Monthly Archives: September 2012

On choosing a wedding dress: any thoughts?

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5 months have past since we got engaged; I’ve read every single bridal magazine published since then, have spent endless hours online pouring through almost uniformly unhelpful designer websites (all music, Flash vids (which don’t play on the iPad) and no search facilities); have been to four wedding dress shops, and have tried on over 20 dresses.

You’d have thought, bearing in mind I have – girl-stereotype-warning-despite-calling-myself-a-feminist coming up – been dreaming about my W-day in idle moments for about 30 years,  I’d already have a pretty clear idea about the vision I wanted to convey. But basically I haven’t got a clue. I want to look sexy (for my fiance), demure (for my father), chic (for my mother), appropriately weddingy (for the two DS’s, who can now recognise a Bride at a 1,000 paces, and think anyone in a tie is a Groom), and basically like a fully optimised version of me (you can tell I work on websites..).

If I put all my wants together, I get something like this (see left; I would really like pockets). But in practice I’ve found that CHEAP is also a key criterion; although I’m not usually a bargain-basement kind of girl, I simply cannot bear to spend multi-thousands of pounds on a dress – not least because I’ll spend the whole day worrying about it – especially if reselling was part of the original proposal. And yet I do want quality.

Image of Kevin the TeenagerAnd that is why I found myself standing on top of a box in a local, very well renowned, bridal shop, yesterday afternoon, with a face like Kevin (see right), dressed in a lovely white A-line Sassi Holford dress, worth about £3k, muttering ‘s’alright’.

One of my long-suffering girlfriends was in attendance, with a dual role of trying to get me to snap out of my monk, and get my mother to shut up whenever she started asking if dressmaking details could be changed.

After an hour of dutiful trying on, parading, and dismissing, though, things did finally perk up when I noticed that they had a dress by Lusan Mandongus that I’d noticed many time in magazines and had really liked. It hadn’t been picked out for me because it didn’t fulfil any of my criteria at all (which is why the ‘ideal’ sketch is not worth the paper it was drawn on), and it was COMPLETELY different to all the previous ones I’d tried which had inbuilt corsets and created waists etc; but it was sophisticated and elegant, and my mother thought it was totally inappropriate (which helped) (though sadly now she’s now warmed to it).

Where we are. So I’m now spending every minute of downtime cogitating yesterday’s dress, and weighing it up against the previous front-runner (also totally unexpected); as follows (I appreciate this analysis will be of limited interest):

 

Ian Stuart dressIMG_1421

  • Pro: available second hand in at least two places, in the £600-£850 level
  • Pro: supercomfortable when tried on, making a waist and a bust, with a bit of cleavage
  • Pro: none of this train business; can actually walk and move around it it
  • Pro: ruching affair means it’s all a bit messy, basically, which means that I won’t panic as much if DS2 lurches towards it with chocolatey hands (I would LOVE but be too scared to wear anything by Jesus Peiro for exactly that reason)
  • Pro: opportunity for long earrings and some eccentric headgear
  • Con: didn’t photograph well, though the snaps were taken by my sister in law, sitting down (so emphasising my hips), on my blurred iPhone
  • Con: looks totally unlike anything I’d like, and as if I’m about to bring out a pair of castanets (but nevertheless, feeling comfortable and unworried is a big pro which might outweigh this)
  • Con: the dropped sleeve affair feels just a bit too 80’s university ballgown style

Lusan Mandongus dress885792cb015c515d83bd61c4b5cc8a4a

  • Pro: totally love the thought of looking like their model above (sucker for advertising, moi?)
  • Pro: lovely dress; different from standard strapless ones, falls beautifully
  • Con: totally impractical for walking around barn & field environment (where reception is)
  • Con: need MAJOR diet/underwear/modesty investment as shows every slight bulge, plus random bits of flesh (not sure what my father would think)
  • Con: can’t seem to find second hand ones anywhere
  • Con: satin drape at front looks a bit like a bib (handy when cake eating, perhaps; less so with a dollop of curry); would have to be stitched down slightly
  • Con (or Pro): it’s a more distinct look – if that can be – than Flamenco dress above, and it would be nice to reflect that in flowers, invos etc (ie they’d need to be rethought a bit), as well as DH’s outfit (which would be shorts if he had his way)
  • Pro: made by a design team in Hong Kong, bringing back memories…
  • Pro: the Sassi Holford (classic, white, virginal) made me look younger, said my mother (clearly thinking that was a good thing). But I’m gone 40 with 2 children; I’m not going to be a princess: I want to look elegant and sophisticated (and as I write this, actually, I see the Ian Stuart one falling far behind into second place, despite all its pros)…

Any thoughts anyone? Do I only like it because it was different from all the other ones in the shop? DH prob wouldn’t like either on paper as they’re ‘too fussy’, but I’ve given up worrying about that at this stage..

I had intended when this engagement business started to make sure I tried on every dress in Britain, Just In Case, but actually I’m realising that the absence of free weekends and childcare alone mean that this is getting tricky. In a few weeks time, I’m off to the David Fielden shop – the one designer I’d actually earmarked as liking – but based on my performance so far I’ve no idea if that will come to anything or not (plus their samples tend to be small, and I have noted that there’s nothing less conducive to liking a dress than having to be squeezed into it with a shoehorn and several elastic bands)…

And after that I’ll really have to try to sort myself out; particularly if I choose something that impacts on the look of the rest of the event, because I can tell that after Christmas time will fly. But should I wait for the New Year sales? Will there be a rush of people flogging their dresses just before Christmas? Or should I just wait til the week before the wedding, log on to eBay and trust to Fate? That’d give my mother kittens…

What do you think? Which is the front-runner?

On starting intermittent fasting: Day 1

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Now that the half-marathon is done and dusted (did I mention that I was amazing?), it’s time to turn my attention to physiological challenges.

Since The Day of The Engagement (which happened to be the day of the First Run) in March this year, I’ve been running almost every other day, as well as trying to stick to 1800 calories/day (as assiduously logged through the myfitnesspal iPhone app). I’ve lost about 8kgs (a stone and a bit), helped by the odd stomach trouble and tonsillitis, but for the last month or so have been pottering reasonably happily around the 62-63 kgs level. The target, though, is 60kgs – the weight I was in my uncharacteristic Year of Fitness – a blip in my life when I walked and ran a lot, and met DH. Oh how drole his comments are that he took me on ‘under false pretences‘ as he pats the belly that has borne two of his babies.

Nevertheless, I will admit that there’s still quite a lot of cushioning around my lithe athletic core.

I hate dieting, and I didn’t count calorie counting as a diet, as I still rammed down lots of chocolate and HobNobs. My key changes were having puddings in a ramekin dish instead of a dessert bowl (it’s quite amazing how much sticky toffee you can cram in a little dish if you try), and weighing  out my cereal to the recommended 30g of Bran Flakes every morning (it turned out my default helping was about 60g, plus banana..)

However, it was slightly alarming to watch Michael Mosley in the BBC Horizon programme a couple of months ago, Eat, Fast and Live Longer discuss the impact that your weight and eating style has on your propensity to suffer from the primary diseases of middle-old age: cancer, heart disease, diabetes etc. OK, this wasn’t a great surprise – but I definitely wasn’t aware of the potential impact that fasting could have on your brain cells, in that sporadic bouts of hunger reportedly trigger new neurons to grow. Basically, sample mice on intermittent fasting were developing Alzheimers a lot later than those on a constant fast food diet (poor mice).

We have come to parenthood late in life and I would really prefer not to be a doddery old burden in years to come.

So here we go: two days of ‘fasting’ a week (ie a diet of 500-600 calories), and eat what you like on the normal days. This morning I had my blood pressure, blood glucose levels and cholesterol checked at the local pharmacies (Sainsburys of all places is offering free cholesterol checks at the mo); all were within the normal range so that was fine, and the pharmacists were happy with the plan. I’ve also measured my abdominal fat (nice) – basically my waist/hip ratio is bigger than it should be – so that’ll be the key thing I hope will improve, as that is a risk for future health.

And this is what I ate:

Breakfast: nothing (this did not sit well with me; I’m a breakfast like a king kind of person)

Lunch of pasta, a massive courgette from the garden, ham, a measley teaspoon of pesto, a sprinkle of parmesan, and LOADS of black pepper. 350 cals. After eating nothing all morning, this got me a bit overexcited and I then succumbed to two cubes of Dairy Milk (total 50cals). That was an error.

Afternoon tea. It would have been foolhardy to have eschewed all tea-time treats altogether (especially as I had a big report to write, and needed some cheering up). 100 cals.

Dinner. 100 cals.

Apart from forgetting to pick up DS1 from nursery, and then forgetting which DS I had to collect from DS2’s nursery, the day has gone reasonably well. The key is keeping yourself busy. It was definitely easier to manage not eating when out and about with the boys this morning, rather than a long afternoon in front of the computer. And what extra blogging hours have been freed up this evening without the chore of having to feed oneself? !

Huzzah!

And roll on breakfast…

On running my first half marathon

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Well, we did it, and Sister-in-Law (to be) and I have spent the rest of the day congratulating ourselves on basically how amazing we are. We ran something with the word marathon in the title. I did! Freaking fantastic! And we didn’t die. And we even did it faster than we expected (about 2:17). Did I mention we were amazing?

So in summary, this is how this absolutely fantastic feat was achieved by someone who was still trying to finish the obstacle course at primary school when they were setting up the next race, and at senior school gave sport up as soon as possible in exchange for Ancient Greek. Note, gentle readers, moving fast does not come easily to roaringkate.

  • Training: I would have died without this. This superduper half-marathon training plan was surprisingly achievable, and the final week of easy 30 min runs/”rest” cancelled out in my mind the struggle I’d had trying to do the 2 hour run – the longest in the plan – a couple of weeks’ before. So by the time today came, my runner’s knee had subsided from previous exertions, my twingey hip had stopped twingeing, and I basically felt reasonably normal.
  • Food: last night’s carb fest of pasta with roasted veg (SiL is veggy) plus Nigella’s pear and chocolate pudding did the job in that department. This morning, after a brief deliberation as to whether or not to change my routine, I had cereal and toast as normal, about 2 hours before, and then a banana about half an hour before. Everyone on the running blogs had also mentioned GU food gels as key to any long distance running, and we’d bought a couple each yesterday when picking up our registration gear. My 3-year old, who was stationed at the 4mile/9mile points (the route was a double loop) was charged with handing them out as we went past. I have to say they are pretty disgusting, basically sachets of sweet thick baby food, HOWEVER I do think they helped me keep my pace up once the first hour was over (I had lemon and orange flavours which were palatable; SiL had strawberry and banana but couldn’t eat it..). They were certainly better than the jelly babies people were handing out. I adore jelly babies, and nearly over swerved and fell over once I saw they were on offer, but as I also breathe through my mouth when running, trying to chew and swallow and breathe and run all at the same time was pretty tricky, and not worth the angst.
  • Runners IBS and Other Problems in That Department: again following other bloggers’ tips, I took an Imodium Instant just before we set off for the start, which successfully prevented any cramps through the race (and probably for the next few days…). No such luck in the pelvic floor department however – which frankly is pretty nonexistent despite endless clenching. Just relieved that on a day to day basis I am not leaking like a sieve.
  • Pray for the right weather: We were very fortunate in that we had fantastic weather: coolish and cloudy. Had it been hot and bright, the experience would have been completely different, and there would have been a lot of sweating and swearing and quite probably abandonment.
  • Run with an appropriate partner: I had been afraid that SiL was going to pelt off without me once the first, manageable, hour was up, but actually we established a pretty reasonable pace (for us, not the winning runners, who managed to lap us) (we were averaging 10.x min miles), and we definitely kept each other’s momentum up.
  • Get support: I never imagined I’d be as pleased as I was to see DH and the DSs (the younger of which had been hauled out of his cot with chicken pox and was less than impressed). Their waving and cheers were just delightful, and when DS1 pelted out from the crowd to run over the finish line with me it brought tears to my (slightly lunatic, see below) eyes.
  • Find your pacemakers and the opposition: For the first half of the run we kept in our sights two young blokes who were running in t-shirts and cargo shorts and looked like they’d just got out of bed, and who seemed reassuringly amateur. We eventually passed them. The rest of the run was focused on beating a non-athletic looking lady in a Slimming World t-shirt and her fitter running companion. We’d singled these two out because they kept on stopping to walk, which did not seem fair, AND THEN WOULD RUN PAST US. Eventually we made a tactical push when they paused at a water station, putting what we’d thought was sufficient grey tarmac between us never to see them again, until the fitter one overtook us with about a mile to go. By that point though I Did Not Care, and resigned myself to eating her dust. However, they did serve as an approriate incentive to keep the pace up through the second half.
  • Run for a reason: I can’t actually remember why SiL and I decided to do this (most I’d ever run before ‘competitively’ was a 5k), but when people asked if they should sponsor me, and I said no, they asked why I was doing it then. But yesterday I thought I should do it in recognition of a friend’s father, who has just died in very tragic circumstances, and was a lover of life, and that felt entirely right. And indeed, when it all got really hard work, after about 10 miles, I thought of them both, and it kept me going. More profoundly motivating than the pathological desire to beat Slimming World lady…

So that’s about it. The race was started by a canon which gave us all a bit of a jump (unlike the Great North Run today which began with a Mo/Bolt stretch routine), and we were slightly alarmed to see that it was indeed a race. No fun run here my friends – no one in fancy dress, or happy to amble round. In fact when we went to find our ‘pen’ at the start line (ie to bunch us in with all the other guys who were looking to do a similar time), our target time (2:30) turned out to be the final one available. We were right at the back. But did not finish last! Did I mention we were amazing?

My final observation is that however fit and slim and athletic you think you look, in practice you (at least I) look red faced, in need of at least 2 more sports bras, and covered with still a substantial amount of what I like to think of as baby fat, but is more like roaringkate fat. And I need to work on those lunatic expressions…

PS When I next saw my mother after this event, I asked her how amazingly she thought we’d done. She commented yes, very good, but how curious that SiL looks as fresh as a daisy, while you… hmmm… perhaps it’s the hair..? Yes alright mother. I was wearing my lucky headband, and I get a red face. I’ll go and rock to and fro in a corner now…

On one week to go until the half-marathon

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Obviously my failure to post ANYTHING of interest, or even anything full stop, for the last few months has been down to me spending every waking hour pounding the tarmac in preparation for next weekend. Not.

In reality it’s been down to a mixture of work, family, work, more family, and quite a lot of just general fatigue and grab-an-early-night when you can. Nevertheless I have doggedly maintained my half-marathon training, according to The Plan, with a blind faith that if I do what The Plan says then somehow I’ll get round the course without collapsing/major disaster. My previous post on this topic sounded quite optimistic, but with one week to go, I feel less so…

  • The statement that I was regularly running 4.5 miles was proved wrong once I finally got going with my Endomondo iPhone app and discovered that my estimates via Google Maps were about half a mile or so out (the wrong way).
  • A bout of tonsillitis and then a heavy cold knocked me out for about 3 weeks in July, just when The Plan was getting going (notably a week after the previous post). In retrospect, I think that is the time I should really have been making some strides (ha ha) towards improving my endurance and speed. As a consequence there hasn’t really been much of a step-change (dear god) in my performance. I’ve improved incrementally, I think, but no where near enough to manage 13 miles running.
  • Training a couple of weeks ago with my sister-in-law, also doing the run, was good in the sense that it helped having someone to run with (and somewhere nice – Jersey’s Corbiere to St Aubins railway walk – sans dogs and cars), but highlighted how much fitter she is. On the other hand she does have Pilates classes, a personal trainer at the gym, and no kiddiwinks.
  • On the topic of kiddiwinks, the pelvic floor is not holding up terribly well, at least not for runs longer than about an hour. I shall have to see someone about this after the event; needless to say I thank technology for inventing moisture-wicking fabrics and various absorbent devices. All totally embarrassing, and even worse when combined with IBS-style cramps, which reduce me to a speed of about 15mins/mile.
  • I still hate dogs, I’m afraid. The river path at one point is covered with dog walkers, all of whom stand directly on the path I’m running on gassing to their mates, and whose dogs run straight at my legs, causing me to swerve at the last minute and risk knee injuries. I want to shout at them, ‘Do you not appreciate how amazing it is that I’m doing this? Could you please be a bit more helpful? It’s taken all my efforts just to get off my arse and get out of here, don’t make it any harder’. Only I haven’t got the breath.

So that’s about it. The furthest … sorry, the longest (The Plan is based on time, rather than distances), I’ve run so far is two hours, and I must say that the second hour of that I was dead on my feet. I remember at one point staggering down a path, and some walkers ahead hearing my fairy footsteps behind them and very NICELY (note this, dog walkers) moving to the side for me to go by. By the time I actually went past them, however, they’d had time to sit down and read half a novel. I had to apologise for being so slow.

Two hours may be OK, but I’ll prob need to do another hour on top of that to get over the finish line. I’ve already briefed my sister in law that I don’t want to run with her for the second half, as I know she’ll be secretly planning a sprint finish, and that’ll just make me want to lie down and weep.

The only benefit of the whole thing at the moment, as far as I can see, is that I now have an excuse to stuff my face with carbs for the rest of this week. Chocolate muffins, here I come.

PS Performance from today’s 1 hour run posted above, for reference. I have NO IDEA if this is good enough for a run (bearing in mind I slow down dramatically after an hour). But there we go. I like the running image at the top, makes me feel v athletic.