Tuesday, 25 February 2014

On losing and gaining weight

For a long time I was able to weigh (excuse the pun) in on discussions about weight loss and various diets. I could tell people about the time that I lost over 60lbs following a Weightwatchers plan and that it had been hard at times but, also, not really, I'd just got on with it and fixed the issue that was making me sad.

Only that was in 2011 and we are now in 2014.

So where are we now?

For a long time everything was fine and although I didn't weigh myself (I don't own scales) I could tell just by the way my clothes fit that I was vaguely the same. And I was fine with that, it wasn't about being a particular weight, in fact I wasn't very comfortable at my goal weight, it was just a little too slim for me. It was just about feeling better in myself. And I did.

But come on, I haven't answered the question. Where am I now?

The god's honest truth that I've only just admitted to myself after a fairly hefty period of denial?

I'm only a stone away from where I started in 2011.

And I've managed to put it on in basically the last part of 2013.

We live in a funny little world I think. It's gradually come to my attention that we live in a society where we really enjoy not taking the blame for bad things that happen. I understand that to some degree, it helps to be able to point the finger and say "You, you are the cause of all my woes". I actually saw someone on my Facebook feed make a comment about the recent flooding, followed by the comment "Sort it out Mr Cameron." I know, I judge me for having a friend who would write that too. But it does illustrate a point, we really like blaming people for when bad things happen.

And I am at this point gifted a huge opportunity because I have the ultimate scapegoat to blame for putting weight back on.

The diet industry.

What could be easier than blaming Weightwatchers, the very instrument that helped me lose weight, for putting weight back on again?

Except that I'm not an idiot.

People love to throw around statistics about how people who do diets end up piling the pounds, plus a few extra, back on once they come off the plan. I don't believe I fall into that statistic, we're talking about something that happened just over three years ago, it's not as if I put it all on six months after reaching my gold weight. Weightwatchers did exactly what it is that they are supposed to do. Helped me to lose weight. It is not their job to keep the weight off, that has to be down to me surely?

In this day and age can we ever lay the blame at the diet industry's door? There can't be a person out there that doesn't know that to lose weight you have to eat less and exercise more. If you know this equation then how can it be anyone else's issue but your own?

So if I can't blame it on the diet industry then what else can I blame it on?

Here I could offer you a multitude of excuses.

- I lived with my sister for a year and didn't really have control over what I ate
- Moving away from The Person meant I was sad and more prone to eating rubbish to make myself feel better
- Then when I did go to Preston to see him it was a treat so you'd eat 'treat' type things
- Then we moved back in together and I started eating portions to match his monstrous appetite
- Then the weather was bad and my knee was injured and I couldn't go running and get exercise in

All valid and all contributory towards me piling on more than a few pounds but they are exactly what I just said.


I know more than anybody what I need to do to lose weight. I did it once before, I don't get to have excuses. Emotional eating is a problem, yes, but I'm doing exactly what I said I didn't want to do, which is to pass the buck and blame something else. "Oh it's not my fault I've put weight on, it goes back to deep seated issues I have with food to do with my mother/father/auntie/next door neighbour."

Saying "I'm an emotional eater" is just another excuse.

"Well getting over that is easier said than done" I hear you say. And I couldn't agree more.

I wish I was blessed with a naturally small appetite. I wish that I didn't feel an inexplicable need to finish everything on my plate regardless of whether or not I was hungry. I wish that I didn't want to eat when I was bored/sad/happy/nervous etc etc. But the fact is I do and therefore I have a choice. I can carry on and eat everything in sight and be very overweight and not feel happy in myself, or, I can just fricking eat less and go out for more runs. Sometimes stuff in life doesn't come easy to certain people. Crocheting amigurumi animals? That comes fairly easily to me. Not eating all the food in the cupboards and lazing on the sofa all the time? That comes a little harder.

Believe me if I could find someone to blame for my current situation I would. It would be so much easier. It would be so much easier for it to be someone else's fault that I ended up throwing a strop and not wanting to go out this Saturday night because none of my clothes fit and I felt uncomfortable.

Because the terribly unpalatable truth is that the only person to blame is me.

And finally I've found something that's hard to swallow.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Gerbil fun-time play-time

Oh hai, let's talk some more about gerbils, yeah?

Our gerbils are very happy in their gerbilarium but it is important to get your gerbils out and play with them regularly. They like being with humans and are naturally inquisitive and they need to get used to being handled so getting them out for some fun time is very important.

When we first got them we had kept the box the gerbilarium came in and would put them in that with some toys for a while. But they always seemed a little frantic in it and it wasn't particularly big and I eventually got very annoyed at having a massive box in the living room so we needed a new option.

Enter gerbil bath-time play-time.

No you don't put water in you crazies.

Put an old towel* down in the bottom of the bath, set out some toys and away your gerbils go!

Spot the hilarious gerbil standing up

Things that gerbils love include:
- something to hide in
- old t-shirt to play in
- tubes to run in and out of
- dust bath (gerbils have dust baths like chinchillas)
- snacks in case hunger strikes

They absolutely loved scampering about and having fun in the bath. I felt pleased that they were getting some decent exercise and it's just so much fun to watch them having a good time and exploring all over the place.

Plus you get to take good pictures like this;

Aah yes. This picture.

This is a picture of Tyrion Lannister looking for a way to get out of the bath.

It seemed that no matter how much fun the gerbils had in their bath, after a while they started to look for a way out. We had visions of being able to leave the gerbils in the bath for a run around but witnessing Tyrion coming incredibly close to reaching the height of the bath from a standing start made us realise that bath-time fun-time had to be supervised.

This wasn't huge fun for us. I love my gerbils, but when I found myself sitting on the toilet, crocheting whilst supervising gerbil play-time I decided that it would be good to look for other options.

Enter....Gerbil playpen fun-time.

The Person found this in a pet shop in Burton on his lunchbreak. I was initially sceptical - the gerbils can easily jump the height of this, but at least if we were going to have to supervise playpen fun-time then at least we can do it in the lounge, watching tv at the same time.

Please notice the new addition to fun-time in the form of that big yellow ball. That has caused us a few problems.

I had a hamster when I was younger and I always wanted one of those balls that you put them in and let them run about the house in, but I was never allowed to get one. Mum was convinced it would fall apart and the hamster would be on the loose and the cats would find it...you  can imagine.

But I am a grown-up now and I can get a ball for my gerbils and I was so excited for them to be in it.

Only problem was the gerbils just didn't really like it. We would put them in it and they would have a little run and then mostly just stand still in it and not move at all. Gerbils are not often still so we felt it wasn't a good sign. Luckily for us the ball also came with two openings that you can attach - a solid one for when they are free-running and an open one that you can attach to a stand and they can hop in and out of and have a run around in.


They. fricking. love. it. As soon as Ser Jorah Mormont sees it he jumps in it and spends most of gerbil playpen fun-time absolutely galloping in it like a maniac. Tyrion was a little more cautious at first and didn't want to get in but he's come round to the idea of it now. There have even been times when they are both in it, running. Of course every time I try to take a photo or video of that, one of them jumps out.

Gerbil playpen fun-time is a great way to try and take photos of your gerbils. Just be aware that they may come out looking a bit like this;

Gerbil fun-time play-time is immensely important for gerbils and their gerbil parents, but you don't need to have bath-time fun-time or even playpen fun-time - all you need is yourself and your gerbil and a nice seat on the sofa. As long as you have your wits about you, you yourself can become a gerbil playpen and your gerbil will scurry about like the little gerbil they are.

And when they are still you can take photos like this;

Gerbil fun-time play-time.

Not just fun for gerbils.

*I cannot emphasise 'old towel' enough. Gerbils like to eat things and dig at things and they will eat through material. Trust me. I have the holes in my clothes to prove it.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Gerbil parents

Let me tell you, I probably shouldn't have children you know.

I've heard all the parents talk about how the love you feel for your child is like no other, yada yada.

I just don't think I'd be able to handle it.

If loving your child is a greater love than the love I currently feel for my gerbils then I just don't think my mind and body could take it.

Because I really love these gerbils guys. Like really.

I live and breathe these little gerbils - I think about them an abnormal amount during my days, specifically whether they are having a happy gerbil life and we are being good gerbil parents and giving them everything that they need.

We have only been gerbil parents for just under 4 months and we are devoted.

And really, how could you not be when there's this little face looking at you?

Probably about 65% of mine and The Person's conversations revolve around the gerbils in some way.

Behind the sofa there is an ever growing pile of 'gerbil stuff' - not just the bedding for their gerbilarium - but a box with what are basically toys. The toys are rotated in to the cage regularly in order to keep their gerbil brains busy and there is a little stockpile of gerbil treats for when they are very good gerbils.

They have an exercise ball and an exercise wheel. A seesaw. A cube with holes in. A cottage. Half a coconut as a little house. Two bendy stick bridges. Various tubes. Empty toilet rolls.

Basically if you've seen it at Pets at Home, we've more than likely spent our hard earned cash on it.

We've hit every gerbil-based website that the internet has to offer in an attempt to ensure that we are feeding our gerbils the right thing, housing them in the best habitat, giving them the best playtime, handling them in the best way, and so on and so on.

And last night I a lightbulb moment and put "Gerbils" in the search function of Pinterest...

But for all our stressing I am pretty certain that we are good gerbil owners - I mean, this guy looks pretty happy doesn't he?

You know those people who have babies and then blog about nothing but their babies?

Expect a lot of gerbil posts.

Sorry I'm not sorry.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Don't say the V-word

It's that time of year again when some people get bitter that they're not in a relationship, some people don't care that they're not in a relationship, some people buy flowers and gifts and chocolates and go out for a meal, some people say it's just a holiday invited by greeting card companies...

...And then there are some people, like me, who do not lose their shit over another day.

I do not feel the need to proclaim I'm terribly non-commercial and won't have anything to do with Valentine's Day.

Nor do I feel the need to go out and have a meal in a restaurant, surrounded by other couples, who are all secretly eyeing each other up and wondering who is the most in love in the room.

I will buy The Person a card because it's a nice little thing to do. And indeed I do not need a day to tell him I love him, I tell him every day anyway, but isn't it nice to have an excuse to make a point of it?

We will not be going out for a big romantic meal.

We will be in Hull, having a Chinese takeaway with my Mum and trying desperately to keep our prawn crackers away from this little person...

....And this little person

So whether you choose to mark the day or not, have a good one.

Hey, it's a Friday this year - and all Fridays are exciting regardless of the date so that's got to be a good thing surely?

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Interesting February

I am on a roll here people.

Last month saw me kick my Not Really Resolution of doing something interesting each month in to action and I met up with special internet friends in real life.

So when February came along I thought I'd just carry on with the theme and meet another special internet friend.

Enter Janet who writes over at Words That Can Only Be Your Own we 'met' last May during Blog Every Day May and I guess that's why it's fun to join in with those kind of blog memes that travel around, they bring you into contact with all kinds of people. Also if you use Twitter you can get your hashtag on and find lots of people that way.

I immediately decided I liked Janet as she does the same kind of blogging as I like to think I do - a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little of the other. And then she wrote a post about deciding not to monetise her blog and I think at that point I fell a little bit in love. (Even if saying how much I liked it on Twitter got me into a world of pain from people who got pretty defensive about the whole PR thing.)

So how pleased was I when I discovered that Janet not long doesn't live too far away from me, in Leicester, she also lives in a city that is the only one accessible by public transport from the backwater that I currently live in.

So I hopped on a bus for a journey that took over an hour each way - but didn't really feel like and only cost £6 return and gives you views like this out of the window...

...and made my way to Leicester.

Upon arriving early into Leicester I made a beeline into my most favourite of places. That of the crappy bus station cafe. I love these places. Their food and drink is relatively cheap and the cups of tea always taste good and they are terribly imaginatively named...

When Janet found me I was deeply ensconced in my book and nurturing the dregs of my brew. And that's where there's another cool thing about Janet I can tell you about - she reads the Game of Thrones books too! Hello my name is conversation starter. You can't go wrong with a person that likes these books.

I had no agenda for the day other than to just get out and about and see something different. As someone who lives in a place where the only high street shop is a New Look the size of most people's living rooms I would have been ecstatic just to see shops, let alone go in them.

Janet took me to some brilliant places that I never would have come across in a million years had I gone to Leicester by myself. We vintaged ourselves up a treat in Dolly Mix Vintage where I got myself a brilliant crocheted waistcoat for a 70s party that I'm heading to this weekend and I stopped to admire the impressive collection of (and very reasonably priced) vintage suitcases. There was a part of me that very nearly snapped one up but common sense prevailed and I remembered what happened the last time I fell in love with a vintage bag and ended up with something that is very beautiful but is heavier than trying to carry a World's Strongest Man contender around over your arm.

Janet patiently waited whilst I ransacked haberdashery shops and clothes shops alike, as a year of never going shopping came bursting out all in one go. And she even took me to the best bar/pub ever, The Orange Tree, which I will be visiting again in order to neck their entire cocktail menu.

I only intended on being in Leicester a couple of hours, but when I realised that I'd been there for four I counted that as a job well done. It was only on my way back to the bus station that I realised I had basically talked for the whole four hours and Janet had probably gone to lie down in a darkened room with a flannel over her eyes.

I can only say sorry - I don't get out much and the combination of being out + meeting someone new + discovering a new place was too much for my senses to deal with as I bulldozed my way around Janet's fair city like rampaging bulldozer type animal.

But I count it as a job well done. I've discovered a new city which I can actually get to and I have discovered a new special internet friend, who I have more than likely terrified and will never step foot out of her front door again.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Extroverts don't have it easy you know

The other week an impromptu after work drinks thing was arranged.

Normally this is my most hated of things. I hate impromptu stuff, it gives me the willies and the shakes and I don't like it. It wasn't planned, it wasn't on my list of things that need to be done. That makes it scary.

My initial reaction is to say no to these things but I also knew that someone who complains that she doesn't have friends and then turns down opportunities to go out and make friends is a very sad person indeed.

"I'm just going to go out for one" I told The Person, "I'll be back about 8pm."

I did not come back at 8.00pm.

I came back at 1.30am.

I, however, was triumphant. Not because I'd broken down the barriers and actually made people realise that I'm super fun and brilliant. Not because I'd just had a great time. Not because I'd drunk all the drinks and danced to all the songs.

I was triumphant because I was the first person to leave the night out and come home.

Welcome to the world of an Extrovert.

There was a point at 10.00pm when I actually wanted to go home - I'd had a few drinks, had a good chat with people and was feeling good. I knew I had to be up early the next day as my Dad and his wife were coming to see us and I also knew I needed to text The Person to point out that I had indeed not come home at 8.00pm as originally planned.

If I was an Introvert, also known as The Person, this is the point at which I would have gone home. For all the reasons I just listed above.

But I am not an Introvert. I am an Extrovert and Extroverts don't leave the party early.

I made a noise about maybe going home and everyone went "No, come on to the next pub" and I, after absolutely no further persuasion whatsoever readily agreed.

For me it didn't make sense to leave the party early. Yes there were all those reasons I just listed above but you see there was one overriding factor - I was still having fun. Why on earth would anyone leave when they were still having fun? My brain cannot comprehend the thought that a person can have fun and then say to themselves "That's my fun all topped up now, I can go home."

I want more fun. I want my fun to run over and overflow. I want to keep funning until the sun comes up.

I do not get drained by being around people, even when I didn't want to go out in the first place. Once I'm in a group and talking and chatting I feel my energy levels slowly building and lifting. There have been times when I've been accused of being drunk on a night out when I've been stone cold sober. I'm not drunk, I am just giddy on the fumes of excitement, lightheaded on the vapours of jollity, blinded by the dazzle of friends. I get silly and loud and raucous and I just never want it to stop. Ever.

If I had left at 10.00pm when I had absolutely had fun and a great time I would have been left feeling a little bit empty inside. People would still be out having fun and I wouldn't be with them - not being with people who are having fun is incredibly difficult for an Extrovert. As I spoke about in this post - last year was so hard for me because I haven't had friends to go out and have fun with.

For an Extrovert my own company isn't enough. I know it's terribly uncool to admit that. We're all supposed to be self-contained hives and the internet is full of people absolutely desperate to let us all know that they are the person that is the most ok with being in their own company. I think the trouble sometimes is a misunderstanding of the phrase. When I say my own company isn't enough I'm not saying that I couldn't survive without a man in my life or I couldn't bear the solitude of living alone - believe me, as someone who has a man in their life and lives with him there are many times when I long to be in my own space. What I'm saying is that I need real life human interaction on a regular basis in order to feel happy and content.

I thank god for Twitter most days now. During the past year when I didn't have real life friends about Twitter was a god-send. I go on there every night and talk to at least one person, that was how I tried to keep my Extrovert happy. I felt like I was talking to people and making connections and being part of something. But unfortunately 140 characters just isn't enough for me, I like having actual voice conversations too.

Recently the internet has been talking a lot about being an Introvert. By doing this it becomes easy to cast Extroverts as limelight stealing show-offs who drain the energy from the poor Introverts.

But we don't mean to drain your energy. It's just that sitting at home and not talking to people for really long periods of time leaves us feeling just as shitty as you do after a long period of socialising.

And that sucks too.


For an Introvert's view of things, please go and read this post by Janet

If you have a sense of humour and are able to laugh at the tongue in cheek nature of the list then please go and read 15 Unmistakable, Outrageously Secret Signs You're an Extrovert. If you are neither of those things then don't bother, you'll get all huffy and offended on behalf of Introverts everywhere.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

What I've been doing whilst I haven't been blogging

Oh it's February...

How did that happen.

I have a brain which is full to the brim of things I want to blog about (mostly involving gerbils) and I know that there have been many times when I've said to myself "You need to sit down and get your blog on woman", but for some reason, even switching on my laptop has been an effort.

One thing I have not been doing though is sitting on my bum and feeling sorry for myself you will be relieved to hear.

Things I have been doing include:


2013 was over-shadowed at the end of the year reading-wise by some fairly weighty tomes that took up all my time. Vanity Fair took me a ridiculous almost three months to read - although that was because I kept dipping in and out of it. When I wasn't reading Vanity Fair I was starting to make my way through George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series (also known as Game of Thrones to TV fans). If you've never seen them before they are whacking great door stops of books.

I decided to take a break after reading the first three books - the third of which is so large it's split into two massive books - in January and raced through three books in the first three weeks. This is mainly because the sum total of pages of these three books probably adds up to one Game of Thrones book.

After finishing Heft, I have turned back to George RR Martin and I am currently reading A Feast for Crows - this means my book tally for February is going to be a low one.


After my Not Really Resolution to eat more vegetarian meals I have been spending time looking for interesting veggie recipes.

This is the trouble I find with vegetarian meals. They are often terribly uninspiring and it's been harder than I thought it would be for a variety of reasons.

However I've made a good dent and am four meals down.

From top left: Blue cheese & pesto pasta / Tortilla / Mushroom & Spinach pasta / Lentil bolognese


This is the main reason that I have not been blogging.

I have been crocheting like a wild woman in 2014. A couple of people at work had found out about the amigurumi stuff I was doing and asked me to bring the books in to work so they could have a look. Before I knew it, the books had been passed around work and the books came back to me with little bits of paper sticking out all over them.

I think the order book was at about 12 items so I've been head down.

January's output is this so far:

 Dinosaur & cat from this book / Monkey from this book / Seal, goat and bee from this book 

 Actually I'm quite impressed with myself. Pat on the back for me.

The dinosaur is by far and away my favourite I love him and I want an excuse to make him again. The cat was also a favourite although all the colour changing to make his face did make me want to poke my eyes out a little bit. Bee was super quick to make up, until I got to his wings, which are made out of a super annoying fluffy wool but I'm very proud of myself for not swearing once whilst making them up.

Oh and actually I made two goats this month so add another one on to the total.

It's hard to crochet and blog. It's impossible to crochet and read which is something which I find really annoying. Unfortunately audio books don't work for me, I can't concentrate on them. What I have done is watched a vast amount of absolutely terrible television whilst creating all this output.

Still left to make:
- Horse x2
- Elephant x2
- Panda x1
- Octopus x1

Who knows, eventually I might be able to crochet something for myself one day.