Memories and reflections

This week has been one of memories. I have been clearing out things in the house and came across old photos which sparked so many wonderful memories of travels and family events. The new photo above was taken at an incredible place my mother and I rented in Mashpee in Cape Cod. It was the first time I had ever seen snow on a beach. It was truly beautiful. It was the first time I heard the weather forecasters get it absolutely right, when they said it was going to start snowing at 2:15pm, it did!!

After all the trauma with my car which needed more repairs which were just astronomical to fix, I had no choice but to trade it in and buy a new one. Yippee!! The huge benefit to a new car is that it comes with a 3 year warranty. I cannot tell you what that has done for my state of mind. It is such a pleasure to now know that when I drive anywhere, I don’t have that clench of fear in my stomach that the car will break down yet again.

The festive season was really quiet only spending Christmas Day with my brother and sister-in-law. They came to me for lunch where I cooked my first Vegan Christmas meal which included the traditional nut roast, but made in a silicon Bundt pan, also made a cashew creamy potato gratin, a mushroom stuffing, chantenay carrots, beans, with a mushroom gravy and ending with a nice brownie cake topped with banana nice cream. As they are both still meat eaters, they brought some beef and turkey to add to their meal. It was probably not my most successful meal, but at least I know what not to do for this year!!

Like everyone else living in the UK, we are experiencing Lock Down 3.0 which has come with its own set of problems. I am finding this time much more difficult particularly being motivated to get back down to work after two weeks off over the holiday season. Although the one bright spot has to be the approval of the various Covid vaccines here in the UK. My Dad who is 82 and his lovely partner have both been given their first dose which is such a relief. I am quite far down on the list, but with any luck, I should have mine by the summer.

My sense of self seems to have shrunk. I listen to Chris Evans in the morning and his show is always filled with lots of interesting people sharing their ideas of mindfulness and practical ideas on how to cope with life at the moment. I do find it really inspirational but can’t seem to put these ideas into practice in my own life.

I also seem to have plateaued with my weight loss although I haven’t put on any, I haven’t lost either. I think this is also adding to my lack of self esteem at the moment. I am sure there are lots of people round the globe feeling exactly the same way, but when it’s happening to you, its really hard to get out of the “blue funk”.

I don’t believe in New Years resolutions, so this year I am going to aim to try something new each month. First on my list it to buy a book called “Tiny Habits” by BJ Fogg and try and put a lot of what he suggests into practice.

The first thing I have done is actually write a To-Do list. Hopefully over the next few months, I will actually be able to tick some of those off instead of making excuses for not doing any of them. Tiny Habits lead to major milestones.

Wherever you are, I hope you are living your best life and just know that if you are suffering depression or loneliness, you are not alone and there is always help available. Stay strong, stay safe and remember that there is a light at the end of all of this and we all will come out on the other side.

Some Good and Some Bad….

So what do I have to write about this month. I feel like I have been mired in all things negative. I have had so many problems with my car, that it has drained me both mentally and physically and I can’t seem to focus on anything other than that.

Not having a reliable car whilst dealing with a second national lock down has really put a strain on my mental health and I have had many bouts of crying and just feeling incredibly sorry for myself

I do have to keep reminding myself that there are lots of positive things happening as well. I still have a good job, I can work from home, I have people who love and care about me. But possibly the best news of all is that the house now has a brand spanking new boiler. No more smell of oil which is a HUGE plus!

I have thankfully not fallen off the eating wagon and have made some great new dishes.

I have spoilt myself with a new waffle maker which I generally use on a weekend as a treat. Although the waffles are not that decadent as they are only made with 1 cup of oats, 1 cup of milk and 1 medium ripe banana, all mixed in the blender and cooked for about 10 mins. I do top it with about 1 tablespoon of maple syrup which is so worth it.

I have also made some more wonderful lasagne using eggplant as pasta with lots of mushrooms and other vegetables. The basic recipe was inspired by The Whole Food Plant Based Cooking Show

Another one of my new favourite recipes, is the lentil stuffed butternut squash inspired by Nisha at Rainbowplantlife which she made as part of her epic Thanksgiving meal.

The other thing I have done for the first time, is make my own oat milk. Its not too bad and certainly much cheaper than buying cartons of it.  I have seen a YouTube vide on a fantastic Nut Milk maker, but I would have to rob a bank to be able to afford it. One day maybe, but then again my kitchen is so tiny I would have nowhere to put any more kitchen gadgets.

Someone asked me the other day about what I eat and is there anything I miss. To be honest, I don’t miss all that much. Sometimes I miss the convenience of cheese to either have on a sandwich or grate on food.  I think cooking for Christmas will be something different and I might have to eat some things that do have salt and oil in them. I am going to start planning and researching now so I am prepared. Not sure how the rest of the family will cope, but hopefully we will all at least be together.

Of course, the huge benefit to all of this has been the weight loss of just on 30 pounds now which I am still a little astounded about. I can really feel the difference around my waist and on my legs. I have been trying to exercise a lot more and my living room has become my home gym. I find it a lot more motivating seeing my treadmill every day and being able to watch TV at the same time. It also helps that I am not having any other people visiting so don’t have to put it away every time.

I hope everyone has seen “The Undoing” which is a fantastic piece of drama. David E. Kelly really knows how to draw you in and Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant are superb. I have always been a huge Sci-Fi fan, and The Mandalorian is one of the best out there. I also watch and enjoy Star Trek Discovery, but its just not in the same league. Jon Favreau is a genius.

I am really glad that lock-down is almost over so that I can hopefully enjoy my birthday later this week and maybe even see someone other than service people to enjoy it with.

Stay safe wherever you are and whatever tiers you may be in.

October update

I feel like this week should be like going to confession. Blog, it’s been 3 weeks since my last update ….

So, what has happened in the last 3 weeks I hear you ask. Well like most people living alone and working from home during a global pandemic, nothing overly exciting. Life just carries on and the days and weeks seem to merge into each other.

I had to take my car in for its annual service and MOT and had to be at the garage by 8.00am. I hadn’t been up that early since lock down. It was a real shock to the system. Then to top it off, it was raining and I had to wander round until my car was sorted. It was my first time going into a local coffee shop and having to sign in with the new Track and Trace App. I suppose its better to be safe and careful.

The day was not a complete waste as I managed to get my hair trimmed especially around the ears. My hair doesn’t really have any style at the moment as its still growing back after I shaved it off in July to raise money for Macmillan Cancer. I did notice yesterday that it appears to have a lot more grey in it, then again, at least its growing.

This photo was taken when I first had my head shaved.

I did also splash out and buy myself a new Vitamix Blender. They are not cheap and this one was probably at the bottom of the range, but it’s a lot better than the cheap one I had. It makes grinding nuts and making sauces so much easier.

My friend Alison came for a visit and I made some wonderful lasagne with inspiration taken from Jill Dalton at the Whole Food Plant Based Cooking Show. I didn’t have enough zucchini, so used some eggplant and filled it with lots of mushrooms, onions and other veg I had in the fridge (I forgot the kale), topped with the white sauce and some nutty parm. It was delicious.

I also made a “frozen” cheesecake dessert made with nuts and frozen bananas with a warm blueberry sauce taken from Nadiya Bakes. It was Ok but not one I would do again.

With this new way of life, all I seem to think about is food. I watch a lot of cooking shows and often find inspiration and ideas on how to amend recipes to fit my new lifestyle.  Today’s lunch was tomato soup made with tinned tomatoes, leeks, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes thinned down with some water and then blended.

The only other actual recipe I have tried recently were some Carrot cake muffins. They were OK on the day, but actually much better in the days since. I need to experiment some more.

The main excitement revolved around the Sky Engineer coming round to install my new Sky Q system with my new Smart TV. It’s taken a bit of getting used to the new system but the best thing was including Netflix. So much to catch up on. I have been binge watching Star Trek Discovery and Lucifer. Both out of this world!!

The best thing about all of this is now being able to watch TV in bed which is something I have never been able to do. Thanks to my very understanding brother who came and mounted the TV in my room, I can now envision lots of duvet days during the winter, under the covers with my electric blanket on.

I have also had an electricity Smart Meter installed. Its been quite interesting to see which items use the most electricity. Using the kettle and my small heater at the same time, sends the meter into the red. Not surprising, the tumble dryer today was in the red. I hope it means my monthly costs are not going to increase.

The most interesting and quite scary thing I have watched this week, is the talk Chef AJ did with Dr. Wes Youngberg about his work with Alzheimer’s Disease and how sugar affects it, as well as how Vitamin D can help with Covid. Watch it here. It is truly worth watching.

One of the things I have been doing during lockdown is reading. I love crime novels and have read and re-read all 50 of JD Robb’s In Death series. Its set in the future and features a tough New York Detective, Eve Dallas with her fabulously rich Irish husband Roarke and a cast of fascinating characters including cops, doctors, reporters and even a singing sensation.

Another thing I work on in my spare time, is my family genealogy which I collate using a family history software programme and various online resources. I get passionate about it some weeks and fully immerse myself in the history and then have to put it aside especially as some days it feels like I am working all day and night on my laptop. I have made some fascinating discoveries particularly about my South African family, but that is for another post.

I also need to focus on eating properly again. I seem to have eaten lots of bread, rice and past as well as more nuts recently. Although I have not put on any weight, I certainly haven’t lost any. It has made me realise that there are consequences for the things I put into my body. I also feel like I have a slight cold with the sniffles combined with a headache which has me feeling rather run down. I have been taking my echinacea drops, but I think I may need to visit the health shop to get some more vitamins.

This week’s challenge is to sort out the things I am taking to the local tip on Saturday. I had to book the slot so really need to get my head in gear and do it now. It will also make me feel like I have actually achieved something.

As my friend Anita regularly tells me, all small steps lead to change. Here is to a successful week ahead with lots of small steps.

Have a good week everyone ….

First milestone achieved

The last 2 weeks have not been monumental, but I have enjoyed a couple of lovely outings. 

The first was to visit a friend in Glastonbury who has recently adopted 2 beautiful fur babies named Artemis and Apollo. It was such a lovely day for a long drive through the English countryside. We really do live in a beautiful part of the country. We were going to have lunch out, but the town was buzzing with sooo many people. We finally chose a lovely vegan restaurant that did take out which we ate back at the house. I had never tried vegan halloumi before, but it was delicious in a wrap with lots of other wonderful things. It was deep fried but it was so worth it. Thanks Alison for the great company and giving me the chance to get away from my own four walls and see other people. 

I also had another date with the Grand Prix with my Dad and for afternoon tea made the most delicious Chocolate Peanut Oat Bars – slightly amended from Natalie Jo’s recipe – https://nataliejo.co/chocolate-almond-butter-oatmeal-bars/

Don’t they look scrumptious !!

Work is obviously constant at the moment with still working from home while trying to keep myself busy and sane.  Thinking about food is definitely helping and I am finding inspiration from lots of different sources. I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver to make a vegan version of his Balinese Chicken curry.

I love watching cooking shows and have recently become engrossed in Masterchef Australia. Oh my word. I am constantly blown away at the creations those chefs come up with on the spur of the moment. I am pretty confident in the kitchen, but don’t have that kind of open mind or knowledge. Just fantastic. 

Sunday was another lovely out day visiting with a good friend, with my first actual meal in a restaurant since lock down. You obviously have to wear a mask into the venue, but then take them off when you eat. Its all a little weird but I suppose our new normal. 

Now the BIG news – my milestone this week is that I have hit a certain number weight wise (I’m still a little ashamed to publicly say what that is) and I have also now lost just over 20 pounds since the beginning of May since I really started following a WFPB way of life. I am thrilled. I didn’t start this journey to lose weight, that has just been an incredible side benefit. Most of all, I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything. So that has to be a good thing.

I have an exciting week planned. I have ordered a new TV and upgraded to Sky Q. Should be fun trying out all these new things. Will let you know how it goes…

Chinese inspiration

This past week has not been a particularly eventful one. So what I have done with all my time over the last 7 days?

Work has been the same, although one of people I work with, was just walking along with her husband and they got by a cyclist. Not only that, but the person was drunk. How does that work?? The couple were both hurt, thankfully not seriously, but oh my gosh, it could have been so much worse.

I know lots of people say vegan food has got to be boring and not tasty, but I am determined to try new things. With that in mind, I went shopping at a local Chinese wholesale market on Saturday and came home with some fantastic ingredients and lots of new ideas.

Sunday was a rather productive day. I managed to do some laundry which got hung up on the line outside in the sun. I even did some gardening including mowing the lawn with the help of my dad, before sitting down to watch the very controversial Italian Grand Prix, followed by the T20 cricket.

The star of the whole day was the fantastic sweet and sour meal I made. I added to the recipe I found at www.plantbasedrecipe.com by adding some water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and grilled tofu. All in all, a real success and one I will absolutely make again.

I have always loved Chinese food and was very fortunate to visit China a few years ago. There were so many places we saw and experienced. Below are just some of the hundreds of photos I took which I am sure more people would recognize :).

A view of a small selection of Great Wall of China
One of the tombs discovered of the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, China
And of course, one of the cutest looking animals on the planet.

Another week

A start of another week after a very boring long weekend. After not feeling very well last week and with not eating nearly enough fruit and vegetables or hardly doing any exercise, I was feeling really lethargic. But I have almost reached my first real milestone weight wise – which is an added benefit.

I am now sort of back on track even after making some delicious oat and raisin cookies from Natalie Jo – https://nataliejo.co/oil-free-oatmeal-raisin-cookies-vegan-gf/. I forgot to take some photos but will for my next challenge.

I have also been inspired to make a bean casserole. More to follow ….