Tuesday, 16 August 2011

My Super-Power.... Hyperosmia!

Despite amato mio's claims that I am part-Vulcan, my acute sense of smell is likely to be due to the fact that I am a regular migraine sufferer. Apparently this is quite a rare condition...which partners nicely with my almost-rarer-than-hens'-teeth blood group, AB Negative. I am a member of a very elite club, it seems - less than half of 1% of the world's population shares my blood group!  I wonder how many hyperosmians there are worldwide!

Sultan Mehmed II smelling a rose, from the Sarayı Albums. Source: Bilkent University 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Woohoo - my stamina returns!

People say life's unfair, and I'm inclined to agree....but in some ways, I think it's a good thing! If life was fair, all the stupid and irresponsible stuff I did during my adolescence would surely have caught up with me by now! So in a manner of speaking, I am pretty glad that life is unfair!

However, I do think it entirely unreasonable that despite amato mio's cold only getting a hold on me for two days (proof of how much fitter and healthier I am now), several weeks later, I am still feeling its effect on my chest. Amato mio had it quite badly, which was a worry because he almost never gets sick; however, it went to his chest and he still has a bit of a cough. I developed a very slight cough but nothing much to speak of, and yet it seriously affected my running. My stamina levels dropped significantly, and whereas before I was (just) able to run for 25 minutes without any intervals, for the last couple of weeks, I've had to drop right back to only 10 minutes with two minutes of walking in between.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Stay motivated by calculating your averages!

Just out of curiosity, I looked at my weight loss spreadsheet just now, and saw that my weight has dropped 19 times in 130 days - that's an average of once every 6.8 days!

That's not bad going, even if there *are* weeks when I stay the same, and times when I appear to gain because of water retention. My average loss per drop is 1.15lbs (0.52kg). Pretty cool eh?

I think this is quite a nice little motivational tool!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Oh please - get a grip!

One of my closest real-life friends posted this as their status update on Facebook today... (pasted here as it was written - bad grammar/punctuation, an' everything!)

"RIP Broken Britain.. You went soft on discipline!.. You went soft on immigration!You went soft on crime.. Parents were told.. 'No you can't smack the kids'....Teachers were prevented from chastising kids in schools.. The police couldn't clip a troublemaker round the ear.. Kids had rights blah blah blah.. Well done Britain..You shall reap what you sow.. We have lost a whole generation. ­Repost if you agree with this."

Note the bit about re-posting if in agreement.

My response was thus...

"Sorry, I cannot agree about smacking children. I don't believe it's ever acceptable to use physical violence against another, especially not a child. Even 'just a smack' can cause trauma, both physical and mental. Why would anyone want to cause harm to someone they love? 

As a former teacher, I can tell you that punishment *is* allowed in schools, just not corporal punishment. 

Beating/slapping/smacking another human being (or animal, for that matter) is *not* the way to make them compliant and obedient....but it's a sure way to make them discontented and feel undervalued and worthless.....and we all know where that leads. 

We should lead by example; therefore, what example are we setting people if we punish them with physical violence? That it's acceptable to be violent when someone does not do as you tell them to do? 

There is no one cause for the current situation, just as there is no one area/body of people to blame. 

We *all* have to shoulder the responsibility of making and breaking society. And let's not forget that it is we who vote in the people who make the laws so many complain about."

The thread got deleted.

Clearly some people are just happy to jump on the bandwagon and mindlessly re-post Daily HateMail-esque drivel but cannot cope when someone posts something intelligent in response. What irks me however, is that if it were face to face, this person would never agree with the original comment....or perhaps they'd just tell me what they thought I want to hear.

Why are some folk such sheeple?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

...and Now A Rave!

...about Breathe-Right nasal strips!

I always have trouble breathing through my nose when I am running because no matter which precautions I take, as soon as I get out among the trees and the grass, hayfever makes me all bunged up. Consequently, I often find myself gulping air through my mouth, which I'm sure is not terribly efficient! I know from working out that it is best to breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth but having a nose which feels as though it's full of cotton wool makes it a tad problematic.

Hayfever (grass pollen) plushie from GiantMicrobes.com

A Rant About Rubbish!

No matter which morning I am out running in the park, I always see the detritus from the previous night's revelling. It's bad enough that there are plastic cider bottles and food wrappers strewn around but the broken glass bottles which seem to have been deliberately smashed on the pathways is a real annoyance...as well as being a danger.

What is wrong with these people? Don't they care that people walk their dogs in the park? Or that children play there? Or that we runners use these paths? I've even seen all this inside the fenced-off toddlers' play area. And if that's not bad enough, in most cases, there is a litter bin less than a metre away from wherever the rubbish has been dumped.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Recipe/Ricetta - Minestra di Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Bean Soup)

This recipe is for my running mentor, Berry H - she's been asking me for ages to post it!

In the US, this hearty dish is often called Pasta Fazool - indeed, one of my favourite singers/musicians, Ray Gelato (who also loves to cook!) mentions it in the song, That's Amore (as did Dean Martin, of course)! As far as I know, 'fazool' is an Americanisation of the dialect for bean, 'fasul' (Napoli) or fasulu (Sicilia)... so when Ray (or Dino) sings...

"When the stars make you drool, just like Pasta Fazool,
That's amore"

...you'll now know what he is on about! In fact, Ray also references it in his song, A Pizza You, which is the intro music for his cooking show!

Like so much of cucina povera, this recipe has as many variations as there are villages in Italia! While essentially a vegetarian dish, I have known people who add leftover cuts of meat, or the sugo left from the previous night's meal (I do this myself on occasion!). Some people swear by using broth only, while others like it more tomato-based. Although there is a basic premise (it has to have pasta and beans!) there is no one right way of making this dish; use what you have, be it leftover meat (bacon or boiled ham works very well), tomato sauce, etc.

About the pasta - while I have suggested specific types, really, you can use whatever you have; this is a great way of using up all those little bits of broken lasagne, spaghetti etc., or the odd few grams of fusili or penne etc. that we all have lurking in the cupboard!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Recipe/Ricetta - Insalata di Patate (Potato Salad)

Who doesn't love potato salad? In fact, what is there not to love about it?! It's quick and simple to make, very filling, and absolutely delicious!

If you add the mayonnaise to the potatoes while they are still warm, they will absorb more of the flavour, meaning you can use less mayo....ergo, fewer calories! Who says that losing weight means boring food?!

For variety, you could use thinly sliced raw onion instead of chives. You could also add edible flowers (chive, rocket, nasturtium, etc.) - I'm particularly fond of these because they add such colour (and taste good too).

Recipe/Ricetta - Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad)

This is one of my favourite salads - it's almost the epitome of summer for me. And not only is it super-easy to make (no cooking!), it's a great way to use up stale bread. It's said that Italians never throw anything away - certainly this tends to be true where food is concerned, especially bread. Bread is a spiritual food amongst some Italians (as in the body of Christ), so to throw it away, even when stale, is considered sacrilege. Italians are also frugal people, so really, it's just common sense to use up as much as you can. More food - less waste!

Which type of bread to use? Pane Toscano is the most authentic (of course!) but it defeats the purpose of this dish to buy bread especially to make it with! This is cucina povera - we use what we have! My panzanella more often than not, is made with granary bread because this is the type of bread we use the most here. In fact, if I'm honest, the only time I make and use Pane Toscano is when I want to make bruschetta (because you need a robust bread which isn't going to go soggy under all the veggies)!

Some people advocate toasting the bread first, or baking it in the oven, and sprayed with oil - I don't know any Italians who do this! Why make life complicated?! I'm with Carluccio - great food should be MOFMOF; Minimum Of Effort - Maximum Of Flavour. Keep this in mind, and you won't go wrong!

Recipe/Ricetta - Sparrow Grass Wrapped in Halloumi

As requested by my good friend, Sarah-Jane!

This former peasant food is one of my favourite vegetables. This dish is ridiculously simple to make, yet utterly divine, and sure to be a winner at the table. Kids love it, due to the novelty of the cheese squeaking against their teeth (OK, adults find it amusing too!), and of course, it's a great way for them to get their veg...somehow, baked vegetables seem far more appealing to children than steamed ones! Do remember to remove the cocktail sticks, however, before serving to children!

Halloumi can be very salty, so I soak mine for a few hours before using. It doesn't remove all of the salt but it does lessen it. The nutritional values below are for pre-soaked halloumi, however.