The C word

1 in 3 of us get cancer within a lifetime.  There are 5 of us in my close knit immediate family.  The odds aren’t great when you look at it like that.  A few weeks back I discovered a small lump in my breast.  I went to the doctors who recommended I see another doctor, but said he thought it was nothing to worry about.  Before my next appointment I discovered another lump.  Hmm.  Next doctor also stated she thought it was probably nothing to worry about, but referred me to the emergency breast clinic to be sure.  So I’m now waiting until my appointment there, which is next Wednesday.  I’m not great at waiting.

The logical part of my brain (the one that acknowledges the statistics which I’ve read online which says 90% of abnormalities found in the breast are NOT cancer), tells me that it’s probably not life threatening, and I need to chillax.  Unfortunately, the emotional part of my brain is just running around in ever decreasing circles with a pair of pants over it’s head and most likely some pencils stuck in a handy orifice whilst yelling “Oh Shit” repeatedly.  I dread to think what will happen if it does turn out there is a serious problem(!)

I think the main issue is that I had already been spending a large proportion of my time thinking about what I’ve done with my life, what I’m doing with my life and what I want to do with my life, and this latest news has bought a sharp new edge to these ruminations.  The book I’m reading at the moment asks some pertinent questions which I found quite interesting to answer, so I’m going to paste them here for posterity.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Vet – sadly not clever enough to get all the A’s in the required science and maths subjects
What have you always wanted to do that you haven’t done yet?
Be debt free and then FI.  Be fairly self sufficient.
What have you done in your life which you are really proud of?
Bought up the children well
Worked in the child protection unit for the police.
Ran a marathon
Become more eco-aware and started taking responsibility of my actions
If you knew you were going to die within a year, how would you spend that time?
As much as possible with my family
Might try to do some more eco stuff, but family first
What brings you most fulfilment, and how is that related to money?
Spending time with the kids – no relation to money
Spending time with Andy – no relation to money
Riding – fantastic stress buster – bloody expensive
If you didn’t work for a living, how would you spend your time?
Spending proper time with the kids
Spending more time with Mr EN
Keeping the house
Keeping the garden – growing our own food.
Preparing really nice food for the family
Being more self sustainable – making and fixing stuff for our lives myself
Maybe horse stuff
Maybe setting up a local community business to encourage more people to buy locally

So, the answers to those questions tell me quite clearly that my priorities are :

  1. Family
  2. FI
  3. The Environment, and keeping it safe for our future generations.

2 and 3 are in my mind, on an even par.

The problem is, I find it almost impossible to stay sane, AND make life work around those priorities, in that order and still hold down a challenging job in IT within an industry which is sinking and making redundancies faster that Donald Trump can make offensive political gaffes generally so ridiculous they are verging on the farcical….


Anyway, I digress.  On the same kind of vein (keeping family, FI and the environment as priorities), and in a bid to keep my youngest daughter sugar free, and still allow her to eat nice things at lunch, as usual on a Sunday night I baked a cake/treat for her and I to consume with our lunch throughout the week.  I baked chocolate zucchini bread, the recipe for which can be found here.  I was so pleased as I had organic cacao powder, and lovely fresh courgettes from my local farm shop.  I did make one change, and subbed the agarve syrup (full of fructose) with brown rice malt syrup.  This may be the reason why, when I took it out of the oven and let it cool, I could have knocked out an unsuspecting intruder with it!  It’s dry as a bone and rock solid 😦   I can’t believe the different syrup had that much of an effect, I just hope my little girl has plenty of water with her today to wash it down with :O  Back to the drawing board tonight methinks!




Snack Series: 5-minute Chocolate Mug Cake

9pm hits. You want a treat. There is nothing in the cupboards. Life is hard… or so you think! This cake is just incredible, one minute you are feeling sorry for yourself and in within the next 5 yo…

Source: Snack Series: 5-minute Chocolate Mug Cake

Purpose and Food

This week has been a busy one for me (not unusually to be fair) but work has provided it’s fair share of challenges this week, leaving me feeling washed up and demotivated.  I am seriously lacking in mojo currently 😦

However, that is no excuse to be sitting on ones laurels, so I have been getting on with the day to day chores, and trying to catch up on finishing the book I’ve borrowed from my colleague.  The former of these two tasks has taught me one invaluable lesson; always have a spare meal in the cupboard.  On Wednesday I tried to make vegetarian meatballs.  On the face of it they sounded nice.  Grated sweet potato, carrots and parsnips mixed with beans and spices and flour, fried then baked in the oven in a sauce made with roasted cherry tomatos and roasted garlic.  However, when you forget to grind the fennel seeds you toasted, discover you have run out of butter beans and chickpea flour, so make do with black eyed beans and some alternative flour (I forget which, I fear I’m traumatised), the result it transpires, is a culinary disaster of epic proportions.  They were, in a word, minging!  I ate mine (mixed with feta to hide the taste) out of sheer bloody mindedness, as I didn’t want to waste the food or the effort, but the rest of the family admitted defeat, and it was a merry dinner of cheese and biscuits in the end.

The other task, finishing the book, is proving a slower task than original anticipated.  I’m reading Your Money or Your Life, and so far am really enjoying it.  I love putting an actual real value on your hourly wage, and then working out how much life energy you need to give to buy each item.  It certainly provides a fresh and different perspective on the value of *stuff*.

I have also enjoyed the exercises to determine what drives your life.  Remembering what your dreams as a child were (to be a vet – not clever enough) and figuring out what is actually  important now (family, the environment).  One question was, what would I do if I knew I only had a year to live.  My immediate answer was to spend as much time as possible with my family, which definitely wouldn’t involve work.  I have come to the sad realisation that I’ve spent the last 20 years building up my career, and I now don’t want it.  I want to be a home maker, the very thing I had been determined not to be as a child.  We, or at least I, was bought up to believe that there was no value in that.  Now I strongly disagree.   We are losing, or indeed have already lost, all the skills our previous generation cherished and handed down.  If the food crises does come about, how many of us will be able to support ourselves?  I am trying to grow food at present, to try and supplement that which I have to buy, but last time I tried this I found myself with gluts of produce which I either gave or threw away.  My grandmother would have know how to preserve and keep these for the winter months when there is no fresh produce. I don’t.  I’m relying on books and blogs.  We need to regain these skills, and pass them on to our children.  I strongly believe that we live in a charmed age, but are by and large, unaware of how fortunate we are.  There are many different predictions of how the future may pan out, one popular one being the passing of peak oil causing a food crisis.  This paper from 2007 talks about the impact and gives these figures;

While food exports from the UK have increased significantly since 1961, from 2 million tonnes to 15 million tonnes in 2000, the value of these exports is declining. And the UK still imports almost twice the amount of food it exports, with imports growing significantly in value and weight. In 1980 the UK trade gap in food, feed and drink was £3.5 billion. This increased to £5.9 billion in 1990, £8.3 billion in 1999, £10 billion in 2002 and £12.2 billion in 2004. More recently the trade gap widened by 11% in just 12 months

This is disturbing news, especially when you see stories like this, where farmers are having to deal with surplus stock due to low demand.

The paper regarding peak oil impact also states;

Transport, because of its almost complete dependence on fuels from crude oil, is very vulnerable to decline in availability of cheap oil.

We need to invest as a country in our agriculture to support our farmers and maximise our food production.  However, we are still struggling with our milk farmers being paid a pittance for their milk.  There have been recent rumours that Tescos have changed their milk supply chain, which used to be a straight 50:50 split between Muller and the Farmers cooperative, to be 100% Muller.  This is a huge blow to our farmers.  I have take the step of buying all of my milk now from our local farm shop, which supplies milk direct from the local dairy.  There is also the sticky question of whether or not to stay in the EU, with opinions fiercely divided on what would be best for British Farmers :

In addition to the energy crisis, there are also concerns regarding the ever increasing population, along with new strands of rust disease in wheat, blue tongued virus in sheep (caused by insects) and the decline of bees and other insects which we depend upon to pollinate our crops.

UK food security threat

However, there are many alternative, but equally as dismal theories, such as the Limits to Growth book and subsequent review, which suggests we are going to run out of resources which will trigger a massive population crash. See the Guardian’s piece on it here.

Whichever theory you believe, one thing shines through to me and that is we ought to be becoming more self sufficient as a country, and I believe that needs to start at the grass roots level, i.e. us.  We need to lead the way and support our country.  Some important ways which I see we can start this are :

  • Buy local. I get my eggs from a farm in the next village, but the lovely lady delivers them every Saturday.  I get my veg, flours and meat (for Mr EN and the 2 elder girls) from my local farm shop or butchers.  I try to avoid Tescos like the plague.  And buy seasonal.  Get used to planning what you cook around what is available.
  • Cook!  And teach your children to cook.  Don’t rely on ready meals.  Cook your own.  Much healthier and tastier (unless you make veggie meatballs!).  And it doesn’t have to be time consuming.
  • Grow your own.  Everyone can do some growing, whether it is just a few herbs and come again lettuce on the window sill, with maybe a couple of pots of tomatos and strawberries on the patio, to a fully converted oasis of food production.  Every little helps, and will teach you and your children valuable skills should the worst come to the worst.
  • Community.  Get to know your community, know where there is local produce available.  Do swaps for seeds, vegetable gluts etc at work or down your local.

Our economy is in tatters.  We should be supporting it, not the economy of Japan, or China or New Zealand.

Anyway, I have finished my lunch (home made bread made with local flour, locally produced salad, and cheese, followed up by home made anzac cookies – yum!) so I’m off.