May 27, 2014

How to Have a Daytime Sleepover

You know something- I turned 18 in January. 

Yeah really.

I am now a complete, bone fide adult who just voted for her MEP. (For the record, I did NOT vote for UKIP). I am not just some strange creature in between childhood and adulthood but who still has to pay full price on the bus. 

I. Am 18. Oh yeah. 

But I've still never had alcohol. (Excluding Communion wine, Christmas pudding and accidentally having a liquor sweet - yuck!) I've never been to a club (there's too many weird people anyway.) And I have never brought scissors or a knife. 

Yep. That's right- I turn 18 in January, and I have to wait until May before I can do something with it. Life is just that cool. 

The week before my birthday I was in hospital feeling ill. Two days after my birthday I started a new treatment which makes me feel like I have the flu. The day of my birthday I was in hospital for clinic. When on Earth's a girl supposed to celebrate her birthday? I ask you. 

And what's a girl to do. Big family celebration? Way too tiring. Night out with friends? Bedtimes 7pm sweetie. Sleepover? Yes, it would be a SLEEPover- for me at least. Shopping trip? You try pushing the wheelchair between those very awkward stands. Movie theatre? Yeah... All the good films came out for Christmas, there's nothing left to come out for the middle of January. 

Enter the daytime sleepover. Yes- such a thing does exist. You do all the sleepover-y things you normally would - talk, eat yummy pizza, chat, paint each others nails, natter - in the daytime. Who sleeps at sleepovers anyway? Pyjamas optional. 

Who wants to eat raw cookie dough when you can bake your cake and decorate it too. With your new cake baking/decorating stuff. Purple icing anyone?

Nails painted by Channel - cause its more fun to share freebies with friends (not that kind people). 

And that black actually looks really good. 

(Mine are the coral pink. Pretend I didn't seriously mess them up later that day.)

And what's a party without a decent party bag? Without all the plastic tat. 

And friends. Who help me make what could have been a pretty rubbish 18th a pretty good one. Virtual cuddle. 

Morrisons Preston Review

Those pictures do not give justice to the fresh section in the new Morrisons. Please bear that in mind. Pictured (by my Mom, it had been a very tiring day but I needed the photos before someone committed Rudolphicide - so thanks Mom) is Morrison's Rudolph Bread, which is so cute, a Tiger Bread Bagel, and then Tuscan Black Cabbage, a Candy Beetroot, a Golden Beetroot, (very red) Cherry Tomatoes, Mini Peppers, and Organic Shallots, going clockwise in the middle picture. As if that ain't confusing. By the way, if you haven't already guessed, these are old photo's. 

So, a new Morrison's has opened up just down the road from me. Well, it did in December. But it takes me a while to get round to things. That, in itself, is more than just a bit stupid. Now, within a generous ten minute walk from my house, is a big Sainsbury's, an Aldi, a Marks and Spencer's food hall, and a Morrisons. There is also a big Asda a short-ish drive away. Which is kind of overkill if you ask me. And a lot of people to be honest. You would think, that having so many supermarkets in such a small area would mean that they are all a bit worse off as the same amount of custom is now spread out more thinly, but no. Apparently it's a good idea to add in another supermarket. 

So, the new store. It's built on a site which has been waiting for something to happen to it for years. And we mean years. I couldn't say exactly, but I'd say at least 5. Then we hear that we're getting a Morrison's there (after we hear of several other proposals) and nothing happens for a while. And I mean a while, then all of a sudden, work starts happening there. Due to chemo brain, it's hard to remember quite when, but for arguments sake, lets say that it was summer. By November/December, the site has been cleared, and a store has been built and is ready to go. This includes adding a pedestrian crossing and set of traffic lights that allow people on and off the Morrisons sight (not so good for traffic in the area). All in less than 6 months, I'm pretty sure. Not bad. Just shows that you can get something done if you put your mind to it. 

From what I can tell, the store has generally been described as a bit weird. Shoppers should bear in mind that it is a 'Retail Warehouse' and not a typical supermarket. I'm not entirely sure what the actual difference is, but you can tell there is one there. With the exception of the fresh section, which has included some things that I've not seen in other supermarkets, there is a more limited choice then in most supermarkets of comparable size. But they do have lots (in quantity) of the choices that they do have, for example, they mainly have Dairylea brand cheese spread/'snacking' cheese, but they do have a lot of that one choice, rows and rows of the stuff, which is a shame cause I personally don't like Dairylea. Dad says that it's designed for bulk buyers. The kind of people who would like to buy a litre of lemon juice for 50p. 

On a side note while we're talking about cheese, they have finally started selling Laughing Cow brand, but not the purple triangles. So close my friends, so close. Also, they have Cheezly - a brand of  vegan/dairy free cheese substitute - in. Only one type, the white cheddar block, but its the only type of 'fake' cheese that I have ever seen in any supermarket. It does get a bit lost amongst the rest of the cheese though. I'm quite excited to try it though, vegan mac and cheese here we come! (I'm sorry people.) 

The deli counter/butcher counter/fish counter la di da are also not done as they are in other supermarkets. Or done as it says it is done on the Internet. Instead of say, going to the cheese counter, asking for 100g of brie, and it being cut up there and then for you, they portion and package all the meat/fish/cheese/olives and you can choose from those. It is done fresh every day though, and any produce not sold that day is clearly marked down and sold the next day. Also, the deli counter is basically just olives, they don't do sliced sandwich meats etc. like they do in most places. 

They do however have a large salad bar and a "we'll make your pizza how you want it" bar. They do work how you expect, and are both a bit more extensive then they are in other stores.

The two bits where I think that the store really excels is the Fruit and Veg, and the ethnic section. These are the main reason why I continue to trek (get a parent to push me) that little bit further to go their (now the 75p pot noodles have stopped). 

The fruit and veg section is really big. Maybe half a dozen very large aisles plus extra bits? If I walk round all of it, it's big enough so that my parents are happy enough I've had a good walk. Not thrilled, but happy enough. Some of the aisles are even refrigerated. It's at least twice as big as the fruit and veg section in Sainsburys. Maybe a bit more.  They have a good selection from the 'Savers' range to the posh range, with a lot of loose produce so you can pick what/quantity's you want, especially with things like ginger and chilli's (and apples). They also have things that other places just don't. A much greater variety of things in general, but 'specialty' produce as well. Think cassava and plantains, and when we went today, they not only had aubergines, but white aubergines and graffiti aubergines. They have a lack of peaches/nectarines though, very disappointing. And don't know what to do with that brown knobbly thing in your hand? They have small cards with a small 'blurb' with their more 'exotic' vegetables. They don't give you a great deal of information, but it's still a nice and useful touch, and sometimes they have basic information on how to cook the vegetables (steam/boil etc). They also have a stand where they put the seasonal produce. This is where the kale was (I want kale). This is where the tomatoes and asparagus and jersey royals are now. 

Is there nothing else in season in Britain apart from jersey royals and asparagus? And rhubarb?

The one problem I have found with the produce section, is that sometimes you will go, and although there will be a lot of fruit and veg, you look around and think "they need a delivery and restock". There can, all to often, be bare patches. You can see where there should be a load of mushrooms, lets say, but there is just a few boxes. My Dad often finds a lack of apple bags terribly frustrating. Is it really too much to ask that they keep their shelves stocked?

The other section that I think they (generally) do very well on, is the ethnic foods section. I mean, come on, it has its own freezer! and not a diddy one either. There is a large Asian community in Deepdale, and Dad says that Morrisons have obviously done their market research and added a decent section accordingly. They have loads of halal foods (not that this really concerns me), freezer sections full of premade Indian breads, samosas and snacks, and vegetables- think garlic cloves, okra and mango pulp. They have massive bags of rice. Like 5/10 kg bags of rice. They also have loads of cheap beans/pulses, both canned and dried. For example they currently have 12 cans of chickpeas on at £1.50. Mom's not happy - "and where are we going to store them?!?!?!?!?".

The kitchen table evidently.

I know. And it isn't just when items are on special offer, there's all sorts of little 'cheaper' wonders that you can find, like spices and gram flour, that is more expensive when found in the rest of the store. The canned beans are salted, but we just wash them don't add any extra salt to a recipie, and they have a good variety. Think WHITE kidney beans (33p). 

The store itself is a bit dark, a bit dingy, but not in a bad way. More, light airy and cool. Think warehouse. Big, high ceilings, but a bit dark. Not dark as in you need a torch, but not flooded with artificial light either. 

Maybe they're just using energy saving light bulbs. 

A note on the checkouts: we haven't got the hang of them yet. I have got the hang of how they are supposed to work- you load, they scan, you pay, then you pack. While you pack, someone else's shopping gets scanned and directed into another area. It's supposed to speed the whole process up and get through queues quickly. But we haven't got the hang of them yet. Maybe we just need more practise. Maybe we'll get it eventually. Maybe we won't. At least we know how it's supposed to work. 

A note on the loos: I've only been in once (it was the accessible one), but when I went, it was clean. Now, I didn't take a swab and send it off to the lab to get tested, but by general appearances, it was clean. No loo paper on the floor, no overstuffed bin, no worrying marks of worrying color, no puddles. I'd say it was of average or above cleanliness. 4-5 stars. (Can I give it five stars? I didn't send off samples to a lab...)  It was also, what I found to be, a good accessible loo. Yes, some are better than others. Now, I know that everybody's different, and what's useful for me might be very unuseful for someone else, but for me, it was a good set up. And the dryer was next to the sink. I can't work out who, if they have mobility issues, would find that a dryer as far away as possible a good thing, but everyone has individual needs... Or maybe people just don't think. Wet hands = slippy = can't use crutches safely = can't get to dryer = wet hands... But this dryer was appropriately placed. 

It was however, a noisy experience. Think fans that go off when the doors open, a loud flush, hissy pipes when you run the tap, and an air blow dryer. They were all noisy, and loud, and Dad could here them outside. Also, the pipes etc. were not hidden behind walls, which I personally think they should be. I don't know if they get hot, but I wouldn't want to brush against one by accident. Also, it just looked a bit unfinished, it reminded me of when we were having the bathroom done. 

I did also notice that they didn't have a male and female loo, they just had a couple of male and female loos off the main corridor, like the disabled one (think Costa). I can't tell you what they were like, but this generally doesn't bother me, I share a loo with the rest of my family at home, why not outside, as long as only one person is using it at a time! I do know that this does bother some people though. 

Oops, just written 3 paragraphs on the loos :S

And finally (yeah, I know you're glad to hear that, well done on staying with me this long) we come to 'the Eatery'. Which does not sell water. Here that people? It does not sell water!!!!!! IT DOES NOT SELL WATER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have a serious issue with that. You can get hot drinks, or you can get soda drinks from the fountain. Coffee or coke? Yeah, I know. Mom assures me that if you asked, she's sure they'd give you a cup of water. Maybe I should have tried that out. Seriously though, they should sell bottles of water or something, because their limited options are not what you'd call the best options. 

They do have decaf though. 

Now get this into your heads, this is not the cafe that you find in other supermarkets, this is an eatery. Smaller choice of options, and none of them come on a plate. Good for the atmosphere they are going for, not good for the environment, but hey ho. Think those New York holes that you see on American shows. come in order, eat simple but good food, go. Please dispose of rubbish on the way out. A system a bit like in Subway, but your choice consists of more than sandwiches. Though don't be expecting gourmet. From memory, I think they do pizza, fish and chips, 'proper sausage' hot dog, breakfast and a couple of other things, but I can't remember. A very limited selection of baked goods, and a soft whip ice cream machine. They have a kid menu, which is basically a representation of all that is wrong with kids menus, but it does match the type of food served their. No nutritious healthy veg filled pasta dish, but then neither does the 'adults' menu. Think of it as the bridge between "a proper restaurant" and a fast food joint. 

Thankfully, they have introduced more seating, because to start off with they only had those high-bench-and-stool things. The type of things that they often put in cafe windows. They did not have any 'normal' tables. Or any tables at all really- think high counter tops. They did have an option for those in a wheelchair though - a shelf attached to the end at wheelchair friendly height. That's right, I ate my meal at a one foot square shelf with a great view of Dad's knees. Like I said, the introduction of tables and chairs is a great bonus. I might go there again now. 

The food, by the way, is actually pretty good. (What we had anyway.) 

In conclusion (yeah, you can have a conclusion after the 'and finally') it's a pretty good store. I, personally, like it. It would not be my 'be all end all' shop - some things I get frequently in Sainsburys they don't do, some things are cheaper in Aldi. But I like it. Maybe every few weeks. Or more when they have kale.  

So, has anybody else been to the new Morrisons?
What do you think of it?

May 12, 2014

And What Would You Like With That... #3 - Is Hospital Food Really That Bad?

Vegetarian: Someone who does not condone the killing of animals for human consumption, and therefore does not eat meat, fish or any animal byproduct (such as gelatin and animal rennet), or buy leather of fur. 

Here that Christies? DOES NOT EAT FISH. A vegetarian doesn't eat fish. No, really. Not even the salmon salad. 

Or the cod in dill sauce. 

Therefore, offering me fish as a veggie option was never going to go down well. 

And even when the veggie option actually is veggie, it is usually cheese, in one of various guises. If we are being totally honest here (and what's the point if we're not) they have two main vegetarian meals. Cheese flan, and cauliflower cheese. Though they appear on the menu with many different names... cheese and onion flan, cheese and tomato flan, cheese pie, cheese and onion pie, cauliflower mornay, cauliflower and broccoli mornay... I was once offered cauliflower cheese for lunch and cauliflower and broccoli bake for tea. Hmmm... Now that is what I call a balanced diet. Good to know that you practise what you preach NHS. 

(One nurse once agreed with my complaining by saying that if you were a vegetarian and always ate the prescribed veggie option at every meal you would end up with a very high cholesterol. As if we cancer patients didn't have enough problems.)

To be honest, apart from a few times at the start, I didn't really partake in the cheese fest. Life is too short (and I'm too tired) to scrape the cheese off cauliflower cheese, and so here is a selection (most of) the non-cheese actually vegetarian meals I "enjoyed" (read: tolerated). They sometimes did specials which were vegetarian, with varying degrees of success, some of the best meals I was served were 'specials'; although they still had problems with cooking their veg. And if you're going to make a dodgy broccoli stir-fry, it should be mainly broccoli not mainly onion. And we're talking 90% onion, 2 florets of broccoli, a few (3) paper thin (and we're talking REALLY thin paper) mushroom slices, and overcooked Quorn. I was not impressed. And I wasn't the only one. 

And I would like to point out that it wasn't just the veggie meals that were sub-standard. Apparently the meat (and fish) options were often lacking as well. I noticed sandwiches were popular. I know that when you're ill you can be off your food, but bad food doesn't help the situation. Especially when you spend long periods of time being offered bad food. 

The roast potatoes were nice though. And the mash. (Though not if all I was having was mash). 

And the ward kitchen was well stocked with Heinz tins. And cheese on toast. And cereal. And they could get you a baked potato from the canteen at lunch. The nurses were better cooks than the cooks were. 

Now this is a rarity that I didn't get offered much. Pasta. Which I must say, did surprise me a bit cause quite a lot of vegetarian options usually served revolve around pasta (pasta with tomato sauce and cheese, vegetable lasagna etc...). However, I didn't like it very much. The tomato sauce tasted weird, the vegetables didn't all seem to belong in an Italian inspired dish (swede? and carrots made it seem like they'd put the stew vegetables in by mistake) and the pasta was a bit... floppy. And just generally overcooked. 

Vegetable stew with Quorn(TM). Someone needs to show the people who need to know how to cook Quorn. Because this is not it. Try going for the carrots, sometimes they're okay. And I've tried, it is not improved by putting off eating it to the extent that it goes cold. And this is one of the better non cheese veggie meals. 

Bean salad and potato wedges. This is essentially a side salad with some canned beans on the side. It is really not the most exciting or appetising of meals. It is also not much good if you don't have many white blood cells at the time and so aren't allowed to eat salad. As Dad says, they just haven't thought it through very much. 

See, look how much better the things that we've baked on the ward with the occupational therapist look compared to the food the kitchen sends up. No wonder people loose weight when they have cancer. 

These are both vegetarian sausage and potato pie. Yeah, we couldn't find the pastry either. You should of been there for the mushroom tart. A mouse ate all the pastry before it got to us. As you can see, the meals are not always very consistent. One has lots of gravy the other very little. And beware of the slimy green things. No leek deserves to be treated like that. It's a crime against vegetables. Also, sometimes the gravy can be very SALTY. You would think they want to give us a heart attack. The sausages vary from day to day, sometimes they could be worse, sometimes they are worse. And the last time I had this dish they were just downright burnt. 

Wedges and sweetcorn. Who cares about protein? (Except the dietitian.) (I added the crispy onions to the sweetcorn - what can I say, it was a bit flat.) 

I know that I'm not all that interested in heat right at the minute, but this veg curry was just ridiculous. On top of that, the veg was hard to the point I couldn't put my knife in to cut it. The rice was nice though. And the few small bits of green leafy stuff that I salvaged. 

Another veg curry. And like the sausage and potato 'pie', they aren't very consistent. This one, for example, was not to hot. Although the vegetables still were pretty bad. They get a lot of abuse when being cooked at the Christie. It's better than the time when they forgot to cook the rice though...

A very salty very bland soup. Yes, that is a possible combination. Seriously, they have a habit of making things very salty here. Like really salty. You can't see the vegetables much here cause I sprinkled bacon bits (yes, they are actually veggie) on the top to try and make it more appetising, but it was basically celery and leeks suspended in a tomato stock. Not a tomato based soup, a tomato-y stock. With the separated oil floating on the top. And this is one of the better soups they do- with it's origins in something you might actually want to cook. 

And this is what breakfast from the canteen looks like. It is generally considered to be the best meal that they serve. I usually had Coco-Pops though. 

May 08, 2014

In "My" Kitchen

I have a sous chef. Normally, this is an honor reserved for only the most revered of chefs who have at least two Michelin Stars, but you also get a sous chef if you are unable to get about in the kitchen due to physical restrictions. She's called your mother. 

We've been getting up to a lot in our little kitchen recently. When I say a lot, we really haven't been doing all that much. When I say we, I obviously mean mainly Mom. Basically, I can sit at the table, read the recipe and chop stuff up. If I'm very lucky, I get to measure stuff out too! This isn't a comprehensive list of what we've created, just what I remembered/could be bothered to photograph.  

We're currently on the hunt to perfect the cheese-less pizza. So far, we've tried putting jarred sauce and toppings on a brought base, and adding vegetables to a garlic pizza bread with sun dried tomato puree (Dad found those in Sainsbury's). The main issue with both was that the topping fell off. It was like eating bread and salad. Not good. Choosing between the two, I'd say that the pizza sauce on a pizza base was my preferred option, it was just more pizza-y. Also, I prefer thick based pizza's to the uber-thin crispy Italian style bases, so the garlic bread was not even close to what I wanted. 

The trouble with baking is; whilst I really enjoy doing it, at the moment I just don't want to eat what I create. Most credit for these mini Victoria Sandwiches goes to my friend, which is a perfect solution to the baking issue, she did half (and more) of the work, so she gets to take half (or more) of the end results home. Happily, she lives in a household of four, who will actually eat the cake. 

P.S. Is it supposed to be icing sugar or caster sugar on the top?

Another way to solve the baking issue is to bake for someone else. Like the nurses at the hospital. And the doctors. And the pharmacists. And whoever else magically finds themselves in the office. It can fit a lot of people in, believe me. 

And yes, I know it is a bit bright, but the icing was reduced. And it looks so pretty...

Apparently chemo makes you want to eat salad... Or it makes me want to eat salad at any rate. Trouble is, you're not always aloud to eat salad when your on chemo, so when you are, it better be pretty damn fine. 

By the way Mom, this one doesn't have enough lettuce to carry all the other vegetables.  

Samosa French Toast Sandwich anyone? This is a recipe we sort of followed from Vegan Richa's blog, but we didn't have all the spices, so we followed the general idea by mixing curry paste into instant mashed potato, and then used that as the sandwich filling. It did turn out to be a bit of a carb fest for me at the time though, I didn't manage all of it. Curry ketchup did help though. 

Kale chips. I miss kale. The kale season has just ended in Morrison's. When does it start again? 

(Kale chips are pieces of kale that have been seasoned and lightly oiled, then baked until they go all crispy. It's a bit like a massive piece of that crispy seaweed you get in Chinese restaurants, but not as sugary/salty and much nicer.) 

Spaghetti and meat Quorn(TM)balls. 

Yes Dad, I want actual spaghetti noodles, not pasta shapes. 

Yes I want the brown spaghetti. 

Well it's not like you're gonna eat it. (Dad won't eat Quorn(TM) )

Welcome to the most gigantanourmous mushroom pasty you will ever see. Let's call him Norman. Why not? I fancied a mushroom pasty. Not a chicken and mushroom pasty (for obvious non-veggie reasons) or a cheese and onion pasty (I don't care if it's veggie, it is not a mushroom pasty). I wanted a mushroom pasty. The problem was that it just quite literally didn't seem to exist. So we made one. It just turned out a bit bigger than I was expecting. Like 3 times as big. I ate all the mushrooms, and some of the pastry. And no, Dad is not too old to turn Norman into a smiley face with the brown sauce. Wait till you see the giraffe shaped pizza's he cut out for my brother. My brother now insists that Mom cuts up his pizza. 

The warm weathers here (?) so veggie kebabs anyone? Cooked in the oven and not on the barbecue of course. And those pieces of sweet potato that you can see lying around? If someone had told me that sweet potato is too hard to skewer before I'd chopped it up I'd be a happy bunny. 

Noodles with spinach, mushrooms and chicken style Quorn(TM) slices. 

Nicer than a pot noodle, and still made in less than 5 minutes. 

And finally this is...

This is... 

This is ...

This is something that doesn't have a name. Because we really can't keep calling them 'Fish-less Fishcakes' forever. Even calling them 'Vegan Fishcakes' is wrong. 

So... We've been making them a lot recently... Anyone know what to call them?

May 07, 2014

Nice Nails # 9

Shall I let you into a little secret, I found these photo's in my computer, and I can't even remember when my nails looked like this. But they were there so I thought I'd put them in a post anyway. 

Mainly red with a silver feature nail. 

What do you think?

In Other, Less Interesting News # 3

1. I'm still alive. Yeah, after so much Internet silence, I'd be shocked too. 

2. I gained enough 'BEAR codes' to get a map and stickers. I have since also gained enough for several maps and stickers. I have a whole envelope full of BEAR codes now that I just can't BEAR to throw away - so, anyone lacking some codes?

3. I have found out I can edit my photos. Right away without having to save up to buy fancy editing software. The wonders Windows has hidden away. So, while my photo's will still be pretty rubbish (taken on my phone, by a bad photographer etc.) they will hopefully start to improve. At any rate I made all the ones taken in my dark, badly lit bedroom a bit brighter. 

4. I got two BEAR cards in one Yoyo. How cool is that?

5. I finished chemo. Now I just need to work on NOT wanting to spend all day sleeping. 

6. I turned 18. I am now legally able to vote, buy alcohol, and get married without permission. 

So far, I have not done anything but sgwiggle 18 in my porridge that morning. 

7. You look like and idiot when you are wearing a woollen hat and sun cream. Sunhats do not hide the baldness from the general population. 

8. It's official. My Dad can't open a Capri Sun. 

9. I'm having a cherry lollipop.

10. In my last chemo week, I said yes to both a cup of tea and a cooked breakfast. Thoroughly shocking the HCA, cause I've been going there since August and had not done either before that last week. 

11. I have committed myself to posting a blog post at least once a week. Wish me luck with that last one.