Cramming

I’m currently coming to the end of a very long weekend and I’ve had some serious exhaustion to contend with. I’m talking the ‘my family thought I might be dead’ kind of deep sleeping. It’s been… something else.

I’d guess that on one of the days of my extended weekend I must have slept for about 20 HOURS. I suppose I needed it? For the life of me, I just couldn’t seem to stay awake. I was infuriating my colleagues last week- night work is especially hard in the summer as it becomes so difficult to sleep during the day. On the hottest day everyone looked like a sleep-deprived mess. Everyone except for me, that is. I slept for 11 hours straight.

I finally seem to have slept myself out, so now with one day before I go back to work, it’s time to CRAM. I promised myself I’d get everything straight this weekend, and I don’t intend to break that promise. My main goals for the rest of the summer are to keep the plants alive, to practice painting, to get my fitness levels up and to drop some more pounds. And to paint, paint and paint some more. Today I need to get loads of boring organising and cleaning done so that I can keep it in order from now on and mostly concentrate on those goals.

Yesterday was a garden pottering day whilst I eased myself back into staying awake for more than five minutes at a time. I don’t have nearly as many tomato plants as I’d planned, but the ones I do have look really robust and healthy. Good ole tomato plants. Most excitingly, the tomatoes have started to appear already.

I think it’s really cool that seeing that first fruit of the season gives me the same buzz that I got from first growing tomatoes two years ago. I’m not sure why- they’re pretty easy to grow, but I’m not complaining. I’ll take my dopamine wherever I can get it.

I bought this young sunflower indoors from the garden back in May, in an attempt to save it from the garden pests. They had nibbled it down to slightly less than a single leaf, damn them. It’s a Mongolian sunflower, and all of my seedlings were eaten bar two, so I didn’t want to take any chances. It has taken such a long time, but it’s finally bouncing back.

My wish is that I get at least one head this year so I have seeds for next year, rather than having to buy more. The same goes for my ‘Tumbling Tom’ tomatoes. Apparently, they are the only variety of tomato that is a true trailing plant, and the seeds were way more expensive than any other I’ve ever bought. There were only a few in the packet, and only one plant survived. Thankfully it looks like it’s going to fruit prolifically so I can also save seeds from that plant (although they may not come true when I sow them next year). I don’t care about stuff like that- for me, that’s a huge part of the excitement. You never know quite what you’re going to get.

I’m very excited that my hollyhocks look like they’re finally going to flower. They were supposed to flower last year but didn’t, so I can’t wait to see what this variety comes out like. Unfortunately, they are absolutely riddled with hollyhock rust (a common fungal infection) so they aren’t exactly looking wonderful, but a ropey hollyhock is better than no hollyhock in my opinion.

The pests really are outdoing themselves this year. I’ve heard other UK gardeners saying the same thing- that the aphids have just gone crazy this summer. Ladybirds eat them, but I’ve only seen one single ladybird this season. One is nowhere near enough. My RHS Gardening magazine tells me to be patient and that the ladybirds and lacewings will eventually come to eat the aphids up, and to not be tempted to spray the plants. Not that I would. We don’t do pesticides in this garden, no matter how annoying the bugs get.

I guess we could also describe our flock of garden sparrows as pests, but I find them hilarious. I suppose it must be handed down the generations that us particular humans aren’t a threat, because every year they try harder and harder to get inside the house. Well, one has actually succeeded so far this year after making it into my brother’s bedroom.

We have both of our bird boxes occupied, but one couple must be new to the area because they don’t like us so much. The shout at me if I get too close and practically dive-bombed my mum while she was out there. One even touched her cheek as it flew by. I don’t have photographic evidence, so here’s a photo I’ve recylcled from 2020. It’s the same box, so I think it counts.

To get a blog posted was in fact on my to-do list this weekend, so I don’t feel bad for taking the time to do it. Having said that, it’s time I cracked on before I run out of energy. I’ve got A LOT to do.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

When a Plan Comes Together

I used to say that I didn’t give a damn about what our house looked like- there are more important things in life than having a picture-perfect home. Up until quite recently, as a family, we’ve been dirt poor. Growing up it was normal not to have a carpet or to have hand-me-downs- you get used to these things. Check out one of the sofas we used to have… They don’t make ’em like that anymore (thank GOD). I believe that came from my great-nan, but I could be wrong. I wonder when it was made. The 70’s? Earlier? All I know is that it’s a monstrosity.

As time goes on I get increasingly self-aware, for better or worse, and once you start taking notice of things, you can’t help but spot patterns. One major thing I have learned about myself is that not living in a nice space makes me grumpy as hell. Despite the fact that the house has needed decorating for years (at least ten), it was with some reluctance that I started doing something about it. Once I began to really see the changes, however, I knew it was worth it. I feel so much better in myself.

When the chap came to lay the new flooring in the living room, I realised it was the first time I’d ever done proper adulting in that respect. It is the first time I have ever arranged something like that by myself, which was then followed by another first. I just bought my first ever brand new sofa, at age 39, which is quite something. Unless it came from a family member, the only other sofa I bought was a second-hand one from a charity shop when I briefly lived in an absolute dump of a flat with my then-boyfriend. I’m all for recycling, but that sofa did smell funny. There was no getting away from that.

As these things go, apart from the flooring, which we splashed out on so that the animals wouldn’t destroy it in five minutes flat, we haven’t spent much money and certainly don’t have the finest of anything. We don’t need anything particularly fancy, but it’s nice enough that I feel infinitely happier than I did. I think the pandemic made me realise how important for the soul it is to have a decent sanctuary away from the world. Home is a good place to be.

I’m not finished by any means. The old carpet and furniture is being taken away towards the end of the month, until which time we’ll just have to look like a bunch of hoarders, and there are loads of little odds and ends still to be done. Now I’ve made so much progress it thankfully doesn’t feel nearly as overwhelming. Dare I say it, I’m actually having fun now! Most importantly, the animals approve. That’s the main thing.

Be that as it may, I have worked hard over the last few weeks and this weekend I just needed a good old rest. For so long it’s been all too easy for me to consider needing rest as an excuse for eating cake and drinking wine, but told you I was going to do better, and I did.

During the week I went to pick up a pile of bricks that my sister and her fiancé kindly let me have (giving the garden even more hoarder-vibes than ever), and I called upon my friend and his van to help me out. I was very grateful not to have to make twenty trips in the car, so as a thank you I took him out for lunch.

I’d had work the previous night and I was exhausted. Diets and exhaustion don’t go hand in hand, because once you reach that point of tiredness it becomes all too easy throw caution to the wind. Luckily I’d had the foresight to plan what I was going to do ahead of time, and somehow I managed to stick to said plan.

I find Wagamama a great place to eat out because even their healthy dishes are flipping delicious. I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy a Wagamama as it happens. Do you ever do that thing where you eat something so tasty that you have to nod and say ‘mmm, MMM, MMMMMMM!!!!’ as you’re eating it? Maybe that’s just me, but either way it’s a sure sign I’m eating some fabulous grub.

On my days off I was going to start on the project I had in mind for the bricks, but I decided rest and relaxation were more important. The bricks can wait. My number one priority has been to stick to plan when it comes to food, and I’ve done exactly that. My reward to myself for working hard was to actually lose some weight and start feeling better already. Because I really do, after just one week.

The constant heartburn is now non-existent, there is a huge reduction in tummy bloating, meaning I can sit more comfortably, and I’ve seriously been enjoying my food. Plus a distinct lack of hangover is a bonus. What did I ultimately get for my hard work? A 7lb loss, that’s what. Happy days.

Now I finally feel like I’m moving forward, and absolutely nothing is going to get in my way.

Hayley x

Something of a Mess

This year I inadvertently took part in ‘No Mow May’. It was a complete accident- I was simply too busy to cut the grass. Or at least, when I did have a spare moment, it was of course raining. I’m not knocking the rain- I didn’t have time to water the plants so I owe anything still being alive out there to the odd shower. The weeds are thriving which I guess is good for the pollinators, but it’s not that easy on the eyes.

That’s kind of a lie actually. I am personally rather partial to the ‘wild’ look but my mother isn’t a fan, and it’s also really hard to find dog poops in the long grass.

Since we currently have a jungle instead of a garden, I’m patiently waiting until it gets late enough in the morning to cut the grass. I could do it now, but at 8am on a bank holiday? I don’t think the neighbours would be impressed. It is the Jubilee weekend in the UK, not that it means much to me. I couldn’t give a rat’s behind about the queen and I don’t get any extra days off work. Yay for working in retail. But I guess I should allow the rest of the street their lie-in. Me, bitter? Never.

In between paragraphs I’ve been popping out into the garden to see what’s new, and I’ve noticed that some of the nasturtiums have sneakily flowered. I haven’t even got around to sticking them in the ground yet but they’re doing just fine on their own.

So, I previously wrote that I was going to start being healthy this Monday, and wonder of wonders, I actually did. It’s a miracle! Before COVID I used to walk into town all the time instead of taking the car, but I haven’t done it since before the outbreak. Until yesterday that is. I’ve been putting it off for no other reason than I feel so bloody self-conscious about my appearance at the moment.

Fitness-wise I was fine. Despite being several stones heavier than the last time I walked that route, I did around five miles with not even a blister to show for it. Including doing my shopping, I was on my feet for just over two hours. Ok, I was also quite a bit out of breath and absolutely BAKING, but I’m happy that I don’t have to start right from the beginning when it comes to getting my old life back. In any case, look at that view. That sky! You don’t get that sitting indoors.

As for food, where I have repeatedly fallen down is that I started listening too much to other people. All the times I’ve been the most successful at losing weight so far, I’ve been following the Slimming World plan. The premise is that you can eat as much as you want of ‘Free Foods’, so you never have to worry about going hungry. The plan states that you should eat until you feel full, but that’s something I never paid much attention to at first. I like big portions, I always have. I like to eat.

It’s right that Slimming World should add a caveat with the Free Foods, because if you start eating everything in sight for the sake of it then you’re obviously not going to lose much weight. Having said that, I definitely took it too much to heart. I remember I’d lost quite a bit of weight already when my consultant asked me what I’d eaten recently. I’d made a crustless quiche, and if I remember rightly I’d used six eggs. She said to me, ‘but you didn’t eat it all, right?’ I did. I ate the whole damn lot, and I lost several pounds that week as it happens. I lost several pounds every week back then.

After that, other things started creeping into the group conversations. I started feeling guilty if my portions were too big or if I ate until I was stuffed, and that made me not only miserable but also, annoyingly, hungry. I see it on social media, too. HOW CAN SLIMMING WORLD WORK IF YOU CAN EAT 10KG OF PASTA AND STILL BE ON PLAN?!?!? Well, you can’t. As in, you can’t eat 10kg of pasta and not explode. That’s how it works.

Previous attempts to ignore the voice telling me to have one less potato or whatever have failed, but I have a whole new supply of determination at the moment. I have been eating very generous meals, and I’ve noticed that I haven’t been getting ridiculous cravings. Long may it continue! Yes, I’m still worried that I won’t lose any weight this week, but I need to see this through. I’m ignoring the doubts, and even if I don’t lose, at least I’m eating some veggies. My heartburn has almost gone, too. It will NOT be missed.

Ok, it’s only been 3 days and I have a long way to go, but I’m three days closer to my goal than I was before.

That’s something.

Hayley x