Monday, 31 October 2011

Weight loss Mondays - Week 2 another loss

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know I have done a LOT OF CYCLING this week so if I didn't lose any weight I was going to be really upset.  However I was also in pensions meetings with buffet lunches and dinners out.  To add to the whole equation, I also ate out with my D Mike's parents on Monday night,  Pensions Board dinner Tuesday and Wednesday night and then again with Mike and some of his friends on Thursday.

Still having laid out all the facts, good and bad, I am delighted to say I have lost 1.4lbs this week making a running total of 3.4lbs yippeeee.

I cooked two Weight Watchers/diet recipes this week.

Diet Coke chicken and Soy Braised Beef with orange.  Both absolutely delicious you really do not feel you are on any diet at all.   Here are the recipes - really worth a try.

Here is the Beef stew recipe taken from the WW site.

Soy Braised Beef with Orange

Makes 4 servings


  • 1kg chuck steak trimmed and cut into 3cm cubes
  • spray oil, for frying
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 2cm root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 5 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soft light brown sugar
  • 425ml beef stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2. Heat the oil in frying pan. Brown the beef on all sides, a few pieces at a time, and transfer to a casserole dish with a heatproof bottom. If the bottom of the pan becomes too brown and sticky, pour in a little stock and scrape the sediment from the bottom. Pour this into the casserole with the meat then add a little more oil and continue browning the meat until all is transferred to the casserole.
  2. Fry the sliced onions in the pan with a little more spray oil until golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a further minutes. Place them in the casserole.
  3. Finely grate the zest from both oranges. Add to the casserole. Place the cornflour in a bowl, stir in the soy sauce and vinegar. Stir well. Stir into the casserole with the sugar and the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Cover the casserole and cook in the preheated over for 3 hours or until the meat is tender.
  5. Meanwhile peel one of the oranges with a knife as you would an apple, making sure all the pith is removed. Remove the segments. Squeeze the juice from the other orange.
  6. Approximately half an hour before the meat is cooked add the orange juice to the casserole and remove the lid.
  7. Add the orange segments just before serving and stir through until hot. If the sauce is too strong, or too thick, add some water. If the sauce is too thin or weak once the beef has cooked, strain off the liquid and reduce by boiling rapidly. Serve with basmati rice and a green salad.

Diet Coke Chicken (with my variation notes)

6 Chicken Drumsticks/chicken thighs or chicken breasts (sliced) (skin and visible fat removed)
1 can of diet coke
5 tablespoons of passata (or use can of tomatoes and blend them)
splash of Worcestershire sauce
spoon of sweet chilli sauce
Salt to season
low fat cooking spray

Preheat oven to 200c of 400f
Place the chicken drumsticks or chicken thighs in a oven proof dish, sprinkle with some salt 
Pour the can of diet coke or any other diet cola works well in a frying pan and put on a high heat.
Add the passata and Worcestershire sauce
Keep on high heat and continuously stir.
As the coke begins to reduce it will start to go sticky. This is what makes a great barbecue marinade.
Once it is to it’s sticky form. Remove chicken drumsticks from the oven and pour sauce over the chicken and place then back in the oven until chicken is cooked.  If I am using chicken breasts I don't make the sauce too dry so don't reduce down as much.
Take out a few times through the cooking process and with a spoon baste the chicken drumsticks with the sauce.
 You can use this sauce on ribs, beef, pork whatever takes your fancy.

Both recipes freeze really well.

There will not be so much cycling this week because I need to drive to most places, so I will have to substitute my exercise this week to ensure continued weight loss.  Mike is away on business so I can have lots of veg soups one which I can highly recommend is the
following taken again from WW.  Delicious.

Pumpkin, Ginger And Apple Soup
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ProPoints® Value:    0
Servings:  4
Preparation Time:  10 min
Cooking Time:  30 min
Level of Difficulty:  Easy
This soup is a perfect autumn and winter warmer. So enjoy and get into the spirit of the season!


10 spray(s) Cooking Spray, Calorie Controlled   
1 medium Onion, All Types, chopped   
1 medium Apple, chopped   
1 small Carrots, Old, Raw, chopped   
2 teaspoons (grated) Ginger, Root, fresh   
450 g Pumpkin, deseeded and chopped   
2 cube(s) Stock Cube, Vegetable, made up with 850ml of hot water   
1/4 teaspoons (level) Nutmeg, Ground   
1 pinch Salt, and freshly ground black pepper   
1 teaspoons Parsley, fresh, chopped, to garnish   


  • Heat the cooking spray in a large saucepan and sauté the onion, apple and carrot for 3 - 4 minutes, until softened. Add the ginger and stir well.
  • Add the pumpkin and stock to the saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently without a lid for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  • Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend for 15 seconds, or until smooth. Return to the saucepan, reheat and season to taste with allspice or nutmeg, salt and pepper. Serve, sprinkled with chopped fresh herbs.


  • If you cannot find pumpkin, try using butternut squash instead.
More later...............................

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Piped cushions to match my headboard - tutorial

All 3 panels have been covered and are ready to be hung on the wall to create our extra large headboard so today's job was to make scatter cushions for the bed.

My first two cushions were to be made out of the raw silk and I had made up my mind to trim them with a piped bias trim made out of the same fabric I am to make my Roman blind from.

First let me tell you I hate making bias trim, in the past I have cut a perfect square, taken it from corner to corner to make two triangles and cut the fabric down the middle and then measured the width of my trim from the long edge and then cut my strips and sewn them together.

I have read about making a continuous bias tube to create the trim and found the following instructions on You Tube.

I made my square, then placed the two triangles as demonstrated

Next stage is to stitch the two pieces together using a 1/4" seam and then press open.

Mark along the long edge of both triangles a line for the required width of the trim.  It is important you do this because you will use these lines as a guide for when you form the tube.  The YouTube clip shows this quite well but here is my tube below which has been stitched using a 1/4" seam again and press open.

Once you have your tube its a good idea to mark the cutting lines and putting your hand inside the tube, cut round and round until you have cut the whole tube.

and look how much bias trim you get - this is so much easier.

Specialist bias binding gadgets are available in a variety of sizes, however because I wanted to use this for a piped trim, I just folded my trim around my cord (recycled from some old Venetian blinds - it wasn't particularly thick, so I doubled it up) and using a zipper foot, stitched as close to the cord as possible.

Now for making the scatter cushion.  I have stayed in quite a few nice hotels around the world, and always try to take inspiration from these beautiful places.  Rather than make square cushions, I wanted to make pillow shaped cushions but slightly smaller than the one's I sleep on to give a sort of reducing size look.

I cut two pieces of the raw silk to the desired size.  I wanted more than just the bias trim on these cushions so decided to use some of the bias trim, and make a narrow strip to create a strip to go across the two boarders.

To make sure that the placement of the trim was the same for the two corners I placed 3 pins in my cutting board, placing the corner of the fabric into the corner pin and then lined the diagonal strip in line with the two other pins.  To match the opposite corner up, I just turned the fabric around, and repeated the process again and stitch close to the edges.

The next stage is to attach the piped bias trim.  With the cushion front, right side up, raw edges together place the piping trim with the piped edge on the inside and pin in place.  The starting point will be in the middle of one of the longest sides (I found the middle by folding in half and placing a pin as a marker).  Leave approximately 2" of trim overhanging the marker point and then pin to the front of the cushion front.

In order for the piping to sit nicely around the corner you need to clip to the stitching line at a slight angle as in the photograph..

Once you have pinned it all the way round, stitch as close to the piping as possible., making sure that the corner is well out of the way when you sew around the corner.  When you reach the starting point, ensure there is enough piping to over lap, unpick some of the stitching, trim the cord back so the two cords butt up together, fold the end of the bias strip under and wrap around the starting point and continue stitching.

You will then get the result below - a nice neat finish.

The front is now completed so the next stage is to insert a zipper into the back.  Cut a piece of fabric the same size as the front (I used the same fabric I used on the back of the headboard), fold in half lengthways and press.  Take your zip and place in the centre, and mark with pins just after the top of the zipper and the bottom of the zipper.  Using the crease line as a guide for the edge of your machine foot, sew a box as shown below.  Cut along the centre creased line and cut into each corner as shown.

Press the edges under along the stitched line, and then position your zipper underneath and right-side facing, pin and stitch in place and then press.

First unzip the zipper and then right sides together place the cushion back and the cushion front together, pin and then using your fingers as a guide to find the piping, stitch the two fabrics together, once again stitching as close as possible to the piping again. Press,trim and turn right sides out.

Here is the finished article x 2.

I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do for the 2nd set of cushions, but I tried a little experiment and came up with the following - here you can see the headboard, with the white pillow then the 1st cushion followed by the 2nd cushion.

Just need to order my Roman Blind kit to finish the bedroom.

More later.....................................

Babysitting Alana

My son called me yesterday afternoon as said "will you be able to babysit Alana tonight as we have been invited to a party".  Well of course I said yes - its great to have her to ourselves.

My D Mike and I were finishing off the headboard (just so we could clear the table).  She is now 15 months old, so she was actually quite happy to sit on a big chair, with all her ducks, while we ate our dinner, which she was happy to share despite having ate her own dinner earlier.

The evening was fine and eventually she fell asleep ready for bed at 8:45pm.  So far so good, we watched a little more TV and then went to bed ourselves.

Because I don't have a baby monitoring system in my house I set up the travel cot in my bedroom.  I have always been a light sleeper so I spent most of the night listening to her moving around in her cot until she woke up this morning at more or less the time her dad predicted, however............  What Alana didn't know was that the clocks went back an hour last night, so instead of her waking up at 7:30-8am, she woke up at 6:30am.

So we are both sitting watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - happy days.

I was reading one the blogs I love to follow La Sewista and Bunny is making a beautiful little dress right now - I have made Alana a pink hippo and a quilt for her Moses basket, but have yet to make her some outfits - I have some patterns, so very much on my list.

Here are some photo taken this morning - I love being a Nanna.


And sitting watching TV with Granddad Mike or GUMY

Its 7:20am on a Sunday morning, so time for a cup of tea.

More later...............

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Covered headboard tutorial

Today we collected the materials we needed to make our covered headboard.

6mm MDF; 1" foam; staple gun; fabric; glue; backing fabric; wadding. 

Having made a headboard for my bed in the cottage I wanted to do the same for the flat in London.  I knew I wanted a natural fibre for the front facing fabric and found the perfect natural fibre - pure silk.  This was an absolutely great find - more pricey than my normal £1 a metre but still a bargain at £10 a metre.

This is how we made the headboard.

I purchased the foam and the MDF from the same place and got them to cut it to size for me.  3 sheets of MDF measuring 6' x 2' each, and 3 sheets of 1" thick foam also 6' x 2'.

1. Place 1 sheet of the MDF flat on a table and spread with glue (probably not as much as my D Mike was spreading all over but he was having fun - what can I say!

2. Place Foam on top of the MDF board

3. Cut a piece of wadding slightly larger than the board and form large enough to wrap around and staple underneath.

4. Smooth the wadding over the foam and then flip the whole lot over ready to staple to the board.

5. Stretch the wadding enough to wrap it around foam and board - be careful not to rip the wadding. Using a staple gun staple the centre of each edge first - wrap the corners and staple and then continue until secure.  We purchased an electric staple gun for this because on a project as big as this you do tend to use a lot of staples and the electric gun makes it slightly easier - however a basic staple gun will do the trick.

6. Using the fashion fabric, follow the same procedure as above, but now wrapping around, board, foam and wadding.  Periodically check that the fabric has not been pulled out of shape.  There are distinct lines on our fabric as it is a loose weave, so we wanted to be sure that we didn't distort the fabric.

7. Trim away excess wadding and fabric, but making sure all edges are held fast by the staples.

8. The next stage is to tidy up the back of the headboard.  Use a firm fabric - there is specialist materials for this purpose that can be bought in upholstery shops , but I found a firm woven curtain fabric and it was only £1 a yard so I used that instead.  Cut the fabric slightly larger than the board, allowing enough fabric to turn in the edges.  Stretch the fabric slightly, and while keeping the fabric tight, secure the top and bottom edges first and then fold the fabric under and staple.   This gives a nice clean finish.

9. Finished section.

10. For our headboard it will be made up of 3 identical sections that will sit horizontally one above the next.  2 finished one more to do tomorrow as we are babysitting our beautiful granddaughter tonight.

More tomorrow.........................

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Cycling marathon

Yesterday was definitely a cycling day.

I started my marathon by leaving the cottage to cycle to my local train station (2.9 miles) to catch the train up to London.  On arrival I then cycled to Clerkenwell (2 miles), then my D Mike and I cycled from Clerkenwell to Chelsea and back (11 miles) totalling just under 16 miles in one day.

Its amazing how your energy levels increase the more you do.  When I first started riding my little bike I did most of it in 2nd gear (there are only 3 gears), however I now find myself darting all around London using mainly the 3rd gear.  

You still take your life in your hands getting around some of the bigger roundabouts in London because the buses and taxi drivers don't really like the bikes I am sure, but from our previous journey to Chelsea by taxi, it was just as quick, and considerably cheaper than the £20 taxi fair, on our bikes.  There is one slightly uncomfortable disadvantage of doing a lot of miles in one day and that is "cyclist bottom" boy even when I went to bed I am sure I still had my bike attached :-) but I just keep thinking of all the calories I am burning off.

Today my cycling will be to Oxford Circus which is approximately 3 miles, however on the cycle route there are many traffic lights for the bikes, so you can't really get up much speed.

Right best be off - 3 days of pension meetings this week ------- deep joy

More later.........................................

Monday, 24 October 2011

Weight loss Mondays --- I have lost 2lbs this week.

Well as much as I feel so embarrassed to have piled on the pounds over the last two years, I think there is something about publicly posting your weight loss each week as I think it sort of motivates you to stick to the plan.

Well I am delighted to report my weight loss for this week is 2lbs leaving only xxxxxx to go ha ha.  Still I am delighted as I don't think that I have really felt like I have been on a diet - but more like making sensible choices and recording what I have been eating - and of course my bike riding last week certainly helped I am sure.

I know its early days and I shouldn't be too excited but its a good positive start.

I was chatting to a friend in Dubai, who I will be visiting during the 1st week in December as she is leaving the Company we both work for.  I was going through some photographs of the two of us taken on a sand safari in Dubai and boy we both looked so slim.  I told her on a chat board today that I was looking at these photos, that I had joined WW on line and that I had lost 2lbs this week and she said she hopes to see a little less of me in December (she is so cheeky), and that she too needs to get into a regime.

This gives me 6 weeks before I leave for Dubai, which if I can stick to the plan could see me one stone lighter by the time I visit. 

I found this photograph of me at my best weight taken only 4 years ago.  I was obviously going through a dark stage with my hair during this period.  This, I think, is my best weight and I am using this as a reminder of my goal.

I apologise to any of my regular readers who only look at this blog for my sewing posts, and I hope I don't bore some of you, but I have decided to introduce Weight loss Monday's, to share my progress (good or bad) to help me stick to the plan.

I have loads of wonderful patterns that I have not cut out because I am saving them for when I have lost the weight.  I have my beautiful Linton Tweed fabric that I want to make into a Channel type suit, again saving it for when I feel I don't look so tubby.

wish me luck.

Last but not least, it is always a joy to receive comments on my posts here and I would like to say how much I appreciate you stopping by to have a look at my blog, and for all the comments that have been left.

More later............................

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Summary of my sewing weekend.

Sometimes you sort of get the wind under your sails and just manage to achieve loads in a short period of time. 

As mentioned earlier today my Jalie patterns turned up in the post yesterday and this event coincided with my D Mike having to go to visit his son leaving me with yesterday afternoon and most of yesterday evening to play with my new toys.

My first job was to finish a fleece that I cut out on Friday evening.  The Fleece came out of my stash and was only £2 per meter.  I only purchased a meter because it was 70" wide.  At the same time I had purchased this fleece, I had also purchased some zips and thread and found some lovely diamanté zips for only £1 each so decided to add this to the red fleece. I used pattern Kwick Sew 3532 another TNT pattern which is quick, easy and fits nicely.

So here are the fruits of my sewing labour this weekend.

3 x Jalie scarf-collar tops, and one fleece.

Last but not least my Son, his wife and our beautiful little granddaughter came for lunch today.  I cooked a family favourite, slow cooked shoulder of lamb with all the usual trimmings that the family love, roasted potatoes, parsnips, cauliflower cheese, mixed vegetables and our lovely red wine gravy - yummy.

We have an apple tree in the garden which is holding the last of its crop.  I sent the boys out to hunt and gather what they could so I could make another family favourite, apple crumble, which I now understand is the same as apple crisp across the pond, with home made "real" custard.

Needless to say, there were a lot of people sitting around after lunch feeling very full.

Last but not least my beautiful GD was having great fun running around the house and garden in her brand new shoes.  These we her first real shoes and she found the noise they made on floor very exciting.

More later...............................................

My First Jalie Pattern

I have seen a few Jalie patterns reviewed on PR, most of which had positive reviews. I  have never used this brand of pattern before so thought I would order a few and made my selection from those patterns, that came out well on PR and of course which I liked.

Most of my patterns I purchase on-line from Sew Direct, but they only sell Vogue, McCalls and Butterick. As a subscriber to the magazine, this entitles me to purchase all my patterns for half price, and as you know I LOVE A BARGAIN.

I have not seen Jalie Patterns in any of my local shops, so my old friend Google Search came up with an on-line source Habithat.  I placed my order on Friday morning and received all three patterns on Saturday morning - I was very impressed with such excellent service.

Here is what I ordered and the link on the right is to the PR site for each pattern:-

Women's Stretch Jeans Pattern (J 2908)  Stretch Jeans

Scarf-Collar Tops Pattern (J 2921) Scarf-Collar Top

Women's t-shirt pattern (J 2805) T-shirt pattern

The first pattern I used was Jalie 2921 - Scarf-Collar Top - there are only a few pattern pieces, back, front, sleeve and scarf-collar.

I managed to trace off the pattern for myself and my daughter who is several sizes smaller than me (boo hoo) and make two tops this afternoon.

Instructions as follows:-

1. Right sides together, sew the two scarf ends together. 2. Right sides together sew the front shoulder seams to the back shoulder seams.  3. stitch the scarf-collar (right side) to (wrong side) of back and front pieces.

This is the interesting part - it uses the same method as I use for the gusset in my panties pattern -  you wrap the scarf-collar around the back and front pieces encasing them in a sort of tube like this:

Hard to believe there is a top here. Sew the whole of the scarf leaving about a 4" gap to pull the body through.  NB: make sure that if you are just pinning that there are no loose bits of the body creeping towards the scarf-collar seam line otherwise you will sew it in by accident (thankfully this wasn't the voice of experience - this time).

Sew and press the seam and then pull the body through and you will get this:-

A beautiful neat finish to the inside of the collar edge.

Next I sewed up the front seam.  I have to say I am not sure why they didn't cut this on the fold and I intend trying this out on my next top.

The pattern uses the set-in sleeve method but I followed the advice of one of the PR reviews and sewed the sleeve in and then sewed the sleeve and side seams all in one.

This just leaves the sleeve and bottom to finish and I have to say the top couldn't be simpler.  

I made three today, two for me and spurred on by my daughter's "that's nice" comment, suggested I make one for her too.  I barely had enough fabric to make her's and had to put an extra seam in the collar, but as you can see below - I don't think it is too unsightly - the sleeves are rolled up because I couldn't quite extend them to full length due to lack of fabric.

Here is Lauren's one (she didn't want a photo without make-up)  
Here are mine on Edna below and I think this is my first mother/daughter top ha ha.

My overall impression of my first Jalie pattern is GREAT - the top was super quick to make up and the instructions were very good too just going to cut one out of some nice black and white fabric I have.

More later...................................

Friday, 21 October 2011

getting into my cycling

I am really pleased how much cycling I am now doing.  Since my D Mike and I moved into our flat in London we always cycle from my cottage to the train station to get into London and use the bikes to get around London as we don't have a car in London.  My main office is near Gatwick, so twice a week I get a train from London to Gatwick and then cycle the 3+ miles to the office, once a week I work out of our central London office close to Oxford St and that takes me 30 minutes each way.

This week I have cycled Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - totalling  around 3.5 hours and approximately 20 miles . I love the way I feel when I exercise in the morning, however my helmet hair and beetroot face does nothing for my image, especially when I am wearing a fluorescent yellow jacket and a flashing light on my helmet too.

I have a wonderful folding Brompton bike and a very roomy bag that sits in front of the handlebars, however when it is folded up and I have a bike in one hand and my bag, loaded with laptop, papers, clothes to change into and make-up bag and my ipad in the other hand, that all weighs quite a lot.  I have quite a few stairs to walk up and down at the London train stations and I am amazed at how people turn into a stampede of cattle when they disembark the train to head off to the office - they will not step aside to let you pass, preferring instead to knock into you. I now have a collection of lovely bruises on my legs where my bike has been knocked into me.

Despite the downside of my new cycle regime, I know that this will all assist me in getting rid of 2 years worth blubber that has accumulated on my lower region.  My previous journey to work involved a 120 mile round trip in my car, taking on average 2 hours each way.  That journey coupled with a desk job for 8+ hours a day is the reason I look the way I do now.  I have signed up for WW online, so with a double attack of exercise and better carefully planned diet, I am looking forward to being able to reduce some of the clothes I have made.

If I can squeeze in 1 run a week and some weights too I think I will have a good all-round routine going.

More later...............................................