The Power of Paleo

Salmon super skin recipe

When I gave up office work, I made a lot of plans for the lifestyle I wanted to lead.

Free from the tyranny of the nine to five and without a daily one and a half hour commute, the headiness of more freedom to plan my day was intoxicating. I’d be getting up early still, I decided,  I would immediately get into my work-out gear and I’d head out each morning, come rain or shine for a daily walk/run. I might also throw in 10 minutes or so of morning yoga to ensure I can still cut my own toenails post 60. I’d add in the odd lunchtime gym session and I’d ensure there was fresh air a-plenty every single day.

Oh, and I’d tidy the house from top to bottom and create a minimalist haven where ideas could freely flow, magically imbibing me with prodigious writing capabilities…

OK, OK some of this stuff fell by the way side.  The early starts…? Ho hum! Freed from the shriek of the six-thirty am alarm, I allow myself to wake up naturally these days. As it’s summer, that’s often 4am so I go back to sleep till 8-ish. Ahem, sometimes 9-ish. And our house remains gloriously stuffed full of weird junk. I’m just not hard enough for that ‘one-in/one-out’ malarkey.

However, certain things have happened. I’ve been reading for sometime about the benefits of a Paleo lifestyle – there’s a much better explanation of Paleo principles here, but basically proponents advocate emulating the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The bulk of your diet is meat, fish, eggs and veg, with plenty of natural fats, and a little bit of fruit. You do the odd bit of fasting. You get plenty of sleep, plenty of fresh air and sunshine and you do lots of low-level movement every day, with the odd sprint added in. (You’re pretending to run away from a mammoth/sabre-toothed tiger, say.)

Freelancing/home working does make such a lifestyle more possible. Fresh air does feature more often in my day-to-day life. It’s almost intoxicating. Sunshine is a little harder to come by, seeing as my location is the west of Scotland, but when it comes I make a point of getting out in it. And the diet? Much easier to follow when you’re working from home as knocking up protein and salad lunches is very do-able.

I struggle with the digital detox, especially now that I’m freelance as checking my emails frequently seems compulsory, and the odd TV programme in bed always feels like a nice treat.

Over all though, Paleo living gives me a lot more energy. There are no more afternoon slumps (though from time to time, I take advantage of my non-office working life and take a cheeky wee siesta) and there are productive evenings. Next week, the de-clutter begins…

 

Honeymoon Heaven: Food Glorious Food

Petals, I am about to embark on a delayed honeymoon. It’s going to involve a motorbike, a visit to the Culloden battlefield, a spa treatment or two and loads and loads of lovely food.

Nights one and two feature a six-course taster menu. Day three will include a stop over at the Hungry Highlander in Braemar, a fish and chip shop popular with bikers possibly due to the ginormous portions it serves up. Day five will take in the Michelin-starred delights of Sangster’s in Elie – I’ve drooled over the menu; seared scallops with lentil and coriander dhal to start? Or twice-baked cheese souffle? Seared monkfish tail for the next course and what about course number three – cheese with truffle honey, grapes and apples or a warm chocolate fondant? Mmm, mmm.

Our culinary tour ends with a stop-off at the world-famous Anstruther Fish Bar.

The cat attempts to join the motorbike tour honeymoon...

The cat attempts to join the motorbike tour honeymoon…

We’ve taken an annual trip to the Anstruther Fish Bar for the last three years and we’ve always been lucky enough to land there in good weather, which means you get sit on the harbour walls eating your fish and chips. I’ll revert to cliches, but vinegar-doused batter and chips tastes so much better when eaten in fresh sea air, so here’s hoping for a fourth year of sunshine…

Thousands and Thousands of Words

Makes a great carrot, don't you think?

Makes a great carrot, don’t you think?

There’s a whiff of the self-congratulatory in the air this week. Part 2 of the book is completed and more than 64,000 words totted up. My mum likes it (bless her for her bias) and my nephews enjoy having it read to them – mainly, I suspect, because I have named characters after them.

So, two-thirds of the way through means the end is in sight, hmm…? Sadly not I fear. As my top of the range (not) printer is a little on the temperamental side, I haven’t printed out any of the book yet and I fear than when I do I will spot mistakes by the millions. (“Uncle Ted’s here in chapter 14? But he died in an horrific freak accident involving a fruit bowl in chapter 7.”) I’ve also been adding in bits to chapters as I go on, so there are parts of it that feel really disjointed and contrived. And as for my horrible mangling of sentences… grammarians would shudder in horror, I fear.

Tidying up a typo or two is only a tiny part of it though. The author Elizabeth Buchan writes her novels three times. Three times! But I do reckon that when I read over everything I’ve written, I will make decisions about material that needs to be added in – and hard decisions about what needs to be taken out. Even if I cry a bit when I press ‘delete’. And after all that, there will be the hell of trying to get published. And then persuading people that my little book is worth shelling out £6.99 (say) for.

But anyway, enough of my Brit self-effacement. Two-thirds of the way through – that bottle of champagne beckons. My sister bought me a bottle of Veuve Cliquot 2004 Vintage as a wedding present.* I joked that my husband and I would either drink it to celebrate our first anniversary or when I finished my book – whichever came first. Now it’s beginning to look as if that baby will be cracked open well before we’re trying to come up with creative gift ideas with paper.**

*I’d like to be a champagne connoiseur, but the pennies don’t permit it. If they did, Veuve Cliquot would be my tipple of choice.

**Paper is what you celebrate your first year anniversary with. Apparently.

Victoria Beckham Scoffs Enormous Cheesecake…

282045-victoria-beckham

Vickie B – pic courtesy of the International Business Times

A friend of a friend of a friend once told me a story about Victoria Beckham

Apparently, the Beckhams are actually lovely employers (the friend of a friend etc knew someone employed by them), but they do (allegedly) insist on one stipulation from their employees – thou shalt not eat in front of Victoria.

I am intrigued. Is such a rule put in place because Victoria turns feral when faced with people tucking into food? There you are, innocently eating your cheese and ham sandwich and about to dive into that home-made flapjack when suddenly Victoria ATTACKS you. She snatches the sandwich from your lips and wolves it down in seconds. She grabs the flapjack from your hands and crams it into her gob. She finishes the food and howls at the moon, “GIMME MORE!!”

Oh please, let my imagining of this story be true! Anyway, I mention this as I am conscientiously trying to live as Paleo as possible (more of this in the next blog post), so I fear a feral moment of my own may well be coming on soon.

If such a wild deviation from the path of the hunter-gatherer diet did present itself, it would probably take the form of Mama Highheelsandpinkglitter’s white chocolate cheesecake. Don’t bother with that baking cheesecake nonsense and instead create this lovely vision of white deliciousness…

Enjoy – and if you do want to go feral on it, I’d recommend reading the following guide to The Attack on The Cheesecake

White Chocolate Cheesecake (serves 10-12)

Sunflower Oil for greasing
40g unsalted butter
50g dark chocolate
200g packet hob nobs
250 g marscapone
200g Greek yogurt
500g white chocolate (cheaper stuff melts better)
75g castor sugar
284 ml double cream, lightly whipped
Cocoa powder for dusting

Lightly oil a n 8-in loose bottomed cake tin with the sunflower oil. Melt the butter and half the dark chocolate in a pan, then stir in the biscuit crumbs until well mixed. Press on to the base of the cake tin and chill.

Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. When it’s melted beat in the marscapone, yogurt and sugar.

Fold the whipped cream in and pour on to the biscuit base.

Grate the rest of the dark chocolate and scatter over the top of the cheesecake, then dust with sieved cocoa. Chill 4 hours or overnight.
 

 

The Right Hand DOES Know What The Left Is Doing…

hands landscape

When I was debating the decision to leave my office job and try to make it in the scary world of freelancing/novel writing, I undertook a session of NLP.

NLP – or to give its formal title, neural linguistic programming – looks at the ways our minds work. A lot of people use NLP for issues such as overeating as many of us are guilty of reaching for the choccie when times are tough. Realistically, that rather scrumptious bar of fruit and nut isn’t going to bring your ex-boyfriend back, make your boss nicer to you or result in your kiddiewinkles suddenly developing well-behaved tendencies*.

I did it because I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision, especially as I finally made the decision on a Monday. I mean, office workers don’t routinely arrive at work on a Monday morning and feel the urge to quit, hmm?! There have been plenty of dodgy decisions in my past often fuelled by excessive wine consumption. I tell myself mistakes are the best way to learn…** Anyhoos, I met up with the trainer (Steven Terris at Synapse Personal Performance) and we did an exercise called Parts Integration.

[SPOILER ALERT!! If you plan to use NLP yourself, look away now.]

Parts Integration involves you holding out your hands, closing your eyes and picturing a person, say in one hand (usually the less dominant hand) and using the other hand as a ‘voice’ telling the right hand why your decision is the right one. My pesky right hand kept coming up with reasons not to quit my job. Money reasons mainly.

My NLP practitioner kept badgering away at me – come on, come on what does your right hand need to know? The left voice almost shouted: “I DON’T KNOW!!! Flip’s sake, I just want to never work in an office again and spend my summers typing away on my laptop, mooching around in the garden and baking high-sugar items!”

But then the left voice thought up more valid reasons; reasons that made sense and sounded well-thought out.

Gradually – and without me really being aware of it – my hands drifted together until they were touching. And voila, the left hand had persuaded the right that leaving my secure (ish), comfortably-paid job was the right thing to do.

*I know; I was gutted when I found out the deluxe family bar of Dairy Milk fruit and nut can’t do this.

**These days, my policy is to hide my credit card from myself when looking at skincare websites online.

The Sun-kissed Freelancer

This sunbathing station was not set up until at least 1,000 words had been written, oh no it wasn't...

This sunbathing station was not set up until at least 1,000 words had been written, oh no it wasn’t…

Ah, the sunny day is the enemy of the writer hmm? We who are already experts in the art of procrastination gird our loins, set up our laptops in the far corner of the room, hidden away from any hint of sparkling and enticing sunshine outside and buckle down…

Still, beats working in an office though! So here I am trying to carve out my living as a freelance writer and keep myself in wine and cat food*. There are kind souls who have contacted me and offered me their advice a la blogging tips to make money, so thank you the two Joe’s (Warnimont and Seeber), Glenn and the Daily Phil; I do find your newsletters most useful.

Then there are the freelance sites, elance and People Per Hour where I can flog my services to the whole wide world. “Yes, yes, I promise I can write about almost anything, I’ll make it original, it will pass Copyscape no problemo and, thanks to my skills with key words and SEO techniques, three trillion people will find your business as a result of my words!”

(And of course buy whatever you are flogging…)

Blimey, selling yourself is hard work though and occasionally dispiriting especially when hirers post jobs where they will pay you $2 or less for 500-word articles… (Seriously).

Having written some 50,000 words of my own book – a fantasy adventure aimed at young adults – I dilly dally with tidying up those pages most days. I had got a bit stuck; two-thirds of the way through and I had bored myself, I hated my characters and I wished them out of my head for ever. “You lousy lot,” I muttered to myself, “stop bothering me with your foolish adventures and your lacklustre dialogue!”

Then I found myself a writing buddy – a gent with far more experience than I who has written books and screenplays before and we began exchanging emails about the writing process and even – gulp! – swapping chapters. I challenged him to write a synopsis for the remaining part of his book and then thought I had better take my own advice and write one myself.

Off I went and researched the narrative arc, investigated the seven plots and looked into characterisation. Et voila, a synopsis was born. I swapped it with my writing buddy. He made an extremely good suggestion and pointed out where the story didn’t exactly work. I gave it to my mum. She was kind and constructive, as the best mums should be.

So, I now have the complete story in my head and on paper. Better keep writing hmm?

And now for a little interaction… I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips on writing a book and what forces you to keep going when motivation is lacking?

 

*Reader, fear not. Life has not deteriorated to the level where Whiskas whets my appetite on a daily basis. It’s just that as well as myself and husband, we do have one greedy cat to feed.