Sunday, March 01, 2015

Book review and a giveaway - Manga Shakespeare

Last year DD and I went to Wilderness Festival and in preparation for seeing As You Like It in the woods we decided we should familiarise ourselves with the plot so that we wouldn't become confused. Of course we were confused a bit - Shakespeare designs the play that way.

The play is a humorous look at love, marriage, deceit and confusion.

It is, as the manga version declares

 "the age old story : brothers quarrel, boy meets girl, boy becomes man; four weddings, two reconciliations - and a girl who dresses like a boy. Well each to their own, nobody's perfect, and ... as you like it"

As You Like It is part of Manga Shakespeare, a series of graphic novel adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays. If you want to get kids into reading then graphic novels can be a great way to start. This book was fun to read and the pictures are very cute, drawn by the Chie Kutsuwada. She is a London based award winning manga artist.

Whether you like manga or Shakespeare or both this book is a nice addition to a library. To avoid extra confusion there is a plot summary at the end of the book, along with a brief history of Shakespeare's life.

Now that we have seen the play (which was brilliant!) and read the book I'm offering it to another reader. It is in pristine condition, I read so carefully the spine is not even creased. Perfect to read or as a gift.

If you would like to own this book (and you live in the UK) use the Rafflecopter entry form below and I'll post it to the winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Friday, February 27, 2015

How my Diet is going.

I'm approximately 5'7" tall, and at Christmas I weighed 11st (154lb)

I decided to take part in Dry January which was the only reason I weighed myself. I never normally bother, but I wondered if the lack of alcohol would lead to weight loss.

I added a Diet app to my mobile devices and PC and went for the 'calorie counting' option.
fat secret diet app screen shot with weight graph
Fat Secret Diet App

I am not here to body shame anyone, nor to tell you how to diet if you choose to. I'm just sharing my experience so far, since January the 1st.

During January, mainly due to the sudden loss of empty calories in all that wine and beer I was no longer consuming, I lost a pound a week.

At the start of February, with some joy I was back to beer and cava, but as I had discovered that both non alcoholic lager and non alcoholic red wine were actually quite nice, I decided to stick to having alcohol at weekends only, and of course to include it in my daily calorie allowance.
Non alcoholic Red Wine

For slow weight loss my app suggested I stick to 1700 calories a day. That felt OK to me and so that's what I've been sticking to. For me using the app to record things helps me to stop and I need to eat? Am I hungry? Is this the best option?

Seeing what is in each meal has made me make different choices and discover some great new foods that have helped me stay on course on my diet. I'm still losing about a pound a week, I hope to get to 10st..but I wonder if I could get down to 9st 7lb which I think would feel right for me.

So, things I have discovered.

  • non alcoholic wine and beer - lots less calories, satisfies the urge for a drink, tastes nice
  • savoury popcorn, delicious, low calorie, great for snacking on and takes a while to eat thus keeping you busy too.
  • Quorn, much lower calorie than meat. Excellent sausages fried up in a tiny bit of oil with onions and tomatoes. Really filling for next to no calories.
  • Water, drinking lots of water has helped keep hunger at bay, it's good for you to stay hydrated too. 
  • Planning meals - not every meal, I'm not that organised! But planning a salad for tea when you know there is a high calorie lunch in the offing, or having a light lunch when there might be (real) wine at dinner.
  • Cottage cheese. I love cottage cheese, the low fat versions with pineapple are delicious and filling. Tasty snack or addition to a green salad.
  • Balsamic vinegar, hardly any calories compared to thick salad dressings but really full of flavour, excellent drizzled over crisp green lettuce.
  • Sushi, I found a brand of sushi with only 200 calories a pack. really nice low cal lunch!
  • Low fat Greek yoghurt, really filling, low calorie and even the addition of a spoonful of honey doesn't take it too far into the 'treat' zone. Also nice with fruit or on a hot Quorn chilli.
    Quorn 'chicken style' fillets with spicy tomato sauce and rice
    Quorn 'chicken style' fillets with spicy tomato sauce and rice
The diet is going well, I'm still on track, even though I took the week o f half term off completely - didn't record food or exercise and had more than usual of both! I still lost a pound. Partly as I still find it easier not to snack too much.

I plan a snack at 10.30 am with a cup of coffee (I have breakfast at 7am) so I'm really eating every 4 hours or so, with a longer gap in the afternoon (where I might just have a coffee). Looking at my diet history I start the day with fairly high carbs, about 300 calories, then have about 150 calories as a snack, 400 calories for lunch and the rest as a blow out dinner (I'm often under the 1700calories I'm allowed)

So am I always full? No. Does it need will power? Yes. Is it difficult?...well I'm not finding it difficult so far. I haven't had to cut out anything, just change the portion size or plan other meals around it , sometimes finding a better, lower calorie thing to replace part of a meal. I'm finding I eat more vegetables, especially salad and leafy this rate I'll start to tell you how great kale is! (don't panic, I'm not going to start adding cauliflower to everything and pretending to be a caveman)

You can follow what I'm up to on the app at fat secret if you are interested. Are you dieting? How's it going?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Load of Bollocks

It's charity Tuesday!

I'm a lady. I am the mother of a teen girl. I do have a husband but I'll admit we rarely discuss testicles. I mean, you don't, do you.(except you - you weirdo)

But apparently we should do! It's all well and good us ladies marching about with our boob awareness and Cop a Feel campaigns and the like, but we mustn't leave out the chaps!

So gents, don't be afraid to 'talk balls' (you do enough of it usually) get in there! Talk Balls to your sons, your friends. Make testicles top of the chat list this Friday in the pub. Mums of sons, pluck up your courage! Talk Balls!!

Over 2,200 young men aged 15-44 are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year. (One of my mates had a testicle removed due to cancer when we were about 18 - he's now a grown up (!) father of two)

Orchid’s ‘Father and Sons’ campaign hopes to encourage men to feel confident talking to their sons about testicular cancer, and ensure they know how to check for signs and symptoms.

Orchid commissioned a survey and new stats show:
  • 42% of parents do not regularly talk to their children about health issues or concerns
  • 20% of parents never broach the issue with their children
  • 30% of parents do not feel confident discussing how to check for signs and symptoms of testicular cancer
  • 76% would sooner refer their child to a GP rather than raise a health-related concern with them directly
  • Only 36% of 18-34 year olds are confident recognising the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer – a remarkable 20% lower than breast cancer

Watch the video (it made me laugh), share on twitter, #talkballs

For advice and support on testicular cancer please visit

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Day out to London, China Town, Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! This year is the year of the sheep, I'm not sure if that is auspicious or not as I have no knowledge of western horoscopes never mind Eastern ones! I am a snake, DD is a rabbit and that's about all I know.

The last time we went to China Town DD was about 8 and it was the year of the rat, I think she still has a lucky red rat somewhere that we bought there.

This year we tool a leisurely train trip and a wander to China Town. We strolled from Victoria past Buckingham palace, being in the right place at the right time to see a royal palace coach drive by.

We walked through Green Park , then on past The Ritz, and took a look at Eros in Piccadilly before exploring Soho, DD was wearing tight skimpy shorts and has legs to die for so no surprise we got a lot of catcalls, stares and general hassle. I think she was torn between terror and pride. A whole education at each sex shop window, a discussion as to how sticky a 'private viewing booth' might be and then we escaped to China Town.

 We went to a little restaurant we had had recommended to us and I had some dim sum (best spicy dumpling soup ever!) and Dd had lemon chicken, her favourite Chinese dish.
I avoided some of the more unusual items on the menu...

But I did have some fried squid and chilli sauce.

After lunch we went to the half term hell that was Hamleys. and then staggered to a Turkish coffee shop for coffee, hot chocolate and the prettiest little macaroons (which I totally forgot to photograph but were delicious)

Then home on the train with only a tiny visit to Paperchase first.

The train was absolutely packed and I had to use my Southern Rail Priority seat card to ask someone to give me a seat - DD joked "what if they have a hidden disability too? Does it become like disabled Top Trumps?" I think she may be on to something! And thanks to the deaf man that stood so I could sit down. And to the lady that offered to stand too.

Home exhausted by 9pm

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

I bought this book on advice from an online friend. Everyone told me how amazing it was. No one seemed to have found it boring or badly written so I bought a copy. I liked the idea that it mentioned  Berwick on Tweed, where I went to high school. I also thought the premise sounded interesting, a middle aged (old?) man who decides to do something fairly odd for a fairly odd reason and does it on a whim and totally unprepared.

It is not a spoiler to let you know it's about a man that walks, he walks a long way in an attempt to visit and possibly save a friend from his past. On his journey he thinks a lot, realises things about himself and his family, and also meets other people who help or hinder him by turns.

So first, the good. I liked the writing and the story got going pretty quickly. While the main plot got moving quickly the characters were explained slowly as Harold walked, and we realised things as he did. The characters themselves were brilliantly written, realistic and tender. Harold was shown as both weak and strong by turns, the characters, like real people, were not clearly good/bad, strong/weak but a mixture of complex thoughts, ideas and emotions. Small things became magnified and the finale of the book was incredibly moving. I cried unattractively (there was snot) through the last couple of chapters of the book.

Then the not so good, there were things written in a way so as to trick the reader into thinking one thing while another was true and this was a sort of twist at the end. Sadly I saw it coming from the beginning. This didn't really spoil the end but I felt a bit cheated knowing the author was trying to keep secrets from the reader, and yet not well enough to actually trick me! There were several bits where the new characters Harold met were glossed over into a quick paragraph. I found this a real shame as each person he met was usually written with great care and they were each very interesting. To suddenly have a paragraph that effectivly siad "then he walked a load more and met loads more people" felt lazy and a distracting. I wanted to know about all of the people he met. Maybe the author thought it would make the book too long but I would have liked it.

So my conclusion. It wasn't a great book. But it was a good book. Worth a read, though not in public and you may need tissues. It was well written I just felt the author could have given the reader a little more.

For Goodreads I'll be giving it 4 stars.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - by Rachel Joyce.  This review written as part of