chocolate, Dieting, Food, Keira Knightley, weight

Three Top Tips For Losing Weight

(, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-2.5 (], via Wikimedia CommonsHTML
Photo: Matthias Kabel
My body is a work of art – rather like the Woman of Willendorf. As I work from home at a sedentary job, jogging for twenty minutes a day isn’t enough to stop my weight creeping up. Six weeks ago I decided to take radical action, so I started dieting. The process is hell, but I’m losing weight. More importantly, I’ve learned some invaluable things along the way.
1. There’s Only One Keira Knightley
People come in different shapes and sizes. Don’t let the media influence the way you see yourself.  It’s your body that matters.  All my female ancestors have been er…substantial, so no one is ever going to mistake me for the Wraith of the Black Pearl. On the other hand, looking like a badly-filled sandbag is not a good idea.  
Visit your doctor to get an official decision on how much weight you should lose to stay healthy, to find out if there are any special precautions you should take before dieting, and if your clinic can offer you any help. To put it crudely, eating less and exercising more is the best and most sustainable way to lose weight, but it’s not easy. You don’t want to make it harder than it needs to be.
2. Take Control
Once you know your suggested target weight, draw up an achievable timetable for doing it. Avoid starting a diet before any of the traditional feast days – Christmas, Easter, birthdays, etc. Resisting food is always difficult, but starting to count calories when there’s lots of delicious temptation everywhere is asking too much. Wait until you’ve had some experience of restricting your intake before putting yourself to the test like that.  Have set mealtimes, and take time to enjoy your food rather than grabbing something on the run. Drink plenty of water – in particular, have a large glass of water about half an hour before you eat. Make sure you eat a balanced diet. You want to lose weight, not become malnourished. Fibre fills you up, so eat whole fruit rather than just juice. I find celery is a great for those times when I feel the need to nibble. It takes a lot of eating, tastes nice, and unlike my other great standby, chewing gum, it doesn’t contain a long list of ingredients in a tiny typeface.
3.Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Let’s face it, the type of person who can stick to a diet and lose exactly the amount of weight they specify within an allotted timespan is not the sort of person who is likely to get heavy in the first place. Accept that there will be times when you can’t resist that chocolate bar. If you eat it, forget it once it’s gone but learn from the experience. DON’T give up! Instead, keep temptation out of your way in future. Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. If you can’t resist biscuits or chocolate, don’t have them in the house. That’s easy if you live alone. If you have children, or a husband who can eat what he likes and never put on a pound (looking at you, OH), it’ll be hard – but not impossible. My family and I all love chocolate, so our house is permanently packed with the stuff. Luckily OH and co. like it chilled but I don’t, so it’s all stored in the fridge. The theory is that by the time the bar I’ve pinched from the chiller has come up to room temperature, I’ll have conquered my impulse to eat it. 
In other news, research for my current WIP involves suspending a Bounty bar over a recently boiled kettle. Allegedly…

What’s your favourite tip for losing weight?
chocolate, Dawn French, Denise Bidot, Hero, Heroine, Pinterest

Here Come The Girls – Or They Would, But…

By Frank Blackwell (Diocese of Oxford)
My last post covered the search for male images to put up on my Work In Progress inspiration boards.  I don’t base my characters on any one person, but build up an idea in my mind of what they are like by combining physical details in all sorts of combinations. That’s one of the exciting things about writing – you can design your own people. Imagine being a parent, but without the hard work and the 20-plus years of waiting before you see the finished article! 
As well as a physical database of my characters’ eye colour, height, etc., I use pictures of people and places on an inspiration board in my office to keep me on course. It’s easy enough to gather images for this private collection. If a picture of something or someone in an article or advert appeals to me, I just cut it out.  The problem comes when I want to put them up on my public Work In Progress Pinterest board. Not unreasonably, copyright rules mean images can’t be reproduced online willy-nilly. I’ve managed to post some suitably heroic men, but women are proving a bit more elusive.  That’s why I’m asking for your help in tracking down some suitable photos.
Here’s the spec: life has crushed all the fun out of my dark haired, well built heroine – it’s still there, but  she’s taken refuge in chocolate.  Once she takes control of her life again, she’s ready for anything. The girl I have in my mind looks a bit like a twenty-something Dawn French. I couldn’t find any pictures of Ms French at that age, so I canvassed opinion on my guest blog earlier in the month at authorsoundrelations. There were some great responses, in particular Mary Kirkland’s suggestion of Denise Bidot. Unfortunately, I can’t find a legal (and decent, of course!) image of Denise to join Dawn and the guys on Pinterest
Can you help?
cake, chocolate, Christina Hollis author, Christmas, mincemeat

If You Like Chocolate and Christmas, You’ll Love This…
By Johnathunder, via Wikimedia Commons

This time last year, I was getting ready to make our usual rich fruit cake for Christmas when my daughter suggested we try something new. She loves chocolate courgette cake (which was a bit of a leap of faith for me at the time!), and wanted to try this odd-sounding recipe. I was apprehensive beforehand, but it really works and we all love it. 

There are a few things to note: it’s not gluten free, and you really need the dots to be white chocolate – I didn’t have any when I first tried this recipe out, and the ordinary milk-chocolate dots I used were virtually invisible in the finished cake!


150g softened butter 
150g soft brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
185g  self-raising flour
40g cocoa powder
400g mincemeat (I used my own recipe of mixed dried fruits, plus grated apples and brandy)
80g each of sultanas and raisins
20g quartered glace cherries, washed & well dried.
50g blanched almonds, chopped
100g of white chocolate dots


Pre heat oven to Gas Mark 3/Electric 160 deg. C, Fan 140 deg C.
Line a 20cm/8” tin with a couple of layers of greaseproof paper.
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and beat for 1- 2 minutes, until well mixed.
Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for between 90 minutes – 2 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  You’ll probably need to cover the cake with tinfoil toward the end of the cooking time, to stop it browning too quickly.
Leave the cake to cool in its tin for a while before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

This cake doesn’t freeze and is unlikely to keep for as long as a traditional rich fruit cake, but this doesn’t matter as it vanishes in a very short time!

chocolate, Christina Hollis author, New Year, Women's Institute

Happy New Year Cake!

I hope you are still enjoying the Holiday Season, and that you aren’t completely worn out by it all yet. Just in case, here’s a simple treat.
I’ve used the past couple of weeks to try out lots of new recipes on my family. The star of the show was undoubtedly this Chocolate Fruitcake, which I made to replace our traditional iced Christmas cake this year. It was originally a Women’s Institute recipe, and I must admit I had my doubts before making it (chocolate and mincemeat?) but it’s delicious. It is really easy to make, too, and doesn’t need to be made in advance and matured so it would be good at any time. In fact, it was so popular we’re having it again for our New Year celebrations! Here’s the recipe:

5 oz (150g) soft margarine
5 oz (150g) soft brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6.5 oz (185g) self-raising flour
1.5 oz (40g) cocoa powder
1lb jar (or  400g of home-made) top quality mincemeat
3 oz (80g) sultanas
3 oz (80g) raisins
2 oz (50g) blanched, chopped almonds
4 oz (100g) packet of chocolate dots

Line an 8-inch (20cm) cake tin with two layers of greaseproof paper/baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to GasMark 3/Electric 160 degrees C or equivalent fan temperature (generally around 145 degrees C)
Put the first five ingredients in a big mixing bowl and beat together for a couple of minutes until they’re completely mixed. Then fold in the mincemeat, dried fruit, almonds and chocolate dots. 
Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for around an hour and three quarters, or until a skewer pushed into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Check after it’s been in the oven for about an hour, and if the top’s browning too much, cover it with some foil.
When the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven and let it cool in its tin for a few minutes before turning it out on a wire rack to cool completely (if you can wait).  You can ice it like a traditional Christmas cake or give it a simple chocolate icing, but the family verdict was that might make it a bit too rich.
Thanks to everyone who has commented on my blogs and blog tour, or written to me over the past year. I hope 2012 will be happy, healthy and very productive for you all! 
chocolate, Christina Hollis, cuckoo, Mills and Boon

A Day Off…

Yesterday, I turned in the manuscript of my latest Mills & Boon Modern Romance, provisionally entitled Fire and Ice. As my editor is taking a few days well earned rest, today I squeezed in a sneaky day away from the computer. That meant spending some time in the garden. I’d love to say this is a picture of my handiwork, but sadly, it isn’t! I also went for a nice long walk, listening out for the cuckoo. No luck – the wind is still a bit chilly for him. I’ve been trying to walk a minimum of twelve thousand steps per day to counteract the time I spend sat at the keyboard, but it’s hard work! I need lots of encouragement, and with the beautiful river Wye 3,500 steps away (a figure burned into my brain), that’s one obvious target. Unfortunately, to get there I have to pass the only shop for miles around. It sells chocolate.
Enough said…