A Guide to Toast – for Husbands

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A Guide to Toast - for Husband's (colour scale)

It is a vital issue of grave importance.  How do you like your toast done?  I have to admit that I do like my bread ‘lightly toasted’, you know just as a hint of colour but with a toasted crispiness.  Husband, on the other hand, does not believe that bread is toasted unless it is uniformly brown all over.  Brown brown.  Usually accompanied by blackness and a faint whiff of char.  What about you?  Is your household divided too?

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My Perfect Potato

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For some people, the potato is king; it’s there on every single plate of food they eat; ‘oh it’s so versatile, you can do so much with a potato!”  I don’t get it.  Admittedly, I’m a pasta girl myself but the potato never really did anything for me.  After all, it’s just so many variations on boiled, fried or baked, isn’t it?  Potatoes for me are just a vehicle for something else, they’re part of the main event but not a leading role.  At the very least there has to be dressing, dip or sauce.

I do voluntarily eat potatoes these days:I like them sautéed in hash-style dishes, I eat a little creamy potato salad outside of home, I like small, crunchy roast potatoes, I don’t mind potato cakes – preferably with things like fish or beans or vegetables … um … ooh, hash browns.  I like those.  In this country, hash browns are those perfectly formed triangles that the Americans that I’ve met label fast food not proper, home-style, grated hash that any self-respecting family or diner would serve.  And chips.  Do they count as potato?  I like my chips skinny and crispy, fries-style.  Then there’s crisps.  I don’t like the boiled, anaemic mush that’s then been fried; I like my crisps to bear some resemblance to potato.  Ironically.

I hate mash.  It’s the whole texture thing, of course.  It makes me gag.  Yep, so I avoid that.  Then there’s jacket potatoes.  I never liked jacket potatoes as a child, the whole slightly mash-y thing in the middle with a charred, bullet-proof outer layer just never worked for me.  As I’ve got older though they have slowly re-entered my culinary world.  They’re useful; cheap, basic, quick (I’ll explain later) and as I said, a useful vehicle for other things like baked beans or chilli.

But then I fell in love.

It was instant, I was smitten by the first bite and lost forever by the end of a dish.  I don’t usually fall so hard for anything, or anyone.  But it looked good on paper and stayed looking good.  And more importantly, it tasted seriously good.  I was sad when my dinner was finished!  This is just not like me.  I like food, I like photographing my food but, no, I’m not usually infatuated.  I don’t think it’s just a crush either, I think this will be for life.

You see when you read through my previous relationship history with the potato, you’ll notice a reoccurring theme: it’s got to be crispy.  And not too potato-ey on the inside either, thank you.  So when I tell you that this potato is seriously, seriously crispy then you know that it’s for real.

Oh and there’s butter.  Lots of butter.

And hot pepper sauce.

I told you this was a match made in heaven.

Who would have thought that you could actually find love on the internet?!

This is my perfect potato, my new-found love:

Cheese-Topped and Sauced Buffalo Hasselbacks

Did I mention the butter?  There’s lot of melted butter.

Buffalo_Hasselbacks_Seasoned_and_Buttered wm

And did you know that you can mix your favourite (not the one in the recipe but my favourite) hot pepper sauce with melted butter?  (I may need to go to CAPITALS soon because it was soooooo good!).

Anyway, I found the picture here and the recipe is from here.

I followed the instructions pretty much (naturally!) but gave my one potato eight minutes in the microwave and maybe about twenty minutes in the oven at 200 C fan.  (You may be all against microwave-nuking your food, that’s fine, do what works for you; me I’d rather not run the oven for an hour or so if I can help it and I’d rather have tea sooner rather than later!)Buffalo Hasselback Potato with Salad

Then I served it up with leftover salad (that’s the slightly un-photogenic mess around the back of the plate) and fell in love.

Mmm.

I want another one.

PS.  I’m still not sure what makes it ‘buffalo’.  It looked pretty vegetarian to me.  But then apparently buffaloes have wings.  Hm.

PPS.  I really want another one!

FO: The Lunchbox Project

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Sandwich Fillings

The knitting bug really has me smote at the moment.  My physical health is a little better at the moment and I’m just so enjoying being able to do creative things again.  It’s one of the things that I really miss when I’m ill, not being able to express myself or entertain myself.  Being ill gets very boring and frustrating rather too quickly for comfort.  Even when I have the strength to pick up my needles, I end up knitting so slowly and painfully (physically and figuratively) that it just isn’t enjoyable or pleasant.  This time I’ve so ill that I could barely read and when I did get the strength together to finally read a book, it took me hours and hours of very slow reading.  I’m a fast reader and it sucks most when illness takes away the things that identify you most and that you enjoy most.

Anyway.

I’ve been knitting again.  It’s another gift.  Starting school is always an important occasion to mark but it can be hard to do when your little friend lives on the other side of the world.  I often make cakes for local school starters but that doesn’t survive posting very well.

Starting school is all about shoes and new clothes (uniform here, traditionally bought several sizes too big for growing into), sometimes new stationery and books (but not normally for junior school) and the all-important lunchbox.

There’s a lot of choice on the market these days for lunchboxes, even in this country.  When I was little in a small town (English small town not American village) there was pretty much the choice of two lunchboxes.  Only that it wasn’t actually a choice because one was blue and had that famous steam engine on it and the other was pink with those ponies on it.  Funny enough, I had a pink lunchbox.  So did pretty much everyone else.  With names emblazoned in permanent marker, or for the inventive parent, a scraggy strip of masking tape and biro.  Occasionally someone got hold of a lunchbox in a different colour or design.   Those boxes stood out on the lunch table.  But I don’t think that there was any jealousy.  They were made of super tough plastic (and subsequently lasted years), a box with two halves, a slightly suspicious hinge (which is probably why they never lasted longer) and a contrasting colour square handle.  Inside was a matching flask of a density of plastic that was remarkable and best suited for time capsules rather than being lugged around by an infant.  That was lunchboxes back then.

Now they come in a plethora of designs and shapes and colours.  I imagine that even for a four-year old that there are all sorts of subconscious fashion minefields to negotiate when choosing one.  I suppose that is one reason to be grateful for school uniforms.  Non-uniform days were always a nightmare dreaded for weeks in advance by the completely fashion-oblivious overweight frump of myself.  It was easier in Sixth Form, I had developed a little more deliberate awareness of what I wore (having long been the victim of five years out of date pass-ons from cousins who were always three foot taller and skinnier) and for non-uniform days, we wore pigtails or bunches and remnants of our previous uniforms with the loosely knotted ties somewhere by our stomachs.  It was the fashion, one created within the confines of one small school.

But lunchboxes are important.  Well, food is.  Armies, school children and me all march on their stomachs.

So I knew what I’d be making up for this particular school start.

A lunchbox.

Knitted, of course.

But life and me being who we are, things had got a little bit behind so I had to get a rush on.  It seems some countries actually start school halfway through the summer holidays which, first of all, is both confusing and weird and second, not convenient when you’re trying to work out your deadline.

How Do You Make a Swiss Roll?

Push him down a mountain.

(Yes, highly PC in this day and age).

I decided to start with something easy to get me started.  This pattern was deliciously simple but so effective.  If you’re just learning to knit, I recommend making one of these up.

There are probably all sorts of rules in place as regards the healthy contents of a child’s lunchbox these days but what is the first day of school without cake?  You have to have cake in a lunchbox.  Just a little one.  Sometimes.  It’s got to better than crisps, surely? (Besides, I can’t knit crisps).

Chocolate Swiss Roll

I Can’t Make Sandwiches

It’s true, I can’t.  It’s one of those truly English concepts that have just bypassed me, I’m game to cook from exotic cultures the world over but I cannot master English.  My cooked breakfast (other than being vegetarian) usually features non-English staples such as halloumi, roasted peppers and waffles.   My husband’s mini-roast may have meat and potatoes on the plate but also grilled Mediterranean vegetables.  I’m a fusion specialist, clearly.

I don’t get sandwiches, not English sandwiches.  There’s the sliced bread which the Iberians have appropriately branded ‘bimbo’ and that my father called ‘blotting paper’, it’s great for toast but it’s not great stuff.  Then you need a wafer of cheese or ham or both.  For someone brave and daring, there may also be some pickle (not a gherkin if you’re American) but probably just mayonnaise.  There will be no salad, not even a leaf of iceberg.  But do you know what the worst thing is?  They butter the bread!  I’m serious.  No, English sandwich is complete without a foot deep smearing of margarine.  They don’t even use real butter.  An English sandwich has no depth and has a tell-tale ooze of yellow slime squishing from between the slices.  I don’t get it.

My husband has banned me from making him sandwiches.  My idea of a sandwich is to grab whatever happens to be in the fridge and stick it in.  With no butter.  And plenty of salad.  And plenty of flavour.  I had jalapeño and cream cheese sandwiches at school which is the closest I came to being bland.  In America, I found out that bagel shops think that this is fine and will add avocado too.  Mm.  But apparently pesto is not an acceptable alternative to pickle.

So knitting an English sandwich was something of a challenge.  The husband, who has limited tolerance thresholds when it comes to make-believe, is convinced that my bread is way too thick and plump.  But then he reckoned that the crust round the outside of the bread was the filling.  It got very confusing.  Chocolate spread or fish paste?

Slice of Bread

The bread is made in the pattern from two white sections and then knitting a huge long strip of crust.  I knew that I didn’t have the patience to knit a four stitch scarf and then do all that fiddly sewing.  I hate sewing, have I mentioned?

Instead, I knitted the bread as one section with a strip of crust between then picked up stitches all the way around with a circular needle and knitted the crust from that.  An awful lot less sewing, thank you very much.

Bread Slice Mark 1

Even though it used a lot more yarn, I found that having the ‘crust’ on both edges and therefore folding in double actually made it easier to sew up.  If you get what I mean!

Bread Slice Mark 2

As this was a pattern for an English sandwich there was no salad in it.  I didn’t approve.  I had to make at least some lettuce!  The lettuce is a modified version of the lettuce made for the burger pattern at the beginning of the same pattern book.  The sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the lettuce is technically made from crocodile.  So whilst the ham is probably technically vegetarian, the lettuce isn’t.  Only in my world.

Crocodile Lettuce

It’s definitely a high fibre sandwich and is about as synthetic as an English sandwich.  Although the ham probably has a higher protein content than that found in the supermarket.

Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Oranges and Lemons

Or just a satsuma.  A classic piece of fruit for a child’s lunchbox.  I’ve made an orange before from a different pattern set and borrowed a technique from that to give the satsuma appropriate texture, simply turn the knitting inside out and use the reverse (or ‘wrong’) side!

Satsuma

Bananas in Pyjamas

Well, if not pyjamas, then a very natty peel-able skin.  I just love that!  Isn’t that cool?  I had to master sewing (ugh!) in a zip which I’ve never done before in my knitting but it was definitely worth it.

Banana with Peelable Skin

Like the orange, I have knitted bananas before.  There was one from the fruit set I knitted a while back and the really fiddly silly little bits one for the monkey.  The banana from the fruit set had a few stitches put in it to give it the curve and this was the only downside with this particular pattern, the banana was totally straight!  I don’t eat bananas (husband says that (apparently) I have put the zip at the wrong end and that you open them from the other end to mine, but how am I meant to know?!) but I do know that they curve.  I had a little light bulb moment.

Do you remember that moose I made?  Well his antlers were held up and shaped by pipe cleaners.  (Technically, one, cut in half).  I still had some.  They’re the modern type of pipe cleaner, slightly floppy and furry but not as reliable as the old white cotton caterpillar ones that I remember.  I had to twist two together to get enough rigidity for the banana.  I put them in the middle of the fruit and stuffed around them.  The banana curves.

Pipecleaners for Stiffness

Banana

Improvising

For the items above I was working from patterns which is a lot easier.  However, there is something very important that you need in a lunchbox that I didn’t have a pattern for.  A drink.  You’ve got to have a drink.  Even camels like me take one in our lunchboxes.

I had to improvise.  I made up a piece of knitting that when folded made a carton shape the same size as a sponge scrubber (clean but the same was what I use for washing up, stripped of the scratchy pad).  I then made up a wee circle of garter stitch (remember what I said about orange texture?) which I borrowed from a flower pattern to sew on and then it was all downhill after that, I had to sew.  I cannot sew.  I had to embroider.  I really cannot embroider.

Orange Juice Carton Front

I robbed a straw from a real wee drinks carton and sewed it on the back.

Orange Juice Carton BackBut there was still something missing from the lunchbox, it felt like I’d missed out on something important.

Yoghurt.

All children have a yoghurt in their lunchbox.  I don’t why, maybe it’s some unwritten Law.  I don’t like fruit yoghurt.  And I have never seen a pattern for a yoghurt pot.

It was time to improvise.  Again.

The pot was knitted in the round on DPNs.  (That’s the good thing about learning a new skill, you will always end up using it again).  I knitted a strawberry to sew on, I’m sure what I based it on, perhaps the same flower centre but misshaped.

Strawberry Yoghurt Pot

Then I had a snag.  How do you knit a yoghurt pot lid?

 I did my best.  I went for seed stitch.  (Or moss?)  I remembered to work a line of decreases for that little snap corner.  But it came out a little bit big.  I didn’t mind.  It was just about big enough for me to embroider the word ‘yoghurt’ wonkily across it.  But it was rather big on the pot.  Way beyond the husband’s imagination threshold.  I didn’t have plan B so it was going to have to do.

Yoghurt Pot Lid

I will never be a designer.  Nor should I be allowed to be.

But I finished the lunchbox up, adding some cute little hair ties and posted it off.

Lunchbox Project

I wonder what little one will make of it.

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Flapjacks for Al and Sunshine

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The other day I made pink porridge.  That probably didn’t surprise any of you.  Strange things happen on this blog.

Al made a suggestion.

I thought ‘ooh’.

So I made pink flapjacks.

Plate of Pink Flapjacks with White Chocolate Drizzle

Pink Flapjacks

(They are not photogenic.  My husband won’t touch them.  They’re too soft.  (Normally he complains that mine aren’t soft enough).  I think they’re addictive.  Everyone else ate them.  Cheerfully.  No one died.  (Except Husband for rude comments)).

Again this is just oats and frozen fruits.  Chuck them both in a pan and add a splash of juice.  (I used orange because that’s what I had).  I also added some vanilla sugar for flavour rather than sweetness.  Heat until the fruit defrosts and it all blends together.  Dollop in a generous quantity of honey.  Mix.  Pour onto a lined baking tray (or roasting tin)and spread out fairly evenly.  I put it  in a fan oven for twenty minutes at 180.  After thirty minutes, I took them out.  Simple!

It’s supposed to be a white chocolate drizzle on top but unfortunately in my uncoordinated hands, it became a white chocolate splodge.  I would have blended it with a little yoghurt to make it smoother and easier to squeeze out (good quality food bag with a corner snipped off) but I didn’t have any.

It’s been a scorching hot weekend here.  (I had to put the flapjacks in the fridge to set the drizzle!)

So that leads me to the next subject:  sunshine.

Somehow The Sweaty Knitter (go there if you want to investigate the name) decided that little ole rambling me should be awarded the Sunshine Blogger Award.

‘The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogging world’.

I’m a rambling pessimist who blogs on a variety of ‘cheerful’ subjects such as chronic illness and mental health.

Are you as confused as me?!

Anyway, a huge thank you to The Sweaty Knitter.  Because however sad you may claim it to be, oh you boring mature types, I rather like getting blog awards.  There’s something nice about recognition.  There’s a feeling of belonging too.

These are the questions:

  1. What is your favourite colour?
  2. What is your favourite animal?
  3. What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink?
  4. Do you prefer Facebook or Twitter?
  5. What’s your passion?
  6. What’s your favourite pattern?
  7. Do you prefer giving or receiving presents?
  8. What’s your favourite number?
  9. What is your favourite day of the week?
  10. What is your favourite flower?

These are my answers:

  1. Purple
  2. Manky
  3. Iced tea or ginger and lemongrass cordial but I am happy with water
  4. I may twitter all day but I don’t think my face is worthy of a book
  5. Fairness
  6. You’ll have to check on Ravelry!  But I love symmetry and simple things.
  7. Giving
  8. Sixty Six
  9. The one that goes best
  10. Daisies and gerberas

Now I have to negotiate the minefield that is nominating (awarding) other blogs and I will give you a quick list:

Coming East

The CVillean

Doodlemum

The Jester Queen

The Kitchen’s Garden

The Laughing Housewife

No Poster Girl

Thanks for reading again.  I hope that there’s sunshine and flapjacks in your lives too.

 

 

 

Five Images of a Perfect Summer

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Mama’s Losin’ It

When this week’s Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop prompt asked us to describe our perfect summer, I have to say that I stumbled.  It’s the word ‘perfect’ that I have the biggest problem with; I know that perfection isn’t possible.  If it’s not possible, why even bother to aspire for it?  And Life being what it is at the moment, well, most days are just about surviving.  It also made me think of Trifecta’s normal prompt this week.  Normal seems to be something that other people are perfect at.  Perfect summers exist in that elusive normal world which is just one semi-detached house, manicured lawn and fancy car away from our own world.  My world, that is, even if I can’t speak for yours.

But I miss summer.  Summer is something that I’ve never quite been on the easiest of terms with.  Summer was something that just happened, a convenient name for the long divide between two terms of school, a hanging around and waiting for the world to start again.  In most of the recent years, the summer weather has fallen in April and while July and August can be warm, they’re always grey or wet.  Not exactly inspiring weather conditions.  Then, these last few years, we haven’t had transport.  We can’t go for days out in the countryside or pop to the beach whenever the sun comes out from behind a cloud.  It feels a little like we’re missing out on summer.

Slowly, I realised that perhaps I do hold a stereotype of the perfect summer, it’s somewhat disillusioning because I know it can never be attained, I’ll never be able to get all of these variables under control at once.  It’s a dream, a fantasy.  The perfect summer will always stay in that perfect world where normal people apparently live.  Because in the real world there is always work or family commitments that don’t allow you to skip off and enjoy the one day of summer that may suddenly appear, there are financial pressures and a complete lack of a summer wardrobe and all the billion and one little stresses and worries which don’t really leave even if the sun does come out.

Here is my perfect summer:

The Weather

In this perfect summer of mine, I won’t settle for the odd sunny day and warm weather.  Oh no, I want a whole season of summer.  A reliable period of warmth and sunshine where you can actually get used to the concept before the clouds appear again.  And the raindrops.  I want a holiday brochure perfect blue sky, warm but not too hot.  And for the sake of the farmers, I don’t even mind if it rains overnight occasionally.  It can be a beautiful start to a day, the freshness of a sweet summer shower, dewdrops on the grass, a faint mist over the streams.  But I want the sun to burn on through and clear it out of the way.  Every day.  Oh, and no humidity either.  Neither my body nor my hair can do humidity.  And beautiful, crisp sunsets late in the evening.

The Place

In this perfect summer of mine, the weather will be gorgeous so that means that there is only one place to be: the beach.  There will be a beautiful beach with warm, soft yellow sand and gentle blue-green waves lapping at the shore.  The water will warm enough for swimming and splashing.  I’d like some green countryside to walk in too, somewhere to seek the shade during the middle of the day, gentle hills of fields or some other agricultural delight, olive groves or vineyards if I really push the boat out and my perfect summer transports me to some exotic destination, like a Greek island.  Perhaps some interesting, little historic places to wander around because even in a perfect world, I doubt my attention span will take sitting on a beach doing nothing day in, day out.  Whitewashed villages, old forts, a decent museum or two.  I love architecture.  But near the coast always, a soft seaside breeze to gently waft through the streets.  Some restaurants and a good market will also make this the perfect place.

The Look

In this perfect summer of mine, I will not be my usual ungainly self wrapped in more layers than a parcel at a children’s game, I will have a perfect summer wardrobe of soft floaty cotton blouses, long skirts and even a nice sundress or two.  I will not worry about showing my arms and I will not persistently remain an albino shade of milk bottle.  It does sound a little vain but in that perfect, apparently normal, world, everyone looks nice.  They have perfect hair and skin and they have the right clothes.  In that perfect summer, I will suddenly fit in my own skin and be able to concentrate on enjoying what’s around me.

The People

In this perfect summer of mine, there will only be friendly, happy people.  Good weather does this people generally.  I will be surrounded by friends, perhaps those friends who I haven’t seen for ages and miss so much.  It’ll be about catching up and sharing memories and experiences.  We will laugh and chat away the evenings into the dark of night.

The Food

In my perfect summer of mine, there will be plenty of good, fresh food.  I don’t mind cooking in this perfect world if I have a good kitchen, good food and good friends to share it with.  There will be plenty of ice cream, eaten in cones with it dribbling down the hand in the heat, and watermelon.  There will cocktails and long drinks.  There will be bags of fresh fruit warm from the market, strawberries and cherries.  We will eat in restaurants when we feel like it because in this perfect world there are no money pressures, no boring places with  limited menus of just fish’n’chips or steak.  There will be long lunches with salads and so much talk that people almost forget to eat, sitting under the shade on a veranda or patio.

In this perfect summer of mine.

I miss summer.  I miss dreaming.

Holiday Beach

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Release

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Release has obviously always been the plan.  I may sound like a bad bird-parent but release would mean having my sitting room back, a clean sitting room where I would be able to sit and knit or work on the computer without dodging poop and being pecked at (and that would also mean that you would get to see more photos).  Release from the constant focus and commitment of being a bird-parent.  I have a lot of respect for you child-parents who are signed up for at least eighteen years of this.  (Although, hopefully your babies will master the art of bowel control one day).

Release.

Release is about letting go, the moving on from a particular episode.  Do you know what?  I don’t think that there will be release after all.  Manky will always be with us, in our hearts and in our memories.  And I am not the kind of parent who doesn’t worry.  I worry.  A lot.

Even when (and it’s looking more like a when rather than an if) Manky goes, I will worry for her (or he/it).  I’m that kind of person.  It’s why release is not an overly joyous occasion.  It might be the mark of success that she goes free but what happens after that?  Survival is a different matter.  And not an easy one.  And this Manky-bird of ours has a track record.  It’s not a good one.  (I’ll tell you about some of her hairy escapades another day but you all already know that she’s something of a miraculous survivor anyway).  No, release is bittersweet.

I suppose it’s an issue for all parents, whether of children or of birds.  How long can you protect them for?  How long do you keep intervening to keep them safe?  When Manky goes free, she could be caught by a cat within an hour.  It isn’t a pleasant thought but it’s a reality.  (Husband says it isn’t nature because cats aren’t natural, especially not the ones round here).  Have we failed her if that happens?

But is it fair to keep a wee wild blue tit in a sitting room for the rest of her life?  Is that fair or natural?  (To any of us).  No, there comes a time when even Manky-birds must face the world alone, to take their chances.  However hard or harsh that may be.

We turned our balcony into an aviary last week with plastic mesh that’s usually used over plants to keep birds out.  We also plugged up the hole to the drain pipe.  (It’s best not to give Manky too many chances).  It took two days to tempt and tease her out, we’d get her on to a shoulder, a hand or a head and slowly shuffle out of the door.  We’d shuffle out with her on us but then she’d realise what the game was and dart back inside to safety, clinging to the curtain and looking out with big eyes at the world beyond.  You would have thought that there was a force field in place where that door used to be.  She’d fly towards the door of her own accord then ping back off the empty space.  Crazy bird.

It’s obviously not curiosity that’s killing this bird.

But she got there, starting with swift darts out then back in to the safety of her sitting room then spending more and more time out there, investigating the tomato plants and peeling mastic off the window trims which are waiting to go back up.  There’s a lot of things out there for a Manky-bird to peck.

Yesterday she was out and could hear the neighbours below talking so she started chatting to them like she does us then got frightfully indignant when they didn’t answer her.  She also likes to sunbathe in a hanging flower-pot, wings spread out, belly in the dirt, soaking up the sun.

Her confidence has grown.  We sometimes don’t shut the (inside) sitting room door fully because we know she likes to hear us and has never tried to get through the gap into the hall.  (She’ll sit on the fish tank, staring through the gap and will us to come to her but no more).  The other day husband was sitting in the bedroom (well, we have been relegated from the sitting room) when this bird suddenly darted through the door!  He had a hard time persuading her to go back out the window on to the balcony.  She wouldn’t let him catch her either (which kind of bodes well).  This morning Manky rose with the dawn (she’s always been a bit of a layabout, I was up before her the other day) and was chirruping to the seagulls.  She didn’t pay us any attention until we started getting up and having breakfast.  Then she put in her own requests.  We told her to wait, as we always do.  Before we knew quite what had happened, a little blue tit had squeezed in through the gap in the barely open windows (it’s been a real scorcher) and was scowling at us from the curtain pole.

We put her food outside yesterday too.  She still has a cube (well, actually these ones are bottle-shaped technically) of baby food daily.  Beef stroganoff, her favourite, it’s the one with the highest protein count (and that isn’t brilliantly high, an adult macaroni cheese ready meal, worryingly, has more protein in) and it isn’t chicken.  There’s something wrong about feeding chicken to a blue tit.  Very wrong.

She likes her food and water high up.  She doesn’t come down to ground anymore.  It’s all good things.

Her little feet are perfectly made for perching and climbing, she can scale brick walls quite happily and has a funny little habit of hanging upside down on the washing line.

This afternoon we took down the net.  Eventually she took a couple of flights out into the big wide world.

Manky’s free.  Manky’s fledged.

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A Spoonful of Medicine

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A Spoonful of Medicine

Well, it seems that a spoonful of medicine makes the world go down a whole lot better.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of pill popping.  I’m one of those proud, stubborn creatures who would rather endure something than surrender to a drug ((wo)man up as the Americans apparently say and take the pain is my view, especially if the alternative is needle-pointed).  Besides then what would I do if it got worse once I’ve given up and taken something?  Exactly.  And if it’s just about to get better than it really wasn’t worth being a sissy and taking something anyway.

I know.

I’m stubborn.  And the jury is still out as to whether that’s a good or bad thing.

I’ve had to rethink my attitude towards medicine lately.

Firstly, there’s the matter of ‘supplements’, which as far as I’m concerned is medicine with a small m, it’s fairly natural stuff after all.  A lot of the American ME patients take supplements and the Hummingbird Foundation presents quite a lot of evidence in favour of supplementing in chronic illness.  Like good teeth, taking vitamin pills is something that the Americans are much more au fait with.  The grin and bear your lot, stiff upper lip and all that school of thought isn’t so keen.  Besides, surely if you can eat a good enough diet then what’s the need?

I hate to break it to you all but there’s less and less good in even the healthiest aspects of our modern diet.  In 1940 McCane and Widdowson published their first study into the nutritional content of food.  In 1991 when the fifth study was published, a scientist chap compared the findings between that latest study and the original 1940 one.  It’s not good news.  Whilst we associate boring, unattractive vegetables with the 1940s, they seem to have been much healthier in terms of nutritional value than our modern superfoods (with a price tag to match).  For example, the humble spud had 30% more magnesium, 35% more calcium, 45% more iron and 47% more copper back then.  Scared?

(Actually, I’ve just checked for you.  Potato still outranks blueberry on minerals and vitamins, except Vitamin K.  I’d keep playing top trumps with the groceries but I’m a little tired).

There are also two other factors involved in this supplementing decision, both involving that simple aphorism to ‘just eat a good diet’.  (I’m getting a little suspicious of any phrase that’s preceded by ‘just’).  I can’t afford to.  It’s embarrassing to admit that.  Fruit and vegetables are luxuries on my budget, as are proteins.  They’re all essential but expensive.  I get what I can reduced.  Then there is my health.  It takes a great deal of ingenuity to make our very limited budget tasty (or just plain edible) and ingenuity requires energy.  I don’t have it.  Some days I don’t have the energy to even make plain, boring, simple pasta with commercial sauce.  I don’t have the energy to prepare fruits and vegetables.  Isn’t that shocking?  It drives me mad, I find it embarrassing and shameful.  But that’s the truth.  It isn’t easy to ‘just eat a good diet’.  Not for me.

But the problem with supplements is the cost.  To start a whole new regimen is a serious investment.  A relative kindly helped me out and I’m slowly starting to take some supplements as recommended on the Budget Plan, I’m introducing a new one every two weeks to minimise reactions (and to work out what I’m reacting to).  I can’t say for sure whether they’re helping me, my health is so variable that I’d have to live a day with and without in parallel to tell the difference and that isn’t apparently possible.  Fortunately, actually.  Because I’d just be seriously confused.  And having to live each day twice is got to be too much energy.  And stress.

The ladies in the vitamin shop (it’s one of those chain shops rather than a proper health food shop, I’m afraid) were astoundingly helpful.  I don’t make a lot of sense at the best of times and I kind of make for an awkward customer sometimes.  I found it very amusing that in the end, the closest multivitamin combo to the Plan was the Senior.  Yep, my body has OAP needs.  Great.  I’m also glad that one of them warned me about the um, consequences of taking B vitamins because otherwise I would have freaked.  (You can do your own research there).

So I’m a pill popper now.

My new doctor (I may tell you all about that another day) recommended that I take a Medicine (with a capital M) for the pain.  I was sceptical.  unsurprisingly.  But it seems that I’m secretly a sucker for magic bullets after all so I acquiesced.  They’re tiny tablets unlike most of the vitamin pills and taste of Refreshers.  I’m quite happy to take those.  I took it for a couple of days then realised that there was something odd happening.  It was really weird.  I didn’t know what it was.  I spent two days wondering what on earth was wrong with me.  Then I clicked.  I wasn’t hurting.

I’ve had serious chronic pain for months.  I can’t remember when I last didn’t.  Last year?  On a good day, I’m a 6 or a 7.  On the chronic scale, acute pain has a different scale.  8 is bad.  Very bad.  9 is screaming out loud and giving in to painkillers.  The painkillers don’t really touch it.  There is no 10.  10 is a nightmare not yet discovered.  It could always get worse after all.

My pain is 5 and below.  I’m going to have to rediscover all the different lower stages again.  I don’t remember them.  I still have some pain when I do more physically, the odd specific symptom with pain but I’m not hurting all over constantly.

It’s weird.  Seriously weird.

But I think I could get used to it.

So I’m a pill popper now.

As I was taking all these pills already, I decided that I really needed to get back to my happy pills.  You know what I mean.  Only mine is technically liquid not pills.  I am really struggling, there’s a lot of stress and stuff going on again in my life and well, my chemicals don’t usually work in my favour anyway.  I hadn’t been taking it again because the birds stole my syringe (well, maybe not technically) and then I was on antibiotics for my second tooth (or un-tooth seeing as it had been ripped out) that stated no alcohol.  (What is it about medicines that say ‘no alcohol’ that suddenly make you want to have a drink?!)  They were really nasty antibiotics anyway.  But the liquid has alcohol in (don’t get your hopes up, it’s not worth counting unless you’re already puking on another medicine and it tastes totally vile besides).  So I had to wait.

Once all these barriers had been sorted, there was still the psychological to cross.  One, I don’t like to take medicines.  (That was the original theme of this post, if you vaguely remember).  Two, it tastes so vile that I cannot actually bring myself to make myself take it.  It is the kind of thing that an evil doctor or parent would ram in your gob for you.  You don’t do it to yourself.  Yuck.  It makes my toes cringe.

So I did it.  I took another Medicine with a capital M.

Admittedly, it doesn’t taste quite so bad when served up in a dosing syringe because it kind of hits the back of throat immediately rather than sits in your mouth as you reluctantly suck it off the spoon.  (Toes cringing at memory).

I’ve been using an online mood testing thing which sounds a bit of a gimmick but I thought I’d give it a try.  It’s been interesting, I thought my mood was fairly constant (albeit low) but apparently not.  And when I thought I was having a bad day, I scored my highest score (22%).  Crazy.

So I took one dose of the happy pills (in liquid form) and by the following afternoon I was feeling really weird.  Properly weird.  I couldn’t place what the matter was with me.  I don’t normally feel like that at all.  By late bedtime (my circadian rhythm is up the creek again partying with the grasshoppers), I had this gut feeling that I should retest my mood.  I hit 47%.  (I’d been averaging 11% for most of the week before).  Woah.  No wonder I felt weird.

So I’m a pill popper now.

In liquid form.

It’s amazing what a spoonful of medicine can do.  It certainly makes the world go down a little better.

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