Going Vegetarian

Here’s a thing: if you chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, your life will change.

One change I didn’t expect was that I would decide to go vegetarian.  Mavis is trying to do this too. Not in an obsessive way – if I’m served meat at a friend’s or relative’s house, I’ll eat it (with much enjoyment if my recent experience of a vegetarian diet is anything to go by), but I am trying very hard not to eat meat or its by-products, for environmental reasons.

hand globe world help earth illustration diagram planet worship protection protect attention respect awe appreciation recognition admiration handful of

I started by aiming for the Pescatarian option until a conversation with a passionate ocean conservationist put me off the idea. I am still investigating sustainable fish though and will keep you updated.

The challenge is combining vegetarianism with a Slimming World diet. Oh how sad I feel at the prospect, nay the actuality, of low fat cheese, no butter and low fat mayo.

So far I have had meat free sausages – not bad actually but you can’t live on them,  soya mince chilli, again not bad but it has an unpleasant after taste, and  roast dinner with fake steak, yorkshire pud and vege gravy (with added red wine). Mavis left her fake meat but I thought the roast was my most successful attempt to date.

Tonight I planned vegetarian shepherds pie. Earlier in the week I shoved loads of vegetables into the slow cooker as a base for the shepherds pie. Sadly, I made the mistake of adding potatoes. Potatoes, slow cooked for too long take on a nasty steamy flavour. The spuds were my first mistake. My second was to add soya mince – yes, that with the aftertaste. I flung in some soy sauce and decided against topping it with mash, as it already contained those steamy-tasting potatoes. Instead I topped it with Laughing Cow light triangles and 50% fat cheddar and bunged it in the oven for half an hour.  It was horrible! Actually, the topping was lush but if I was doing it again I’d leave out the slow cooked spuds and the mince, add lentils and top with mash.

Lunch has been soup – every day – with Lo-dough. Pretty sustaining and tasty. Breakfast, scrambled eggs or vege sausages and beans. Delish, and only one syn for two sausages (I had three).

I have never cooked vegetarian, apart from for inconvenient guests (ooh err, I’m one of those now). My go-to recipe for them is Delia’s lentil Moussaka. Why I haven’t done this for myself I have no idea. Note to self: do it.

Reading back through this, I don’t know why I, a keen cook, have entered into this new lifestyle with such lack of imagination. I think it’s because I’m trying to find things Mavis will enjoy. Well, that worked well, didn’t it?

I’m going to persevere though. There must be tasty, low syn, vegetarian meals to be found. I don’t hold out much hope for official Slimming World recipes as my experience of those has been as unimpressive as the above.

Watch this blog for progress reports and recipes. I will succeed, for the benefit of the planet.

Mum’s Chilli Con Carne

This is my recipe, for my girls. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Serves 4 – 6 people – I think. I never worry about left overs, so I’m not good at portion control – and there are only 3 of us left at home.

Ingredients

  • Spray oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • Fresh chillies to your  taste – I use 2 – 3 of those little, hot ones but I like a bit of punch (put the ones you don’t use in the freezer and remove individually as needed. You can slice from frozen if you warm them a bit in the palm of your hand. Don’t rub your eyes afterwards!)
  • 500g 5% fat minced beef
  • 2 tins kidney beans
  • 2 large tins tomatoes
  • Half tsp Cumin seeds
  • Quarter tsp ground coriander
  • Quarter tsp ground turmeric
  • Scant quarter tsp ground cinnamon
  • Quarter tsp sugar or sweetener
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Fry the diced onion and pepper gently  in the oil with the cumin seeds until the onions are soft (squirt on more oil if they stick).

Add the finely diced chilli and stir for a minute.

Turn up the heat and add the mince and the other spices and stir until the mince is browned.

Pour over the tomatoes, and the kidney beans – no need to drain them.

Simmer until the sauce is reduced to a thick consistency.

Add sugar, salt and pepper and stir

Taste and adjust seasoning. If it’s not hot enough add a bit of chilli powder. I can’t help you with quantities but start with a tiny bit, stir well and taste. If you do need to do this you will need to simmer your chilli for 10 more minutes to reduce the ‘roughness’ of the chilli flavour.

If you haven’t added chilli powder then simmer to let the flavours meld – say 5 minutes – add a splash of water to keep the consistency right if necessary.

Serve with Basmati rice or yellow Basmati Rice

It’s a MR E

I’ve always been forgetful and absent minded, but living with Whizz has made me more aware of my shortcomings in this area. It’s not that he ever criticises me, but he has such an amazing brain that I can’t help comparing my own to his. Lately, probably due to work overload, I have become TERRIBLE at keeping to appointments. I have an electronic diary, it bongs at me (when the sound is turned on), but somehow I still get things wrong. About three weeks ago I got home from work and was pottering around while planning dinner, when the phone rang.

‘Mrs Lil?’

‘Ye-e-es?’

It’s Tinkle Dental Surgery here.’

A pause then, ‘Oh my God. Am I supposed to be there?!!! I am aren’t I? I’m SO SORRY.’

The voice smiles, ‘Don’t worry. We can make another appointment.’

We did.

Now the problem with my dentist is that her days off coincide with mine, which means that I have to go to her after work, something I am not in the habit of doing. I made a new appointment on a Monday evening, and spent the next week terrified of forgetting it again.

Monday came and I was delayed slightly at work. When I escaped, I dived into my car, parked, sprinted across the car park and up the stairs to the dentist’s reception desk gasping for breath. ‘So sorry I’m late.’ I panted, ‘ I got held up at work .’

The young and very chipper young man behind the desk, looked at me over his computer monitor and asked for my name, then he stared at the screen for a minute and looked worried.

I got that sinking feeling. ‘Have I missed it again?’

‘I don’t seem to have… Oh wait a moment, here you are… Your appointment’s next week not tonight.’

Dammit!

The following week  I managed to arrive after the poor Hygienist had gone home. ‘I hate my life,’ I moaned to the amused receptionist, and banged my head on the desk several times.

We decided that Monday evenings wouldn’t work for me, and then it transpired that I could have a weekend appointment – who knew?’

My new appointment will be on 29th December. Lovely way to spend part of the Christmas break.

Despite my mental shortcomings, Whizz and I get along pretty well, mainly because, in some areas, our interests collide, and we share the same, sad sense of humour. When we walk the dog our discussions can be quite lively as I have reported here in the past.

On a recent tromp around the quarry I remarked that historically, love songs by men about women have focused on their looks only. I didn’t quote it but in fact the worst case of this I can think of, came from a childhood  78 record called The Girl That I Marry, who, according to the lyrics, ‘…will have to be, as soft and as pink as a nursery,’ and  ”stead of flittin’ I’ll be sittin’ next to her and she’ll purr like a kitten.’ Yuck. I wonder if he found her and whether she became suicidal after a week of marriage.

Anyway, Livin’ Doll is pretty naff: ‘Got myself a cryin’ walkin’ sleepin’ talkin’ livin’ doll.’ and Poetry in Motion, walkin’ by my side,’ etc. I felt that things have changed for the better until Whizz pointed out that in modern times, women  say or rap about men in a similar way. Could they not sing about their partner’s brains for a change? I need another walk with Whizz to devise some lyrics.

(By the way, I’m not old enough to have purchased 78 records. We had a collection of 78s handed down by my grandparents. The collection shrank each time we moved house, when many were broken.)

Back to our walk. I started picking on Happy Families – you know -the card game. I realised the all the men had the jobs, and the women were their wives: Mr Bun the baker, Mrs Bun the baker’s wife, and so on.

Happy Families - Family Fun Playing Cards

Whizz and I began to explore what a modern Happy Families pack might comprise, and this kept us occupied for ages. Here are some of the cards we came up with:

  • Master Race, the Neo-Nazi
  • Miss Tified, the Quantum Physicist
  • Major Cost, the plumber
  • Mrs Singh, the choir leader
  • Dr Facts, the US President
  • Professor Doubt, the Consultant
  • Councillor Couple, the Sex Therapist
  • Pastor Sellbydate, the Health Inspector
  • Mr Call the contact Centre Operative

Then Whizz got that twinkle in his eye. ‘And not forgetting,’ he grinned, ‘ Mrs Appointments, the Author?’

Haw haw, very funny.

Tripping (not the kind that takes you up, but the one that plummets you down)

I found this post in my drafts. I’d written it a couple of months ago. I am no longer taking Warfarin, but a new drug. I am still going to the gym though and have lost 1st 3.5 lbs in weight.

Recently, through chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, I determined to change my eating karma and lose weight. This declaration of intent was partly because of a second pulmonary embolism and the subsequent need to take anti-coagulants for the rest of my life – I am now on Warfarin.

For the uninitiated, Warfarin, as well as being rat poison, makes you bleed more easily. Ridiculously, since I have been on the medication, I have tripped and fallen three times (I can’t remember anything about the first fall now). It might be true to say that the Mystic Law intervened to protect me when I had the second two falls.

Fall number 2:

Because of my tablets, and because it makes me fat, I am told to drink only in moderation – well that should apply to us all but I’ve never been a great one for listening to advice on what is best for me. To paraphrase the doctor or at least to translate to something more acceptable to me: Ideally don’t drink, but if you must drink then don’t fall over.

The occasion was a funeral wake. The deceased was a lady of nearly 101 years, and her demise was not a shock so there wasn’t an enormous amount of sadness. We all sat in the garden, and the sun shone. Children played, wine flowed and I, who was ‘trying not to drink too much’, accepted a large glass of wine. Later I agreed to a top-up, and when a second top up was not forthcoming and the alcohol had its grip on me, I decided to help myself to a third glassful from the fridge in the kitchen (hangs head in shame).

I jumped from my garden chair and hastened to the doorway, whereupon I tripped on the threshold and pitched head first onto the kitchen floor. My glass shattered and everyone rushed to my assistance as I lay, winded and prone (prone to accidents, ha ha).

Be Careful What you Wish For
What else would I use as an image for spilt wine than my book cover? Click on it to buy it

 

This fall  was clearly intended by the Universe, to help in my quest to cut down on my drink. It did. I had the only big glass in the  house so I had to move on to a smaller one (boom, boom).  Also, I had forgotten to take my Warfarin the evening before so bleeding was not such a danger.

Fall number 3:

Since that fall and not because of it, I have joined Mince Monde. If you read this blog regularly you will know that I have run the gauntlet of diet writers and organisations since I was about 16, so I’m not going to reiterate my much repeated determination that this time it is for life. Anyway, my membership of the slimming organisation is free, thanks to my local NHS authority, who want to help the overweight for, I assume, preventative reasons. Not only have I received 12 weeks free at Mince Monde but am entitled to 3 free sessions with a personal trainer and reduced rates, at a local gym – also for 12 weeks.

determination.jpg
Tried to find the source of this image. Thanks to this website https://www.nationoflights.com/the-shift-blog-2017/2017/11/20/ohhh-the-rat-race-i-am-in-and-the-greater-understandings-thru-it and also this video maker https://veblr.com/watch/361d909a7938/rat-gym-workout-most-funny-video?lang=mr. Many thanks to its creator.

The gym was the scene of my next tumble. I started my exercise session on the cross trainer. After the recommended 5 minutes, and breathing a little more heavily,  I dismounted and headed for the weights. Sadly, I failed to notice a small step down from the area where the cross trainers and treadmills sat, and crashed to the floor. There was more concerned rushing to help, with suggestions that I sit for a while and drink water. ‘I’m absolutely fine,’ I insisted, oh my ego, and scuttled off towards the location of my next activity, round the corner, to examine the damage.

I had bashed my knee, and my shin had landed painfully on the edge of the step, but I was still standing. I did worry a bit about the potential size of the bruise, and the impact on my already over-worked knee. Amazingly, when tested the following day, my INR (clotting rate) had dropped to 1.8, too low. I had been protected again.

The most ignominious part of the above tale is that the following day, when my knee felt as though I should be a bit careful, I went to the pharmacy to buy a tubular support bandage. They had many sizes, the largest of which, was XL. I rolled it over the damaged joint and pulled down my trouser leg to cover it. Through the fabric could be seen the deep channel encircling my lower thigh, where the top of the bandage dug into the fat and, it has to be said, it was bl**dy uncomfortable. Many thanks to the staff at Windmill Pharmacy for letting me try it on then refunding my money. Oh well, this time next year Rodney…

I hadn’t made the connection before but I started falling over in November 2015, see this post. I think this was about the time when I had my varifocals upgraded because my eyesight had become significantly worse (sigh).

I insist that alcohol and age were not factors.

Courting Couple

Marion parked the car by the hedge. In the back, her dog, Maurice, lumbered to his feet, ears alert and tongue alternately lolling, and lapping his black muzzle. He was, like Marion, in his middle years but unlike his mistress, still longed to run, and chase a ball.

They visited this disused chalk quarry almost every day. In early summer it was a mass of rare flowers and plants. Butterflies danced between orchids and vetch, and Damsel Flies hovered low on the hard-mud tracks that circumnavigated and crisscrossed the flat piece of land that lay between sloping, chalk-bald sides, rimmed at their upper edges by sparse woodland and beyond, on one side, a road.

Now, in late summer, Marion had thought that autumn was upon them. The evenings had cooled, were cold even, and the balmy days, sitting with Keith, gin in hand, watching House Martins plunging grubs into the tiny bills under next door’s eves, were ended for the year.  Now, however, a humid and intense heat from a late August sun, had brought forth more butterflies and a brief opportunity for outdoor living.

A grass hopper fizzed from the verge as she slammed shut her door and lifted the tailgate to release Maurice.  She caught up a chucker with a slime flattened tennis ball clenched in its yellow, plastic jaws, and closed and locked the car.

The dog strained to be released, wheezing against the noose of lead. There were no other cars nearby and apart from birdsong there was a heavy silence on this bank holiday Monday afternoon. This area was a dog-walker’s paradise and one got to know regulars, some well enough to nod and say, ‘lovely day’ to, others, who became friends.

Marion made the dog sit, and pulled off his lead, then launched the ball over the gate and down into the grass. She needed both hands to negotiate the uneven ground and the drop into the chalk meadow. Maurice leapt away, found the ball, sniffed around in the willow herb and clover then cocked his leg on a clump of grass before trotting back to meet her, tail waving and tongue lolling from his huge smile. He dropped the ball at her feet and began to run before she had even picked it up.

She raised her arm to throw. This would be their pattern as they paced twice round the circumference. She would walk, throw and shout, he would sniff, shit and pee.

They turned to the right to join the main track and Marion took in a deep breath. The smells of a dying summer rose from the ground: decaying vegetation, fragrant last-minute flowers and burgeoning blackberries and elderberries. She had stored blackberries, steeped in gin, in a dark cupboard under the stairs. The liquor would be perfect by Christmas. She pushed the thought of Christmas from her mind. Not in this sunshine.

Something attracted her gaze. There was a figure, maybe more than one, sitting or lying on the sloping ground on the far side of the quarry. How lovely. A picnic on this beautiful day. She threw the tennis ball again and directed her feet on their usual route, towards the diners and round the edge of the field.

As she drew closer, she realised that there were two figures, a courting couple. She dismissed the quaint phrase. These two were very definitely not courting. She drew closer, undeterred by the intimacy of their actions, this was, after all, her regular route, and the pair seemed oblivious to her presence.  The scene was tender. There was certainly a girl although all Marion could see of her were a pair of smooth plump legs extending either side of the kneeling, fully clothed back and buttocks of a young man. The girl’s legs terminated in a pair of white trainers.  The boy stooped towards her, his movements tender and unhurried. His push-bike lay beside him on the ground. Now, this close, Marion couldn’t, in all decency, look. She threw the ball again and walked on past, staring at a pair of orange butterflies that settled on the ground in front of her and took off a moment later, at the approach of her well booted feet. She wondered at the audacity of the act she had just passed. The young people had placed themselves in clear view of the gate and the road. They could have lain in the woodland, just beyond, but had chosen instead the glorious warmth of the afternoon to make their love.

In her menopausal, dried up state, Marion felt no lust, neither did she feel disgust, only a sense of loss. Nostalgia drew her back. Marion had once lain under the sun, half distracted by the sound of a distant tractor, half by her lover’s caress. Precious brushes of tongue, lips, fingertips. Savouring each miniscule, unhurried, electric movement. Was that so long ago? It was another life. Not better, just different.

She strode on, feeling a little puffed and promising herself a healthy meal this evening.

On her second circuit, she took a diagonal path, avoiding the couple, wondering if they had consummated their act. Two more cars were parked by the gate now and heads bobbed along various footpaths.

Back at the car, Maurice slumped on the floor, slobbering wet spots onto her rolled up coat. She started the engine and manoeuvred the small car round a CRV that had almost blocked her in.

At home she parked on the drive behind Keith’s BMW, and released Maurice, who plodded to the door, desperate for water.  This late sun had given the lawn an extra spurt of growth and she hoped that Keith would notice before she had to press him to mow it.

She opened the front door.

‘I’m back.’

‘Good walk?’ Her husband’s voice reached her from the office, his hideaway, her excuse to watch Casualty, alone with only a box of chocolates for company. She stuck her head into the room.

‘Lovely. There are still butterflies. So peaceful. Not a soul about.’ She smiled at him. ‘Cup of tea?’

‘Yes please.’