The Garden Haul Comes In.

Interrupting the recipes for a quick update on the garden foods.

Well, we’re not quite there yet. Beans are not yet ripe, neither are tomatoes. Still got plenty of greens to harvest, as well as around 4/5 of the potatoes. The carrots and beets and turnips could do with another growth spurt too. But both in preparation for moving and because things ripen at different speeds, a load of stuff has already been coming in.

The raspberry bushes. Not actually “ours”. Wild-seeded.

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Raspberry, strawberry and blackcurrant jam prep.

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This year’s attempt at restocking the jam supplies. Got blackberry jam to make soon, then elderberry jam and apple sauce. Hopefully plum jams, but we don’t grow our own so that depends on overstock from neighbours.

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Just a little peek into the top of our bag of frozen blackberries. Pretty much every time I’ve gone out, I’ve been picking early blackberries and freezing them. The picture doesn’t show it well, but the bag has around 1.5-2L of blackberries in it. They will need rinsing from frozen, defrosting gently, adding to however many fresh ones I can gather as September advances, then stewing down for more jams!

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The very last batch of rhubarb. Probably going to be a tart, or maybe a sweet sauce for topping a flan. Now’s time to move the plant roots into pots, to move down to our new place, ready to plant out next Spring.

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Around 1/10 of the potatoes, because we ate half of this batch before I took a photo. Digging them up 1/5 at a time, starting with the shallow ones, to prevent parasites and rot from getting them first. They’re possibly the starchiest potatoes I have ever had. 😀

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And finally some of the greens we are growing. No pesticides, so a bit nibbled, but fine to eat.

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Here are some fresh greens, early beans and herbs being prepped for a stew.

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In short, the garden is serving us well this year.

Sadly my pea plants were not as robust as the beans, though, and produced only a handful of pods before succumbing to the sun during my week of absence. There’s always next year, though!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.
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Burnout and Productive Laziness.

A recent post at ROK got me thinking about how easy it is to push yourself beyond healthy limits. We all have our reasons for doing it. Right now the nesting instincts are starting to kick in and seem to be merging with my money-saving drives, so I’m quite happily working in the garden until I realise I’m starting to feel a bit sick, or getting unnecessarily stressed about boxes in the hallway, or trying to put my sewing before paid work. I’m pretty sure the weird bug I had last week was down to overwork. But there are countless other reasons: the urge to impress, the thought that work is somehow sacred, the desire for the rewards, etc. We all have the capacity to overwork ourselves.

On the other hand, we are naturally lazy animals. All living beings are naturally lazy, in that we will do the bare minimum to fulfil our basic biological needs. Even our metabolisms are designed to do the most with the fewest calories possible, to complete processes sooner, to stay in stasis as long as possible.

And, although slothfulness is definitely a bad thing, I can’t help but feel that this gentle laziness is actually pretty positive. Unlike true sloth, where you sacrifice productivity and activity for rest, laziness is simply the desire to get things out of the way so you can rest. In short: you can be productive and lazy. Which is really what humans have been doing since the beginning of time. We have agriculture, electricity, mechanization and AI, all because we wanted to get work done sooner so we could get home and put our feet up. Every innovation, every great solution, every burst of creativity is born from an urge to not be doing what you are currently doing.

So don’t fear laziness. Harness it. Work out the path of least resistance to solve your problems and take it. Be productive, but not a beast of burden. And enjoy your rest.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

How To… be rational, not rationalize.

In our home we often say humans are not rational creatures, we are rationalizing creatures. That is to say, we spend more time thinking about why we do what we do, explaining and justifying our actions, as well as those of others, than we do thinking through what we are about to do and planning ahead. There is a lot of research into why this is, but it boils down to:

  • most behaviour is driven by instincts and thus most processes begin before we start thinking
  • we are often stressed, which lets instincts run wild
  • we don’t actually think of our future selves as “us”
  • we want to feel good about things we have already done
  • we want to feel good about the people “in our tribe”

This is why your average person will see chocolate cake, feel hungry, eat it distractedly, feel briefly bad about it, then excuse it and seek validation from others for the excuses, even though it is not in their long-term interests to eat the cake. Quite simply, instincts and now won out over reason and the future. It is also why depressive cycles can be so strong, why we enjoy disassociative drugs, or why people with personality disorders often feel the best about themselves.

But there are ways to improve our ability to be rational, that is, to think about our actions in general, our future, and what we do… before we do it.

1. List your instincts and their intensity.

We all have three base instincts that give rise to other instinctive behaviours. Think of which apply to you, as you might find one or two do not, and think about how easy you find it to resist them.

1: Survive.

  • eat
  • hydrate
  • sleep
  • hide from danger

2: Reproduce.

  • partner
  • have sex
  • create safety
  • locate resources

3: Find worth.

  • relax
  • work at something you enjoy
  • feel pride
  • feel belonging

So, for example, I would say my drive to eat is very strong, whereas I can resist the need to drink or sleep for a while. I would also say my drive for sex is strong, but still far weaker than my drive to partner, and that my drive to partner comes before my drive to avoid danger or feel group belonging. This means I am very centered around what I eat and around Jon, and not easily swayed by groups or fear.

2. Consider the biological reasons for your instincts.

There is a biological reason for every instinct. Those you feel intensely are probably there for two reasons:

  1. They are hardwired in almost every human.
  2. They were reinforced during your childhood.

For instance, a childhood lacking much parental security, group solidarity and physical resources has made me very prone to disordered eating and eager to attach to one person very intensely. Both are at their core instinctive, but they were reinforced later on.

Likewise, your instincts will have a purpose.

3. List your life goals and how instinct may interfere with them.

But not all instinct is good nowadays. We have an instinctive urge to get fat, because at times of scarcity, we never got too fat, just about fat enough to keep us through a famine. But today there are no famines and the instinct doesn’t work. Likewise for every instinct. Fear becomes paranoia, sexual need becomes single motherhood or multiple child benefit claims, desire for pride becomes arrogance, desire to belong becomes dependence. They can all become dysfunctional when let run wild.

4. Whenever you feel an urge, ask if it is instinct.

Now you know what they are, when you feel a pull towards something, ask yourself what instinct it could be based on. The urge to buy the latest smartphone may be a need to belong, or a need for a partner, or a need for sex. The urge to eat the chocolate cake may be a need for food, or for drink, or for safety. The urge to slap someone may be a need for belonging, or a sense of fear, or a spike of pride. Every self-destructive knee-jerk is your instincts screaming in confusion at the modern world.

5. Whenever you identify an instinctive drive, think long term.

You won’t catch every instinct, but you need to think long term as soon as you spot one. Think about your bank, or future purchases, or the group you belong to before buying the smartphone. Think about your weight, your health, or bad habit cycles before eating the cake. Think about social and legal repercussions, loss of friendship or the risk of physical harm before slapping someone. Ask yourself where your actions will take you, and whether you really want to be there.

In summary:

1: Know yourself.

2: Know your body.

3: Know your priorities.

4: Identify your problems.

5: Plan ahead.

Because it may be easier to rationalize, but it does nothing to help you better yourself.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

“Egg Cake” AKA Baked Omelet.

Jon’s expert analyses of these was “they are egg cakes” and that they were good with beans or salad, but he preferred them hot to cold. They’re a little based off spanish tortilla, only more layers and a bit slower and lazier for the cooking process.

No pictures because I kind of forgot them.

Ingredients:

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 150g potatoes
  • 100g broccoli
  • 100g bacon
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 crushed or minced garlic clove
  • 1tsp black pepper
  • 1tsp salt – this may be a bit low for people who aren’t on restricted sodium!
  • dash of worcestershire sauce

Utensils:

  • chopping board and knife
  • small pot for boiling
  • pop-base cake tin, either greased, lined or nonstick, ours is about 4″ deep and 20″ across

Recipe:

  1. Wash and chop the potatoes and broccoli with a pinch of salt. Boil until fork-tender, but not too solid. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160C.
  3. Whisk the eggs with the milk and seasonings.
  4. Finely dice the bacon, bell pepper and onion. Sprinkle across the base of the tin.
  5. Add a layer of now-cool potatoes and broccoli.
  6. Give the eggs a final stir and pour over the vegetables.
  7. Bake in the oven until a skewer comes out clean and it no longer jiggles.
  8. Cool completely before reheating or serving cold.

The first beauty of this is that you can mix and match the fillers. As a rule of thumb: nonsweet fruits and scallions go in raw, starches are to be used sparsely and precooked, brassicas are to be precooked, cured meats and beef go in raw, seasoned and finely chopped, white meats and uncured pork need precooking.

The second beauty is that your total time used is around 5 minutes of chopping things, 5 whisking and 5 layering. The rest is all largely unsupervised.

A quality, high-protein, portable food you can make quickly and adjusted to your needs. I think it’s pretty awesome, anyway.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

Cut Back Media, Cut Back Stress – 9 Steps To A Better Life.

Since I did the #NoNothingNovember challenge with leechblock, I’ve noticed just how much, or, better said, how little, standard media exposure adds to my life.  The usual ways we entertain, distract and inform ourselves may seem such an integral, normal part of life that it is easy to miss just how negative their influence can be. The majority of the media is sensationalist and biased. News providers, scriptwriters and social media engineers alike all know that anger, shock and fear drive our consumption. But the things which they present us with are actually in no way reflective of our lives. They’re just fodder to keep us hooked on their service.

As I’ve already admitted, media consumption is a fairly normal, integral part of modern life. Few people can completely get rid of it, and you can’t avoid it forever. But, you can be in control of what you consume and cut right back on standard media, enhancing your life without missing out on the information it provides. Here’s how.

1: Trash the TV.

Passive viewing is the most harmful way to consume media of any kind. Switch it on, play it in the background, let it seep into the brain as we are at our most vulnerable. Standard TV, in the modern era, has no advantages over anything else. If you need a bit of background noise, you can play a DVD, a recorded show, or, better yet, some simple music. If you want to be informed, then there are ways to become informed on demand.

An easy way to get rid of your TV is… get rid of your TV. You might want to leave the monitor up for other things, but just disconnect the cable, cancel the service if you can, and let standard TV leave your life for good.

Of course, you won’t be able to avoid TV all the time. I don’t beat myself up if the TV is on when I’m at a friend’s house or in a waiting room. I might even watch it if nothing is happening. But being like the average Brit and spending a day a week in front of a TV is no good for me. Even when a TV is around, the healthy bet is not to be the person who turns it on.

2: Limit social media time and reach.

It may be almost impossible to quit all social media, especially if you have a large and distant family, or if you use the internet for work. But you can exercise control over what social media does to you. For example, you may spend a lot of time arguing with people online. And if you enjoy it and find it fun: go you! But if after a day of shouting at an SJW you feel sick and tired and stressed, then perhaps now is the time to exercise control over your social media.

Do not engage with people who anger you. Many sites give you the option to hide their posts, and posts like theirs, from viewing. You can even block them. Ask yourself what they add to your life, and if the reply is “stress every time I log onto facebook”, then nix them.

3: Interact less with social media.

In a similar vein, if you want to see less drama and sensationalism: click, ‘like’ and share less drama and sensationalism. Social media works via feedback, and if you’re always clicking on bad news, commenting on things that wind you up, ‘liking’ social drama, and sharing things that enrage you, then that is all you will see. On the other hand, if you interact with things you enjoy and independently investigate things you are curious about, then your social media feeds will be enjoyable for you.

4: Select your news sources carefully.

Following from the last points: cutting out standard TV and altering what you see on social media does not mean you have to be uninformed. It is absolutely necessary to know about happenings in the world at large, developments in your field of interest, and events and trends that may influence the people around you.

Instead, rather than passively waiting for news to come to you via TV or social media, seek out news. Give yourself a time each day to browse some news sites, or even news feeds. Pick sites that do not particularly pander to you or to those unlike you. Instead, find sites that offer short, to-the-point, fairly unbiased reports of events. Give yourself a set number of news stories to read -more on this later-, pick them well, get up to date, and then close the website.

5: Subscribe to specialist magazines, newsletters, papers and emails.

If you want to be even further informed on matters that are most relevant to you: find highly specialist news sources and subscribe to them. If you’re into guns, look into newsletters about guns. If you’re into dogs, look into a subscription to a dog-based magazine. Read what you enjoy and stay abreast of news that makes a difference to your life.

6: Buy, and read, more books.

As in 5. Audiobooks if you have little time or suffer dyslexia.

7: Use leechblock, or a similar add-on.

During my #NoNothingNovember challenge in 2014, I cut back on time-wasting websites. This was a big step for me, as most of my work depends on the internet and it was very easy to get sucked into “just one more listicle, or picture, or article”. The worst bit? I didn’t even like the sites I was browsing. I was just looking, blank mind, at pictures of food and memes, getting wound up at the inanities of sites I disagreed with, and correcting incorrect articles in my head.

Being as it was far too easy to accidentally click on a website that would swallow my time just by checking emails, blogging, or doing a bit of research for work, I installed leechblock. This is a firefox add on that basically kicks you off websites you have added to a blacklist. Some were banned til the end of days, because they were worthless. Some were put on a time limit, to encourage faster selection of better-quality articles and prevent me from getting sidelined. Some were only allowed within certain times. All in all, it really helped to reshape my habits, and I have grown for using it. There are similar add-ons for other browsers, and even phone apps that limit access to time-wasting sites and apps after certain time periods. I personally eschew standard smart phones because I don’t need or want them. But if your smartphone is your life, consider deleting any apps that suck up your time and “culling” the amount of data you get automatically fed. Know the difference between “convenient news updates” and “live drama and clickbait straight into your pocket”.

8: Make more use of self-service entertainment.

By self-service entertainment I mean places where you can watch TV series, news, documentaries and films in your own time, on demand. So YouTube, anime feeds, and Netflix would be the big ones for me. There are two major advantages to this.

Firstly, you get to watch a few things for fun, as and when you like them. This beats standard TV at its own game, by miles. Some services even offer live TV shows or shows on a slight delay, so you don’t have to miss out on things you look forward to.

Secondly, almost all these services record your viewing habits for the purpose of recommending you new videos. If you spot that there is a heavy and unhealthy bias in your recommended viewings, then you know you need to adjust your habits until you get better and healthier recommendations.

9: Socialize with people who add value to your life.

Finally, replace as much media as possible with real people. If you’re on social media, aim to spend more time chatting to people in messages than trawling through pages and interacting with posts. If you want to watch a show, try and make it a communal activity. When you find out some interesting news, discuss it with a friend who is also interested and exchange the knowledge you have.

You acquire more, better, more relevant information from having good people in your life than you will ever gather from watching the news every morning. For instance, if there is an outbreak of alabama rot nationwide, the news may not focus on cases relevant to you. If it is in your area, you will find out about it from others who also own dogs, without having to watch three hours of news relevant to other parts of the nation first. Good social connections get you news to the point.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What are your media habits like? How do you try and make the media you consume more productive and positive?

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

Can We Both ‘Marry Up’?

It is a common assumption made by most dating resources and, indeed, most people, that relationships are a zero-sum game: that someone has to be better for having the other, and that for that to happen, the other must therefore be worse, having made a sacrifice to improve their partner. But I have already discussed why this is not necessarily the case.

What I’m getting to today, thanks to an interesting post by IB last week, is the mentality that brings about this assumption. Because there actually seems to be a step in between “I observe that most relationships are unbalanced” and “therefore there has to be a loser”. And that step is “everyone wants to marry up”.

In and of itself, the statement is innoccuous: of course everyone wants to marry up. We want the genetically fittest partner we can get, as well as a compatible one, so we look out for one who is generally an improvement on us. Sexier, richer, younger, more mature, more famous, brighter, etc. Thus, we look for something better. But the implication is that for someone to be better than us, they must be “hyper”, or “above” us. Thus, we win and they lose.

But the reality is that we also seek compatibility in our genetic fitness. The masculine seek the feminine, the feminine seek the masculine. The creative seek the scientific, the scientific seek the creative. The doctors seek the nurses or the patients. The artists seeks the muse, the model an artist. We want someone who can do what we cannot, what we either do not have the time or the energy or the skills to do. If it had a term, it would be “paideiagamy”: the pursuit of someone who rounds us out, who makes us a complete unit of society.

And this is where we find that middle ground of “marrying up”.

You see, there are two ways of marrying up.

The first is when partner A is clearly beneath partner B. Not just in one aspect, but as a sum total of their desirable qualities. In these cases, only two results are possible. Either partner B becomes idle, and lets slide the characteristics that made them better, causing an evenly married couple where partner A resents partner B for “bait and switch” and partner B resents partner A for “ruining B’s life”. Or partner B continues to work on improvement, or at least maintenance and grows distant, causing partner A to become insecure about the quality gap, causing anger on both sides. In short, you cannot just “marry up” and rest on your laurels.

But there is another kind of marrying up. This is where the partners are either equal or equivalent. Equal in that they are approximately the same in all desirable qualities. Or equivalent in that, despite specific differences, their sum total of desirability is even. However both partners are focused on improving themselves and extend that efford to each other. In working to improve each other, they end up with a continually better partner: one who gives them better access to that which they desire. But they are also improving, incentivizing their partner to also invest in them. Through this process, each member of a couple will appear to have benefitted greatly from the relationship. Their friends and family will compliment the quality of their partner for “fixing” them. But in reality both have improved.

Of course, the second kind of marrying up is all an illusion. Neither married someone objectively better than themselves. You’ve just married your approximate equal and both encouraged each other to improve, giving the impression to everyone but yourselves that one of you struck gold. But “true” marrying up is as much a recipe for failure as marrying down, or being lazy in a relationship are.

So the answer is: Not really. You can’t both marry someone better than you, not in absolute terms. But being unable to both “marry up” does not lead to “zero-sum game”. You can just as easily marry an equivalent, a slight superior or a slight inferior and end up both vastly better off for it. Which may make others assume you married up after all!

Ultimately, you can only win at the game when you play it together.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What is your perspective on improvement through relationships? And what would your paideiagamy look like: focus on complementarity, on similarity, on contrasts, on better qualities..? Do you think there are any more steps to the disillusion->marry-up->zero-sum-game mentality?

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

FitFriday, FatFriday XII.

Baby.

Well, I had a continual headache from Monday morning through Wednesday. That wasn’t fun. Jon said it sounded like a migraine from how much pain and confusion it was causing, only it didn’t react to light or sound. So just an awful headache. Went to the drs, just in case. Apparently some women “just get them” and after a check up they said no risk of pre-eclampsia, but let’s check the iron levels. Will find out if I was anemic by Monday. Though I have a faint suspicion that some lemon squash I was guzzling might have had something to do with it. No squash = no headaches. If it was the culprit, I’m not sure if I managed to overhydrate again or if it has a compound that triggers headaches in me.

But I’m finally getting used to baby’s “routine”, which is good. He will wake up with me and kick me in the intestines until I have my morning coffee, a bit after which he calms down. Unsure if this means he may have the same hormone issue I have, or if he’s just reacting to my own hormone regulation. OTOH, he is very little and probably not developing anything disordered yet, OTOH, caffeine passes through the placenta far better than hormones, so it’s probably that he reacts to. Then he will have two busy days for every quiet day, so on quiet days I will hardly feel him and on busy days he won’t stop kicking me senseless. And every day, when I lay down to go to bed, he kicks about a bit, rolls over several times and seems to settle into a pattern of resting and rolling as I fall asleep. I guess he appreciates the stillness after a busy day!

Diet.

Doing pretty good. I was so sure I was getting fat, and then I find out my weight is STILL stable. I’d better not be losing muscle anywhere. More pics when Jon has the time to get a nice full-body one of me not looking too slouchy or unclothed.

Managing to keep within my calorie ranges and the baby is growing fine, so, considering everything, I’m just going to stick at it. Lowering my sugar intake in favour of more complex carbs, though, because fresh and dried fruit and plain sugar have crept up and I’d like to not go on a sweets binge. Less sugar, more starch and protein.

Exercise.

I have been very, very bad with weights this week. General activity: great. Some gardening, resistance bands, yoga, walking the dog, nice long walk to the drs for that blood test… Weights have sort of been missed a lot. But there’s always something. Either I’m overtired, or I have lessons, or we have an errand, or something. I hope next week I can get back to it, because I know that if I don’t keep my weight workouts steady, I may suddenly lose some power and will have to roll the weights back for another six months. 😦

How did your week in fitness go?