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Thursday, 18 June 2020

Not so low fat strawberry muffins

A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for low fat banana muffins. It's important to have some good low fat recipes for those days when you sit on your bum all day and do nothing... I mean do mental work instead of physical. Then you need a not low fat recipe for when you are physically active or just need the comfort of a sugar rush. 

I also needed a recipe that used strawberries because my raised bed is delivering at an unmanageable rate and I don't want to waste a single strawberry, but they don't last very long and the freezer is currently full. Nice problem to have!

Ingredients

150g plain flour (I tried it with gluten-free flour and decided it also needed xanthan gum)
1 heaped tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg (big is best)
50g butter, melted (if you need dairy-free, just substitute this for your usual marg)
75g soft light sugar
220g strawberries, washed and chopped pretty small (if you have a glut of produce, like me, I recommend separating out the wonky strawberries from the perfectly formed ones and keep the latter for something where looks matter)

A wooden chopping board full of finely chopped strawberries
Wonky strawberries for muffins
A bowl full of perfectly formed whole strawberries
Pretty strawberries for eating
 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 or 200oC. If you're American or for some reason still use F temperatures or if you're a geek and think in Kelvin, you're going to have to convert for yourself, or Google it. Also, get all your stuff ready and put 6 or 7 muffin cases into a tin. I prefer silicon ones, unless I'm giving them away. 

A 6-hole muffin tin with alternate blue and purple silicon muffin cases
Prepared muffin tin


2. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. If, like me, you resorted to getting your plain flour from a discount shop due to Covid-flour-famine, it might need some encouragement to get it through the sieve.

A sieve full of flour, baking powder and salt, over a large plastic bowl
Sieve dry ingredients


3. In another large bowl, whisk the egg, butter and sugar until all smooth and gooey. You could also add vanilla essence here, if you like it.

Glass bowl containing egg, melted butter and sugar
Egg, butter and sugar ready to whisk
Wet ingredients after whisking. It looks like a pale brown soup.
Wet ingredients after whisking


4. Sieve the dry ingredients from the first bowl into the wet ingredients. Delia always recommends a double sieving and she is the expert on such matters.

5. Quickly and lightly, fold in the dry ingredients.

6. Add the chopped strawberries and mix these in too. Try not to be tempted to steal any to eat now and/or give treats to the dog.

Raw muffin mixture with the strawberries mixed in.
Raw muffin mix


7. Share the mixture between 6 or 7 muffin cases. As usual, I recommend making a spare, so you can test one and still have half a dozen for any socially distanced guests.

Blue muffin case full of the raw mixture
Filled muffin case


8. Bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes. When done, they will look like cooked muffins, instead of raw ones, and a pricker will come out nice and dry.

Freshly cooked muffins, still in the tins
Freshly cooked muffins


9. Whilst they are cooking, lick the bowl out. This is very important. Nanny, from whom I learned everything I know about baking, taught me this. It also makes washing up a bit easier too.

10. When cooked, put them on a wire rack to cool. Whilst cooling, eat muffin number 7 hot.

Cooked muffins cooling on a black wire rack. They look extremely tasty!
Seven freshly cooked muffins - though one won't be around much longer!

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Processing #blacklivesmatter as an outsider

The last couple of weeks have seen social media filled with posts connected to the #blacklivesmatter agenda. It's kind of weird as a white woman trying to work out where I stand on this. I fully support the cause. The very fact that police are targeting black people more than white people, which is happening in the UK too (All the data on black people and the police in England and Wales) is just unacceptable and completely wrong.

Whilst I haven't experienced discrimination based on the colour of my skin, I have experienced discrimination based on other characteristics: disability, gender, age, language, even accent. Every time I have experienced discrimination, it has been hurtful and has made me feel like less of a person. And that's not okay.

So my first question is: why are some people racist? Maybe the bigger question is: how do we become prejudiced?

I had a little look around the Internet and found a couple of articles that helped me to begin to consider this.

Why are people racist? - this is targeted at Australian young people. It focuses on how early relationships influence our views, how we take on the views of our family and friends, and how we then form connections with others that reinforce those views.

The psychology of racism - this addresses the idea that somehow racism is a natural thing that enabled early humans to have access to food and resources. I have to admit, this would never have crossed my mind. I was quite relieved to read that the theory is probably unfounded.

Racism vs discrimination: why the distinction matters - I found this one easiest to relate to. It made me question my own prejudices, which I think are mainly connected to other characteristics than race, but do include some racial aspects.

What this article does suggest, is that open and honest discussion about prejudices is needed. The way to avoid discrimination is to be more self-aware and to feel safe to acknowledge where we have biases, whether conscious or unconscious.

As a child, I don't recall being prejudiced at all. I grew up without much awareness of the wider world. I didn't watch TV at all, never mind the news. The first experiences I had of meeting people from other races, were positive (for me at least).

1. There was one black girl at my secondary school. She was very beautiful! Her skin was so smooth and her hair fascinated me. I once ended up behind her in the dinner queue, and I tried to touch her plaits without her noticing. I just wanted to know what her hair felt like. Mine was straight and straggly and I plaited it to keep it out of the way. I would have done anything to have Hattie's hair. I even went home and tried to do my hair in lots of little plaits like hers, but it didn't work with my hair.

2. There was one shop in town that was owned by a Pakistani man. He was quite sceptical of teenagers, only allowing two at a time in the shop. This didn't bother me. I mean, I just accepted that he had probably had teenagers stealing from him and was responding to protect himself. He sold sweets in jars, the old fashioned way, and I loved buying sweets there. What really stood out to me though, was that this man had no staff. He alone ran his shop and it was open from early morning to late at night. I don't think he ever had holidays. I was struck by this level of hard work, commitment and dedication to his business.

Without realising it, prejudices and biases were beginning to form. I had learned that black people are more beautiful than white people and that Pakistanis are harder working than English people. Why did I associate these with a whole race, rather than an individual? I don't know. Maybe because each of them represented ALL the people I had encountered from their race at that time.

I had other prejudices form as I grew up, not connected to race. I learned that most men are violent and are likely to harm women. You can trust old people but not young people. I also learned, growing up on a large council estate that being part of a defined group, connected to where you live, can give you protection if you stay in your location but can be a problem if you go to a rival estate. As a young girl, afraid of pain and fighting, I went with the idea of keeping a low profile and trying to fit in when I had to walk near another estate. Of course, this affected my beliefs about culture and that still feeds into my adult views.

Human views are really very complex. Each of us has had experiences that have caused deeply rooted beliefs about all kinds of things. Sometimes these reinforce each other and sometimes they cancel each other out.

I'm lucky, my experience of black people has remained positive. I still maintain what started as a joke, my biggest prejudice is against black BMW drivers. By that I mean people who drive black BMWs, not drivers of BMWs who are black. It's the colour of the car, not the person. I don't know how this prejudice started. It has developed in the last 5 years, and is largely connected to the area where I live. In this area, it just seems that black BMWs are driven in such a way to put others at risk. Of course, then, every time I see an accident involving a black BMW, my views are reinforced.

It's easy to see how the same could happen with racist views. It could start with one experience, which is backed up by another experience and then all the positive encounters go unnoticed whilst further negative encounters reinforce the racist beliefs.

I definitely think the key is more honest discussion. What do we assume when we are confronted by a negative situation? I've just seen on the news, an incident from yesterday's #blacklivesmatter protests. Somebody (unseen) pushed a bike into a police horse, causing it to bolt and injure the rider and another protester. The horse was clearly very frightened and whoever did it... well, that's the question. What do I assume about the person who did it?

I'll be honest, I didn't think about whether that person was black or white. I did assume they were male. I did assume he was young (probably between 20 and 30 years old). I made assumptions about how he was dressed and what his voice sounded like. I assumed he was shouting aggressively. I also assumed that he was there more to cause trouble than to support the original cause.

If pressed, I might actually assume that this person was white... that maybe his intention was to discredit the cause, make the protesters look bad.

There, you see, I've decided that I know an awful lot about a person who I have never even met. You might not have done that. You might be a better person than me.

I'll tell you what I didn't think. I didn't assume that the bike-hurler was a white middle-aged woman in a wheelchair.

I'll tell you what else I didn't think. I didn't think it was just an accident. I didn't think it was possible that somebody had just cycled down a hill and their brakes failed and they saw impending doom and jumped off the bike just before it hit the crowd. But that is also a possibility... not the way the media showed it... but possible.

So yeah, the media also play a large role in developing our views. Social media does too, maybe even more so.

I think, having processed some of what is happening right now, we all have a whole range of biases and prejudices, often unconscious, that are responsible for our initial reaction to a situation. In order to challenge and change these views, some of which might be right but many not, we need to be open and honest about them. We need to be able to discuss them without feeling attacked or threatened. We need to be able to make decisions about them... whether they are based in fact or fear.

Prejudice is something we all have within us. Discrimination is when we act on those prejudices in such a way that we treat a person or a group badly because of our prejudices. That's not okay. It is wrong.




Sunday, 24 May 2020

Low fat banana muffins

I've never done this before but I love baking and often adapt recipes and ways of working so that I can bake independently and enjoy nomity treats without putting on weight. So from time to time, I may share a recipe or two...

I've been trying really hard to cut down on the amount of stuff we throw away, so where possible, I will suggest non-disposable items and recipes that use up food that might get thrown away.

Low fat banana muffins

This recipe has no butter/margarine in it and uses half rye and half plain flour. It is easy enough to make without an electric mixer, as there is no beating and it doesn't create too much washing up.

6 low fat banana muffins cooling on a cooling rack; one muffin on a plate, ready to eat while it is still warm


Ingredients

50g dark rye flour
75g plain flour
3 rounded tbsp light soft brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
50 ml oil
50g natural yogurt (low fat)
2 mashed bananas (best to use the ones that are so ripe you thought about chucking them)

Preparation

Pre-heat the oven to 200oC
Put 7 silicon muffin cases into a muffin tray (that way you can test one and still leave a nice half dozen for later)

Method

  1. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. 
  2. Add the sugar. 
  3. Whisk the egg, oil and yogurt together.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ones.
  5. Stir with a spoon.
  6. Add in the mashed banana and stir.
  7. Divide the mixture between the muffin tins.
  8. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes.
  9. When they are done, they will look nice, smell nice and a cake pricker will come out nice and clean when you stab a muffin through the heart.
  10. Put six of the muffins on a cooling rack for later and eat the seventh one while it is still warm. That way, all the calories will just melt away.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

A new set of wheels

It's a problem children face - growing out of their wheelchair and needing a new one, even though the old one is still fine. Except, children grow. I shrunk. My old chair is 18"/19" wide, because that's what I needed when I bought it 4 to 5 years ago. Now, I'm a good 2" narrower and I rattle around in my old chair. It no longer supports me properly and there are several aspects that I wanted to change.

My new chair

So here is my new chair. It's a Kuschall K-series.

I'm sitting in my new Kuschall wheelchair. It has a purple frame which is all new and shiny. The wheels are a just standard wheels.

The first thing I wanted to change was the colour. My old chair is white, which is lovely, but a pain to keep clean. White shows all the scratches too. This time, with Canine Partners in mind, I've gone with purple. Now Liggy and my chair match.

I'm sitting in my new chair and Liggy, my black lab assistance dog, has jumped up and has her front paws on my lap.


Colour isn't that important though really. So some of the other changes are:

  • Width - this chair is a standard 16" wide. This will support me better but also will get through narrow doors and other spaces more easily.
  • Lower back - with hindsight, the back on my old chair is too high. It gets in the way of my arms and I frequently have bruises from bumping my upper arms on it. This one is much lower, as you'll see in the next photo.
  • Front casters - I love the flashing front casters because they attract attention and look really cool. However, they are very hard and are quite uncomfortable on rough surfaces. Also they are thin and that makes thick pile carpers so tiring. So this time, I've gone for wider, softer casters. If I don't like them, I have a plan B but for now, I'm giving them a go.
  • Seat cushion - I wish I'd done more research last time about cushions, as they can make a big difference to comfort. The wrong cushion can result in sores and nobody wants those. This time, I've got a gel cushion. It's heavy but really comfy and it sort of cools you. 
  • Foot plate - this time, I've got the footplate tucked under so that I can tuck my legs out of the way. Also, posture-wise, I'm hoping this will enable me to go faster when I need to. Again, it will help with tight spaces too. I've got a much smaller turning circle now.

The back of my wheelchair, showing the lower back.

Wheels

The only thing I really don't like about this chair, is the wheels but that is just a temporary problem. On Wednesday, my new wheels should arrive. I've ordered a pair of Loopwheels Urban. They are one of their new products and if they are as good as my old Loopwheels, I just know they will be amazing! I'm very excited about getting them and will be posting pictures and videos to show you what they are like. 

Meanwhile, I'll just have to make do with these wheels. They are just normal wheels, with an inner tube and a standard tyre. The pushrims are narrow metal ones, which I find difficult to use but with gloves, I'll manage for a few days.

Attaching Liggy

I'll post more about this next time but my old chair has an attachment on it, that Canine Partners put there. It's firmly attached and has a squiggly metal pole, like a pigtail, that I attach Liggy's lead to. I had hoped to find a less permanent option and I've got a couple of carabiners that attach with a velcro strap but I tried them yesterday and they move around too much. We may have to move the permanent attachment over, but if we do, I want something under it to protect my paintwork. It's made a right mess of my old chair! 

Saturday, 25 April 2020

#TwoPointSixChallenge

What is the #TwoPointSixChallenge?

We are overwhelmed with information about Covid-19 at the moment. Everybody is affected in some way or other. There will without doubt be casualties beyond the horrendous list of hospital admissions, critical care cases and deaths. We are aware that businesses are struggling and more recently, attention has turned to charities.

We have been inspired by Captain Tom Moore and his walk around his garden to raise money for the NHS. Some of us flit between charities, just giving when a story touches our hearts. Others commit for the long haul to one or more chosen charities. 

What is certain, is that charities are going to lose an average of £1,000,000 of revenue because of the lockdown, and for some, that could be catastrophic! So the 2.6 challenge is an opportunity for us all to support charities.

The idea is to come up with a challenge which has the numbers 2.6 or 26 in it, and then ask people to sponsor that challenge.

Canine Partners

Over the years, we have supported different charities that we feel a strong connection to. Most recently, Canine Partners have become my passion. I was partnered with Liggy, my wonderful assistance dog in November 2017, and since then, I have seen first hand the many benefits that such a partnership can bring. Liggy goes everywhere with me: shopping, work, cafes, restaurants, the cinema, museums... everywhere. And then the lockdown started.

You might think that Liggy is now on some kind of extended holiday. Maybe she's been furloughed. But no. Liggy is working just as hard as ever because at home is where I face the most challenges. At home is where I do the most difficult tasks. At home is where I drop things, lose things, get stuck and need personal care. So Liggy is working hard to keep me going through the lockdown.

It is well documented that dogs have a positive impact on our mental health and well-being. Liggy is keeping both Neil and me positive and motivated throughout this time. She is helping us to keep to daily routines, reminding us to get up and move around regularly, and ensuring that we play and laugh a lot too.

A montage of four photos showing some of Liggy's tasks: tugging my socks off, doing the washing, fetching the phone and lifting the footplate on my stair lift.

My challenge

In the week running up to 26th April (2.6 challenge day) I have been videoing Liggy doing some of her tasks. On Sunday, I will upload and share the finished film. The film will be exactly 2.6 mins long, so short enough that everyone can watch it and see how amazing these working dogs are.

I'm aiming to raise £260, which is a huge challenge because many of my friends will be facing their own financial challenges, and a huge number of my family and friends have their own chosen charities that they support regularly, rather than giving here and there. 

One thing I was undecided about - whether Liggy should wear her jacket for filming. Normally, Canine Partners would ask that they wear their jackets to help share the brand and identify them as working dogs. However, the whole point of this film is about how Liggy helps me in our home. She never wears her jacket at home. Her jacket isn't a signal to her that she is working. She is never off-duty in the same way that guide dogs are. Her jacket tells others in the outside world not to distract her and that she has access rights beyond those of a pet dog. So I have deliberately left her jacket off. 

Please consider donating

If you are still reading, please consider giving a donation. Even if everybody I knew gave £2.60... it would soon mount up. To donate, just go to my JustGiving page. Thank you in anticipation of your generosity... and if you are in a difficult financial situation yourself, please don't feel bad. We're all in this together. Feed your family first.