Category Archives: Health

Overdue Update

Hello! It’s been a long time. I have been super busy the last couple of months but I figured it was time for an update. So, what have I been up to?

Cambridge Big Bike Ride

You may have seen the banner on the bottom of the site for the Cambridge Big Bike Ride. It was essentially a sponsored ride with two routes, an easy one and a hard one. I decided I’d give the easy one a go and see how quickly I could do it. Then the missus decided she wanted to give it a go too. Then we decided we’d do it for our own charity. We chose Action For M.E. They sent us bibs!!

We were quite excited in the days leading up to it and then when we woke up, it was raining. So we set out in our his and hers macs!



It was a really interesting course, mostly because Cambridge is a weird town with a bizarre star shaped infrastructure. We went through Milton Country Park which was very muddy and I totally trashed my bike! It got caked in mud! I wasn’t much better off. It just kept on raining. As is the case with wearing a mac and doing anything remotely energetic, you get a right sweat on so off it came and I ended up just being soaked to the bone. Eventually though, you get over yourself and it’s just funny. Evident by my picture crossing the finishing line!



On the way round I had my GPS tracker enabled. Go here to see the route. You can even view a 3D flythrough which is quite exciting! GPS data fly’s all over the place in some areas, presumably because it can be so fucking remote in this town there’s often no signal. Initially I wanted to blast my way round, I think I could’ve done it in about 45 minutes but cycling with the missus was way more fun and we just took it slowly and gently. It was very enjoyable and I’m keeping my eye open for more rides. In the end we raised over £300 for the charity which is a fantastic result!

My Vasectomy

Whilst verging on the boundary of TMI, I decided to write about this to offer support to anyone else who might need it. I decided at a very young age that I didn’t want kids. I’ve been waiting a hell of a long time to get a vasectomy on the NHS. I was told I had to be over 30. So I waited! Earlier this year my brother got one and he’s only 24! So I signed up for one too, as you do! A few days after the bike ride I went into the surgery. I was told they were trialling a new keyhole surgery, no stitches, quicker healing, less pain. It was so new the doctor was still training. I was his last sign off. It was a very brutal operation. He clearly didn’t know what he was doing. What should’ve been 15 minutes took an hour and I think I just went into shock by the end of it.

Following the op I was expecting the usual feelings of regret that a lot of people talk about. The sudden realisation that I can’t have children. I’m now less of a man. Etc, etc! I haven’t had any of that. For the last 7 weeks I’ve just been struggling with the trauma of the initial pain and the healing. About two weeks after the op I got a haematoma, which is like a bruising on the testes. That hurt like hell! To make that worse, I was due to move house but was ruled out of doing any heavy lifting for another month. See below for how that turned out! I was also told not to cycle or exercise for a month too.

I have depression. I’ve had it for many, many years. The best aid I’ve found for it isn’t popping pills but to exercise. I do this a lot. Regular walks, gym exercise, bike riding. I have had to sit on my arse for 7 looooooong weeks. Add to that the stress of moving. It has not been fun. Yesterday I went on my first bike ride. I was very nervous and scared of injuring myself again. It was ok though. Today I feel fine. I’m going to start lengthening my routes and I’ll be taking up more exercise during the week and just getting back on track. I was caught completely off guard with how much this was going to affect me the way it did but hopefully it’s all moving forward from now on.

My advice for anyone who is interested. Don’t get seen to by a fucking trainee! Don’t get it done when you have other things to do in the following two months. Don’t do it if you’re not very good at doing nothing. However, if you’re really convinced it’s the right thing for you to do, then go ahead and do it. The world needs to stop the fucking endless over population!

Summer of Grunge

If you read this blog regularly you will remember this post where I talked about getting back into grunge. This summer we were lucky enough to get tickets to see both Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder solo in Manchester. It was two fun road trips and we also managed to squeeze in a visit to see my brother and hang out with my niece and nephew, who are, in my opinion, cute as fucking buttons!

Anyway, both gigs were amazing. Pearl Jam came out to Release Me and right from the very first “Ooooh” I knew it was going to be a good gig. As I said in the previous post, I’m getting a bit sick of seeing bands who can’t play or sing live even though the record is good. Ed can fucking wail! We got some really great seats to see Eddie Vedder solo and he was note perfect!

Surrounding all of that we’ve been listening to some really old CD’s from that time, all the PJ stuff, the SG stuff, Alice In Chains, Nirvana. It’s been a great summer!

My Birthday

I had a birthday. I am now 31. It is shit! I appear to aging at an alarming rate! I feel like I should be doing grown up things like getting a mortgage, having a corporate career, investing. Nah, fuck that!

Moving House

As I mentioned above, I had to move house. I was planning on doing everything myself. Then the doc signed me off. I put a Twitter request shout out thing and we got some fantastic helpers over two days who came and helped us move all our crap out of a big house into a smaller house that costs more. Go figure! The house is lovely, the lettings agents are not. Finickity bastards! It wasn’t clean when we moved in. There were pubes on the bathroom floor. When reporting this to the agents, we were told our standards were clearly higher than theirs. I’ll say it again, PUBES!!!! FROM SOME OTHER DUDE!!!! Jesus! Cambridge is a filthy place full of some really filthy people. After 3 years here I still don’t really like it. I miss London.

The Botanical Gardens – We finally went to the Botanical Gardens. It’s been awful weather this summer but the sun came out for the day. I have some pictures that I will post later this week.

Future Projects

I think I’ve got my writing bug back. As you can see! I’ve had some ideas for things I want to do over the coming months.

Bread – I love making bread. I bought a book with 70 recipes from around the world. I’m going to make them all. I’ve just ordered 11kg of assorted bread flour. I’ll be blogging my journey!
Gaming – I really need to finish this so look out for parts 3 and 4 by the end of the year!
Her Fearful Symmetry – Remember I blogged about The Time Traveler’s Wife? Well, I’ll be doing the same for this book. Starting to read it this weekend.
Photography – I’ve cancelled my subscription to a photo mag I was reading. It was stifling my creativity. I hope to get back to actually taking pics and blogging them.

That should keep me on for now I reckon! Suggestions welcome!

Recipe: Pan Rustico Bread Loaf Update

I made pan rustico again and updated the original post with some in progress pictures. The first time I made it, I wasn’t sure if it would work or not so I didn’t take any pictures. Since it’s been my most popular blog post of the last 6 months I figured I’d make it again and update. Enjoy!

Recipe: Pan Rustico Bread Loaf

UPDATE: 01/07/2012: I made this again and added pictures of each stage to make it a little easier!

I’ve had a very productive bank holiday weekend. You may recall this recipe for flapjacks, well I did that again but this time I added 200g of melted chocolate over the top and cooled it in the fridge. Oh my goodness! It is pure delight! Seriously!

But if that wasn’t enough, I also made some bread. A new type of bread. I have pretty bad IBS and over the years have come to the conclusion that store bought bread sucks! It is really bad for you. IBS or not. So since then we’ve had home made bread as much as possible. We’re onto our second breadmaker now after the first fell apart!! Now, a note on breadmakers, if I wasn’t so damn busy all the time I would make all bread by hand. But I am busy. So I use a machine. However, I don’t use bread mix. I use the base ingredients. So much nicer.

Last week I was flicking through the billions of cable channels we have and stopped on the Hairy Bikers Bakeation. I love these guys. They’re rad! They were in Spain this week and one of the recipes was Pan Rustico. It looked interesting so I decided to give it a go. It was a lot fun and I highly recommend trying it yourself.

So, first up, this receipe needs breaking down into two parts; a starter dough and the bread dough.

Starter dough
150ml warm water
1 tsp caster sugar
3 tsp fast-action dried yeast
125g strong white flour

Take a measuring jug and add your warm water. This should be quite tepid, warm to the touch but not so warm that it will kill the yeast. Stir in the sugar and then slowly stir in the yeast. Don’t go mental with it!

Sit it on top of a radiator or put it in the airing cupboard for 10 minutes. You’ll notice it get a bit foamy on top. It’s ALIVE!

Slowly stir in the flour until it becomes a paste. Most flour these days has been sieved so you don’t need to but for this recipe it will make the bread lighter if you give it another sieve. After all, it was packed up and condensed on a lorry before getting to the store. Give it some air!

Take your paste and store it for 24 hours. Room temperature should be adequate but as we’re neither in Spain nor is the UK May climate at a level I can tolerate, mine went in the airing cupboard. When you check it the following day it will smell like a really sweet beer. Nice! EDIT 01/07/12: Be careful here, it can rise a lot, my first attempt exploded out of the bowl! Use cling film to seal it in.

Now it’s time for part 2, the bread dough. Give yourself the best part of an afternoon for this.

Bread dough
200ml warm water
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
225g strong white flour
100g strong wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

Prepare your water, sugar and yeast as per the starter and leave for 10 minutes again.

Mix your flours (sieve again) and salt in a bowl, make a well in the centre.

Pour in the starter dough, the oil and the new yeast mix.

Mix together with a wooden spoon until the liquid gets soaked up and then get your hands in there and give it a good pummelling. As with all dough, judge whether you need to add more flour or more water as you bring it together.

You should now have a nice sticky dough. Bring it out onto a lightly floured service. Now it’s time for some kneading. It’s very important you don’t cut corners at this point. Set a timer for 10 minutes and knead the crap out of this bad boy! Knead as you would normally and every now and then push away one end of the dough with the heel of your palm and fold it in half. You can add a little bit of flour if it’s still really sticky. About 8 minutes in you should notice a sudden change in texture. It’s like magic!

When you’re done, lightly grease a bowl and pop your dough in. Grease some cling film and lightly cover.

Store for an hour in the airing cupboard so it can rise. It should double in size. Mine nearly overspilled the bowl. Missus would’ve killed me if I’d messed up the towels!

Take a baking tray, add some parchment and flour. Stretch your dough to the length of the tray and then fold in half. Repeat twice more then stretch out like a baguette. Use a knife to slash the top. 45 degrees looks good! Dust with a little flour and leave to rise for about 45 minutes, uncovered.

After 30 minutes, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 8. As with all bread, your oven needs to be really hot, as if you’ve been baking loaves all day!

Bake the loaf for 25 minutes. When it’s done, tap it and it should sound hollow. It’s a wonderful sound and smell!

Check it!

First time:

Mark II:

This is without a doubt the nicest bread I have ever made. It smells so fresh and tastes so good. Your turn!

Do Something Amazing…Give Blood!

You may remember this post where I tried and failed spectacularly to give blood. Well, I sorted that all out in November and was able to give blood for the first time. Yay! I even got a sticker! I probably should’ve written about it but you know, busy busy busy!

It was all very exciting at the time, you join one queue, they stab your finger, test your iron, you join another queue, they call you over, you sit in a chair, they stick a needle in you, you sit looking bored and miserable for 45 minutes (well I do and it’s probably only about 5 minutes but it seems like ages!) and then you get up and you go and sit at the table you’ve had your eye on since you walked in. The refreshments table! Free biscuits and a cuppa FTW! Then you go home, maybe a bit woozy.

But then comes the best bit. You get a letter from the NHS saying thanks. Not only does it say thanks, but you also get a bunch of leaflets and a donor card. My donor card is red. This is for people who have donated 1-4 times. Apparently, for donating a second time you get a nifty little key fob with your blood type on it. As you progress up the ranks (as if it were a computer game) they give you all kinds of shit as a reward. Check out the swag here! That’s pretty rad huh?!

So then I did the math. You can only donate once every 16 weeks I believe. I reckon if I do every single one from now until I’m 65, I should be able to get my mitts on that decanter! Most definitely the crystal plate. Hehe!

But, am I really motivated by some crystal stuff? No, not particularly. I got quite a big shock when I got my letter. I’m not sure why it shocked me so much but it did. I’ve been lucky enough to have never been in a major accident or ever needed a transfusion. I’m touching wood here! I don’t believe I’ve even known anyone who has needed one either. Touching wood again! This means I’ve never had my blood type brought up as an issue. I have this old baby book thing from when I was a kid. It’s pretty much the only thing I have from my childhood. In it, it says blood group O and I’ve just believed it, filled in all my forms putting down O. I have no idea why it says O but I am actually A RH NEGATIVE which is apparently an incredibly rare type of blood and is in demand. Oh super exciting right?!

Had I known this from an earlier age, I wouldn’t have left it so damn late to give blood. I could’ve (and probably would’ve) contributed for most of the last 10 years or so. And it is this that makes me all the more determind to give blood regularly now and if you can give blood, then you absolutely should. You never know when you or a relative or a close friend will need a transfusion. I’m touching all of your woods!

So what are you waiting for? Go here and find your nearest centre and do something amazing…give blood!

Recipe: Butterfly Buns

Back again with another recipe. I was really hoping to have blogged about other things this week but just haven’t found the chance. There’s a reason, but more on that later!

Today I made a childhood favourite…Butterfly Buns!! (or Flutterby Buns if you were a bit of a weird child)

Nice and simple and again, this one is a vegan recipe. Why go vegan? Well, as a kid I used to love licking out the bowl but it’s raw egg and certainly explains why I used to get the shits so much! So, strip out the eggs, compensate by melting the margarine and adding more milk and it’s just as nice and you can lick out the bowl. Yes, I know I’m nearly thirty!!

Here’s what you need to make 8:

  • 175g self raising flour
  • 50g sugar (caster or demerara)
  • 50g vegan margarine
  • 125ml soya milk

Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Melt the margarine, mix with the soya milk and add to the bowl and give it all a good mix. It should become a nice smooth semi-dough. You can either mix with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer. The latter will make the buns lighter, I however prefer a bit of stodge!

Split the mixture equally among 8 bun cases and put in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 180*C/350*F/Gas mark 4 for 25 minutes, then move to the top shelf for a further 5 minutes. This will turn the top golden and crispy without sacrificing the center. You get better wings!

Leave to cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, make your buttercream mixture as follows:

  • 50g butter
  • 75g icing sugar
  • Strawberry jam (or any other red jam)
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Mix the icing sugar and butter in a bowl. Watch in amazement as they go from a powdery compound to a nice smooth creamy mixture. It’s almost like magic!

Take your cooled buns and with a knife, slice off the raised center and cut in half. Fill the gap with the buttercream and then add the two halves, inversed and at an angle. Drop a lump of jam in the center and dust with icing sugar.

Tada!

Recipe: Sultana Flapjacks

I’m a baker. Not a cook, a baker. I love cooking, I’m just not very well versed if you like. Baking on the other hand, I am fab at and I absolutely adore it!

So, a new topic for the year, baking posts! I’m cutting down on how much crap I eat from the shelves; Rocky Robin bars, Penguins, Jaffa Cakes, Kit Kats etc. All gone! I put on a little bit of lard over Christmas so I’m switching to healthy home made vegan cakes and goodies. Well, to withdraw completely would be absolutely foolish!

Today I made Sultana Flapjacks. This is one of the first recipes I remember making at school. Mrs Stephenson, a friends’ mum, volunteered her services one afternoon a week teaching kids to bake. It was brill! This is a very simple recipe and tastes great.

* a note on ingredients: vegan or not, up to you, organic vs fairtrade? I choose health over politics.

To make an 8 inch square:

  • 250g porridge oats
  • 70g chopped sultanas
  • 70g vegan margarine
  • 40g demerara sugar
  • 3 non dripping tablespoons of golden syrup

Mix the margarine, sugar and syrup in a pan over a low heat until it has completely melted. Remove from the heat and mix in the oats and sultanas. Really give it some welly to fully cover the oats. Once finished, evenly spread onto a lined baking tray and press firmly into place. Bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven 180*C/350*F/Gas mark 4 for 20 minutes until golden. As soon as it comes out, gently score into your desired shapes and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Once cooled, finish cutting and place on a wire rack to finish.

Serve and nom!

Of course, it doesn’t always go to plan, I ran out of oats and had to quickly adjust my recipe. Kitchen whiteboard is your friend!

Oooo doesn’t he look healthy?!

Remember this post and this post? Well, how about an update?

First, that Botanics stuff is working wonders. My skin is so lovely and soft and my beard is really soft too.

Second, the exercise regime!  This is going really well. I’ve almost managed to keep up to three times a week. Of the last 8 weeks, I’ve slipped up about three times. Not bad I reckon and I’ve been trying to fit in weekends if I miss it during the week.

Aesthetically, it is working. Apparently. The missus says I look a lot buffer and well, she’s the only that matters right?! I definitely feel stronger and I’m lifting more than when I started out.

What has been slightly annoying is that the gym I go to is tiny and usually really busy so I’ve not been able to get a good flow most days and I’ve had to chop and change the order a lot. So I’ve decided to turn the spare room into a gym. Currently shopping for a bench and some weights and then I can quit the gym and save myself £55 a month in the process. We hardly ever have guests and any that come from now on can sleep on the bench!!

Oh you sexy hermaphrodite lady-man-ladies

With your sexy lady bits, and your sexy man bits too

It has come to my attention that I’m getting old. Not only that but I’m starting to look old too. Hmmph!

So at the weekend we went to Boots and I got me some man-lady-man products:

First up I’ve got a Face Wash to soften the skin and stubble and then I follow that up with a Soothing Moisturiser to revitalise my skin.

Already my skin feels better but it’s not for me to say if I look any younger. I reckon a shave would sort that out!

Fings I Love Friday (3)

That time of week again!

1) Aurora. She has hit the bottle, presumably in a bid for attention:

2) My new gym regime. It feels really good and makes me finish work on time so I get to the gym before it’s too busy.

3) Flight of the Conchords. Saw them in Birmingham this week. They were fantastic!

4) Nick Hornby books. I’m currently reading Juliet, Naked and it’s one of his best. I see he has got his mojo back after a couple of crap ones. Ace!

5) As always, the missus. I sent her a soppy ecard today. It said she is the second most beautiful person in the world. Then it said the first person is her when she smiles! There were some cute teddy bears in there too. I am teh gayz!

Let’s get physical…

…let me hear your body talk.

I love how this song is always associated with working out when it’s really about doing it! Ha! I said doing it on my blog!

Today I had my first proper weights exercise session. Man, it was tough! I’ll give you a breakdown as I understand it:

1. 12 minutes on the cross trainer. 6 mins on level 8 then 6 mins on level 9. Hill interval, 11km/h on the flat and 12km/h on the peaks.

2. 3 x 1 minute bursts of wide squats. 12Kg weight.

3. 3 x 10 reps of chest press. 2 x 10Kg weight. Up and down presses.

4. 3 x 10 reps of chest flights (I think they’re called this). 2 x 6Kg weight. Arms out to side and then raised above chest. Semicircle motion.

5. 3 x 10 reps of back rows. Measurement is unclear but I think it’s 60 lbs. Huge scary machine!!

6. 3 x 10 reps of front rows. Again 60 lbs. Different machine. By this point I was struggling!

7. 3 x 10 reps of bicep curls. Big machine. Measurement unknown by staff but it’s 5 1/2 somethings.

8. 3 x 10 reps of tricep curls. Same as 7 but in a different position. Should’ve been 5 1/2 but I dropped to 4 1/2 because I’m a weed!

9. Cool down with a variety of 10 rep sit ups on a pilates ball. Standard, right to left, left to right. Then on floor, various leg lifting exercises.

10. Stretch and then head to the shower!

Took me about an hour but the gym was busy and I was waiting around a bit. I ache! I can barely lift my arms at the minute.

I’m quite weedy. I used to work in a warehouse and lift flat pack stuff all day and I got pretty strong but I’ve spent the last 5 years in an office and it’s all gone to pot.

This is what I’m trying to achieve:

1. Pects. Develop and reduce man-boobage!

2. Biceps. Make my tattoo look even more awesome!

3. Stomach. Reduce ever increasing gut and strengthen sides.

4. Shoulders and back. Get some of that strength again.

5. Triceps and forearms. Obviously it would look weird with massive biceps and puny triceps!

I’ll be working out 3 times a week with a progress review in 5 weeks. I’ll do a before and after update. Lucky you!

Wanted to belong here…

…but something felt so wrong here.

So, following on from my post on spiritual enlightenment I have come to a conclusion. Spending time alone in hotels will do that for you!

My quandry was deciding whether it’s possible to have a spiritual awakening when you haven’t really done anything bad in your life. I even compared myself to Slash! Well, basically I was just comparing myself to anyone who had previously been addicted to sex, drugs, alcohol etc. However, why are these things considered to be worse than just working hard and striving for perfection?

Society!

Society dictates that an addiction to these things is bad. Society dictates that living a wild lifestyle is bad. Right from school age we’re taught to work hard and strive for perfection. To beat everyone else whatever the expense.

Working hard and striving for perfection in everything you do no matter what the cost is not a good thing. It’s equally as harmful to us as taking drugs, getting drunk and sleeping around can be. Therefore, the spiritual awakening can be valid as long as you realise that something you’ve been doing has become harmful to yourself or others and the time has come to change.

It doesn’t matter what that “something” is and it will be probably be different for each of us. What might work for one person could well be harmful to another. All that matters is our own happiness and we have to ask ourselves if what we are doing and how we are living our lives is making us happy. If we cannot categorically say yes then something’s up and we need to stop and take stock.

I asked myself if my hard work and search for perfection was making me happy. I honestly and deep down knew it wasn’t.  And that was when I woke up and decided I have to change things. If something is harming you, no matter if it something that you have been told is “good” for you, then you have to let it go.

In the coming months I’ll be taking a step back and focusing on the elements of my job that I enjoy and make me feel rewarded. Outside of work I’ll be adding more balance. The meditation is going well, I’m going to go back to Ashtanga yoga classes and earlier today I had a personal trainer devise a workout plan to add some variety to my daily regime so I’m not just going through the motions. There’ll be more on this next week after my first session.