WWW. Meatloaf and Banana Pancakes.

This week’s lunch was made in a bit of a rush. I forgot to get enough bacon, so I had to hurry to the shops to get another pack. Still, all turned out well.

 

Recipe 1: Meatloaf and Veggie Chips.

Ingredients:

Meatloaf serves 6, chips serve 2.

-300g/10.6oz parboiled potatoes

-300g/10.6oz mince

-6-8 rashers of bacon

-2tsp salt

-1tsp paprika

-2 large parsnips

-1 small sweet potato

-2tbsp olive oil

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-mixing bowl and potato masher

-1 deep cake tray

-1 flat oven tray

Recipe:

1: Peel/wash and slice the parsnips and sweet potato.

2: Put in the flat tray, toss in olive oil and place in the oven at 200C/390F for 15min.

3: Mash the potato, mince, salt and paprika together.

4: Lay the bacon strips along the base of the deep tray.

5: Pour the mince and potato mix into the bacon. Fold over any loose ends of bacon.

6: Place in the oven alongside the chips. Lower to 160C/70F. Cook for 30min, or until the chips are brown and the loaf is cooked through.

7: Serve with goat’s cheese or mustard (or both!).

20120105_211331

Recipe 2: Paleo Pancakes.

A really simple recipe that I love but Jon isn’t sure of.

Ingredients:

Serves 4.

-3-4 small bananas

-2-3 large eggs

-2tsp cinnamon

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and blender

-frying pan (nonstick or greased)

Recipe:

1: Blend the eggs and bananas together.

2: Fry either as small pancakes or one huge one.

3: Serve with cream and berries.

20120105_213229

Welcome Home With Tomato Bread and Ginger Butterbiscuits.

It also included a stewed chicken, however whilst tasty, the recipe for that was less interesting.

Jon needed a nice veggie, chicken and sweets boost after working night shifts the past four days, so I made him this. :)

20120103_232425

Recipe 1: Tomato Bread.

Ingredients:

-400-500g chopped tomatoes, fresh or carton

-300-400g self-raising flour or flour with agents

-2tsp salt

-2tsp pepper

-2tbsp paprika

-2tbsp olive oil

-water

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and spoon

-rolling pin

-cookie cutters

-greased or non-stick deep baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour, salt, pepper and paprika.

2: Add the oil and raising agents.

3: Add tomatoes and make up with water until pourable.

4: Pour into the tray.

5: Bake at 160C for 2h or until a fork comes out clean.

20120103_213104

Recipe 2: Ginger Butterbiscuits.

Ingredients:

-400g plain flour

-200g lightly salted butter

-200ml double cream

-2tbsp sugar

-2tbsp powdered ginger

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and spoon

-flat greased or nonstick baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the dry ingredients.

2: Mash in the butter and cream and knead until consistently firm.

3: Roll out on a floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters.

4: Place on baking tray and bake at 200C for 10-20min or until golden brown.

5: Leave to cool before serving.

20120103_212902

WWW as usual tomorrow. Looking forward to cooking it already! :D

And I will soon sort the C/F and g/oz balances again soon, promise!

Every “-ism” Means Nothing in the Big Picture.

My Dad once told me “Every word that ends in ‘-ism’ should be viewed with contempt. They mean nothing.” Whilst I have often disagreed with him and at the time didn’t agree with him, this point struck a chord. It’s only now that I realize he didn’t mean “-isms” mean nothing, just that they mean nothing in the big picture of life. In this context I will refer to every faith, political alignment and ideology — in short, any belief set — as an “ism”. I am well aware that many ideologies, such as anarchy, don’t end in “ism”, but that doesn’t exclude them from this argument.

An ideology or a beliefset is exactly that, a set of beliefs. An ideology in its purest form will be encompassed by everything that works within it, even if they contradict each other or are impossible in real life. Thus, Marxism is everything that is compatible with Marx’s works, even when some of these things contradict each other. Or feminism is everything compatible with women’s rights, even if they contradict each other. Being a mother is feminist and Marxist. Vowing to never have children is also. Ideologies, in that context, make no sense. So why continue to use them?

It’s all about alignment and association. One person can claim to be a Marxist feminist whilst being a mother. Another can claim the same whilst denying a place for motherhood. They are associating themselves based on their beliefs regarding class and women, not based on their beliefs regarding motherhood. An individual’s personal beliefset cannot one-hundred-percent fit the definition of that beliefset. Often, it can’t one-hundred-percent exclude every other beliefset either. They can choose to associate or disassociate based on the other individuals in the movement, after all, wasn’t it Karl Marx himself who refused to be called a Marxist? They can reject a movement based on the individuals and nuances in it, rather than the core tenets. At the opposite end of the spectrum, they can believe themselves to be 100% “-ist”. Yet in reality they are necessarily excluding some things that other “-ists” are. When an individual declares themself an  “-ist” they are not changing what the “-ism” is. The “-ism” encompasses the core beliefs, their beliefs and every other “-ist’s” beliefs. And there the line lies.

When people claim to be 100% “-ist” they are actually claiming one of two things, if not both. [Here I will have to use "-isms" myself to describe the camps involved, pardon the irony.] The first being that, in their mind, the “-ism” is actually very clear-cut and that they represent everything it is. These are the absolutists. They have built a list of what they believe the “-ism” represents and are certain that they are exactly that. These could be the purists, who simply think feminism, for example, consists only of its dictionary definition, or that Stalinism consists only of the more constant beliefs of Stalin. They could also be self-centred and be insisting that feminism is very much about motherhood or very much about avoiding motherhood, based on justifying their personal decisions and little else. Either way, they believe their “-ism” is an absolute set of beliefs and that they encompass them all. The second claim is that they are everything the “-ism” is, even if it is contradictory. These are extremists. They will support almost every or even absolutely every aspect of an ideology, even if it’s contradictory. They will continue to support these aspects when called out on their hypocrisy, or attempt to make them compatible. They are essentially fighting for the ideology, not their belief set. These two types of 100%-ers are not incompatible. You can have someone who has created a definition of an “-ism” based on what they think sounds right and yet will espouse contradictory beliefs within their definition and defend that definition tirelessly. In short, the only people who claim to be 100% “-ist” are delusional about what a beliefset actually is.

And these people introduce problems to every “-ism”. For starters, absolutists and extremists have absolute and extreme ideas of other ideologies too. So not only do they have a narrow or extreme idea of what their “-ism” is, they hold the same perspective on other “-isms”. This can, and often does, lead to animosity between two groups where the core principles of each and most of the “-ists” actually agree. An example is feminism and men’s rights activism. In principle, the core beliefs of both sides are not in direct conflict. And most feminists and most MRAs actually want equal and fair treatment for both genders. Yet because of the absolutists and the extremists, many of both camps have been turned against each other. The absolutists and extremists portray an absolute or extreme negative image of the other group, making every group that isn’t theirs “wrong” at best and “the enemy” at worst. This is reinforced by using other “-isms” as slurs, or a way of criticizing a fellow “-ist’s” commentary, so as to prevent dissent against the absolutist or extremist’s view of their particular “-ism”. When someone who could be an ally to the “-ism” or an “-ist” who doesn’t comply with the absolutist or extremist’s view shows up, they become a pariah and are often excluded from the group. They aren’t perceived to genuinely espouse enough of the ideology to be a part of it, even if they claim to be. On the other side, we have desperate attempts to lure people into the “-ism”. This used to be done by explaining the main tenets of the “-ism”, the personal beliefs of the “-ist” and the upsides to joining. Yet, where the extremists seem more focused on excluding everyone who doesn’t comply with their perspective, the absolutists like to welcome people in by claiming them to have been an “-ist” all along. This is born of the false dichotomy. For example, if capitalism and communism are mutually exclusive, then one must either be a capitalist or a communist. So the absolutist will conclude that anyone who espouses capitalist beliefs or agrees with the main tenets was a capitalist all along and anyone who shows aversion to any aspect of capitalism must be a communist. This argument is most commonly found when absolutist feminists declare everyone who isn’t misogynist to be a feminist and everyone who isn’t a feminist to be a misogynist. This eventually degrades into definition wars, where feminist mothers and feminist anti-mothers battle it out to decide which side is more feminist, which side should be excluded from feminism and who is actually misogynist, which does nothing to further the common cause.

We end up with a situation where people argue tirelessly over what an “-ism” is, over what its enemies are, over who should or shouldn’t be included, until the original, main causes become neglected or forgotten and the debate degrades into namecalling and posturing.

So how do we avoid falling into these traps? We can never stop others from becoming absolute or extreme, but we can redirect the debate and reclaim it in the name of actual beliefs and the actual progress you want to see.

Firstly you need to build your personal belief set. The reason a number of people fall into absolutism or extremism or follow absolutists or extremists is because they aren’t certain of their own beliefs to begin with. They know they support equal rights for women and men, so should they call themselves a feminist or an MRA? Eventually they will pick one side and possibly even start becoming a parody of that very beliefset, embracing the claims of absolutists and extremists on both sides. We don’t want to be dragged into this, as it either pushes people away, transforms their motivations or leaves them confused. To build a personal beliefset we must not think in absolutes. Stop asking how you can fit into an “-ism” or how an “-ism” can fit into you. Stop desperately wanting to be included by any “-ist”. You will never be 100% “-ist” and “-ism” will never transform to make itself more like you. Instead, ask yourself the difficult questions. What do you actually believe in? What is at the heart of your current beliefset? Explore your beliefs. If you are generally pro-choice, then ask yourself in what situations do you think abortion should not apply. If you are generally pro-life, then ask yourself in what situations you think abortion should apply. Ask yourself how you’d feel if you wanted an abortion, if you were recommended one, if your partner wanted you to have one, if your daughter wanted to have one, if a rape-victim wanted to have one, if the child were ill, if its presence posed a threat to the mother. Be honest to yourself. Not fitting perfectly into the “-ism” is natural. Doubting yourself as an “-ist” is natural. It doesn’t make you a hypocrite, just a balanced, thinking human being. You don’t need to mould yourself for the “-ism”.

Once you have worked out what you believe in, use “-isms” to give an overview of your beliefs, not to define you. You can call yourself a Buddhist if you believe yourself to be one, espouse most or all of the core beliefs and generally align with Buddhists. But use it to illustrate your general or main beliefs, not to restrict you. You should be able to go into more depth regarding your beliefs, defend those that don’t fit into someone else’s “-ism” and change your alignment if the “-ism” is no longer reflected in your beliefs. When you go into more depth, make a point of isolating yourself from absolutists, extremists and their followers. Accept that your version of “-ism” is yours only, that it is subject to change, that it serves you and you don’t serve it.

Once you have done this and only once you have done this will you see what really matters to you. And I doubt it’s claiming anyone and everyone for “-ism” or fighting over definitions in an obscure forum. Look at your actual, set beliefs. Look at the changes you would like to see in the world. Look at what you could do to make those changes happen. And do it.

Fit Friday VII.

Not been as active as I could have been this week. Will have to get some workouts in over the weekend. Lots of walking and less food, though, so I’m back down to a 27″ waist. Due to increased muscle, my body-fat percentage is now around the same as when my waist was 25-26″. Only mildly heavier, but solid at the sides. Part of me regrets my waist being a little wider, but if I keep the fat right the WHR will be the same and increased muscle is always good.

Caffeine and lactose have been controlled but not cut out. Sleeping a little better.

Next week I need more heavy weights in, and plenty of red meats whilst Jon’s away and won’t complain about the house smelling of ox-heart 24/7.

 

And at the moment this is stuck in my head:

 

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

WWW. Chili-Ginger Chicken, Lemon Cake, Veg in Gravy.

Two recipes today! Sorry it’s a little late, but between getting ready for Jon to go Wednesday and Jon leaving and the lessons yesterday and today I haven’t had much time to type the recipes up.

Main course: Chili-Ginger Chicken and Veg in Gravy.

20140716_125817

Ingredients:

-1 whole chicken

-300g potatoes

-300g sweet potatoes

-1 large courgette

-100g thick-cut bacon

-2tbsp ginger

-2tbsp chili powder

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-baking tray

-gravy bowl

Recipe:

1: Rub the chicken with chili and ginger.

2: Very thinly slice the potatoes, sweet potatoes and courgette.

3: Layer the vegetables in the baking tray. Place the chicken on top.

4: Cube the bacon and spread it over the remaining visible veg.

5: Bake at 200C for 1h.

6: Put the chicken and vegetables to one side.

7: Pour the gravy into the bowl. Thicken with a little flour.

20140716_125804

Recipe 2: Lemon Cake.

20140716_125823

This should probably be served with sweet icing, ice-cream or whipped-cream if you have a sweet-tooth.

Ingredients:

-350g self-raising flour or flour with agents

-300ml lemon juice

-1tsp ginger

-2tsp cinnamon

-3tbsp sugar

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and spoon

-greased or non-stick baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour, ginger, cinnamon and sugar.

2: Add the lemon juice and raising agents.

3: Mix, adding water until the consistency is like honey.

4: Pour into the tray. Bake at 200C for 25min and at 160C until a knife comes out clean.

20140716_131248

20140716_131238

Some lost arts and habits I’d like to see revived.

Even if they never will be.

past

Spring Cleaning.

clean

Admittedly this is moreso for the younger among us, as I’m fairly sure that most people over the age of forty have embraced their inner domestic goddesses and gods when it comes to dettol, vinegar water and the hoovering.

It seems that with the advances of female employment and the two-worker household we have started to let cleanliness slide. Oftentimes we stay at home for most of our youth, maybe leave briefly for university and then move straight back into our room. The cost of living has just reached a point where being a full-time homemaker or hiring a cleaner are not feasible options, even with our reduced living spaces. So we let our space get cluttered, after all, it’s small and we have a lot of stuff. We may sometimes tidy it, but a lot ends up under the bed, piled unattractively in a corner or thrown unceremoniously on a chair. We dust and wipe the obvious things, like tables and windows, and clean things we use regularly like TVs and books. Everything else can be left to collect dust behind it and rust stains under it. Our sinks and baths have clogged drains and limescale staining. Our trinkets have collected dust over and behind them. Under our bed the dust-bunnies breed like… bunnies. And it feels OK. Until we get it into our heads we’re going to clean. Then we despair.

But it really isn’t that difficult. Sure, maybe we can’t thoroughly clean every day. But we can tidy a little every day and keep on top of dust and dirt weekly. Then, once or twice a year, we have fun.

Spring Cleaning consists of several stages.

1: Declutter. I hate that word, but it explains it so well. Look at all the stuff you’ve accumulated. First of all, pick a theme for your room based on what you like from your clutter. It can be a style. a colour, an item, a patter. Maybe it’s butterflies, football or ebony and teal. Now, pile everything that doesn’t fit that theme to one side. Go through it and pick out only the things that mean the most to you. Also, maybe you don’t need so much clutter.

2: Deep Clean. Take everything. Dust it, wipe it down, rinse it, varnish it. Do whatever you must to make it clean. Same goes for the surfaces. Start with the laundry, like pillow covers and curtains. Next, start from the top, cleaning curtain rails, door-frames, shelves and window-sills. Move down until you reach the carpet. Leave the carpet for now. Next, dust and scrub all your trinkets and gadgets.

3: Organize Stuff. Maybe rearrange it from where it was before. Delegate your cat-sculpture collection to the windowsills. Put the DVDs and games nearer the TV. Or hide the gadgets entirely into drawers and make a display of books. Or finally hang your collection of vintage pinup posters. Make it functional, but good looking. Make it different enough to be proud of it.

4: The Carpet. A separate job entirely. Now that the floor is mostly clear, see whether or not it needs stain treatment. If it does, shampoo it or rent a carpet cleaner. If it doesn’t, hoover at least twice to ensure everything is clean.

5: Finally replace curtains and pillow covers. Light some scented candles, incense or plug in an air-freshener.

This doesn’t need to be done too regularly. As I said, once or twice a year. But the house or room will feel a lot better, be easier to look in and be cleaner for the next few months.

Entertaining.

entertaining

This is something so underrated I can hardly express it. You see, we regularly interact with other people. Co-workers and family, mostly. Or our “duty” socializing. Lots of time spent with people we only moderately like in a setting that’s less than perfect and often a little stressful. Then we have our friends. We see them less frequently, but we love to spend time with them.

But we’ve also developed some bad habits regarding our time spent together. We go all-out, spend too much, drink too much and forget to actually socialize a little. After all, no inhibitions means no worries! But all this is also expensive and, let’s be honest, not all that nice. If you’re a teen or uni student first experiencing some freedom and having a bit of money, then sure, maybe this is the best use of it. Especially if you share living quarters.

But there is a cheaper, more personal, more private way of getting drunk with your best friends: entertaining. I know, it’s a weird and outdated expression. But it’s a lot more fun than you’d think.

Basically, pick a group of friends. If you’re on your own you just have to pick ones that will get along with each other. If you’re in a relationship then you can either pick shared friends or dedicate a night to one social circle, though I am not accountable for what happens if one of you always has their friends round and the other doesn’t get a chance. That’s between you.

Next, you decide on what you’ll do. This is very personal, so just think of what you’ll have fun doing. Maybe a posh dinner, or a movie night, or a house party, or a games night. Anything you want.
Finally, arrange it. You’ll have to consider your budget as well as what to buy and what you’ll do to fill in the time as well as how long it will go on for.As an example, Jon and I semi-regularly have MeatFeast’s. Basically we get one or two shared friends round, cook up piles and piles of meat, add some eggs and some garnish, I mean veg, and feast. Generally we play good music, have a chat and get absolutely stuffed before we move on to some nice strong drinks and a film at the end. The friends is an easy option because I’m OK with most of his friends and don’t live near anyone I find OK myself, so we usually agree on who’s coming round. We’re also rather introverted, so one, two or three is enough. So no planning is really needed there. In order to organize the food I need to have the morning free to get an obscene amount of roasting and frying done. Usually I will see whatever meat and root veg is going cheap a few days in advance and then plot the recipes the day before. That means any soaking or rubs are done and that all I have to do is slice and cook. Then I will look at how long they will stay and plan accordingly. Usually the meal takes one to two hours at the most, during which not a lot of drink goes in. Sometimes there is a pudding, but that is often had with the drinks. Then I will select the drinks and film according to how much longer they will stay. Usually something light, so we can continue chatting. Then we say our farewells, Jon and I watch another film and I have a lot of washing-up for the next day.Yours could be easier on the cooking and cleaning or a bit wilder. Whatever you’re comfortable doing. Just remember to consider:-People. Who gets along with who, age ranges, tastes.-Food. Will there be any? What? Any dietary requirements?-Drinks. Alcoholic or not? Consider the food.-Entertainment. Think of how much time, how many people and what sort of people there will be.-Cost. Probably shouldn’t buy a BBQ for a single BBQ dinner.-Time invested. How long will it go on? And how long will it take to prepare?

Make, Do and Mend.

mdm

Another home-making essential that has gone by the bye along with housewives. But it makes so much sense. I’ve already written on this, but it ties into all the above. When you set up your own shelf, darn your socks, make paintings and decals for the walls and maintain a garden you’re saving money, developing valuable skills and perhaps even enjoying yourself.

It usually costs far less to buy a spare socket than get an electrician in to fit one, or to darn socks than to buy them new. This means that over time we save a reasonable amount of money. The more DIY you learn, the more you save. It will also help you develop an array of skills which could make work, social life and further DIY even easier.

We can group it into seven categories, all of which have their own levels. The best thing to do is to work your way through each level as you need to. When it’s time to darn socks, you learn to darn socks. When a shelf needs fitting, you read up on woodwork. When the oil needs changing, you open up the car manual. This ought to keep the learning focused, useful and low-stress.

1: Art.

This encompasses anything from paintings to hang on the walls to decorating a room. Stages would progress from organizing, to wall painting, to decorating, to making paintings and customizing ornaments, to putting decals on walls, to designing whole rooms. Whenever something pretty and artistic is required, learn it.

Possible money spent if you were to get a designer in to help you with your room, buy two paintings and new ornaments and get a professional artist in to make a wall decal: £2250.

Possible money spent if you buy some interior design magazines, make two paintings, buy charity-shop ornaments and make your own decal: £35.

Skills you could develop: creative painting, charity-shop hunting, colour-combining, organization, awareness of your living-space, wall-painting, customizing interior decoration.

2: Woodwork.

This starts light with cutting plain shelves and steadily progresses onto light furniture, fitting doors and free-standing buildings.

Possible money spent if you were to hire someone to fit an already purchased door and a shelf, buy a table and four chairs and a playhouse: £230.

Possible money spent if you were to fit the door and shelf yourself, make or fix-up a table and chairs and make a playhouse from scratch: £65.

Skills you could develop: sawing, joinery, sanding, curing, sealing, painting, measuring-up, fitting, moving heavy and awkward materials, making things watertight, maintaining woodwork.

3: Gardening.

The basics are mowing the lawn, weeding and shaping hedges. Then we progress onto plant care and growing from seed. Then digging flower beds, irrigation and growing hedges. And finally ponds and landscaping.

Possible yearly money spent if you were to hire a gardener to keep on top of your garden once a week, pest control once a year and a landscaper to plant everything out and organize everything once a year: £2000.

Possible yearly money spent if you landscape on your own, grow your own plants from seed and look after your garden yourself: £320.

Skills you could develop: plant identifying, weeding, pest control, flower arranging, growing your own, seed sprouting, incubating, irrigation building, landscaping, pond digging, lawn mowing, hedge trimming, hedge shaping, animal control, fence building, paving.

4: Clothes.

This covers everything you could do with your clothes, from fixing things, to customizing charity shop clothing and hand-me-downs, to making things from scratch by sewing, knitting, crochet and weaving.

Average yearly money spent on clothes by a family of four: £1216.80. Possible in-store cost of a non-branded outfit: t-shirt £10, trousers £25, underwear £5, socks £1, coat £35, shoes £35; total: £111.

Possible yearly money spent on clothes by a family of four through using hand-me-downs, charity shops and home-making items: £500. Possible cost of an outfit: charity-shop t-shirt £3, fixed-up trousers £0.75, home-made underwear £2, home-knitted socks £0.50, charity-shop coat £5, charity-shop shoes £10.; total: £21.25.

Skills you could develop: sewing, darning, knitting, weaving, crochet, patching, customizing, jewellery-making, pattern-making.

5: Electrics.

It starts out easy with replacing unusual batteries (so anything outside of the A-C range), moves onto socket and lightbulb replacement, fixing small electrical goods and right the way up to rewiring a wall or even making your own small electrically powered goods.

Possible cost of an electrician outcall to replace two sockets: £120.

Possible cost of installing them yourself: £10.

Skills you could develop: wire recognition, fuse handling, wire stripping, rewiring, battery changing, wire planning, installing permanent fixtures, safely working with electricity.

6: Plumbing.

The basics are unclogging drains, closely followed by taking apart and cleaning pipes and u-bends, installing outdoor guttering, fixing leaks, replacing sink parts and fitting shower-heads. Most of plumbing is easy once you know how to do it and could save you a bomb.

Possible cost of a plumber outcall to unclog a drain and replace a ball-valve: £143.

Possible cost of doing so yourself: £14.

Skills you could develop: moving pipes, shutting off water supply at various points, knowing the working parts of plumbing, replacing pipes, taps and cisterns, fitting shower-heads, new taps and washing machines.

7: Cars.

The basics are tyre maintenance, water and oil top-ups and cleaning. Then we progress onto changing batteries and parts like wheels and tyres, engine check-ups and oiling. Finally we have actual engine part maintenance and diagnosis.

Possible cost of minor service on a car (spark plugs, coolant, oil, air-filter change): £120. Possible cost of a full-valet cleaning: £50.

Possible cost of doing so yourself: £40. Possible cost of fully cleaning your car yourself: £15.

Skills you could develop: understanding of your engine, working with oil, water, etc, piecing machinery apart and together, cleaning and waxing a car.

All of these DIY areas could save you money, help you develop skills and even consider a career change if you like what you’re doing and feel capable of pursuing it full-time. This could be the time you decide you want to earn money as an artist, carpenter, gardener, tailor, electrician, plumber or mechanic. Or simply an extra £1000-3000 in your pocket at the end of the year.

Clothing Changes.

clothing

A small section that makes a big difference. Many of us work in office-wear or uniform, study in uniform or school-appropriate clothing. We may then have our lounging about the house clothes and definitely have our “going out” clothes. But rarely do we change outfits more than two times a day. We get up, put on our work or school clothes, maybe change out of them when we get home and wear either lounging or work clothes until we go to bed. But there are many reasons to change clothes more regularly.

First of all, we have environment. Sometimes it’s too hot, too cold, too windy or too rainy not to change clothes. Sometimes it’s just impractical to wear certain clothes in more than one situation. If you’ve got in from work and it’s a bit cold and rainy, it’s best to change out of your wet jacket and trousers into some comfortable, warm, dry jeans and a woolly sweater. If you wear a cheap uniform to work, it would be advisable to change into an old t-shirt and trousers to do the gardening. What you are doing greatly impacts the functionality of your clothes. Think about the weather, the climate indoors, the movements you’ll be doing, how strenuous the work will be, how close you may be to dust, dirt and staining materials.

Next comes hygiene and wear and tear. Most of us don’t have a suit or school uniform for every day, Monday to Friday or even Saturday. We get by either by washing our clothes every day and rotating two or three sets of clothing or by just wearing one uniform or one suit for two to five days in a row. The first involves many small, non-eco-friendly, expensive washes a week. One every day. The second involves potential hygiene issues. Both increase colour-fading and wear and tear on the clothes. The way to save your clothes, save your money and save your hygiene all at once is to make sure you only wear your clothes for work or school. When you get up, get dressed after sorting everything around the house and eating. When you get home get changed out of your clothes into something more practical or comfortable. This means your clothes were only worn for work, which, provided your hygiene is good and you don’t do much manual labour, should keep you clean. It also means you avoid any scenario where your environment may cause staining, discolouration or extensive damage to what may be company property or an expensive suit.

Then comes social life. Different social settings require different dress. This is still understood on a basic level in general society. You don’t wear the same clothes to work as on a date as to a PTA meeting. It is understood in even more depth in the small pockets of highly cultured people that remain around prestige universities and associated clubs, businesses and the likes. Yet few everyday people could tell the difference between smart, smart casual, casual, casual evening and lounge clothing. And it’s nobody’s fault, really, we just aren’t taught any more. But dressing exactly the right way for social situations can seriously make a difference in life. Your ex may have liked small cocktail dresses for nights out, but your new partner may prefer you in long skirts and blouses. Working at a primary school you could be expected to wear tracksuit trousers and a t-shirt, but working at a secondary school you could be expected to suit up. Going out with your goth friends will involve different make-up than going out with your childhood friends. Going out to a club will involve a different length of skirt than going out to a bar. When you dress even slightly inappropriately for a situation, you lose out on small social perks, status and interest. You don’t have to like it or think it’s fair that people won’t always, unconditionally, 100% accept you for who you are. If you want a cheaper drink, to be invited to the next event or to catch someone’s attention, dressing just right will help. Of course, some don’t care for those perks, status or interest. But there’s no denying that social structure is beneficial to humans and that keeping that order and scaling it will help you somehow.

Finally we have aesthetics. A pettier one, but also a benefit. You should be able to balance the practicality of your clothes with how attractive you feel in them. If you wouldn’t wear a McDonald’s uniform to a date, how comfortable and attractive do you really feel in it at home? Think about what looks good on you, weigh it against its practicality and appropriateness and decide what to wear from there.

I would suggest just starting with six different sets of clothing.

1: Work. Something that fits the dress-code, flatters you, fits into social conventions regarding your job and won’t get destroyed by work. For example, as a private tutor I need something that lets me bend down, stretch and move around without exposing flesh; as someone with an hourglass figure accenting my waist or hips is the best way to flatter myself; as a teacher I am expected to dress modestly and fairly sharply; as someone who’s not too active in work but who deals with a lot of paint, chalk and markers, I need something that is easy to clean if not robust. Therefore I wear high-waisted, long skirts, sharply cut blouses or tops, not much jewellery, no exposure of legs, midriff or bust, slippers as shoes.

2: Dates. Something that flatters you, that your partner likes on you and that suits the venue. For example, Jon likes me in skirts, tight clothing and blues and oranges; accenting my waist and hips shows my figure. Depending on the venue I may wear an above-knee down to an ankle-length skirt or dress, a tight top with a little cleavage and usually pick clothing he likes me wearing, plus heels.

3: Housework. Something that can get dirty, torn, mauled by kids and pets, washed to death, etc. For example, as I garden a lot, I like to have a robust t-shirt that doesn’t get worn often alongside some old jeans that are already torn and stained from something else or from past gardening, with old trainers or wellington boots to keep my feet dry and clean. That way it doesn’t matter if I rip or stain anything and I can focus on work.

4: Workout. Something that is flexible, robust, suited to the activity at hand, not prone to sweat-stains or holding smells, easily covered or added to if you’re going out in it. For example, as I lift weights and walk a lot, my clothing needs to be loose enough to be comfortable, but not baggy, expose or outline my arms, legs and back clearly so I can check on my form and stretch with my movements. So I wear loose elastic trousers (almost like pajamas), a sports bra and converse shoes.

5: Friends. This will expand based on how many social circles you have, but in principle let’s use one as an example. Something that lets you feel one with the group, stand out a little and that is venue-appropriate. For example, if I’m going out I don’t want to be too dressy, I want to be comfortable, I don’t want to give off the wrong signals to local men, but I want to look my best within that context. So I will wear a tight-fitting t-shirt, feminine jeans, note much make-up and a piece or two of jewelery as well as my ring, with Doc Marten boots and a nice coat.

6: Work casual. Look at what you wear for work and just make it more attractive. I don’t have the option here, so I’ll give a few random examples. If you usually wear a suit, make your shirt brighter or wear well-fitting jeans. If you usually wear a floor-length skirt, wear a slightly shorter one with tights. If you usually wear a loose-fitting outfit, wear something a little more form-fitting. Use colours, cuts and styles that you normally aren’t able to and that you know will flatter you.

In principle, those are the only ones you need to give much thought to, however, you may also need to consider appropriate homewear, eveningwear,  partywear, working-around-kids-wear, interviewwear etc.

A typical day of clothes for me would be:

-dressing gown to get the hens fed and out of the coop

-t-shirt and jeans for housework

-blouse and skirt for tutoring

-blouse and shorter skirt for when Jon gets home

-pajamas or nightie for bed

And always bear in mind that your wardrobe is probably flexible enough to dress appropriately for each situation. I have a suit dress, suit skirt and suit jacket I could combine with my tutoring shirts for an interview. I can wear my long skirts for work, on a date or for an evening at a friend’s house. My gardening jeans are also suitable for cleaning the house or just lounging. My casual t-shirts are good for light housework and exercise as well as for visiting friends or going on a more active date with Jon. Think it through and you’ll see how many options you have.

Book Clubs.

book club

It’s quite well known that fewer and fewer people read. After all, we used to read because there was no TV, no internet, no radio to entertain ourselves with. And there’s only so much socializing, so much poker and so much drinking someone can do before they want to be a little more entertained. Escapism is naturally human. Even tribal people who do not use written words will tell campfire stories and act plays among themselves to escape their everyday lives and imagine the lives of gods, ancestors, demons, foreigners and animals. So it was only sensical that literate societies would seek out books to entertain themselves with. And, with the progression of other media, it also makes sense that we would pursue the idler forms of entertainment available.

However reading provides many benefits. From newspapers and magazines to comics to novels to textbooks, simply reading anything boosts your memory, decreases stress, builds your vocabulary, etc. Just check that link. Reading is good for you. Not to mention the expanded knowledge from reading a variety of literature.

And the next step is to make reading a social thing. Making it social will encourage you to read at a good pace, immerse yourself in the book and pick up the next one as swiftly as the last.

There are many ways to organize a book club. Firstly you should find people who want to join it. Maybe as a circle of friends, maybe suggest one at the local library, maybe ask on a forum. Your book club can meet in person, online, through a messaging system or a chatroom or on facebook. You can pick a book for everyone to read or a theme for everyone to find a book on. You can read for entertainment or in depth. You can keep your club meetings to yourself or use them to write reviews. You can meet once a month or once a week. You can read together or on your own. You can meet when you’ve all finished the book or when you’re halfway through. Just get organized, read, review, motivate each other and make progress.

Men’s and Girls’ Bonding.

club

No, not together. All the opposite. The idea of men and women separating to spend some time on our own was fairly common until recently. Tribal women and men would spend from a few hours to a few weeks apart whilst the men hunted or fought and the women defended the grounds, reared the children and gathered. In early societies women and men would segregate either naturally or through enforced laws. And let’s not forget that when boys and girls start becoming more social their first behaviours regarding sex differences are “cooties” and “no smelly boys/girls” signs. The message is that boys and girls and men and women like a little time apart.

But with an ever-inclusive workforce, clingy partners, the slow erasure of gentlemen’s clubs and the creeping appearance of the “token” girl or guy in every social circle, these gender-focused spaces are becoming rarer. And the problem is worse for men than for women. Women can claim women-only spaces under the pretense (honest or false) of safe-spaces, of doing girly things boys shouldn’t be doing, of wanting to talk without feeling embarrassed or of being uninteresting. Yet for men these options aren’t really available as they just won’t work. However, both genders increasingly face the same issue: a lack of time for men to interact with men as men and for women to interact with women as women.

Whilst our roles in work are increasingly becoming the same, our roles in society still differ. Men and women face different trials, different beauty standards, different embarrassments, different social requirements. We calm down doing different things. We have different physical and emotional needs. Some of these can be shared with the opposite gender some of the time. But when we spend all or most of our social time in mixed-gender groups we are essentially engaging in a social experiment that hasn’t been attempted before. We are repressing things that we would like to say or properly discuss because the social group isn’t right. How many women wait until they’re left alone with their female friends so as to complain about heavy periods? How many men hold back emotional outbreaks because they don’t want to be seen losing it in front of girls? How many men and women alike have that one friend they can talk to about sex and relationships, because they’re scared of something they say becoming public? Deep down, we still want that little bit of privacy between ourselves and our girls/lads.

This doesn’t have to mean segregation of the genders, or gender-typical behaviours. It doesn’t even require segregated spaces, although this would help. You can spend 9/10 social meetings in mixed gender groups or take your female friends and your sisters hunting. You can have ten hours a week dedicated to general socializing and only half an hour for socializing with people of your own gender. Just a few times a week sitting down and building bonds with those people around you who share more intimately in your struggles, achievements, pains and everyday experiences can refresh you and help build you as a person.

.

And that’s it for the arts I’d like to see revived. Six habits from the past that served solid purposes that we have left by the wayside in the name of idleness, political correctness or simply a lack of awareness. Six habits that would still do us some good to engage in, to some degree or another.

I doubt we’ll bring them back. Not intentionally. We prefer slovenliness to cleanliness, clubs to dinner parties, buying to making, ease to practicality, laziness to mindfulness and political correctness to emotional wellbeing. The marks of our society are media, money and mediocrity. And all of these will guide us towards the more common behaviours. But the fact they won’t return to society in general doesn’t mean that they won’t do you any good.

WWW. Curried Roast Chicken and Carrot Cake.

There have been a few issues with photographing stuff today, so there isn’t a photo of our actual lunch and we lost the one of the carrot-cake before it was cut. However we do have photos of our dinner and of the carrot cake’s intense orangeness.

Recipe 1: Curried Roast Chicken or Madras Roast Dinner.

20120108_113251

Ingredients:

-1 chicken

-5tsp madras curry mix

-2tsp salt

-1/2 onion

-6 cloves garlic

-50ml lemon juice

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-baking tray

Recipe:

1: Chop4 cloves of garlic very finely. Insert slivers under the skin around the chicken. Make sure the chicken’s skin is bound tightly back up.

2: Slice the onion in half. Crush the other two cloves. Place in the chicken’s cavity.

3: Pour the lemon into the cavity.

4: Rub the chicken all over in salt and madras.

5: Roast at 180C for 2h.

-

Recipe 2: Chicken and Butterbean Bake.

Ingredients:

-4 pieces of chicken

-400g chopped tomatoes

-200-300g butterbeans

-200g courgette

-1tsp salt

-1tsp pepper

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-vegetable peeler or shredder

-large pan

-baking tray

Recipe:

1: Rub the chicken with salt and pepper.

2: Pan-fry the chicken in a little butter or oil. Make sure to crisp all round. This is best achieved by first dislocating the joints in legs and wings.

3: Shred the courgette using a vegetable peeler or shredder.

4: Add the tomato, courgette and beans with a little water to the pan.

5: Simmer, frequently turning the chicken.

6: Move to a baking tray and bake at 160C for 1h, or until everything crisps up and the tomatoes smell slightly caramelized.

-

Recipe 3: Super-Carroty Carrot Cake.

20120108_085123

Ingredients:

-4 large carrots

-250g self-raising flour or flour with raising agents

-20g walnuts

-20g pumpkin seeds

-4 walnut halves and a handful of seeds for decorating (optional)

-marzipan carrots (optional)

-2tbsp sugar

-200g butter

-3tbsp palm sugar or sugar with molasses

-2tsp honey

-3tsp ginger

-5tsp cinnamon

-1tsp cayenne pepper

-1/4 tsp cloves

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and for for the cake

-mixing bowl and fork for the icing

-vegetable peeler or shredder

-blender or food processor

-greased or non-stick baking tray

-large knife

-cookie-cutters (optional)

Recipe:

The cake.

1: Grate the carrots as finely as possible.

2: Add a little water and blend into a sort of carrot smoothie.

3: Mix in the plain sugar, 1tsp ginger and 3tsp cinnamon.

4: Mix in the walnuts and pumpkin seeds.

5: Slowly add the flour and raising agents. Leave to rise.

6: Pour into the tray and bake at 160C for 1.5h or until a fork comes out clean.

7: Turn upside down on a cooking tray and leave.

The icing:

1: Mash the butter, honey and palm sugar together until homogenous.

2: Fold in the remaining spices.

3: When the cake is cool, scoop the icing onto the flat side of the cake. If the cake is very fluffy, then scoop it onto the upside of the cake.

4: Use the knife to spread the icing. Start in the centre and spread towards the edges, turning the cake between spreads like you’re rolling out dough.

5: Use the cookie-cutters to leave marks in the icing. Arrange the walnuts, pumpkin seeds and marzipan carrot on the top of the icing.