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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.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Questions about Covid-19 and the lockdown

We're now almost four weeks into the lockdown and in some ways, it's beginning to feel like normal. We've managed to largely find ways of making life work, though nothing takes away the desire to see family and friends, and to go for a walk on the beach.

As the time ticks by, I find myself with so many questions. If you have answers for any of my questions, please feel free to comment.

The virus

Q. Why is there such a huge spectrum of symptoms from the same virus? We're told that older people and those with health conditions are more vulnerable, which seems to often be true... but then... Some very old and/or people with underlying conditions get a mild version and/or recover. Some young, healthy people die. Scientifically, there must be reasons for this. What is going on?

Q. How long does the virus live on different surfaces? We know that it can live for 3 days on most hard surfaces, hence the need for constant hand washing. Does the ground count as a hard surface? Assuming that infected droplets fall to the ground within 2m of you breathing them out, is the ground covered in the virus now? Most people will barely think about this. I know some are taking their shoes off before entering their home. That is almost impossible for me though. I have two large wheels with pushrims, two front casters and four paws that have all been in constant contact with the ground. What is the risk here? 

Lockdown

Q. Why is there so much conflicting advice? The government has issued some rules, which seem okay, except that they are a little bit vague. Police forces have all interpreted these differently and issued a mixture of official and unofficial guidance, some sensible, some not. There is a fine line between people trying to find loopholes to justify going out and those whose circumstances are not standard, trying to work out how to get through this.  It would be so much easier if there was more clarity.

Q. Has anyone thought about cars? I know this seems a strange question but I am concerned that when this is all over, we're going to all have problems with our cars. I have a diesel. Diesel cars are designed for long runs and motorway-type driving. When barely used and only doing short runs to the supermarket, they begin to object. We know this from Neil's dad. Neil had a lovely Ford Mondeo diesel. We never had any problems with it. When we changed cars, Neil's dad bought it from us, but he didn't drive much and mainly stayed local. The next time we drove that car, it was awful. I took off, one holiday, with two small children and chugged and bounced around the M25, with black smoke puffing out of the back. I have never been so scared in all my life! I really want to take my car for a longer drive every couple of weeks, to keep it healthy. Obviously the health of my car doesn't matter to anyone else, but like Liggy, it is crucial to my independence, and I am acutely aware that a breakdown situation for me is far more complicated to deal with than for most other people.

Immunity

Q. Couldn't people who are known to have had the virus and recovered, go back to normal life? I don't know many people who have had it. In Yorkshire, the numbers are thankfully still relatively low. However, in London, it would appear that many people have had it. Certainly, we know there are over 100,000 people in the country who have tested positive. Couldn't they be given some kind of ID card that allows them to go out again as normal?


I also have lots of personal questions, about how to deal with this situation as a wheelchair user, how to balance staying safe with staying healthy, how to keep Liggy safe and healthy, and about plans we had for later in the year. 

There's a lot of people on social media, being quite harsh with the message about staying at home. It's easy for those with no additional needs to follow the rules to the letter and just stay at home, and exercise from home, etc. Most people can take a variety of routes from their home to go for a 30 minute walk. I have one or two options... only one that is really safe and doable. I get that preventing the spread of Covid-19 is important but walking around a cemetery every day for a month, staring death in the face every time I leave the house... I am beginning to find that quite depressing. I'm trying to focus on the positives... on life and nature... but there's only so many squirrels and pigeons to see there. The number of fresh graves being dug is more 'in your face'. 

On a more positive note, we were doing some work in the front garden yesterday (quite rare) and got chatting (at an appropriate distance) to a neighbour. It emerged that the guy makes hand sanitiser and anti-bacterial soap. I joked that at least they should always have some. At this, he asked if we needed any, and then proceeded to give us enough to get us through the next few weeks (maybe months). For those that are under the impression that I always refuse help... you're wrong. I refuse un-needed help but when someone offers something that I really need, I say a huge thank you and gratefully accept. 

Friday, 10 April 2020

Social distancing and Covid-19

I feel like I want to write something, just so I have a written record of what is going on at the moment. I don't really have much to say though.

This virus has spread across the world at an alarming pace. On 12th and 13th Feb, I was at the Learning Technologies conference and exhibition at the Excel Arena in London. Now, only weeks later, the Excel is the Nightingale Hospital and we're not allowed to go anywhere. Even if, like me, you quite like working from home and having social distance when you go outdoors, the speed with which this has happened can feel quite scary!

What I don't like about this

1. Every time I hear the news, more people have died. Initially it was small numbers but now it's hundreds of people a day. Watching the news makes me think about that scene in the last Harry Potter film, where Ron was listening to the radio in his tent, just hoping he didn't hear bad news about his family. The thing that really upsets me, is knowing that these people are dying alone and that families are grieving alone. It's just horrific!

2. I miss being able to meet up with family, especially my sons. I usually head to the coast at least once a fortnight. I might not see the boys very often, but we all know we can when we want to. Not being able to visit people and places is probably the worst part of this. 

3. Random food shortages. First it was just toilet rolls, which didn't worry us, as we buy on bulk and still have loads left from our last delivery. It was when we couldn't get basics like milk, bread and flour, that I started to feel a little bit panicky. It's also quite stressful sending Neil shopping without me. I have a difficult food allergy - difficult in the sense that it's not one of the main allergens, not in bold and it can be hidden on the ingredients list. We have to check everything we buy and Neil's eyesight is ageing, such that he can't see tiny ingredient fonts. 

Some of the things I like about this

1. Working from home all the time. I normally go into the office 2 days a week and work at home the rest. It has been wonderful working from home full time. If anything good could come from this, it would be allowing me to make this my norm! I haven't had to queue to go to the toilet once in the last month. I haven't struggled to get a drink or my lunch or anything. My home is set up perfectly for my needs. It's the most comfortable place for me to be. 

2. Reduced risk of being 'helped'. I'd had a few experiences, just before this began, of people trying to enforce help on me. I really don't like the fear of being man-handled when I go out. Now, everybody is largely keeping their distance. I think, even if I needed help, I wouldn't get it, as nobody wants to touch anyone else. This makes my daily walks a lot less stressful. 

3. Family Zoom/Kahoot/JackboxTV sessions. For the last few weeks, we've had regular family online get togethers, where we've played games and shared quizzes. It has been really good fun and brought us together in a way that we rarely use normally. Of course, it's no real substitute for face-to-face time but we're all a bit geeky and enjoy playing games and doing quizzes at family parties anyway.

4. My last one is a wider issue. We desperately need to make changes to our lifestyles if we are to halt the damage that we are doing to this planet. This virus has made us stop all the frantic travel, challenged us to consider what are essentials, and has made us more aware of the things that matter. I feel like our value systems had become warped and this is helping us to reassess and get our values back in line. 

After this is over


I hope things don't just go back to how they were when this is all over. It would be such a waste. I hope that on many levels, we change for the better:

1. Working from home - if people want to work from home, and there is no operational reason why not, then why not?

2. Values - people are more valuable than stuff. Being caring is more important than being rich. We all have the capacity to put the needs of others first. Let's keep doing that.

3. Politics - the last few years, politics has been full of nastiness and hate. We are showing that it doesn't have to be that way. Parties can work together, with appropriate challenge but without all the spite. I hope that the political landscape changes after this and becomes more focussed on making this country a better place to live.

4. Humility - the human race had become rather superior. We were convinced that we could do what we liked. Nothing could stop us. We are so clever, know so much, we're pretty much invincible. This virus has shown us what we don't know. It has challenged that sense of invincibility. A microscopic, invisible virus has brought the whole world to a standstill. We are not in charge of this world. Living on earth is a privilege and a huge responsibility. I hope we begin to take that responsibility more seriously, with a more humble attitude. 

I feel like there are only three more things to be said: stay home, save lives, protect the NHS!