. If you don't know what I'm talking about read this.

The beautiful purchase arrived as promised right on time and has had pride of place in the lounge. It is soooo soft both the children and I love taking our shoes and socks off and walking around on it. the only challenge we have is keeping Bailey (the dog) off of it!

Gorgeous, isn't it?

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Shopping Fun

My shopping trip did not end in tears. For once I had more in my dressing room that fit than I could afford (or wanted to afford) to buy.

I had to carefully restrain myself to not buy more than I needed to get me through the next couple weeks. I bought just what was on my list (another top tip from the stylist). I bought things in sizes much smaller than I thought I was although I have to confess I was massively annoyed at the inconsistency in sizes even within the same store. I had one pair of size 10 (US 8) that fit but a size 14 (US 12) that didn't both in the Gap. What's up with that? It sure doesn't make shopping very easy!

I went to my diet group meeting feeling like I was looking gooooood. First time in a long time I went anywhere feeling proud of my appearance.

I can hardly wait to do some more shopping! Boy, never thought I'd hear myself say that again.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Clothing Crisis

My wardrobe has dwindled to next to nothing, which is a good thing but also a bad thing. It means all my fat clothes have gone to new homes. It also means I've got nothing to wear. And I mean nothing.

I've still got 26 pounds to go so I know that in a few months I will need to replace anything I buy but equally I've got to buy because everything is falling off me.

I've been able to nick a few things from the fat club (diet group) hand me down bags but I am in serious trouble.

I rewarded myself with the advice of a professional stylist this week. She did my colours (which instinctually I knew) and advised that every woman must have great fitting bras (which I also knew - see bra post). But she did give me some great advice that I have haphazardly and at my peril ignored for the last 44 years of my life.

1. Wear your trousers long, especially if you are short. Your ankle bone (that round sticky outy thing on the side of your ankle) should never see the light of day if you are wearing trousers. So I guess that is the end of my cropped trousers which are the only trousers I have in my wardrobe. Doesn't break my heart so much as they are hanging off me anyway but they are the only trousers in my wardrobe right now.

2. If you find trousers that fit really well and you really like them buy 2 pairs of them at the same time. Have one pair altered to fit when wearing heels and the other for flats to ensure adherence to rule number 1.

3. Buy jackets in bold colours to jazz up anything. Make sure the jacket fits and if it doesn't get it altered.

4. Find a good seamstress for all these alterations and keep her.

5. Don't wear black up against your face without breaking it up with a scarf or a bold necklace.

6. Skirts should stop either at the slimmest part of your leg (for me this is much longer than I usually wear) or just above the knee (but only in the summer).

7. Get a pedicure once a summer (at the least).

Then stylist then went through my wardrobe. I knew this wasn't going to take long. There isn't anything there! It was nice to know I wasn't doing so badly on my own but a little heart breaking to know that a few of my favourite pieces needed to go to new homes. I've got a list of essential items she made for me to get me through the next few months and we are off today to procure those items.

I've got high hopes of this not ending in tears like so many previous shopping trips of late. I refused to go shopping when I was fat(ter) unless I absolutely had to (eg underwear). I have now purchased some rather flash (and a wee bit sexy) knickers which are meeting with Marc's approval. The last time I went into the shops was just before my trip to India and I wasn't as small as I was hoping I was but I've lost 11 pounds since then so I should not be disappointed.

I've made 3 piles of clothing: 1) Favourites that can be altered for the seamstress 2) Donations to the fat club 3) Suitable to be sold on eBay to fund my new wardrobe

All of those will be delivered to their rightful places by Tuesday next week.

Oh and I got my haircut. Really cut. So cut that even the men in my office noticed.

The future is so bright, I gotta wear shades!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


Men might want to skip this post and red the one about baseball instead. Or if you want to be particularly enlightened to the trials of tribulations of being a woman feel free to read on. I’m not proud.

With all this weight loss going on, my bra situation had reached critical mass (no pun intended). My puppies were hanging down to my navel. I have lost nearly 5 inches around my back and my cup size had significantly decreased. The back was riding up to my neck and the straps were generally falling down around my elbows. The cups were so big I could have stuffed a small animal in them to keep my puppies company.

I was trying to be thrifty and make due with the bras I had. Knowing that I still have at least 27 pounds to go, I have no doubt that I will have to make a further investment if I buy now.

And bras are an investment at my size. It’s not like I can just pop out to WalMart and purchase a 34H….yes, you read that right – H.

I decided I just couldn’t make do any longer. I made an appointment with Rigby & Peller, the famed London store for all things bra related. This store is noted for their personalised and accurate no nonsense fitting service. Oh, and they have a royal warrant. If the bras are good enough for the Queen, they are good enough for me.

Marc & the children dropped me off at the curb and I went in. In no time I was in front of the mirror with a woman man handling my puppies into an appropriate bra and I was out of the store within 30 minutes.

My puppies are now fully contained and maintaining their position rather well. The bra is comfortable (well, as comfy as bras get) and I haven’t had to pull the straps up or the back down once today. I know a return trip will be required in 4-5 weeks but right now it is worth it.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The B-Word

Can you believe we are more than halfway through May and I haven't even mentioned the B-word on my blog? Not even once since spring training started in March. But I can't hold back any longer.

The Red Sox and Cubbies are both in first place in their division but the Rockies are struggling down in third. the critics are having a field day saying it proves the fluke of their World Series appearance lat year. Well, fluke or no fluke I was proud of them to just get there. I get to watch 2 games/week over here and am seriously considering subscribing to mlb live over the internet. problem with this is I am asleep for most it doesn't really work for me.

We are going to be in the states for nearly 3 weeks this summer. In the schedule, we've got plans to catch 1 game in Colorado. I wonder if my family would be cross if I sit in front of the television watching baseball all day/all night every day. Yeah, that probably won't go down so well.

Sebastian has started batting practice in the back garden. He's good. Do scouting agents come over here?

Oh, how I love the boys of summer!

Saturday, 17 May 2008


Everyone keeps asking me how I did this and telling me they could never do it.

Well, let me tell you something, the answer to both questions is the same: It all depends on how much you want it. Until you want it so bad it hurts, it probably won't happen.

Marc and I will be going to the St George's School Summer Ball in June and I didn't want to the be largest woman in the room again. Maybe that is a slight exaggeration but it is how it felt to me. I didn't want to cry in the dressing room whilst I tried on dress after dress after dress and be massively horrified that I could find nothing that helped cover my bumps and bulges without exposing other bumps and bulges. In recent years, this has been one of the most mortifying experiences.

The other big motivational factors was when I was sitting amongst a group of women who started discussing fat people and how disgusting they were (I'm paraphrasing) among other critical statements about the sex life of fat people. All of these women are slim and trim and they had either completely forgotten I was fat or I had put on my invisibility cloak and they didn't realise I was in the room. I cried all the way home thinking these women, some who I have known for nearly 8 years and who I thought were my friends, think I'm disgusting.

That was it. It was the next day that I made the commitment to do something about it. Now I'm doing this for me. I feel great. I am looking better. A man from the office that I barely know (except in passing) walked up to me in the corridor the other day and told me he kept thinking to himself something had changed. Then he said he realised I had dropped a massive amount of weight and looked great. What a sweet thing for him to say.

I read a few months back that fat people are less successful at their careers. I decided to put that to the test. I looked at all the people who are above me in the corporate food chain and you know what? Not a single one of them is overweight. Not even a little bit.

Working mums have a tougher go at this weight management issue. I would love to spend my mornings at the gym and my afternoons at the tennis court and my evenings taking a run. OK, maybe not all on the same day but this isn't even an option for me. Carving out even 30 minutes for exercise presents some challenges for me since I rarely have 10 minutes to myself before 9 pm (not exactly prime exercise time).

I know once I hit my goal weight the journey is not over. I've registered for the Running4Women Windsor 8K on 20 September and my training starts today! If anyone wants to be a running buddy, please let me know! I could use the encouragement (and pressure to train). I did this run 2 years ago and am hopeful I can better my time especially since when I ran it then I was 12 pounds heavier than I am now! I was just happy to finish it without dying. This year I have loftier goals.

I'm on currently on day 77, only 23 more days to go. I've got a fair amount of anxiety around going back to normal food. Carbohydrates in particular scare the living daylights out of me. I've started my weekly meal planning for post program success. I will undoubtedly still have about 15 or so pounds to go so managing this without the assistance of my shakes and bars will prove a challenge.

I have started taking this into consideration with my weekly meal planning. For the last 12 weeks I've written the meal plans for Marc and the children with the sole intention of minimising the effort Marc would have to put into the cooking since he had to do this on his own. I didn't want him to have to work too hard. But now the meal plans beyond week 14 have to consider my dietary requirements as well as maintaining something that my children and husband will eat and still doesn't take 4 hours to prepare. This hasn't been easy. My kids aren't so keen on salads.

I'm having a major wardrobe crisis. I have 4 pairs of trousers that sort of fit. In fact they are too big but I can manage to keep them up with a drawstring waist. None of my jeans fit me any more. I've got 4 skirts which are great for work (but not so good for mummy duty). I've got a dozen long sleeve shirts and about the same number of short sleeve shirts. None of it really goes together very well. Even all my pajamas are way too big. I really don't want to go spend money on wardrobe items when I know I still have 28 pounds to go but recognise that at some point I will have buy some interim items. I just hate wasting the money.

But I tell you I am soooooo looking forward to the Summer Ball. I haven't bought my dress yet. I haven't even started looking. I've enlisted the help of a stylist and she is excited to help me navigate this anxiety ridden journey. What should be amusing is that I intend to have a glass of wine (or two) on the evening. This will be the first alcohol I will have had in over 100 days. I suspect this should be fairly entertaining for those around me. Top tip (from a concerned bystander) was to mix the wine with some soda water. Now, who would do this to a great glass of wine? Some friends have offered to ensure I stay standing upright. Now with friends like that, what else do you need? (Besides a killer dress!)

Freakonomics by Levitt & Dubner

I gave this book to my husband for Christmas last year. He read it in just a few days which if you know my husband is a pretty strong endorsement for a book. Or maybe not since he reads Jeremy Clarkson books with the same enthusiasm. (Americans won't get that reference - don't worry about it).

I managed to read this in just a few days as well and found it fascinating. It wasn't quite what I expected....actually it was nothing like I expected but it did put forth a couple of thought provoking ideas.

Levitt is a well respected economics prodigy and Dubner is a journalistic friend who thought he could help Levitt tell his story and explain his theories to the masses.

The theory that legalised abortion caused the remarkable reduction in crime rates in the early 90s is perhaps one of the most controversial. The discussion of corruption amongst sumo wrestlers is a somewhat amusing but how this technique was used to eliminate cheating teachers from the Chicago school system was inspirational. It is a shame that the theory about how the KKK was brought down proved later to be based on an urban myth but hey, when your data set is flawed, what's an economist to do?

One of the authors' objectives in writing this book was not so much to prove or disprove various correlations between data sets but more to get people questioning conventional wisdom and asking the right questions.

This is was most certainly a fascinating read. And it only takes a few short hours to get all the way through it. I recommend it if you are willing to look at the world from a different perspective.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner

WARNING: This book is not for the faint hearted or the literary challenged.

I struggled through that first chapter like I've never struggled before. I wanted to curl up under a rug and I hide knowing that this was my choice for book group this month and the ladies in my group were going to hate it and/or refuse to finish it.

Both were true (ish).

I found the first chapter completely baffling and thought maybe I had lost the ability to read. I quickly sought solace in the internet and found some reading guides (like Cliff Notes) online. Ah, then it started to make a bit of sense.

I found everyone struggles through that first chapter.

The story is about the Compson family in 1920s and each chapter is told by a different member of the family (although technically the last chapter is the narrated by the author). The first chapter is told by Benjy, the mentally handicapped brother of Quentine, Caddie and Jason. Their father has died and their mother is either a hypochondriac or the laziest woman ever as she spends their entire life in bed. The children are cared for by their black housekeeper, Dilsey, and the various members of her family.

The first chapter is told by Benjy which is why it is such a complete random stream of consciousness.

The second chapter, told by Quentin, was easier although similarly baffling but now that I understood that Faulkner is playing with time and memory, I relaxed a bit and just let the words pour over me like a hot shower on a cold morning. This chapter thrilled me because it is where I found Faulkner's most beautiful writing. the pages of the second chapter are littered with me highlighting as I read page after page of beautiful words. You don't realise until well into the third chapter that Quentin commits suicide at the end of the second chapter at which point you gotta go reread what he's written.

The third chapter is told by Jason, a bitter, sick, and twisted man. Although this chapter is well ordered and time and place make sense, this was my least favourite chapter but only because I hated Jason.

The book takes place over 4 days and ends. It just ends. There's no finding of the missing Caddie or Quentin (her daughter, not her brother). There's no morality tale. You don't know the whys or wherefores. It just ends.

Faulkner writes the first two chapters largely in stream of consciousness which I find so incredibly difficult to read. He also moves through time the way you recall memories (not in any particular order). He also gives the same name to multiple characters. i don't think Faulkner wrote this novel to be read. I think he wrote it for his own pleasure. And if we all happened to like it well all the better.

I am glad I read this. I am more glad that I invested the considerable amount of time and effort to understand it a bit better. I have a feeling this is one of those books that gets better with multiple readings. I feel that I have had to reread so many parts of the book to help me get what was going on that I have already read it at least 3 times but I suspect it will be one of those works that I pick up again in a few years and give another go.

Some critics have called this one of Faulkner's greatest works. He is considered by some the greatest American novelist of all time. I haven't read anything else he has written so I can't offer up an opinion here. But I can recommend that you give it a go. It's not a long book. But a word of warning. Get a reading guide from the internet and read it first. Don't worry, you won't spoil the ending but you will increase your chances of actually finishing the novel and maybe even increase your understanding of this baffling piece of literature.

Book Group Verdict: Only 2 people finished it (I didn't even finish it). One loved it. One didn't understand it. The others gave up 20 pages or so into the first chapter. Next month will be a much easier endeavour: The Outcast by Sadie Jones.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Halfway and Then Some

I've now lost half the weight towards my goal. I reach this milestone with a mixture of joy and frustration.

I am on day 70 which means that I've not eaten proper food for 70 days. Phew! There are been some genuine white knuckle moments but I am pleased that I have stuck with it and know I can manage the next 30 days without too many challenges. I mean, if I've made it this far why would I give up now, right?

On the other hand, I am frustrated to the core that having not eaten for 70 days my weight loss has been significantly below the expected weight loss for the program. I should be losing .5 pound/day or 3.5/week. I haven't. I lost far less.

My mind gets in my way and I start thinking I could lose this without the starvation element. I start thinking I could eat sensibly and exercise and lose even more.

But then I convince myself that I've got to stick to my commitment to myself to finish the 100 days and this morning I find myself going to yet another meeting of my "group".

I know that at the end of the 100 days I'll still have at least 20 pounds to go to my goal weight and realise that I will have to keep working beyond 8 June to lose those final pounds.

Oh, give me strength!