Monday, November 26, 2007

Pulses and pigs

What are pulses? They're the seeds of plants from the legume family: so chiefly beans, lentils and peas. The ones in this picture are mung beans (the green ones) with whole grains of wheat and radish seeds, which I've been sprouting on kitchen paper to go in our salads.

Mum used to sprout seeds - chiefly lentils, I think - when I was little and I'd forgotten how much I like them - they have a sort of fresh earthy taste (that sounds really enticing... but I can't think of a better description). You can add them raw to salads in small quantities, or stir-fry them.

There's info here on what you can sprout and ways to do it, but I just put damp kitchen-roll on a plate, rinsed the seeds and spread them out, put it inside a clear polythene bag near a window. I removed the bag once the sprouts had got going (about three days) and that seemed to work well. Apparently if you want your mung beans to turn into Chinese-style beansprouts you need to put a ripening banana in with them! I think that's the oddest gardening tip I've ever heard...

Sprouts, however, are small beer. This week's big news: we have guinea pigs!

Pleased but not proud

J finished building the Piggy Palace last week, and we are now the proud owners of three female nine-week-old guinea pigs.

Three sisters

This is an awfully dark photo, but as you can see, we've got one smooth-coated white one with a beige nose, one dark brown crested one and one ginger crested one. I would tell you their names, but we've yet to make the final decision.

They are, however, exceptionally cute and already making their distinctive personalities felt. The white one is extremely docile and cuddly, the ginger one is a bit skittish and bouncy, and the brown one is also bouncy, but quite bold and whistles extremely loudly!

J's quite pleased with them.

J and the babies

I start my new job tomorrow. Wish me luck. I may need it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Who lives in a fridge like this?

OK, nobody actually lives in our fridge. Or I hope not.

There's a competition going on over at I Ate a Pie, and all the cool people, such as Dietgirl, are entering. So I have leapt on the bandwagon.

We inherited the fridge from the previous owners of our house. As we didn't own any appliances, we thought this was pretty handy, and rather generous. Then when we painted the kitchen, we pulled it out of the very tight space it was in... to reveal a gaping hole in the plasterboard wall. I think we might maybe fix that properly before we come to sell the house.

We have just gone to the shops today - specifically, Lidl - which is why the fridge is so full. It does not actually lean to the right, however full it is. (If you really want, you can click on the pictures for big versions.)

Top shelf: lots and lots of lovely protein. To the left, we have some eggs and four big tubs of Linessa (Lidl own brand) low-fat fromage frais, which the husband eats for breakfast in industrial quantities. It's very nice, but I hardly eat it for some reason (maybe because it's probably quite sugary). Two pots of Hartley's fruit jelly, which is mine - they're only around 70cal each, and satisfy my sweet tooth. Five tubs of Linessa cottage cheese, which I tend to eat on its own for lunch - one tub is about the right quantity. A collection of live yoghurts (plain for me, vanilla for J) which also get eaten at breakfast. And orange juice, which is J's.

(As a semi-professional eco-worrier, I stress quite a bit over the number of empty plastic pots this small household generates. We recycle almost everything, but we haven't found anywhere that will take yoghurt/cottage cheese/fromage frais pots, and so they make up most of what we throw out. Any ideas? I've tried planting seedlings in them, but I don't need THAT many flowerpots.)

Middle shelf: Flora Light margarine, with mushrooms on top in the blue plastic thing. Bread (wholemeal sliced loaf), cherry tomatoes, and cheese (mild cheddar). It's just normal full-fat cheese. I have decided that we don't eat enough of it to make it worth getting the low-fat stuff. Next to those are some leeks, and the end of a loaf of multigrain bread baked at home from a bag of mix. It's got wholegrain wheatflour, rye flour, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds (and I added some more flaxseeds myself) and makes delicious bread without much trouble. Only trouble is, I've been trying to eat less bread... well, the slices are smaller than normal bread... There's also a bowl with the remains of some homemade vegetable soup. I keep leftover broccoli stalks and odds and ends of vegetables in the freezer and make some every so often.

Under that, we have a bag of potatoes, a giant sweet potato (yum!), some broccoli and the box in which J keeps his sandwich ham.

The crispers are stuffed to the gunwales with vegetables, because we eat a lot of those. I've noticed lately that I can't really be bothered eating apples (and so forth) - I'd rather get my daily dose from vegetables than fruit, unless it's fruit I really like. But all the fruits I really like are either expensive and unseasonal (berries, nectarines), or a bother (pineapple, pomegranates). So veg it is. We do buy fruit but J eats almost all of it.

The left-hand drawer usually has salad and the right has things you cook, but this depends what we can cram in. There's definitely Cos lettuce, spring onions (J's latest enthusiasm), celery, various-coloured peppers, cucumber and more cherry tomatoes on the left. And a courgette. On the right, carrots, red onions, a cauliflower, and a cabbage (and there are more onions further back, and half an aubergine).

The door! This is the repository for all sorts of strange things that I never normally look at. So we've got lemon juice, tomato purée, mango chutney (Marks and Spencer's, no less), two kinds of mustard, light mayonnaise, pickled onions, low-sugar apricot jam, sweetcorn relish, rasperry jam, two bottles of wine, mineral water, pineapple juice, and skimmed milk. I don't think I've personally used any of it but the milk and the mayonnaise, and maybe the mustard. And some parmesan cheese you can't see. The fizzy wine's been there quite a while, waiting on a sufficiently special occasion - I think it wins the prize for what's been there longest. We have a fairly regular turnover of stuff, and since there's just two of us, we don't tend to cook in quantities that leave leftovers.

Oh. There's also half a block of butter and some cream cheese for making cream cheese icing. I bought those, because I do the baking around here. I also (let's be honest) eat it. But it's like the cheese: you pick what you're going to be super-healthy about. As you can see, the baking-related items are practically the only "unhealthy" things. I don't bake very often - it's a treat thing - and so far, I have not got experimental enough to try some of the tricks for making healthier cakes, such as substituting apple purée for the butter. Maybe that's something to try in future.

It surprises me how often J and I don't eat the same things. Not so strange, given that I'm vegetarian and he isn't. But apart from the vegetables, almost everything in here belongs to one of us specifically. J never eats my jelly or cottage cheese; I never drink his juice or eat his pickles. Maybe all couples are like this.

Although we do keep some things (tins, dry foods) in a cupboard, I did not edit the fridge in any way. J has some beer, but being English he keeps it at room temperature. In the downstairs loo. Yes, I think that's a bit odd too, but he claims it's the perfect temperature and they're safe from being knocked over...

And that's the end of the tour!

Friday, November 16, 2007

8 random things

I have been tagged for a meme by Loth! (Why are you called Loth, by the way? Is it short for something?)

Don't think I've actually ever been tagged by anyone before, although I have answered many "I'm not going to tag anyone but if anybody wants to do it..." memes. I have done this one before on LJ, but I shall try to come up with a different eight.

1. I am very good at wiggling my ears. I can also make rhythmic clicking noises with them at will. This is a medical mystery, but definitely has something to do with childhood ear infections.

2. I am simultaneously very low-maintenance and quite vain. I can never be bothered with any beauty routines that go beyond keeping clean and presentable, hardly ever wear makeup, and spend most of my life in jeans and T-shirts. Yet I have a great many clothes and shoes and quite a lot of makeup, and am rather prone to thinking that I have to own certain items in case I ever need them. And I spend far too much time angsting over my ten grey hairs, even though it's highly unlikely that I would dye them.

3. It's possible that I read too much Victorian literature in my youth, actually, because I have this deep-down feeling that my skin "ought" to be good enough not to need any makeup (and my hair ought to look nice in its natural state, too). I only ever apply this thinking to myself, though. I suppose that I want to look good, but I want people to think it's effortless. In fact, I want it to BE effortless (see above).

4. I am very, very squeamish. I rather despise this tendency, but there's not a thing I can do about it. If someone starts talking about something vaguely surgical, I actually feel sick and weak in the legs and need to sit down. The last time this happened was last week, reading an article in the paper about new ways to treat varicose veins. It wasn't even that graphic.

5. I have a ridiculously good long-term memory, and a terrible short-term one. I will forget a phone number between page and phone, but remember everything anyone ever said to me. ("Your bum looks like it's made of wobbly jelly" - 1992.) I remember the good stuff, too, though, and a lot from my early childhood - the time when I was five, for example, and we were on holiday in Ibiza. It was my first foreign holiday, and one night Mum and Dad took L and me out to a café AFTER DARK, and we had strawberries and whipped cream with sparklers stuck in them, and "cold chocolate" (which I suppose was just chocolate milk, but I remember it as being delicious).

6. I used to seriously dislike my name when I was little. It's not that uncommon in Scotland, but there are a lot of variants which are equally common, and often teachers (and so forth) wouldn't remember it quite right. Which was annoying. These days I don't mind it at all... but then people usually get it right.

7. I am only good at cooking if I'm not hungry, or if someone else has to eat it too. If it's just me, convenience and nutrition will win out over deliciousness every time. (Lunch today was plain cottage cheese and a big handful of sprouted pulses.) On the other hand, I enjoy baking, but then I don't do that when I'm hungry, and no meals rest on the outcome.

8. I always have warm hands. J almost always has very cold hands that need warming up. A match made in heaven.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Waiting for things to start

My new job starts in two weeks exactly (yes, on a Tuesday). I have a feeling rather like being on hold on the telephone: I'm waiting impatiently for something to happen, and yet fear that when it does happen, I will be slightly startled by it because I'll have stopped paying attention and gone off into a dream...

As regards the feet: again, waiting. I can't "go get" the orthotic inserts because (according to my brother, who is a medical student) it will probably be a few months before I have an appointment to get my feet looked at. Everyone is supposed to be "dealt with" within 18 weeks on the NHS, but apparently that might just mean that I get a letter telling me when the appointment is. (As you can tell, I've never had to see a specialist about anything, or not for the past 15 years or so, so this comes as a surprise. It really shouldn't, considering what J's experiences have been.)

I'm not terribly impressed, but since I've been failing to notice there was a problem for the past 28 years... I suppose it's not that big a deal.

Question, though: will the orthotics affect the way my shoes fit? And if so, do I wait to buy new winter boots* until after I get them, or will there be no winter left to wear them in by then?

My brother says his orthotics don't affect the fit of his shoes at all; my sister says hers do.

In other non-feet news: yesterday, the scales said 185 (+1 since last week). Grump. However, this was a week which involved going out for an evening meal twice and to the pub once, so grumping is entirely unmerited. Also, J and my sister said, independently, that I was looking "skinny", and my sister thought I was thinner than at the wedding.

That isn't true, by about five pounds, but it demonstrates nicely how subjective body-image is. Because I was feeling distinctly lumpy all weekend (although one pound's fluctuation isn't likely to affect the degree of lumpiness to any visible extent) and then, after she said that, I felt perfectly fine.

Back in the summer, I decided that I wanted to make my bike my major means of transport. And then, when I'd proved I would get value out of it, buy a new one. But I didn't really go anywhere much in August or the early part of September... so I didn't ride the existing bike much. I'm doing better on this now: I've ridden it into town quite a few times and over to my parents' house a couple of times, which is about six miles each way. It's not a massive distance, but does include a fairly big hill on the way out. Which is good, because you get to coast for the last part on the way back. It doesn't actually seem that far any more.

As for NaNo... the less said, the better. I either have plenty of time, or I really, really don't. I don't think I'll be a winner this year, somehow.

*I like these ones, but they're... quite a financial commitment. So if I get them, they had better fit properly!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Mundane ailments

This is just a quickie, as I'm very busy this week... and also doing NaNoWriMo.

I've been having some trouble with my feet lately. The residual pain from the toe-stubbing incident is now gone, but it took about two months to disappear completely, and in the meantime I've been walking rather than running, and finding that my feet really hurt after a longish walk - more than I would expect them to, and it still seems to happen no matter how sensible and supportive my shoes. And they also hurt when I get out of bed in the morning: it feels as though all the bones have decompressed overnight, and it hurts to compress them again!

None of which is great news for exercising, especially as I really want to get back into running now. A few days ago, I idly looked around on Wikipedia and came to the conclusion that I might have flat feet. It probably would have taken me ages to get around to going to the doctor, except that I managed to do something weird to my big toe. I thought it was probably just a muscle strain, but it was so painful it actually kept me awake on Wednesday night, so I thought I might as well get it looked at and ask about my feet in general.

Conclusion: yup, muscular strain, take ibuprofen and wait for it to get better - but I do have flat feet. So the doctor's referring me to get them looked at, and I'll probably get orthotics (surgery is possible, but unlikely). I'm also to get an orthopaedic check-up, since I'm hypermobile, which increases the likelihood of joint problems as a knock-on effect. Both my siblings have had these, but I've been lucky so far.

Actually, the flat-feet thing shouldn't have taken me this long to work out, because my brother's got them too, and my feet have always been slightly ache-prone, especially when I've been walking a lot. I can see that my arches are pretty low, and I've always had trouble with new trainers not being comfortable - it always feels as though the arch-support is too high. I tend to get blisters in the inner arch, too (and I get more blisters than the average person, anyway).

One sign is a tendency for your shoes to wear down more on the outer edge, and mine certainly do that!

I'm hoping that once I have the orthotics, I will no longer be held back in my running by my feet hurting. That's definitely been the case - they'd blister or hurt long before I was physically exhausted - and I'm kind of kicking myself that I just put it down to not being fit enough yet. Which I mostly did.

I was slightly afraid that the doctor was going to say "Well, your feet wouldn't hurt if you weren't overweight, so nyah." But of course he didn't (and, you know, my feet weren't this hurt-prone when I was heavier - it doesn't seem to be directly connected).

Talking of weight: still at 184 as of this Monday.