Butter (2011)

When Bob, who has been winning the butter-carving contest for fifteen years, decides to step down, his wife, Laura, steps in. Her main competitor is Destiny, but Laura will go to any length to win.

Oh, America. You’re so goddamned strange. I mean, even ignoring all the epic atrocities and your screwed up infrastructure and the fact that over 70 million of you think Trump is an acceptable choice to be your leader, even moving past big-ticket weirdnesses like tipping EVERYONE, writing your dates wrong (month/day/year, wtf) and don’t even get me started on how you pronounce stuff, we then get down to the micro-oddities like…. butter carving.

This is an actual thing. It’s on wiki and everything. Its HUGE in the States, because of course it is, everything is supersized there.

But I digress. Butter is actually really entertaining… a cross between something Christopher Guest-y and a quirky small-town comedy like Drop Dead Gorgeous. Its a great cast, I cared about what happened (which wasn’t totally predictable) and it made me laugh (Hugh Jackman playing dumb is hilarious), whilst also giving me the feels.

There are some bits that don’t 100% work, but you mostly get swept along with it. I’d say it was nice wholesome fun but there’s a whole segment discussing the tightness of a characters vagina.

Butter: best enjoyed with some lurpak-y crumpets, 8/10

Blended (2014)

After a terrible blind date, Jim and Lauren find themselves stranded at a resort together with their respective children. However, the two soon start developing feelings for each other.

Your feelings on Blended will very much depend on how you feel about Adam Sandler films, specifically The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. As easy as it is to tar all his movies with the same brush (immature, gross-out, schticky), those two are actually very cute, Sandlerisms aside: 50 First Dates is one of my Top 5 rom coms, which is something I never expected to say about a film featuring Rob Schneider.

This, of course, could come down to the general wondrousness of Drew Barrymore. I’m a big fan – I loved both of her Charlie’s Angels films and I’m still furious that Netflix cancelled Santa Clarita Diet. She’s just so lovely.

That said, I hadn’t bothered watching Blended up till now. Looking at Sandler’s form at the time I figured this would be a bit rubbish. There’s comedy, there’s broad comedy, and then there’s Jack and Jill.

What I like about the Sandler/Barrymore films is that there’s kindness at the heart of them. Characters are by no means perfect but they’re not bad people. Sure, some of them are pure caricature, but you’re not being asked to care for someone who’s either massively unlikeable or saccharine schmaltzy.

Blended won’t change your world but I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s got all the familiar Sandler tropes: cameos from his mates, callbacks to other films, predictable storyline, but I really liked it. It’s very warm, there are some laugh out loud moments, and the ending did get me, it was really lovely.

Blended: perfect Lockdown Sunday afternoon fodder, 8/10

Hamster’s Home Cinema

Blah blah, pandemic. Blah blah election… at want point does wanting to be socially responsible and follow the news tip into obsession? I reached that point on Thursday morning at 5am, lying in bed anxiously scrolling and refreshing The Guardian.

Staring vacantly into a Zoom meeting the next day (and being berated by a co worker for stressing over things I couldn’t control in a country I didn’t live in) I realised that maybe being hyper informed all the time wasn’t particularly healthy. I deleted the news app and welcomed some peace and quiet.

(Don’t get me wrong, it went straight back on as soon as Joe was announced as the winner. The pure Schadenfreude of a Trump defeat is too delicious to deny myself).

But I digress. Lockdown 2.0: This Time It’s Winter is upon us and I’ve made a solemn promise to myself not to go up 2 dress sizes this time, so I need something to do that isn’t troughing biscuits… Time to dust off the watch list.

Having skipped New Year, New Movies this year, I’m going to catch up on some of those films I’ve ignored in favour of watching Brooklyn 99 again or curled up in a foetal ball on the sofa weeping at Moana (your flatmates stop noticing you do it after the 11th time, FYI).

And this time, I’ve got a projector.

Week 1 Takeaways… not the Deliveroo kind.

No actual takeaway for me, because I’m a chronic overorderer. Big surprise.

10 days in to try and wrestle back control of my life and eating habits and some of it is going well, some of it not so much.

By the end of my first week I realised that half a cup of oats in bircher is too much oats, and also that breakfast made on Sunday doesn’t taste good by Thursday. So this week I made 2 days worth using a 1/3 cup, I reckon 1/4 is enough though. Also I ran out of oats, so it’s either ‘toast or go shopping’.

Planning what I’m going to eat when has been really useful however doesn’t allow for impromptu things cropping up, which is a large part of my working week. On 2 of the days I ended up going out for working lunches which on one day meant I had a cheese and pickle sandwich for dinner instead of the planned Chicken Panang curry (the two aren’t really comparable), and then on another meant I had 2 restaurant meals which was undeniably lovely but always makes me worry I’ll end up like Mr Creosote, even if I’m going for lighter options. So more flexibility needed, which seems at odds with the whole experiment.

Snacking is a big issue for me. I’m a total grazer and if there’s food in front of me I will pick constantly at it, without really thinking. Celery is usually the key to stopping this, so that’ll be added to this week’s shopping list.

Another thing that’s thrown me off this week is inadvertantly poisoning myself on Monday night. Tuesday became about eating whatever would stay down… which ended up being the pierogi I’d bought for Thursday. Hardly the end of the world but ideally I’d write a meal plan on Sunday and not have to change it, just look at it to see what I’ve got planned. One to ponder for next week.

Plus points though…. I’m drinking LOADS of water which is good. Cooking smaller portions and eating regularly seems to be sorting my appetite and cravings out. I kind of miss chocolate though and think I’m going to treat myself to some 85% dark.

Tonight is oven-baked bacon, mushroom and tarragon risotto which is probably massively insulting to any Italians but tastes bloody gorgeous.

1 onion or shallot, chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Small pack of pancetta

1/2 punnet of chestnut mushrooms, sliced

Splish of white wine

75g risotto rice per person (I think?)

Chicken stock made up with about 300 mls water

Handful of tarragon, chopped

1/2 lemon

Handful of grated cheddar (no stronger than medium)

1. Gently cook the shallot and pancetta in a bit of olive oil for about 5 mins. Add the mushrooms and cook for another couple minutes, then chuck in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

2. Chuck in the rice, stir to combine, add the wine and let it cook into to the rice. Pour in the stock and bring to a light boil for a couple of seconds, then turn the heat down.

3. EITHER cover with a lid if your pan is oven proof or pour it all into a casserole dish and cover that, then bung it in the oven for 25 mins. I usually set my oven to 175 Fan, which is about 200 leccy. Gas I’d do at about 7 as I cook everything on 7 in a gas oven and have no idea what that actually works out as.

4. After 25 mins take it out and look at it. If it looks dry splash in some more water and stir it in. If it looks still to wet chuck it back in the oven. If it looks like something you want to eat, stir in the tarragon, the grated cheese, a knob of butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. Stick the lid back on and leave it for 5 mins.

5. Take the lid off, stir it again, then serve it with some salad and a bit more cheese on top.

I usually make enough for 2 and then have the second serving for lunch the next day fried up with a couple of handfuls of kale and a fried egg.

Day 3: Pour some sugar on me

One of the reasons I knew I had to get my arse into gear regarding food was/is sugar.

Obviously we all now know that it’s responsible for 8/10 evils in the world (I don’t think we can hold it responsible for Donald Trump or the Tories) but when you stop and correlate how crap you feel in proportion to how much processed sugar you’re ingesting it’s somewhat alarming.

A few years ago I self-diagnosed (I refuse to go to my GP unless I’ve actually got limbs dropping off me) a wicked (Candida) yeast overgrowth and cut out every single kind of sugar from my diet and ended up feeling better than I had in a long time. I avoided sugar for ages after that, certainly excessive amounts of it, but somewhere in the last 18 months rediscovered the joy of haribo, milk chocolate, juice, biscuits. Everything that’s OK in moderation but not when you could set the world record for demolishing a large bar of fruit and nut.

Seemingly without me noticing nearly all those symptoms have crept back over the last  months: my knees were stiff, a chronic sinus infection, something unpleasant happening between my toes, and the song greeting me every morning was less ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ and more ‘Wind Beneath My Duvet’. So, you know, really attractive.

That’s why my morning bircher doesn’t get soaked in Apple Juice. I chugged most of a carton the other day without blinking then looked at the sugar content and felt a bit grubby: it wasn’t thirst as much as a sugar craving. That’s feeding the horrible little microbes in your gut that want to make you sick. Also, a yeast overgrowth can worsen anxiety symptoms, the very thing I’m trying to get on top of in the first place.

So processed sugar is mostly out – this isn’t a diet, this really is me just trying to get some order back into my life – but man alive I’m in the middle of a low-level sugar withdrawal that’s worse than any nicotine craving I’ve ever had. I know that if I just give it a week my tastebuds will reset and even 70% chocolate will taste supersweet. Hard though.

And in case the title of this post has given you an earworm, have some Def Leppard. You’re welcome.

 

Day 2: Lentils a la popty-ping

Sometimes I have no sense of proportion. I’ll cook what I think is about enough for 4 people and actually I’ve made enough for 80. The idea of people ever leaving my house hungry is truly horrific and so I’ll always over-cater.

As a kid, when my mum still did all the cooking, she’d make (for example), Spag bol, and my dad would serve himself first, inevitably taking over half of what she’d intended to feed 4. She’d stare at his plate tightlipped, but never say anything to him. Don’t get me wrong, mum wasn’t making stingy rations and we weren’t exactly starving, but something about that has stuck in my mind about making sure everyone gets as much as they actually want.

But it’s not just for other people that I’ll over-cater. I’m usually cooking for just me and if I’ll nearly always make enough for 2 or more, intending to freeze the other portion(s) or have it for lunch the next day…. and it does happen… sometimes. When it comes to cooking things that I know I like, but I normally do in bulk, my brain collapses in on itself a little and sulks until I figure out a solution.

Which is how I ended up making lentil curry in the microwave. Normally I make a huge pot of this on the stove, which is ‘real’ cooking. Nuking food that wasn’t intended to be nuked makes me twitchy, but that’s another story.

Total gamechanger tho! Quick, easy, appropriate portion…. will definitely make again like this now I’ve figured it out.

Lentil Curry (probably not a curry at all so don’t @ me)

1/4 cup dried red lentils (yes, that’s 1 portion for a person, as opposed to my usual method of chucking in as many as looks right)

1 crumbled stock cube (I used chicken, veg would be fine)

Small piece of chopped creamed coconut

Selection of spices from the cupboard (I used a penang curry mix and a drizzle of tamarind sauce)

Hot water

Stick the whole lot in a container, you probably want about 250mls of water to start with, loosely cover, microwave it for 5 mins. Take out, stir it, give it another 5 mins. Check how cooked the lentils feel and cook for a few mins more if you need, adding water if it looks too dry.

When the texture feels right, season as necessary.

I chucked in a handful of cooked chicken and 2 handfuls of kale then cooked for another couple of minutes before stirring it all together and theowing some natural yoghurt on top and having it with 1/2 pack microwave brown rice.

Probably still more food than I needed but definitely felt full afterwards.

Day 1: Fail to prepare; prepare to fail

I was about to say that I don’t like preparing anything in advance, that winging it is my preference, then I realised that’s complete bollocks. Even when I was in my 20s and would recklessly crash at a mate’s place during the week, there was always a clean pair of pants in my office drawer supply kit.

I mean I don’t like planning food very much. A. How am I going to know on a Sunday what I’m going to want to eat on a Thursday? and B. That’s the kind of mediocre shit my sister does.

Ugh.

But I know that by not planning properly, I’ll find myself face down in a family-sized bowl of pasta by Tuesday, so out comes my spreadsheet (Can you worship at the altar of ExCel and still be spontaneous? Discuss) and I timetable my meals for the week like someone who thinks going to Zumba is the same as having a personality.

I don’t particularly like breakfast during the week and often skip it, preferring instead to ingest as much coffee as I can before having a panic attack sometime around 11am. If I’m going to eat breakfast I need something I don’t have to think about., so I delete all my lofty avocado on toast aspirations and type in bircher x 4 and some toast on Friday. I bought some dinky pots from Wilkos to portion them all up and make my fridge look organised. Also that means I won’t eat it all at once.

Lunch is equally troublesome. I don’t quite know when bread became the enemy, but I rarely buy a sliced loaf. Probably because me, a loaf of Hovis and a toaster is a threesome I could totally be on board with. A sandwich is easy though, so decide on hummus and carrot Mon- Weds, and then cheese salad Thurs-Fri. Repetitious yes, but easy. I’ve hidden the bread in a cupboard so I won’t see it winking lasciviously at both me and the toaster.

Dinners could be called ‘variations on chicken’. What I usually do is buy a whole bird, roast it, then pull all the meat off to use in the week, but the problem with that is that you get all sorts of gristly bits, the breast dries out  and there’s no meat on the wings in the first place. So I bought a pack of thigh fillets, chucked them in the oven then chopped them up for deployment over the coming days (and to give the gerbil as a treat). Some kale, brocolli and an aubergine will add to everything else I’ve planned. Chicken and Lentil curry, Chicken Shawarma, chicken stirfry, chicken panang, then out for dinner on Friday.

Blueberry bircher (ish) – 1 serving

125g dried oats

Enough natural yoghurt to cover

Frozen blueberries

Sprinkling of chia seeds

Mix it all together, leave overnight and add more yoghurt in the morning if you need (or milk, or water).

Normally when I make bircher I use apple juice and cinnamon to make it a bit more interesting but I’ve banned myself from apple juice (more of this later in the week) and I really am trying to keep it simple. Also, not sure that I like cinnamon that much.

The chia seeds are a new addition, pinched from my flatmate who bought them on a whim and begged me to help him eat them.

 

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

CN: Diet, weight, anxiety

I bloody love food. To me, it’s one of the greatest pleasures there is…. I mean, when you’re an introvert, inherently distrustful of most people and you’d rather stick a fork in your leg than go on a another date, you have to get your kicks somewhere.

But as much as I love food, I often hate my relationship with it. I use it as an emotional crutch when I’m stressed and anxious (which is most of the time, tbh), as a reward when I’ve done something well, and if I’m cooking for other people and it isn’t perfect I obsess about it for days. Portion control is theoretical to me 75% of the time and if I’ve had a drink, forget it. Give me all the food, all the time.

Every couple of months I get my shit together enough to buy a shit ton of ingredients on a Sunday, portion, cook and freeze the lot, then spend a week or two feeling all sorts of smug as I defrost a lentil curry and bleat on about how I should just do this all the time and yadda yadda yadda. I don’t though, because the next crisis hits and I fall face first into a bag of Kettle Chips and a packet of hobnobs. The stress starts a downward spiral of negativity and a hunger that just will not go away.

Which brings us to the last month or so. My anxiety levels have been through the roof, I’m eating all of the food, doing none of the exercise, and now my jeans won’t do up. Enough is enough and spurious batch cooking isn’t going to cut it this time. I need to meal plan like someone who knows their way around a spreadsheet. Not necessarily for weight loss, although that’ll be a nicer by-product than indigestion, but to introduce something to my life that can be on my terms, when nothing else feels like it is.

And because I need to make myself accountable, you lucky buggers get to read about it.

Don’t say I never give you anything.

NYNM#4: Cruising to the finish line

I can’t believe I’m ending the month on such a godawful pun.

31. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

A soldier fighting aliens gets to relive the same day over and over again, the day restarting every time he dies.

Tom runs nearly all the way through this film.

Therefore this film is everything I wanted it to be .

8/10

NYNM#4: Overstretched, overwhelmed, overboard

Who you calling a drama queen?

30. Overboard (2018)

After a spoiled, wealthy yacht owner is thrown overboard and loses his memory, a mistreated employee convinces him that he is her working-class husband.

This week has been a bit….tricky. Time is tight and emotions are high. If I had a choice I would make a duvet fort and binge watch Queer Eye until the Fab 5 manifested in my room to make it all better. But we soldier on. Day 30, people! I had intended to watch something slightly more highbrow, but my brain can’t cope. So I watched Overboard instead.

Is it better than the original? Debateable. There’s a distinct lack of 80s Kurt Russell (woof). But it’s by no means the worst film I’ve watched this month: sweet enough, cute casting, some callbacks to the original that made me go ‘hmm’ in an appreciative way (you know, like people do when they’re watching Shakespeare and they understand a clever line).

You could do worse. Don’t get me wrong, you could do a shit ton better, but you won’t feel grubby after this.

6/10.