Two For A Minus Equals Knowledge

It’s too wet for photos, Dear Reader, not too wet to be outside, never. So instead today we’ll delve back into breaking down what worked to establish the healthy routine I live by. The loops I jump through to avoid using the misused word: Diet. I would like to say first that I hope I never come across as overbearing or not understanding, I, well, when I started this I did it without excuses, without telling anyone, without a clue if I’d even find any worth in it. I, how do I say it? I had so little choice and apparently a lot of willpower so when I see people making excuses, refusing to take what I say as true I just don’t understand. I never thought of myself as special, I figured if I could do this anyone could, I just wanted out of a dark place and I was willing to go through anything to make it. It’s why I don’t really relate to anyone doing this for weight or just generally better health. Maybe it’s why they don’t relate to me, I have no idea, but what I’m saying is I hope I never dissuade anyone from starting, I never want to make you feel like a failure for not doing what I did. It’s why I’m here typing another post that without the fluke of being found will fade away in obscurity regardless of the effort and thought I’ve put into it. I just don’t want anyone to be in the situation I was without someone to help them. I wanted that someone and never found them. So if you ever think Jack an arrogant ass just remember he’s just someone trying to do his best, never really knowing the value of the work he has done, I’m an idiot, Dear Reader, we all are, I’m just trying to learn to be better and share what I’ve learned to get others here faster, I just can’t coddle everyone, I can only teach from what I’ve experienced and that might  make me abrasive at times, if I ever hurt anyone then I’m sorry, but all I’ll ever ask is what I gave myself. Now that might not be for you, but I can’t be anyone else but me.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the elimination diet? I hadn’t, but I started a similar diet all those years ago, coming up to the ninth, I removed the problematic foods that I had had trouble with for years, but what I discovered was that I needed to replace them, dieting reduces intake of good nutrients too of course, thus the idea that for every food eliminated two more should be added. That might seem simple, but I tell you when you’ve stripped away all you’ve ever know and are now faced with the task of eating and learning what to do it is daunting and challenging, not impossible, but it does feel that way. As I’ve said there wasn’t a blog that would suit my needs, no guru to follow, just me, guessing, recording testing and trying. I threw up a lot is what I’m saying.

It’s why if you say to me that you can’t do without  this or that I just can’t care, harsh, but I gave up literally everything I ate and reworked my whole diet, I had a choice too, but sometimes people act as if I was impelled by a magical force, I wasn’t, I was suicidal and sick, very very sick, so I had to push foods away, I had to learn to hate what I loved and learn to love what I hated. One of the problems with this is that you’ll eat foods you’ll be unable to tolerate, you’ll find new foods and need to learn how to use them, you’ll try so much and discard so much it seems like a waste, but it isn’t, it’s probably an accidental catalyst to my success, to the vast amount of recipes here.

How? Well if all I can eat is sweet potato and I hate it I’ll go to the ends of the internet to find a recipe that makes it palatable, I’ll discover alternative preparations, different spice blends to mask taste, new foods to use in addition to this, in essence I’ll learn more about food than I ever ever would have by just eating what I always did. With a lot of food as the palate changes and acclimatizes to new tastes you’ll find your new diet forming without much resistance. It’s strange to imagine that you gain from losing, but it’s true, by excluding I was pushed to look further to accept more and to really appreciate what I had. It’s not to say that I didn’t kick and yell, but I always pushed forward, the feeling of being better starts as euphoric, fades fast and leaves you angry and hurt but something else starts to grow, very slowly sure, but the enjoyment of a new variety starts to take hold of you. An appreciation for seemingly simple food, much like a flower you do need to tend this, the weeds of old habits and tastes will threaten to strangle this before it blooms, but if you keep at it you arrive at a stage where you have an entirely new view of food that will keep your lifestyle in place. It’s no longer a flower, but a pillar, holding up the foundation of your new life. It starts by not giving up, not resenting, but knowing the necessity and never stopping.

I’ll be on onion watch soon, the Roscoff are getting yellow at the tip so when we see some fine weather and they’ve wilted I’ll pull them, let them air dry and then start curing them. The Yellow Onions will take longer. I’ve planted beetroot where the shallots were, the beetroot in the shops is so hard as to be inedible, as are the carrots, which might be planted where the onions are. I have the flyaway and the purple sun still growing, but they will take time. Just think: I have only been eating carrots a few years. Until later, Dear Reader.


The Secret Hurt of Heat

Royal Mallows.

This year it’s flowering earlier (Canna Indica)

I have dreams of accidentally snapping this off.

Jalapeños are a little droopy with the cooler weather.

Oh, don’t mind me, Dear Reader, Jack is just tired, actually, do mind me or no one will read this post! I’ve been thinking again, which is a terrible affliction that thankfully affects only very few people at any time, mostly about the surgeries pending, but also about much of a difference the diastasis recti repair and abdominoplasty made, or to flip it around, how terrible it was before the surgery. It’s been draining all these long years, Dear Reader, my weight-loss journey has been one of harsh truth and I’ve tried to use it to help as many people as I can. I’m not going anywhere else but ahead, but these are the days that I’m glad I ventured forth into a wild garden along with a big, never fat, no no, grey muzzled Labrador and started to find something of my peace. I’m not getting deep today, Dear Reader, too fatigued with hay-fever or whatever this is. Let’s just talk plants before the heatwave resumes and steals me away.

My tomato training skills are atrocious.

My saved chillies and the Peter Pepper, the smaller one is Peter.

The water is slightly clearer in the cool weather.

This has been really fun so far.

I can see where the extreme heat has damaged the plants somewhat, there are burnt patches and wilted pieces, but most seem to be relatively okay. I did find out that the Phlox, one of two, which looked off, was actually a dahlia I bought two years ago that was moved multiple times and I’m pretty sure I threw away. Must’ve gotten mixed up, it wouldn’t be the first time. Sadly my blue hydrangea is reverting because of the tap water, so I’m going to use citrus peel as an acidic mulch, which is the very reason I exclude them from the compost in too great an amount, the reverse will be beneficial here. Coffee grinds, some diluted vinegar now and again and the citrus peel should, hopefully, push the soil in a permanent acidic direction. When the rain returns I’ll use the collected water too. I can be doggedly pigheaded at times, Dear Reader. Okay, I’m off checking eBay for alpine strawberries, bit late, but with this weather, who knows?, until later.

Tigernuts, well one started for friend and now I have it.

The Dahlia returns.

Oh, I have flowers on the jalapeños.

The slight break from the extreme heat is doing the squash well.

I need to get out dead-heading and weeding next week, everything is fairly neat and I’d like to keep it that way. The weeds haven’t had the same vigour as they had when they were left to their own devices. The roses are coming into another blooming session, the strawberries too by the looks of them. The yellow alpine have self seeded at random as the soil was reused from their original plantings, they’re deliciously sweet, grow easily from seed and don’ need much space. Buy some Alpine Yellow Wonder Strawberries and you won’t be disappointed, Dear Reader. Or, visit me and pick a berry or two, they flower in the first year even.

The Roscoff Onions are getting big.

The Blauwschokker pea flowers are pink and blue?! Sorry for the wrong focus.

Sea Hollies starting to turn blue.

The older yellow strawberries are finally hitting their stride.

Pea Alderman weren’t a great success, but they’re growing.

One day a fig tree laden with figs…maybe.

Health Food Becomes Food

Hey, Dear Reader, no heatwave yet, we had a slight storm and some heat, so if it gets hot the soil is starting off moist which is good. You come here for the thrilling weather commentary, just admit it. I’ve been musing on my weight-loss journey again you know though I clock it at ten and a half stone lost, it most likely was more. When I finally weighed myself, and fund out how heavy I was, I had lost some weight and considering I was literally huge it might be closer to twelve, I’m honestly at the stage where I don’t think too much on the numbers, just keep an eye on the waistline and the post for that letter. What I do think of is food and though I often repeat that thre’s no way to create a perfect diet from my own experiences I can’t still pull some general advice and insights.

I’ve spoken before about normalising, healthy eating, having it be the standard way you eat. The old stock gag about eating a salad once in a while to lose weight is sadly the very real way some people view the process of weight-loss, wherein reality it’s a restructuring of your entire diet, more or less severe depending on where you’re starting from. What I struggled with, as many do, is the idea that what I was doing was vastly different from anything that came before. My diet is cobbled together from ingredients taken from all over the world, it’s piecemeal recipes made from what is needed and what is available, there is no name for it. But, you see here’s the thing, just because this diet is different from those around me that doesn’t make it all that strange, even if that’s the way I was, and still am, made to feel.

We all eat differently, very rarely will two people eat exactly the same diet, or at the same times, or in the same amounts and so on, so I think if you are looking into a re-work of your lifestyle one of the thoughts that you should have from the start, and I wish I’d known this, is that this is you’re normal. If you eat healthy, when those around you don’t, then remember that you’re all eating food, different foods, but still food. I no longer think why I’m eating an apple a day, or why I eat amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa regularly, or why my bread is all home-made from a special recipe, created by me, glorious me! HAHAHA…ahem, because it’s food, I have to eat therefore I have no reason to question it any longer, I did once when I had to balance my nutritional needs, but now I know what I’m eating is good and healthy and I don’t need the extra stress of imagining I’m doing something different very time I eat. Nor do you, Dear Reader.

So, to sum it up, food is food, don’t let other shame, pester, tease or bother you into thinking any other way. As for Jack, well I was out today harvesting strawberries, I’m looking at what may be a very large crop of raspberries and these berries, along with basil no doubt, will make their way into preserves and savoury sauces, probably both simultaneously. The eating is good these days, Dear Reader, what else could I ask for? See you again soon.

For The Hate of Food

It’s hard to imagine, Dear Reader, that I’m coming up to the one year anniversary of my abdominoplasty, I’ve been through so much before and after, I know that someday I’ll be sitting here remarking how strange it feels to be over all the remaining surgeries, for now I wait. In waiting I do tend to look back, my weight-loss journey has been a complex and, I suppose, extremely successful one. One aspect of it is the complexity of our relationship with food, where, for one person it can be a pleasure, for another it can be a coping mechanism. For some it all hinges on how much. For me it was once a matter of gluttony mingled with chronic illness causing near insatiable hunger. That’s what brings me here today, my views on food have changed a great deal, naturally a consequence of becoming more educated and discerning. But, it hasn’t been a sudden change that became the whole, it’s been a slow gradual change that still jars against what was my whole world at one point.

I look at food and sometimes I really hate it, I look at junk food knowing I can’t be a part of that world and it honestly hurts. Being excluded for any reason never feels pleasant and because it’s such a complex mixture of emotions people rarely understand it. I suppose it’s as if everything sweet to you tasted like dirt to me, but I’ve had to create that feeling to save myself, well, from myself. This isn’t a natural by-product of weight-loss, Dear Reader, it why so many bloggers starting their journeys abandon those blogs, it’s why people fail. A part of my brain will always want to eat and eat, it’ll hate what it’s eating but carry on. It’ll look for gratification in food, find none and still try. People won’t understand that and just dismiss it, but I never can. What I’ve done to counter that is to create a respect for basic, healthy ingredients. To appreciate simple tastes, the kick of spicy blue basil, the subtle sweetness of sweet potatoes, the sting of garlic, and on and on and this doesn’t come naturally. It never fully will. That’s a sad truth, but a necessary one. I will never gravitate towards healthy food without some effort, no matter how small it’s still effort.

I tend to look at the hate side of the old ways, instead of the glimmer of pleasure. Hating something isn’t always healthy, but it has worked for me. I look at the old foods as enemies that made me a mess, made me hate every waking moment and slowly my views shift. People tend to screw with this because they’d rather not think too deeply about their unhealthy habits, they baulk even when I’ve said nothing, done nothing, but just exist as a good example. Their weakness is theirs to deal with, Dear Reader, I’d no more apologise for breathing at this stage. It would be hard to imagine if I hadn’t been through his for so long, but the more you grow as a person the more those stagnant around you tend to stand out. I could tell you terrible stories about people, but I won’t, just remember that I’ve never tried to sell you on anything, to convenience you that I’m anything more than an ordinary person, so decide how truthful I’m being on what you’ve seen of me, Dear Reader.

I’m tired, Dear Reader, not physically, just mentally. I feel it’s important to share these insights as I’ve rarely, if ever, seen anything like this about weight-loss. All I do here, Dear Reader, is free and, often, unrewarded. I do sincerely hope that it helps someone, that’s al I can do really. I’ll never go back, Dear Reader, but I sincerely hope that this limbo of surgical waiting lists ends sooner rather than later. I think after all I’ve been through I deserve a happy ending, don’t I? Take care, Dear Reader, when the sun shines again I’ll be out, weeding, arguing with plants and getting a reprieve from all this thinking. Still, a little honesty never hurts, does it?

But What Can I Use It In?

I was reading through Cooking Without Gluten’s post today and I still marvel at the depth that goes into ever part of Irena’s recipes, the choice of ingredients, the balance between the benefits of each and the flavour, the wealth of understanding in the well written posts. What this has to do with humble Jack, well, I suppose I’ve tired in my own way to do something similar. We’ve both attempted to fill a gap in the free-from world, how successfully is up to you to decide, Dear Reader. That gap is the gap between available ingredients and actual practical, teaching recipes, intersecting with various diets along the way of course. To surmise simply: You can buy, say amaranth, you can fail to cook it because the packet has no proper instructions, you can find generic lists of the benefits and general facts, but if you want depth then you might be out of luck. You can replace that with so many ingredients, Dear Reader, and that’s very depressing.

So, Dear Reader, what prompted this, you ask. Almost nine years of this successful free-from life, and again struggling to buy cereal that I could actually eat, again and realising that he alternatives have no real information outside of basic preparations. Thankfully I have procured some boxes to hold me over, until a re-stock hopefully appears. So, I can have buckwheat flakes, which I can’t eat hot with milk, and watery flakes are just thin gruel, but what about the recipes, you, a different more smug, self-satisfied Dear Reader ask, which I answer thus: There aren’t any! I’ve searched for uses so often that I just made my own and this has repeated so much that this blog hosts an absurd amount of recipes for somewhat obscure ingredients. But one person can only do so much, I can take so much neglect from the free-from world, but it tires me out to have to struggle just to eat. Without cereal I lose so much, I have to balance nutrition, calories, availability and so much more. I do that already, I do that every day and everyday I scroll through recipes that I’ve seen countless times before, I see brands filling the shelves with the same products, junk-food disguised, I see charities helping sponsors before me and it makes me tired, so very tired, Dear Reader.

I’m not attacking my fellow bloggers here, but I am asking what I often ask and that’s to branch out just a little, try things that you’ve never seen done. Use ingredients in ways that challenge their common uses, we could do so much good. I have a tin of coconut flakes, they’re high fibre and might be used to boost a low fibre cereal if the need arises, this is my life, Dear Reader, it entitles me to some bitterness, and when I search for recipes it was either “breaded” chicken or what you can already imagine. Just add it to this and that. Baked chips abounded too. I may find a special use for them, perhaps they’ll be the cornerstone of a special kind of recipe, like chia was, but I doubt it, at least I’ll have tried. Not just for myself, but for people like me. It’s all too easy to forget those on extremely restricted diets, whose general answer to all food questions is: “No, I can;’t eat that either”. It’s a stressful thing to be a success, but to still struggle so much.

Jack is being depressing, Dear Reader, but the truth can’t always be made palatable. It’s all too easy to ignore it already, you just scroll past this and forget you ever saw it. For me, well, if nothing else I’m looking forward to harvesting some more basil, I have a recipe here that uses a lot in one serving, I’ll have to ditch the lime, but Red Rubin, an improved Dark Opal that does seem more vigorous, though that might be the heat, mixed with some lime basil might make for an interesting meal. If it works well without the marinade I’ll list it separately. I do miss the citrus, but not the stomach pains, all cleared up now thankfully. To end on a positive note I’ve now gotten down to a large tracksuit, still big and tall, but a far cry from 6xl. I have to buy as stock appears, the story of my life since the age of sixteen, but I’m happy they fit so well. I’ll be tidy if not trendy, let’s face it, Dear Reader, trendy and gardening don’t exactly mix. Torn jeans are in, but not rose thorn jeans. Until later.

A Sudden Downpour Of Flowers

I’m learning how to take purple photographs, which often turn out blue.

The Dutch irises aren’t doing as well, I might move these and re-pot them later.

Grow so much that even when you fail you have no time to notice.

Apparently after saving a small bee that ended up on the ground, Jack very smartly decided to proffer a hand to crawl into before ascertaining if it wasn’t a wasp, the blessing of the bee has been offered to Jack. The sun is shining as hot as ever after the thunder storms, so the garden is flourishing and that means that, for better or worse, Dear Reader, I have yet again another batch of freshly taken photos to share.

Still very striking.

Welcome back. Not bad for a bit of root in a pot.

Rescued rose in a bottomless bucket.

I do want to share a bit of good news, last year, before the abdominoplasty, BA and AA I guess, I would find myself, after exercise, with a feeling of nausea and hunger, though I was often unable to eat or drink without discomfort. Now? I haven’t had any troubles at all, the surgery has made more of a difference that I could’ve believed possible. I’m getting near the one year mark, I really hope I see an end to all these surgeries in the not too distant future, for now I garden and keep negative thoughts away.

Shamrock, often looks dead and then suddenly springs to life.

The rose garden is really starting now. They’re mostly tea roses so they smell wonderful.

Our blue-tit has returned and brought a mate. They seem to meet on the arch and go back and forth to the birdhouse, one was calling the other yesterday, but due to the din of all the birds, not so much the melodious birdsong as just screeching, it seem to be having trouble. Thankfully they’re reunited and seem to be feeding, though I can’t hear much yet. I’m not getting too close and spoiling their nesting, I’m just happy to see them flit to and fro. We also have a huge collection of variegated bees, they’re happily bumbling from flower to flower with all the grace of a happy drunk. Stick around for the squashes, bee buddies, Jack will have need of you later.

This took so long to get right.

Little fuzzy friend.

Withdrawals Withdrawn

Let’s play name the plants because I can’t think of clever captions. Aquilegia.

Frank. Okay, fine, Peony Rose.

Blueberries before Bluebells.


Dear Reader, here I am again, I, I actually forget when I last updated and it’s been so hot that my brain is completely taken up with plant care that I’ll just assume it’s been too long. I know, the Jack withdrawals hit hard, no amount of Jacobs, Josephs or Jills can quell the need for Jack. Speaking of withdrawals, shut up, that was a masterful segway, I’m now over my reduction of sugar and in its stead I’m drinking cold brewed tea. Which I’d like to talk to you about a little. There’s a strong chance that you know perfectly well that cold brewed tea is just tea leaves soaked in water overnight in the fridge, sun tea is dangerous, bacteria etc, don’t do that or ignore me and do I’m not really bothered, but it’s your belly, so me reiterating it yet again would be pointless. Yes, Dear Reader, I’m aware I’ve just told you what it involves, but you never know who might not know and teaching moments are worthwhile. I bought a bottle with a filter on Amazon, which I won’t link as I’m not being paid to feature it, but search for cold brew bottles and you’ll find it via a Fulfilled By Amazon seller. For some reason plain rooibos needs an extra strain, but honeybush and green rooibos seem fine, might be the brand. Is it worth the effort, however minimal? Actually, yes, the honeybush is fresh and slightly sweet, the rooibos is as strong as hot brewed, the green is almost sugary sweet. It’s just tea and water so it’s vastly better than what I was drinking. I can’t speak to black tea or other herbal teas, but if the rooibos is any indication it’s well worth a try. You need very little loose tea too, just two heaped teaspoons is more than enough for nearly a litre of water.



Look who found a friend. I’ve cleaned the water since.

Grave rose was the first rose of the year.

You know, it’s now ten months since my surgery and I’d like to share something that might seem trivial, probably is in the greater scope of the world, but it means the world to me. I honestly don’t wake up each morning without marvelling at the work that was done to repair the damage that the fat days wrought, when you’ve pulled yourself up bodily with such effort, every single day for much too long, when even after the weight went you still struggled, well, Dear Reader, waking up is rarely a joy. Today, for the first time, possibly ever, I was able to sit up without using my arms to push or pull. Just a simple rise, for a long that that wasn’t possible, even after the surgery I had to pull myself to rise up, it was as if there was a part missing. Now, well, now I might not be doing sit-ups, but I can lift myself with my abdominal muscles alone an that’s more incredible than my skills with words can express.

Salad garden. Shed, whatever. Mustard (Saved seeds), Mizuna, rocket and lettuce.

If you forget to water lupins they turn into droopins.

It was just called Large Bedding Plant on the tag. Any ideas?

They’ve had their trees cut down so they’re near our back garden now. Screaming constantly. No music, just screeching.

I like to share whatever I learn, Dear Reader and I’m going to tell you a very special trick. You surely know my fence planters, the second flowering is coming, one has smaller flowers of a different hue, really beautiful. The first step was picking the right size flower, small pots meant violas, bigger earned pansies, the second was a heavy handed granular feeding. This is the secret to a beautiful bloom: A bucket of water. I know, what?, right? Okay, these small pots are hellish to water, the water runs off, they can’t hold much, even with self watering there are issues, those water retentions gels have troubles too, so what you do is fill a bucket with rainwater, add a little bonemeal if you have it, comfrey to, nothing that burns foliage, and submerge the whole thing, right above the soil, it’ll drink it up and when you lift it it will be heavy and you only need do this once in a while. I spent so long watering, dripping more on the concrete below than went into the pots, this year, a dunk and I’m done. Simple, but I wouldn’t have thought of it if I wasn’t tired of watering them.

It just bursts and there are the flowers.

Look what I found!

A friend tells me often that there’s always something new happening in my garden. I was out there and it turns out that an anemone somehow grew in the with the flowers separated from Naru’s garden, I have no idea where it came from as I never planted any in there or near there even. Now, if that was all that’d be somewhat interesting, but wait, there’s more. I found the above rose blooming in profusion in a pot that was gifted, she was just throwing it away, to me by a neighbour, it was this gnarled, mess, ugly and diseased. Being the kind fool that I am I cleaned it up, dug out the weeds and cut it back and fed it. It seems to have paid off, there are these beautiful pink roses, so small and plentiful. The rescued roses are all getting a second life under my care and everything near and on Naru’s garden seem to grow as if blessed. So, here we are, things are growing, Dear Reader so I’m content. I’ll be back later.