Thursday, May 25, 2017

D is for Diet (Start of No-Sugar Month)

JD picked up this book on a recent trip to The Works bookshop:

He read it and then passed it on to me to read. I was aware that sugar isn't good for our bodies but I wasn't aware of the extent of the damage sugar consumption can cause.

In the book the author Damon Gameau experiments with eating 40 teaspoons of sugar a day for 60 days. Sugars added to supposed healthy foods like muesli bars, orange juice and cereal. He doesn't eat any junk food.

After 60 days he gained weight, a fatty liver and high cholesterol. It was an interesting experiment to read. He ate the same number of calories daily as his usual diet but because the calories came from carbohydrates/sugar he negatively affected his health.

JD and I make an effort to eat well. We usually make sure to eat our 5 a day including plenty of foods that are good for our bodies. But we do (me especially) eat treats fairly often. JD has a weakness for Doritoes and my nemesis is chocolate. I also work in a sweet factory which doesn't help with avoiding temptation.

People who devote their lives to eating clean, sugar-free, low-carb diets often extol the feeling of high energy, feeling good and having a completely changed outlook on food. We feel suspicious that isn't the case but also feel a bit optimistic that it could be true.

So just to check for ourselves in case it works, we're going to have a month of no-sugar. No foods with added sugar, no bread, no chocolate, no crisps. I'm still going to eat fruit but only the lower-sugar ones. We started on Monday 22nd May and so far so good. No energy boosts yet but also no terrible feelings of loss!

We'll be back in a month to share how it went. :)

Note: Neither of us are cutting out sugar in order to lose weight. The word diet in the title refers to us changing our diet to avoid sugar not to be on a diet.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

C is for Chocolate

I'm very much a fan of chocolate, so when Easter comes around I like nothing more than a huge Cadbury's Easter Egg. Cadbury's has always been my favourite chocolate but I'm not very fussy, I often have Galaxy or a supermarket own brand instead.

JD has always said he doesn't think I could tell the difference between the brands if I didn't know what I was eating so I had to put my chocolate-lovers reputation to the test.

Quite nervously too, because previously I've completely failed to tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke and between various flavours of crisps! Plus we're always laughing at people on Eat Well For Less when they have no idea their favourite brand has been swapped for a cheaper option. Not so funny now!

We picked a variety of higher end, regular and cheaper chocolates to try.

We had:

Tesco mid range
Asda value range
Hotel Chocolat

We chopped the chocolate into small pieces to disguise it even more. Any chocolate aficionado can tell the difference between Cadbury's chunky bar and Galaxy's smoother rounded bars.

We took turns trying each chocolate and guessing which was which. All while blindfolded. This is serious stuff!

The results:

JD was the winner guessing 4 correctly and the rest of us recognised 3 of them each.

Most importantly, I recognised Cadbury's chocolate. I completely mixed up Hotel Chocolat and Asda value, so I don't seem to know which is good quality and which isn't. We all liked the Asda value chocolate which is impressive as it's only 30p a 100g bar. I found the Thorntons chocolate quite tasteless after trying the others.

My reputation is intact for now, I can smugly claim to know my favourite chocolate without reprisal from JD. It probably won't last long if we do more taste tests though!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Another Writer in the Family

Our 13 year old daughter Erin is following in her step-dad JD's footsteps as it seems she's caught the writing bug. She spends a lot of her spare time writing and has so far completed two short stories and has started a third. They seem to be a bit macabre so I'm hoping she'll be the next Stephen King. I won't spoil the plots of either but one has murder and the other has zombies. What will she write about next?
She's been reading her stories to us as she writes them for feedback and advice. We can tell she's already improved as she continues to develop her own style. JD's advice is to write lots, not worry about a title and to finish what you start. It seems to be working for Erin. I'm proud of her for sticking at it.

Here's an excerpt of one of her stories titled 'Robbie'. Jack's wife Zoe has been recently bitten by a zombie:

---I woke up and looked over at Jack. He was sat against the wall; empty whisky bottles laying on the ground and a half full one in his hand. “Morning, Jack,” I said. “Morning,” he grunted. I smelt the booze on his breath. He was drunk. “You know, this is your fault,” said Jack, drunkenly. “None of this would have happened if you hadn’t shown up!” 
“Jack, you’re drunk,” I said, placing my hand on the bottle. He smashed it to the ground and picked up his axe. “Well, Zoe’s hurt and it’s all your fault!” He yelled, swinging his axe, aiming for my head. I darted out the way and shouted “Jack! Stop! You don’t want to do this! Zoe wouldn’t want this!” 
“Oh, you think you could tell what Zoe wanted! Should’ve killed you at the beginning!” I grabbed my knife and with tears running down my cheeks, I said “Don’t come any closer, Jack! I will stab you! I don’t want to but I will!” “Go to Hell, Iris!” He screamed before lunging towards me. I jumped out the way and stabbed him in the back. He howled in pain. He fell to the floor with a thud. He turned onto his side. I could see that he was sobering up. He said “Please, promise me something. If you see Precious, please look after her. She deserves to have a parent.”  
“Okay, I will,” I said, tears streaming down my face. And like that, he was gone.---

 Dramatic stuff! Well done, Erin, keep going :)

Friday, January 6, 2017

B = Books I Enjoyed in 2016

Carrying on with my A-Z blogging thing here are some books I enjoyed from last year!

Last year I set myself the goal of reading some of the books from my to-read shelf that had been hanging around a long time. Some of the bigger books I'd put off reading. I was glad I did. This trio of books from people I admire were all great reads.

Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela

As expected, reading this book is incredibly humbling. He had such a fantastic attitude to life despite what he'd been through. Almost all his thoughts on any subject make me feel close to tears. His life is a lesson to us all. Trite, maybe? I can't help it, it's so great! I'm only sorry I waited until after his death to read it.

 A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett.

A collection of non-fiction essays and letters by one of my favourite authors. Equal parts hilarious and sad it had me laughing and weeping throughout the book. His take on illness and death has given me lots to think about. What an insightful man we've lost, although his wisdom will live on through his books long after he's gone. Another book I didn't read until after it's author's death.

 The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry

I was pretty determined to read this while he was still alive but felt fearful of news of his death all the way through. Nothing bad happened though! An uncomfortably honest book which again made me cry and laugh in parts. I felt he was brave to share so much and admired him for it. Another great book.

The next set of books are all fiction books I've particularly liked.

A Bell For Adano by John Hersey

Written in 1944 and a pulitzer prize winner. A story about the town of Adano who has it's bell taken during the war to be melted down to make bullets. An American officer decides to make it his mission to find another bell for the town. A lovely tale of compassion and justice.

Elizabeth is missing by Emma Healey

One of my favourite things about reading is the experiencing of life through someone else's eyes and mind. An old woman in early stages of dementia is convinced her friend has gone missing. Heartbreakingly sad and a fascinating insight into memory-loss and aging.

 The Sea The Sea by Iris Murdoch

I didn't enjoy this book at first but came to love the descriptive writing style of the author. Another story about how life changes as you age and how youth is remembered. An aging actor becomes obsessed with his first love after meeting her again many years later.

I've read a lot of books this year, some good and some bad but even the bad ones can teach you something at least. This year I'm hoping to read more non-fiction and have set myself the task of reading at least 5 non-fiction books. See you back here next year to find out if I managed it. :D

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A-Z Blogging Challenge - Apps

Everybody knows I love a challenge and so to get myself blogging regularly again I'm going to do this A-Z blogging thing where I have to post about something starting with each letter.

First up is A (I'm a genius!) and a post about Apps I use.

Google Keep

Keep - It's a note-taking app for anything and everything. I use it to keep track of our monthly budget mostly. JD and I can see what each other has spent so we can keep a running total and not go over what we want to spend. The best thing about it is you can add to it offline. You can make checklists with it too. I use it to make a list of errands when I go into town or things I need from the shop.
Loop Habits

Loop Habits is an app to get you into the habit of doing something regularly. I use it to keep track of how often I'm doing the things I want to make time for each day. After I've done something consistently for 20 or so I days I stop tracking it because it's become a habit. I've used it to make sure I read every day, do exercise, a few minutes of yoga, eat well, complete brain training, learn a language. Basically anything you want to do more of on a regular basis.
Zombies, Run!
Next is my favourite exercise app. In Zombies, Run! you're a runner for a town of people who survived the Zombie Epidemic. They need you to collect items, find supplies, lead zombies away and all kinds of other missions. Voice actors set the scene and let you know what's happening in the storyline with each mission. You just have to run (or walk). Sometime during each mission you'll hear zombies and that's your cue to move faster to escape them. I usually speed walk for the most part and then run when I hear zombies getting close. You can set the length of run to whatever you want, play your own music in between scenes and use items you collect to build the town up in an app minigame. It's fun! I find running or walking on my own boring so this is perfect for me, it's kind of like watching a TV show while you exercise and it makes exercising enjoyable for me.

Swiftkey is a customisable keyboard for your phone. You can change the colour of the keyboard and change the key size if you want. It's predictive text is much better than the default keyboard too. You can swipe type instead of tapping each key and you can customise the layout of the keyboard too. Basically it's just more choices for the phone keyboard if you use it a lot. It even gives you interesting stats on your typing practises. Apparently I've added 6,229 words to my swiftkey vocbulary since I got it and the heart eyes emoji is my most used! There's probably more you can do that I haven't discovered yet too.

Twilight is an app everybody should be using. It cleverly adapts your screen's brightness to the time of day making it easier on your eyes. This is especially good in the evening as it changes to a red filter instead of the usual blue light which research shows makes sleep slower to reach. It does this by being in snyc with your local sunrise and sunset. It's a simple idea that works well and I'd hate to go back to my screeen's blue brightness now.

So, those are my favourite apps at the moment. What is your favourite app?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Restaurant Food at Home: Krispy Kreme

This time I decided to recreate us a sweet treat at home. Krispy Kreme doughnuts always look delicious as do their milkshakes. We've had the doughnuts before and they are quite pricey.

I decided to make us:

Krispy Kreme Biscoff Caramel Milkshakes
Original Glazed Doughnuts

Cost in Krispy Kreme £23

The milkshakes were easy to make and turned out great.

The doughnuts were a lot more complex to make than I'd planned for. Professionally made doughnuts look uniformly circular and perfect. My doughnuts were more like blobs of doughnut. Still, they were delicious blobs and much cheaper than professionally made ones.

Cost of homemade food £8 (£3 of that is the lotus biscoff spread!)

Saving us £15 by eating at home!

Either way, whether eating in Krispy Kreme or at home, doughnuts and milkshakes together leave you with a sick feeling of overindulgence. We all started off enjoying the food but felt horrible after it. Definitely not worth £23 but a bargain at £8, haha :p

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Saturday Sandwich 101: Vada Pav

This popular Indian street food consists of spiced deep-fried mashed potato garnished with various chutneys. We put this sandwich off a bit because it's quite a faff to make with all the chutneys.

Eventually, after JD being away for several months we decided to simplify things a bit with just two chutneys, just to get this last sandwich done!

Here's the recipe we used if you want to try it -

We made up some green chutney and some dry garlic/coconut chutney, see if you can work out which is which :D

The spiced mashed potato was delicious, JD and I both had a few spoonfuls before we rolled it up to be deep-fried.  The mashed potato balls are coated in a batter made from Gram Flour which was thick and almost impossible to get coated on the potato. The first ones we tried to fry in the deep fat fryer were a disaster. The potato dissolved from inside the batter leaving deep-fried batter in the basket. So we fried the next ones in a frying pan instead. Fun times!

Make up the Vada Pav by spreading the green chutney on a bread bun, follow with the battered potato and top with the garlic chutney. Our battered potato is definitely not as pretty as most pictures I've seen but it's finally done!

Ratings: JD - 2, Emma - 2

The sandwich was very spicy, almost every element of it contained chilli powder which builds up to be quite fiery with every mouthful you take. The green chutney was a nice addition and really tasty on it's own and the garlic chutney adds a nice crunch to a soft filling here. But overall it just didn't do it for us, which is a shame as it's the last one.

We've enjoyed a lot of the sandwiches we've tried doing this, some that we've had again and we're currently going through our favourites too. I'll post some sort of re-cap post soon with the ones we liked the most but apart from that we're done. :D

I wonder how many people in the world have eaten 101 different sandwiches. :)