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April 2023
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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…

A year and a bit in

On the 13th Jan 2021, I got my Tandem TSlim with Control-ID.

This is a hybrid closed loop continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion pump. Working with my Dexcom G6 (an update for the G7 is due at some point, as per but not yet), it can learn how to correct high and low blood sugar.

The promise is that the TSlim should do much of the heavy lifting in terms of my day to day control. This is a review of the past year.

Firstly, Tandem themselves admit that you need to exercise “responsible Use of Predictive Technologies”. These are early days of such technologies and they do have limitations. Getting Covid-19 in February 2021, I had to turn off the Control-IQ functions or I would have ended up in hospital with ketoacidosis – when type 1 diabetics don’t have enough insulin, our bodies burn up muscle and fat (yes, in that order) to provide energy to live which we then cannot use but creates acidic levels in our bodies which can cause immense damage to our kidneys.

On the day I got the Tandem, my HbA1c was 5.6% – a good result. Three months later it was 6.5% – not the direction I want to be going!

Most importantly, fighting infections mean generating a fever and that means dumping lots of glucose into our blood streams to “initiate a hypo” – the algorithm just wasn’t up to that task. I was, so I did the job. I was ill for three days and fought the infection well – a joint effort between me and the vaccines, I feel.

That doesn’t sound great!

I was a little disappointed. I also didn’t really appreciate how much the TSlim really needs to be on “solid ground” to work well. In my book, “How to thrive on insulin” I spend a great deal of time discussing the importance on basal rates and the TSlim is no different. If your basal is not perfect, the TSlim is not going to be able to make good decisions. As mine wasn’t quite there when I got the pump, it took a good while of basal tuning to get to the point where it wasn’t doing insane things.

For a woman, that’s a slightly different game we’re playing to the men. I have 5 basal rates I use during my menstrual cycle, one rate I use for only 3 days a month. Now, I have worked out that during those particular 3 days, I should not, under any circumstances turn or significantly reduce my insulin off for more than 15 minutes at a time – something I do do if my blood sugar is heading low and a small tweak will help. My basal during this time is significantly lower than any other time in my cycle as hypos (low blood sugar) are a little more likely – compounding that decision makes it very likely I will be hyper (high blood sugar).

The TSlim, after 13 months, has not come to the same conclusion. You can see Control-IQ doing exactly that, reduing my basal for more than 15 minutes and the resulting highs – gah! Again, not a time I can use the Control-IQ for significant amounts of time.

It also doesn’t seem to really appreciate food – my insulin takes 15 minutes to work, so if I have insulin when I eat, but the time I am digesting the food my insulin is there to make use of it. TSlim goes “you have too much insulin on board” and shuts off my basal – which can lead to very high blood sugar an hour after I eat. So I turn off the Control-IQ for meals.

Are you ever using this hybrid loop thingy?

The short answer is yes. Occassionally, when I do so, it does an OK job, if I keep half an eye on it. I am not running it 24/7 and not watching what it does – my HbA1c would be terrible if I did.

Exercising is one of the best examples of this – my recent skiing trip, it meant I just didn’t need to snack in the same way, switching on both the Control-IQ and the exercise activity. It’s not quick at reacting to the highs but it will do so.

I do not use the sleep activity – while Control-IQ will deliver a bolus to correct highs, the sleep activity will not do this! So, it can let you get in the high teens without effective treatment!

Now I’m properly over the Covid-19, I am looking forward to walking in the evening with my husband, which should not require me to do too much with my food and basal rates if I use the exercise activity with Control-IQ.

I don’t use the exercise activity with my long distance cycling as it will make terrible decisions in the first hour, dumping a load of insulin then shutting it off when I suddenly nose dive – no thanks.

I cannot get my early evening basal quite right, so I may play with the exercise activity to ensure I don’t need to take on extra CHO just to get home safe and sound.

Bearing in mind that I will have to turn it off the moment I walk through the door…

It’s not quite taking the load off my shoulders and it definitely is not a “cure equivalent” for me. It is getting to the point where it is not making insane decisions, which makes it a little bit more useful.

A breather, a little spare time

So what to do with a couple of days leave? I had a lot of leave, thanks to work allowing me to carry a lot over from last year, the only slight issue being: what to do with it?

Being mum of an over 20 year old, some of the “getting to spend some time with the family” is now constrained by their work schedules. Thankfully, I have nutured a few hobbies, including cooking.

Of course, when my son was little, home cooked food was a treat – the weekends and a couple of days during the week (split 50:50 with my husband).

I love cookery programmes, but mostly, being a working woman and wife to a full time working spouse, things during the week are normally tasty but simple and quick. 20 minute meals are my rule for midweek – longer than that are not feasible the majority of the time.

But that’s what I’m likely to be doing tomorrow. I have a recipe I’ve wanted to try for a while since my favourite restaurant stopped serving it as a dessert. Like the good times roll!

The story is not yet over

I’m writing this while suffering from jet lag, so my body thinks it’s 6pm in the evening rather than 11pm… And that’s despite not having much sleep last night…

Oh, this is going to be SO worthwhile!

Shhh, bear with me. With this extra time I managed to screw up my contribution to the tado app billing data – with these values, the tado app can estimate how much of your heating is costing you and whether you are getting any savings or not.

For many at the moment, that would be useful information.

When we first installed the system back on 29th September 2021, our unit cost of natural gas was 2.63p per unit (a kWh). We didn’t install everything everywhere. but did our upstairs radiators, 7 smart radiator valves in total. We then expanded that until all of our heating controls were now tado versions.

Partly that was to do with cost, but I also had an existing system. Anyway, that first trial seemed to work well – we were warmer but using much less gas – win/win we thought. Let’s have some more of that.

But of course, the proof is in the pudding. A comparison of year on year is not particularly useful as every year is different – when it’s warmer, a thermostat will automatically save you money. This is one of the nicer points of the tado analysis: they will do that for you too! See the “Tado analysis in action” below:

Tado analysis in action

Semi-interesting and coherent…

Thanks. Now, our jet lag is due to travelling and geo-fencing provided by tado automatically set the house up for “away mode” and we warmed the place back up remotely. All great and what you’d expect from a smart home.

For me, though, our move has given us a means of controlling our heating while prices have risen to 9.81p per unit, keeping us comfortable, and yet reducing our carbon footprint dramatically… Our usage over the past three years can be seen below – which hides the fact that Feb 2021 had inches of snow lingering on the ground for much of the period – yet the temperature was about the same in Feb 2022 and this year, as seen above, was a similar ball park. Let me say that another way – getting the whole system upgraded meant that we saved money in Feb despite the fact it was no warmer. Yet, we (and the house) were much more comfortable.

Until we can lose our gas boiler, that may be a wrap.

A little honesty here

I do not have it all. It’s a normalish Sunday here and I am enjoying a cup of tea in my Kitchen with my husband playing a game on his laptop which I am typing this out of mine.

Sounds idyllic? In many ways, today it is. The house has had its vac and steam courtsey of us both and while Jon was in the gym, I was getting my legs waxed and under-arms bared. Tomorrow, I will do my hours (and maybe a little more – I’d like to finish off a near complete project), before coming home – I think it’s my turn to cook tea. Inded, once this article is complete, I have some pasta to mix for our snack this evening (big lunch on a Sunday, so a simple snack in the evening).

Tomorrow, with three working adults in the house, the absolute basics are done. The hovering doesn’t happen unless a bag of flour gets dropped, the toilets get a good clean if things have gone a little awry with a “visit” but we do not have the time, energy or inclination to do more. In fact, with an upcoming trip, I’ve taken a few days off to ensure the dusting is done (not one of our “Sunday chores”) so things are nice for our return.

These are my choices (and to a large extent the rest of the household). There are so many hours in a working week and resting weekend, and I cannot spend mine more than once. I like cooking, so I do that rather than the rest of the DIY at the moment. Though that will swap as our days get longer. The gardening will come to the fore too.

I could employ a cleaner but the cleaning burns off calories. I do like the gardening, especially getting the seats out and enjoying a meal or drinks after the weeding, planting or mowing is done. We have a long hedge providing privacy and we swapped out a fast growing laurel hedge for a slower growing beech one. So that’s a big job once a year.

Again, that’s a choice. When I was sharing the school run with Jon and our son was small, that took up the time we now spend cooking. Ready meals three times a week meant life was doable. The house was not as tidy and clean then. But that’s OK.

I appreciate others have different priorities, that’s what’s so great, we’re all different. But I am enjoying my cuppa just at the moment.

While away some time before popping out

… to get some of the things I cannot buy in my main shop.

Like many, I do the majority of my shopping from a supermarket. But they don’t do everything and besides, I did forget a couple of things.

Why the wait, well I live in a football town, so waiting until kick-off has happened will mean a huge reduction in the traffic and a chance to finish my cup of tea 🙂

My beloved is recovering from losing a tooth yesterday as a result of his treatment for cancer 20 odd years ago, so I have been pottering in the kitchen.

I love cooking for us all, but it’s the hardest thing I do on so many levels. By law, ready made dishes must have their nutritional values on them. When you cook yourself, it’s much more of a guessing game and that can take the shine off the whole experience if you end up too high or low following the wrong bolus or wrong delivery type. Cooking basic foods different ways can make a huge difference to how the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats work together.

Still, today’s lunch was good, a carrot and coriander soup cooked from fresh in about an hour (taking prep into account). I have about a serving each for later in the week as a quick lunch or to take into work.

I’m just doing some tea cakes to have later, having got the kitchen straight from lunch, and chilling watching my favourite cookery Saturday morning show.

It’s not at all sunny, but the UK is experiencing significant amounts of wind power, so I don’t feel too bad about cooking. Indeed, the UK has enjoyed a long period of lower carbon dioxide electricity production due to the investment in wind turbines.

Sitting here, watching the trees sway in the wind, I would love the ability to do this myself, but living in a town, it’s not as straight-forward to do this in a domestic capacity. Planning permission may be required (not as clear cut a decision as it used to be), then there’s erecting the turbine.

All in all, a non-trivial task and being a low scale market, there’s going to be a long wait until the prices are as competitive as solar for domestric microgeneration.

Of course, some people are lucky and live by streams that can be harnessed for hydropower. In England, compared to other parts of the UK, our relatively flat landscape means that the number of people able to do this is tiny.

Far more could make use of combined heat and power (CHP), especially during the winter when the days in the England can be extremely short, barely 4 hours, as per see first graph showing number of day light hours in London . This when we tend to heat our homes. Imagine every time you heat your radiators you also produce some electricity? Again, in my house, the smart meter shows that I heat my home most while the sun ain’t shining in the winter!

However, the UK government’s decision to essentially ban gas boilers in the UK mean these units are not being sold in the UK 🙁 despite the fact our air source and ground source markets are still immature, making this a difficult option to choose, especially in renovations rather than new builds. By comparison, heat pump installation costs in Norway are tiny compared to a similarly sized installation in the UK…

CHP has popular in Denmark (45.3% market penetration), the Netherlands, and Finland. Norway tends to use heat pumps where possible rather than gas for heating and like the UK has difficulty harnessing solar during the winter months (Germany, Greece and Spain are keen users of solar due to their long day light hours).

Don’t get me wrong, solar is fanastic and during the summer, we are almost running off the grid the majority of the time. Our yearly generation is between 3.4 and 3.8MWh, our consumption of electricity was 3.9MWh (excluding our V2G draw which was 3.5MWh and I say that, because we donate so much of our battery charge per annum) – the majority of that consumption is during the winter – at 92% efficiency, our CHP could cover that. Which is a bit of a wow factor.

Usually, CHP hasn’t been competitive compared to domestic electricity costs from the grid, 2022 and the situation with Russia has changed all that. Like our solar generation and donations from the car, the pay back is much quicker.

But now is definitely the time, if that sounds good to you.

All together now.

As a keen home-automater, much to the chargrin of my family, one of my dreams is to have one place to do everything. Now the market is maturing, it has been interesting seeing the developments and share some of my experiences or a tale of the good, the bad, and the plain ugly.

Thermostats and radiators.

I started our journey with Heatmiser’s wifi programmable thermostats which could speak directly to our wifi and didn’t need a separate “hub” back in 2014. They worked wonders for our heating use and comfort. Basic but remote control was the fundamental for us, albeit from a manual point of view. The joy was putting these on a guest wifi network which meant we had complete control over the security and it had a HTML interface so any phone, tablet, or network connected phone gave you control if you had the password.

As you’re aware, I traded them in once I started using the Tado smart radiator valves and this journey is now complete. As ever, the first radiator valve and thermostat took the longest to install because you’re working out everything from first principles, but the devices and the control functionality are brilliant. Tado is pricey, especially if using the automated geofencing. What is a little disappointing is that it doesn’t work with Samsung’s Smart Things, but that’s my only whinge. It also needs a powered hub, which I’m not keen about but I have this on a segregated network.

Like Heatmiser, Tado provides a web interface so heat settings can be monitored and controlled from any password enabled device. I love this in all respects although the phone app is the only one that gives out the reporting functionality.


I bought my first TP-Link “wireless controlled plug” back in 2017 and was delighted with the Kasa application. I have no idea why the brand differentiation, but the fact I could plug in devices and have them working immediately from my phone was amazing. I bought it to have the a light come on for when we came home because sunset is never the same time two days in a row in the UK.

Since then, I have 26 “devices” in our Kasa application, mostly plugs and bayonet bulbs as I live in the UK, though I do have a couple of Eddison screw bulbs too.

The lights are amazing, giving timed and dimming choices galore. But the plugs do have a “timer” function which is brilliant when teamed with a lamp – have a light on for 10 minutes and then switch off. Brilliant!
I’ve recently set up rooms which are brilliant for managing that number of devices in different locations. Our bedroom has 6 devices and that’s excluding the two radiator values and the Chromecast on the older smart TV.

I have played with scenes, but these are quite hard to do and quite rigid so it’s been a mixed offering.  My favourite is the one that powers down the lounge and switches on the hall lights and some in our bedroom though it won’t turn off the spare lights – that has to be done manually.


We have a phone controlled oven from Neff. It is used through the “HomeConnect” app which I loathe. Finicky and unpredictable, a bit like Office 365, never the same actions twice. Why?


Lovely if everyone goes on holiday at the same time – no wait, I keep medicine in mine, so not that useful! Again, we’re using HomeConnect: why, just why?

Washing machine.

This is our first wifi device from Samsung and we’re now using SmartThings. All I really want is a delay start so that when I use the washing machine, it is when the sun is at its peak solar generation. But no, the delay doesn’t count down to when the device starts the wash but when it spins. Pointless.

Putting that aside, like the German manufacturers, Korean ones do feel that one should not have mixed functions and therefore it shuts down at a moment’s notice. We tend to double spin in the washing machine to cut drying time. To achieve that, you have to press the “remote start” and then after you’ve set the programme and before it ends, you need to tell it to “Smart control on” and retain the function. Blah. Foul.

That’s ignorning the promise of Smart Things. Able to combine with Bixby (Samsung’s assistant) and Kasa, there is the promise of using one application to control them all. Except Home Connect doesn’t play well with the Samsung devices and neither will talk to Tado.

Tumble dryer.

Bosch, like Neff, do not really approach this kind of automation with anything like enthusiasm providing a useful tool to busy professionals. Getting it to handshake with the network is a nightmare, yesterday it took nearly 45 minutes to get it to work and today it point blankly refuses to provide remote control. Bad, just really bad.

Chromecast and Google Home.

This is a little bit of an outlier but bear with me because you need Google Home to use Chromecast.

Google Home offers that one home and something to control everything. Albeit from your phone or watch. A truly automated home.
Beware though, do not link Kasa with smart things if you are destined for Google Home – you will have Smart Things entries as well as Kasa’s only with a much more basic interface.

Sky Q.

Sky Q on its own isn’t terrible but doesn’t work well with networks that haven’t been provided by Sky, so we switch off the Sky box everytime we want to do anything cast by others – the TV does that for us.

It uses “mini boxes” to provide multiroom functionality which have their own mesh network, to say it doesn’t work well with others is putting it mildly.  Like our TV, it wants to offer to run everything else too, but I wouldn’t if you want something that definitely works!

Sounds deeply involved, not something for me.

I want these to live up to the promise of adding benefit after setting up, looking after me and the house, freeing me up to be creative.

I’ll keep you informed on how I get on with Google Home. Alexa didn’t last long because that wasn’t geared towards a multi-person home and Bixby didn’t do everything, despite both being quite sophisticated.

And in today’s economic climate, that’s what you really need.

Why insulate if it’s all for nothing?

Rebound effect cancels out home insulations impact on gas use study was not a headline I welcomed on Sunday, as a keen advocate of insulation.

I read the article with interest, not least because I feared I’d led everyone reading this blog down a blind alley by encouraging increasing insulation. But wait, for us, a better insulated house made a huge difference, so what is happening to stop those benefits?

Well, according to the article many reverted to “[their] old ways”, turning up their thermostats when things were colder.

We didn’t. Far from it, the money we saved the first couple of years were fed into better timed thermostats and smart radiator valves. What do I mean by that? Well, I do not manually turn the thermostat up or down. I have scheduled temperatures and largely, we leave that running. I run the underfloor heating very differently to the radiators and grab a jumper if the room doesn’t feel warm enough. For example, our kitchen is 18.9°C and, for me, that isn’t quite warm enough, so I have a skinny jumper on with my long sleeved top. The kitchen is set to 18°C, which according to the Vaillant and their homeowners what is the ideal room temperature page, is on the cool side of what a kitchen should be but a good temperature.

Why wear a jumper, just turn up the dial?

Well, because of the insulation in my house, that temperature would disipate slowly but would indeed do just that. There’s no point heating to 21°C to not dress warmly and then have the heat pour out of the house. Certainly, if I were cooking a meal, 18°C is a great temperature for the room to be, as I could work comfortably without generating a sweat. Having had my tea cooked for me tonight, I need the extra layer.

I am writing this in the kitchen to allow the lounge to gently warm to 19.5°C, so I can keep costs down, then I can go sit and watch a little telly before going to bed. The kitchen is begining to cool for the day, the lounge is picking up the mantle – no point in heating a room we’re not using.

So, I guess the article was right. We’ve changed our behaviour as well as benefitting from the extra insulation, making the very best of the advantage that investment gave us.