Wednesday 31 January 2024

More Money Than Sense?

This green outfit was in the window of Jarrolds. Would you pay £118 if one leg of the trousers was a couple of inches shorter than the other? We looked at it very carefully, and that does appear to be the case.
We walked to past a charity shop which has "designer clothes". They were selling a "distressed look" designer garment. A man's cardigan with damage to the ribbing - only £120, new price usually £580-£680.

This all seems utterly crazy to me. Who spends this much money?
I looked at Pigs' Ears in the supermarket, and considered attempting to make some silk purses from them. 
In other news, our MP us stepping back from his role as a Government Minister, in order to take other jobs in order to make ends meet. He is getting very little sympathy from his constituents. 
He earns £118K per annum!
Perhaps he should take some lessons in budgeting from the ordinary Norfolk people he is supposed to be representing. 

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Great Britten!

Marion, my SIL WhatsApped me on Friday, to say she and Adrian were going to Norwich Cathedral on Sunday evening, would we like to join them? The event was the "Ceremony of Carols" by Benjamin Britten, performed by the girls and boys who are choristers at the Cathedral, accompanied by Harpist Elizabeth Green. We jumped at the opportunity to hear this lovely piece of Christmas music as the Yuletide Season ended.
The piece has an interesting story - Britten composed it in March to April 1942, while crossing the Atlantic on a Swedish cargo ship, in the thick of the Second World War. He and his partner Peter Pears were heading back to Britain after a three-year stay in the US. Their cabins were hot and stuffy, and the company on board ‘callow, foul-mouthed and witless’. Plus, of course, there was always the danger of being attacked by German U-Boat.
The ship visited a number of ports on the Atlantic seaboard, before making the final crossing. , Britten completed his “Hymn to St Cecilia” and had hoped to finish another work but this was confiscated by customs officials who feared that the score could contain a hidden code of some sort!
Britten therefore had time on his hands. When the ship docked at Halifax, Nova Scotia, he came across a book of early English poems [“The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems”], and these formed the text which inspired him to write “A Ceremony of Carols”. Britten had also become interested in writing for the harp and intended to write a harp concerto. It was therefore a natural progression to write a work for a small boys’ choir with harp accompaniment. By the time they docked back in Blighty, he had finished the piece and prepared it for women's voices. 
The first performance in 1942 was in the Library of Norwich Castle, with an all female choir. He decided to change it after that, for male and female voices- and it has now become part of the Christmas repertoire for many choral groups. 
The text is a mixture of modern English and early/middle English. When you get both in the same piece of text, it is called 'macaronic'. One verse refers to a 'silly babe'  but silly there means helpless or pitiable! Despite the silliness and macaroni, it was a marvellous evening, the voices soaring up into the Cathedral, the harpist playing beautifully. We had a wonderful time - then A&M came back with us and we shared coffee and walnut cake, to round off our cultural evening.
What talented young people, what lovely music, what an unexpected treat!

Monday 29 January 2024

Don't Waste Our Time!

For 50 years, clocks were manufactured at the Metamec Factory in Dereham. The company began in 1941 as an offshoot of the Jentique Furniture Company. Jentiques had been started between the wars by a former toymaker, and produced quality wooden furniture. During the war, the company made wooden boxes to hold bombs, and instruments [I presume that is related to defence, not trombones!] In 1941 they started making clocks - and the company name is a contraction of METAlwork and MEChanics. But in the 60's and 70's I had many schoolfriends whose parents worked at Metamec. The factory employed 750 people, and was churning out 25,000 clocks a week - the biggest manufacturer of clocks in the UK.And almost everyone I knew had one of their kitchen clocks, or sunburst clocks on the lounge wall, or a wooden clock on the mantlepiece, or alarm clock in the bedroom. 
The company was producing clocks until 1994 when it finally closed. Imports from Germany and the Far East had taken over the market. So I was very interested to discover there was to be an exhibition about the company in our local Library during January. Bob and I went down and met Richard Walker, who had worked there for 25 years - 1969-1994. 
Richard [78] has collected many examples of Metamec clocks over the years and kept them in his home - but on the 30th anniversary of the company closure, he set up a display in the library.
He'd obtained a number of photos of the factory, and when we went, he was happily explaining them to the visitors
He said they had not given him sufficient room to display his whole collection!
He was collecting signatures- he is making a case to the local council for proper recognition of Dereham's manufacturing heritage.
I called in on Friday, just before his exhibition ended, and asked how he was doing. Just over 400 signatures, he said. I got into conversation with a lady whose Mum had worked for the company, and persuaded her to sign his clipboard!
The sunburst clock in the top left of this picture is identical to the one which Dereham Baptist Church gave my parents for their 25th wedding anniversary. Mum loved it. When my Dad died, I gave it to his brother and sister-in-law in Yorkshire. I visited Auntie Mollie some years later, and it still had pride of place in her lounge.
I do hope the council takes notice of Richard's request. It would be such a shame if a significant piece of the town's history was forgotten. It would be good if these timepieces were preserved for future generations.
Have you heard of Metamec Clocks?
Did you ever own one?

Sunday 28 January 2024

A Friend Of God, A Friend To Others

Today is the feast day of St Thomas Aquinas*, a Catholic theologian who died 750 years ago, aged 48. I am afraid I know very little about this Italian guy, but he did share some thought provoking remarks, particularly about friendship. I shall leave you to ponder on a few of them...

I found an interesting article, [illustrated with a cleverly altered version of this Botticelli portrait] in the Church Times

*Aquinas means 'from Aquino' in Italy. If you know more about him, and have a favourite quote, please do share it with us.

Saturday 27 January 2024

Aygo-ing, Going, Gone!

I got my silver Aygo back in September 2014. I do not change cars very often - every ten years or so. The Aygo replaced the blue Daewoo Matiz.  

On Thursday the Aygo went in part exchange.  I was sort of hoping I could make it last till April but it really had lost the plot somewhat
  1. The bodywork was not good, [inc. a phantom ding in the carpark ]
  2. The wiper blade needed replacing
  3. The brakes & other parts would need serious attention at the next MOT
  4. The door seal was not watertight so after heavy, driving rain, the interior became damp SO...
  5. ...the rear footwell became a paddling pool
  6. ...there was a rusty "blister" forming in the front footwell
  7. ...when it froze, there was ice inside the windows and outside
  8. ...mould kept growing on the steering wheel
  9. ...the dampness had turned my road atlas to papier mache.
  10. always felt cold and musty
Last Monday, Bob stopped at the dealers near Sainsburys for a look around, and looked at a Toyota. Tuesday we went to have a look together - but I spotted this 2017 Skoda Fabia. A little more expensive - so some juggling of pennies [but I'm good at that!] 
So here it is! I am very excited to own a vehicle that is reliable, warm and dry! I said to a friend "It was at the top end of my budget, but I thought it better to buy the best I could afford. After all, this is likely to be my last car - I am 70 next year" to which she replied "Are you? You don't act like it!" I'm still wondering what she meant by that...

Friday 26 January 2024

Moving Memories

 Exactly nine years ago, on 26th January 2015, I posted this picture

It was the day the vans left Kirby Muxloe, after nearly twenty years, to take all our stuff to Dorset. Exactly one year later, a couple of the deacons arrived on the doorstep with a card, a box of chocs, and a small orchid in a pot.
"We don't make a big thing of The Minister's Anniversary" they said "but we wanted to say thank you for the past year, it has been good having you both here"
I did not like to say "I am no good with houseplants, my silk ones die" - so we simply thanked them for their kindness - and all the support they had given over the previous twelve months.
I asked Jenny for advice, and now I have three healthy orchid plants [the other two were gifts from Dorset schools where I made play costumes]
Yesterday evening, when I came in, I saw the Church Anniversary Orchid has some blossoms on it [and more buds getting ready to burst into bloom] Happy Eighth Birthday, beautiful flower!
It is a lovely reminder of my good friends back in Ferndown. But now we are happily settled in retirement at Cornerstones- we don't plan to move anywhere else. The flowers are a reminder of God's faithfulness, and of dear friends who continue to keep in touch.
We have so much to be grateful for.

Thursday 25 January 2024

The Milk Of Human Kindness - A Yogurt Tutorial

Lady Macbeth uses this phrase - concerned that her husband's compassion will get in the way of her ruthless plans for his future kingship. Milk is an important part of our diet - certainly at birth, and "mother's milk" is a term meaning something very necessary for life. As we grow older, things change - many nations drink a lot of cow's milk. In Finland the average is 2 pints per day, in the UK just over a pint. But in some countries there is widespread lactose intolerance [e.g. Yemen and South Korea] and some religious groups have rules about milk [Jews do not eat meat and milk together, or cook meat in milk]
Before the advent of fridges, people were concerned to ensure their milk was fit to drink - hence the development of things like kefir and yogurt- both fermented products, and clotted cream, which is heat treated, and can last up to 14 days. 
I like yogurt, and for years have been making my own. Anne asked for a tutorial. I use an electric yogurt maker like this. Sadly they are no longer made!
The basic principle of home made yogurt is this - take a pint of milk, warm it to 'blood heat' , stir in a tablespoon full of natural yogurt, and leave in a warm place overnight.  And in the morning, voila! yogurt.
You can use an electric model - they use less energy than leaving a light on overnight - or simply put the warmed milk into an insulated flask [this Kilner system is good]  Here is a simple recipe from Tesco
Over the years I have modified my system
  • I use UHT milk - because that way I can make it as and when I need it, without using up our 'everyday' milk from the fridge
  • I add a heaped tablespoon of dried milk powder to give a richer yogurt
  • I've discovered that using whole UHT milk gives a really lovely creamy texture, more like Greek yogurt
  • Once made I use the yogurt as is - perhaps adding fruit, nuts, a spoonful of honey/maple syrup/jam as a sweeter.
  • If I am almost at the end of a jar of jam, I will mix it in with a stick blender to make pink yogurt!
  • I use it as a topping for desserts in place of cream or custard [sometimes sweetening with a teaspoon of icing sugar]
  • I use it in recipes, often in place of buttermilk, eg in scones or soda bread - or spoon a little on top of a bowl of thick soup.
  • I blend yogurt into smoothies and milk shakes [and this summer I plan to make frozen yogurt ice creams as an alternative to shop-bought UPF ices]
  • Strained [through coffee filter, kitchen paper or muslin cloth] it makes a soft cheese, lovely with a little salt and chopped fresh herbs. Keep the whey and use in scones, or as stock in soup.
  • Make a pancake batter with eggs, yogurt and a banana.
DO keep everything spotlessly clean, or the yogurt will spoil quickly.
DO remember to keep back a spoonful to start your next batch
IF it starts to taste acidic, then buy a small pot of yogurt and use that as a fresh 'starter'
layer up granola, yogurt and fruit in sundae dishes for a quick dessert
add chopped cucumber and mint to yogurt for raita to serve with curry
mix yogurt 50/50 with mayo for a lighter coleslaw dressing, or for Coronation Chicken
In my teens, I was staying overnight with a friend. She said yogurt was supposed to make a good facemask for purifying the complexion. We bought a pot from the co-op. At 9.30pm [after her brother had gone to bed] we smeared it on, and left it to dry, then around midnight, sleepily rinsed it off and went to bed. We awoke with smelly yellow streaks on our necks and ears. Since then I have eaten yogurt but not used it as a cosmetic!
Liz had this lovely book for Christmas and she has sent me Olia's recipe for drop scones, which uses kefir [usual method]
  • 150ml kefir
  • 1 egg
  • 100gm flour
  • ½tsp baking powder
Do you make your own yogurt?
Do you have a favourite recipe which uses yogurt?

Wednesday 24 January 2024

The Playing Of The Merrie Organ...

...Sweet Singing In The Choir 
My parcel from Kirsten arrived yesterday. Her stitching was stunning - initially it just looks like a wintry hedgerow, then you realise the subtle Christmas references behind it. 
She has cross-stitched a beautiful back ground in shades of green, ivy-like foliage. Then embroidered over the top of that - Holly leaves, berries and flowers. 
The leaves are outlines, silvery metallic thread couched in place with darker brown. As you move it, the piece reflects light like frost on the edges of the leaves., and the berries and blooms are bright pops of colour. 
And these all represent the ancient Christmas Carol of the Holly and the Ivy.  Traditionally Holly and Ivy symbolise male and female, and in this carol they specifically stand for Jesus and Mary. 
It is a lovely piece of sewing, the textures and techniques perfectly executed. Like me Kirsten is relishing the challenge of trying out new ideas with stitching and I think this section is fantastic. 
We've both noticed the difference between the depth of colour when the whole area is cross stitched, with more stitching on top, and the more traditional "sampler" style where there are areas of blank canvas between stitches and it feels "lighter". 
Just two more sections and the border - I wonder if we will be done by Easter? 

Tuesday 23 January 2024

5-A-Day...Or 30-A-Week?

Do you know the word biome ? It is defined as Biome: a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat, e.g. forest or tundra.Biome is a broader term than habitat.
I first came across the word when I visited the wonderful Eden Project where they have cleverly
 created different biomes displaying a Mediterranean Climate, a Rainforest, and an Outdoor Garden. Visitors can experiences the flora and fauna of these different global regions - all in Cornwall. But biome has other definitions, dependent on size.
While a biome can cover small areas a microbiome is a mix of organisms that coexist in a defined space on a much smaller scale. For example, the human microbiome is the collection of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that are present on or in a human body
There has been much discussion of late about the human "gut biome"- the amazing make-up of bacteria ad other tiny organisms that live inside us - and help our bodies to function efficiently.
I've listened to all sorts of BBC science podcasts in recent days [whilst preparing club crafts] with CVT and his UPFs, Michael Mosley, and many others. I have concluded that perhaps I need to eat more 'natural' and less 'processed' foodstuffs. 
I do try hard to get my 5-a-day of fruits and veg.
I am not taken with the whole "4K fermented" plan, that's kefir, kimchi, kombucha and kraut [sauer]  which is supposed to be the best thing out for benefitting your gut flora. As I have been studying Joseph for holiday club, I came across kamut - the 5th 'fermented food beginning with k' which is apparently an ancient Egyptian grain, and made into sourdough is the best thing since sliced bread [NB sliced bread has not been the best thing for quite a while]
None of this appealed to me very much. Then I heard Tim Spector, professor of genetics and epidemiology at Kings College in London talking about 30-a-week.
He said that researchers across the world had discovered that people who eat a diversity of plants across the week - at least 30 different varieties - has healthier gut biomes. That is 30 different things [you can't have 4 bananas a day plus a couple of oranges at the weekend!] but the range includes fruit, veg, legumes, herbs, wholegrains, spices, nuts and seeds. And [bliss!] tea, coffee and chocolate are on the list. 
I thought I'd try listing what I eat this week and see how my 'regular' diet matches up to this. There is a very helpful piece here from NutritionScotland. I started at breakfast Sunday, and after my evening meal on Monday, I had managed fifteen items. Here's a list of typical foods [click on picture to enlarge or read the whole article]
I will see how I get on - I've got a banana in the fruit bowl, and planning home made veg soup late this week. Ans I will sprinkle my seed mix into a home made loaf - that will get me almost to 30. 
One final comment - listening to podcasts means i often have no idea what the presenters look like. I checked out Tim Spector, and concluded he is Gary Lineker's long lost cousin!

Have you tried 30 a week? did it work for you? 

Monday 22 January 2024

Words For The Day

I love the way children's vocabularies develop, and how they interpret words in a way that makes sense to them*, if not to the rest of us. Jess always refers to these as Ho-Ho-Hats. And since watching Frozen, I think the whole family has picked up her expression "Let-it-go-flakes" ❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️

But last Sunday I had a WhatsApp message "Can you find some elastic, please, Grandma-Grandma? Jessica wants to put a Ningcorn on her head" which turned out to be her term for a unicorn cake topper.
I found some elastic, and stitched a hairband - and everyone was happy.
No I don't know why I'm called "Grandma-Grandma" 
I think it is to distinguish me from her other Grandma. 

*I had a friend who thoughtthe apostle Philip met a unicorn in the desert [Acts chapter 8] She was in secondary school before she understood what it really said. 
But I'm just as bad as Jess, I was talking to Bob recently about some food in the fridge. I just could not remember the right word, so I asked him 

"Has it passed its use-it-uppity-day yet?" 
Have you got any special family words? 

Sunday 21 January 2024

Sunday Best

So how's the new year working out for you? I can't believe we are three weeks in already. My word of the year PACE is proving a good choice. Some days I have been frantically busy, other days the pace much slower. This past week I had to take it easy after the tooth business. My dentist said it was the biggest tooth in my mouth - and I should not expect to feel better before the weekend. I decided to accept his wisdom and not fret about "things left undone". So I spent a couple of days snuggled in my armchair, doing word puzzles, reading watching TV, and dozing. Without any guilt feelings at all. And by Friday I was able to get going again on Holiday  Club preparations.
Our bodies are not meant to work incessantly like machines - we are designed to need a break.  Many scientists have established that people taking a break every 7th day work more efficiently on the other 6th. A Sabbath rest is good for us. 

In Mark chapter 6 Jesus urges his busy disciples to "Come apart and rest for a while". My mum used to say "if you don't rest, you will come apart!" 
For many people, their work patterns and family circumstances mean they cannot take a Sabbath rest on a Sunday. For so many years, we were occupied with church responsibilities every weekend and made a habit of taking" time out"on a Monday. Retirement, is a privilege - we are grateful for the more relaxed pattern of Sundays here at Cornerstones. 
This is my favourite day of the week, when I can take time out to share in worship,[in church, or on Zoom, or listening to the radio] and make space for connection with family and friends. Of all the days of the week, I like Sunday best! 
I do hope you are able to find moments of space and peace sometime in the week ahead... 

Saturday 20 January 2024

It Was Red And Yellow And Green And Brown And Blue...

I've cleared all the Plaster of Paris and associated stuff from the Futility Room. Forty plaques are drying out in the back bedroom. Now I'm preparing ranks and ranks of little men
They are plastic bottles with pipecleaner arms and polystyrene heads, standing about 10"/25cm tall.
At Holiday Club the children will decorate coats with many colours and each dress their "Joseph" model to take home. They do remind me of the terracotta warriors in their serried ranks...
But they will be much more colourful when they are completed

Friday 19 January 2024

Back To School With A Chicken

On our way down to see Julian, we stopped at Stansted Services, and I picked up a Waitrose Weekend magazine. It mentioned that the Waitrose Cookery School was doing a live online class about cooking chickens, and it was free.
I signed up - and so on Thursday evening at 6.30, I joined in - the hosts were chef Alex Szrok and Ruby  Bhogal [2018 GBBO]  I have to say it was an hour of great fun.
You can find out more here. This was the second live class- but afterwards, they're available to watch online [you just do not have the same opportunity to ask questions]  
The show began with Alex demonstrating how to cut up a chicken. He ended up with a tray containing boneless chicken breasts, chicken supremes, mini fillets, wings, drumsticks, thighs, plus the skin and the carcase. The photography and instructions were clear, and I think I will joint a chicken with more confidence in future.
There were eight recipes - and lots of other ideas - to use the different cuts for family meals, 'date night for two' etc. Some recipes fast, others a little slower. All were shown on the website, along with shopping lists for ingredients. Many of these items were things I would buy normally, and most of the recipes had a small list of ingredients.
I particularly liked the look of Winter Panzanella - swapping out the fresh tomatoes for root vegetables, and made with chicken thighs. 
I did like the way that questions in the sidebar were answered promptly there, and some were picked up and dealt with on screen. Ruby and Alex were a good team, teasing each other, whilst keeping things on track. And he gave lots of tips about substitutions, accompaniments, and more. 
I particularly appreciated his comment about chicken wings - they are too small to do much with, and a chicken only has two anyway - so every time you joint a chicken, pop the wings in a box in the freezer- then when it is full, you'll have enough for a recipe. Like Chicken wings with sweet soy and burnt lime butter  - cooked on a hot baking tray, no deep frying.
I'm really tempted by the Gunpowder Drumsticks too.
I have been to live cookery demos in the past - but sometimes it is hard to see properly what is happening - this was filmed really well, so you saw in close up how to wield your knife, oand the consistency and colour of the sauce in the pan.
He said that Waitrose Essential Chickens have the same Higher Welfare Standards as their other poultry [good to know] and that the saving if you buy a bird and portion it yourself is considerable, compared to buying the portions separately in the chill cabinet.
I shall  definitely post about any of the recipes I try out - and wholeheartedly recommend watching the show. Thank you Waitrose!

Thursday 18 January 2024

Processing My Thoughts

Back in the 80s, Auntie Peggy announced one year that what she wanted for Christmas was a new processor. "Word, or food?" we said. She was surprisingly tech savvy, but it was a Kenwood she had in mind for her kitchen. It was about the time that I was reading Maurice Hansen's book "E is for additives"- I had two small children and I was concerned to feed them properly - avoiding E102 [tartrazine yellow food colouring], and knowing E500 was safe [ bicarbonate of soda.]
Not all E numbers were dodgy, but I wanted to be careful about what I was feeding my children. ["E" stands for "Europe" - since 1962 scientists across the continent were ensuring food additives were carefully regulated - there are over 1500 on the 'permitted' list]
40 years on, there's a new kid on the block. Dr Chris Van Tulleken, an associate professor at UCL, has written a book about Ultra Processed Food.  I was amused to see it is published by Cornerstone Press! [part of the Penguin Group]
CVTs contention is that 60% of the diet of the population of the UK is Ultra Processed Food, [UPF] and it is not good for us; that it is making us obese, and sick, and causing premature deaths; that the production methods harm the environment
A definition
Ultra-processed food is an industrially formulated edible substance derived from natural food or synthesized from other organic compounds. The resulting products are designed to be highly profitable, convenient, and hyperpalatable, often through food additives such as preservatives, colourings, and flavourings.
I ordered this book from the library in July - and finally I got it last weekend. It needs to go back, there are at least 70 behind me in the queue who have reserved it! But here is my review
I found it hard going - there are interesting stories about how UPF has been developed throughout history - Napoleon III [Boney's grandson] gave a prize to the man who developed margarine from cow's suet, and sheep's enzymes. And Hitler's scientists developing "coal-butter", and other little anecdotes which are interesting and easy to read - but there are loads of pages of chemical formulae and statistics and so many footnotes [sometimes more footnotes on a page than regular text] He covers an awful lot of ground - why choosing a healthy diet is more than sugar, exercise and will power, what UPFs do to our digestive systems, and why the manufacturers are concerned about making a product to generate profits, not to nourish the hungry. 
And why the make-up of UPF is designed to make you overconsume. They even admit it in their ads... The first potato crisps[US chips] were thin slices of potato, fried, and sprinkled with salt. But this popular party snack is a million miles from that.
Pringles have about 42% potato content, the remainder being wheat starch and flours (corn and rice) combined with vegetable oils, an emulsifier, salt, and seasoning. Other ingredients include maltodextrin, dextrose, MSG,  disodium isonate, disodium guanylate, sodium caseinate, modified starch, Mono & di glycerides, autolysed yeast extract,artificial flavourings etc etc... Definitely an Ultra Processed Potato!
CVT talks about food labelling - here in the UK we are used to the "Traffic Light" system, and also the HFSS [High fat, sugar,salt] warnings. These are useful - as far as they go. Young parents don't have time, with a fractious toddler in the trolley and another child in tow, to stop and read every label on every packet as they go round the supermarket. The red/amber/green is a helpful, speedy reference. 
CVT favours the Brazilian NOVA system, whereby foods are classified into four groups
Group 1 - unprocessed and minimally processed foods - meat, fruit, vegetables, but also flour and pasta.
Group 2 is 'processed culinary ingredients' oils, lard, butter, sugar, salt, vinegar, honey - traditional foods which might be prepared using industrial technology. These tend to be nutrient poor and energy dense, so not the survival part of your diet, but the stuff that combines with group 1 to produce delicious food.
Group 3 -'processed food' - the ready-made mixtures of groups 1 & 2 , usually processed for preservation, like salted nuts, smoked meat, canned fish, fruit in syrup, traditionally made fresh bread.
Group 4 is the UPF, defined as "formulations of ingredients, mostly of exclusive industrial use, made by a series of industrial processes, requiring sophisticated equipment and technology. These processes include fractioning of whole food into substances and chemical modification of these substances" UPF is highly profitable [low cost, synthetic ingredients] and has a long shelf life [chemical preservatives] and convenient, ready-to-eat [minimal input needed from the customer] 
The scientists who developed the NOVA scale felt there is a real danger that "these hyperpalatable products are likely to displace freshly prepared dishes from all the other NOVA groups"
CVT tells how when his 3 yr old daughter first saw a box of CocoPops [he had put himself on an exclusively UPF diet as part of his research] she demanded some - pointing out the monkey on the box meant they were designed for children. She had eaten the equivalent of 3 adult portions while he was looking up the nutritional content of said cereal. [once you CocoPop you cant stop?]
He tells of Nestle taking a boat up the Amazon in 2010 to introduce their products to the native tribes. And how adults and children began to crave KitKats etc, even though their resources for purchasing them were very limited. And now diabetes is a serious problem for the Brazilians.
CocaCola's CEO said that because half the world has not yet tasted a Coke, there is a huge marketing opportunity out there. Doctors in the 3rd world weep, because even in remote places you can buy a chilled beverage, but they find it almost impossible to get funding for fridges to keep their life-saving vaccines cool. 
Baby formula is a UPF, and for some mothers it is essential [My Mum was ill, and I was weaned on National Dried Milk in the 50s] However in the third world, giving mothers powder to mix, when they have no clean water to make the solution, or to clean their bottles properly, causes hundreds of babies to become ill and die from dehydration of diarrhoea. 
CVT is really concerned - UPFs are making us ill, while they are making the manufacturers big profits.
He wants us to urge government to think about the food policies they are making.
He wants us to care for our planet - in Indonesia, an area the size of Greater London, was cleared to produce acres of trees for palm oil crops - with dreadful results for the native wildlife, and affecting the climate.
He wants us to read the labels and ask "Do I recognise this ingredient - would I find that in a domestic kitchen?"
I found the book challenging, and I am being more mindful about my food shopping [not that I am eating very much this week - mostly scrambled eggs and milk till my mouth settles down] 
I am aware that cooking and eating habits gave changed enormously since my girls were toddlers - no trips to McDonalds, or 'ping meals' from a microwave or airfryer back then.  Now so much peer pressure on children to eat the snacks their friends do - cheap and accessible. It's really hard for young parents
Last weekend I let Rosie and Jess make their own Ice-cream sundaes for dessert- soft scoop ice cream, squeezy strawberry and chocolate sauces, sponge fingers, coloured sprinkles and squirty cream... all UPF by CVTs definition.  [In my defence, they also added my home made fruit compĂ´te - made with fruits of the forest and demerara sugar. Not UPF] Now I am wishing I hadn't!
I am going to try and be more disciplined about making my own bread and 'baked goods', as cakes, biscuits and snack foods do seem to be among the worst offenders. And try to get a higher %age of my diet from NOVA groups 1 & 2.  But I do not think I can avoid UPF altogether.
Sorry - this has been a very long post. It was and long a complex book!
Is he going over the top with this?
You must draw your own conclusions. 

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Hot Stuff!

It's been very cold here in the UK this week. There's been blue skies and sunshine over Cornerstones, but still very cold. I'm typing this on Tuesday afternoon, feeling a bit shivery - but that's mostly reaction to the dental anaesthetic wearing off I think. The dodgy tooth is out, and once the soreness has gone, I'm confident all will be well. But what are my top ten tips for keeping warm, without spending too much money?
  1. As Martin Lewis always says "warm the person, not the room" - dress in layers, and add an extra one of you are still cold [says the woman in her dressing gown at 3pm]
  2. Embrace hygge and keep a stack of blankets to snuggle up in when you're sat watching TV or reading.
  3. If you don't use a room very much, don't heat it! 
  4. If you've been using the oven, once finished cooking, prop the door open to allow the heat out to warm the house [not advisable if you have kids or pets around]
  5. Grandma's solutions - thicker curtains, draught excludes at doors etc - old fashioned but still sensible.
  6. Warm food - centrally heat yourself. Ribsticking suet puddings, jam rolypoly with custard, trays of roasted vegetables, casseroles and curries. [and if you're weight watching, remember there are hot low calorie alternatives to salads like soup]
  7. Stay active, try and keep your circulation going.
  8. Set your heating to come on just before you get up and go off as you go to bed.
  9. You will sleep better in a bedroom that is not too hot - but keep the bed warm with a hot water bottle, or electric blanket on timer. Wear bedsocks. A warm milky drink is a good idea. 
  10. Do check on benefits available, ask the Citizens Advice Bureau. If you able, make use of other people's warmth - visit "Warm Hubs", maybe at a local church, library, or community centre.
What tips would you add? 

Tuesday 16 January 2024

What Price Loyalty?

When I lived in Leicester, I did almost all my grocery shopping at Sainsbury's, and then at Aldi, with occasional top-ups [eggs, bread, milk] at the Co-op just up the road. I had a Nectar card, and a Boots card.
Moving to Dorset, I still used Sainsburys, and Lidl. I topped up at the M&S foodhall round the corner from home. And I had a Sparks card. Because I liked the free coffee, after my trip to Wimborne Market, I also got a Waitrose card.
But shopping here at Cornerstones, I top up at the Co-op opposite the bus stop in town, so I got a members card, and also loyalty cards from Tesco, Morrisons and Lidl.  And I had to get the Iceland card so I could use their OAP 10%Tuesday discount. 
That is a lot of cards - I keep them all on my phone on the Stocard app which is very convenient.
I have exchanged my loyalty point for all sorts of things down the years
My Boots points bought me a juicer [that was a waste - we used it all the summer, then gave up, it was too fiddly to clean] and since then the odd packet of paracetamol or bottle of suncream.
Sainsburys points used to be amassed to do my Christmas shop. But I gave up on that one.
Tesco vouchers - because I buy so little there - do not amount to much.  I have no idea what I get from sparks, apart from odd bags of Percy Pig sweets which I do not want anyway.
But I am deeply unhappy about the shift away from points to "members' discount" schemes. Now having a card means I can get certain items at a 'special' price. And it is an utter con. By doing this, they can collect data on my shopping, and sell that to data collection agencies.And if I do not use my card, my food costs more. 
This is all wrong imho! For starters, supermarkets have done this so they can make money by selling the data. And I dare to suggest that the 'card price' is about what it would have been anyway - and the 'regular' price is greatly inflated. The press is full of horror stories along the lines of
"I took my pensioner neighbour to Tesco to do her shopping, it came to over £90. I said 'use your Clubcard, and she didn't have one. When I applied mine, it reduced her bill to less than £45" Not everybody has a loyalty card. Either they don't like 'plastic' - and may even still pay by cash, or they distrust the shop and do not want to give away information about their shopping habits.. Why should they be penalised ?
I resent these shops telling us that these changes are to help the customer. Yes, I know that Tesco and Sainsbury will still give us Clubcard points - and I know families who have saved up and got really good deals - but these tend to be people who have a large weekly shop because they have a family to feed. But bottom line is, these changes represent ways in which the supermarkets can make more money out of us. And I suspect that those on low incomes with a smaller shopping basket will not do so well out of all this.
And as I now have cards for half a dozen or more food shops, I do not feel 'loyal' to any of them!

I was Really Annoyed to get a letter from Co-op this week telling me the Members rewards are changing. I will now get exclusive member prices on food - but also Insurance and Funeralcare "giving you savings on things you need" [It doesn't actually mention anything about data gathering]
I'm old enough to remember my Mum having a "divi number" - her dividend - a share of the profits - which she used to save up and use for her Christmas food spend. The odd 2p I was awarded when buying my milk before getting the bus back to Cornerstones was a weird link to my childhood. I am sure the Rochdale Pioneers are spinning in their graves [bought through Co-op Funeralcare]
Are we being forced into either accepting the cards or paying twice the price? I think this is all wrong!
UPDATE please read the helpful comment from Steph below about the data gathering. She explains why it is not as sinister as some sections of the press make out. And I trust her, she's an expert in this, as well as being my daughter! 

Monday 15 January 2024

Plaques Of Egypt

Not a misprint - I really DO mean plaQues and not plaGues. The Holiday Club next month is all about Joseph, so one of the craft activities will be painting some plaques
We did this back in 2011 in Kirby - here are some of the ones from that club - with the Egyptian figure, and the frieze of hieroglyphics at the top.
They are made in a mould using plaster of paris. I have three dozen to prepare

This means mixing up one cup of plaster, pouring it into the mould, and going away for an hour. Coming back, turning it out and doing another. It is a laborious process. Back at Kirby I produced over a hundred - but it was summer, so I think they dried quicker. It still took over a fortnight.
This time, I have got some 'mould release' which is really making a difference- Bob found the recipe online - you mix a small amount of vaseline with white spirit to the consistency of single cream. Apply a thin layer to the mould [with an old toothbrush] It makes turning out a doddle. No cracked pieces this time round. I have lined the bedroom window sill with tin foil so they can stay on there and dry out. Then I will put on a base coat so the children can colour them with felt pens this year, poster paint is too messy in our limited space at Chapel. 
Rosie was very excited to see all the Egyptian stuff when they called yesterday. I am not a very tidy worker, everything in the Futility Room has a thin dusting of white powder - Liz and Jon wondered if I was establishing a Meth Lab. Further to yesterday's post about Lost Things - my new filling came out during Sunday breakfast!