An obsession.

I am obsessed with anything to do with food these days. Since my last post which was some weeks ago last December, I have struggled to lose weight, going up a few pounds, going down a few pounds.

Nothing too dramatic; I put it all down to winter and the great greyness we are experiencing at the moment. I enjoy all the rib sticking, carb-laden and warming foods that make these days bearable so its not surprising that weight loss has come to a grinding stop.

I enjoy reading recipes but find myself being drawn to the glorious heavyweight casseroles, creamy, butter enhanced mashed vegetables, one pot roasts and heart warming classic puddings.

In those rare moments of clarity, usually at 7.30 in the morning whilst sipping a welcome morning cup of tea, I vow to be sensible and good that day. Drink plenty of fluids, eat carefully prepared low calorie meals and keep off the snacks unless they are part of the daily plan. By lunchtime I am doing well but after lunch the way is definitely downhill as I plan and prepare the evening meal. The weather outside is grey, damp and cold and I have just made some fresh bread. The house is filled with the glorious smell and my thoughts turn to stews with dumplings, partridge and guinea fowl casseroles, black pudding stuffed chicken breasts with crisp roast potatoes or a glorious, silky buttery mash and all the wonderful foods that are so satisfying that also brighten the day.

While I set the table I battle with the decision to have only a small plate, not a full sized dinner plate. Then carefully balancing the low alcohol G&T, feeling saintly, I fill in my daily meal planner on my phone, then the LSO calls from the utility room to ask if I would like wine with the meal. I hear a titter from the little devil sitting on my shoulder as with hardly a pause I reply ‘yes that would be lovely!’

Oh dear, well tomorrow is another day although we of a certain age, know that tomorrow never comes.

But I will not be beaten. I will stick to a small portion and a small plate, just no second helpings. Anyway, tonight is pan fried plaice with new potatoes and peas, that should work.

Tempus Fugit.

To say time flies is an understatement. As I get older it is speeding up and the more I pack into my day the faster it goes. Just to throw in a useful bit of information; the expression comes from book 3 of Virgil’s Georgics, (a ‘georgic’ for those interested, is a book dealing with agriculture or rural topics) where it appears as ‘fugit inreparabile tempus’ which translated as: ‘it escapes, irretrievable time’.

How immensely true that is, we cannot have back what has gone!

It’s a while since I posted and that is partly due to the disastrous meeting with the AP at the Care Home. It was a gloriously sunny day so we were able to meet outside which we felt was a bonus but we were wrong. She had just eaten her lunch and started moaning from the moment the care assistant wheeled her out. The meal was not good, although she couldn’t remember what it was, the sun was too bright although she was in the shade and there was no proper greeting or interest in anything other than herself and what the AP felt she needed. I was referred to as ‘she’ throughout the 30 minutes and the LSO was greeted with enthusiasm and told it was lovely to see him. The conversation moved swiftly on to how she needed money and why was I handling her affairs anyway when she could do them herself. The LSO gently told her that she was incapable of handling her own affairs and had been for many years. It was all very uncomfortable because she continued to be rude and unpleasant and I felt the old angst rising as a knot inside and knew we needed to depart before something was said that could never be taken back.

So it is a return to the weekly phone call when the AP is positive, almost friendly and reasonably pleasant to talk to, in fact it would appear she herself prefers things this way which is fine by me and far less upsetting.

But back to the speed at which time is passing. I have almost completed my first sunset painting and have decided to do some much smaller images of skies as a project but have sidetracked myself with the complexities of sourdough. Some years ago I attempted to make this wondrous bread but failed miserably producing a large number of doorstops; not for me I decided and went back to normal bread making with yeast. The LSO started making it and had much more success, producing beautiful, well risen and airy boules with the required holes but that all stopped when the AP who was living with us then complained that the bread was too chewy and tough.

Recently I bought Vanessa Kimbell’s ‘Ten Minute Sourdough’ and started from scratch making my own starter and what a joy it has been; success at last. There is something hugely satisfying and zen-like about bread making in general which calms and nurtures the soul.

On the subject of success, my weight loss has continued with a few blips along the way but is much slower than I had hoped. Could that have something to do with the sourdough bread? Indeed I had thought I would have achieved my goal at least by Christmas but I am having to accept that it will be a much longer journey than originally anticipated. I am not letting this get me down but I do need to plan better. I have a tendency to wing it with food; looking in the freezer and fridge in the morning, asking the LSO what he fancies and making snap decisions using what is available. Not perhaps the best way to do things, so now I need to think ahead to get to my first target which will be three stone off and I am a tantalising 5 pounds away from that, then a mere 14 pounds to go afterwards.

Emotional eating.

I had never actually considered the emotional attachment I have to food until recently. I have cooked all my married life, enjoying moments of serious entertaining as well as cooking for family and friends on a more casual basis. I also love eating out and have been fortunate in visiting some exceptional establishments during the last fifty years.

But during these pandemic days I have had time to assess how and why I eat and what triggers certain reactions, such as the need for a G&T or a piece of chocolate. I used to think it was just a habit and I am sure some things are just that but there are definite triggers that have me mindlessly heading towards the cupboard.

I don’t binge eat or drink but I do have an emotional need where food is concerned. I am naturally shy but have learned to control the urge to hide or disappear into the background but how, in heavens name, did I manage to teach 11 to 18 year olds for 35 years! Lockdown has forced me to look at myself which I have found uncomfortable at times. I discovered I have spent years hiding behind the cooking and the social drinking because I could.

I am a good cook and love experimenting but I would never have wanted to be a chef. I would have loved to have been a food critic sampling superb cuisine in fine establishments, in an ideal world of course. Dreaming aside the reality is that I enjoy company and also cooking for people who like eating.

The last sixteen months or so have been such a change in lifestyle that initially I just cooked, baked and ate what the LSO and myself fancied. He put hardly any weight on and I ballooned but he is generally more active that me. So unfair I cried but he just had another beer and smiled enigmatically.

But I am two stone plus lighter and a bit less buddha shaped but need to come off the plateau I have settled on for the past week and address the situation sensibly. Food has always been a refuge for me whether I am preparing it or eating it and I guess it will always be like that so I need to watch portion sizes and find something to do when the 4 pm urge to eat chocolate arrives. Today I am writing this blog as a diversionary tactic. Tomorrow? Well tomorrow is another day, walking the dogs with the LSO could be a good plan.

In fact a daily plan is what I need, I will start that tomorrow.

No horizons.

We have woken up for several days lately surrounded by dense fog and on one particular day it never disappeared at all; it just kept becoming slightly more transparent then rolled back again. Apart from the occasional and refreshing sunny day, it has been cold, damp and grey. A bit like our lives in lockdown really only now we fight the brain fog that threatens to engulf us too. Conversations are punctuated with ‘thingymebobs and thingamajigs’ as we struggle to remember basic words.

When the AP came to live with us neither the LSO or myself expected the sudden change in her personality that caused us so much grief for so long. It was a relief when she finally went into a care home although that situation has its own set of problems and we did, for a short spell have our freedom back but the coronavirus and yet another lockdown have left us marooned in our home again.

I had, during our brief break for freedom, thought about changing the title of this blog. During those five and a half years not only did our horizons shrink but so did our energy levels. The whole situation seemed to suck the very life out of us both and in truth that is happening again now for differernt reasons and it must be the same for many people. So, I guess there is little point in changing the title. These are indeed worrying times and all we can do is take care, be kind to ourselves and others and have hope that the vaccine is eventually effective and we can all get back to some kind of normality.

I haven’t abandoned the weight loss programme; I am eating smaller meals, reducing the alcohol intake and I have stopped baking for a while although we are demolishing the Christmas cake. These little tweeks to our lifestyle seem to be having a positive affect for the time being.

I am now considering heading into the kitchen, in a most positive way of course, to bottle the Crab Apple gin I made two years ago.

Moving forward.

It has been a strange couple of weeks, I am still sorting out the AP’s deferred payment scheme with NCC; I have had one injection in my left eye which was a bit traumatic and I keep wondering if what we are living with now is going to be a permanent situation for us.

The LSO and I are at an age when we have far less in front of us in terms of living but we never dreamt, fifteen years ago, that we would be so very limited in how we would be spending that time. I guess we are luckier than most because we are, touch wood, pretty healthy although there are improvements to be made and we both have creative hobbies to occupy us as well as a fine space around us.

I am really enjoying having my studio space back. I had forgotten how peaceful the space is and how good it is to think creatively. It really does help to clear the mind and put other situations into perspective.

There is much to said for having a desire to create and it doesn’t matter what it is, whether it involves creative cooking, knitting, embroidery, sewing, drawing, painting, print making, collage, pottery, photography, gardening, programming, writing or construction using 3 D materials. The list is endless, in fact anything that adds another dimension to your life and thoughts, can add depth in so many ways and produce a sense of achievement and pleasure.

Everyone is capable of being creative and it isn’t anything to do with the ability to draw. Artists just take their special talents in a different direction as does anyone with a specific ability, creativity is the use of imagination and inventiveness and everyone has that ability tucked away inside themselves. It just needs a bit of encouragement to help it to emerge.

Never worry what others think either, this is something that you do for yourself. Its a lesson in life that takes courage to pursue but worth every minute of the effort.

What went wrong?

I am experiencing a dreadful feeling of sadness and it has come over me quite suddenly. I think it is probably a by-product of the current situation that we find ourselves in although it is definitely not helped by the rantings of the press, the railing against the government by all and sundry, the shocking pictures of violence both here and around the world and the huge selfish attitudes of so many about so many different things, not just the effects and worries that are towed along by Covid-19.

I am, like many, quite shocked by the current news photographs around the world of packed beaches, all night raves, violence and large parties where social distancing is a thing of the past, that is if it ever existed for these people. I read articles where politicians are to blame for everything and that appears to exonerate the actions of the many who appear to have no regard for others or even for themselves and I feel sad, a deep, deep sadness because I wonder what has happened to the world.

The LSO and myself were born just after WW2 into the great greyness which was lightened occasionally by a smattering of bottle green and brown in all its various shades. Men had two suits, one for work and it was often the demob one and one for best which serviced everything from christenings to funerals. The Cooperative Society Dividend went towards winter coats and school shoes and food was still rationed so meals were basic and each day of the week was the same each week. Our diet was healthy enough because we grew a lot of our own vegetables and fruit with the luckier ones being able to afford a greenhouse, those who didn’t have a garden could have an allotment for a few pence a week.

But it truly was a grey world, being in the North East it was wet a great deal of the time and definitely colder than the South but as children we were unaware that things could be different. Men back from the war years were glad to be alive although the physically disabled were in evidence on street corners trying to make a meagre living selling matches and other sundry items. Council houses were nothing to be ashamed of and only the really well off like doctors and lawyers could afford to own their own property. Gardens were maintained to a high standard and people took a pride in what they had, gathering at the Community Hut for regular events such as vegetable and flower competitions, cake shows and women took a huge pride in their jam making. There was even a section for children to display embroidery, simple sewing and my favourite was always the miniature garden on a tray with a mirror for the pond.

We didn’t have much and Christmas presents always featured mostly around things that were needed such as slippers and a dressing gown. An Annual was usually included along with a Cadbury’s selection box and I can remember being envious of my brother getting the Eagle Annual, I loved reading about Dan Dare and the Mekon. The stocking hanging usually over the fireguard, was always a sock of my dad’s with a few nuts and an orange but I didn’t feel deprived or wanted what others had because life was just what it was.

After leaving school I went to Art School and met the LSO, a mere fifty-six years ago and life was fun, the swinging sixties were just that for us and in 1970 we got married. We weren’t idealists but we wanted a better life for our children which in truth they got. I am sure much of what I have written will apply to the majority of people in our age group. I resent the comments made about the grey pound population being a drag on the market, we worked hard all our lives for what we have now and paid all our taxes but the difference between us and our own parents is that we had the opportunity.

So what went wrong? I can only put it down to greed in all its forms and sadly that is a hugely distructive element of human nature. It would appear that the majority of people in powerful positions in this world are the greediest, the more gently intelligent members of the human race are being squashed and shouted down.

The other day during a conversation with our daughter (K) who has just had her 45th birthday I asked if she had had a good day and some lovely presents. She said one of the best presents had come from a neighbour who had scoured the internet to find something that she would really like, it wasn’t expensive, just the right thing and K said that those are the most cherished and appreciated presents because someone had really thought about her as a person.

So true and I did feel that we hadn’t got it all wrong as parents but we just need a zillion more people with that attitude to make the world a better place.

Such strange times.

It does seem that everything is a little out of kilter at the moment even the weather is strange, we are either swelteringly hot or being deluged by rain. It does make me feel a sense of discomfort that I cannot pin down. Perhaps this is the same for everyone and just a result of having been trapped in our homes for so long. We still cannot do much and are being told to continue socially distancing and not to go out too often, avoiding any crowded places so any ideas we may have had to head up to the coast or visit a market town are firmly knocked on the head. Not just because of crowd avoidance but what do we do if nature calls and we need to stop. There is nowhere open, we can’t just nip into a pub or cafe, even shops are loath to open their facilities for the public and if they did would I want to use them?

I’m seriously thinking that the only way to venture out is to purchase a full Harwell protection suit and a portable loo!

I still find myself planning baking days as a diversion to relieve the boredom of being trapped which isn’t helping my weight loss one tiny bit and food is just so comforting as long as it is laden with carbs and fat. Somehow a poached fish or grilled meat, a salad and new potatoes without butter doesn’t have the same impact or satisfaction and certainly not on a regular basis. I guess that’s why the HFLC diet with moderate protein is so good, added fat certainly does have the knack of creating much richer dishes with depth of flavour.

In the meanwhile our neighbour’s delicious potatoes have just come to an end and I was quietly relieved thinking now is the time to seriously look at dieting when the LSO came into the kitchen carrying a bag of newly dug Maris Peer from our other farmer friend who had planted his later. Oh dear, weak-will prevailed and plans have been partially shelved until these are finished. Hopefully by then the first of the plums will be ready and I can divert myself with jam making.

That will certainly guarantee the return of the stifling hot weather.

It’s all about balance.

I mean this in everything. Not that dreadfully boring expression of ‘everything in moderation’ that crops up frequently and is enough to send me looking for the gin bottle and pouring a hefty measure.

But I did discover this wonderful word ‘equilibrioception’ which when I looked it up said ‘a state of being balanced or in equilibrium’. It’s something that our politicians need to get to grips with and understand in order to do their jobs properly and with dignity (an oxymoron perhaps) which is definitely not happening at the moment. I can’t watch the news, listening to those dreadful, back-stabbing, self opinionated, pontificating people who at times become just thoroughly nasty and snide makes me angry. I’ve had enough of all that in my life from the AP. They all need to grow up and get on with what they should be doing and what they are paid to do and stop citing the public as their backing when in fact it’s a tiny fraction of the people who agree with their sanctimonious out-pourings.

But back to balance, the word even looks attractive especially when at the moment it is difficult to find balance in our present situation. I think most people are feeling a little demotivated and are just trying to make the best of their situation. But even in small things achieving equilibrium is possible and in truth a necessity to ensure that our seemingly endless lockdown doesn’t send us all mad.

In order to gain a better sense of balance, I am reducing the alcohol consumption,( no, I’m not falling over), I’m going to drink more water, not bake as much but think more of less carb laden meals. The latter isn’t hugely popular with the LSO or our farmer friend who loves his bi-weekly cake deliveries. I am also planning on sorting my studio out but at the moment it is just too humid and muggy and I’m not a huge fan of hot temperatures and have no desire to rush to the beach to battle sand in the sandwiches and hoardes of noisy families. I’ve never understood the lemming-like behaviour of driving to a crowded place, where you spend more time stuck in the car than at the destination then only to face the same returning home. But I guess everyone to their own: I just need to holiday somewhere chilly!

The LSO has started barbequeing again which is really good news for my diet and I am thinking of different salads to accompany these delights. Small downside though, another farmer friend sells his homegrown new potatoes from his gateway. This is a mere one hundred yards from us and they are delicious, gently steamed and served with a large knob of salted French butter.

Oh well, it’ll be a slow weight loss which according to our Doctor is the best way to do it and who ignores their Doctor’s advice?

A chimera.

A few days ago the LSO and I were sitting outside enjoying a glass of wine and the coolness of the evening air, gazing at the clouds and the shapes they formed in the sky. One particular cloud bore a resemblance to a large ethereal dragon and this made me think of a chimera, a mythical dragon-like creature with the tail ending in the head of a dragon or snake. The appearance of a chimera was considered an ill omen and a sign of natural disasters to come. Can this virus be a natural disaster? It’s certainly cutting a swathe through the world and sadly looks as if could be with us for the foreseeable future.

I cannot imagine what it will be like to socially distance all the time especially with our own family because hugs were always the order of the day and a natural part of our relationships with each other that both the LSO and I miss so much at the moment. But the more I read about this Coronavirus the more obvious it becomes that it will become part of our daily lives.

It has made me think much harder about losing weight because for the past eight weeks I have endeavoured to make our diet as interesting and as comforting as possible which has inevitably meant an increase in baking and an overload of carbs. The time spent preparing and cooking passes the time too which is another negative aspect of endless lockdown for people of our age, boredom. I have really struggled this week with the days, never quite sure when I wake up in the morning just what day it is. The only point of reference is the weekly shopping delivery on a Wednesday. I feel a bit like Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey who asked ‘What is a weekend’ and as for bank holidays, what on earth are they?

But I really do need to lose weight as I am beginning to feel and look like a Toby jug. So what is the answer apart from finding some will power because at the moment there is little to look forward to, just more of the same. It is always easier to diet if there is a goal, that is other than the loss of pounds at a weigh-in and at the moment life is pretty much lacking in that area.

One of the spin-offs from losing over five years of our lives looking after the AP was that we both lost interest in the activities and hobbies that had become part of our retirement. The LSO has done well to start his lino printing up again. I used to draw and paint, not particularly well but I enjoyed it and I am trying to get back to spending time sketching to begin with because my studio has become a storeroom and needs clearing out. Once some slightly cooler weather comes, next week, I must persuade the LSO to give me a hand. I will have to send him in as the advance guard because spiders have taken up residence in there and I have a real horror of these mostly harmless creatures.

So it is a case of watch this space, by the time I write again my studio should be up and running and perhaps the weight-loss will have begun.

Another week, another pound on.

Some things are just inevitable and no matter how much you hope something won’t happen it does and it will. The local practice has put out a letter of warning saying that we have been behind the the rest of the country up until now but finally the village has some cases of Covid-19 appearing in the community.

It was going to arrive but I think we all hoped in our hearts that we might have managed to avoid it. Certainly some of the younger members of the community have been ignoring social distancing probably because they think they are bomb-proof as well as some of the older locals. Inevitably the warm sunshine is difficult to ignore and many have chosen to sit out during the more balmy days on the banks of the river that runs through the village. Sadly it’s understandable but not sensible. It really will be a case of watch this space now.

The village is close knit and there are many extended families. Most of the local people tend to live and work close to where they were born and brought up which I guess is quite common in a farming community. The village community is pretty well divided evenly between locals and newcomers and generally it works. But the village people are sub-divided into the farmers and those who work in other industries many of which have a connection to farming. Very few of the young people move on or go into higher education preferring to just follow in the family footsteps.

This does make them a bit insular and they really do believe it will never happen to them but we now have patches of the virus springing up all over the area. The lovely sunny weather does make this lockdown more difficult to endure for a great many people who have been used to heading for the coast or out to restaurants and pubs at weekends and Bank Holidays. But we just have to hope that common sense rules.

In the meanwhile I am beginning to look like a cross between Worsel Gummidge and the Weebles. My hair is getting longer by the day and the cooking regime is definitely not Keto or low carb with my willpower firmly out the window but I have enjoyed resurrecting recipes I cooked when the children were small such as quiches, cheese scones and the good old Victoria sandwich cake. We even ate homemade scampi in a light, crisp tempura batter the other evening and it was delicious with a side of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and baked in the oven and small new potatoes.

But I know I must get my head around losing some weight so after a very short discussion with the LSO we decided to reduce portion sizes for starters. No sudden moves, its bad enough waking up wondering what day it is without adding to the stress of worrying about what is right to eat. One of the problems with this lockdown is the need to have a focus in the day and for us it is the morning coffee with a slice of cake or a biscuit, a lunch that is not too demanding then the evening meal preceded by a G&T or two for me and a beer or two for the LSO and then wine with the food.

I managed to forget the afternoon cup of tea with a scone or a piece of fruit cake. Oh dear no wonder I am expanding.

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