The Sugar Free Mission Continues

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So far (almost) so good. It is nearly a week since I decided that I would try to cut down on sugar and I have been reasonably good.

With the exception of a meringue nest with tonnes of strawberries and some cream midweek (well, it had fruit in it so it is good for you, right?) I have managed not only not to eat anything sweet, but not to miss it.

Even in work, which is when I am at my worst, I didn’t feel the need to snack. Just as well because I didn’t take anything with me which meant I couldn’t be tempted.

This is definitely a case of mind over matter and although I am sure not every week will be as easy, it is a start. I do intend to have a sloppy cream cake as a treat from time to time, but I am going to try not to reach for biscuits as an easy fix.

Another reason for all of this, is that it is very hard to find something without palm oil in. This frustrates me enormously. Palm oil is extremely bad for the Orang-u-tan, indigenous people who are evicted from their land to make way for palm plantations and for the environment.

The more I think about what I eat, the more I want to move away from refined foods. If I want cake or biscuits, there is no reason why I can’t make it myself and use good quality ingredients like organic eggs and Fairtrade unrefined sugar (which I have been buying for years). Refined foods are said to make us age faster, and by the time you get to my advanced years that is not a good thing at all!

 

 

 

Summer

It would appear that someone has broken summer. Gone is the warm sunny weather,  to be replaced by overcast, cool, soggy, windy days. Hopefully, normal service will soon resumed and we can get back to enjoying outdoor living.

I have been doing a lot of mulling recently and want to make some changes, starting with what I eat.

I can be incredibly lazy when it comes to feeding myself, and part of that is that I just don’t like thinking about food. Eating, I certainly do enjoy as my racing snake physique can attest to, but planning what I am going to buy and cook I could do without. As a result, I rely too heavily on pasta and eat an appallingly low number of vegetables for a vegetarian.

I am also keen on cutting down on the amount of sugar that I consume. Although I do go through phases, I have a tendency to eat too much sweet stuff which is not good for me.

Sugar is in such a lot of things, for instance bread. Luckily, although I don’t eat a huge amount of bread, I usually make my own, so I know exactly how much sugar is in the recipe. Even making a tomato sauce for pasta, there is sometimes a need to add a touch of sugar if the tomatoes are too tart, so living completely without the sweet stuff will be impossible, and in any case I am not going to deny myself a treat from time to time.

My main downfall is that I tend to take something to snack on to work, and the easiest thing to reach for are biscuits, so this is where I will start. Summer is the best time for fruit, so I am going to try to remember to take some into work with me.

Naturally, because I am thinking about cutting down on sugar, I am sitting here craving it. It is far easier to develop a bad habit than it is to break it. We are all different, and have different ways of doing things and I just need to work out the best way of breaking the cycle of reaching for the junk food. I don’t think it is going to be easy.

 

 

 

 

Winding Down

The summer is winding down, although it doesn’t seem to have received the memo. For the last couple of weeks, we have had plenty of lovely sunshine and blue skies with a bit of rain, mainly overnight.

The leaves on the trees are becoming tinged with reds and browns and are falling to the ground, perfect to kick your way through. Nights are drawing in and geese are preparing to fly to wherever it is they go for the winter. I watch them go and wish that I could travel with them.

Winter is not my favourite season, and although we are only just into Autumn, the voices of doom are already saying we are heading for the coldest winter in 50 years. Mind you, someone always says that as soon as Summer is over.

I hate it when the pavements are slippery and seem to spend most of my time on my bottom. I would never have made an ice-skater so difficult do I find it to keep my feet in snow and ice; think Bambi but with less poise, and you will come close.

The one thing I do like though, is lighting the fire and sitting in front of it with a hot drink and a good book. I light scented candles and curl up on the settee to while away a few hours. Bliss.

I need to get a few things sorted on the house before winter arrives with a vengence, starting with the bathroom. It would be nice to have it finished and be able to have a lovely soak in comfort. I can’t decide what colour to paint the walls. I tend to get a colour in mind, and then can’t find it which is helpful. I am limited in terms of colour pallet because I have a blue tiled floor which I don’t intend to change. Thinking cap on.

Pistyll Rhaeadr

llanrhaeadr waterfall

 

Turning off the main street, we drove, past the row of pretty cottages, up the road which would ultimately lead to a dead end. Victorian Villas came and went as the road narrowed and started to climb into the hills.

Through gaps in the trees we could snatch glimpses of the Berwyn Mountains, purple  in the distance. The sun was shining, in a blue sky peppered with fluffy white clouds, intensifying the colours of the countryside.

On we drove, the road becoming steeper, and so narrow in places that it was impossible for two cars to pass. More farms whizzed past as the trees began to thin, unlike the sheep who were everywhere.

We were now up in the Berwyn Mountains, gorgeous in the early summer sun. As the road started to drop, we got our first glimpse of the silvery ribbon running down the face of the rocks. As we got closer, so more of the waterfall came into view.

The road ends in a car park, and as we got out of the car, we could hear the unmistakable thunder of water, although our view was masked by trees. A few yards walk and there was the beautiful Pistyll Rhaeadr, said to be, at 240 ft high, the UK’s tallest single-drop waterfall.

 

Afon Disgynfa

This is a place where myths were born. The land above the falls is called Rhos y Beddau, the “moor of the graves”, where can be found plenty of references the “the old people” and is believed to be the location of Annwn, the Celtic Otherworld, land of the spirit folk.

We used to come here when I was a child, but I doubt I ever really looked at the falls, I was more interested in climbing on the rocks. Half way down the falls there is a stone arch, which you can imagine is a bridge used by the spirit folk. It is a beautiful place, and even when there are hoards of tourists it has an air of peace. I heartily recommend a visit to this enchanting place.

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Families

Funny things, families.

One branch of mine has always been a bit of a mystery, so a number of years ago, I decided to do my family tree. I have a very common surname so it is not the easiest thing to do, especially if you don’t have any information to start with.

When I was a child, I spent a huge amount of time with my paternal Grandfather, a quiet, gentle soul who loved to take me blackberry picking, and tell me stories. He and my grandmother were an odd couple. Where Granddad was sweetness personified, my Grandmother could be fierce and combative with an opinion she was never afraid to voice. When I was small, she had annoyed me so much one day, I walked down the road barefoot in the snow just to spite her.

Granddad and I never had a cross word. I revelled in his company and I remember him telling me to never be afraid to ask questions, advice which I took to heart and  have probably annoyed a huge number of people as a result.

My Grandparents came from very different backgrounds, their relationship crossing the class divide. My grandmother came from a distinctly middle class family. Her father had his own business (although he started with nothing, and was probably not a wealthy man when my grandmother was born) and when he died, he owned two properties, had money in the bank and his business was in two premises.

My grandfather on the other hand came from a working class family. His mother was illiterate and his father an illegitimate Blacksmith Journeyman from Anglesey. The only thing I knew about him was that he was raised by his nain (Welsh grandmother). What came as a complete surprise to me when I asked my grandmother was that he was one of 5 siblings. I had always assumed he was an only child.  This really piqued my curiosity and so I started digging.

There is only so much you can do with an illegitimate Jones, and I have hit brick walls a plenty. Then I came across a grave in which not only was granddad’s grandmother buried, but also his uncle and father. This led me to the date of their deaths.

Today, my great-grandfather’s death certificate arrived, and to my surprise there was an inquest. Now all I have to do is see if I can get hold of the records of the inquest to see what happened.

I do love a good mystery!

 

 

 

Giant Couscous

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salad

As the days grow longer (although they don’t seem to be getting much warmer) I have started to think about eating a bit less stodge and preparing something tasty and healthy instead.

I love chargrilled vegetables, something about that method of cooking really brings out their sweetness, and I love couscous. I looked in the cupboard and the only couscous I could find was a packet of the Giant variety I had bought a little while ago, so put it on to cook.
While it was bubbling away in the pan, I chargrilled a selection of vegetables including mushrooms, red onion and peppers and set them aside.
I love yoghurt based dressings so I put some Greek style yoghurt into a bowl with plenty of chopped coriander, grated garlic, a squeeze of lime juice and chipotle chilli paste and mixed it together. It was a tiny bit thicker than I wanted, so I thinned it with a tiny dash of water. Perfect!
By now the couscous was cooked, so I tasted it. Oh boy! It was horrible. It was like frog spawn, so in the bin it went. Now, I was in a bit of a quandary because the vegetables on their own would not be filling enough. I searched the fridge and found some paneer, that lovely Indian cheese that is a great substitute for Halloumi and which is incredibly easy to make, although this was some I bought. I quickly sliced some and popped it into the chargrill pan.
The vegetables were plopped into a bowl with the paneer and smothered with the garlicky, spicy dressing. Heaven.

 

 

Fidget Part II

The vet visit this morning went well and she was very pleased with his progress.

He didn’t flinch when the dressing was removed and it didn’t look anywhere near as bad as I thought it would (although they removed a couple of his whiskers which I think most unreasonable).

I think that the dressing must have been annoying him because as soon as we arrived home, he was off doing “stuff” that he had not done since before he damaged his eye. He was climbing up the oven, hanging off the back door and generally making a completely nuisance of himself. I could not be more glad.

I can start to take off the cone in a couple of days, and see how he goes. The problem with that is that if he starts picking at his eye I have to try to get it back on again, which will be a difficult task.

He is back to the vets next Friday, for a progress check and all being well, that will be that. She is still bemused about what he did to his eye, and I think we have to accept that he is never likely to tell us. I just hope that this is the last problem he has. Silly sausage!

 

 

Fidget

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I am sitting in bed, very early on a Thursday evening, with a ginger cat on my knee.

That cat in question, Fidget, is feeling very sorry for himself. About 10 days ago, he poked himself in eye with something, and on Monday it went downhill dramatically.

I ran him to the vets who looked suitably horrified and suggested I dash to the Opthalmic Specialist 35 miles away, and dash we did. He took one look at the eye and told me that he could try to save it but it was unlikely that he could, and that if Fidget was his, he would have the eye removed.

So, Tuesday morning, I was on my vets doorstep when they opened, to ask if they could take out the eye. My poor boy!

He is now wearing the “cone of shame” much to his embarrassment. To add insult to injury, the other cats won’t go near him in case he wallops them with the cone, so during the day he has no-one to cuddle with, which is making him unhappy.

My evening duties therefore involve getting into bed very early indeed and making up for a day devoid of cuddles.

Tomorrow, the pressure bandage is removed and I will, for the first time, see the eye without the eye.

I don’t supposes anyone knows where I can get a cat-sized pirate patch?

 

 

Betwixt and Between

I always think this is a funny time of year, a bit like that brief time before dawn when you are just waiting for the daylight. It feels like we are in limbo

The days are lengthening, and there are signs of new life everywhere.  It is daylight until after 6.00 in the evening, blossom is starting to show on the trees and snowdrops and daffodils are  appearing. I know that we are moving towards spring, and yet it seems like time is standing still.

I can’t wait for warmer weather. The layers can be cast off, windows and doors opened and the cats can go and sleep in the plant pots outside. They are shameless sun worshipers and love lolling about in a shaft of sunlight. I wish I had their care free attitude. They eat, they sleep, they loll, they gallop around at a rate of knots and then they sleep. They have a fine life.

The dog is not much better. She eats her body weight in carrots, takes over most of the bed and would go off with anyone in a car. Ingrate!

What they fail to understand (or don’t care about) is that I work pretty much 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year to keep a roof over our heads. It is my choice to work for myself, (with a couple of days a week in an office to make sure the mortgage is covered), but it is not easy. Money is not regular, and it can be difficult to cover the bills, but, and this is huge I have freedom.

I am not very good at taking orders, I don’t enjoy routine and I hate being on the hamster wheel running just to stand still. Being in an office full time feels like I am trying to breathe through a plastic bag, so although I have less money that I have ever had, the positives completely outweigh the negatives. That said, a win on the lottery would be helpful.

 

 

 

Sunshine in the Park

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A beautiful, bright sunny morning found Bracken and me wandering around the park. At least, I was wandering and she was charging around at full pelt. She exhibits such joy to be alive which makes me smile, especially when I consider what she must have been through as a puppy.

She is a rescue, and it took a long time to build her confidence until she was not afraid of people and other dogs. Now she would be happy to go off with anyone she meets and will happily walk in to someone’s house if they are stupid enough to leave the front door open.

The park is beautiful at all times of year, but particularly so in Spring. There are early daffodils peppering the ground, and a carpet of snowdrops under the trees. In a couple of months, the native bluebells will be flowering in a glorious show, scenting the air, a clear indication that we are heading towards warmer weather.

We have finally had a couple of consecutive dry days. I can cope with the cold – just – but the interminable wet weather has been, well interminable. I don’t remember it ever being as wet as it has been for such a prolonged period, and enough is enough. After a few wet days, my front door refuses to open or close without an amount of force so it is rather a delight to be able to get in and out of my house without kicking, thumping and a deal of swearing.

So hopefully we have seen the last of the wet stuff for a while. The days are also getting longer and, you never know I may be able to put away the hot water bottle soon.