Thursday, 22 November 2012

Who's getting YOUR five a day?

Giving up your seat on the train, throwing a coin in a busker’s hat, picking up some shopping for a housebound neighbour – we can all think of a few good deeds we occasionally perform. But, according to one happiness expert, we should all aim to do five good deeds a day for good karma.

When I pointed this out to my daughters, they were shocked. ‘Five? That’s A LOT!’

I think they’re right. Instead of counting my blessings at the end of every day I’m going to try counting my good deeds – and I bet they’ll rarely meet the target five.

My oldest daughter pointed out that she rarely gets a train seat to give up. Yes, she has a point – we may have to hunt around for good deeds we can do, and our day may not even lend itself to doing good deeds very easily. 

Reviewing my own routine, I can only think of a few good deeds I regularly perform:
. Always buying The Big Issue from Florentina, who sits outside my local Waitrose, and now calls me “My Friend”.
. Passing on tips to editors and journalists looking for help via email alerts - because I know what it’s like to be up against a deadline and, if I needed help, I’d welcome any leads I could get.
. Digging out any helpful health advice for friends and acquaintances who need it.
. Giving away my freebie goody-bag contents to people who will benefit from them.
. Collecting my daughters from the station when I look at the weather and know how much I would want a lift home if it was me...

That’s five – but not five a day!!

And let's not forget that for a good deed to be a truly good deed it must not have obvious pay-offs for you. I like the story I heard recently about a woman who had been given an apple. Five minutes later she passed a homeless woman in the street and gave the apple to her. The next day, quite randomly, a member of staff at the hotel where she was staying offered her a new apple from a bowl he was carrying.

Giving an editor a celeb's details after they'd just told me they wanted the story - but couldn't commission it out - did give me a bit of that shiny glow of altruism, and even if it didn't get me a job what did I have to lose?

Now I know why:

. Some friends fight me to pay the coffee bill, or put a big tip on the saucer.
. My mum plays scrabble with ladies who are 20 years older than her, wraps Christmas charity parcels for children in war-torn countries, and puts notes not coins in the church collection.
. My oldest daughter always scoops up any friend in need.
. My youngest daughter lends out favourite items of clothing.
. My husband gives freebie home made chocolates to dinner party clients, or drives across London to buy truffles from Borough Market instead of persuading a client to have something else.

But, more poignantly, there must be opportunities for good deeds I miss every day. For example,
. I always put the phone down on cold callers, instead of remembering it is just their miserable job and I am not improving their day.
. I rarely pay for extra time at the gym car park, and end up rushing out after classes when staying a few extra minutes would give me time to catch up on friends' news.
. I could make a point of emptying the dishwasher instead of leaving it for my husband to do...

Verdict: Must try harder....

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The milk plot thickens...

So today, returning from the health food store, laden with Karo coconut milk, I read HealtheHelen’s blog about A2 milk – which may suit us dairy protein intolerants better than A1 after all...
Do read what she says, because she puts the argument very well. And, while I am perfectly happy and willing to try Karo in my coffee and porridge tomorrow, I must say that it would be much easier to be using a milk that the rest of the family can drink too.
The advice from York, which seems very good, is that, if you are intolerant to milk, you should go ahead and drop ALL dairy from your diet for six months, but then, when reintroducing milk, try A2 first and see if you react to it. York says that while allergic (IgE) reactions are usually directed at one protein type, intolerances are usually directed at multiple proteins, and it is unlikely (but not impossible) that you would therefore just have an A1 beta-casein milk intolerance.

All well and good, but, hey! my wallet's developing an intolerance too...
Shopping for a food intolerance can be expensive, as I discovered today. A single portion pot of yogurt substitute – the nutritionist recommended Co-Yo – cost me about £3.50. My cashew nut butter was the same price, and the Karo coconut milk £1.69. I can see myself resorting to black coffee and porridge made with water before too long as our 16 year old daughter is asking about what kind of car she can have for her next birthday. 

But, putting money worries aside for a moment, we had a fantastic brunch today – using delicious collar bacon and two types of sausage (pork with romany herbs and pork with black pudding) that we found at The Goods Shed in Canterbury on Thursday. Steve reported that no fat or water spilled out of the sausages when he cooked them, and we all agreed they were the best we’d tasted in a long time – and, completely free of dairy and yeast. 

Friday, 2 November 2012

No more pain, vin, or Boursin pour moi!

It’s now about a week since the results of my York Test revealed my intolerance to yeast and dairy foods, and the chat with York’s nutritionist, yesterday, revealed some good and bad news.
The good news is that I don’t have to avoid fruit and raw vegetables after all...  
Having suffered a very devastating yeast intolerance herself (this lady had ME), and having cured herself through diet, she found these things were fine to eat.
I may even be able to drink a bit of wine - although maybe she shouldn't have told me this - as apparently Jacob’s Creek say their wines are yeast free, having been double filtered. Whoopee!
The bad news is that peanuts, pistachios and dried fruit are all secretly yeasty – and I should also avoid MSG in Chinese food, Pringles, stock cubes and, who knew, fish and chip shop batter.
Not realising that my peanut butter was such a little demon, I thought I’d been doing quite well loading it onto my yeast free bread substitutes: rice cakes, Ryvitas, and Matzos. It will be almond or cashew butter from now on.
Avoiding dairy hasn’t been too much of a problem, although it takes some creative thinking when I am heading for the fridge hell-bent on devouring a chunk of cheese. 
Porridge made with oat drink is delicious, though I now realise I shouldn’t be sprinkling it with yeasty prunes, and, so far, I am not missing my daily yogurt (although the nice lady from York has suggested a coconut milk alternative, which I will try).
My new A2 milk – from cows that only carry the A2 protein and not the A1 protein with which people tend to have a problem – would be great in my coffee, except that, according to York, it is unlikely to be any better for me than the normal milk I have been eschewing. The nutritionist recommends a coconut drink (coconut seems to be a better alternative than the sugary nut drinks on offer), which apparently tastes fine in coffee, and which I will buy on my next visit to the health food shop. 
It's all fine when I'm at home, and get to my pasta before Steve and the parmesan do. The biggest problem, of course, is trying to fit a new regime in with my social life.
Last Saturday at lunch at a friend’s house, there was smoked mackerel pâté made with fromage frais, and toast to put it on. 
And on Wednesday, out for lunch with friends at Le Gavroche, the day would have been spoiled if I didn’t have any wine – and who could resist the bread basket and choice of salted or unsalted butters? Though I did say no to the cheeseboard.
My plan is to avoid the culprit foods as far as possible – but not become obsessed about them. If I had a serious illness and thought that changing my diet would help, then I would probably me more motivated. But, for now, I think it’s good to be aware of the problem, make sure I don’t over indulge in anything I shouldn’t, and just see how I get on...
. Some sites worth looking at if you're struggling to think of ways to cope with a food intolerance: