Friday, 29 June 2012

The Contrary Diet

Diets are funny things. Some of the ones you read about are positively laughable. A bit like ours really. Last night, my lovely flatmate and I were sitting in the Coliseum waiting for Dr Dee to start and we started discussing this joint blog and how many people might think we make this stuff up. We don't. We really are this scatty.

Of course as we are on a serious diet in a bid to (a) get in to posh frocks and (b) get ourselves to the Dukes Hotel in search of martinis, decadence and a twist of debauchery, you would expect us to be sitting in the Dress Circle waiting area sipping chilled water as we ponder how responsible we are being.

Which was why we were sipping Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label.

I know, I know, but what could we do, they didn't have any Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque. Standards really are falling. As you may have realised by now we are firmly of the belief that we shouldn't compromise on nice things and make ourselves miserable, just reduce the number of nice things. So one glass each is officially sensible.

Got that? Good.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, we were both tired, we couldn't decide whether it was the weather or the lack of energy, something to ponder on. I think the phrase used was we felt like normal people. This can't be good and I think something we'll have to tackle next week. Anyway. At the interval, I'll talk about the performance in my own blog, we, sensibly, elected to stay in the auditorium, we talked about stuff, about how I felt of the performance, which she'd already seen once and then drifted back to food...
Clare: Can I treat you to an ice cream?
Me: Are they allowed?
Clare: Well they've got one (she points at two girls)
Me: *giggles*
Me: Your logic is an inspiration
She was so right. And you can't argue in the face of such searing logic. I gratefully accepted. When she came scurrying back, with actual ice cream and not some sorbet cop out, she added another gem of an observation...
Tonight is the first time I've sinned in a week. Well, since Monday...
Oh dear, I think I had actual tears. The ice cream was delicious and meant that we made it to the end of the evening and headed home for the delicious and healthy soup I made last night... Which if it had happened would have shown that we are capable of not being contrary.

Like that's going to happen.

We didn't get very far before my flatmate decided that what she really wanted was scrambled eggs. With Charlie chives. Pfft. Excellent, now I had scrambled eggs in my head. But. It made sense. It would be protein. And that's a good thing. Yes?

Soup. Err...
Now I should point out that when it comes to scrambled eggs I don't interfere. Really. Safer that way. They were delicious. She is good. The most amazing thing was it meant we had butter! We've gone though hardly any since we started the diet and we are big on butter. Oh. I can see a connection there. The same with bread, though in this case it was rye bread.

That'll go well with the dried fruit.

Pass the smelling salts

To be honest it's been a hard week. I've felt like what can only be termed as 'an ordinary person'; a dull automaton who goes to work, gets through a mundane day, blindly gets the tube home, eats very hot soup and then forgoing any conversation, passes out asleep. 

Or as I prefer to see it, a vapoury Victorian lady. Far more romantic. With nicer underwear.

There has been no marathon style running and certainly no effervescing which is rather scary for all around me. There is only one thing worse than an  excitable Clare and that is a pale, silent Clare who doesn't really care what day it is or what is going on.

Saying that, I managed the opera twice (same one and a blog post to follow) and a choir rehearsal, sadly for which I wasn't really there. The diet is still going strong with lots of healthy soup, oatcakes and scrambled eggs. I am still marvelling at how little bread and butter we appear to be getting through - a good thing right?

This level of tired listlessness is interfering with a need to write which isn't really happening right now; I am currently in the middle of a play, three books, anticipating a few exhibitions and a couple of concerts. Inspiration will surely follow. 

Leaving me hopelessly breathless and a need to have my stay laces cut - for all the right reasons.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

A tale of two diets...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity...
You know, I reckon when Dickens was writing A Tale of Two Cities he was on a diet. It all seems so relevant. It's the best of times because it gives the residents of Contrary Towers something new to talk and write about, yet the worse of times because we are dieting. As for wisdom and foolishness... I'll say just two words. Dried fruit. Nuff said.

Contrary to popular belief, I was not gallivanting around on Tuesday evening, I was visiting a dear friend in darkest Surrey. That said, I was bad. I sinned. Again. Two nights running. I had winez and I had the most delicious Arrabbiata cooked by my friend Katie. With gnocchi.

Oh yes.

It was a lovely evening and I utterly ignored my diet because, well, I was in Surrey and diets don't count there.

Wednesday though... I was back on the wagon, for both eating and drinking. I have, of course, got weight to lose so I can have cocktails, so now to get serious.

Which will be why I was sitting outside a coffee shop, at lunchtime, enjoying a iced coffee. I've not had one before. And they are possibly on the banned list. But. Owing to the lack of dirty cheese I hadn't brought any sandwiches so this would be lunch. That and the dried fruit. I'd been nibbling on.

The dried fruit that was starting to become a problem.

So anyway, I had one, just coffee flavoured and I really quite enjoyed it. Plus a good excuse to watch the world go by. I wasn't in the market just for the hell of it, I had provisions to buy!

The capricious one was going to be singing which meant I had to make sure food was actually ready for the moment she returned to Contrary Towers. Tricky as she can be a bit variable. That and I'm a rubbish cook who can't predict time. Or stick to a recipe.

So. Tonight's recipe is sort of a tomato and potato soup. With basil. And chillies. Obvs.

No Toms or Basils were hurt making this soup.

The inevitable, slightly vague ingredients list...

  • 2 onions. I'd got those fresh after the coffee, see, I wasn't just sitting in the market for the fun of it
  • 4 medium spuds, also fresh, Maris Pipers I believe
  • A big fat clove of garlic. It was huge! Or two if yours is less comedic
  • 2 tins of Lidls finest chopped tomatoes
  • 2 chillis
  • 3 Lady's fingers. Or Okra if you're a frightful colonial
  • A bit of olive oil
  • A bit of white wine vinegar. Once I found it that was. It had been tidied away!
  • A few more leaves from Basil
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper (this might have been a mistake)
  • Tomato puree
  • Sugar to neutralise over exuberance of chilli
  • Half a litre or so of vegetable stock
  • A bunch of flowers
Did you notice there is no butter? Or bacon?


Chop the onion, garlic, chilli and spuds. Put a bit of olive oil in the big fat soup pan and gently fry the onion until you start to worry about the time. Add the potato, chilli and garlic and fry for a bit longer. Stir lots. This is my favourite bit as I do like fannying around.

As my flatmate will tell you.

Add a splash of white wine vinegar, letting it boil off then pop in the vegetable stock (Oxo, obvs), sprinkle with cayenne pepper and leave the whole lot to simmer for 20-25 minutes with the lid on.

Arrange flowers.

Once the spuds seem nice and soft, slice the lady's fingers, trying not to do it with actual fingers, and add these along with the tins of chopped toms to the mix. At this point you might panic about the colour, I did, so squeeze in a suitable amount of tomato puree. Leave to simmer with the lid on for another 20 minutes or so.

By this point it should be turning in to a nice gloopy mess... So get the blender out and, well, make it smooth.


Look worried.

Add some sugar to take the edge off the heat. Whoops.

It was at this point that I had a text from my flatmate indicating she might be about to leave choir practice, so I reckoned I had 30 minutes and... I was already finished. Oh. That wasn't the plan. Which was why when she turned up starving I was on the balcony watching the ducks.

As you do.

Oh, before I forget, I added the ripped basil leaves about ten minutes before she arrived.

Being extra hungry she added a lashing of fresh yoghurt to the soup, which did make it look nicer. And we tucked in. It was quite hot. But very tasty. And if it hadn't been for the yoghurt it would have even pleased a vegan.

Not something you expect to here at Contrary Towers!

I made plenty as tonight we are off to the opera so needed something when we get back!

Finally... About that dried fruit. My lovely flatmate was right. She always is. I got stomach pains from too much and was quite uncomfortable yesterday. Better today, but still not completely right. I was foolish. Needless to say I got a total ribbing from her this morning as we drank tea. And I deserved it.

Which brings us back to Dickens. I believed I would be okay, she was incredulous that I didn't believe her!

I'm sure I'll get my own back...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Ready, Steady, Cook!

It turns out that I have to cook my own dinner for a change as my lovely flatmate is out gallavanting (again). A girl home alone. What shall I cook? Pot noodle? Cheesy beanos*? No, pride suggests that I deserve a special dinner. But anything I create has one proviso.

I am famished so it has to be on the table in no more than 25 mins. 

So feel free to try the recipe below, or in true Contrary Towers style, don't and just make up your own.

As soon as you get home, put oven on, thermo-nuclear degrees. Whilst playing your favourite new opera music, scoop a tub of cream cheese, a handful of Charlie chive plant, large squeeze of garlic and mix together messily in a largish bowl.

Take the lumps of defrosted spinach (aren't I organised?), squeeze out excess water and add to mix. Remember not to turn the up the volume on your laptop until you are de-green-speckled. Add salt, ground pepper, handful of parmesan cheese, as much nutmeg as you can safely grate**, an egg, a small packet of pinenuts and combine vigorously. If you're hot stuff, add a dash of cayenne pepper. 

Dashing diet food 
Peel 4 large mushrooms and remove stalk so you have more room for filling. Place in a metal baking dish, blob on the filling generously and sprinkle with more parmesan. I know it's a diet but parmesan is tasty and a little goes a long way.

Throw in oven and shout at them till they're done. If you can, when you take them out of the furnace they are better if left a while. Also you don't burn your mouth. Lovely with a tomato & basil salad, or just by themselves, sprinkled with more fresh chives.

*A special secret Brown family recipe handed down for generations
** Nutmeg can make you hallucinate. I learnt that at university and just read it on the net, so it must be true.


No, not that sort.

Chance would be a fine thing.

The edible sort. Or drinkable. And, really, I was trying to be good.

Take lunchtime. Or, as it's now known is-that-it time. I was out of dried fruit and the temptation for something bad was unbearable. The solution seemed simple, head to Poundland, purchase a suitable container, fill with dried fruit. Eat. Slowly. Which is what I did. Except they no longer stocked the container I had in mind.

Jeez, has my life really come to this?

Where was I? Oh yes, Poundland, I also blew another pound on some dried cranberries, or craisins as Ocean Spray insist on calling them. Honestly, I know Milton thought it was okay to randomly make up words, but please, there are limits. Next stop, chez Tesco for £3 worth of their finest dried fruit and nuts and off to the excuse of a park called Tavistock Gardens to sit under a tree and read. Actually, that's unfair, it's quite nice there and, usually, there are plenty of places to sit and ponder.

I do like nibbling on fruit and nuts
I'd just finished decanting my healthy goodness in to the new container when... The phone rang. Great. The nearly-ex. Guaranteed to make me want comfort food. And there's a dirty fried chicken place near by. Fortunately. I resisted. And, eventually, got back to my reading and nibbling with what little time was left.

It works out quite well, juicy (and nutty) goodness, close at hand, but semi locked behind a clip lid so I don't just keep scoffing until I've consumed the calorific intake of a sumo wrestler that's got the munchies. Which has to be a good thing.

The only slight fly in the ointment was the coming evening, a quiz. In a pub. Where they have winez. And chipz.

Oh lordy.

Soda water. Pfft.
My intention was to be utterly virtuous. My intention was scotched by a further conversation with the nearly-ex that meant as well as a pint of soda water I had to buy a bottle of Merlot to add to that which my friends already had. And a glass. I had a small glass.

Forgive me whateva, for I have sinned.

But it wasn't all bad! @PrincessofVP (aka my bezzie) insisted I bring back free wasabi peas, courtesy of her magic loyalty card thingie, and peas are definitely one of my five a day, so I was still being healthy. Plus there was lemon in my soda water. And winez is made from grapez.

I am a paragon of unlimited virtue!

Pure, delicious, sin...
Or at least I was for a while. I was lulled in to a false sense of respectability by the peas, and maybe a sip of wine, so succumbed, in a feeble minded fashion to the who-wants-chips question. Pathetic, I know, but by now I was feeling really quite dirty and a burst of salty goodness with a dip of mayonnaise would be good for me. In a bad way. Or is that bad for me in a good way. I think they balance out and it will have no effect.

Deluded face.

In the end I was quite restrained. If you ignore the chips. And peas. And wine. I really have been good, so one evening of criminally indulgent snacks can't be all bad. Even if it does mean I have broken the Diet Pact.

Or does that only apply in Contrary Towers? Wait a minute, I was in E3! Hurrah.

I didn't even walk home. The 277 beckoned and that did mean I wouldn't disturb my flatmate as I arrived as I wouldn't be much later than she was. Which is definitely a good thing.

This morning should have been normal. But somehow it didn't work out quite right and I managed to leave late whilst my flatmate left early. Eh? How did I manage to waste so much time. Err, other than sitting on the balcony looking at the ducks. This did mean that I was enticed off the train at Chancery Lane for a coffee.

And it was lovely. We rarely get a chance to take coffee together these days, so it's always a delicious treat. I'll not mention that it was a full fat latte as I don't think that counts in EC1.

No cooking for me (again) tonight as I'm visiting a friend who lives in a mysterious place that's not just south of the river, but is actually south. I'm starting to feel a little guilty about this, especially as I realised earlier that I'm at the Royal Institute tomorrow evening being edumacated. So, it looks like the next recipe will be courtesy of my flatmate.

Who thought dieting could be so difficult?!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Jumping through (spaghetti) hoops...

The 'First Official Weigh-in'* this morning went well. We didn't cheat (much) and despite a moment when we forgot the exact figures 30 secs after recording them, we were pleased to report a reduction in weight. I'm under 11 stone which is a blessed relief, frankly.

The lemon was fat free
This weekend had its moments of weakness.

I had a small whoopsy with a cheesy crumbed chicken escalope the size of my face and a DD cup sized mound of spaghetti pomodori in my favourite Italian yesterday. Also given that sorbet is clearly a solid fruit drink I also had a sundae/Monday/Tuesday glass full of iced mango and strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed it.

In the interests of science I was very happy to test the theory that a slap up dinner could be balanced by walking in London, powering the  brain and fuelling an exhilarating Boris bike ride home. l would burn off a number of calories and the spaghetti would not affect my weight loss too much.

Given the results, I would conclude that as long as you've been good** during the week and had a lovely busy weekend, a large portion isn't the worst thing you can have on a sunny Sunday.

*Official because it's in kilos not stones

** Good is defined as champagne, House of Lidl Bardolino, steak, cheese, vegetables and no bread. Basically (and I consulted the Victionary) these are all 'pleasure inducing fluids and essential protein'

Fewer pies needed

Weekends, inevitably, lead to temptation. Temptation in the form of things that are contrary to the Diet Pact. Though I did try to limit them and also managed to avoid the winez. Which, given where I was at the weekend was a minor miracle. But still the food was less than optimal, in my case, mostly because the nearly-ex can't quite see why I would want to diet.


Anyway. I was suspicious that the Monday weigh-in wouldn't be good as, frankly, things in the clothing department were still tight. Not good.

Originally we'd planned to stand nervously on the scales on Monday evening, but this wouldn't be possible, my flatmate was at the opera with a gentleman friend whilst I would be demonstrating just how dim-witted and lacking in general knowledge I am with my bezzie in a pub quiz.

I can assure you we didn't plan it like this.

Which meant the weigh in had to be this morning. Excellent! Bad news to start to day... We stripped, well, I did, she was still in her dressing gown, we weighed, we gulped and then... We did it all again because we couldn't remember what the numbers were. We are useless. On the plus side we did have a lot of giggling at how useless we are.

So how bad was the bad news? Well, for Clare it was the positively marvellous news that she had slimmed to a svelte 69.4Kg and dropped below the psychological 70 barrier, where as I was 95Kg. I didn't quite cry. She'd lost 1.4Kg and I'd managed a paltry, hardly worth measuring 0.4. What?! I didn't even have winez!

Okay, so now I am crying at the thought.

It's just so unfair. But I know I've been good so the really good news will come next week, yes? This was just a fluid blip. Or something. Or the scales are faulty. And I had eaten my breakfast at that point. That'll be it.

Assuming a small bowl of flakes with a small amount of milk weights 1Kg.

The big question though, was would the initial progress be enough, would she be able to get in the frock by the time the christening rolled around in a couple of weeks time. Only one way to find out! Back upstairs we ran, frock found and... I really do hate her. It fits. And she looks amazing. And I reckon now she's 1.4Kg lighter I can throw her in the canal.

Pfft. Again.

The good news is that another two weeks like that and she'll be ready to wow the vicar. Especially if a few more continent crossing runs are involved. But what about me? The fat and frumpy one. Well, my-lovely-and-I've-totally-forgiven-her-everything-because-she's-fab flatmate has said that if we lose weight this week we should hit Dukes for martinis.

Now that is an incentive, 'tinis, frivolous frocks and an excuse to be mildly outrageous. Not that I ever am, obvs. Though thinking about the last few times I've been in Dukes, it's never ended well. Err, actually, no, it's always ended well.


Wasn't that first on the list of ways to lose weight?

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Oh dear

I put some jeans on this morning. Tight. Still. Oh dear. It has to be said I'm a little concerned with the coming weigh-in on Monday evening, whilst my flatmate was burning off a trillion calories by running to New York (I think that's what she said, I have a rule never to listen to healthy people) I'm in Norfolk. And that means there is a risk of comfort food.

And if I don't lose anything I shall cry because I've been very good. And I don't like being good.

Anyway. Last night we went to see the wonderful Evelyn Glennie performing at Wigmore Hall, which I'm not actually going to talk about now as I want to write more on my own blog. So why did I mention it? Well, the inevitable problem of food came up, where to eat. And when. As my flatmate had already gone through the 4pm danger zone it was likely she might not make it until the end of the concert.

Trouble is, it was now 6:30 with a 7:30 start. Oh dear.

Which was why we ate in the Wigmore Hall restaurant, at least they would understand the concept of having to be served quickly. The menu looked tempting, really tempting. But the sensible diet mode bell was still clanging so we both settled for the fish cake with crispy egg and market leaves (whatever they are) along with a side order of seasonal vegetables and, of course...


Actually, the Veuve Delaroy was delicious and went really nicely with the fish cake. And the fish cake was... Seriously fishy. It did give us the idea that there are a lot more things we could do with patty presented foods. It fits the rule of portion control, we can produce interesting, tasty, things and add lots of simply cooked vegetables to keep us healthy.

So a win for diet research!

I would like to say that the Champagne was the first alcohol I'd had in more than a week, quite a surprise. We never said we would be totally virtuous, we are, after all, Contrary Towers, there had always been the allowance for moments of frivolity.

Though a single glass of Champagne is not frivolous! It's restrained.

What else. Oh yes, so the Wigmore Hall restaurant. Clean, efficient, looks a bit café like maybe, but the food is lovely and the staff very friendly. Worth a visit.

After the show we avoided the post show jazz party and... Went home. It's been a busy week, Clare's fourth night of music, my third, and it was time to get some sleep. When we got back to Contrary Towers we did manage to not eat anything. This is almost unheard of! No spiced beans on toast, or sketty hoops, or cheez, or omelettes, or, well, anything. Just mint tea.

We iz virtuous.

Running Distractions

I ran 11k this morning and burnt off 940 calories.

Yes that is all very interesting but the truism that states 'it's the journey not the destination' remains pertinent and never more so than when running. So I took some photos of my favourite part of East London and as I went so far off my beaten track, some new bits that I haven't seen before.


A new angle on Canary Wharf


Friendly little chaps

Lea Valley

Dignity? That boat! I have more dignity when running 

More graffiti

Olympic Stadium. Not very friendly; razor wire, no entry, do not come close. Whatevs

No you don't burn off calories looking at photos but they're rather lovely. Victoria Park was also looking interesting but I really wanted to go home and have a bite to eat. Nothing distracts me from that!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Steps forward, one back?

So it’s all being going swimmingly. Mostly.

I've been running up stairs, eating(?) endless rivers of soup without the usual loaf of bread and pound of butter and drinking plenty of water. However this week has not been without distractions. 

There have been two huge choir concerts (as well as an energetic dress rehearsal), lovely friends taking me out for drinks and then last night, one of the nicest meals I've had in a while. As this involved a morsel of rooibos smoked salmon, a 250g rib eye steak, 10 chips and half a strawberry and elderflower jelly dessert, I don't think it broke the calorie bank. OK fine, so the half bottle of pink champagne might have.

A very curvy bottle
What did you expect, diet lemonade? 

As far as I am concerned the amount of energy to go two rounds with Zadok and then produce an epic couple of Vivaldi Glorias, is definitely equal to a delightfully curranty Billecart-Salmon Rose. Hoping the Verdi Requiem on 9th July will be at least a bottle of  Veuve Cliquot...

The weekend is nearly upon us and there will be large amounts of small portions, not to mention some serious jogging around Canary Wharf. As I shall be writing about language, seeing some art, doing an appraisal,  I think that is enough brain activity to undo any calorific excess from last night.

Then we'll be all ready for the weigh-in on Monday*.

*Being useless and obsessive I've already been checking so flatmate has hidden scales. Pfft.


Dear diary,
I'm still alive.

I haven't developed a serious addiction to dried fruit and nuts. Honestly, I can handle it, I can give them up whenever I want. Even the nuts. It's surprising the impact they have, I have even managed to resist the dirty fried chicken places, this is a minor miracle, especially when the world was falling apart yesterday.

I've not written about the wondrous meals we've cooked as I've been out the last two nights! Crikey. But I have been deeply grateful for having made enough unrepeatable soup to last, as I could have a hot portion when I got in. Not what you think.

I've moved the scales as my flatmate was tempted to stand on them. I'm going to have to move them again as she's better sleuth than I imagined. Maybe my bathroom was not the best place. So far I've resisted the urge as I know I will be mortified if I've not lost an ounce. But Monday and the weigh in looms ever closer...


But I have been good. I fell off the wagon today a little as I had to have pink milk for breakfast owing to a late start from Contrary Towers. But am going to march down to Kensington in a moment which, I believe, will be worth lots of pie points.


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Burn, baby, burn

It's a fact universally acknowledged that my flatmate hates exercise. If it doesn't involve lifting martini glasses, looking at shiny things or being distracted by lights dancing on water, then frankly she isn't interested. So I got thinking about alternative ways of burning off calories.

1. The obvious (don't ask me to elaborate)
2. Walking up escalators on the underground
3. Taking the stairs instead of the lift
4. Getting off a stop earlier on the bus.

The whole underground question is going to get interesting during the 'World Sporting Event that is happening in East London'. It has already had us reaching for our maps whilst thinking of alternative routes to the simplest of places. I have established I can run/walk the several miles to work but it turns out she draws the line at walking 3 hours to work. And then back again. Some people...

5. Boris Bikes - A great way of zipping round London but only on weekends for me as I have the road sense and attention span of a hyperactive spaniel. Turns out she can keep her eyes on the road, cycle in a straight line and not get totally distracted by people in Lycra.

6. Housework - I don't know how this is done. Cleaning here is done by an array of vigorous fairies.

7. Thinking really hard about stuff - We decided last night that the brain burnt off a lot of calories. So we are both thinking *really* hard.

8. Lifting books - This is an excellent one for a librarian. Maybe me and her can job swap for a bit...

9. Shopping - Sadly now that the food shopping involves less House of Lidl vintage bardolino, bags are lighter. Perhaps we should buy more melons? I understand there is a fabulous recipe for a melon daiquiri and it would involve lifting of glasses, healthy fruit and the merest soupcon of rum. A win all round.

10. Strolling -This one is the best. We can stroll for miles. In fact, if you pop round and we're not in, we're either ignoring you or strolling around our amazing part of shiny London town. It's also exercise strolling around art galleries/museums, giving applause, and buying books. Obvs. 

Not going to happen
Let's face it, here at Contrary Towers this is the best exercise list we are going to achieve, apart doing what the happy little micoach app tells us. We're never going to be doing push ups on a park bench or dropping and giving an instructor '5' anythings. 

Of course, we may change our mind about that.

Soupe du jour

I am astonished to find my flatmate is still alive. I really thought she would have passed out in a suitably Victorian swoon, expecting to be carefully carried by some passing hunks and laid quietly to recuperate whilst the doctor fetched smelling salts. She might have mentioned, once or twice, that she didn't like diets. And was hungry. And ate a lot of soup.


Bit of a pity about dinner then...

I also made it through the day. My lunch of last night's leftovers between two slices of multi-grain bread was quite epic. I did slightly wobble and bought some dried fruit as, otherwise, I knew I was on dangerous ground. Not helped by workmen ripping up the road outside the dungeon. Bastards. This did mean I might have accidentally bought the complete works of Oscar Wilde when I was accidentally sucked in to the Oxfam book store on Portobello Road.

Life is tough.

The plan for dinner. As I was lacking in imagination, and we had spuds in the fridge, it was going to have to be a potato and broccoli affair with lashings of something that didn't involve yummy bread and butter. This would go down well. I did at least get a selection of suspiciously healthy looking breads, one rye, one sunflower, to give a little interest. I am all heart.

So, what you've all been waiting for, the impossible to reproduce recipe!

You'll need

  • Some spuds. I'm not sure how many, but there were quite a few, maybe 7 smallish and mediumish ones, it looked about right anyway and meant I could clear the fridge
  • A couple of small onions (as that's what we have) but I imagine a big one would work. Maybe I should have added another.
  • Baconz. Oh yes. I did follow the rules though, but was lazy and got bacon medallions as they'd already had the fat trimmed off. One packet.
  • A little olive oil
  • One thingie of broccoli, I'm sure these have names, but no idea what they are
  • A daring dash of cayenne pepper
  • A teaspoon and a bit of curry powder
  • One chicken and one veg oxo cube
  • Err
  • Oh, a dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • And about that much semi-skimmed milk... Let's see, a litre bottle, it was full, so maybe 150ml? You know how this works, we don't do measuring!

Making it. Get the official Contrary Towers soup pan. Slice the onion and baconz in to little bits and saute in the small amount of olive oil. Quickly peel the spuds, cut them in to small lumps (so they cook more quickly) and wait for the baconz and onion to sort itself out.

Go and look at the idiots riding mopeds without helmets.

When the moment seems right, mix up the two oxo cubes in half a litre of boiling water (as that's all our jug will hold) and pour it in the pan. Then add the spuds. And the curry powder. Then a bit more water because it seems the right thing to do. Then a dash of cayenne pepper. Err, my hand might have slipped...

Drink water, arrange flowers.

Boil on a mediumish heat (with the lid on!) for I think about 20 minutes. I was a bit confused at this point as my flatmate came home before I expected her, I am notoriously slow. And poor at judging time. But once I was happy that the spud was nicely disintegrating I chopped the little bits off the end of the broccoli as small as I could bring myself to do.

Next. Blend! On my last trip to Norfolk I brought back my hand blender, and it worked a treat. Noisy as hell, which I'm sure my flatmate appreciated this as she was trying to listen to the music she was to sing tomorrow. I have to say, the end result was fabulous, it almost seemed a shame to ruin the creamy smoothness with the broccoli.

But we iz healthiez.

Final step. In went the broccoli, the milk (carefully measured using the oh-that's-about-right technique) and a dash of Worcestershire sauce (adds to shopping list). And leave to simmer for about 15 minutes. Which I judged was about the maximum I could get away with before I was in mortal danger from the ravenous one.

And serve.

We had six spoonfuls each, how virtuous are we, though with the second bowl there was that Dirty Harry moment of in all the excitement I clean lost count. It doesn't really work with soup.

And that was that. We also have soup tomorrow night, which is good as we're both out and there was that risk of descending in to the depths of comfort food. This dieting lark is easy.

I can't see what all the fuss is about.

Day what?

So Day 2 (or is that Day 1?).

I knew that yesterday would be an easy day. After all, I had three days of marvellous Northern Irish food reserves that would keep a football team satisfied for a week. The massive bowl of banana porridge in the morning, light lunch and then those stuffed mushrooms had made me feel very virtuous and 'official'. This is why I am saying that today is day 2.

So after a very early bowl of muesli, some diet shakes, a morsel of dried fruit, a LOT of tasty soups and rye bread I like to think that the inmates of Contrary Towers are off to a flying start. Certainly no excuse at all for any complaining about the rations, after all size isn't everything.

What else was on the action list?
  • An official weigh/measure in - Done *gulp*
  • A food plan - Er...? Sorry, that was a bit ambitious. Will 'make a lot of soup' do?
  • A micoach recalibration (didn't realise I was that heavy or that short) - Done
  • Morning run - Oooo done. A lovely sunny interval training effort of 4.32k (367 cal)
  • Buy healthy snacks - Done. Had some dried fruit in my desk drawer
After the grand recording of vital statistics you need to feel you've started something drastic immediately. Anyway, we have all the facts, we know what we've got to do and it's not like it's really difficult. 

As was said tonight, it's not a diet it's a .... and I paraphrase... a portion adjustment exercise. We're used to big ones, that all.

Monday, 18 June 2012

It starts...

As you might have seen earlier, Clare had come up with a cunning master-plan, eat less, do more.

And have a weigh-in.

Which meant we had to get some scales. And was why I was in a strange part of London, known as Shepherd's Bush, visiting Arguus to collect said scales before heading home to make whatever. On the plus side I, according to micoach, burned 134 pie units going to fetch the scales. Huzzah.

Before weigh-in we had to eat, this was inspired by a recipe I'd seen when trying to work out exactly what jumping beans actually are (long story) but, as is the Contrary Towers way, it was at best inspiration, so here, if you care to try and repeat the meal, or more to the point, if I do, is roughly what I did...


  • 4 Portobello mushrooms. You don't have to get them from Portobello Road as I'd done, but it adds a certain something
  • 1 chilli
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper, or whichever comes to hand
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tin of kidney beans
  • chilli powder
  • cayenne pepper
  • ground pepper
  • vegetable stock cube made up to about 300ml
  • olive oil
  • minuscule amount of cheddar cheese, grated
  • Chives from Charlie
So... What I did.

Oven on at 200c, mushrooms on a baking tray with some olive oil on top. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper. These might have been in the oven for about 20 minutes, it might have been longer, I wasn't paying quite enough attention.

Slice the onion, pepper, chilli and mince the garlic, bung them in a frying pan (too small) with some olive oil and fry for five or six minutes as they soften. Add the kidney beans after draining, then the vegetable stock and chilli powder.

Simmer on a medium heat, I was at about 5-8 depending on how mad the pan was at the time, the liquid will reduce and the beans soften muchly. Cayenne and ground pepper were added to taste and the whole lot was ready after about 10 minutes. It could probably have done with a few more minutes, but Clare was looking dangerously hungry.

Pile a few table spoons of the mix on each mushroom, top with cheese and put back under the grill for another few minutes.

Finally, Charlie got another hair cut so we could have chives on top.

Serve and eat. Really quickly.

It wasn't the worse diet food ever, definitely acceptable and suitable spicy. Which meant... It was time to weigh in. First though, as we were going to be scientific, we had to check our heights. Another comedy of error moments that ended with tears rolling down our cheeks from laughing too much. I just can't quite remember what it was that was so funny.

Rather importantly we had to invent a special means to record the heights without marking the walls, so post-it notes to the rescue!

It also meant we found a use for the Fifty Shades of Grey book, we used it as a means to find the tops of our heads and, hence, the height.

It was that or finding a table with a wonky leg that needed fixing.

We had our heights, 160.3 and 174.6cm respectively. I won't say how it took to actually get those figures, but there might have been some fanning around that slowed us down!

Finally... It was the weigh-in. Gulp. Now I knew mine was bad. And so did Clare. It still didn't make anyone feel better about it. I was lower quite recently but comfort ate my way back. Pfft.

So here we go... 70.7 and 95.4kg respectively. Oh crap. That's a lot of pies.

Hey ho.

Finally, we checked what our BMI was according to some website calculator or other. We were dismayed to learn we were overweight. What? Really? In my case, quite badly. I won't cry though as it's my own fault from too much of said comfort food as well as too much winez.

For the final entertainment we'd agreed to go walking. Not so far as last night, this was more a calibration walk of how long it takes to walk down the canal, round Limehouse basin and home again. We really couldn't have picked a better evening for it.

We did get a little bit distracted, kept stopping to take pictures (living by water is a problem if you like taking pictures) and generally enjoying the evening. But we now know it takes about 45 minutes and burns off around 300 pie units. Which isn't bad.

So anyway, we've officially started, it's going to be a slog, but at least we're both doing it at the same time, which is an awful lot easier. All I need to do now is think about what to make for dinner tomorrow...

Watch this space!

A strategy SWOT thing

Every venture apparently needs a strategy or SWOT or something so here is mine.

To get into *that* Karen Millen dress with out bursting anything
To not cause breast mayhem when running down the road
To be sofisti sophisikay smart and not have a food baby tummy when I go out for cocktails in that red dress
To get back to original healthy weight of last year
You see, I'm serious!

How I shall do it
Eat less
Exercise more

Pfft obviously. What were you expecting?

  • Summer - apparently this is the time for small shorts, flirty summer dresses but as I have not yet packed away the fur coats and fleecy stockings, this isn't an issue [FOCUS] I mean I shall pretend it's 30 degrees and sunny.
  • Christening - this is serious, it's only in 3 weeks so I need a bit of weight off by then so I can wow the lovely people of Yorkshire with my London sleekness. Or whatevs. I shall just buy a new fascinator and  [FOCUS]  ... I mean, yes I will get into a summer frock by then.
  • *that* Karen Millen dress - it cost me a fortune and I can't do the blasted thing up. 
  • Running - I love running and don't want to damage joints unnecessarily with added weight. Who am I kidding? I want to stride confidently and NOT wobble down the road causing the stern people of E14 to look at me as I was a wanton woman. Oh.
  • Not to scream as I get on the scales. How heavy? Seriously, my appetite died then and there.

Time frame
Sensibly I will be aiming for 2lb a week with an initial blitz of 6 weeks to reach my pre crappy year weight. The Christening is on 8th July. This is 3 weeks so that could actually be 6lbs shrinkage if I applied myself.

After that there will be a review over a nice pizza and bottle of wine. Or something.

Immediate Action Points
  • An official weigh/measure in
  • A food plan
  • A micoach recalibration (didn't realise I was that heavy)
  • Set alarm for run tomorrow morning
  • Buy healthy snacks

Banned Foods
Crisps - my downfall
Bacon - unless strictly defatted
Salami/Sausage *snork*
Cakes/Biscuits - Obvs...durr I'm not entirely stupid
Cheese - *sigh* I mean, it's calcium and healthy but probably not to be taken in entire kilo blocks

This little piggy went to market...

Dear Diary,
I am showing impossible levels of restraint.

On the bright side, it did mean that I could go toddling off to market in search of nice looking veg! The only good thing about working off the edge of the known world is Portobello Road market. Not the tourist tat parts, but the regular veg sellers. It's nice to wander down looking at the various fruit and veg stalls, some using the basket approach, some specialising just in fruit. Some with veg that must seriously tasty as it looks fuggly.

In the end I settled on a place I've used before as they have a superb range and the chillis I had from them last week were lovely. Plus! A proper cor blimey lady on the stall today, obviously giv'n 'er other 'alf the day orf. At least I think that's what she said.

So, Portobello Mushrooms, peppers, courgettes, broccoli, aubergine and a bunch of bananas to make up the bareness of the veg drawer in the fridge. With the possibility of stuffed Portobello mushrooms stuffed with Mexican Jumping Beans for dinner.

Though, it must be said, this being Contrary Towers...

We might change our mind ;-)

Chez Hubbard...

Old Mother Hubbard would have approved.

The cupboard is bare.

Strictly speaking it's not, it's just got contraband as defined under the Contrary Towers diet pact 2012. Bit of an issue that. I can see me spending quality time on Portobello Road market today raiding the veg stalls.

Hmm. Talking of nursery rhymes. I wonder whether I could swallow a fly. I'm sure they aren't on the contraband list!


Sunday, 17 June 2012

The diet starts... Now.

So this is quite serious.

We, the residents of Contrary Towers are going on a diet. And we're going to write about it. Oh hell.

We have a pact. No dirty sausage, no cheese, or was that less cheese, I may have passed out at that one, oh, and lots of veg. I can do veg, I'm ace at vegging out.

So the opening meal wasn't really meant to be a meal, I knew I had to eat something or would be starving by the morning, but as Clare was being virtuous it would be a snack. I settled on beans on toast. Tasty, quick and easy.

With Cayenne pepper, obvs.

Clare weakened. But, being the virtuous souls we are, we stuck with one tin between the two of use. Us! One tin! And just one slice of toast each.

We didn't compromise on the butter. We do have standards.

Let's face it, it's an easy meal, a hefty helping of cayenne pepper to wake the beans up, a slow heat in the pan to make sure they go thick and gloopy. Perfectly done toast as one of us can manage to operate the thermonuclear grill without a disaster and... Chives.

Charlie the Chive plant was called on to provide a little something extra.

It was just enough. Something to stave off hunger pangs, relatively healthy. Good portion control and then... We went for a walk all the way down Limehouse Cut, through Limehouse, down to the bottom of Canary Wharf and back again.

So virtuous and healthy.

Time to polish those halos!