Thursday, 26 November 2015

Accentuate the positive

At times like this, when the world situation looks particularly bleak, you have to try and look for positives.

Remind yourself that there's still a lot of good people working hard to make it a better place.

I was glad to read on the Northants Telegraph website about a nurse from KGH volunteering in a Kenyan orphanage; the friends and family of Cat Anderson fundraising for the brain tumour charity Cat In A Hat; and two businesswomen from Corby who launched a project to raise money for the mental health charity MIND.

Plus many local schools took part in Children in Need, and to date an amazing £37 million has been raised nationally for this great cause.

The Clements Family from Gretton will soon be hosting their annual Christmas light switch-on, fundraising for the Air Ambulance (last year they raised £860).  Just a few local examples of people helping others.

I'm also lucky that I sometimes work with young people.  Their energy and enthusiasm for life is infectious, and it's hard to feel depressed when you're with them.

They make me smile with the things they say.  Here's a recent example:

Young boy to me:  "Do you know what copyright is?"

Me (thinks, don't make it too complicated, give him the facts without too much technical legal jargon):  "Yes, it's when somebody owns the rights to something, like that book you're reading, and you can't copy it without their permission."

Young boy:  "That's not right.  It's dinosaur poo."

Me (thinks) - that's a little harsh, but perhaps it wasn't a great answer.

Young boy (pointing enthusiastically at picture in book):  "Look, here it is, it's fossilised dinosaur poo."

Me (reading book):  "Oh, coprolite, sorry I thought you said something else..."

Young boy:  "You can get DNA from dinosaur poo you know."

Me (genuinely amazed):  "Can you? I didn't know that.  I also didn't know it was called coprolite."

Look for the good, always try to see the bright side.  Sometimes it's hard - a bit like coprolite - but it's worth it.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Waste not, want not

I believe there was a time that nobody minded 'wonky' vegetables - their very existence was indeed celebrated by Esther Rantzen and her team on 'That's Life!', with an item dedicated to showing their photographs.

I wouldn't mind buying them now either.  OK, so carrots and parsnips are more challenging to peel if they've got a few lumps and bumps, but it's no great hardship really is it?

Therefore I found Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recent programme about food waste shocking.  I couldn't believe the amount of good quality food which was going to waste because it wasn't the 'perfect' size and shape.

The supermarkets claim that it's us, the consumers, who want our fruit and veg to look perfect.  I can't answer for you of course, but I know for a fact that nobody has ever asked me my opinion about wonky veg or fruit.

As long as fruit isn't overripe, and veg isn't mouldy, I would happily stick it in the trolley.

Perhaps naively I thought that supermarkets gave food that was close to its best-before dates to charities to feed the homeless etc.  Apparently that isn't always the case.  Only a very small proportion of food is given to charities, the rest is just thrown away.

If, like me, you don't agree with how supermarkets are wasting good food, we can do something about it.

I appreciate that not everybody can grow their own, or shop at farmers' markets or a local greengrocer.  But we can voice our concerns to the supermarkets and tell them that we would eat fruit and veg that they deem not to be 'perfect'.

We can ask that they give more to charities, instead of putting it into skips and feeding it into anaerobic digesters or dumping it in landfill.

We have the power to demand change and stop this criminal waste of food.  Vote with your feet and go elsewhere if your supermarket doesn't comply - remember if we all shout loudly enough, they will have to listen.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

I'm embracing hygge

I've decided that this year I'm embracing hygge.  But before you all panic and think I'm going to go around bear-hugging people in public places, please be aware that it's not a person, place or thing - it's a concept.

A concept for which I believe we've can thank Denmark, and which we should now import by the bucket-load, especially as the WHO have told us bacon is potentially as deadly as plutonium (that's the World Health Organisation, not Roger Daltrey's band with a similar name, just in case of confusion).

Not that I've ever craved a plutonium and fried egg sandwich on a Saturday morning mind you.  I can't quite look at a full English breakfast in the same way now - I can only assume that black and white pudding and pork pies also feature somewhere on this scale, possibly right up there with 'mushroom' clouds.

Anyway, I digress - back to hygge, pronounced 'hoo-ga', which is the idea that at this time of year you do things which nourish your soul and, roughly translated, it means 'cosiness'.

Hygge encourages you to have a relaxed time with family and friends, and be indulgent and good to yourself, lighting a few candles as you do - although husband probably won't approve of this, he just doesn't 'get' candles. 

Be warned though, cleansing diets and fitness regimes aren't hygge - self-deprivation never made anyone feel cosy and warm inside.  I keep seeing adverts for these, encouraging me to lose weight to get into my little black dress.  No thanks, I'll buy a slightly-bigger black dress if needs be!

Now drinking mulled wine, or hot chocolate with marshmallows, and enjoying some comfort food, whilst toasting your toes in front of a real log fire and reading your favourite book are most certainly hygge.

Wearing an elaborate 'Scandi-style' knitted jumper like Morten Harket did in the 1980s a-ha band pics is strictly optional.  Although I could perhaps be persuaded...


Thursday, 5 November 2015

We want plates!

When I eat out I like my food prepared simply, using the best possible fresh local ingredients, served on a plate.

The 'Great British Menu' has a lot to answer for:  eateries take note, people want plates, not boxes, garden spades, miniature picnic benches or flat caps - apart from the difficulty trying to eat from these, how are they properly cleaned afterwards?

Therefore I'm not sure how I feel about a new trend that's taking off in South East Asia (

For they have created food with faces - now I'm not keen on this, I don't want eyes looking up at me from my plate - but more than this, they've moulded it into little cute creatures with even cuter faces.

It's called 'character bento', and is part of the 'kawaii' trend, meaning cuteness, which is seen throughout Japanese popular culture (I guess 'Hello Kitty' falls into this category also).

But it's not for children, in a bid to get them to eat their greens or similar.

No, this is for adults - grown human beings make these little creatures for their packed lunch at work, but photograph them before consumption and put them on social media for the world to see, admire and comment upon.

Now making husband's pack-up falls into the category of household tasks I perform (which is fine by me - I haven't washed a car since I married him).

But I can just imagine his reaction if I constructed him a lunchbox of cute little animals made of rice, vegetables and dough instead of his usual doorstep sandwiches.  I don't think he'd be congratulating me on my creativity and skill!

However, I did see a picture of a pyramid of coloured bread rolls which consisted of four Winnie the Poohs at the bottom, with three Eeyores, two Tiggers and what I can only imagine was meant to be Piglet balanced on the top.

I wondered if this would be a suitably challenging 'Bread Week' task for next year's Great British Bake Off?