We had a great time at our Book Launch Lunch. What can be better than spending fun time with like-minded creative folk?

Torbay Writers

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Torbay U3A Creative Writing Group members celebrated the publication of an anthology of their work with a ‘Book Launch Lunch’ at the Devon Dumpling, Shiphay, thus combining two of their favourite pursuits – writing and having a good time.

Did you know that the traditional Devon Cream Tea can be taken with treacle substituted for the jam, and is then know as ‘Thunder and Lightning’? Or that Reg Varney retired to Stoke Fleming? There is a lot of ghostly goings-on in Dartmoor, and plenty of fiction in local places. Would young George survive the WWII bombing in Brixham? What’s it like to be down and out in Torquay?

‘Devon Tales’ by Torbay U3A (illustrated and edited by Vicky Squires) is available for £3 plus p. & p. from Lulu.com.

Creative Writing is only one of the activities on offer from Torbay U3A (University of the Third Age). It’s a…

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Quinoa – the revenge of the saponins

My plant-based diet experiments have led me to try a number of different grains, including the wonder-seed quinoa. Last night I made myself a HUGE bowl of quinoa with vegetables and spices, and made a bit of a pig of myself.

Unfortunately it all came out again in the early hours of the morning. My body definitely wasn’t having any of it, and I was wracked with stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting until every little bit was gone. As I fell into a troubled sleep at about 4.0 am, I could almost hear my body saying ‘..and don’t do that AGAIN!’

A quick session with Google this morning showed that this isn’t an unknown problem with quinoa. Apparently the seeds are naturally coated with bitter ‘saponins’ that have to be washed off. Very THOROUGHLY washed off, too; putting the seeds in a sieve and vaguely waving them about under some running water definitely wasn’t thorough enough. I even read that they should be soaked for 7 hours in acidified water.

So, I’m never eating it again. It might be worth a try if I ever find myself wandering around the Andes in a state of extreme malnourishment, but apart from that I’m sticking to rice and pearl barley.

Blessed are the cheesemakers

I’ve opted for not consuming dairy products. They contain IGF (Insulin-like Growth Factor) to encourage rapid cell growth. Rapid cell growth is exactly what’s needed for the sustenance of new-born mammals, but isn’t needed by cancer ridden old codgers like myself. The scans show that I can rapidly grow inappropriate cells without any help.
I’ve mulled it over, read a variety of sources, cogitated and meditated on the issue, and it makes sense. Much as I love cheese, it’s had to go.
I’ve really missed it, but at last I’ve found something that ticks all the boxes and hits the right notes on my palette. Fermented nut cheese. The simple nut cheeses I made initially were very pleasant, but didn’t quite quench the cheese craving. This really hits the spot and is well worth the fiddle.
First you have to sprout some wheat, then add water to it and ferment it for a couple of days to make a liquid called ‘rejuvelac’. This is then added to the ground nuts of your choice and fermented in a warm place for a couple more days. I like my cheese quite salty, but I knead the salt in when I shape the cheese after fermentation, as I believe it would impede the fermenting process. The full recipe is here on the amazing Rawmazing site.
This week I’ve made two different cheeses (while I had some rejuvelac on the go). One is almond cheese with a clove of garlic, then wrapped in wild garlic leaves. The other is cashew cheese with a coating of dried apple and beetroot.

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The leaf wrapped one is my version of Cornish ‘Yarg’. As ‘Yarg’ is actually the maker’s name, Gray, spelled backwards, I suppose I should call mine ‘Seriuqs’, but it doesn’t really trip off the tongue. I’m very pleased with the taste of it. It packs a real garlic punch, but the almonds give it a slightly crumbly, clean tang.

The cashews in the beetroot-coated cheese give a creamier texture. The apple and beetroot flavours are difficult to identify, but give it a dramatic appearance.

I’m going to try a cheese made with Macadamia nuts next. That should be ultra creamy, but I’m tending to feel the almonds give the nicest result so far.

I made the biscuits as well – dehydrating a ground mix of almonds, linseed etc. So the whole plateful is really just nuts in different guises!

I’m really impressed with how cheesy these fermented cheeses are. Hubby loathes cheese and allied lactose flavours with a vengeance, and he hates my cheese, too. A very good sign that I’m achieving true cheesiness!

My only worry is that the ‘rejuvelac’ contains the IGF that I’m mustn’t have. What if I’ve carefully recreated a vegan form of the very substance I’m trying to avoid? These are questions I’m constantly bumping into these days as I get further and further into ‘alternative’ cancer treatments. I’ve just started analysing my diet with ‘My Fitness Pal’, and my Calcium and Iron intake is running at about 20-30% of what it should be. Even on the day I had half a pound of liver my iron intake was only 77%. This raises the question of where the hell do I get those minerals from if I don’t drink milk/eat cheese/stuff myself full of red meat? In fact, looking at ‘Healthalicious’, a handy tool for analysing nutrition, how does anybody get the right amount, whatever diet they follow?

It’s one of life’s mysteries. If you have any ideas, let me know.

Happy new year!

This must be the first time for over 40 years that I’m seeing the new year in completely sober! And with a grey velvet hairdo.
Very strange… couldn’t have foreseen that set of circumstances last year this time.
A heartfelt thankyou to everyone who has given me their support throughout 2012, and wishing you all the best for 2013.

My goodness!

The medics have definitely got the recipe right for my chemo. I’m full of beans! 48 hours later, I feel better than I have done for ages, and am up at crazy-o’clock this morning doing chores, ordering little treats off the internet (oh, hang on – perhaps the drugs have given me bipolar disorder!)
Along with the 3 chemo drugs they give me an anti sickness infusion and a steroid, then I have two powerful anti sickness pill regimes to take for the next couple of days. Again, one of them is a steroid, I think.
Hubby shaved off the last of my hair last night. I was glad to see it gone, and also to have physical proof that they have given me some kind of chemo and not a placebo, as I feel so well.
If you’re having really bad symptoms with chemo, I think it’s worth asking the medics, because I believe it doesn’t have to be that bad – there should be a pretty good antidote to most symptoms?

Meet my new friend…

A chemotherapy pump

I’ve been quiet lately because I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I have to create a whole new category on my blog called ‘Cancer’. This is my new friend – a chemotherapy pump – and I have a date with it every three weeks for the next six months.

I had a skirmish with breast cancer 10 years ago, and had a bilateral mastectomy and my ovaries removed. I didn’t need any further treatment, so went on my merry way, hoping to get old enough to experiment with the heart disease/circulatory issues that made up the other side of my gene bank.

They told me that my treatment had reduced my likelihood of breast cancer returning to 2%. Unfortunately, I don’t think I realised that that was just it returning to the site of my breasts. It wouldn’t stop all the breast cancer associated secondary cancers – bone, liver etc. – cropping up unannounced. That has now happened.

Anyway, I’m going to fight this thing. I can’t hope for a cure, but I am hoping I can extend my life and make it as happy and meaningful as possible. I’m grabbing all the conventional therapies with both hands, and also piling on anything else that looks helpful (bring on the new age whale music).

Of course, there will be many recipes! In my attempt to increase my ‘5 a day’ towards ’10 a day’, I’ve already developed the 3 fruit breakfast fit for a vegan king! I’ll put it up soon.