Kettle Bells: the Russians can keep ’em!

Madge: I am a teenager of the 80s. Of course I love her…

Madonna; marvellous woman. Wouldn’t want her love life but her arms are something a girl might covet.

To this end, and as I have elected for a sleeveless wedding dress and confess to a degree or 20 of bodily vanity, I have enlisted the help of a personal trainer and charged him with giving me Madonna like limbs. (Kind of regretted this, as he has taken me at my word.)

We’ve been working together for a couple of months. Press-ups feature a lot, as do kettle bells. When I began working out years ago, I remember doing bicep curls, tricep dips and the odd movement with a barbell. Fast forward 15 years and exercise got that rather more difficult. It’s not enough to move one muscle at a time – you’ve got to use a few of them at the same time and get a wee bit out of puff too.

Working to fail seems to be pretty popular these days too. It’s no use to pick up a 3kg weight (no matter what Tracy Anderson says, I think that the lean body weight she promises is more to do with the starvation diet than anything else!) and lift it 50 or so times without breaking a sweat. Trainers these days prefer you to lift really heavy weight, struggle and only manage 10 or so.

Groaning, swearing, cursing the trainer and the woman who brought him into the world all seems to be the norm with such sessions. But it’s all part of the journey to something (better muscles, living mindfully through exercise, doing something when you think you can’t etc etc) so er… watch this space?!

Plastic fantastic? Far From It…

You just don’t want to be adding to this mess, hmm?

Oh woe… back to blogging about diet coke.

I gave it up in August and went cold turkey for 19 days (yup, counted every single day) and then  thought to myself ‘oh well, one can’t hurt…’ So I added a little ‘I’ve got through the working day and here is my reward’ treat to my evenings in the form of a bottle of fizzy, brown chemical bubbles.

Oops. And then I added in 7up free, two bottles of, and justified that as it’s caffeine and colour-free. Amazing how you manage to find reasons for your bad habits, hmm? [Do feel free to share your own spurious reasons for habits, btw.]

I’ve previously revealed the monetary costs of my little aspartame addiction (embarrassing, embarrassing, embarrassing…) and what it could usefully be spent on for my wedding instead. As that little (not little actually, HUGE) disincentive doesn’t seem to be working, let’s talk plastic waste…

Facts about plastic:

A group of courageous Edinburgh folks are trying the no plastic challenge and they’ve got some top tips to help you make the move to plastic-less. It involves changing habits, being organised (taking bags to the shops for example) and buying LESS PACKAGING. All of which are transferable skills; i.e. you do this and you beat your fizzy drinks habit, you forward plan and you think creatively for ways round the plastic problem.

So long bottles and bye-bye diet coke for ever?



Finally, a Dress Decision!

There’s a programme on BBC 3 that I watch occasionally – Snog, Marry, Avoid. From the title, I think you can tell that this one probably isn’t high up there in the intellectually challenging stakes, but if you want 30 minutes of easy distraction…

In the programme, a member of the public (usually female) is paraded in front of the opposite sex and they rate her attractiveness according to whether they would ‘snog’, ‘marry’ or ‘avoid’ her.

Putting aside my qualms about the over emphasis of female appearance and wondering why the girls don’t just say, ‘why should we care about a random stranger’s opinion of how we look?’*, the subsequent make-under of those taking part usually involves toning down fake tan and make-up, dressing the girls in clothing which displays a little less flesh and banishing false eyelashes and hair.

Inevitably they look better and all of their friends prefer the new under-stated appearance but often the revisit bit of the programme at the end shows the girls reverting back to their tan-tastic, over eye-lashed and skimpily clothed selves.

Anyway, the point of all my reality TV musings here is that like the Snog, Marry, Avoid girls who are unconvinced by their make-under, my two-dress dilemma is still taking up room in my head.

As previously blogged, I tried on a number of dresses at the brilliant Dragonfly Designs. I liked the first dress best when I tried it on. Everyone else liked another choice. I looked at the pictures afterwards and thought, ‘ah, they were right to prefer that one’. Then, my sister sent me a picture she had taken of the first dress. My mind wobbled once more.

I showed the pictures to a number of other people – a colleague, my aunt, my mum’s best friend, my sister and brother-in-law, the Power plate guy and various others. With one exception, everyone plumped for the dress my mum, sisters and friend had liked. It appears that I can’t tell what I look like at all. [Does this mean I ought to take four people out with me every time I buy clothing? That could prove logistically tricky.]

Inside my head, the ‘it’s my wedding I should wear WHAT I WANT’ voice battled with the ‘so much public opinion can’t be wrong, hmm?’ sentiment. I hmm-ed and haw-ed for a few days before coming down in favour of public opinion**.



*In another life, I will only watch programmes that are worthwhile and of good moral standing.

**I toyed with the idea of picturing dress 2 here, but thought I ought to stick with tradition and keep it under wraps, sorry!



Dress Dilemmas

Common opinion is: bride-to-be tries on a dress and knows straight away IT IS THE ONE.

I beg to differ. On Saturday, I tried on dresses and gauged the opinions of my mum, my sisters and my friend. (Also included in this party were my seven-year-old nephew and four-year-old niece. I value their opinions, but I’m not sure they count as Barbie seems to be the style guide for both.)

I was in a vintage shop and it appears the 70s is my era – which seems apt as my own mum and dad got married in the 70s and I was born in that particular decade. The 70s is often lambasted for its fashion style, but honestly the 80s was much, much worse. Lady Diana’s wedding dress? I rest my case.

This was the first dress I tried on…

I loved the first dress I tried on. Made of silk linen, it was very plain and simple. When Lisa (Dragonfly Designs’ very talented owner) added a contrast ribbon to go round the waist, it seemed just perfect, apart from a bit of tightness round the rib cage which is apparently common with vintage dresses as we modern ladies seem to have developed bigger frames. I tried on another dress, which I ‘quite liked’. Everyone else in the party loved it. Lisa agreed with me; she thought the first one I tried on was the best.

But later that evening I looked at the photos my sister had taken and thought my family and friend were right in their liking of dress number 2. I emailed the pics to other family and friends and all came back with the same opinion – dress number 2 is the favourite. And then my sister sent me through a picture of me in dress number one and opinion swayed again…

Ah well, it’s early days yet so I’m going to sleep on it one more night.

Meringues: Delicious to Eat, Best Avoided as a Dress

Ahem, part of me really loves this dress…

You wouldn’t really believe this is supposed to be a wedding blog would you, given that I’ve been writing it for approximately three months and have made scarce reference to the WEDDING DRESS.

There are many, many talented fashion bloggers out there so I felt my own attempts at describing a dress or attempting to correctly name different parts of it (fishtails? Peplum? A-line?) would just be embarrassingly bad. So, I desisted and contented myself with the odd trail through wedding dresses for sale online.

They all looked very similar – sleeveless, strapless, kind of column goes into wide bit at the bottom thingie. [It’s that kind of keen fashion observation which guaranteed that Vogue’s editor with a job offer wasn’t going to materialise.] And blimey, the amounts of money you could spend on a dress that really can only be worn once was incredible.

The charity Oxfam have wedding dresses in 11 of its stores (sadly, I live nowhere near any of these shops) and there are various online options – second-hand dresses for sale, eBay etc. I hummed and haw-ed with a non-wedding dress option and found a fabulous red dress at I even tried it on, it was a fab fit and pretty flattering.

But at the end of the day, the pink, frothy tidal wave that is weddings has sucked me up. I think I need to go and try on dresses in a shop while taking advice on shapes that will suit from an assistant who will no doubt manage to persuade me to go for a garment way beyond the price I had initially imagined. (£100. Yes, seriously.)

To this end, a girly weekend beckons. I’m off to Dragonfly Designs and A.N Other (I’m not being coy, I intend to be spontaneous and head to one of the shops that doesn’t do the appointment thing) armed with my fab mother, sisters, a good friend and their sage advice.

[Wee aside – sister in the middle is bitterly disappointed that DD doesn’t do the whole glasses of champagne while trying on dresses thing; she’s an avid watcher of Don’t Tell the Bride so she knows the whole wedding routine thing like the back of her hand.]

Finally an update on Nigella. The coffee ice cream was absolutely lovely – gorgeous flavour and lovely texture. I decided to try her Tuscan fries recipe. ontroversially, she puts chips in cold oil and heats them up. I wanted to believe, I really, really did. The chief taster (not moi, as a wee bittie frightened of fried carbs) opined that the chips did taste nice as they were helped by the addition of garlic and herbs to the oil. Crisp chips though, they were not…

The Accidental Abstainer

Have you ever given up something by accident?

I ask because when we set a date for getting married, fired up with joys of planning and list-writing, I included a note of everything I was going to give up to save money for the aforementioned nuptials.

They included (it was pretty ambitious, given my penchant for the frivolous): diet coke, women’s magazines, beauty treatments in salons, taxi journeys, new make-up or skincare before existing stuff ran out, clothes, shoes etc.

Needless to say, several weeks after the list was drawn up diet coke, new make-up, beauty treatments et al were still making their way into my shopping basket. The incentive just didn’t seem to be there.

However, about a month ago I discovered a new author I really like; a woman who has written a series of epic stories scanning continents and including fabulous characters, themes and wit. For a month or so I haven’t looked at women’s magazines and, when this registered consciously, it became a point of pride not to buy them any more. (The odd free edition of Stylist or buying Good Food magazine does not count).

So, thanks Diana Gabaldon – you may have inadvertently contributed to my wedding funds!

As I am a marketeer’s dream, being without women’s magazines has also affected my make-up and skincare buying habits. Without the constant bombardment of new product advertising and promotions through beauty pages, I’m no longer tempted by the latest snake oil trick promising all kinds of wrinkle reduction, complexion brightening and skin plumping.

In addition, reading novels tends not to leave you feeling as inadequate as magazines do (‘why oh why don’t I have that great job, those gorgeous clothes, that particular new form of exercise guaranteed to tone me up in half an hour’). And, er, why do I care so much for these things?!

Now, I just need to stumble on a few more accidental giving up tricks and watch those money-wasting habits disappear…

Bramble vodka and crumble – could we get more mellow fruitfulness…?

Favours update: this week we went brambling (see the pictures above). For those of you outside Scotland, this means gathering up free fruit courtesy of your nearby hedgerows, and specifically refers to blackberries. We’ve collected roughly 1.8kg in total, which have been mixed with 700g sugar and four bottles (4x75cl) of vodka – cheap and cheerful, no point wasting Grey Goose on this. I’ve sealed it up in Kilner jars and it’s now a waiting game; the end result (hopefully) a pretty potent fruit liquer to be divided up among small bottles and labelled for the wedding.

The Toast of the Town

I couldn’t have said it better myself…

The working week brought a tale of two different public speaking experiences. Firstly, I ran a training workshop. My audience was small and select – I felt confident, articulate and knowledgeable.

The following day, I attended a meeting. I didn’t agree with what one of the speakers was saying and raised my hand to clarify – at which point he invited me to come up to the mike. Argh, disagreeing with someone in public and then being asked to explain in front of roughly 100 people. Soothing it was not.

I’m talking about public speaking as I’d rather like to make a speech at my wedding. I plan light-hearted and hopefully witty words no longer than five minutes and possibly a multi-media presentation (!). I’ve been planning this speech for a while now and I’ve got a KILLER last line.

But should one voluntarily add the stress of public speaking to one’s wedding day, when there is a get out clause – I could follow tradition where the bride is supposedly the centre of attention, but remains oddly silent. Standing up to speak in front of a lot of people is a bit of a scary prospect. What if I muck up the jokes or I get heckled?!

If an approaching wedding adds incentive to all sorts of self-improvement plans (I will be thinner, more toned, clearer of skin, tighter of triceps, free of diet coke), then public speaking practice and confidence is possibly the most worthy of those goals. Not to mention the enhancement it gives my future career prospects…

And finally – I’ve been enjoying Nigella’s latest TV offering and today made her super-easy coffee ice-cream. I permitted myself a tiny lick of the bowl pre freezing and it’s FAB. I don’t even like coffee either.