Thursday, February 22, 2007

Monthly Weight Report

I can report much better progress this month, thank goodness! On the 17th of December I was 95.5 kg. On the 18th of February I weighed-in at 92.4 kg, so I have now lost 3.1 kg or 6.8 lb. Now I have to keep that rate of weight loss up for the rest of the year!

I'm also happy to report that I've picked up some more sponsors and have 36 all together. I mustn't let any of you down - I plan to take you for all I can get!

Many of you wrote in answer to my last report. Because of this I tried various forms of hot drinks and finally settled on weak, black, tea. I brew a small pot in the morning and then dole it out during the day, topping it up with hot water to make it weaker and warm enough to drink. I've also managed to cut out those evening snacks of bread and butter, replacing them with dried fruit and nuts. Fortunately I can eat lots of dried fruit without ill effect! Thanks for all the advice and encouragement. Feel free to continue writing - some filling, low calorie recipes would be useful if you have them.

You might think that some of the weight loss would be due to increased exercise, but in fact that isn't the case. The weather has not been all that good - we were even snowed in for a few days - and we haven't really been doing much extra. Now, though, we're hitting the garden more vigorously and we're trying to get some walks in so we'll have to see if that helps or if it makes us so hungry we'll start to eat more!

Any comments? Please feel free to e-mail me about this message.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Crow Ploughs!!!!!

On Thursday morning we and our visitors were treated to a really interesting and funny display from a couple of crows. Here's how John described it to the Shropshire Birds List:

"I saw what was, for me, a new example of crow behaviour this morning. Two Carrion Crows were foraging in several centimetres of snow on my back lawn in Church Stretton, picking up mixed seed intended for finches, blackbirds etc. They started off using a familiar back-and-forth bill "swiping"technique to uncover the seeds from the newly-fallen snow. After a few minutes, one of the crows pushed its head *completely* under the snow and started running forward, with its head entirely beneath the snow surface. This went on for 2-3 metres. It did this in an area where there was no bird food. After a few seconds, its companion started doing the same. It was great fun watching these energetic corvid snow-ploughs create long furrows through the snow cover of my back garden, although what they were doing is a mystery to me. Maybe they were trying to find food items beneath the snow or maybe they were collecting snow to drink or maybe they were just playing (it looked like fun) - I have no idea! The complexity of crow behaviour never ceases to amaze me."

Gotcha! We're snowed in!

Well, we got blasted, didn't we?

I shouldn't have suggested that it might be spring already.

The picture on the left is of my lovely clump of bamboo, now flattened by snow. After I took that, yesterday, I went out and shook off all the stems (getting totally covered in snow in the process). They sprang back somewhat, but after another hour of heavy snow they were right back to the positions shows in the photo. And this morning they were almost completely buried in the heavy, wet, white stuff!

We had a visit from Trevor (John's old school friend) and Chris last weekend and were able to go out for walks and admire all the pretty flowers that were out. The village green has been covered in a carpet of mauve crocusses and the banks of snowdrops are really magnificent. We also had a smashing Sunday lunch at the carvery in the Railway Inn in Marshbrook. We realised we were in for a treat when we met not only the owners of the local restaurant, but also the owners of the local deli! It has to be good if they patronize it!!!!

On Wednesday it was the turn of some old McMaster friends to visit. Dolly came down from Chester and Jane (with daughter, Kim) came over from Canada. It was a cold but sunny day and we enjoyed a good walk over Rectory Field and along the Allen Coppice Sculpture trail. There are some more animal sculptures now - more owls, a woodpecker and various other lovely things.

We knew the forecast was for snow, so seeing Mary at the top of the hill we asked if our friends could keep their cars in her drive overnight. She said yes, so we moved them up there.

In the evening we kept switching over to the 24 hour news channel to keep an eye on the weather. They were calling for "heavy" snow to roll in over night. I was so exited by having friends there and the thought of snow that I couldn't sleep very well and got up to watch the first of the snow. I was able to watch a mouse collecting peanuts on the patio for about an hour before I finally felt sleepy enough to go back to bed.

In the morning it became clear that no-one was going anywhere. I really didn't expect to get much snow, and actually we only had a couple of inches on the ground, but that's enough to paralyse things in this country and we watched story after story of traffic and travel chaos. Jane called her mum and told her she was waiting it out and we sat around talking and trying to decide what to do.

Early in the afternoon, Dolly decided to go for it and after we'd walked up to Mary's with her, saw her off and looked at the state of the roads, Jane decided to leave too. Both sets called later to say that they'd had easy journeys with very little traffic and clear roads. That's because all the media had asked people to stay home and stop contributing to the chaos!!!!!

So we thought the worst was over. We were wrong. Yesterday it started snowing again. It snowed all day, sometimes heavily, and we ended up with more than 8 inches on the ground. The pictures of the driveway above and John feeding the birds (to the left) were taken yesterday and there was more snow on top of that.

Overnight last night the thaw started. Now there are avalanches of heavy, wet snow falling out of the laurels and onto my shrubs. Many of them are bent to the ground and some have snapped or have root damage. It looks as though there's going to be even more pruning this spring than I'd planned! We've shaken off some of the most vulnerable plants, but there's still a lot that will just have to fend for themselves.

The forecast shows a drier, warmer trend for the next week so you can guess where I'm going to be and what I'm going to be doing before our next visitors arrive next weekend!

Keep those e-mails coming, please!

Friday, February 02, 2007

It isn't spring, is it?

No, it can't be spring yet, but the signs are all there. Masses of snowdrops are appearing in the garden and along the hedgerows, the pheasants are chasing about all over the garden, the blackbird and the tits have joined the robin in singing for mates and territories and the village green is covered in crocuses! Now, where have the badgers gone? We've hardly seen them this winter as I think they go into a more sleepy mode (they don't hibernate, however).

The peanuts are still disappearing so we set up a time-lapse camera to see who was taking them as we'd seen a mouse earlier in the winter. Well, the badger did show up, but he only ate a few nuts (very different from the summer when he scarfed the whole lot!) and the rest were cleaned up by the pheasants at first light.

We did see a badger the other night for a brief spell, but he didn't stay long and he didn't eat much. However, soon after he left, a fox came onto the patio for a few nuts. The cheeky thing walked right up to the living room doors, he must have seen us, but he didn't seem very nervous at all. That's the first fox we've seen for about a year, so maybe we have a new one to replace the one that disappeared.

Today the sun has been shining all day and it's been quite mild, but it's going to freeze up tonight under the clear skies. It should all look lovely in the moonlight. We're planning to take advantage of the good weather and cook out on the barbeque this weekend. I've got pork for kebabs and I'm marinating a butterflied leg of lamb - yum, yum. Have to try hard not to eat too much as I've done well over the past couple of weeks and have begun to really loose weight.

We have the first of a stream of visitors arriving today. They're staying for the weekend and then another lot are arriving mid-week! So we've been scurrying around to do shopping and cleaning so we can enjoy our friends and not do too much when they're here. To add to our housework, we had a couple of very successful trips to Ikea this week and then spent a lot of time putting together some furniture for the bedroom and a new oak filing cabinet for John's library.

Here's a picture of the bedroom furniture. We bought the bed at the end of 2005 and we've been very pleased with it. Not only does it look nice, it's wonderfully comfortable to sleep in and it's one of those adjustable beds, so we can sit up and read in comfort. This week we bought the bedside tables and chests of drawers to match.

It's lovely to get rid of the horrible plastic stacking baskets that we'd been using since we moved into the flat in Columbus. Everytime I looked at them I remembered lying in bed in the flat after my lumpectomy and during the bad parts of chemo. So it's good to have all that behind me.

Amd there's more good news - I had my yearly checkup with the surgeon this week and have been given the all-clear again. Hurray!

So on that pleasant note, I'll leave you ...... keep those e-mails coming, please!