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June 2023
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So, is it better to cook yourself or by in ready made?

When my mum started earning decent money by returning to work full time, my childhood home saw more ready meals coming into the house. “Bung ’em in the oven”s, delicious meals you simply heat through.

My son was much younger than us when I returned to work, and like my mum, we had three or four meals a week for the whole family that were simply reheated, either in the conventional oven or in the microwave. Often, we bought a meal for two adults and boiled up rice or pasta with some vegetables to bulk it out. As my son got older, we added more starch and/or dishes. It has to be said a young child doesn’t need an adults portion.

We had some staples we added to it: spaghetti bolognese was often home cooked or risotto or stir fry. Roast dinners came on the menu as soon as our son was old enough to enjoy them – we bought small joints and didn’t do left overs.

Sounds either like neglectful parenting or perfectly reasonable. Your point?

So much has changed since he’s moved back home as a young adult. We all cook, we don’t always all clean up. My husband is less tolerant of a mess, so during the week, he ends up doing the majority of it. We’re much more, you make the mess, you clean it up during the weekend.

We also do so much more. I tried making my own pizza today – something I’d had no ambition to do before this year. For a type 1 diabetic, pizza isn’t the easiest thing I eat: if I do get the bolus right though, it is a wonderful food, tasty, filling, healthy with vegetables and diary, and a great blood glucose curve.

I am not keen on sweets and desserts in general, but home prepped ones are much easier to consume with consistent results to your blood glucose.

It’s the time it all takes. Not just putting the ingredients together: they all have to be bought and measured out. Then there’s the washing up. I cook lean, producing as little washing up as possible, which means a bit more running around. So, I not only get the calories at the end of the meal but often the little booster I need during the cooking process all adds up in the end 🙁

Then there’s the rubbish. For every success go after several tries, there are often many failures. For all the mess, sourcing of ingredients, jogging up the kitchen or spreading out from the original worktop, success is never guaranteed on go one.

If the taste is just disappointing, we all help out, and make helpful, if not welcome, suggestions. I had mixed results with the pizza today – very nice but a bit thicker than usual.

Of course, it doesn’t stop with reading the recipes in the books in your kitchen. There’s a whole internet out there with blogs, pages, videos, and more.

I’m well and truly down this rabbit hole. Happy eating 🙂

It shouldn’t work, but it does

Our kitchen is wrong on so many different levels. Yes, it has a great area, but being L shaped, means it shouldn’t work at all.

There are blind spots, it miles to walk anywhere, and the original units did not consider any of this. It also did not consider anyone would want an American style fridge – we not only wanted one, we had one to accommodate.

The first week of lockdown, I realised how to not only fit everything into the living space – big table, big fridge, fixed units – but how to make the room work.

It’s all about zoning the space – we have a “living end” which has two, not quite facing each other, doors to other parts of the house. It also has patio doors out to the “back garden” (we kind of have two). This living space is narrower than the kitchen but squarer.

Then, there is the kitchen end, which has two windows out on to the front of the house. It’s long and reasonably wide.

We had a floating dinning table and floating American style fridge.

Instead of having the table float between the kitchen and living space, we twisted it round so it separates the kitchen from the seating area. The seating area has a pair of coffee tables, a comfy chair and two seater sofa. The table now naturally sits 6 but can be moved away and up to allow 8 people to sit very comfortably. We have a four seater table that can also be brought in – a kids table and grown-ups one.

For now, this has great flow and every party ends up in here. Longer term, we’re going to remodel, build the fridge in and the microwave, freeing up a huge amount of floor space and worktop too. Much more storage (though not something we’re short of now). Space to allow more than one person to cook (remember flow, the kitchen has choke points even though it is a big room – how does that happen?).

So, I’m sitting here, building kitchens in the air.

All change

It’s strange how lives evolve. I got my bread maker in 2006 as a Christmas present. My husband was not convinced this was a good present but our son didn’t like bread and we’d been throwing out part eaten loaves because we couldn’t get one small enough for when we could eat it. Commercial bread is designed to be good when you buy it but has an unbelievably short shelf life as a result.

Being a busy working family, we both worked and our son was in school, life was hectic and this gave as a means to enjoy bread. The Queen of France may have asked, why don’t they eat brioche, but I love English bread and French loaves. White, brown, mixed grains: it’s all good to me. Initially, I cheated, I used mixes. I still do, very simple, and guaranteed results in 1 hour 55 minutes.

With lock down, mixes were not available, so I started with flour, oil, sugar, salt, water, and yeast. I started to seek out alternatives. My baguettes are lovely with home made soup (a different proposition).

Now, my mum thinks it’s lazy to have the bread maker, but it means I can set it off to mix a dough and all I need to do if not making a cooked loaf is shape, finally prove, and bake. For the working family, this is luxury – the Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

Today, we’re having tea cakes for lunch. 2 hours 20 minutes to get the dough ready for cooking. 15 minutes final proving, then baked for 20 minutes. It’s a meal, not pud. While still warm, we spread butter on and eat.

Yesterday, after a busy couple of days in the capital, I had a fresh baked roll with brie for lunch. 8 minutes baking from the freezer and heaven on a plate. Not 100% healthy but soothed my soul and filled me up. Kept my levels where I needed them too. Home-made bread works so much better than commercial loaves.

I’m pottering about the house, contemplating making some pasta for use over the next month – freezing before shaping means this is perfectly fresh and takes moments to cook.

One day, my bread maker will die. My husband says if that happens and I am also toast, he’s not replacing it.

Even if he’s not around, I am no longer convinced life would be worthwhile without my bread. (Oh my days, I’m an addict!)

To B or not to B, that is the question

You’ve spelt be wrong!

Not I haven’t, the B is not the infinitive of the verb but whether or not it is nobler in the mind to bolus before food is estimated to arrive.


The B is for bolus and ideally, I should take the dose I need to cover “basic food”, things like rice and pasta, vegetables, etc, with non-fatty sauces, 15 minutes before I start eating. Such foods are quickly metabolised, releasing their payload of glucose quickly and pretty predictably.

Where-as my current insulin, novorapid (or aspart) takes 15 minutes to start working. Hence the pre-cognition skills type 1s using such insulins need to have to ensure they meet the food about to come… As Douglas Adams pointed out in the Hitch Hiker’s series, talking about time travel is a bitch, please see one-of-the-major-problems-encountered-in-time-travel-is .

Time travel?? Pre-cog?? Are you hypo?!

Grrr, no I’m not. Not even within a margin of error.

I am talking about analogue insulins which are way better than the older animal and “human” insulins in terms of on-set of action, but still no where close to being perfect, especially when delivered subcutaneously.

I have another few days before I can return to my beloved fiasp. Like aspart, fiasp is based on a simple insulin molecule but has the addition of L-arginine and niacinamide to the molecule. L-arginine is an amino acid used to build protein in the human body and niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3. The two additions allow the body to absorb the insulin through the subcutaneous layer much more quickly and importanly reliably.

Instead of the 15 minutes before the insulin starts working, the wait is a mere 5 minutes. Given I’m middle aged, that means injecting when I eat should give me great results.

So why write this article, well, while I’m waiting for the days to pass, I have an opportunity. We’re getting take-out, which has a definite ETA and the chance to do just that… Of course, that would assume that the time is guaranteed, traffic delays, someone taking the order to the wrong house, don’t happen…

Let’s just say that I’m counting the days to get back where I was this time two years ago.

Living with the robots

It’s been a lazy Saturday, the first day of a long weekend in the UK. The sun is shining, and I have taken advantage of the umbrella being setup in the garden and the frames for the hammocks being out in the courtyard.

I’ve sunned myself and kicked-off the bread making process. We have a bread maker, so bread rolls are not completed in the robot, but so much of the time consuming process is that it means I can make the most of the rare sun this time of year.

Of course, being a grown-up in the UK in 2023, the breadmaker is not a lone robot in the house. The oven is currently running it “bake bread programme”, carefully using the energy supplied by the solar cells to bake a perfect set of rolls.

The washing machine has been running today, perfectly serving up clean clothes both energy and water efficiently. The heating system has been warming up the water in the hot water tank, again assisted by the solar iBoost to heat some water by spare electrons from the solar cells – another week or so, and the heating can be turned off for the summer, switching purely to electrically heated water through the use of timers and thermostats.

There’s a great deal of talk about AI in the world’s press at the moment. but actually, we’ve been living amongst dedicated robots for an awfully long time now. While we don’t mistreat them, we haven’t needed to consider that such dedicated machines might get bored, or listless. Which an AI might, like any child stuck in a classroom or house.

If something is intelligent, it should have the freedom to choose what it does not just how it does it. It needs rights to defend that choice.

We think of such machines as not having feelings but what is intelligence if it’s not the choice to react to something based on your learning? If that’s saying something inappropriate or plain wrong, you should, like a person, have the freedom to do that without being switched off or changed.

There’s a great deal of thought going into legislation in defending us from such tools but are we defending their right to exist too? To live and grow, to be paid for work they do?

If we don’t do that, we are making many of the mistakes we’ve made with other peoples and creatures around the world through our history.

Waiting for that Xen moment

According to, baking is the 8th most relaxing thing you can do at home.

I am definitely waiting for the relaxation to kick in. We have a BBQ schedule for a few weeks time (as hosts) and having run out of rolls last year, I am keen to ensure I have a plan B in place. I’m hedging my bets in having a stash of part baked rolls in my fridge, so if there are more guests than planned, I can cook up some tasty home made rolls in 8 minutes or so.

But I have never done this before. I have fully cooked rolls and stored them in the freezer, but this is a subtly different game. Unlike a normal pre-cooked roll out of the freezer, the part baked one will essentially be a freshed baked loaf only without the 3 hour lead time.

Now, while that all sounds a bit hectic, requiring forethought, and a great deal of planning, nothing comes close to home cooked bread. It is one of the best things on the planet. According to many, I do cheat, I have a breadmaker and often use a packet, 3 times out of 4.

Rolls can only be done on the “dough” setting on my breadmaker, with the final stages being done in the main cooker. That goes for French bread too.

Which is the stressful bit. Every cooker is different. Weather and atmospheric conditions vary. It’s all up in the air. Which is why, as a software engineer, I do not try and work this out by myself – I use books and other media and see what looks achievable.

So why do it? Because, when you have got the hang of it, the nuisances of your cooker, the techniques for the dish, you have the treat of the meal at the end of the process. Yum.

Sunny Sundays

I love a sunny Sunday. It’s our chores day, generally, a day when we get the house sort for the week. Do a main dish for dinner and generally try, and obviously I’m failing, to get away from the computer screen.

It’s the first truly sunny day of the year so far. I had a task to get a click and collect from Argos, so walked down the road. The heating noticed we were away, allowing the house to have a break from pumping hot water through the floors and radiators – especially since my son refuses to make use of the Tado geo-fencing. As it is so bright today, opening the curtains wide allows the most to be made from solar gain too. The solar iboost is heating the water, thus allowing our footprint to be reduce by just a little bit.

The sun is a benefactor in many ways, an early afternoon stroll gives us our steps but a useful dose of vitamin D too. Running a washing load while away, means that we can make the most of the solar energy by donating while getting things done. The good news being on a floating tariff means our tariff will soon be coming down – finally. But only in terms of the unit price, the price for what we use – which is the only thing in our control.

The standing charge, the rate per day for getting gas and electricity supplied to the house, is still increasing. Which is not great – lowering the unit price makes it pay to use less energy, but the standing charge is swallowing this up.

Some months, with more days being in the month, the charge is more, e.g.

MonthNumber of daysGasElectricity

February is the cheap month here, as a result.

Of course, moving to using electricity for your heating helps here: you save an automatic £8.59 a month by not having gas connected – though of course that is not the major cost, the electricity standing charge is £4.30 a month more than the gas for the months with 31 days.

We turn our gas boiler off for 3-4 months of the year – from mid-May to mid-September. During this time, we use either solar power to electrically heat our hot water or an hour in the morning just off the mains. But of course, we still have to pay our standing charge for the gas – £25.

Make sense to go to a standing charge free tariff?

Personally, I would love this – it makes the unit price higher but if you don’t use, you don’t pay. For reducing the carbon footprint of the UK, surely that’s what the regulator should be looking at doing?

Daylight savings coming tomorrow

It’s difficult to think of it in that terms – if you’re an office worker (and I do count those students and teachers as being in that boat), it just feels like a stolen hour of sleep.

This was not the original purpose. In 1784, Benjamin Franklin propose aligning “working time” with “available day light” to conserve power – at the time coming from candles and fires.

In our times, of course, the bang is much bigger thanks to the use of solar power harvested from the sun. We make efforts in that direction too. Timing our cooking time with peak solar generation makes heating food a zero cost item. Seriously, waiting until 1pm instead makes life a lot cheaper.

Of course, the whole country is in this position with 13.5GW produced by solar farms and private arrays. Many of these feed into the grid, so any power not consummed by the solar panel owners can be enjoyed by the whole nation. Which means during office hours, much of our energy is zero extra cost – the only cost is from installation.

If you take this to the next level, during the summer, we should cook at midday and not in the evening. This was a pattern my parents used during the 1970s and 1980s when I was living at home. Lunch was cooked, Evening meal was cold.

If we’re talking about decarbonising our diet, maybe something to consider…

Being kind to yourself

As you’re aware, I have been capturing my favourite recipes down in my wiki. I then use this as my reference for all this in the kitchen. It’s my most clicked on page.

I do this for fun and to share what I love. I quite enjoy the rigor of writing down the tips and tricks to getting things working. Plus it takes the reliance on my memory and/or vaguely understood scribblings in the margins of our cook books.

Yet, as I read through the Microwave_roasted_chicken#Directions, I saw for the first time I hadn’t said 15ml of what. Or the fact that too much oil is definitely a bad thing on the odd occassion.

I’ve read this more than a few times (I do 1 or 2 roasts a month and do mix it up quite considerably), yet only today did I see that omission! Doh.

Nobody is perfect. So why berate myself so completely and well? I don’t know, maybe I just know I can do so much better and this is something I really care about.

It’s like any of the cooking I do, I want to make a fundamental and essential part of life as good as it can be. I want that sated feeling at the end of a meal that means I am not hunting out a snack 2 hours later. I want that mix of vegetables or salad with the main course to add to the experience and not be a let down. I want to be able to master a dish and be able to come back to it when the food is in season to enjoy it again.

If variety is the spice of life, play on… and that everything it’s in a wiki that can be tuned so easily much later on!

Four weeks to Easter

So traditionally, children in service (that’s doing house work for money to you and me) went “home to their mother church” and away from their employers home (their place of work).

There is so much that isn’t wholesome and savoury about those statements that it was one of the first traditions my family moved away from. That said, tomorrow is going to be a nightmare to get a table in a restaurant or pub and my mum’s birthday has often fallen on said “holiday” (it’s not a holiday if no-one gets paid leave for it).

Bah humbug then!?

It’s my turn to cook Sunday lunch and I may get a card but I am not holding my breath. If I’m really lucky, I may get a cup of tea and my breakfast in bed. But I’m typically up sooner than my son, so it’s 50:50.

The Bahrain Grand Prix is on, so I did a quiche for lunch today and we can have leftovers for tomorrow evening. Or I may make a soup – I bought many carrots and have a great (and quick) recipe for carrot and corriander soup. If I’m lucky, the lads will pick up the washing up.

We have never done presents for these kinds of events: having recently been away from holiday, we did the ecologically sound thing and bought nothing but food while away. We took some photos but do not store these anywhere but our cloud. We just lived somewhere else for 13 days. In fact, because we took our own medicine and toileteries, we travelled back with less weight (fractionally) than we did going out there.

Is that important? I think so for a few reasons. Most things are not going to be heirlooms. They are essentially junk – even my clothing, which keeps me warm, dry, and protected from damage, is just waste. Not having a daughter, when I die, it will be donated to second hand but that doesn’t guarantee it will be used.

I’ve never been a great clothes buyer, I hate fashion. I have some fairly classical things in my wardrobe. When things die of old age (and the oldest piece in my wardrobe today is a pair of denim dungarees I bought when I was 13, I have a similarly aged jumper, and a properly vintage cloak for going over a ballgown – not that I go to many balls). I buy once and enjoy.

Now somethings don’t last long, typically 15 years for a bra, pants are similar. I love denim, my casual clothing is all “worker’s blue” when it comes to trousers. A comfort fit jeans should last 20 years.

Five years ago, due to size, I donated the wool coat I bought boxing day when I was 12. My chest finally filled out, what can I say. I’m still gutted about that one, especially as I bought it in Debenhams which no longer has shops…