27 December 2012

Recipe: chocolate cranberry cookies

Christmas is already over! Wow, those days zoomed by, didn't they? Gone before I knew it. The days before Christmas were hectic and stressful, so I very much looked forward to the days off, even though the stress was partially to blame on something not work-related! You see, we had a special announcement to make this Christmas.

Who are engaged and freezing on a seaside cliff? These two!

We are getting married!
What does that have to do with cookies, you're probably wondering. Well, if I get stressed, I often find myself in the kitchen to bake cookies. As a form of stress relief, you see. Delicious, delicious stress relief. And seeing as we got engaged on the 15th of December but picked Christmas as the date to tell our families the big news, I got quite stressed in those 10 days of waiting! So I baked Christmas-appropriate cookies to go with the news!

I wanted to write 'We are getting married!' on the cookies in melted chocolate, but the melted chocolate was too thick for the nozzle on my squirt bottles (booh! I'm pretty sure I ruined one by clogging the nozzle with white chocolate!), so as a back-up plan, I covered them in the white chocolate and drizzled dark chocolate all over them. They were a big hit! And so was the news!

These relatively simple cookies are based on a recipe from the wonderful blog I Am Baker. In stead of adding white chocolate chunks to the dough, though, I added dried cranberries. In hindsight, I should have given them a chop, because the cranberries were rather large and impossible to cut through with a cookie cutter, making for some rather uneven and wonky cookies here and there, and I ended up with a lot of cookie dough crumbs and dough-covered cranberries on my workbench. Which is how I found out that the dough itself is absolutely delicious. Really, be careful you don't eat the whole batch raw because the chocolatey flavour from the cocoa powder and the somewhat acidic pop from the cranberries will make you go back for more!

But trust me when I say this: They're even better when actually baked.

Chocolate cranberry cookies

adapted from I am Baker
Makes a hell of a lot of cookies. I stopped at 60.

-1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 sticks room temperature butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries (chopped)
- 150 gr. white chocolate (2 bars)
- 75 gr. dark chocolate (1 bar)

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Stir in the egg and the vanilla extract.
Stir in the flour in small quantities at a time, until fully incorporated.
Stir in the salt.
Stir in the cocoa. Be careful, it'll floosh up if you stir too roughly and coat EVERYTHING in cocoa powder. I speak from experience.
Stir in the cranberries until mixed throughout the dough.

Cover the dough in cling wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to firm up before you roll it out.
Pre-heat your oven to 175 C. Roll out your dough (it is quite sticky, so place it between two sheets of waxed paper to roll out) until it is about 1 cm. thick. Cut out your cookies using a cutter. Mine is scalloped and has a 5 cm. diameter.
Place your cookies on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for approximately 10-12 minutes. The original recipe says 8-11, but this depends heavily on your oven. My oven doesn't actually run as hot as it should, so I placed them in there for the full 12 minutes.

Once they are done, fish them off the sheet and place on a cooling rack to cool off completely before decorating them.

When it's time to decorate your cookies, melt your chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or mug in short intervals, stirring in between each nuke until the chocolate is fully melted. Cover your cookies with chocolate, and allow the chocolate to dry at least half-way until you decide you can't control yourself. Only then can you eat one. Or two. Or five. I won't judge, I've eaten at least 20 on my own.


19 December 2012

Pattern: ridiculously easy christmas tree

tiny crochet christmas tree
Even the tiniest of trees can bring some serious Christmas cheer!

The most anticipated event of the year is almost upon us! And after the hubbub about the end of the world this Friday is over, it's almost time for Christmas, too!

While I contemplate making a zombie amigurumi to commemorate the event, though, I thought I'd show you what I did this week. I wanted to crochet something quick and festive for the season because... We don't have a tree this year. Or last year, for that matter. Or really any year that we've been living together. All we had was a sad-looking, plastic mini-tree that we got as a gag-gift for the BF's birthday years ago. (That's what you get for having a birthday in December, I suppose: all your gifts are either wrapped in seasonal wrapping paper, or are geared towards one of the major holidays...) I finally threw the thing out this year because it had been collecting a ton of dust on top of a bookcase (in plain view, so technically, we had our tree up in the heat of summer). We decorated the house this weekend, but with the lack of actual Christmas tree, we made do with our ginseng tree and strings of lights in the study. In order to at least have something tree-like in our house, I made this tiny ornament to cheer up my desk! A little festive cheer while I'm working can't hurt anyone, right?

My two unconventional trees, buddy-ing it up in the living room.

It's such a simple project that I've decided to write up the pattern. Here goes!

The Ridiculously Easy Crocheted Christmas Tree

You need:
- green yarn (I used 2 different strands of 2 different weights held together), +/- 30 grams, I think? It's far less than one ball of DK yarn.
- a 4.0mm hook, or to match the weight of your yarn.
- polyfill
- a yarn needle to sew in your ends
- some trinkets to decorate with, like ribbons, buttons, beads, or (like me) pins!
The pattern is written in American terms. All you need to know is the single crochet, the increase (sc 2x, making 2 single crochets in the same stitch), the decrease (decr, pulling up a loop in two consecutive stitches so you have 3 loops on your hook, wrap your yarn, pull through two loops, wrap your yarn and pull through the other two), and how to do a front loop only stitch.

- Start the base of the tree with 6 sc in the magic loop. Pull the ring closed, but do not close the round, as we'll continue in the round (6 st).
- (sc x 2) 6 times (12 st).
- (sc x 2, sc) 6 times  (18 st).
- (sc x 2, sc, sc) 6 times (24 st).
- (sc x2, sc, sc, sc) 6 times (30 st).
- (sc x2, sc, sc, sc, sc) 6 times (36 st).

At this point, we stop increasing and switch to the body of the tree.
- sc around, front loop only. (36 st)
- sc around (36 st).
- sc around (36 st).
- sc around (36 st).
- decrease round: (decr, sc, sc, sc, sc) 6 times (30 st).
- sc around (30 st).
- sc around (30 st).
- sc around (30 st).
 - decrease round: (decr, sc, sc, sc) 6 times (24 st).
 - sc around (24 st).
 - sc around (24 st).
 - sc around (24 st).
  - decrease round: (decr, sc, sc) 6 times (18 st).
 - sc around (18 st).
 - sc around (18 st).
 - sc around (18 st).
- decrease round: (decr, sc) 6 times (12 st).
 - sc around (12 st).  
 - sc around (12 st).
 - sc around (12 st).

At this point, you need to break out your polyfill (or leftover yarn, or that ball of horrible acrylic yarn you never ever want to use ever ever, or cotton balls, or whatever you can think of to stuff a crochet toy), and stuff your tree. Really cram your stuffing in there, as you will need to wiggle some of it into the top of the tree when you're done! You can always add a bit extra after the next decrease-rounds, so keep some extra on hand just in case you think your tree needs it.

- decrease round: (decr) 6 times (6 st).
  - sc around (6 st).  
  - sc around (6 st).
  - sc around (6 st).

Check to see if your tree needs extra stuffing. If so, cram it in there! I find it often helps to use the back of a bigger crochet hook or a pen or pencil to push it down. Is your tree stuffed enough? Then...

- decrease round: (decr) 3 times (3 st).

Cut your yarn leaving a decently sized tail, pull it through the loop on your hook, and use the tail to sew the top of your tree closed. Your tree should have a nice, pointy top! Then weave in your ends and decorate and you're done!

Enjoy your tiny, squishy Christmas tree!

And merry Christmas!

10 December 2012

I'm a bad blogger. I can't even think of a title.

December, you are killing me. Seriously. It's already the 10th! Only 15 days until Christmas and only 21 until the year is over! Personally, I cannot wait. I'm exhausted. Bring on 2013, because 2012 really was a weird year for me...

Last week, after a tiny flurry of snow on Monday, we ended up with a heaping ton of snow all over the country on Friday! The whole country in a panic, traffic jams at the sight of the first snowflake to hit a wind shield, trains pre-emptively delayed out of fear that one might hit a snow drift and derail (or, more likely, hit a snowflake and derail)...
Unfortunately for me, this came accompanied by a cold front and heavy wind, meaning everywhere I went, people had cranked up the heating. I'm pretty sure I've already told you before about my terribly annoyingly dry skin thanks to eczema, but just in case you weren't aware: I have pretty bad eczema when the weather changes and the heating gets cranked up everywhere and going in and out of heated rooms into the cold outside really aggravates it. So now you know. Exciting, huh?

I tried hiding indoors for the week, hoping to avoid going out completely, but we had a lot going on! First, there was Sinterklaas, and I decided to make knitted Christmas ornaments for my mother so I learned how to knit on DPNs (2.5mm, hooooo fiddly!), quite an accomplishment for someone whose only knitting success has been a tiny purse knitted on 5mm needles, if I say so myself. I'm actually still not sure what inspired me to pick up the needles, and I cursed them regularly as I wrestled with colour patterns and bits of string and pointy, pokey ends. (A non-knitter may never know the true agony that is poking yourself in the boob with the other end of a DPN while wrestling with a decrease, but I'm sure a few of you ladies are groaning in recognition and sympathy right now) I finished the last one about 15 minutes before we had to leave on Wednesday. Panicky knitting? Absolutely! Then, like the terrible blogger I am, I forgot to take any pictures of the finished baubles, and instead I wrapped them up and gave them away. I only realised that I forgot until Thursday, and I probably won't be back over at my parents' house until Christmas!

Thehen, it was the BF's birthday, and we baked the most delicious of all cakes ever to have been produced in my oven, (an amaretto-chocolate cake, hooooboy) and I forgot to take any pictures of it AGAIN. Seriously, if that doesn't win me the bad blogger of the year-award, I don't know what does. At least I saved the recipe for later use, though. Thank you, Pinterest!
Thehehen, it was the weekend, and I had all these plans to do stuff and get a decent blogpost up, and go out and enjoy the great weather on Saturday, and work out, and write... Instead, I spent half the weekend in bed, exhausted from a severe lack of sleep. Thanks, eczema, you really are doing wonders for my health. The other half of the weekend, I spent lounging on the sofa, watching a film (the Star Trek remake from 2008), playing with the birds, eating left-over birthday cake, and not doing much in particular. I guess I needed it.

In other news... Have I told you guys about Fitocracy? If you like games and need a fun boost for your work-out-mojo, try it out sometime! It's a website dedicated to fitness, where you log your workouts in order to receive points, gain levels, get achievements, fulfil quests, and hang out with other fitness-minded individuals! It's been one hell of a motivational tool for me!
Unfortunately, my fitness regime is suffering tremendously under the increase of my work hours and the sorry state of my health at the moment, as the eczema also takes a hefty bite out of my immune system and has left me with a bad cold for the past month or so. I do still try to work out at least twice a week, thrice if I can manage. I changed my workout schedule from low-weight, high-rep exercises and a butt-load of cardio to some actual weight training exercises and I could not be happier with that! I started doing squats, bench presses, even chin-ups! It's great fun, even though I'm still mostly working on form and not so much on lifting heavy. Give it time, though. I'll get there.

There! Now you're all up to speed on what the hell has been going on with me the past week or so. Hopefully (fingers crossed) this won't be the last time you hear of me until 2013!

4 December 2012

First snow of the season

And it was gone before we knew it.

17 November 2012

Sinterklaas kapoentje...

We're already halfway through November! Where has the time gone?! Today is already the 17th of November and while for many people, today is just a regular Saturday, for a lot of Dutch people (and maybe a fair few Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians, South Africans...) today is a special day: Sinterklaas has once again set foot on Dutch soil!

Sinterklaas is my favourite holiday. It may have something to do with my father playing Sinterklaas a lot for schools and offices when I was younger, so we had a lot of Sinterklaas-related activity going on in the house during the second half of November. But it's also because it's such a laid-back holiday: on the 5th of December, Sinterklaas-evening, we have a nice, simple meal (usually soup and sandwiches), then gather up on the couch and unwrap gifts and drink hot coco and eat a bucketload of candy. There's no pressure to cook massive dinners, or dress up in your nicest clothes, or having to invite the whole family over, nope, the more junk and wrapping paper and packing peanuts gathered around the living room at the end of the night, the better!

When we were younger, my dad made a whole thing out of Sinterklaas-evening. I remember once, that we got one gift, with a little note inside that sent us on a scavenger hunt all over the house, tracking down the big bag of presents that we eventually found hanging from my parents' bedroom window. Nowadays, we draw names and buy presents for that person, accompany it with a little rhyme and some treats, and spend the evening eating until we explode while people unwrap their presents. I can't wait! I have just put my name in the hat (which is digital, nowadays, because we haven't been able to get all 8 people together to do the draw...). 

Sinterklaas is not really a holiday to decorate for, even though I quite enjoy the shop displays around this time of year. But, because I was bored, and in the mood for silly crochet, I made a small Sinterklaas-decoration.

He's my personal little Sinterklaas! Complete with his big white beard, and his red mitre with a big yellow cross on the front...

his big red book with the big yellow cross on the front that contains all the names of all the children and whether they have been naughty or nice (because you only get presents when you've been nice. When you have been naughty, you get a lump of coal. And if you have been really, really naughty, you will be stuffed in Black Peter's bag and taken back to Spain. Which, to me, never sounded like that much of a punishment.)...

and he's got his golden staff in his hand! Which, in this case, is my stainless steel crochet hook, because I was out of copper wire.But hey, at least this way, I'll always know where it is!

I think he's going to be the perfect little desk companion to keep me company until Sinterklaas-evening. And with only two weeks to go to draw names, buy presents, think of a rhyme, and maybe think of how I'm going to wrap it all up, I'd best get cracking!

1 November 2012

Birds behaving badly

When I was taking pictures of myself in a chicken leg hat and looking nice and ridiculous, I had an audience: two fluffy bundles of bouncing curiosity. I poked my camera into the cage for some random bird pics and, to my surprise... They weren't afraid of the camera anymore! In fact...

These cuties were hopping up on my hand to get a closer view of the camera! Curious little buggers! Being adorable and everything!

Of course, I knew it wouldn't last for long...

Dun-DUN! Dun-DUN! Dun-DUN-Dun-DUN-Dundundundundundundundun....


30 October 2012

I passed the 15 kg mark!

15! 15! 15! 15! Landmark! Woohoo!

For a while, I thought I wouldn't even get passed the 12.5 because I was horribly stuck on a plateau, but look at that! 15! I won't reach my first goal this year any more, though, because that would mean another 17.5 to go in 2 months. But oh well. I'm surprisingly okay with that. Slow and steady wins the race, after all!

29 October 2012

FO: Turkey hat

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a picture of a hat on Facebook. It was a crochet hat with two turkey legs sticking out the sides. As I was expecting, he decided he needed this to be a Real Thing, and came to me asking if I could make him one. Challenge accepted! (Please imagine me saying that in a Barney-voice, it makes it ten times better)

Now, the picture linked to an Etsy page for a pattern but since I'm a: lazy, b: cheap, and c: like to pretend I'm up for a challenge, I decided to see if I could do it on my own without a pattern. The hat that he posted was a simple beanie with a tightly rolled-up brim, and had two turkey legs sticking out the sides, crocheted in a thick, camel-brown wool. Simple enough, right?! Right. Except the rolled-up brim was giving me a headache because whatever I did, it wouldn't roll up as tightly as I wanted it to. In the end, I realised that my crocheting in the round was making the fabric curl inwards, so I turned the hat inside-out and voilá: rolled-up brim! (I may be doing something wrong in my stitching, though. Maybe too tight, that whenever I make a rounded figure it rolls up towards the inside? This requires further investigation!)

The legs were a bit of trial and error, too: the first one I made was far too small, the second one was waaaay too big, and the third one was perfect the first time, but I forgot to make notes so I had to measure again and again to make sure that it would turn out the same size.

In the end, though, it all turned out fine. And the hat is hilarious. I might have to make one for myself just for fun!

(Oh, and I decided I was long overdue for a hair cut (last time was in July of last year...) so, to celebrate that it's finally Autumn and getting cold and dark, I got a hair cut and dye! It's lighthouse-red, according to the hairdressers at the salon. What's lighthouse-red, you ask? Good question. I asked the hairdresser, but she couldn't explain either. I assume it's like fire engine red, only with a big light on top... Yeah. They weren't the brightest crayons in the box, bless 'em, but they were a hoot!)

21 October 2012

Cheese biscuits

My dad has some health issues and needs to go into surgery soon. Nothing serious, don't worry, but serious enough to warrant some treats!

The only problem is... He doesn't have a sweet tooth. How he and I are related, I still don't understand, but he does not like sweets. Candy, cookies, biscuits, cake, ice cream, pie.. Doesn't like it. So what would you make a man that does not like sweet stuff?!

Savoury things, of course! Cheese biscuits! These are delicious little morsels and are great on their own, but could go great with some cream cheese-esque substance or garlic butter, or a mustard dipping sauce, some bacon or other salty meat... Or anything, really, because these are delicious!

I found a recipe for home-made goldfish crackers on Smitten Kitchen but they are made with cheddar and my dad happens to not really like cheddar. Thankfully, I live in the land of cheese, so I made these with regular Gouda cheese. The cheese itself is relatively sharp and salty, but creamy enough to make the dough hold up. The rest of the dough? Easy as pie! Some butter, some flour, and some salt and onion powder!

While the recipe calls for only 12 to 15 minutes in the oven, these were in for 25. Not only are mine bigger than the goldfish, but my test subject, the BF, likes his cheese biscuits really nice and crispy so I flipped them over after 20 minutes and baked them for another 5. The result? Delicious, crispy, crunchy biscuits, with a nice, salty, onion-y flavour.

Cheese biscuits
(makes +/- 25)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 cup coarsely grated cheese (I used Gouda 48+)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon onion powder (keep in mind that this is most likely a concentrate so be careful with adding more! I used 1/4 teaspoon and it was very overpowering.)
A pinch of salt, depending on how salty the cheese you are using is.
A pinch of pepper, depending on taste.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until it forms a ball. It will be slightly crumbly, but keep mixing, it'll come together quick enough!
When the dough is formed into a ball, wrap it in foil and stick it in the fridge for half an hour. In the mean time, prepare a clean surface by dusting it with flour and preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celcius.
When your dough is sufficiently chilled, carefully start rolling it out until it is about 1/2 cm thick and cut out your biscuits with a cookie cutter! Mine was about 3 cm in diameter and yielded me 25 biscuits. Place your biscuits on a clean cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until they are turning golden around the edges, then flip them over and bake for another 5-10 minutes. Take the sheet out and let cool on a rack before transferring the biscuits to a bowl, bag... or your stomach, I won't judge.

11 October 2012

Lunchtime: turkey salad

I have some serious salad issues. As in, I really, really love salads. It's becoming an issue.

Nah, who am I kidding, there is no such thing as too much salad! I have been on a bit of a salad kick recently and have been eating salad for lunch a lot. Normally, I hide it by wrapping it in a tortilla, but tortillas aren't exactly the healthiest of foods. So I left out the wrap and put it in a bowl! Then put a bird on it. That's how I roll. (and apparently I'm a poet and I don't even know it.)

This salad is the easiest of salads because it requires just 5 minutes of your time to throw together and requires only a tiny amount of cutting and chopping. You could even do it without the cutting and chopping. And with a total of 300 calories a bowl (give or take a few, my calculations say 308) it's a perfect lunch that'll keep you going for a while. For dinner, I want to make this with grilled chicken breast, maybe marinate it first, and more tomatoes, maybe some peppers, maybe a decent dressing... Maybe even some grains to bulk it up.. The possibilities are endless, people, endless!

 I know this is so easy it doesn't require a recipe, but here is one anyway.

What you need:
1-2 cups of rocket lettuce
3-4 cherry tomatoes (I think I used 4 here)
2 slices of turkey lunch meat
50 gr. light feta cheese (This is Arla Apetina)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil (0,075 ml)
dried Italian herbs
(optional) 20 gr. pine nuts (leave these out to cut calories. I would, but I love these so so so much..)

What you do:
If you are adding pine-nuts, they're best slightly toasted. Grab a pan, pop it on the stove with the burner on low, wait until your pan is relatively hot, throw in the pine nuts and toast them lightly, stirring or shaking occasionally, until they turn more golden and fragrant and are luring your boyfriend into the kitchen with their enticing scent to come see what you're cooking. Turn off the heat, shake occasionally until you're ready to use them. (And be mean like me and waft some of that enticing scent down the hall to the study where he's sitting.)

Grab a small bowl, add your oil and add a dash of salt (don't overdo it, there's plenty in the cheese and turkey!) and some pepper and Italian herbs to taste. Stir well and set aside.
Slice your turkey slices into squares. Quarter the cherry tomatoes.

Fill your bowl with your lettuce. Then start topping up! Add your turkey, tomatoes and feta cheese, top with the toasted pine nuts if you have them, and drizzle the dressing over the top. Done! Enjoy your tasty, tasty lunch!

8 October 2012

Crunch time, in more ways than one

Today was my first day back at work. I only worked for half an hour, mind you, because I only attend the weekly meeting and then bugger off again, but still. Back to work is back to work. I followed it up by going back to the gym. That took longer than half an hour. An hour longer, in fact. I jumped back into it, cautious at first, because I was afraid that running might be a problem after two weeks of nothing, but it went well! So good, in fact, that while I started at a 5-5-5 schedule, I quickly boosted up the running part to 6, and then 7 minutes. Back to where I left it before my holiday! Not too shabby, if I say so myself.
I may have overdone it a bit on the weight training, though. Might end up being magnificently sore tomorrow. But that's okay, I'm working all day tomorrow anyway!

I had to pick up my bicycle at the BF's parents' house afterwards so I walked there. On the way, I realised that it really is Autumn now. Beautiful colours everywhere, leaves falling, crackling underfoot... Don't you love that sound? I do. Plus, I like to kick them around when there's a whole pile of them. Yes, I'm five years old.

I can't wait for the first chance I get to head out to the woods and go for a long walk with my parents. My dad always manages to find the weirdest trees and the best walking trails. Plus, the mandatory tea and apple cake afterwards is something to look forward too, as well!

6 October 2012

Merged, relaxed, and ready for October

Just a quick note to say that:

1) I'm aliiiive! I've survived the Vintage barbecue, have sort of survived September, and am now enjoying the last few days of my two weeks off in which I have done absolutely nothing. Nothing. Haven't even gone to the gym. Only went out to get groceries or because I had to. Other than that? Sat on my bum, played the new WoW expansion, played with the birds, slept in, took naps during the day... I haven't even crocheted a single stitch so far! Only two days to go though, so I'm slowly preparing myself mentally for the whole going-back-to-work thing, combined with the whole going-back-to-the-gym thing, and let's not forget the going-outside-of-the-house thing, either.

That's not my house, by the way. Before you ask. That, my friends, was the house we rented for the weekend in the south of Holland (Limburg), where we spent 3 glorious days in the garden, soaking up some late-summer/early-autumn sunshine and made fun of our neighbours the cows, chickens and Tony the Pony (who was probably not called Tony), drank too much alcohol, and grilled lots and lots of tasty food. We lounged, watched some dvds, went for a walk or two into town or drove to the nearest town for a saunter and some shopping... I had a great time. Thanks guildies, for being so unbelievably awesome! (also, if you're Dutch and looking for a great and cheap place to accommodate a group: It's part of De Vinkenhof. I can really recommend it!)

2) I have merged Tecrin gets Fit with Tecrin Tries. I no longer saw the point of using two separate blogs since they got mixed up quite a bit already. I'm still fiddling with stuff though, and am on the fence about some earlier decisions I made about my blogs, so don't be surprised if posts go missing or appear twice. You're not nuts, and you're not seeing double, it may be that I posted it on both blogs and haven't removed it yet.

3) I may change my whole blogging thing entirely, but more on that later, since I haven't made up my mind yet as to what I want to do with it. It might become something more.. *gasp* organised than it is now *gasp*. But before that can happen, I need to do some serious thinking. And jotting down of ideas. Which means I have a reason to buy more notepads! Yay!

4) It appears my camera is well and truly buggered. Did someone drop it while I wasn't looking, or something? Because really now, the sudden switch in quality is just absurd! The picture of the house was the only one looking decent out of the whole set I took while we were away for the weekend. In the end I just started taking pictures on my phone because the quality was so shoddy! It also randomly resets all my settings when I put in new batteries, which means I keep having to remember how I turn off the sound effects... Maybe I can bribe my sister into letting me borrow hers for a while.

24 September 2012

Quick update, end-of-September-edition

Right, so it has been a while since I posted. This has two causes: One, because I have been toying with the idea of merging both Tecrin-blogs into one self-hosted blog (maybe under a new name, but I haven't decided yet, that's why it's still two separate blogs!), two, because I was afraid I'd jinx something. I am hovering right around the 100 kg mark, sometimes over, sometimes under, and haven't really lost anything in two weeks. Now, September is a dramatic month for anyone in my family that's on a diet, because half my family has their birthday in September, not to mention a ton of friends. I haven't had a weekend without birthdays since the start of the month. All that cake... And snacks... Oh, man, it's been hard! I think managing to survive this month without gaining 2 kg is a feat on its own, so I just aim to maintain and hope to get things back on track come October.

I managed to keep to my running schedule and am slowly seeing progress, though I haven't gone to the gym as much as I would have liked this past month because I was so damned tired all the time. I've been sleeping terribly lately, because of work-related stress (new job, urge to prove myself combined with a fear of failure, which is not a great combination), and I have noticed that I am reaching for sweets and snacks more and more often. As it turns out, though, these two are related! I stumbled upon an article that links a lack of sleep to an increase of appetite and a lack of satisfaction while eating, meaning you will want to eat more and won't know when to stop. It's science, people! So now I know I need to get my sleep pattern back on track, as well as make more effort to keep my cravings in check!

This coming week will be a struggle as well, but for slightly different reasons: World of Warcraft's new expansion Mists of Pandaria is coming out tomorrow! And on a related note, we've got our annual guild barbecue this upcoming weekend! So I'm facing a week of gaming excessively followed by a weekend of booze and barbecue. I'm determined to keep things under control, though. I've got a batch of curried chickpeas roasting in the oven right now (and if they're tasty, I'll post a recipe), which is a snack not unlike peanuts in their crunchiness but much less hard on the tummy because they're veggies, so only about 150 calories a portion (of about 1/3 cup). I've also got two big bottles of water in the fridge, a ton of apples and grapes stocked up, and a big box of trail mix and some crackers in the pantry. So that's the gaming snacks taken care of!

That barbecue though... I guess I'll just have to be really careful with what I eat. Plenty of veggies and salad and less meat, and careful with the crisps and alcohol. Pfft... It's going to be a challenge! Wish me luck?

19 September 2012

FO: puff stitch cowl

Don't you just love big squishy shawls and cowls? I know I do. Now that the seasons are turning I am finding myself actually looking forward to going outside with my big fluffy, black, fabric, store-bought shawl around my neck and I couldn't fight the urge to make me something equally fluffy and comfy with yarn. So off to the craft store I went!

This squishy cowl is made with 100% acrylics. Yes, yarn snobs of the internet world, acrylics. It's Phildar, though, does that make it better? It's Phildar Impact 3.5 and honestly, it is the squishiest, softest acrylic yarn I have laid paws on in a long while. The yarn doesn't squeak, as a lot of cheap acrylics do, nor does it pill like a maniac, as other cheap acrylics do. It has a bit of bounce to it and is perfect for big stitches like the puff stitch because the loops blend together quite nicely.

The puff stitch is a really easy stitch but it makes for a really puffy, soft cowl. And so.. fluffy! It's really wide, as I have doubled it up in the pictures as it was halfway over my face otherwise, but that's by design: I wanted it to be warm and cosy.The cowl itself is made in a lighter and darker grey, alternating in a 5, 1, 1 pattern, and, seeing as I started with 5 dark grey rows, I ended with 5 rows of light, 1 row of dark, 1 row of light, to make for a continuing pattern. I love stripe sequences like that!

I really can't take pictures of myself without looking like a tool... Though I must say, the loving gaze I'm giving my cowl in the one above makes me laugh. 'Oh cowl, you so fluffy. I'mma keep you and pet you and cuddle you and wear you forever and call you Janice.' Also, how freakishly long is my hair?!

In other news, I think my poor camera may be dying! I had to erase a dead pixel from my pictures and, what's worse, most of my pictures came out extremely blurry. In fact, these two were the only salvageable ones! And the second one is still blurry. No, don't worry, it's not your eyes. I really hope that it's just some weird glitch or something because I really can't miss my camera and I don't have the money for a new one... (or, at least, not the new one I want. Because hello, DSLR... ) So... :(

10 September 2012

Peanut butter fudge

Fudge. Who doesn't like fudge? Well, I know a few people, but they don't know what they're talking about, obviously. Creamy, chewy, delicious fudge, I could eat you any day of the week. I won't, but I could.

It's my brother's birthday today and I wanted to give him something fun. I bought him a Lego storage head (they're really cool, and stackable too!) and decided to fill it with fudge. Fudge has become somewhat of a running gag in our circle, ever since one of their friends watched their house and cats while my brother and his girlfriend were on holiday and hid about half a kilo of fudge in little bags all around the house. When we went on holiday to England two years ago we came home with more fudge than we could ever eat. This, plus the fact that he eats a lot of peanut butter and only one specific brand, made me decide on peanut butter fudge.

Now, I have made fudge before. I made some chocolate fudge, with sweetened condensed milk, and that was pretty good, but I did not know how to make peanut butter fudge. Tastespotting helped me in the direction of this recipe on Some Kitchen Stories, which I adapted slightly. I thought the mixture tasted too much of powdered sugar and could barely recognise the peanut butter, so I added some salt to bring out the taste some more. I think it succeeded in bringing out the peanut butter more and you can certainly recognise the flecks of it in the fudge, but they are still horrendously sweet. They are also very crumbly, but, looking at the original recipe and pictures, I think that's normal.

Peanut Butter Fudge

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup smooth peanut butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt, to taste

Prepare a square dish with aluminium foil (the original recipe says an 8x8 inch dish, though bigger will simply mean thinner pieces. I actually lined a larger oven dish but was able to shape the mixture very well, so only 2 sides of the slab were actually connected to the dish.)

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter and peanut butter. Cover the top of the bowl with microwave-safe cling wrap and nuke on high (750 watt) for 2 minutes. Fold over the wrap and stir with a wooden spoon until combined, then replace the cling wrap and nuke it for another 2 minutes. It will be steaming hot, be careful!

Stir until the mixture is completely lump-free (though it will probably already be completely smooth) and add the vanilla extract. Start sifting in the powdered sugar and stir well. It will become increasingly more difficult to stir but keep at it!
When combined, taste (careful, it may still be hot), and add salt if needed. I added a large pinch because of the extreme sweetness, but if that's to your liking, then leave the salt out. Stir thoroughly when adding salt though, since it's already quite doughy, it might stick to one spot in the mixture and make for one rather unpleasant piece of candy.

Grab your prepared dish and spread out the mixture evenly. Place it in the refrigerator for at least one hour before cutting into squares.


4 September 2012

FO: breaking bad-sket

I can't believe it's September already. Summer's almost over! In fact, meteorologically speaking (that is totally a word, spell check), it's already over. Just when I was starting to enjoy it!

Nah, who am I kidding, I really don't like summer that much. I like cold more than constant heat. Cold I can deal with. Sweaters help against cold. Can't dress to beat the heat when it's hanging around you like a suffocating blanket. Give me a nice crisp autumn day any day. Going out for a walk in the forest, all those gorgeous, gorgeous fall colours and the crunch of fallen leaves under my feet... Gathering chestnuts and making plans to roast them while we never actually do that... And then going home, or to a little café, putting my feet up (unless it's a nice café, of course) and drinking some hot tea or chocolate milk. Ah... I really love fall.

Summer left me in a bit of a crafting rut. I'm sure you all have had those before, those of you that craft, but it's been particularly bad for me this year. My last FO? The Spring Ripple Scarf, dating back to the 11th of May. Holy crap! Sure, I've started a project or two, but none of those look like they'll ever actually be finished. (especially that last one. I gave up after hauling two full loads of trash from the storage to the city dump. Nearly broke my back on a surprise!box full of bricks and stones left over from when we tore down the kitchen wall by accident. Four years ago. But hey, at least both our bikes now fit in there again without taking bits off! That's a win, right?) Last week, I got so frustrated, I grabbed the biggest crochet hook I could find, grabbed four balls of acrylic yarn in different hues of blue (and one variegated blue/grey mix), and single-crocheted a basked while watching episodes of Breaking Bad.

I give you: The Breaking Bad-sket.

In crystal meth-blue.

I don't have to tell you what the construction of this basket is, do I? I mean, it's all single crochet, the base is a slip stitch round until I thought it was big enough, and then I did one round of front loop only singles to start the side, followed by more rounds of single crochet until I thought it was high enough. I did add handles, but that's simply by chaining 12 stitches instead of making them, and I'm not even sure I will use it with the handles or just with a folded brim.
The colour-changing was fun, though. I haven't tried this before but it gives a nice result.

I think I planned on using this as a project bag/basket (bagsket?) for future projects, but right now it just holds the yarn I used to make this and no new project. But hey, who knows? I might make more of these with the same yarn! It'll be a self-fulfilling prophecy!

30 August 2012

When life gives you crumbles...

Lunchtime usually means crackers and cheese spread for me. I pair it with a handful of cherry tomatoes or a bowl of grapes, but it mostly comes down to two crackers and some cheese spread. And some cracked black pepper, if I'm feeling fancy. This is mostly because I'm too lazy to fix something else for lunch, and since I'm the only one in this house that actually eats lunch (the birds don't count), there's not much in the house in ways of lunch-appropriate goods, anyway.

So what happens when I open the pack of crackers and the last two crackers come tumbling out.. well.. as shown above?

Swearing, for one. Because who the hell stepped on my crackers?! Followed by a frantic search in the cupboards and fridge for something else to eat because really, try spreading some cheese spread on crumbles. It's a challenge, I can tell you that. And not one I'm in the mood for when I'm hungry and cranky.

I managed to fish a bunch of cherry tomatoes from my fridge and a package of leftover mini-mozzarella bulbs (they're so cute and tiny! And great to use as a topping on your pizza.), so those crumbles...

Got turned into croutons! Paired with some fresh basil from my balcony garden and a simple olive oil dressing with some salt, pepper and Italian herbs, I saved my lunch! And in a delicious, delicious way, I might add.

24 August 2012

Face/Off! Well, not literally, of course.

I posted a picture of myself on my blog the other day and showed it to my mother (I was actually showing her a picture of my luscious balcony garden because I was a proud gardener, and we scrolled past it) and she couldn't get over how much my face had changed already. In her words: I had a puffy face before. It made me feel a bit weird: proud, because hey, she could see change in my face! Hurray! But it also made me feel uncomfortable because really, was my face that bloated and puffy?

So here's a little comparison with the picture I took earlier this week, and a picture I took roughly 2 years ago, from the same angle. Pardon the weird hair in the old picture. I was feeling fluffy, apparently.
I guess... I can see some difference. I mean, my face is less round, I think. And my chin is already less double, if you know what I mean. The biggest difference seems to be found near my glasses, though, they look like they're less close to my face than in the picture on the right. 
But hey, I can indeed see change! Change is good!

In other news, I can proudly say that I survived a weekend of bad habits and bad food, because I came back from a music festival and had gained less than a kilo. I was expecting a rise, since I completely screwed up my eating habits (try eating regularly and healthy when the temperatures rise above 38 degrees. I don't know about you, but that usually royally screws up my appetite.). I wouldn't eat much at all during the day, and as soon as we could sit down and grab something to drink and eat, I was elbow-deep in the bag of crisps and chugging down cold, sugary fruit drinks, and after the sun went down it felt like I would try to eat the entire day's worth of food in one sitting. I don't think it was actually that bad, but I did fear a big setback in my weight because of it. Fortunately, it wasn't that bad at all,  and I'm already back on the same weight I was last week before we left!

In other, other news: my PT is letting me run again! I already tried it out a few times and since I was getting good results (or rather, not getting crappy results) so he gave me the green light to start working on a running schedule! Right now, it looks as follows:
- warming up, walk for 5 minutes at 5.5km/h
- interval, walk for 40 seconds at 5.5km/h, run for 20 seconds at 8.0km/h, repeat 5 times
- cooling down, walk for 5 minutes at 5.5km/h
I can slowly build up the amount of repeats in the interval section until I'm at 10 repeats and 20 minutes total, and then I can start increasing the length of the interval.
I'm so excited, you guys! Can't wait to get up on the treadmill and run again. I think, but I haven't really kept track of stats, that I'm already improving a bit, but I'm going to keep track of heart rates, speed, distance and calories so I can really see improvement. Exciting stuff!

21 August 2012

I bet nobody looked this hot in the Fifties

But I bet those people all had some form of air conditioning. That was already a thing in the Fifties, wasn't it?

Anyway. I just got back from a festival! Yay! My eighth Lowlands. I love that festival so hard. One of my favourite events of the year. Unfortunately, the organisation has a habit of making bad decisions since the festival is so popular, so last year they raised the ticket prices by a whopping 20 bucks instead of the usual 5-10 because of increased taxes. There have been complaints. Lots of them, in fact. Other festivals were quick to announce that they were not going to raise the prices because they felt it was unfair to their audience. Not that the organisation of Lowlands cared. They sold out the festival in about 20 minutes anyway. We decided that we weren't going to go since we had no idea of the line-up yet (nothing had been confirmed at the time of the ticket sale) and with me being in an uncertain financial situation, we didn't want to spend that much money on tickets anyway.

As August drew nearer and nearer I began to get that itch, that 'it's almost time for Lowlands!' itch, and I tried telling myself that it was never going to be as fun as last time, and that there weren't really any bands I was dying to see. But the itch, you guys, it didn't stop! I was very happy when they announced that they were going to broadcast it all on Youtube, but that didn't satisfy the itch either! I started searching for other ways to get in anyway, even though it was all sold out, participated in just about every single giveaway and contest I could find... And then, last week on Tuesday, they put up another couple of tickets for sale (tickets that were kept for promotion purposes, probably), and the BF got us tickets! He had recognised the itch. In fact, I'm pretty sure he had the same itch, only he hides it better than me.

So off we went, to what turned out to be the hottest edition of the festival ever. And I mean hot, as in, 38 degrees on Saturday hot. Record-breaking temperatures, hot. We used up 125.000 litres of water an hour on Saturday, hot. Granted, most of that probably ended up in water balloons and squirt guns because we have had some crazy water fights. But it was great! I had so much fun! I didn't get any sleep at all so now I am absolutely pooped, and my feet are still killing me (they're also covered in band-aids, it looks really pathetic), but I had a great time. The itch got scratched good.

I don't do really well in sweltering heat, so I was happy being out in the open air this weekend where I was never without someone splashing me with cold water (I don't think I've ever fully appreciated water balloons before, but damn it, I do now) or a good, old-fashioned paper fan nearby, but now we're back in our little sauna on the top floor of our building and I am in dire need of some form of refreshment while I fuss about with a metric ton of laundry and stuff to clean. The Fifties-style headscarf is today's solution to floaty, fluffy, tickly hairs in my face and neck because damn it, that's a type of itch that I really can't deal with in this heat. I actually kind of like the look! Not that I'd take it out on the streets, I'm not that brave. I even used a tutorial to tie it properly, by the lovely Keiko Lynn. She wears it muuuuch better than me, though.

Last but not least, before I go back to the regularly scheduled humdrum of everyday life and work, let me show you some things that have done amazingly well in the heat:

Look at my pretties! Eh.. and please pay no mind to the store-bought basil in the back, as I'm afraid it did not survive the weekend... But look at the rest! Look at the tomato plant, I mean, holy shit! and the herb box is almost overflowing! This made me very happy when I got home yesterday afternoon, because I was afraid that they wouldn't survive. Even the Moroccan mint is growing like nobody's business. Yay! You know what this means? That there are mojitos in my near future, people, and that I am going to enjoy this summer while it lasts.

13 August 2012

Well, that was quite the intermission.

Can I blame it on the summer? I can't, can I. Well, damn.

I don't know why, but these past few months have been really lacking in creative outbursts or food-related revelations. I haven't been blogging, simply because there was nothing to blog about! I mean, I could of course tell you all about my latest fitness- and weightloss-related escapades but that's hardly fair since I am already blogging about that. More active than I am blogging over here, I'm afraid to say. I've also been rather busy with preparations first and actual work since the beginning of August for my new job! Yay! I'm a junior developer now, you guys! And I'm slightly nervous about it still because holy crap, talk about a steep learning curve, but it's exciting at the same time. It just left little time for any crafting...

I did get my green fingers out this summer though, even though I'm afraid I was ever so slightly late with the whole planting and potting and growing of my 'garden'.

I'm afraid I haven't fixed the paint job on my balcony yet, though. We thought they would fix that last year with the floors on all our balconies, but it turned out to not be included in the package deal so we need to do that ourselves. Still. And we might still, but for now, think of the rust as rustic, okay?
I bought a herb crate a few months ago and finally got round to setting it up and planting seeds a month and a half ago. There's 5 different types of herbs in there, but I'm afraid the basil and parsley have taken over completely. In the round grey pot, there's more herbs, where once again the basil and in this case the coriander have taken over the available space, leaving the chives to try and grow in what little space there was left. In the rectangular grey pot, I planted some lettuce and tomatoes. The tomatoes are growing like a weed! It's really cool to see. And finally in the two hanging pots, I've got more basil (I know, I foresee a lot of pesto in my future if all these plants are going to grow) and Moroccan mint.

After going aaaages without any crafting, I got the bug again last week and wanted to make... something, anything, really. I grabbed some yarn from my stash and got to work on, what else, a shawl, in the same pattern as the chevron scarf I made for mother's day this year, only in a thicker yarn. It's a combination of linen, cotton and bamboo, so it's weird, to say the least, and I have no idea what I am going to do with it once it's done.  I'm already working on ball number 3 in this photo, though, so it might not even make it to full-blown shawl. If not, I'll turn it into a cowl, I guess, but it's nice to make something again.

And in the spirit of my other blog, I also crafted something useful! I like to bring my MP3-player along to the gym, especially when it's slightly crowded (really, people, I don't mind talking to you when I'm not on a machine, but can't you see I'm busy right now?!), but with nowhere to stuff that thing other than down the front of my bra, it always got icky and sweaty and gross! Not only that, but I think it was actually affecting the device... So I stopped bringing it, and have had to endure tacky Eighties- and really bad contemporary music ever since. I mean, come on, those guys must have other playlists than the crap that's been playing lately, right? I had to work out to Rick Astley the other day! And the neverending mix of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Shakira gets really old, really fast too. So I made a little pouch for my MP3-player out of an old wash cloth. Roomy enough for MP3-player and headphones, with a drawstring, and if I want to I can even stuff my membership card and locker key in there. Plus, the washcloth is nice and absorbent, and I can just chuck it in the washer afterwards.

So there you go, that's basically what my summer has been about! Worry about work, work, worry about diet and health and fitness, actually doing the fitness and diet and health things, and little to no crafting! And crafting-wise, I can honestly say that I can't wait for Autumn.

12 August 2012

I've passed the 10kg mark!


10 down, 20 to go for my first goal weight!

10 August 2012

Run, Stef, RUUUUN!

You guys! YOU GUYS! Big news y'all!

I had an appointment with my PT on Wednesday and he told me that I could slowly start trying out running again! He taped my leg up just to be sure (colour: bright blue war paint, or so says BF), and I still need to do a lot of stretching and exercises, but he said that if I wanted to, I could give it a go! So I went running today, you guys!

I was a bit nervous about it, since my leg started cramping up a bit yesterday and was behaving like a general pain in the behind. I'm guessing it's because I was a bit nervous about it. Yeah. I know. But my leg actually behaved today!

It was a short run on the treadmill, with 5 minutes of walking, followed by 5 repeats of 20 seconds of running and 40 seconds of walking, followed by 5 minutes of walking. So all in all it was a solid 100 seconds of running. So basically half a marathon, give or take a few minutes. Hours. I know, it's not impressive if you list it like that, but I don't care because my leg held up and I did not collapse in pain like I did the last time I went for a jog.

It's a bit sore now, though, and it's slightly worse when I have been sitting down for a while, so I'm going to pester the BF to give me a massage tonight otherwise I can't walk tomorrow. But holy crap you guys, this is progress! Can't wait for my workout on Monday, so I can go again!

4 August 2012


You know how every once in a while you get that craving? The unshakable urge to just indulge in a big pizza? I know you do. Everyone does. Right? I've only once heard of someone not liking pizza. We cut all ties after that. I can't live around someone who doesn't like pizza.

(I kid. A bit.)

Pizza has been a staple in this house for a while now, since we're both lazy and often can't be bothered to make a decent meal. Now, with my change in diet, I can't eat normal pizza of course. (in fact, I don't think I have had normal pizza for weeks!) Normal pizzas often clock in at 800 or 900 calories a piece! And don't even get me started on the so-called American pizzas, with their thick crusts and abundance of cheese and toppings.  But a low-calorie pizza? That's right up my alley!

I found this recipe in a diet book I've had lying around for years but never took the time to really look into. While the original called for blue cheese and roasted peppers as its toppings, two toppings I really do not care for at all, I liked the idea of using a simple tortilla as the base instead of a pizza crust. We kept the toppings simple and tasty, and kept the toppings on mine to a bare minimum and added some more for the BF's pizza. The wrap base turns into a very decent, albeit somewhat thin and flexible, base, with a very tasty and crunchy edge. So tasty, in fact, that the BF ate every single last crumb, whereas he normally would leave the edges because he doesn't like bread.
The pizza base, just the wrap and the tomato-pesto sauce, works great with almost any topping and I am definitely making a roast chicken pizza next time, and want to experiment with other kinds of cheese, lower calorie meats, maybe a veggie pizza... Think of the possibilities!
While the original recipe clocks in at about 450 calories, with the adjustments we made, in particular the regular mozzarella and the salami, but also the addition of the pine nuts, I think this one comes closer to 550, 600 calories. Still miles away from the 900 I would normally chow down, though!

Wrap pizza

-1 large wrap tortilla
- 1 carton of pureed tomatoes
- pesto
- mozzarella (you could go for light mozzarella, but the only one they sell in our supermarket tastes like rubber bands, so we went for the regular one)

- pine nuts
- thinly sliced salami
- pepper
- rocket/rucola lettuce

Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Mix your tomato puree and three teaspoons of pesto. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the mixture on a wrap. Slice your mozzarella reasonably thin. Top your pizza with a couple of slices of salami, some mozzarella, followed by a sprinkle of pine nuts and some pepper.
Bake for about 10 minutes until the cheese has melted and the crust is crispy. Top before eating with a big handful (or two, if you're like me and eat it off your pizza before eating the actual pizza) of rocket lettuce.


31 July 2012

The problem of overeating and comfort eating

Anyone who has had trouble with their weight will know exactly what I'm going through right now just from reading the title: Overeating and comfort eating.

Overeating, simply put, is to not stop eating when you know you should. I used to do this a lot. A lot. I would not stop because there was still food on my plate, or because I thought it was a waste to throw food away, or because I was convinced I should, but mostly because I thought I had deserved it (comfort eating). Eating for comfort could be seen as a disorder, and could be fuelled by emotional issues, stress or depression.

Before, I used to overeat because it made me feel better, even though afterwards it would make me feel worse. I know I used to comfort eat a lot when I felt miserable because I thought I deserved a treat to make me feel better. This type of overeating is often caused by emotional discomfort or depression, and in my case (and I think this is the case for a lot of people in this situation), I often got stuck in a loop: I'd feel terrible about  myself, eat for comfort, and then feel bad again because I just stuffed my face. Other moments, and these may even have been worse, I would stop myself from eating something because I knew I should not, succeed in convincing myself, and then reward myself for my great resolve... by eating that same thing I was not going to eat.

But I also used to overeat because I thought it was just part of my routine: I would sit down behind the pc to game (I play World of Warcraft) and I would grab a bag of sweets or crisps because I felt like that was part of it. I would have a bag or bowl nearby and every time there was a quiet moment in-game (during a raid after a wipe, or after a boss kill, or while flying from one spot to the other...), I'd reach for a treat without even noticing, emptying a bag in record-time just because I was on flight points a lot or because we were wiping a lot during progression raids.

This last week I have been stuck in a similar loop again and it is bugging the hell out of me. Even though I know I should not eat that one bad thing, I seem to have lost all self-control and even found myself thinking in old patterns again where I would reward myself with food. I polished off an entire bag of crisps in two evenings. I emptied a bag of almonds in one. I ate sweets for the first time in weeks. Last night after dinner, I went to put my plate in the kitchen and ate leftover pasta sauce straight from the pan. Even though I haven't touched it all week, I know there is a bar of chocolate in the cupboard with my name on it and even though the fact that it's been in there for a week and is still untouched is a good sign, I get distracted and cranky just thinking about it. And I know this may not sound terrible, but it is making me feel awful! These are old habits, bad old habits, and I have been trying so very hard these past five weeks to kick those habits and I thought I was succeeding, but I let my guard down for one week and I end up doing those exact same things all over again.

The lack of restraint has been showing in my weight, but it's not as bad as I originally thought. I have been bouncing like a kangaroo on a skippy ball all week (those with an imagination like mine, enjoy that image in your head), but I am still down 1.3 kilo from last week, currently weighing 104 kg, meaning I'm 8,5 kg down from my starting weight. My weight loss schedule has not been harmed. But I'm doing this to be happy and feel better about myself, so despite the apparent lack of impact on my weight, I'm really not happy with this situation.

The stupid thing is, I know where it comes from. I start a new job tomorrow. I'm unbelievably nervous. This is a job that I have no actual education or training in, that I only have amateur experience in, that I applied for based on the confidence others have in my ability to do this job. What if I fuck it up? I know that it's not a big deal should it happen, but I don't handle rejections and failure very well... (I am also a very bad loser at games. I once tore a pack of cards in two after losing a game of Mau Mau. This may be related...) Last week, and this week, I started receiving the necessary equipment and logins and passwords needed to do this job (I will be working from home) and there is now a phone staring at me from the corner of my eye, and software popping up and blinking with new messages. I am pretty damned nervous for tomorrow.

 So despite knowing the source of my discomfort and cause of my uncontrollable impulse to eat, I am having some real trouble stopping myself from eating... But I have come up with a new strategy. I am going to try and distract my mind with the Olympic Games and some crochet and see if this brings any good results next week. Hopefully I'll still have that chocolate bar, and a nice, sturdy crochet basket to keep it in!

23 July 2012

Post-workout musings

I don't know about you guys, but after a good workout, I am absolutely parched! That's probably why my favourite post-workout snack is this:

Grapes and ice cold water. Oh yes. Delicious, cold, juicy grapes... Oh how I love thee.

I had a tiresome workout today, and I'm not quite sure why. All I know is that I was absolutely spent after an hour and I still had some exercises and cardio left... I accidentally skipped my crunches (d'oh) because I completely forgot, and I only did 6 minutes worth of rowing, I think. Not an awful lot... Though I don't know for sure, since therapist Mark told me of the fishing game on the rowing machines and challenged me to break his record, so I'm more focused on playing the game than on how long one round of fishing actually is... It's so much fun, though. You are a medium-sized fish and you need to eat the tiny regular-sized fish and avoid getting eaten by the big fish because that costs you points, and you move your fishie up and down by rowing faster or slower. My record so far is 1470 points. The score to beat? 2120. I've got a lot of work to do still. He promised me a big bowl of blueberries though if I ever do, so I'm determined to beat his score. I'm a sucker for free fresh fruit...

I've been playing around with the cardio programming on the bikes and elliptical machine but it's throwing me off a bit. There's one called 'Extreme Heart Rate Interval' and holy mother of Bob is it Extreme. With a capitol E. It calculates your top heart rate (I think mine was at 163) and then builds up levels as you go to get you to that heart rate faster, and once you reach it, it makes you drop to a low rate by dropping levels again, in my case 123. But the problem was, I never got down to that lower rate! I was so frustrated, because I have a pretty high heart rate and it was pretty much impossible to get it down to that low rate! I tried again today and, following Mark's advice, also slowed down my pace and focused on my breathing to allow my heart rate to drop. And I did reach the lower level! It was a pain, though, to peddle at a speed that was waaaay slower than what I usually do. (I went from an average of 95 rpm to 80, it felt like I was standing still! (which I was, technically, since I was on a bike and a) it was a stationary bike, and b) I was sitting down.))
I've checked with previous recorded sessions on my heart rate monitor and the amount of calories burned was pretty much the same, so it did not have a negative impact, but still. It's weird to work out with doing way less than you're used to doing.

19 July 2012

Spicy garlic chickpeas

We were unbelievably uninspired at dinner time this week. It was almost painful to watch, I am sure, the way the BF and I were standing in the supermarket, staring at the coolers with meats and wandering back and forth between the veggies and the frozen pizzas... I'll be honest, I have not been feeling very well this week and to say that I wasn't exactly in the mood to do some actual cooking is an understatement.

So we settled. We had some pre-baked Egyptian pitas in our cupboard somewhere, and they're awesome with shoarma and garlic sauce, but that's not really a healthy option for me, so the BF took home the shoarma, and I made myself some spicy garlic chickpeas! It was an experiment, because I had read some recipes that sounded pretty great, but I did not follow one at all. They turned out so unbelievably delicious though, so I'm sharing the recipe.

Spicy garlic chickpeas

- 1 can of chickpeas, washed and drained (I used the 425 ml can from Bonduelle)

- 3 cloves of garlic / pre-minced garlic with olive oil
- olive oil (if you're not using the pre-minced stuff)
- 2 teaspoons of spicy curry powder
- rocket lettuce
- cherry tomatoes
- pita bread

For the garlic sauce

- 1/4 cup of Non-fat Greek yoghurt
- 1 clove of garlic
- pinch of salt and pepper

Wash and drain your chickpeas thoroughly. I don't know if this is typical for the brand, but mine always have this top layer of nice, loose chickpeas followed by a thick layer of squishy-looking peas in a jelly-like substance, which just looks grody. So rince thoroughly!
Finely mince your garlic cloves and add to a pan on medium heat with about half a tablespoon of olive oil, and let simmer for a minute or so. If you are using the pre-minced stuff (which I was using since the garlic in our supermarket looks like it's about to start talking), don't add any extra oil.
Add your curry powder and mix to combine with the garlic. Then add your chickpeas and stir to coat with the curry-garlic mixture. You can taste one to see if you need to adjust the spices. Keep to one or two though, if you're like me, your pan will be half-empty before it reaches the table...
 Keep the heat to medium/low and, stirring occasionally, cook your chickpeas for 8-10 minutes.
In the meantime, bake your pita bread, wash your lettuce and chop your tomatoes in quarters.

Then grab a bowl and make your garlic sauce:
Add the yoghurt to the bowl. Mince your clove of garlic, add the salt and pepper and stir to combine. Taste and adjust flavours to your liking. I love garlic, so I always add at least one more clove, but if you like subtle tastes, stick to one!

To assemble, slice open your pita like an envelope, grab a spoonful of garlic sauce and spread it around inside and up the sides of your pita. Then add a handful of rocket salad, a few quarters of tomato, and several spoonfuls of the chickpeas. Top with some more tomato and a few dollops of garlic sauce.

These make a delicious and easy dinner, and I can say from experience that it tastes even better the next day for lunch!


16 July 2012

4 weeks in: my first evaluation

Whew, those weeks have flown by! It's hard to believe that I am already 4 weeks into this whole.. thing.


Let's tackle that one first, shall we? I find myself opening up to people about this whole weight loss and health thing I've started more and more, and I like talking about all the stuff I learn (mostly from Pinterest), but the one thing I seem to have problems with, is actually giving the beast a name! What is it I am doing, exactly? Am I on a diet? Because really, it sounds like a bad thing to just call this a diet. Apart from that, calling it a diet also raises expectations and more questions about what kind of diet, whether there's a book they can buy, whether there's a program to follow, or a blog to read or video to watch. But I don't have any examples, since I'm doing this by myself and through my own program, my own recipes, my own 'handbook'. It's making talking about it difficult, because it is apparently hard for people to grasp the concept without resorting to asking me 'why'.

Talking about it like it's a diet also brings out the less than kind comments ("You don't need that! Are you nuts?!") and unwanted advice, and even though most of them are not meant as such, it makes me very insecure. I made this image in the first week, when I felt that the only one fit to reassure me that this was a good decision, was me.

So I'm not liking calling it a diet. It's far more than that, obviously, since I am also working on my health, on getting fit, on building up muscle instead of fat. But to call it a change in lifestyle also doesn't suit me. It sounds fine enough in English (albeit a bit fancy), but it sounds downright pretentious and, quite frankly, ridiculous when I call it that in Dutch. I'm still not certain what to call it. A change of habits, is what comes closest without raising eyebrows and questions. 

Anyway. This... change of habits. Four weeks in and boy am I feeling the changes! No, not really, to be honest. I think the biggest change I am actually 'feeling' is that my body seems to have become far more sensitive to sudden changes in daily diet, because, and I'll spare you the details, there have been some periods of.. less than regular toilet visits. I suspect it has something to do with this being the 'Summer' (I use this term lightly because we have had torrential showers and storms for weeks now) and, as a result, there have been several barbecues after which I felt less than stellar. As in, my stomach felt like it was out to kill me. Am I becoming more sensitive to badly cooked barbecued meat? (I hope not, that would mean I can't ever cook meat for dinner by myself again.)
Whatever it is that causes my stomach to get upset, it has put a few dents in my regular weight loss and it fluctuated heavily through the week, but it always ended up resolving itself after a few days and if I put my loss from week to week together in a graph, it's still a nice, fluent line!

That's right, you are seeing that correctly. That's a loss of 5.5 kg! I'm proud of me. Go, me! Yay! I made comparison pictures and I can see a bit of a difference, but I'm far too insecure still to show those on the blog... Sorry! You'll have to take my word for it.
People are beginning to notice some change in my appearance, friends that I hadn't seen for a long time who noticed immediately, or my brother's girlfriend. Since I don't see any difference, having them tell me they do (unsolicited, I must add) felt pretty good!

This weekend, I came to a realisation about my struggle with my weight and why it feels as though this whole lifestyle change is coming quite natural to me. It has been one year since I first went to the gym and I remember crying after I made the first appointment with a trainer for a training schedule. My first steps into that gym were tentative and slow, and I felt like it wasn't doing anything for me for the first months at least. But now that I look back on how this year has gone by, I can only say that I think it was all just ramping up to this decision I made a month ago. I think by the time I was ready to make that decision, I had built up quite a bit of mental strength along with the physical muscles. I am now in a position where I feel comfortable enough to ask my trainers for more exercises, exercises that target specific muscle groups or areas, or that help me with specific problems. I am aware of my shortcomings and know that I have miles yet to go, but I am feeling comfortable enough with the process. I think it's a bit of an understatement when I say that this realisation was quite liberating!

All in all, these first four weeks have been very interesting. In the next four weeks, I want to:
- Focus on expanding my healthy dinner options. I am doing excellent in the breakfast and lunch division, but my dinner-options are still quite lacking in variety. It's mostly chicken. And salad. Not that I'd have trouble with only eating chicken and salad, but there's a certain BF that would like some variation in his daily hot meals.
-Keep a better weightlog. I like making notes and the app I use to track my calorie intake does allow for comments, but I want to start keeping it in a notebook. I still have one I have barely used that's a lovely little size and perfect for the job, since that's not the only thing I want to keep track of...
- Start weekly measurements. I took measurements a few weeks ago, but I lost the piece of paper! I want to keep track of both weight and sizes since muscle and fat aren't interchangeable in size, after all. This would be far easier to do in something like a notebook or an excel sheet. But since I like jotting things down in notebooks... I'm going to make a weekly log of weight and measurements.
- Keep visual track of my progress. I have taken a few pictures, but I am so severely self-concious about my physical appearance that I won't post them online. However, I do want to keep taking those pictures so I can keep track of my progress in the easiest way I can: by looking at those pictures. I love the Tumblr Before and After Pictures of Weight Loss because it shows what those people were capable of. It's impressive! Whether they have lost 5 or 50 pounds, or even over 100, I love looking at those pictures and hope to one day have one of those pictures of my own progress.

This list may not contain an awful lot of changes compared to the last four weeks, but for now I simply intend to keep up the good work I have been doing so far.