Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Blog & Competition

A Family Against the Flow is a year old, hurrah! A whole year of blog posts, eating sandwiches, taking pictures, petting cats, making things, eating plain foods, walking for miles, days out, simple pleasures, complaining and making the kids do the washing up. We've really enjoyed sharing our life with you and hope you've enjoyed reading about what we get up to.

To celebrate we're giving away some blog-related prizes so you can share in the glory. Here's what you could win:

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter book - we own this book and enjoy trying to make our own versions of the foods we love.Still not that great at making bread though, bah!

A homemade pamper hamper much like ones I enjoy making for gifts for family and friends.

The ingredients to make the Homemade Cocoa recipe from the above book plus a cute owl mug to drink it out of. It's the best Hot Chocolate I've ever had.

All you have to do to enter is follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below. You can just leave a comment or you can also follow the blog via Google Friend Connect. This competition is only open to UK residents aged 16 or over. I will contact the winner by email on the day the competition ends. Good luck all :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 23: Haslet Sandwich

I know Haslet as a spicy sandwich meat you get in thin slices. But for this recipe it's more like a homemade meatloaf made from pork and pigs liver. Sounds interesting at least :)

Ingredients: pork belly, pigs liver, onion, sage, nutmeg, milk, bread, mustard and cornichons.

We'd never heard of cornichons, turns out they're small pickled gherkins.

First off you mince up the pork belly. I let JD handle that while I took pictures. :D

 Soak 4 slices of bread in milk for 5 minutes then squeeze out the milk and place in a bowl. Add the pork, liver and other ingredients.

Mix it up well. Looks delicious, right?

 Squish it all into a loaf tin and cover with foil. Bake for an hour removing the foil for the last 15 minutes.

 The recipe says to slice the haslet but ours fell apart in chunks so we filled the sandwiches with what we had. Add mustard and sliced cornichons too.

The haslet smelled really good as we were making the sandwiches up it was tempting to just eat it before it got to the bread. The haslet was disappointing. It was made up of several textures which made it confusing to eat. The bread was mushy, the liver was chewy and the pork was difficult to find. It was kind of like eating a stuffing sandwich but not as great as that. The mustard and cornichons added some nice flavours but overall it was just a weird sandwich.

Ratings: JD - 1/5 Emma - 2/5

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Post Entirely About JD Petting Cats

You might not know this about JD but he loves petting cats. We don't have a cat and now we rent a house we can't get one so he has to make do with petting cats when we're out and about. Almost every time we leave the house we'll see a cat in the street and JD will squat down to entice it over. I'm usually left stood by waiting 20 minutes while he pets the cat. He doesn't just pet cats though, oh no, he talks to them too. "Who's the best cat in the street, you are!" "Yes you are" "You're the best cat".

Also, JD shows little regard for where the cat is. He's climbed over walls, reached up high fences and trespassed in people's gardens just to pet a cat.

So since I'm left inactive I decided to start chronicling each cat petting with a photo and in just a few short weeks I have enough pictures for the spectacular montage you see above. It's a pretty great hobby since it combines walking about and taking pictures for me and petting cats for JD.

He's not always successful though, a few times the cat will resist all efforts to be petted. We've had some hilarious cat moments where a cat has just looked at JD and run off or looked down disdainfully from it's lofty position. Cats are great ^_^

There is a cat there, honest.

Also the eagle eyed among you will have noticed that this picture is of JD petting a dog, He's versatile like that!

JD petting cats and me photographing it has turned into a simple pleasure for us. Maybe this post really serves as a warning to show what can happen when you don't have TV.  :D

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 22: Deviled Ham Sandwich

To be honest, I've never heard of deviled ham. I've seen deviled egg vol-au-vents at the occasional party over the years but I've never tried those either. Blitzing up a delicious hunk of ham seems almost criminal when it'd make a mighty fine sandwich by itself with just some bread snugly pressed against each of it's hammy sides.

It has to be done though :(

Ingredients: ham, red onion, regular sliced bread, tabasco, worcestershire sauce, mustard, dill pickle and mayo.

Cut up the ham and onion then put it (along with everything else) in the food processor. 

Process it until it's a coarse paste (not too smooth).

 Spread it on some bread.

Et voila! It's a deviled ham sandwich :D

The best thing about this sandwich was the smell. Every time I bent towards it to take a bite my nostrils were treated to the most delicious spicy, mustardy, pickly, hammy aroma. It tasted pretty great too. The recipe probably needs a bit more mayo as our sandwiches were slightly dry. JD thought it was tasty but could've been improved with more of everything to make it more deviled. This recipe made plenty of deviled ham mix with half the ham leftover for future sandwiches, hurrah :)

Ratings: JD - 4/5 Emma - 4/5

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I've got a FitBit and I'm not talking about JD :D

After a while of umming and ahhing about whether or not to save up and buy a FitBit I got a parcel one Saturday morning and discovered JD had gone ahead and bought me one. And I love it.

I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. I love getting out into the countryside for a walk, I love swimming and I love dancing. Everything else just feels like a chore for me, there's no enjoyment to it and I have to force myself to do 20-30 minutes because I know how good it is for my body if I do. I spent a lot of last year doing stepping, running and yoga on our Wii Fit and while it made me feel increasingly fitter it also gave me a lot of bad feelings too. Dread at the thought of exercising everyday and guilt if I didn't do it.

I've decided that life is too short for unenjoyable activities though and from now on I'm only going to do the kinds of exercise that I enjoy. I can usually get to go on a walk once a week so the FitBit is there to step in (this is a hilarious pun by the way in case you missed it) on those days I can't stride out into nature for exercise.

You wear a FitBit all the time and it tracks all your movement. If you walk about, go up stairs, swim, dance about, have sex or whatever it tracks your movement. The best thing for me is the data it collects and then shows you in graph form how active you've been.You can access all the information on your computer or phone (or both, as I often do). It tracks steps, calories burned, distance in miles and very active minutes.

You can set your daily goal to whichever you like. I have a goal set to walk 10,000 steps in a day and do 60 minutes of very active minutes. It's usually between 4-5 miles a day. I've been using the FitBit for almost 3 weeks now and I've only had 1 day where I fell short of my goal. Also I just gained a 250km badge which is another awesome feature - achievements!!

Having a daily goal in mind helps me make good decisions when faced with a choice of stairs or lift. I'm more likely to offer to nip to the shop if we need something now whereas I'd usually let JD go before. I walk whenever there's an opportunity to walk and feel really pleased when I get home and check my steps so far for that day. You can tap the front of the FitBit anytime and it'll show you how you're doing on your daily goal. It lights up dots and each dot is one fifth of your goal. On the picture up there you can tell I'm at 4/5 of my goal.

You also get a weekly email summarising your activity.  So you can feel all smug about it.

I'm starting to feel more in control of my exercising. I know I'm exercising for the enjoyment of feeling fitter and not just to see a difference on the scales like before. I've been reading a lot about the Health At Every Size idea. It's quite liberating to put my weight out of my mind and to just focus on getting fit instead. I've joined a supportive group called Fit Fatties and reading about lots of people like me doing all kinds of sports/exercise is very inspiring.

It's difficult to have a change in attitude about my weight in such a size obsessed world especially after years of feeling bad but I feel determined to do it. Hopefully I can. :)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

...If You Can Call This Living

Continued from Part 1: Eating to Live

After a week of eating undelicious foods, I can sum it up in one word. I can, but I’m not going to*. Here, have a thousand words instead (there are also four pictures, so make that five thousand words):

We were very surprised to discover how much joy we truly get out of food, and that the joy isn’t even mainly from eating food. We enjoy planning out our menu each week and buying the food. We enjoy making the food. Cooking a delicious meal for others is one of life’s greatest pleasures, perhaps as good as eating the food, and we both felt unsatisfied making food for the other that we knew wouldn’t be enjoyable. Emma runs the Around the World in 196 Recipes blog, which has us trying all kinds of interesting and (usually) delicious foods from around the world, and of course we do the Saturday Sandwich here at Family Against the Flow. Anticipating the delicious food we’ll be eating later in the day brings us pleasure, and at the end of the day we can always look back on the day and think about the wonderful food we’ve eaten. This past week, we’ve had none of the joy in this paragraph at all.

Breakfast. Every day for the rest of your life.

We usually have homemade muesli for breakfast each morning, and we’ve had oatmeal plenty of times with honey and such, and so we figured that oatmeal would be alright, probably one of the easier things. The taste and texture of plain oatmeal was really shocking to us, and eating that for breakfast every day was one of the most difficult parts of this experiment. For Emma it was bitter, and for both of us it was hard to eat. For me, oatmeal was nutty – but not like a nut. Not nearly like anything so delicious as a nut; even a single unsalted peanut would have had more flavor.

Not as bad as breakfast. But then, nothing could be.

Plain grains in general just aren't good. They're all very bland. Vegetables, on the other hand, even the plainest ones we could think of, like leeks, are comparatively an explosion of flavor. Our favorite meal was one of rice, beans, and glorious leeks. I feel like poor countries have a rich heritage of seasoning food for precisely that reason. If you can't often afford meat or dairy products, you can still likely afford (or grow your own) herbs and spices and make the food you do have, like grains, incredibly delicious. That's my theory for why countries that are poor or have historically been so (e.g. China, India, Mexico) have such wonderfully spiced and seasoned food. Being relatively wealthier and able to afford a big hunk of ham, you don't have to use your imagination.

Pigeons frolicking on our bread.

One of the hardest things I've ever done in my life was to make a peanut butter sandwich for one of my kids. Normally, I'd give myself a scoop of the peanut butter first. After I was finished, I'd lick the knife clean. Then probably get another scoop. It took nearly more will power than I had just not to eat any of that peanut butter. Another day, we made pizza toast for them, and it was a struggle not to eat any of the cheese as I sprinkled it on, and to not lick the spoon after I spread the tomato puree. It was tough sometimes to make delicious food for them knowing I wouldn't be having any of it myself. Still, giving joy to someone else was still capable of giving me joy. We even shared some of the bread we weren’t allowed to have with these pigeons, and they seemed to experience plenty of joy.

World-class picnic.

Because we weren’t getting the usual joy from meals, we tried different things. For breakfast, we sat in the dining room where it’s sunny, and talked as we ate and for a while afterwards. We felt very lucky to have a sunny dining room, and that’s something we’re going to continue doing. We also ate outside several times, such as the above picture where we’re in the park eating lentils and split peas.

Our digestion doesn't seem to have been any different even though theoretically we’re getting tons of fibre, since we're having brown rice, beans, bulgar wheat, quinoa, etc.

We still felt hungry just as often (about every 3 hours) and ate food just as often, although not quite as much food as normal. The food we ate also didn't give the feeling of satisfaction that we’d normally have. You would feel full, but somehow strangely empty, and definitely unsatisfied.

Somewhere near you are two people with only one pizza for each of them. Please, send help.

We intended to go six days eating this way, but after five days we’d learned our lesson well enough. On day six, we had sugar in our oatmeal, salt and pepper in our rice, and then got pizza for dinner.

I feel very grateful that this was a temporary and self-imposed hardship, that we’re not so poor that we can’t afford delicious foods, and that we’re able to get so much joy out of something as simple as food. My heart goes out to anyone on a diet who is denying themselves the joy of delicious foods, or anyone without the money to afford it.

*Alright then, that word is ‘terrible.’

Monday, July 7, 2014

Eating to Live

For most of us in the developed world, food is always delicious. For my wife and me, I know it certainly is. Everything we eat is a mouthwatering array of flavors, and we make sure of that when we plan our weekly menu. We don't eat anything we don't love - ever. For myself, the things I love are savory: spaghetti, curry, meat pies, entire hogs basted in barbecue sauce and their own juices. My wife has an extra love of sweets: chocolate, cake, doughnuts, whole swans dipped in fondant and sprinkled with nibbed sugar. Hardly a day goes by where both of us aren't having the things we love to put in our mouths, and frankly it's hard to find that many swans and hogs at this time of year.

We love to eat, and we love to cook. We love for those things we eat and cook to be delicious and varied, and my wife even has a blog where she makes us food from all around the world - Around the World in 196 Recipes. Near the top of the list of things we both enjoy, food is there. Many different kinds of food also would make it onto a list of simple pleasures for us.

Recently, though, we started to wonder what life would be like if every food you ate wasn't a taste sensation. How would your body react if the only food you put in it was food to fill you up and power your day, if you were only eating to live? How would your mind react? Will you even want to eat if the food isn't made extradelicious by a coating of sugar or salt?

I've been reading a lot of books about prison, and particularly about the Soviet Gulag. In places like that, the prisoners didn't get much choice in what they eat. Sometimes they're lucky to get anything at all. What they do get is usually plain. Unseasoned. And yet, because of hunger, because of what their body needs, they savor each bite of their plain bread or watery gruel. I wanted to experience that. I want to experience the raw, grateful pleasure of a starving man who gets something - anything - to fill his belly.

So for the next week, we're not going to be eating any delicious food. We're doing without all seasonings, sauces, and flavorings. That means no salt or pepper, no ketchup, no lemon juice, basically no anything. No fat (Because it's delicious. Take it from me, the man who once made a sandwich with nothing but pork fat.) means no meat, no butter, and certainly no dairy products. Absolutely no sweet, sweet fruit.

We've made a list of about fifteen nutritious foods we're going to be having, and made sure there was nothing we'd choose to eat on its own. There are plenty of vegetables or relatively plain things that we do love, so we removed them from our initial list. For example, plain sweet potatoes are lovely, so they had to go. Bread on its own? Too tasty. Peas? Too sweet. Lettuce? Gone. It was surprising to realize how many plain things we do love, and how many things really are naturally delicious or have a pleasing texture. The things we're having this week are the plainest foods we could think of. This morning, we had plain oatmeal made with only water. For dinner, we'll be having plain kidney beans with boiled kale.

We both enjoy experimenting with doing things differently, and this is certainly going to be interesting. Will we be able to eat this way for 7 days, 3 meals a day, 21 meals in total?  Will we still desire to eat at every meal from hunger, or will we want to skip meals with their unappetizing fare? We're going to keep track of our thoughts and feelings as we eat this way throughout the week, and at the end of the week we'll post again to show what it's like eating this way.

Part 2: ...If You Can Call This Living

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Picture a Day Photo Challenge - Halfway Point

Today we're halfway through the year which means I'm halfway through the Picture a Day Photo Challenge I set myself at the beginning of the year.

So far I haven't missed a day but it has been hard. I've constantly got it in the back of my mind that I need a picture and thinking what the picture of the day can be.

I feel like I'm always pestering the kids or JD to pose for a picture so I can use it but I think they've all been reasonably alright with that so far!

I'm doing what I hoped I would and documenting all the small things that happen each day that usually go uncaptured. I'm also taking more notice of my surroundings as I walk around where I live looking out for something interesting to take a picture of.

I'm already looking forward to looking through all these photos at the end of the year. It'll be great to look back through all the days in turn and remember everything that happened and the places we've been.

The worst times have been the days when I've forgotten to do it and then before bed I'll be going around the house trying to find something to photograph. Thankfully there haven't been too many of those days and I've usually gotten a picture taken then uploaded early on in the day.

The best days are when something great/easy to photo is going on so I don't even have to think about what to snap that day. :D

These are some of my favourites from the last few months:

 JD and me on our way to Leeds on the train.

 Leigh being pleased with herself for finishing the Nidderdale Walk.

 The best looking cake I've ever made.

 JD looking pretty sexy on a walk.

 Erin enjoying having a bus pass for the first time now she's 11.

Thruscross Reservoir and the ruin of the flax mill that used to be there.

So far I've loved collecting a photo a day to add to this collection and I hope that continues so I can finish the year.

Link for anyone that wants to see all the pictures -->

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