The rehabilitation of butter and why I’ll think twice about sunflower oil

A few years back I was told my cholesterol was a little high and that I ought to try to reduce it to protect myself from heart disease. The two specific diet changes I made were switching from full-fat milk to semi-skimmed and from butter to margarine (usually Flora Buttery).

Funny how things change.

Last year I discovered that the fat in full-fat milk may not be as harmful as we've been told.

Now, it seems, vegetable oils aren't as great as we've been led to believe. And butter isn't necessarily the health villain we thought, either.

How do I know? From my not-at-all-exhaustive research, which produced three articles saying very similar things. That either means they're all right or that they've all copied each other and got it wrong, but I'm inclined to think it's the former. If you know differently, feel free to do that commenty thing at the end of the post.

The articles all say:

  • We didn't start eating vegetable oils in any quantity until the the early 20th century, when heart disease and cancer were less prevalent.
  • The “evil” oils are manufactured in a multi-step process involving lots of heat, noxious chemicals and magical incantations. OK I added the last bit, but they're far from “natural” and much more towards “processed”.
  • Said evil oils can do various nasty things to our insides.
  • The stats on butter consumption, oil consumption and the prevalence of heart disease and cancer show that our tactic of switching away from butter has failed.
  • There are a few “good” oils to use in cooking, and the baddies get used in all kinds of products we buy so we have to read food labels to try to reduce or avoid them.

Here are the pages for your own perusal:

http://www.thankyourbody.com/vegetable-oils/#post/0

http://www.thealternativedaily.com/truth-about-sunflower-oil/

https://wellnessmama.com/2193/never-eat-vegetable-oil/

So there you go. I'm kinda getting convinced by this stuff. Should I ditch the Flora? By the way, last time I was checked my cholesterol was OK. Hmmmm.

 

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The Dad Diaries Chapter 3: In which an MP3 player fails to arrive and the gospel is preached

Monday, 17th January, 2005

Jack said he had a boring day at school. I said I’d had a boring day at work. Other family members didn’t comment on how boring (or otherwise) their day had been.

On the other hand, F. did report that a colleague at work had had their house vandalised. We were suitably appalled and prayed for fire to rain down from heaven and consume the culprits. (Although we also requested that the fire would be at a safe distance from the house, in order to prevent further damage.)

Tuesday, 18th January, 2005

Jack was crestfallen when the postman again failed to deliver his eagerly-awaited MP3 player from eBay. F. is also waiting for an MP3 player from eBay, but being an adult her degree of crestfallen-ness was naturally much lower.

We attended a church house group where the “ice-breaker” consisted of sharing your opinions of President George W. Bush. The main opinion we came away with was that as an exercise in sharing something about yourself and learning something about others it was an unmitigated failure.

Wednesday, 19th January, 2005

I announced to the family that since it’s now post-Christmas we are officially allowed to discuss where we want to go on holiday this year. We need to get our skates on, given that we only have 7 months to decide.

Saturday, 22nd January, 2005

It’s cold. I have a headache. And I worked until lunchtime. On. A. Saturday.

On the other hand, we had F.’s parents round for chippy takeaway and games of Uno and Pass The Pigs. Both exceedingly fine games of skill, judgement and strategy. (When I win. If I lose, it’s just down to luck.)

opplanet-encross-wave-x-wv-430c-512mb-digital-audio-mp3-player-wv430cF.’s MP3 player arrived, much to the dismay of a by now extra-crestfallen Jack, who remains MP3 player-less and must console himself with old-fashioned CDs or humming to himself.

Monday, 24th January, 2005

Sarah had her TB jab. It hurt. She was consoled by our visit to the Town Hall to see Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring, it seems, one of her teachers.

For some sound educational reason Jack has to find pictures of a rhino’s back on the Internet. He’s drawn a picture of a boy crying uncontrollably. I think it’s the MP3 player thing.

Tuesday, 25th January, 2005

Met Dave Morrison near Morrison’s (co-incidence or what?). He didn’t remember me so I had to remind him we met¬†at the German evening class two years ago. He then told me about various health and financial troubles he had. Moved by the Spirit, I told him Jesus cared about all that stuff and wants him to get right with God. Dave said he really needed to pop in for some salt and a tin of peaches.

 

The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.

Maybe it’s time to switch back to full-fat milk

Not the most thrilling of subjects at a time of national political uncertainty, I’ll grant you. But it happened to come to my attention as I pondered the dwindling milk supply in the fridge and I wondered, not for the first time, if I was really benefiting by sticking to our green-topped friend semi-skimmed.

I changed several years ago when a routine health check indicated slightly raised cholesterol. At the time (and probably still), one of the standard changes advised was to stop drinking full-fat milk. Since then our fridge has had both The Green and The Blue, since my better half has always stuck to the original. Then a few weeks ago a TV documentary on food and health suggested that this accepted wisdom was being questioned by recent study results. They said the implication was that consuming full-fat milk was in fact no worse than lower-fat versions in terms of the risk of heart disease.

“Can this be true?” said I. So I did a li’l’ Internet search and concluded that, yes, it’s true that studies are indeed suggesting that. In fact, they’re also suggesting that fully-loaded milk is also no worse (and possibly better) in terms of the risk of obesity and diabetes as well. Cool.

Whether the conclusions are correct is another matter, of course, but since we generally follow accepted wisdom in these matters, and said wisdom appears to be changing, then perhaps I can change my habit too and get back to the proper Blue Stuff, sorry, White Stuff.

Hoorah.

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/09/low-fat-whole-milk-usda-dietary-guidelines

http://time.com/4279538/low-fat-milk-vs-whole-milk/

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/which-milk-right-you

http://www.medicaldaily.com/whole-milk-weight-management-diabetes-risk-381052

 

UPDATE 20/8/16 — Oh, the irony. I did indeed revert back to fully-loaded milk, and quite enjoyed doing so. It made life that tiny bit simpler, having to buy just one variety of milk. But…although I do like the extra creaminess now and again, I found it too much to have all the time. So, it’s back to the Green Top for me, purely on taste grounds.

Life’s full of surprises ūüôā

Normally I hate blog posts about blogging, but…

…I’ll make an exception today because I’m writing one ūüôā

My WordPress blog goes through long periods of neglect (like my squash playing or cleaning the bath) but then the mood strikes and here I am again. How come?

  • Firstly¬†because my To-Do app on the iPad prompted me that it’s time to back up my blog. Actually there’s not a lot of point me backing up this blog since the last post was in March and I backed it up in April. Although, since I’m now writing a new post…
  • Secondly¬†because when I do blog I sometimes try a different theme and I knew that I really didn’t like my last choice. But of course, you can’t see my last choice because I’ve now changed it. And if you read this at some point in the future (what else might you do? read it in the past…?) you might not be seeing the theme I chose¬†today ‘cos I might have changed it again…
  • Thirdly¬†because I was thinking about writing a tech-based post due to the increasing frequency with which I’m being notified that my devices / software aren’t up to scratch to run the latest stuff. More on this below.

Hence, I sit and type.

On my 2009 Compaq desktop running Windows Vista. Vista???!! Yep. On which I run Internet Explorer 9, the latest Vista can understand. And which, Twitter, now tells me, is inadequate and therefore I am reduced to viewing Twitter Mobile. On my desktop.

twitter_ie9

Humph.

My other ageing device is a second generation iPod Touch, circa January 2009. I recently tried to add a Gmail account to the mail app and Gmail refused, saying the device wasn’t secure enough. Can’t complain about that, what with me being an IT guy and all. Then yesterday YouTube on the iPod started warning me it no longer fully supported my device.

Dang it. Inevitable really.

And so I muse on changing the PC, upgrading the PC to Windows 8.1 (and thence to Windows 10), and whether to keep the iPod for music only and invest in – gasp – a smartphone that can handle my email and YouTube thingies.¬†(My current phone is distinctly¬†unsmart – it makes calls and sends texts, end of story. Until my iPod started showing these signs of obsolescence I thought I’d hang on to my old phone until it broke. But maybe not.)

If you have absolutely nothing better to do, watch this space for further developments. And if you really have absolutely nothing better to do than that, I suggest you seek help.

The Dad Diaries Chapter 2: In which a storm is weathered and pipe-smoking is rejected

Saturday, 8th January, 2005

Fierce winter storm last night. So bad I had to tie the barbecue cover back on.

Monday, 10th January, 2005

We now have three decorative stone heads in the back garden. Kind of Easter Island-ish but significantly smaller. Jack suggested they constitute pagan idols and will entice demons into the garden. I said I didn’t think Green Lane Garden Centre sold pagan idols.

Said an extra prayer for protection over the garden before going to bed.

Tuesday, 11th January, 2005

My American niece Anne-Louise is 21 today. I have an officially grown-up niece. This presumably makes me officially middle-aged and full of wisdom. Perhaps a pipe would underline my maturity and vast life experience. Not to smoke, naturally (I’m far too wise for that): just to suck on as I contemplate some conundrum troubling one of the young people.

Of course, had Anne-Louise been British she would have been officially grown-up three years ago and I would have been officially middle-aged in 2002.

Wednesday, 12th January, 2005

There was great excitement when I announced we were going to see Daniel Bedingfield in concert. I really am quite hip for a middle-aged bloke with pipe-sucking aspirations.

Thursday, 13th January, 2005

At Sarah’s parents’ evening we finally got some explanation of the convoluted grading system on her report. Something about a mark for the last test, a projected grade based on current performance, a second projected grade based on the student’s real potential if they just decided to work a bit, and a third projected grade based on a combination of local education authority demographic averages, last year’s median grade and what mood the teacher was in.

The net result was that while she’s a delightful person (gets it from her parents) and doing well in most subjects, she’s doing less delightfully in maths. Jack offered to help her out, being “well good” at maths despite being younger than Sarah. Sarah thanked him and I think suggested he go boil his head, but I couldn’t be sure.

Friday, 14th January, 2005

Sarah helped at the church’s Kidz Klub (that’s a deliberate, cool, mis-spelling, incidentally) and afterwards got some maths help from Joe, a university student who, she explained with a disdainful glance at her brother, “really knows what he’s talking about”.

If necessary I will notify Joe that I’ll be monitoring Sarah’s enthusiasm for maths.

Saturday, 15th January, 2005

Sarah did extra maths homework. Jack played on his PS2 and bought himself both a new ink pen and a new calculator battery. I cleaned our bedroom and both bathrooms. F. cooked us a Saturday tea worthy of Sunday lunch, followed by cookies & cream pie. After dinner we all laid on the dining room floor looking at the ceiling and just talking for three quarters of an hour.

Sometimes a family Saturday just goes well and leaves one deeply grateful.

Stubbed my toe at the bottom of the stairs on the way up to bed.

 

The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.

 

 

 

The Dad Diaries Chapter 1: In which 2005 arrives and a card is not sent to the Emperor of Japan

Thursday, 23rd December, 2004

My diary helpfully tells me it’s the Emperor’s birthday in Japan. If I’d realised sooner I could have sent a card. The shops have been full of Christmas cards for weeks so I probably missed the Japanese Emperor birthday card section.

More importantly, it’s Christmas Eve-Eve! Jack came back from the market with four new Santa hats to replace our rag-tag, scruffy collection. He’s a thoughtful son. We will of course now have to wear them for the next week.

Wednesday, 29th December, 2004

Bought a new pair of trainers and the ABBA Gold CD. They are so underrated (ABBA, not the trainers). Can’t believe it’s 30 years since Waterloo. Can’t believe I’m old enough to say it’s 30 years since anything. Well, obviously, I’ve always been able to say that; it’s just that now I can say it for events for which I was present, well, not present (since I wasn’t actually at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest – although I could have been, it being held in Brighton and all) but, you know, alive at the time of the event which is now 30 (or whatever) years ago.

Friday, 31st December, 2004

Decided I will not wax philosophical about another year drawing to a close, where does the time go and all the rest. Instead, reminded Jack and Sarah that, once again, they’re in danger of failing to write their thank-you letters before the end of the year in which their Christmas gifts were received. Once again they argued that it doesn’t matter, that it’s not even a week since the said gift receiving and that if Christmas was in August it would be different. And besides (they continued), it’s holidays from writing and stuff (everything’s “and stuff” with them these days). I then reminded them that while they may not set great store by a ¬£5 Boots gift voucher (which we will inevitably end up swapping for cash because they don’t want anything from Boots), Aunty Muriel and Uncle Norman were very kind to think of them at all and that ingratitude is just downright rude.

They adopted suitably penetant expressions and asked if they could do it after Friends.

Sunday, 2nd January, 2005

Played squash with F. but was rubbish.

Christmas wasn’t cancelled after all

Monday, 3rd January, 2005

Took the Christmas stuff down despite it being only ninth night. It now consists of six boxes and a bag. Reminds me of that episode of The Good Life where Margot declares Christmas as cancelled “because it couldn’t be delivered”. After all, we all know you don’t need tinsel and chocolate Santas hanging on an artificial tree to celebrate the birth of Christ. Although sherry and re-runs of Morecambe and Wise always help.

Wednesday, 5th January, 2005

Sarah and Jack finally wrote their thank-you letters. I suppose it’s because they’re back at school and are allowed to do “writing and stuff” once more.

The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.

W H Smith to the rescue in kitchen calendar drama

RANDOMNESS ALERT: This post is one of those random jottings / miscellaneous musings / domestic minutiae-type stories with no obvious economic / practical / scientific / spiritual value. But don’t let that put you off. It might just make your day. Or make you grateful that you have better things to do than those written about herein…

Back in December 2012 I waxed lyrical about the joy of a physical diary, sending letters through the physical mail and putting photos in a physical album, which activities I rather cleverly grouped under the banner of The Joy of the Physical. Fourteen months later, and I have to report not one but two deeply troubling issues in my world of physical, paper-based equipment. Both, happily, now resolved.

I still write a diary. On paper. With a pen. I had spates of doing this in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, but then the PC came along and it all migrated to the word processor (as we used to call it). In 2005 I felt the call of the old-fashioned way and requested a big diary for Christmas. And every year since there’s been one; some A4, some A5, some week-to-page and some day-to-page. In the closing days of 2012 I lamented the lack of writing space for the weekend days in my 2012 volume and announced with satisfaction that for 2013 it was back to a page for each day. Sadly, at the start of this year I chose my own diary and again bought a compact week-to-page (or, more accurately week-to-double-page-spread). It again offered tiny space for Saturday and even tinier for Sunday.

Are you feeling my pain yet?

After two months I decided enough was enough (or, rather, not enough was not enough). I wanted more space to write. Because, based on previous years’ volumes, I suspected that the more space I had the more I tended to write. And then I had A Revelation.

Why, I asked myself, did I have to write in a diary at all? After all, diaries are primarily about forward-planning (like calendars, of which more anon). My scribbles, by contrast, are about retrospectively recording what is past (with, admittedly, some thoughts on things to come, but not from the point of view of scheduling or organising). What I write is a journal. Why attempt to predefine the maximum space for a day? Why, in fact, not simply write said journal in a notebook? Oh. My. Word. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Oh, wait…

And so my first problem is solved. Hurray. But the tale, as they say, doesn’t end there. Because in December 2013 I was distraught to discover that W H Smith were out of stock of our usual style of calendar for the kitchen. Specifically: month-to-view with tear-off weeks so that as the month progresses you get to see the first half of the next month as well. Having used this style for many years I was loath to change but decided it really shouldn’t be that big a deal. It’s only a calendar, for goodness’ sake. Off to the market, then, and a 50p month-to-view calendar. “It’ll do,” thinks I. “Although the fact that it’s an inch longer than the usual style does mean it’ll have to be tucked behind the tea bag box. That’s fine. Fine. I don’t mind. It’ll do.”

So on the wall it goes. For those same two months, we made do. Didn’t like the fact that as January advanced we couldn’t see February. Didn’t like the fact that as January ran out, the calendar disappeared behind the tea bags. Didn’t like the repeat performance in February. Decided that, no, it won’t do. It really won’t. Back to W H Smith goes I, finds the correct style in stock at ¬£1 off. That’ll do. This too is now in service and calendar-related well-being is restored.

What a relief.

The Tyranny of the To-Do List

I love my lists. With lists, I am organised. I keep track of stuff. I get reminders to follow stuff up. With lists, I prioritise, categorise, annotate and schedule. I also remember what to buy when I go shopping.

I have electronic lists in Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Project and an iPad app called Errands. I have paper lists on the fridge and on the rather nifty notice board made from wine corks just underneath the spice rack.

Lists are good.

On the other hand, lists are bad.

On weekday (more specifically, workday) evenings, my list calls to me softly: “You have things to doooooooo…”. Frequently, however, on said evenings I have little inclination to do much of anything at all; I’ve always been that way and can’t blame my age. My list contains a variety of things domestic, church things, worthy things, ncessary things and even things trivial. Yet no matter how high I set the priority or how noble the task may be, there are (many) times when I simply cannot face doing a job or undertaking a task.

And so I fret. I compare myself to others who, it seems, have an immense amount of energy and a baffling capacity for working all the hours God sends and being constantly, annoyingly, productive. This, dear reader, is not me. And I need to get over it and throw off the tyranny of the to-do list, jettison the guilt, do what I can in the capacity God gives me and just quit fussin’ over what don’t get done.

Sure, there’s no excuse for laziness, and I do need to remember that I’m serving Christ in a lost world and that helping bring His kingdom in and serving His purposes is rather important. But if I spend the time whittling and not actually being fruitful I may as well not be fruitful and enjoy it and relax instead. Tomorrow is a new day and I will, no doubt, work for my employer then return home and see what the evening brings. What it should not bring, however, is mental anguish over how much I’m doing or what’s still not ticked off on “the list”.

In the Bible Jesus says that the burden he wants his followers to carry is “light”. I don’t for a moment think that means every day will be a bundle of laughs and that no hard work is required. He did say, though, that what He asks of me is in stark contrast to being “weary and heavy laden”. So when I’m both heavy laden and weary it’s time to get on my knees, tell Him all about my list and see what He tells me to do – if anything.

Vitamins, Fish Oil and a Steroid Up the Nose: My daily doses

I remember visiting “old” people when I was younger and being intrigued by an array of medicine bottles, tablets and creams on the mantelpiece. “Wow!” I thought, “Must be grim to be at that stage of life.”

Fast forward a decade or three and take a look at the pretty picture above. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my daily companions these days (not my only ones, I'm pleased to add). Moving left to right, they are:

  • Neutrogena cream (unscented, naturally) for dry skin on my hands. It's good stuff; not too slimy. At this time of year I still find myself needing it occasionally, but in winter it's pretty much daily. Consequence of failure to apply? Bleedin' knuckles, if you'll pardon my language.
  • Glucosamine sulphate to help strengthen tissue around joints. In my case, it's knees that are the problem. Even had physio a few years back, but they also recommended this stuff. Has to be high strength, mind you; the dose I was taking previously was useless. Of course, scientific and medical opinion is divided as to the value of most of these supplements. But even the believers agree that the low dose stuff is pointless unless you take about 15 of them a day.
  • Steroid-based nasal spray for hayfever. The active ingredient is beclomethasone, and this is the cheaper version of the Becanase brand product. It works. It stops itchy eyes and runny nose. It doesn't smell too good but there are no side effects and, from what I've read, no harmful effects from long-term use.
  • Multi-vitamins and iron to supplement my diet, which, though far from poor, is probably a little lacking sometimes.
  • Zinc with vitamin C to sustain my immune system and ward off colds. I'm convinced it makes a difference.
  • Cod liver oil, again for joint health, again for knees. I'm told it has a lubricant effect – a bit like squirting your knees with WD40.

Ah. So that's what it's like to be at the stage of life where your daily routine involves a collection of capsules, pills, and more. I'm there. I believe these things help, so I thank God for them and happily keep taking the tablets.

 

“I may be many things but a fictional bear isn’t one of them”: Discuss

Marmalade? On a baguette? And an untoasted one at that? Surely not. And indeed, I had no intention of spreading marmalade on it. Then why the surprised look and question from my wife? Because, as it turned out, I'd mistakenly picked up the marmalade jar from the fridge thinking it was jam, and brought it all the way to the table without realising my error. Crikey.

Fooled by the logo

I was fooled by the label. A glance at that “Hartley's” logo confirmed to me that it was the blackberry jelly I craved. (For the sake of completeness I should add that I also collected the cheese spread with which to adorn half of the baguette, having failed to make a choice between sweet or savoury. Having said that, I'll admit that although that fact makes the story more complete, it doesn't make it any more entertaining, challenging or enlightening. At least, I don't think it does. Perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised. But, if not, can I apologise now? Thanks.)

So there I am, at the table, having had my faux pas pointed out. “No,” says I, “I don't want marmalade. I may be many things, but a fictional bear isn't one of them.”

A fictional bear, such as I am not

This was, of course, a Paddington reference. The bear, that is, created by Michael Bond in 1958 (as distinct from the train station, designed by Brunel in 1854). If, at this point, you're gazing at the screen with a somewhat bemused expression and haven't the slightest idea what I'm talking about, let me explain. Paddington's favourite snack is a marmalade sandwich. Hence the reference. But then you probably knew that.

To confirm, then, I am not, repeat not, a fictional bear. Kinda obvious in the cold light of day, I suppose. I promise you it was extremely witty and mildly amusing at the time. You had to be there.

Marmalade anyone?