2017 aims (or something)

basel-rhine

As I mentioned, today is a public holiday in the part of Germany where I work. However, it is not in Switzerland (or at least not in Basel – I don’t know about other cantons), so I took advantage of having the place to myself to get rid of the chaos of Christmas. The decorations are down and have been put away, as have the Christmas papers, ribbons and other embellishments I was using for my cards. I’ve found homes for the last few gifts and even took away some of the glass recycling, which is usually difficult because both my lunch break and the time I finish for the day are during “quiet hours” when you’re not supposed to use the glass bins. Most productive use of my time.

With the final reminders of the holiday period gone, it seemed like a good time to finally start looking forward to 2017. I’m not making resolutions as such, but I do have a few aims… or maybe guidelines… that I want to bear in mind this year. So here they are. By the way, the photo at the top has nothing to do with anything, I just thought the post needed a photo…

  • Get regular exercise, even if it’s just walking into Basel more often instead of taking the tram (I did this today actually, so I’ve started well!). After spending all of October and part of November hobbling around, I was starting to feel a bit sloth-like, so this year I want to try and get out there and move!
  • Eat healthily most days. I don’t want to obsess about it, and if there happens to be cake on the days I have to go into the office I will definitely be having some! But I do want to try and fit in some vegetables every day and try to have some healthier breakfasts on hand (or eat breakfast at all!). My aim is to experiment with more vegetarian recipes at the beginning the year when I’m still motivated so I hopefully find a few quick and easy ones for later on when I can’t be bothered. A simple way of getting into the routine of having vegetables every day 🙂
  • Try not to stress over things I have no control over. What will be will be, and obsessing over things doesn’t make life any easier.
  • Spend more time with Jan without any screens being involved! Most of our evenings seem to end up with us either watching something (be it on TV or a DVD), Jan on his laptop doing more work or both of us sitting in the same room, but mainly looking at our respective devices. I want to try and have at least some time this year where we’re both in the flat and not looking at a screen! I think I’ll start by suggesting we try to eat at the table once or twice a week and go from there.

That’s basically it. Apart from that I plan to continue exploring Switzerland, keep cross stitching, read lots and basically just try to enjoy myself in the moment. With all the terrible things that happened in the world last year and that are set to continue this year (and I don’t mean celebrity deaths! There were many scarier things going on than that last year!) I want to try and keep my little corner of the world positive and happy place. Here’s hoping for good things this year!

Do you have any goals or resolutions for 2017? I hope it’s a fabulous year for all of you, whatever your plans.

Spiced apricot couscous salad

Couscous salad with smoked salmon fillet
Couscous salad with smoked salmon fillet

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, so here’s what I had for tea last night. This tastes best if you use fresh apricots, but if you plan on making it any time soon you’ll need to use dried ones or tinned ones (if you’re lucky enough to be able to find the type that are in juice instead of syrup!).

This amount serves around 2-4 people, depending on appetites and what you serve with it (probably 2 if you just have the salad by itself, 3 or maybe 4 if you have something substantial on the side).

It’s really more of a dish for summer, when fresh apricots are around, but it was still pretty tasty with the dried kind.

Spiced Apricot Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

180g couscous
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, ground cumin and ground ginger
80g apricots
1 small red onion
15g fresh mint
Approx. 15g fresh ginger
Handful of cashew nuts
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Cook the couscous in accordance with the packet instructions. Add the spices, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper then fluff slightly with a fork and set it to one side to cool. Either place the pan lid on or cover with cling film while cooling.

    Spiced couscous
    Spiced couscous
  2. While the couscous is cooling, chop the onion, mint, fresh ginger and apricots and juice the limes.

    Chopped ingredients
    Chopped ingredients
  3. Add all the chopped ingredients plus a handful of cashew buts to the couscous. (I chopped the cashews in half, but you can leave them whole).

    Add the chopped ingredients to the couscous...
    Add the chopped ingredients to the couscous…
  4. Stir everything in well, then add the lime juice and stir that in as well. Taste test the couscous and add extra salt/pepper/spices to taste.

Tada – done! So quick and easy. I served mine with smoked salmon fillet, but it also goes well with grilled salmon or other types of fish. Chicken would probably be good with it as well, although I’ve never done that. And obviously whatever vegetarian/vegan alternative suits you.

For variations, you could add sultanas as well as the apricots (this is really nice – I just didn’t have any last night), replace the cashews with pine nuts or even add in pine nuts as well as the cashews. It’s really quite a versatile dish 🙂

35 Before 35: Baking – Spiced Oat Cookies

I mentioned in my latest photo an hour post that I had been baking healthy biscuits (cookies), partly because I was intrigued by the idea of making biscuits with apple sauce to replace the sugar and partly because I’ve only baked 4 out of 10 types of biscuits for my 35 before 35 challenge so far! The recipe in question was a BBC Food one by Anthony Worrall Thompson, which you can currently find here (until the BBC takes it down…)

Supposedly each biscuit has 82 calories, although I used butter rather than his “baking spread” (which is later referred to as plain old “margarine” in the actual method!), so I’m not sure whether that makes a difference. Plus I used wholemeal spelt flour rather than normal wholemeal flour because that’s all Aldi had. Also, I doubled the recipe because 12 didn’t seem like very many biscuits. This was my first batch:

Not meatballs, honest!
Not meatballs, honest!

As you can see, there are 15 on that tray. The second tray then contained 20 (I placed them closer together because I couldn’t be bothered with a third batch – turns out that wasn’t a problem as they barely spread anyway!).

I flattened them “slightly” just like Anthony said (the photo above is pre-flattening) and the end result came out like this:

(Yeah, my food photography skills are non-existent.) NOT very biscuit/cookie like! Next time I’ll just squish ’em properly flat before putting them in the oven!

The end result was not as spicy as they smelled – although after a few days in an air-tight container the spice has come out much more – and more savoury than sweet. You don’t notice the apple sauce at all! Also, they’re not particularly hard/crunchy. The texture is actually almost cake like (think Yorkshire Parkin without the stickiness). They’re still surprisingly moreish though – I had to put them away on Saturday to stop us eating them all before dinner!

I probably will make them again, but next time I plan to add some nuts, seeds and dried fruit and call them “muesli biscuits”. Then count that as one more towards the challenge because that will be a totally different biscuit, right?

Also, in the process of making these, I discovered that mixed spice is not a thing in Switzerland, then when I tried to make my own I discovered that Allspice is not a thing either (or rather the only kind I could get was some gourmet version that cost about 15 francs… for Allspice! What the hell?!)

So, that’s half of my types of biscuits baked. Woo hoo! Next up will presumably be something Christmassy unless I try out my muesli biscuit idea before then… watch this space.

July goals

I don’t usually do this kind of post, but this is supposed to be a place for me to gather my thoughts and what I’m thinking about right now is goals for the month 😉 Also, our internet has been flaky since we got home, which has kind of thrown a spanner in the works of the Vienna posts. It’s difficult to upload photos when the browser keeps telling you it’s unable to connect!

  • Complete the 30 Day Squat Challenge! I had to restart because I didn’t do any squats in Austria. I’m now back to day 4 and this time I actually want to finish it.
  • Be more careful with my money. I did waaaay too much online shopping last month (mostly buying books and summer clothes), and when I checked my bank balance just before we went to Austria I nearly had a heart attack. Of course, it didn’t help that the TV licence people took their money, which doesn’t happen every month. In July, I need to budget better and actually have some money left when my brother comes to visit!
  • Lose 2 kg before my brother comes. That will put me 2 kg above what I weighed after I had my wisdom teeth out. I can’t believe I’ve actually put on 4 kg since then (almost back up to my original weight!) so I’m determined to get at least halfway back to that weight!
  • Complete the summer reading challenge. I should be able to read 2.5 books by the end of the month, right?
  • Eat fruit! I’m terrible at it because whenever I buy fruit it goes mouldy before I can consume any so I end up not bothering to buy any more. But this month I want to buy some and actually do something with it before it’s too late!

That’s all. Five things sounds like it should be doable. Especially since some of them I’ve already started anyway… I just need to actually stick with them this time!

 

Weigh-in Wednesday (The last time in my 20s!)

I know I’ve already posted today, but it is Wednesday and that means weigh-in time! You can just view the Goslar post as an added bonus…

chips
Naughty… but oh so gooood! (Photo credit: dangermain)

Well, I was doing really well with eating healthily and sticking to my calorie limit until yesterday, when I was just hungry all day! By the time I got to the pub for quiz night, there was no way I was going for the semi-healthy option of breaded chicken breast with salsa and salad. Nope… toasted sandwich and chips all the way! Despite that, my weight is down by 0.8 kg since last week and down 2.3 kg since I started using My Fitness Pal. So about 2 kg left to go until goal weight!

My body fat percentage has been up and down like a yoyo this week! This morning it was 29.6%, which is down on last week at least, although not exactly ideal. It was the chips that did it, obviously! 😉

Just look at those fluctuations!
Just look at those fluctuations!

Since last Thursday, I’ve been consistently measuring a waistline of 77 cm! Woo hoo. If it stays that way until my birthday I shall be very happy.

In terms of exercise, I have to confess I’ve been doing extremely badly, partly because I’ve been coming home in the evening then switching the computer on to do more work, but mostly because it’s just been far too hot! I managed some sit ups on Sunday, but that was it. Sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to work out when it’s 38°C outside… It’s cooled down a bit now though after yesterday’s thunder storm (which I got soaked in!), so hopefully it will stay like this and I’ll be able to do a few work outs!

Next weigh in will be the day after my birthday, so we’ll see what damage a day of not caring what I eat and drink does for my progress 😉

Weigh-in Wednesday: 30 minutes exercise not happening!

So, it’s Wednesday again (how did that happen?!), and that means it’s time for another weigh in.

Despite my plans to treat myself on Saturday, I actually ended up doing pretty well this weekend, mostly because I was so buy preparing for curry night I didn’t have the chance to eat anything else that day! In the end, I was only 10 calories over my daily limit despite the glasses of wine.

My weight has fluctuated a lot since last week, but it hasn’t gone back up to my starting weight at any point, which is good. Last week, I was 0.5 kg down from when I started… this week I’m at roughly the same, although I did record a weight that was 1 kg down from original weight. Only on one day though.

My body fat in percent also fluctuates quite a bit, but it’s only gone above last week’s measurement of 28.5% once. This morning’s result was 27.8%, down 0.7% on last week and 2.2% on my starting percentage. Here’s the graph from MyFitnessPal to show you how much it fluctuates. It’s generally around the 28% mark though… well, apart from that one day where it shot waaay up to 29%!

Fat

After getting stuck at 78 cm for what felt like years, my waistline measurement finally crept down by another half centimetre (yes, I count the halves!) and has been 77.5 cm for the last three mornings in a row. I did measure 77 cm once, but the next day it had gone back up again.

My plan for this week was to try and actually achieve my goal of 30 minutes exercise on 5 days a week. Sadly, this hasn’t happened once so far… since last Wednesday, the most I’ve managed is 15 minutes. It’s just too hot to exercise! And this week I also have far too much to do.

funny-pictures-hamster-worries-about-calories-...
Photo: zebedee.zebedee

On the calories front, I’ve been doing really well! Admittedly, I was 375 above my limit on Friday, but apart from that I’ve been sticking to it pretty well. The last couple of days I’ve felt really hungry and just wanted to eat everything in sight. On Monday I was good and managed to restrict myself to a single serving of dark chocolate peanut M&Ms and a small handfull of spelt snack things from the organic supermarket, but yesterday U was unable to resist the cheesy crisps and eded up around 300 calories over my daily limit. To compensate, I forced myself to jog on the spot past the point where I would normally have given up and managed to make it to a whole 5 minutes on both days. Quite an achievement for me! Not that it helped much… 5 minutes of jogging in place burns a mere 42 calories. *Sigh*

I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to keep up with the healthy eating thing while I’m in England, but I’ll do my best. We’ll see how well I fared in two weeks time…
Wish me luck!

Friday letters

I can’t believe it’s Friday again! This week seems to have both dragged and flown by. Dragged because I had so much work and all of it was on the same looooong translation. It gets a little repetetive after a while. But the time also seems to have flown by thanks to the same translation – I lost about four hours last week due to server issues so I’ve spent most of the week panicking that there was no way I could the translation done in time. So that was fun. (In case anyone’s wondering, I did actually get the translation done, but it took me about 8 hours longer than it was supposed to.) As you can probably guess, the weekend is very welcome this week…

A happy post box
A happy post box (Photo: shaggy359)

Dear sleep. I hope you’ll be around this weekend – you and I have some serious catching up to do!

Dear boyfriend. Thank you for being so supportive of my healthy eating thing… and helping me log the calories when I couldn’t do the maths myself! (41% of 250 expressed as a decimal anyone? It’s beyond my capabilities!)

Dear England. This time next week I’ll be preparing to leave for the airport and catch a flight to you. Very, very excited (especially about the christening)!

Dear Deutsche Bahn. Air conditioning is all well and good, but does it really have to be freezing on my train in the morning? I know it’s hot outside, but that doesn’t mean it has to be like winter inside!

Dear readers. Please could you all sign this petition against the closure of the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Salford University. Salford is one of the few UK universities that offers a Bachelor’s in translation, and too many institutions have already closed their language departments. The petition still needs 400 signatures, otherwise I wouldn’t ask you…

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