Food, glorious food

I do not know how food bloggers do it. Its not like I want to be one, I mean it just isn’t the main aim of this blog, but I do like recording some of the meals I particularly like and want to revisit.  The problem is that I am usually several bites in before I realise I have not taken any photos of either the process OR the end result.  Not that I would have had time had I remembered.  Usually food prep is a noisy and busy affair. I am not alone in a pristine white washed studio apartment with dappled sunlight streaming through the windows. Ok sometimes the sun is kinda pretty in the late afternoon. But the comparison ends there. Our kitchen is small by many people’s standards.  And I am usually fending children off with elbows and knees as I slice and dice (the veggies) screaming NO YOU CAN’T HAVE A YOGHURT DINNER IS ALMOST READY and WHY WOULD I LET YOU GO TO THE SHOP FOR A SODA WHEN HAS THAT EVER HAPPENED WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME THESE QUESTIONS? for the umpteenth time. Added to which I am just a regular person with regular mix and match kitchen stuff, we seem to be incapable of holding onto matching sets in this house. Its practically a trademark at this point.  We buy 6 identical plates and in no time we are down to 4 so then they get mixed up with the others and glasses. Oh my god glasses. 

Years and years ago when we were two young lovebirds in a lovenest we played a game of Mr and Mrs with some friends. For those who don’t know its that game where you play in couples and you both have to answer the same without conferring.  By the way if there are cracks in your relationship DON’T play this game. Trust me.  One of the questions was how many glasses do you have in your house.  We both said 9. NINE.  How did we know there were nine? Because we knew there were two small ones like this and a white glass like that and three of the fat tumblers.. Our friends were kind of appalled. In a nice way but still. So you get the idea. Things have not changed much in the intervening years. Kitchenware rates high as eye candy for me but when it comes to how I need to allocate the spending it simply doesn’t get a look-in. 

Woah to the detour. The point I was trying to make was that making dinner JUST doesn’t feel like a photo op kinda moment. And photos seem important.   Its like proof  that I know what I am doing. Which, lets be clear, I don’t. My cooking skills are middling at best. I like cooking and I can follow a recipe but I am not much of an improviser and I can tend to get into food ruts. Which is why I want to record the odd meal, so I can once in a while look back and go ‘oh yeeeaaaa we loved that, lets do it’. It may also inspire me to liven it up a bit around here. Though I know very little about it I am guessing its not the done thing to just post the same spag bol recipe once a week? Right? So I need pics. Why do we need pics? I don’t know but  I have to admit if someone says they cooked an amazing meal I am all ‘pic or it didn’t happen’. I mean on here. Not in real life. That would be more than weird. In real life I go mmmm and oooh and wow that sounds amazing send me the recipe. On the web you have to PROVE it.  I am not sure why but There it is.   I don’t make the rules.  Example:

This evening I made my favourite lentil salad. It is hands down THE best lentil salad ever. In fact it is actually called that. I got it from a blog and now I will have to go and find which one so credit can be given where credit is due. You can woo people with this salad. It is a total assault on the senses.  It has onion and lentils and about 10 spices and you can add rucula and feta and it is THE. BEST. 

Without the pic you are like. Yeah, great, that sounds nice for you. With a couple of pics you are like Oooh okaayyy maybe I will give it a whirl. And it breaks up the waffle lets call a spoon a spoon.  

So. New challenge. Photograph my food. At least sometimes. And with no more than one bite already eaten. I will try.  


Post surgery update: 1 month on

Current mood: bummed

So I was going to write this last week as I hit the 4 week post surgery mark and if I had you would have seen the wound healing well.  Well I didn’t and a few hours after seeing my surgeon for my check up it started looking red: 

(Bruising on the right from injections which have thankfully now finished)

Wound still looking a bit scabby but not too much and you can see it looking a wee bit red. How crazy that I STILL have the flange mark?!  I totally did not expect that to linger so long but it is fading, just really slowly.  Now it looks like this:

Owwwww! And it hurts! The problem is coming from a couple of stitches that haven’t dissolved, I can see them. My neighbour and friend is a nurse so yesterday I asked her to try and pull them out and she did but there is obviously still a knot because they wouldn’t come. They did however break a bit so now I can’t see them. 

I have been given antibiotics and the GP told me to wait til they reappear and then go to the hospital to have them removed. Seems a bit silly to wait seeing as I KNOW they are right there. Why wait for them to flare up again down the road just get them out!! Totally bummed that what was shaping up to be a small and tidy scar might be affected if they have to dig around for those fiddly bits of stitches. 

Bummed. And annoyed. 

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. 

My Dad

Was strong, tall, dark and handsome. He had long wavy hair that curled down past his ears and a tickly beard. 

Laughed a lot, loved being a clown, tickling us, playing tricks on us

Worked away a lot.  I missed him so much my heart hurt. 

Wrote me letters and postcards when he was away ( I still have them all).

Loved music and always had it playing when he was at home. Pink Floyd; wish you were here. 

Took me to the fair and bought me a plastic bow and arrow. Flying around on the small aeroplanes, watching him whizz past. 

Played rough and tumbles, play wrestling and tickling. Climbing on his back, riding around like a horse and bucking us off. 

Played in the water, diving down under the water holding tight to his shoulders. Climbing up his back and standing on his shoulders and jumping off, standing tall in the palms of his hands as he pushed them up up and away I flew. 

Showed me how to dive. Showed me how to dive backwards. Again, again and again. 

Played a trick on my mum and little sister one night when we went out for dinner. Told them it was past midnight and we laughed and laughed as they got practically naked in the elevator on the way back to the apartment in the rush to get to bed.  

Made us sunday morning breakfast almost every week he was home. Pancakes (thin for mum, thick for him), and all the english breakfast essentials.  

Always woke up before everyone else, showered and looking fresh whatever time we stumbled downstairs. 

Took my mum a cup of tea in bed, every day. 

Was loud and American and different from the other Dads. Cooler. Not to me, please! But to my friends. 

Made amazing barbecues, all kinds of meat, salads. 

Loved cooking in all forms, a mean spaghetti bolognaise, a mouth watering curry. Hours in the kitchen chop chopping and leaving it all spotless behind him. 

Taught me how to wiggle my ears, whistle through my teeth, tongue twisters; how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, red lorry yellow lorry. 

Told jokes and teased mercilessly.

Tucked me into bed.  One night, when I was probably too old to be tucked in, they both came clattering up the stairs to my shouts TUCK ME INNNNN and tucked me in so tight I couldn’t move, all of us laughing. 

Arm wrestling, thumb wars, slappy hands, bar tricks passed on from friends and workmates. 

After dinner conversations that lingered for what felt like hours, card games, poker played with toothpicks instead of coins, Risk and Cluedo (sore loser). 

Weekend movie nights, trip to Blockbuster, two movies, popcorn (he loved the aur popped stuff so much he would go to the cinema just to get it and bring it home) and sweets and pizza and Haagen Daz (such luxury!). 

These memories and a million more. Laughter. Happiness. Joy. Fun. Love. 

Saturday morning musings

I am sitting in bed, cup of coffee in hand, Birdie at my feet. Outside perpetual lapping of water in the swimming pool and birds chirruping away as they go about their day.  Kids are downstairs. Up at the crack of dawn OF COURSE because they had a friend to stay over.  They have a whole schedule planned and it meant they had to be up at 0700. They are taking their fun very seriously.  I am just breathing a sigh of relief to see them all happily preparing muesli for breakfast. Usually I get roped into pancakes or smoothies and I was already formulating plans of french toast, aka the cheater’s pancake.  H was up and out for a run at 0600 so should be back soon, it is so hot now by 0900 that it’s the only way to get morning exercise done.  AKA Time to blog!

I am feeling a bit down lately. I think it is mostly my weight. My normal resting weight is around 65/66 kgs. Since I have been in less than top form this dropped initially to around 60 and then settled at about 63. 63-65 is my golden weight. What I weighed when I was skinny and lithe, 25, free and single and having the time of my life. 62 and I start to look a bit too skinny, 66 and up and I start to feel a bit flabby. Lets get something straight: I am not flabby. I am untoned, I seriously need to get in physical shape but I KNOW I am not fat. And yet. AND YET. It drives me mad that there is that little whisper in the back of most women’s minds that obsesses so much about those stupid little numbers.  I KNOW that when I was skinny it was because I was ill. I KNOW that putting weight on means my body is recovering. But in the last few months I have been able to eat freely (admittedly I naturally wanted to eat much less than normal) and not put on a gram. This is NOT the story of my life.  Maintaining a certain weight or shape has always meant strict control of snacking and junk food and good amounts of exercise. If I slack off the effects are immediate.   I have been slightly overweight only a couple of times, and then only by a few kilos; once at the end of a very unhappy relationship and then naturally after both pregnancies. My unease with my weight centres usually on 2 or 3 kilos this way or that way. 

2. Or. 3. Kilos. It is NOTHING. I KNOW in the scheme of things it is an irrelevant amount.  I know that last year when I was in the throws of the BBG I was in great shape and looking good and the scale did not move at all. I did not lose a pound. And I didn’t care.  because I felt strong and healthy.  It drives me absolutely nuts that I know all of this sensible, logical information to be true and yet it can still niggle and gnaw away at me. 

Right now I am just fearful that the numbers will keep going up. I got out of hospital at 63kgs three weeks ago and since then the scale has just gone up, and up and up. Very small amounts, 1kg a week, but steady, and without any discernable changes to my diet, that is what is bothering me.  What if it keeps going up? Why is it going up when I am not eating more? I have been googling like mad and can’t find any stories really about gaining weight after an ileostomy reversal.  If anything the norm seems to be to lose. 

I am only at 66kgs now. If it stays here thats okay but I cant help but worry I am going to start piling it on for no reason. I haven’t had a period for a year. I am currently in medical menopause. At 38. Is it temporary? I don’t know.  Is this part of it? Is my body changing because of this major hormonal shift? If so am I beginning a battle I will have to keep up forever now? I should have a good 10-15 years more to enjoy a hormonally young body. Have I been propelled into my fifties with worries of weakened bones, loss of libido, thinning hair, WEIGHT GAIN etc etc etc?  

I find it hard to explain to H why it all upsets me so much. He says I look the same and I think he is right. I only weight 3kgs more than before. But its that slow rising of the numbers that is freaking me out. It makes me feel a loss of control that I haven’t felt since all of this started.   

I have started hot yoga. Not Bikram yoga, because I am not sure I am ready for that yet, but vinyasa yoga at 40 degrees.  I sweat like I have never sweated in my life, rivers running out of me dripping onto the mat, and it makes me feel amazing. I have only done 4 classes but already there is a slight improvement. A leg a bit straighter here, an arm held more strongly there.  My balance is atrocious. Even the teacher called me out on it. A year of no exercise and muscle wasting chemo will do that to a person. But it is improving, slowly.  Patience, PATIENCE I know, I know. But that has been my watchword all this time and I try so hard and once in a while I feel like a toddler stamping its feet I WANT IT NOW!

I think next week I am going to try the BBG again. In a nutshell you start by doing a low impact exercise (walking, cycling…maybe sweaty yoga??) twice a week and 3 home circuit sessions of 30minutes each. Because these are broken down into 4 x 7 minute circuits which each consist of 15/20 rep exercises, it goes very quickly.  It is really effective and although I have never been any good with home exercise videos this particular plan worked really well for me. No matter how much I don’t want to do it, I just start. Saying ‘today I will just do 1 x 7mim circuit’ then I do one more, and again and again and then I am done. The testimonials are inspiring and they are true. I did the regular progress photos as advised and I am so glad I did because the change was noticeable even when that dratted scale refused to play along.   I may just start with a 7 min circuit and I will probably have to modify some of the plyometric (jumping) exercises but even so just getting daily exercise in, of any form and quantity, can only be a good thing. 

As for diet. I am making small changes. I have tried to do elimination diets in the past and drastic just doesn’t work for me.  It has an entirely contrary effect where by day 5 I am eating everything in sight to shouts of ‘FUCK IT, LIFE IS TOO SHORT’ and I think it is about time I accepted that short sharp shocks are not the way for me.  I really wanted to do the Whole30 or maybe paleo but the heavy reliance on meat just doesn’t sit well with me. I am definitely leaning more to vegetarian/vegan eating as my personal holy grail of healthy eating but I know now that it will not be an overnight change for me. Me, the burger lover. Adorer of bacon, and cured deli meats likes saucisson or fuet, chorizo, salami.  It has been gradual but it is happening and it has not been as hard as I thought it would be.  I am trying not to make hard and fast rules. Maybe one day I will want a burger. More than anything else. So much that nothing else will do. If so, I will have the burger WITH BACON. But for now I am finding that it is easy to avoid cured, processed and red meat. In the process even my consumption of chicken is way down. I am trying to make sure each meal has a healthy vegetable prescence. If that is the same boring green salad THAT IS FINE. I have removed the pressure of feeling like I have to be making exciting and varied vegetarian meals. If I make a salad and I like it and I want to make it every day THAT IS FINE.  Just get those veggies in.   I do the whole gluten debate but am not yet convinced. The arguments for cutting it out are everywhere and I know in some places it is considered the highest of all most high evils. Yet the medical evidence is conflicted at best and at worst totally against the gluten free movement.  I really don’t know what to make of it.  At any rate cutting out bread and pasta is not on the cards for now. Knowing I can’t do all or nothing I need to prioritise and from where I am standing meat seems like the bigger bad to cut out.  The next target is sugar but that is my nemesis. I am a lover of snacks and sweet things and giving up that lovely white stuff is infinitely harder than giving up my bacon butties.  Right now I am at baby steps stage.  I have stopped sugar in my coffee (i only had half a teaspoon so this was easy) and no more sugar laden muesli for breakfast, now it is eggs or porridge with banana and cinnamon.  I walk past bakeries and resist not by saying that is no longer allowed but just saying, not now. Maybe later. Maybe tomorrow. Not now. I still have a couple of biscuits a day, but I don’t have 4. A piece of cake after dinner at a friend’s house but a small one. It is not perfect but I am entirely confident that these tiny little steps will eventually take me where I want to be. 

So. Trying to eat better. Slowly, slowly, one meal at a time.  Trying to do more exercise, one circuit at a time. With patience, always always patience. Playing the long game. I will get there. 

Fish food

We almost always make food ‘from scratch’. In fact here it is very much the norm and I am not even sure there is a set phrase in spanish for ‘from scratch’ as it is largely assumed that is just how you would prepare food. There are ready meal and packet meal options in the supermarkets but far less quantity and variety than in the UK, where there is again much less than in the US.  I remember a trip to Miami a couple of years ago where there was a whole aisle of bread options. I was totally lost and stood there dithering for a good 10 minutes, completely perplexed.  In the UK it would maybe be half an aisle, equally confusing for me, as someone crippled with indecision over the most trivial decisions.  Here you can choose from about 6 different kinds.  Tops. In the supermarket I usually go to there are two sandwich bread options. Brown or White.  Easy.  The same can be said of ready meal / quick package meal options (and everything in fact) – so cooking from basics is just the norm.  HOWEVER.  No one or where is perfect and we all have our quicky dinners to fall back on.  I am talking specifically about Fish Fingers.  Beloved of (almost all) children (almost) everywhere, they were that one thing I could have in the freezer as back up for the days I found myself especially rushed and hassled and without a single original idea in my head for dinner.   Until one day the kids decided they didn´t like them anymore.  and that was that.  Luckily they do still like and eat normal fish so we tend to eat it about once a week.  Anyway this week we decided to have a go at making home made fish fingers and they were a roaring success.

As I am neither a food blogger or a photographer I missed out all the beautiful ´work in progress´ pics that seem pretty much mandatory for a post like this.  Look, I was busy actually preparing my kids food, there was no time for pics.  I will try to be more organised in future.  But you know what these things look like so use your imagination, add an instagram filter to those mental images and sorted.

White fish fillets

Breadcrumbs (about 5 slices? a handful?)

1 egg

zest of 1 lemon

salt, pepper

Heat your oven to 200F.  Prep a baking tray with greaseproof paper.  Whizz up your breadcrumbs in whatever whizzy machine you use.  Don´t try baguette, it doesn´t work.  Maybe that is common knowledge but it was news to me so I am sharing it just in case (you´re welcome).  add salt, pepper, lemon zest and mix it all up.

Grab those fish fillets.  I used white, I think it was hake but I am sure anything would work. I had 4 fillets totally about 500g.   Cut them into approximate goujon type size (See pic).  Roll them about in the egg (you have cracked and beaten it already, right?) then roll them in the breadcrumbs.  Throw them on the baking tray and into the oven.  20 mins later or when golden and yummy looking, take them out.

We ate them with home made fries (what other kind is there?) if you have never made oven chips WHERE ARE YOU FROMM? you just slice up the potato, drown it in a few glugs of olive oil, sprinkle on salt and throw in the oven on HOT HOT HOT for like, 20 mins? Look I SAID I am not a food blogger.  We heat the oven on max setting, throw them in and then when we go OH SHIT THE CHIPS we turn them down to about 200-220 and just keep an eye on them.

To accompany H zapped up some guacamole (1 avocado, juice of 1 lime, about as much onion as looks like what 1 shallot would look like i.e. about a quarter –   we never have shallots to hand – salt.  coriander if you are lucky) and I did some aioli and a salad.

Aioli (basically garlic mayonnaise but H gives me murderous looks when I call it that so sssshhh don´t tell him)

into a receptacle throw:

1 big garlic clove, sliced

1 egg

from a 200ml ish glass of oil add at this point just a good few glugs

whizz with handheld whizzy machine until it all looks combined.  slowly add the rest of the oil until you have quantity/ consistency you want.  I added almost all of it.  At the end add the juice of quarter of a lemon, zap zap zap, and you are done.

Super healthy, super yummy, all homemade natural ingredients and just look at him shoving it in his mouth..

Summer is here..

Its been a busy couple of weeks. Summer is almost on us. We changed to our light spring duvet this week and we are moulting layers of clothes  like crazy.  At this time of year our house and garden really earns its keep. In winter we barely venture onto the patio, the winter sun hardly limping above the buildings opposite for long enough to warm even a small corner of it. So it spends the winter months abandoned in damp shadows.  But now. Now the mid morning sun creeps across the table outside and we eat more days out than in.  The kids can be obliged to sit and ‘relax’ for about half an hour after lunch before their ears prick with the sound of neighbouring kids outside and they rush out the door, their shouts of pleasecanweswimmumpleasepleasethankyou trailing behind them.  On these days it feels like picture perfect family life.   Less of the endless tidying and laundry and other chores, rushing between activities and refereeing fights and more pottering around doing my thing, them outside doing their own thing.  Long afternoons laying on the grass watching them jump in the pool again and again ‘mum watch this one’ ‘mummy mummy watch me, watch me’ and timing races around the water’s edge.   This blissful co-existence, so far from the intense dependancy of the baby years, as beautiful as those years also are, is absolutely my happy place in this parenting journey. 

 I have been taking it easy since the surgery but have had a few good reasons to leave the house as extra-curricular activities start wrapping up and have their end of year celebrations.  Last week we had a father-son football match.  The boys usually play 4 x 10 minute quarters in their league matches but they played 2 x 35 minute halves in this one and I am not sure who was more wrung out at the end, dads or kids!  For the record, the boys won but the Dads took it surprisingly seriously and gave them a good run for their money. 

Then there has been end of course meals and get togethers all the usual events that usher in the end of the school year.  15 days of school left. I always feel excited about school ending for the summer.  It reminds me of being a kid – the promise of sun and sea and fun stretching out before me like an infinite world of possibilities, september a vague notion like promises of ‘when you are older’.  I am excited for summer. I will be complaining about the heat and bored children in no time, like everyone else, but it has been a long, rubbish year, and I was so weak and unwell last summer that I can’t wait to run into the surf with my boys, spend afternoons helping them clambour onto bodyboards or over rocks, afternoon ‘quiet times’ of crafts that create more mess (and stress?) than works of art. 

To which end: today’s outing – first beach day woooo!

In ostomy reversal recovery news the bullethole is slowly healing and everything is going really well. Looks like the flange really stained my skin though as I really would have thought the mark it left would have faded by now (2 weeks later):

Shame they couldn’t site the ostomy just a couple of inches lower and save me laser removal on the little tat I got when I was 18  but I kind of like these two marks, twenty years apart,  right next to each other. The tattoo is small and cheesy but it has always reminded me of who and where I was when I got it and my scar will do the same.   Lets hear it for strong bodies with marks that tell tales of loves lost and battles won!