Unlardy, Writing life

The Unlardy Project: end of week 3

Weight change this week:  2 lbs down (total loss 5 lbs)

Exercise this week: daily dog-walk; Wednesday, weights and CV circuit; Friday, ‘chipper’ circuit and step circuit; Monday, ‘chipper’ circuit and step circuit

What worked well/tip of the week: planning ahead for last-minute meals out

Bits where I had to think: looking at menus and making sensible choices!

What needs to change next week: definitely need to increase my steps on non-gym days.

Mindset: very pleased with the results so am keeping going

Favourite/new recipe this week: Enchiladas (based on a WW recipe) – serves 4


  • 300g chicken fillets (or 400g block of tofu)
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 red (bell) pepper, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 200g can sweetcorn, drained
  • 1 400g can kidney or black beans, drained and slightly mashed
  • 300g passata
  • 4 wholemeal tortillas
  • 100ml reduced fat sour cream
  • 40g grated parmesan
  • oil spray for misting


Bake the chicken fillets (or cubed tofu) for 20 mins at 180 degrees C. Shred the fillets once cooked

Meanwhile mist a large pan with oil spray, saute the onion, garlic, pepper and cumin.

Add 200g of passata, the beans and the sweetcorn, and simmer for 5 mins.

Divide the veg mixture between the wraps, top with chicken (or tofu), roll them up and put in an ovenproof dish, seam-side down.

Mix the remaining 100g of passata with the sour cream, pour over the top, and sprinkle the cheese over.

Bake at 180 degrees C for 20 mins; serve with salad.



The Unlardy Project: end of week 2

Weight change this week: 1/2 lb off (total 3 lbs loss)

Exercise this week: daily dog-walk; Wednesday cardio and CV circuits; (knee hurting Thursday and off to London Friday – walked a *lot* in London); Monday ‘chipper’ circuit and step circuit;

What worked well/tip of the week: Went through M&S with the barcode reader for the app – very interesting! Mostly I cook from scratch, but for days when we’re pushed for time then M&S ‘balanced for you’ meals are lower in points than the ‘count on us’ range 🙂

Bits where I had to think: in London on Fri and Sat, so used my weekly points to budget for it, had plain Skyr and fruit for breakfast, and thought about what I chose to eat while we were out. Home late on Saturday so we had a Chinese takeaway – I did manage to find something within my points ‘budget’ but I think in future it’ll be a ready meal in that situation (or frankly a grilled steak and salad would do!)

What needs to change next week: definiutely need to increase my steps on non-gym days

Mindset: I am trying very hard not to focus on numbers – I’ve focused well this week and am a bit disappointed that I didn’t lose a little bit more. But I did make myself go to the gym on a day when I really didn’t feel like it (last week’s skip was sensible because my knee was grumbling – is better this week). Struggling a little with work but didn’t resort to baking!

Favourite/new recipe this week: mushroom, spinach and chickpea curry (based on a WW recipe) – serves 2



  • oil spray, to mist
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 inch piece of root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 a medium courgette, diced
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 400g tin of chickpeas in water, drained
  • 160g baby leaf spinach


Mist a large pan with cooking spray, add onion and garlic and cook until softened, then add ginger, spices and tomato purée and cook for 2 mins.

Add the mushrooms and saute for 3 mins.

Add the chickpeas and tomatoes, simmer for 20 mins.

Add the spinach and stir through until wilted.

Serve with rice or naan bread.

[This was a hit with the house carnivore as well as the house vegan!]


The Unlardy Project: end of week 1

Weight change this week: 2.5lbs down (total loss 2.5 lbs)

Exercise this week: daily dog-walk; Wednesday, ‘chipper’ circuit and step circuit; Friday, weights/CV circuit; Monday, ‘chipper’ and step circuits;

Chipper circuit: 5-min rowing machine, 40 kettlebell swings, 30 dumbbell snatches, 20 crunches, 10 thrusters, 5 burpees, 10 thrusters, 20 crunches, 30 dumbbell snatches, 40 kettlebell swings, 5-min cross-trainer ‘pyramid’ (that’s starting at level 1, increase a level every 10-15 seconds to the highest level, then back down again)

Step circuit: (all 30 seconds, no rest until the end of circuit, repeat circuit three times)  walking step ups; fast step ups; jog in front of step; 4 star jumps and a burpee; knee driver (step between); repeater knee-driver (15 seconds each leg); step over; straddle jump

Weights/CV circuit: (45 secs per exercise, no rest until end of set) – circuit 1 skipping (jump rope), upright row, step-ups, overhead press, burpees, bent over row, star jumps, deadlift, up-and-overs, chest press, kettlebell swing (full);  circuit 2 kettlebell swing (alternate arm), lunge with front raise, kettlebell swing (half), lunge with lat raise, step-up knee drivers, wide kettlebell squat, knee driver repeaters (swap legs halfway), straight leg deadlift, Russian twist with star jump (ball in front when legs together, at side when ‘star’), hammer curl.

What worked well/tip of the week: spaghetti bolognese – grate the cheese on the fine side of the grater and it looks more (!); and buying individual (30g) portions of cheese so I can enjoy cheese and crackers without overdoingthings

Bits where I had to think: dinner out on Thursday before the theatre (I was sensible and chose steak and salad with no dressing); afternoon tea on Saturday (I planned for this in advance and used my ‘weekly’ points allowance for it, plus had low-point breakfast and dinner to make sure I stayed on track)

What needs to change next week: need to increase my steps on non-gym days

Mindset: pleased with the results so am keeping going

Favourite/new recipe this week: Moroccan-style veggie shepherd’s pie (based on a WW recipe) – serves 4


  • 1 kg prepared butternut squash
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • small glug of pomegranate molasses
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 400g tin of green lentils in water
  • 250ml veg stock
  • oil spray, to mist


Place the squash on a tray, mist with oil and roast at 180 degrees C (fan oven) for 30 mins; cool slightly and mash until smooth.

Meanwhile mist a large saucepan with oil spray, add the spices and garlic and onion and toast for 30 seconds then add all the other ingredients except the lentils and simmer for 20 mins; add the lentils and simmer for another 10 mins.

Put the lentil mixture into a casserole dish, spoon over the mash, and bake at 180 degrees C for 25 mins.

[I liked the base but didn’t enjoy the squash topping as much, so I’d be tempted to swap the squash for mashed cauliflower and then (as this is zero points) add a little Parmesan cheese for flavour]


The Unlardy Project – the start

Like many middle-aged women, despite my daily dog-walk and my gym sessions (which I admit have been very slack this year), I’m suffering from spread. Well, no – I’ve always been on the chunky side. About the only time I was thin was the worst year of my life, when my mum died. And I don’t actually want to be *thin* – I want to be a healthy weight and shape.

I do eat healthily, most of the time (a lot of my talk about cake is teasing – unless it happens to be birthday celebrations which stretch a bit too far). But the weight’s been creeping up again this year (partly to do with not showing my face enough at the gym). And it’s time I took care of myself. It’s time to admit that I need the accountability of having someone else weigh me and look over what I eat. I do have a slow metabolism (not a weak excuse – the Fitbit backs me up because on a desk-day when I don’t move anywhere near enough, I don’t even get to the 2000 calories an average woman burns). So I need to factor that in. I’m probably in a food rut and switching away from calories to a different form of counting will make me more mindful about what I choose to eat instead of being so familiar with it that I’m not thinking or keeping an eye on portion-creep.

I’m a foodie, so any programme that makes me live off shakes/bars or eat tinned (canned) food is not OK by me. I can’t do 5:2 because I am HORRIBLE if I’m hungry (everyone else in the house says they’ll move out if I ever do that again). I love experimenting with recipes. So what I want is something flexible that will let me eat half the week with my vegan daughter and half the week with my omnivore husband (and son, when he’s home from uni). My lot are a bit fussy so I’ve always tweaked meals and served different things to different people at dinner (eg spaghetti bolognese was normal for husband, wedges instead of pasta for son, different sauce for daughter, and extra veggies in my sauce). I don’t mind tweaking things. What’s important is sitting down together for a meal (I am also the tech police, so it’s no tech at the table unless there is a *very* good reason).

Friends have had good success on WeightWatchers and Slimming World, so I looked at both programmes to see which would suit me best. I opted for WW as I think I need the discipline and accountability of weekly weigh-ins, and also it’s slightly more structured than SW (I have a problem with carbs – letting me eat as much pasta as I like will not end well, whereas measuring a portion means I won’t feel deprived but I also will see results). With the points system, I can go out for dinner and enjoy it – and plan it in so it doesn’t push me off target. It helps that one of my writer mates happens to be a WW coach; I know she’ll be firm and kind, which is a good combination, and she also won’t let me beat myself up when I slip.

I’m adding this into my blog in case it helps others who might be having the same kind of struggle. It isn’t a competition (I want slow, sustainable and maintainable weight loss, and I have sensible goals in mind). It’s about sharing ideas. So my weekly roundup is going to be basically what I’m eating, what exercise I’m doing, and sharing any new-to-me recipe that I’ve really enjoyed. (Anything I post should fit just about any diet, whether you’re counting carbs or calories or fat grams – just chuck it through MyFitnessPal to get the stats.) I’m not posting my actual weight or measurements, though my weekly roundup will include how I’ve done. But I guess I ought to start with Kate Lardy as I look this week (taken in a doorway so I can see the changes as the weeks go on, on the grounds that if I can see a change in shape even if the scales aren’t showing much of a change, that will keep me motivated).



I’ll start with my go-to soup recipe (serves 4) (and this isn’t an entire meal – I normally have a salad or a sandwich to go with it! But I really like soup for lunch in winter – this doesn’t really count as cooking because it is SO easy)


  • 400g tin of tomatoes (and fill it up again with water)
  • large peeled and chopped carrot
  • Peeled and chopped red onion
  • deseeded and chopped red (bell) pepper
  • Medium topped, tailed and chopped courgette (zucchini)
  • pinch of chili flakes


Put everything into a saucepan, simmer for 30 minutes or until all the veg are soft, whizz through a blender until smooth.

You can vary the veg, decide to have it chunky instead of smooth, add a glug of pomegranate molasses for depth, add in a handful of dried red lentils at the start to bulk it out… It’s all about being flexible 🙂


Writing life

Behind the Scenes: A Diamond in the Snow

Blickling Hall is a place that’s inspired me for years, and I’ve pinched it as a setting in a few books now (including RoNA Rose shortlisted book Sold to the Highest Bidder).

While I was writing it, they started opening in the winter and having curators there, and my friend Jo and I went for a research trip (including lunch and a wander round). The team was incredibly helpful with suggestions about death watch beetle and mould (so much better than my original idea of a roof that needed work). I was hugely inspired for the ballroom by the Peter the Great Room. And then there’s the gorgeous garden and the lake… (Have I mentioned the Great Wood, with its fantastic show of bluebells every year? Love, love, love this place. If we lived slightly nearer, I’d probably go there every day to write!)

Sadly, the format of the book changed so it no longer contains a ‘dear reader’ letter (which was where I’d thanked the team for their help), but I popped in today to take a copy of the book, a proper thank-you card and chocolates to show my appreciation.  The autumn colour was stunning. And I’ll let the pics show you just how wonderful the place is. (The front of the house, the library, the Peter the Great Room, the back of the house and the lake.)


Publication day

Publication Day: A Diamond in the Snow

diamond-in-the-snowToday is the official publication day of my 82nd book for Mills & Boon, A Diamond in the Snow.

I loved writing this book. I wanted to do a country house book, and I so happened to visit a couple of country houses that were trimmed up for Christmas.

Hmm, I thought. I can do a house with a leaky roof that needs a fundraiser, and we can have a Christmas Fayre. A mashup between Downton Abbey and the Winter Wonderland in London.

Except then Blickling Hall was open during the winter and you could chat to the conservators. We talked about dry rot and death watch beetle (I was very tempted by that) and moths and the problem of sunlight. And we were in the Peter the Great Room (which had silk wall hangings) and it hit me. Regency Ballroom. Regency Christmas. The problem of managing humidity because damp can cause a lot of damage…

imageNow, my editor knows I love the whole thing about food in history; if I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a food historian or be teaching a course about food in literature. She knew she was going to have to rein me back a bit. But I had SUCH FUN planning a Regency ball. With the dancing (the waltz in Regency times was not the same as it is now), with the food (because the two rooms I always want to see in any country house or museum are the library and the kitchen – I already have facsimiles of early recipe books so I had a lot of fun on the research side) and with the costumes. And the furnishings. And a dog sneaked in. Humphrey the Labrador is actually a very different dog in disguise (see right for a sneak preview of the real thing doing his Undercover Secret Agent thing – if this was video rathe than still, and there was a canine translator, you’d hear ‘Psst, the password is porridge’).

I’ll leave this post with a card from my publisher: Happy Book Birthday!






Writing life

Planet Kate, 23 September 2018

What’s happening in my world, this week (and a catchup on the last month) :

  • Work: writing M&B #85 (Medical Romance set in a GP surgery with a PAT dog); and faffing about with my Big Book;
  • Reading: (Long list as it was a month) The House by the Lake, Ella Carey; The Unfinished Garden, Barbara Claypole White; Secret Seduction, Susan Napier; The Face of a Stranger, Anne Perry; A Dangerous Mourning, Anne Perry; Defend and Betray, Anne Perry; The Sheikh’s Mail Order Bride, Marguerite Kate; Whistles After Dark, April Taylor; The Accident, C L Taylor; The Fear, C L Taylor; The Emerald Comb, Kathleen McGurl; The Brighton Mermaid, Dorothy Koomson; The Lost Letters, Sarah Mitchell; The Memory Collector, Fiona Harper; The Daughters of Red Hill Hall, Kathleen McGuril
    Looking forward to: Mark Watson at Norwich Playhouse
  • Workouts: managing twice a week at the gym at the moment, as well as dogwalks – go, me!
  • Planet Kate last month or so: both teens at home, working hard, Marcus Brigstocke at Norwich Playhouse, the annual M&B author lunch, various research trips involving 1940s stuff (steam train, air bases) and beach walks with dog, and taking eldest back to uni
  • Fave pic from the last month: sunrise (aka my favourite bit of the day: dogwalk), sunset at Hunstanton, and louring clouds at Cromer.


Writing life

Planet Kate 20 August 2018

What’s happening in my world, this week:

  • Work: Finishing revisions on book 84 then working on writing M&B #85 (Medical Romance set in a GP surgery with a PAT dog); updating my website one backlist book per day; and faffing about with my Big Book;
  • Reading: Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (reread for Chloe so she can bounce ideas off me for her long essay – I didn’t enjoy it this time round, either, although some of the writing was beautiful – I couldn’t warm to the central character); Louisa George, The Secret Art of Forgiveness (really enjoyed); Sophia Jenkins, The Forgotten Guide to Happiness (enjoyed); Jan Jones, A Question of Thyme (fantastic)
  • Looking forward to: a quiet week, working
  • Workouts: I must get back to the gym!
  • Planet Kate last week: revisions, revisions, and sneaky trips to the seaside to clear my head. And starting soya isoflavones and sage tablets for hot flushes as they’re becoming miserable. (So far, not working… but I need to give it a couple of weeks.) Also had a trip to Jimmy’s for a family meet-up which was utterly lovely. Chloe was going to drive – but her L-plates blew away so she had to pull into the next lay by and swap with me.
  • Fave pic from the last week: an owl butterfly (which is massive), Archie  under my desk, and the sunset at Brancaster
Writing life

Planet Kate 13 August 2018

What’s happening in my world, this week:

  • Work: revisions to M&B #84 (Florence, art world); writing M&B #85 (Medical Romance set in a GP surgery with a PAT dog); updating my website one backlist book per day; and faffing about with my Big Book;
  • Reading: The Zig-Zag Girl, Elly Griffiths (enjoyed); The Woman who Met Her Match, Fiona Gibson (enjoyed); started three others but they didn’t grab me and I’ve given myself permission not to slog through them as life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying
  • Looking forward to: a quiet week
  • Workouts: dog-walking, last week – wayyyyy too hot to go to the gym
  • Planet Kate last week: High point was seeing King Lear on Wednesday – the best Shakespeare performance I’ve seen in the last 35 years. Strong cast, good staging, and Ian McKellen was utterly amazing – really nuanced portrayal. Also visited Leighton’s house in Kensington (amazing interiors), had a quick trip into the National (useful for revisions as there’s a scene set there) and an exhibition at the Design Museum.
  • Fave pic from the last week:image.jpeg