Fit Friday XIII.

I’ve been insanely busy with work, so whilst some of the physical activity has gone out the window, the weights have remained and I haven’t been eating much. Weight and fat levels definitely more controlled now. Job well done! 🙂

The weights are slowly increasing and I’m starting to reach that point again where the auxiliary muscles are doing catchup work to keep up with the main ones. Hoping for no plateau this time.

Diet’s been pretty clean, lots of meat and veg, carbs relegated to mornings and no added sugar at all.

Next week is more weights, and a slightly higher calorie and protein limit to encourage faster muscle growth.

Also, Jon’s had this on loop the past few days:

WWW. A Bake in a Pumpkin.

Yes, lunch yesterday was baked in half a pumpkin. Because we’re getting all Autumny. 🙂

 

Ingredients:

-lower half of a 4kg pumpkin

-4-5 chicken thighs

-300g butter beans (soaked)

-200g green peas (fresh or soaked)

-1 small aubergine

-2tbsp chilli paste

-1tsp pepper

-1tsp salt

-water

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-baking tray

-tin foil

Recipe:

1: Place the pumpkin into the tray, skin-down. Prick the flesh but not through to the skin.

2: Pour the beans and peas into the pumpkin. Cover with water. Salt and pepper.

3: Cut the aubergine into 1×1 inch squares. Add onto the legumes.

4: Rub the chicken with the chilli paste. Place beside or on the pumpkin. Buttering everything optional.

5: Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

6: Cook the pumpkin until the chicken and pumpkin have browned.

7: Take out, cover with foil. Return to the oven at 250C for 20min.

8: Serve with a sauce.

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“What We Really Mean Is…” or How To Listen for Code.

-Code: A sentence that has a hidden meaning the listener must infer. Metaphors and innuendo are both examples of this.

Everybody speaks differently. It’s thought that our mindsets, beliefs, cultural expectations and even our personalities are a mixture of the five to ten people closest to us. Many more can leave an impression. Therefore, no one person will speak the same way. Even two sisters living in the same home, with equal interaction from both parents will speak slightly differently to each other based on their unshared friends and teachers. However, whilst actual languages can obviously cause barriers, we are generally able to communicate with people who share our culture, language and dialect without much difficulty. Someone may ask us to visit and we understand that they mean for us to see them soon, only when we need them or they’re just being polite. Someone may ask us to tea and we know whether they mean the meal or the drink. Someone may offer us chips and we know whether they mean hot fried potato sticks or cold fried potato slices. The more groups we belong to, the more our individual code gets jumbled. For example, women and men in the West are raised to speak different code. Women use more code and require more inference than men. Therefore, a woman who is generally friends with women and generally talks to women will use a lot more code than a man who is generally friends with men and generally talks to men. Or a doctor who is very absorbed in their career may spend a lot of time talking to patients, other doctors, nurses and pharmaceutical staff and reading about their favourite subjects, resulting in an deep knowledge of medical jargon, which can cause them to use overly complex or overly simple language with people who do not share their interest or knowledge. Furthermore, a woman such as the one described above is more likely to get along with people who use her own code and a doctor like the latter is more likely to enjoy conversation with someone at their own level. Therefore, your use of code can choose your social groups for you by making it easier to speak with people whose language most resembles your own.

We also use many ways to tell when someone may be using different language to us. An accent could indicate that the language is not their first, or that they come from a different region. Clothing tells us whether they come from our culture or not. Mannerisms, body language, names and, of course, them telling us that they speak our language secondarily or come from elsewhere, will remind us to exercise caution when using local dialect, archaic words, sarcasm or humour. In short, we avoid speaking in our cultural code when we aren’t sure we will be understood.

However, rarely do we account for individual code. We may be careful not to call our recently-migrated Indian friend “our boy” or a “basic b****” unless we’re ready to explain it to them. But we assume that those who speak English as a first language, who have our accent, who come from our region and who share our culture will understand what we mean by it. In short, we assume that because they share our language, dialect and culture, that they must also share our code. This, in and of itself, is not a problem, but we’re missing the final factor.

Sometimes, there are things we don’t want to discuss. Sometimes there are lies we tell: little white lies, lies of omission or overt lies, that are actually open for the reading of someone else. And sometimes we talk a certain way around our friends, family, partner or colleagues for so long that we forget what code we use for whom, what we discuss with whom, what language we use with whom. How often have we heard or used a sentence along the lines of “What I meant to say was…” so as to avoid blowback from a sentence or even a word that caused confusion? This is why. We used code that they interpreted literally, sometimes taking great offense to. This is how most misunderstandings happen, from someone getting you the wrong drink to someone believing their partner never wants to hear from them again. When we notice them, when someone else calls us out on our use of language or declares offense, we correct or explain ourselves, usually apologizing in the process. And all is well. However, people don’t always mention when they’re offended, or when they’re confused. And sometimes they will interpret something one way, it will make sense to them, they won’t be offended or think to challenge it and will act on their inference. And when the relationship with this person has a lot at stake, then we’re more likely to be greatly affected by the consequences. Someone honest and straightforward dating a person who is unusually flighty and uses a lot of fairly contrary code will find it hard to enjoy the relationship. Someone who uses jokes and sarcasm negotiating with someone who doesn’t appreciate the first nor understand the latter could lose business. Someone faking disinterest in someone who is looking for overt interest and consent could lose a chance at a friendship or a relationship. Someone taking a sentence at face-value could be led on by someone who prefers it when others read and don’t hear their intentions.

Of course, I can’t offer a solid solution on an individual level. If you choose to avoid all code, not only are you likely to fail, but when interacting with someone who uses a lot of code, they will be operating under the assumption you’re using it. If you try and analyze all code, you’ll find that for one person “yes” means “yes and don’t ask me again”, for another it is gentle dismissal, for another it means “I’m not sure” and for another it means “yes”. Even in the same context, with the same tone, a single word will vary in meaning depending on who’s using it and be interpreted differently depending on who’s listening. On a societal level, if we could abandon all code we would probably be  happier. Yet on an individual level we must simply learn to live with it and work around it.

And here is where listening and paying close attention comes in. We must always assume that someone we’re talking to, especially someone we’re talking to for the first time or outside our closest social circle, will be speaking different code to you or your friends. They may not at that particular time, or their code may be similar, but our world and culture are too jumbled to make that assumption. Where you read a certain sentence or word one way, ask yourself whether that is the common language meaning or the code meaning. Ask yourself, or even them, what exactly they meant. Eventually, once you’ve heard enough people talking, you start to notice when they are using code, which parts of your language are universal “Let’s go and have dinner at that new Italian restaurant.” and which parts are heavily coded “Let’s get some drinks.” Then you will be able to communicate using clear, universal language, adapting to use your conversational partner’s code, reading them as easily as they intend you to.

Furthermore, when you learn to look out for and interpret code you also learn to spot the secret languages people use among small social circles or to themselves. Those words and sentences that have a hidden meaning understood by one or five people, that are obviously coded, but undecipherable to the layman. When a girl calls you a “Mikey” to her friends, or a coworker suggests to the secretary that you need to “Slow down with the speed up.”, you may not be sure what they mean. Is it good or bad? In what way does it affect your relationship with these people? How does it alter any future interactions you’ve planned? Some are easy to identify, some are harder. But once you start working out code you start realizing how there are certain types of people, and each type uses code in a particular way and eventually you work out what people’s private code means. You spot their lies, their in-jokes, their manipulation.

And who wouldn’t want to communicate better with people whose intentions are good for you and better detect and use people whose intentions are bad for you?

How to… Forage, Roast and Preserve Wild Hazelnuts.

This week’s How To may be a little out of date for some areas, but there are still hazelnuts around a bit further South, so make use of them whilst they last!

1:  The first step in foraging is to know what you’re looking for. Hazelnuts are especially hard to spot, as their leaves resemble many others and their nuts are covered by a light green cover that is easily confused for the leaves themselves. So first of all let’s find what the trees look like.

Hazel trees can be short or very tall and still bear fruit. The young ones look like bushes with no apparent main trunk, whereas the older ones have a slim trunk, many almost horizontal lower branches and upwards pointing middle and upper branches. This results in many branches very close to the ground. The bark is thin, smooth and silvery brown.

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The leaves are round and thick and rather light, though not as bright as a young leaf. They grow rather sparsely.hazel1

2: Once you have found a hazel tree, it’s time to check whether the nuts are ripe. An unripe hazelnut has no kernel, so there is no point picking them yet.

The hazelnuts themselves are fairly hard to spot, so to identify a hazel with ripe nuts it’s best to look at the ground. Underneath the tree you should see a number of hazelnuts on the floor.

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The casings you see will tell you what to look for in the branches. There are generally two types of casing even though there are many types of hazelnut. One type covers the entire hazelnut in a long green sleeve. The other exposes some of the nut. With the first it can be hard to tell which fruits are ripe, but with the latter it’s fairly easy to spot.

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White hazelnuts are often unripe, but if they have a white top and brown beneath the sleeve they should be ripe. Ripe hazelnuts also usually fall out of the sleeve when pressure is put on them, whereas most unripe ones stay where they are.

3: Once you have found a hazel tree with ripe hazelnuts, it’s time to gather them.

The ones off the ground are often good, but some have already rotted or been eaten. Look for cracks and holes in the nut. If it has none, compare it to a nut right from the tree. Often, hollow and rotten ones will have lost some of their shine and gone a bit grey, so they look dusty even when they aren’t.

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The ones on the trees that are brown through or white with a brown base are also ready for picking. Look out for unusually small ones, wholly white ones or ones with a little green on them.

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Be careful when pushing them out of the sleeve: sometimes they fall and can be hard to spot among fallen leaves and other debris.

4: Once you’ve taken them home, it’s time to shell them. Get a nutcracker. A pair of pliers can work too, but may damage the hazelnut.

Sometimes cracking them from two angles is required to get the nut out. Once they’re shelled, remove the brown skin. You can already eat them as they are or use them to make hazelnut milk or baked goods.

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5: But we’re roasting them today. Pre-heat the oven to 140C.

Place your shelled nuts on a tray where they have space to roll around. Use more than one tray if they are cramped. Also, try and sort them by size if it varies wildly, as small ones will burn long before large ones are solid.

Roast until brown. Turn the heat down to 100C and cover them in foil.

Once dry, remove from the oven and cool.

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6: Even though they’re roasted, I’d suggest leaving them to cool in the open and then putting them in a coffee jar with a moisture-absorbing lid or freezing them, as preservation is  not guaranteed.

FitFriday XII.

Off the pill in under a fortnight of testing it. Without going into too many details, it made a basic biological function malfunction and I went anemic, has constricted veins and generally felt awful. General health better now.

Workouts continuing apace. I like the new shorter breaks and my mood seems improved and more even.

Carb control and zero snacks has left me a lot more comfortable with my figure and surprisingly lighter and stronger, so I will continue it indefinitely.

Plans for next week are more weights and lots of red meat to get my blood health back to normal.

WWW. Pumpkin Mash and Hatchet Ratatouille with Chicken.

I love the Autumn! Not too hot, a bit damp but not flooded or snowing, crunchy leaves underfoot, students returning, fires justifiable and best of all, the produce! Pumpkins, squash and marrows. Hazelnuts, chestnuts and sunflower seeds. Cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower. Blackberries, elderberries and sloes. Tomatoes, peppers and chillies. Everything delicious and and colourful and carby and flavourful.

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Around £7 worth of fresh Autumn food.

So, the first of today will be a simple pumpkin mash recipe, to make good use of a wedge from a bulky pumpkin.

Ingredients:

-500-700g/17.6-24.7oz seeded, peeled pumpkin

-200g/7oz mashed potato or 100g plain flour or 50g rice flour

-200ml/7floz double cream

-2tsp pepper

-1/4tsp cloves

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-pot

-blender or potato masher

Recipe:

1: Slice the pumpkin into rough chunks.

2: Put on the lowest heat and allow to simmer until the pumpkin changes colour and softens.

3: Add cream and starch. Blend.

4: Simmer. Add pepper and cloves when almost ready.

And next is less of a recipe and more of a general outline. For those who want the delicious taste or ratatouille without the exactness.

Ingredients:

-500g/17.6oz of the following: courgette, aubergine, summer squash, onion, sweet red pepper, sweet yellow pepper

-400g/14.1oz of tomatoes

-3-6 cloves of garlic

-5 leaves of basil or 1tsp dry basil or 1 sprig fresh oregano or 1tsp dry oregano or 1 leaf fresh mint or 1/4tsp dry mint

-olive oil

-salt and pepper

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-frying pan, pot or baking tray

Recipe:

1: Chop the vegetables roughly, so they won’t disintegrate.

2: Peel and crush the garlic. Add to the tray/pan/pot with a little oil. Put on a medium-high heat.

3: Once the garlic is softened, add the vegetable mix. Lower the heat right down. Add a bit more oil.

4: Once the vegetables are half cooked, add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and herb. Stir to spread through.

5: Leave to simmer. Add water if the fluid level drops too low. Keep stirring minimal.

6: Once all the vegetables are softened but retaining their shape, serve.

We had ours with chili-roast chicken.

We had ours with chili-roast chicken.

How To… make an apron.

First of all, my apologies for the lack of updates. I’ve been unwell, so writing hasn’t been a priority.

 

I’m starting a new category. “How To…” will cover anything to do with running and maintaining a home, from the bare basics, to the advanced, to the rural, to the urban, to the curiosities; from cooking, to DIY, to learning languages, to painting. Anything and everything to keep a house beautiful and efficient.

 

The first installment is aprons. Why? Well, I needed one and I wanted to look adorable in it as well as make it suited to the way I cook, easy to clean and easy to mend, so I decided to make it on my own. It isn’t difficult at all and if you’re not too bothered about looking cute and adding frills and you own a solid sewing machine you’re skilled with, you could knock one out every hour.

First of all we need to understand the anatomy of an apron. It should cover your front and your thighs, as high up and as low down as flour gets when you’re baking. As I like high-neck tops and tend to put my hands to my face far too often, mine needed to be pretty much from collarbone to just below mid-thigh, but some of you will probably be tidy enough to make a smaller or lower cut one. The apron will tie around the neck and waist for maximum security. This gives us four basic pieces: the body and the skirt, that will make up the bulk, and two strips as the neck and waist. Depending on your needs you can add more straps, pockets and decoration.

For mine I went with two-tone: patterned pink and soft black with two waist straps, one neck strap and a pocket. Pink body, pink picket, black skirt and straps. I also used contrasting stitching: black on pink and pink on black, and added lace to the hem and neckline of the apron.

STEPS.

0: Select your fabrics, threads and trimmings! Do a sketch to get an idea what you want.

1: Measure out, and shape your body and skirt.

2: Attach the body to the skirt.

3: Cut some strips of fabric for the waist a little longer than you need them and just over twice as wide. Fold them over and stitch all around for a strong strap.

4: Cut a strip of fabric for the neck a little longer than you need and just over twice as wide. Fold over, stitch all around.

5: Attach the straps to the apron.

6: Cut any pockets and attach them.

7: Add trimmings.

Here’s my one:

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