2018 - New Years Resolutions

2018 is going to be a very strange year for me. There is one big item looming, and it’s going to have impacts across the board. While the rest of the world is focused on a wedding in May, key thing for me is to turn up to Hurley in October...mainly for Gill’s sake.

In the cycling area, I’m now a relegatable rank (in that if I don’t perform to a certain level this year, I get knocked back down to a lower category on the 1st December 2018). I’ve never had that pressure before, and I’m keen to demonstrate myself as a reliable 2nd Cat rider, not a yo-yo’er who cannot hack higher levels.

Finally, it will have been 5 years since we bought the house in Addington Gardens. The fiscal world is in the process of changing, and we’ll need to re-mortgage with a view to stability in the next 5 years.

Where there are specific deadlines and targets, I’ve bolded them up. Some are more general rules for the year, but may gain some specific dates later on.

1) Retain 2nd Category License

I need to score 25 points...the actual deadline is by the 31st November, however with the wedding in mind, and the slight incident last year which left me in a cast for 7 weeks, I will need to stop racing by the end of July really.

Last year I was racing as part of a team (the GS Henley ORRL Team)...this year I’ll be mainly flying solo, as I’m no longer eligible for ORRL (it’s for 3rd and 4th Car riders only. I’m the only 2nd Cat rider in GS Henley). I know plenty of other riders, and so will have some “frenemies” in races, however I’ll need to adapt my racing tactics to account for not having support in the pack. I also won’t have the same selection of races generally, and most races I do will pit me against full-time/semi-professional riders. Scoring points will be harder generally. I’ve had some remarkable early season success, with 8 points/2nd place in a local crit race (I was beaten by a chap called Jake Hales, who was the top-ranking domestic rider in the UK in 2017, to give you an idea about what I’m up against). I’ve also had a 5th place, for another 5 points...so somewhat surprisingly I’m halfway to keeping my license before 2018 has even started!

2) Top 5% in Closed Road Sportives

Only got one planned this year...RideLondon at the end of July. This will effectively be the end of my pack-riding events for the year, and will mark the transition from racing to riding.

3) Avoid the Performance Dip

I’ve spent the last quarter of 2017 living reasonably healthily...certainly not a monk-like existence, but I’ve been calorie-counting, and keeping a focus on macro-nutrients as I did a 10-week fitness program. What tends to happen once racing kicks off in April is that routine goes out the window, and I slowly lose fitness as I eat badly, sleep poorly due to late nights, and start to miss training sessions through fatigue. With a shorter race season next year, I need to keep very focused on maintaining my fitness and strength into the end of July...there is also a ego part to me that wants to turn up to the wedding in good shape, before relaxing on the honeymoon.

I’ve identified a few specific areas I can focus on to help with this;

a) Weight and Nutrition

When I’m calorie-counting, I tend to plan my food more, and eat better. In 2018 I want to be a “prepper”, and have healthy food to hand. As a general rule, the less planned food is, the worse it is for you. I have a good idea of what I need to eat, I just need to ensure that suitable food is around. Part of this is good shopping, the other half is ahead-of-time food preparation. Early in 2018 (January/February) I’m going to have some new plug sockets installed in the kitchen on some currently unused work surface, and then buy a slow/pressure/electric multi-cooker. We have 2 freezers, and I’ll endeavour to have a good supply of meals always available.

I need to eat more protein...one thing that has come out from calorie-counting and the food diary is that I don’t eat enough (as a general rule of thumb it’s 1g per kg of body weight per day for maintenance, and intense exercise puts that upto 1.2-2g per kg a day). A lack of protein leads to muscle degradation, and fatigue. I need to be eating 100-120g of protein a day.

b) Follow the Training Plan

When fatigue creeps in, one of the first things to suffer is the training. When I feeling good, and eating well, I can jump on the bike and smash out a great training set...however if I’m tired and worn out then it’s easy to say to myself “I can skip this one”. One becomes two, and suddenly you’re sliding off a fitness cliff, and motivation goes straight down (a similar thing happens with injury and illness, though again the primary cause of that is going off-plan, and probably overdoing it). Realistically, once you’ve started your body will wake up, and you can get it done. In June this year I started skipping sessions, and if anything my fatigue levels increased. This year I need to be much stricter with myself. Nutrition and sleep can help, but ultimately I need to get the training done. What’s the point in paying for a coach if you ignore his guidance?

c) Build to 2019

Once I hit the end of July, I almost need to start thinking about the 2019 season. In a good scenario I’ll be patting myself on the back at retaining my 2nd Cat license, and looking forward to doing it all again. The bad scenario is that I’ve failed to hit 25 points, and I’ll be back to racing 3rd Cat races. Either way, the final quarter of this year has made me realise that I can do great things in the early winter, and I should be looking to do that again. Once I’m back off Honeymoon (end of October) I want to do a hard, 8-week build program in the same vein as this year.

4) Discover 4 new authors

Failed at this one in 2017. I have a few holidays (sort of, 2 of them may be training camps), and I want to try and assign a new author to each one as a baseline. This will mainly involve looking through Amazon, and various book reviews for something that triggers my interest. One downside to digital media (across the board really...music, games, books etc) is that there is a lot more noise, and less curation. I need to dig through the crud, and find some good stuff that keeps me hooked.

5) Complete 2 games of reasonable size

Based on my gaming experiences in 2017, I think I need something with a storyline of about 10-15 hours length. On a console I really dislike FPS controls, far prefer Third Person. Nothing sandbox-y, or with pointless RPG elements bolted on. No loot-boxes, microtransactions etc etc. I also need something that can be played in 1-2 hour chunks, as I realistically can’t dedicate time to long play sessions.

I could look up PC games as well (which would offer up FPS games, as well as sims), however it’s quite nice to chill on the sofa of an evening. I may look at setting up a mouse/keyboard option on the sofa if I’m struggling in Summer...

6) Have Good Finances

Last year was about saving, however next year is about paying for the wedding. We’ve already committed and laid out a fair sum, and while we are planning to keep it all under control, there is still a lot of money that needs to be ring-fenced.

a) Meet all targets to October 2017

I have a fairly in-detail financial plan for the next 2 years, and if I hit all the goals in that then in theory everything should be fine. We want to maintain the recommended “3 months” financial buffer for unexpected situations, and also need to assume the wedding expenses will shift somewhat, as not all suppliers have been nailed down yet.

b) Remortgage, and reduce the length of the mortgage

Our fixed rate mortgage expires in August, so I’m going to start investigating options from February onwards. The house has increased in value significantly, and in theory we should be able to get a good deal based on percentage we now have, which we will use to reduce the length of the mortgage (overpayment would achieve the same thing, but would be extra admin as the default result is a reduction in payment value, not number of payments). I want to have this sorted earlier rather than later...I’ll probably use the same mortgage advisor as last time, as she did a really good job...however she cannot work with some mortgage companies (most notably HSBC, who Gill and I bank with). Ideally this will be done by June.

c) Maintain the savings buffer

When we first started discussing the wedding, we agreed on a minimum amount of money we should retain in savings (the “3 months” value above). As it stands, we will be sailing close to the wind a few times this year as large payments come out (most notably the final payments due 6-8 weeks beforehand). With sufficient planning, I would like to ensure we never dip below that minimum threshold throughout the year...though realistically after September we should be OK.

7) Baking

Next year will be less about variety, and more about one very large project...the wedding cake. I’m also going to be doing favors.

I have an outline plan...a cupcake tower (~120 cupcakes), with a 20cm topper cake for cutting. The cupcakes will be 4-5 different flavours...some nailed down, some a bit up in the air. The topper will be a half’n’half cake done in a Hungarian dobos torte style of layers.

Ultimately, this is a logistics exercise. 120 cupcakes is 5 oven runs (24 cakes at a time), followed by a lot of icing and decorating. The flavours I have nailed down are;

  • Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Coffee and Walnut with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Strawberry and Vanilla with buttercream frosting
  • Chocolate (not fully defined here yet) with chocolate frosting

Options for the 5th one are;

  • Sticky Toffee Pudding
  • Caramel
  • Lemon/Orange
  • Savoury Pies

In terms of decoration, it should be immediately obvious what you have. The flavours will be on full display, and that will be key in determining which final flavour is brought in. I’ll be finalising the flavours in the first 3 months of the year, and then focusing on refining recipes, and working out a baking plan for 2-3 days before the wedding. The pies is a bit of a left-field entry, however I do quite like the idea of some small pork-pie’esque entries in there, and the presence of pies does have some meaning for me.

If that’s not enough, I’ll also be doing favours. 2 options here, with a chance I’ll do both.

  • Fudge
  • Biscuits

Fudge is the easy option...it can be done a couple of weeks in advance, and can be done in volume very easily. I had one look at buying some, laughed at the price companies charge for it (£1 - £1.20 a portion...where 3 bits is a portion. I’ve costed mine up, and it’s 4p a bit), and committed to doing it myself! The biscuit option is more involved, and while I have some ideas, I haven’t yet tried any, so will hold off on determining these as yet. Again, trials will happen in the first 3-4 months of the year, and then logistics will be planned in.

Moving all this on the day will be “fun”. On the plus side, I can drive now (sort of), however I’ll need to plan a route from the house to the venue. The default route goes through Burchetts Green, with some of the worst speed bumps you’ll ever see...not what you want when you have 120~ cakes in a car!

8) Get Married

The actual day should be quite easy. Turn up, speak, forget everyone’s name and try not to kill anyone. I think about 90% of the attendees will be Gill’s family, and it’s very much for her and them...I’m really just an extra. That said, I’m quite keen to try and avoid as many traditions as possible...I suspect this attitude will be the cause of many arguments between Gill and myself in the next 9 months. The big challenge is the planning in the lead-up. Apparently I have to wear trousers??! All day?

It will be a big paradigm shift for me, I am quite looking forward to the holiday afterwards though...


You bastard! I'm still halfway through writing mine!

I laughed at your weight chart. I'm currently 75kg, which is heavy for me. I'm going to have to sort that out.

Nothing sandbox-y, or with pointless RPG elements bolted on. No loot-boxes, microtransactions etc etc. I also need something that can be played in 1-2 hour chunks, as I realistically can’t dedicate time to long play sessions.

You've written a nice precis there on the plague that is modern gaming. They need to sort their shit out and stop throwing all of these mechanics needlessly into it. I like a Sandbox but I still feel that lack of any coherence ruins what could be a set of great games.

Your baking stuff sounds delicious, I'm looking forward to wrapping my face around them.


Avoiding the traditions takes expectation management, which should be done as soon as possible. You don't have to wear trousers. Wear whatever the fuck you like. Not lycra, tho. Please God not Lycra. You wear it well but people will want photos of the "happy couple" and not your power-moobs.

I think this paradigm shift is pivoting around a core belief that you don't need to get married. That makes absolute sense and still remains true after the fact. You don't need to now and you wouldn't have needed to after. You've proven to everyone that you and Gill can live as independent people while maintaining a complex relationship of tea bartering. That's proven. Your private promise to Gill that you'll stick about as her best mate was made years ago and repeating that in front of everyone is really a formality.

I didn't need to go to Florence with Kate but we did because she wanted to go there more than anything in the world. Didn't need to. I still don't need to now that we've gone but it meant so much to her so I know it was the right thing to do in the end.

For a chap who's introverted, it must be fucking terrifying in front of all those family members, so double respect to you.

brainwipe's picture

Weirdly Gill has also stipulated no lycra. Strange... otherwise I've had no thoughts on what I'm wearing, and Gill's expectations are remarkably low. I'm slightly gutted that animals are not allowed in the venue, otherwise I'd be scaring the crap out of everyone (and I would literally tell no-one, it would just suddenly come screaming down the barn over everyones head).

I still maintain that marriage is an absolute waste of time, and there was more commitment taking out a joint mortgage (after all, a divorce takes no time, but our credit records are now linked for at least the next 7 years...that is some serious shit right there). The main event is primarily (in fact almost exclusively) for Gill and her family. Fortunately I'm so bad with names I probably won't remember any of them.

That said, the honeymoon should be good. That is already sorted, as we wanted to make sure it was budgeted in properly (I've inflicted a costings spreadsheet on Gill that has double-entry bookkeeping, even my my own reckoning it'sexceptionally detailed). 9 nights in the Maldives (and another night getting there via Sri Lanka). We've picked one of the larger islands (I say large, it's about 1km end-to-end, and rather thin) to avoid going stir-crazy. I insisted the wedding was out of race season, so the honeymoon is basically my 2 weeks off the bike next year.

Games - if you look at games that have done well over a long period of time (Counter-Strike, LOL, Starcraft, recently PUBG, DOTA, Team Fortress) most have a reasonably short play-time (5 mins to an hour for a session). When you look in the Steam Top 100 you can spot old games like L4D2 as well. You do get the epic long-term games like Civ (5 still beating 6) and Stardew Valley, and a few RPG'esque ones (GTAV, Ark, Payday2). I suspect there is another chart somewhere with revenue, and stuff like GTAV is probably winning that one (I'm not fully aware of the monetisation of DOTA2 and CS:GO, though I do know the skins in CS:GO can be worth a fortune, due to all the gambling bullshit that went on this year).

I think Sandbox can work, but it needs to have a direction, otherwise it's easy to lose focus. I still think PUBG (or other Battle Royale games) have a good implementation of this...literally forcing players into a smaller and smaller area...a mechanism that also limits the session time in a suitable way. There are no "Eldar Invisible Base" tactics to use to pointlessly delay the game.

babychaos's picture

Ahh...how time flies. Actually feels like it has been dragging it's heels so far this year, with some fairy dire weather meaning that I'm well behind on my riding and racing. Due to the vagaries of holidays the end of the quarter clashes with Easter this year (to the un-mitigated joy of our finance department, who are all working on Sunday!), so thought I'd get this done now.

1) Retain 2nd Cat License

After a great start to the racing season in December, I've had a number of hurdles. Races have been cancelled for poor weather (torrential rain and snow, combined with wind, means that bunch bike racing is simply too dangerous). I'm on 16 points out of the 25 I need, which is still a good start to the year, however as the weather warms up more people will come out of hibernation...proven last Saturday when Hillingdon had a rare full race (80 racers on a 1 mile circuit, about 7 metres wide, led to a very claustrophobic, fast race, ending with a bunch kick I had no opportunity to contest). Racing kicks off fuly after Easter, with typically 2-3 races a week for me.

2) Top 5% in Closed Road Sportives

Pretty much confirmed I'm only doing one this year, that being RideLondon. I've had my confirmation through, still hopeful of a first-wave position based on my 2016 finish time.

3) Avoid the Performance Dip

...and here we start to wobble a bit. I had set out 3 key goals here...weight and nutrition, following the plan, and an end of year build for 2019.

The weight wobbled in February...I got out to Spain for a training camp at 65g, but since then I've faltered, and current at 66.5kg. I've actually had a couple of medical issues, most notably a fairly savage bout of sciatica in my right leg. That interrupted my training for a week early February, however with some treatment (basically intensly painful soft-tissue massages) and a metric fuck-ton of painkillers, I was able to ride (sciatica is weird...actually doesn't hurt riding, but standing/sitting/lying was excruciating). It's currently being controlled, and I'm able to continue training, however I'm getting occasional cramping phases during intense workouts. The weather has hit my motivation to train...by now I should be riding outside a lot more than I am, and it's taking a real kick in the arse to myself to get the evening sessions done. I'm hoping that I can get a decent block done over Easter (though the amount of rain showing on long-range forecasts right now is not ideal).

4) Discover 4 new Authors

I had sort of assigned this towards holidays, and having done my first trip, I have ticked off one new author (Annalee Newitz, book called Autonomous). Pretty decent actually, quite enjoyed it. I'm now rattling through some new books from some favourite authors, and need to sort out some reading for May, when I'm off to Mallorca for a week.

5) Complete 2 games of reasonable size

Smashed it! I decided to pick up a Nintendo Switch in January (Happy Birthday to me!). The PS4 simply wasn't getting used enough, as I was quite often too tired to settle down for a long-ish play session. The Switch is perfect for picking up and bashing through a level, and more importantly the games are quite often designed around that as well. I've currently polished off 3 games, and I'm bracing myself to go into Zelda:Breath of the Wild (the cartridge is in, but not yet started it, as I'm wary about the length of time it will take). I'm really impressed at the Switch in terms of hardware, and there was something remarkably satisfying playing Mario Kart on a plane to Spain, with the screen propped up on the meal tray.
Games finished;

  • Mario and Rabbids Kingdom Battle
  • Bayonetta
  • Bayonetta 2

I also have Mario Kart for a 5-minute blasts, as well a couple of co-op games I've trialled with Gill...Overcooked and Death-Squared. Overcooked makes her panic, Death-Squared works better as there is no time-limit, it's more about puzzle solving and communication. Finally I have Wonder Boy: The Dragons Trap...simply as I used to play it when it came out on the Master System, and I was fucking awful at it. I still am truely abysmal...

6) Have Good Finances

Again a multi-faceted goal. I'm ahead of track for all financial goals, and the re-mortgaging starts in April (initially speaking to the previous mortgage advisor, and the bank). The savings buffer is also good for now, thoguh most wedding stuff comes out 8 weeks before the day.

7) Baking

The 6 flavours for the wedding cupcakes have now been cofirmed, and I have 5 of the receipes nailed down as well

Next up is a complete run of the top cake (a 20cm round with multiple layers and a dark and white chocolate decoration), and then I'll be onto volume testing (I want to bake 24 cakes at a time in the oven, not 12, but need to check on the impact to cooking times). I have the ingredients list, which includes a rather hilarious 3.5kg of butter!

The favours will be fudge...I had a look at doing biscuits, but doing them to the standard I want would take too long.

8) Get Married

Working on it. We haven't killed each other yet. We have the first planning meeting with the venue in April, which will probably trigger mass panic in us both as we realise how little we've done. We do have a wedding license (and what a waste of time that process is), so legally we are all sorted. I still haven't decided what I'm wearing.

babychaos's picture

It's always wonderful to read through your goal progress because they're always so fucking awesome. I'll do an update on mine in a mo... but first some things...

Races have been cancelled for poor weather

You were ready for them; I'd say that was goal completed.

The weight wobbled in February

To give you a benchmark of someone who does fuck all... being someone whose always been roughly the same height/build as you, I'm 75.5kg.

pick up a Nintendo Switch in January

Zelda, by all accounts, is amazing. We're probably not going to hear from you again after that.... but it'll be worth it.

I'm ahead of track for all financial goals

NOT TO BE SNIFFED AT! This is exceptional given the financial climate. Inflation is at 3% (although utility tracking faster) and wage growth is stagnant. Also, Yell seems to still exist; so well done!

The 6 flavours for the wedding cupcakes have now been cofirmed,

Shitting hell.

Get Married

Looking forward to playing my part! When the weather turns, we'll get out and do some testing.

Don't forget to wear something you're happy in. Don't be cajoled into a fucking morning suit "just because". Wear New Rocks if you want!

brainwipe's picture

Actually, something I forgot to mention under the food/nutrition bit was the pressure/multi-cooker. After a bit of faffing, we got a couple of extra plugs added into the kitchen, which opened up an area of workspace that was previously sort-of unusable ( and so naturally just acquired clutter). It's now home to my all-important stand mixer, and a digital pressure cooker (I opted for a Tefal Cook4Me. It's a very clever bit of kit, and enables you to do 1-pot cooking very quickly. I'm typically using it a couple of times a week, and each time I'm making 3-4 meals, which then get stashed in the fridge/freezer...typical cooking times are about 20 minutes start to finish. This in turn has reduced the food bill by about 25% every week, and I'm eating more varied stuff too, rather than the same 3-4 meals every week.

I'm now eyeing up the microwave (which I bought the day I moved into Southwood Gardens almost 11 years ago...it was on special offer at B&Q when I went round there with Rob and Byrnie working out what I needed in a house!), and contemplating swapping it for a combi-oven/grill thing. We have a long-term plan to have the kitchen re-vamped in a few years (I want it bigger, with an island and some more serious oven hardware), but little things like a combi-oven will give me some more options in the short term.

In terms of what I'll wear for the wedding, I'm probably going to rent (lets face it, chances of me ever wearing it again are vanishingly low), and top of my list is "must be comfortable, and not too hot". I'm the sort of person who feels warm most of the time (slightly over-active metabolism), and I basically live in t-shirts (Gill had a go at me for wearing shorts to the supermarket when it was snowing). I also don't want something that feels like I'm wearing a tent (normal issue I have with dress shirts, they seem to be made for people with a chest size twice mine). The wedding planning meeting could well spur me into action, once I realise that my jobs are more than "turn up, bring cake". I also have to order my wedding ring, as that is coming from the US.

babychaos's picture

This pressure cooker thing - does it make meals like a slow cooker but quickly?

(Gill had a go at me for wearing shorts to the supermarket when it was snowing)

But Gill is northern!

Will you be sporting a tie at your wedding? When wearing posh stuff in hot climates, the RAF wear short sleeved, very thin posh-shirts under a jacket. That might solve your heat problem while at the same time giving you something casual for after the ceremony and shit. No-one will know until later, at which point they will be too jollied up to care. :)

brainwipe's picture

Pressure cooker...sort of. It's got an induction ring built in, so you can brown stuff off before cooking it, then the big differences are temperature and moisture.

Slow Cookers are really low temperature (~80'C), and a non-sealed system, so they will lose moisture over the course of several hours (so sauces will thicken up). Pressure cookers run at ~120'C, and notably the liquid and steam is the same temperature. If you work on the approximation that 10'C higher temperatures double the speed of a reaction then a pressure cooker will operate about 4x faster than boiling something, and 16x faster than a slow cooker. They don't, however, really lose any liquid (really just the initial steam created to generate the pressure, which is ejected at the end) so some recipes for slow cookers won't work in pressure cookers (the modern digital ones have loads of safe-guards, so if there is not enough starting liquid to build pressure correctly, they will abort).

End result is that its really good for some things...I've had great success with risottos (no stirring needed, as the temperature is constant), stews, cassaroles and some pasta-based stuff. If a stew/cassarole does not have a thickening item (potato, rice, pasta) in it, then it will probably come out watery (Gill had this with a beef and mushroom cassarole she tried). It will also apparently do amazing pulled pork (takes 4 hours in the oven, and about 45 minutes in a pressure cooker), a whole chicken in 30 minutes, and they are also apparently awesome for cheesecake, which is definitely on the list. These are the sort of things that are definitely not within the remit of a slow cooker. I did the best ever mashed potato using it...cooked the potatoes for 12 minutes, put them through a potato ricer with no butter/milk added, and it was insanely creamy (served with a pie...obviously. The comedy being the pie takes a couple of hours to make, as I did my own puff pastry).

It has other features, like once it's finished cooking it will auto-release the pressure, and then use the induction ring to keep the contents hot (but as it's sealed, it doesn't dry out)...this is great in the evening, as I can load it up, set it off, then go train, and when I'm done there is a hot meal ready to go. That said, most meals are done in under 20 minutes, with prep typically a case of "chop this up, brown this off, add a jug of stock and put the lid down". There is an app that connects via Bluetooth that walks you through the recipe, and does all the timings etc...it's all remarkably simple and hard to fuck up. You can also use it to re-heat stuff...chuck it in, put the lid down and it will bring it upto heat and maintain it without boiling it dry.

All in all, it's a very handy tool for someone who just wants some decent food fast. I'm quite happy spending hours baking, but when it comes to basic food, I just want it quick, and reasonably healthy.

babychaos's picture

A pressure cooker is something I keep meaning to add to my kitchen arsenal and the self contained electric ones have really been getting popular these days. A lot of my recent experimentations in cooking, the slow cooker, sous vide cooking, take a lot of time (some of the sous vide recipes call for days of cooking) so having the same sort of throw it in a pot goodness of a slow cooker but where it doesn't take 6-8 hours of cooking would be nice.

Evilmatt's picture

Inspired by your post I had a look at the tefal unit but it seemed to be hard to get in the US as well as hilariously expensive at 500 dollars some four times the price of other brands so I did a bit of research and settled on the Instantpot Duo recommended over at wirecutter. It was also available at my local target for the bargain price of 100 bucks so I grabbed on on the way home today.

It's not as fancy as the tefal and doesn't have an app or built in recipes but it has the main electric pressure cook functionality. I looked up some recipes and decided to try making a honey garlic chicken. Pretty simple brown some chicken thighs (the machine has a browning mode) then add a mix of soy garlic honey ketchup a few spices seal it up and blast it for 20 minutes. It came out really well delicious flavours with very tender chicken.

I'll definitely have to try some other things, I saw a recipe for taco carnitas, red beans and rice, mesquite ribs, and various chili's and such I'd like to try out.

Evilmatt's picture

I was actually looking at Instant Pots, however they are remarkably hard to get hold of in the UK, and typically a generation or two behind the ones in the US. There are a lot of resources out there for Instant Pots, they are the poster-child of the modern pressure cooker!

I've done a similar recipe to the one you tried...and the meat does come out exceptionally tender. I did another one with chicken drumsticks, and the meat was properly "fall off the bone". I do like how you can use much cheaper cuts of meat, and get amazing results.

babychaos's picture

I'd heard people raving about instant pot's (a friend of mine who doesn't really cook even got one but inadequately explained what it was) but until now hadn't been bothered with finding out what they actually were (I figured some sort of super pot noodle :D).

Yeah being able to use the cheaper meats and get great results is something that both slow cookers and sous vide were also great at but now it takes 20 min rather than a week :D

Evilmatt's picture

Halfway through the year...been a mixed few months.

1) Retain 2nd cat license - Done! I'm now on 42 points (I needed 25)...had a bit of a dip in April/May, but latter half of May and June I got a bit of form, and was regularly getting myself into breaks. Admittedly I was coming last in the break (6 times this year!), but it basically means I kept getting 4-6 points from races. I've not done well in road races (as opposed to closed circuit races, which is most of the stuff I do)...a bad race in April ,where the road surfaces were atrocious got me a bit nervous in large packs on rough roads...something to work on next year.

As an aside, I was asked "where do you rank in the country?". Actually a pretty hard question, as there is not a single ranking system for all racers. Elite and 1st cat riders only score points and are ranked at a National level, while 2nd and 3rd cat riders score points at a Regional and National level. I did some data-mining on the British Cycling website, made some assumptions, and got a sort of ballpark figure. British Cycling claim there are 35,000 people with a race license in the UK. Of those, about 4,000 have scored one or more points (I can only see people who have scored at least one point by mining the website). If we assume Elites and 1st cat riders are all better than me (safe assumption), then I'm currently about 350th for 2nd cats based on points, so I'm (very roughly) about 550th in the country....though I must re-iterate that there are an awful lot of assumptions in that.

2) Top 5% in closed road sportives - RideLondon is 4 weeks away. I've done one other sportive...an open-roads event called London Revolution Ultra...it started and finished at Windsor Racecourse, and went over, then through London in one day, for a total distance of 300km (~185 miles). There were about 300 starters, and I set off in the first group, sitting on the front of the pack for 40km as we along some of my local training roads...I thinned the group down to 10, then it all kicked off over Bledlow Ridge, with 4 of us still on the front at the other side. Once we were through London we were down to 3, then another dropped off as we went over Biggin Hill to the south of London...where it also started to rain. The one lad left with me was swinging by that point, and I towed him to and over the Surrey Hills, but with about 30 miles to go he dropped off, and I did the final stretch solo...came in about half an hour ahead of anyone else, much to the confusion of the organsiers, who were not expecting any one-day riders back so soon. I then confused/depressed them when I was interviewed over the tannoy by saying I was going to ride home (~25km), then eat a pizza and watch Eurovision. My longest ever day in the saddle, with 11.5 hours moving, and averaging 19mph/30kmh...would have been much quicker without the stop/start of central London.

3) Avoid the Performance Dip - I've managed to keep my racing results pretty consistent, though I have put on a bit of weight. The next month will be a bit mixed, as I have some personal things coming up that will affect racing/training...though as I have hit the points target, I'm a little less worried about that. I've managed to avoid any re-occurance of the sciatica by not using the Wattbike...all my training has been outside, which definitely helps.

4) Discover 4 new Authors - I've ticked off 3 more authors, so have hit target.

  • Martha Wells - City of Bones / Wheel of the Infinite - both pretty good, and I've got some more of her stuff queued up
  • de Bodard - Tea Master and the Detective - didn't like it, nearly didn't bother finishing it
  • Clare North - The first 15 lives of Harry August - really good, I'll definitely be reading more of her stuff

I have a handful of other books queued up on the Kindle, so will almost certainly go well over target on this one.

5) Complete 2 games of reasonable size - I have something to admit here...I don't really like Zelda. I've tried to like it, and I can see why people do like it...but for me, the story is far too vague, and there is not enough direction to it. I've instead found myself playing Stardew Valley a lot instead...which while it is also a "do what you want" game, there is a lot of direction in the core challenges. My farm is currently built around high profitability, and growing/attaining a lot of the items I need to rebuild the local Community Centre. I'm really quite proud of it, though I may have to reduce my animal volumes, as they take too much looking after, and are impacting the time I can spend clearing out the mines...

6) Have good finances - Money is still all on target, and as such I can spend my bonus on a treat for myself (see the other post I've done today), rather than use it to prop my finances up. The re-mortgage is pretty much done...it completes at the start of September, but it's all agreed and paid for. We've kept payments the same, but due to the increase in value of the house we've been able to take 6 years off the mortgage duration. Once we are post-wedding, we'll come up with a financial plan for the next 5 years to hopefully trim that down again when we come up to re-mortgage...so hopefully no matter what shit goes on in the next couple of years, we should be in a decent place to cope with it.

7) Baking - I now have all the recipes sorted for the wedding...the one missing one was the top cake...I did a couple of variations, but was not really happy with any of them, so sat down and re-designed it. The end result was a Triple Chocolate Torte, decorated with red velvet macarons. It passed the "bloody hell" test at work (in that when you bring it in, someone should say "bloody hell" when they see it).

8) Get Married - Still on track...she hasn't left me yet!

babychaos's picture

where do you rank in the country?


BLOODY HELL. You should make more of that, mate. As shonky and unofficial as that number is, even the order of its magnitude is impressive!

Can you use the calculation for next year to give you a "Ganderton Comparison"?

I then confused/depressed them when I was interviewed over the tannoy by saying I was going to ride home (~25km), then eat a pizza and watch Eurovision

This made me so proud to be your friend.

I don't really like Zelda

I only finished the one on the Wii because Felix wanted to know the ending. There's so much fucking back and forth and shitty jumping puzzles that I wanted to kill by the end of it.

My farm is currently built around high profitability, and growing/attaining a lot of the items I need to rebuild the local Community Centre. I'm really quite proud of it

We fucking need to see this. Have you played with any of the "relationship" mechanics? Are you married?

Would you fancy joining us on a Sunday night in the future to play a bit of Stardew multiplayer with EMW, Big R and I? No need to commit to anything, I can drop you a mesage. We use Discord to mock each other.

she hasn't left me yet!

Nice work. Marriages can put a real strain on the everyone.


Can't wait to see it!

brainwipe's picture

The country ranking thing can be very misleading. The top ranked domestic rider in the country happens to be local, and coached by the same person as me...I've ridden with him in races a few times, and he's on a different level. 19th in the country (Stephen Bradbury) lives just round the corner...he can (and has) competed at international level on the track and road. It's fair to say the difference between the top 100 riders and the mid 2nd cats like myself is massive. It's similar to when I was (briefly) inside the top 50 for Foosball in the UK...anyone in the top 10 would easily put me in the box.

After my exploits on the Revolution Ultra, I had a lot of people tell me to do 12-hour time trialling (yeah, that's a thing...ride as far as you can in 12 hours. A very good result is 300 miles, so that's 25mph average), as my average power for the 11.5 hours was pretty decent (230 watts normalised average), and if I could repeat that in a decent aerodynamic posture then I'm probably net a top-10 time in the Nationals. Mentally, however, I'm pretty sure I couldn't hunch myself into a ball for that long (also have to consider fuelling, hydration, and the small issue with buying a full TT, as my TT bike is very out of date and slow by current standards). It's a huge mental challenge to push yourself to the limit for that long, while just doing laps of an A-Road.

babychaos's picture

I quite enjoyed Martha Well's Murderbot diaries two books out in that series first of which is "All Systems Red" which revolve around a security robot that has overridden it's "obey all humans" governor software calls itself murderbot and rather than go on a killing rampage binge watches space netflix instead. They are short books but fun I keep meaning to check out her other work to see if it's as good.

Evilmatt's picture

I'm waiting on them all being released before picking them up...I suspect they would be better read as a single blast.

Of the two I've read, I think City of Bones was the better book, definite;y worth a read.

Regarding Stardew Valley...my copy is on the Switch...if/when the multiplayer update is rolled out, if it's cross-play it would be a definite chuckle to link it all up. I did try and do a quick walkthrough of my farm, but currently limited to 30 second clips, and it took 2-3 minutes to walk through...

babychaos's picture

I'm gonna get this quarters update done a week early, as next week shit officially kicks off big time, and I'm probably going to be fairly busy.

The last 3 months has probably been one of the most challenging I've ever had. At the end of June Gill was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer, and that pretty much put life on hold for a while. Despite it being shit news, the diagnosis and treatment has gone well...in fact pretty much as well as it could have gone. There were a number of decision points and steps where we may have had to cancel the wedding, however in every case the result was positive. The cancer was diagnosed early and had not spread to the lymph nodes...the surgery went well, with no complications. The NHS were amazing, and were able to speed up the surgery waiting time due to our circumstances...we then went private for the post-surgery treatment, primarily to speed things up (there was a test that needed to be done, which required tissue samples to be shipped to California. The NHS time was 4 weeks, and with Private we had results in 2 weeks). This came back saying that chemotherapy was not required, and radiotherapy could start immediately (again, with the NHS there would have been a 2-3 week delay). As it currently stands Gill finished radiotherapy last week, and while there are some expected lingering after-effects, the wedding is going ahead. The 4-5 weeks we saved by going private basically meant we could actually get married.

Of course, to complicate things my back decided to give way. I'd previously had a bout of sciatica in February...at the time we attributed this to an excessive amount of indoor cycle training during the poor weather. In July, a couple of weeks after Gills surgery, it came back in a significnatly more savage way. I initially tried physio to alleviate it, however it worsened and I was unable to walk, sit or stand...after a couple of trips to the GP I was signed off work, referred to a consultant and handed a large amount of painkillers. The consultant referral took longer than I really wanted (pro tip: if you're going to have a failed back, don't do it over summer as everyone goes on holiday), but once I was seen and scanned in an MRI the diagnosis was a Disc Protrusion at the S5L1 Joint. The cause? Probably driving it turns out. The February bout would have been triggered by the lessons, and initial attempts at driving around, and this bout would have been driving Gill to and from hospital/doctors and a trip up to see her family. I've had a steroid injection in the back, and along with some strong anti-inflammatories and physio exercises the issue is being managed, however there are still symptoms. The current plan is to get through the wedding and honeymoon, and then if symptoms continue I'll probably opt for surgery to trim the protruding disc down to size. I'll probably never drive again, certainly not for more than 20-30 minutes...it's simply not worth the risk of 4-6 weeks of being completely crippled.

So, a challenging few months...but we are out the other side of it, and (with 3 weeks to go) the wedding is on. Resolutions have had to take a back seat to everything else really.

1) Retain 2nd Cat License - now really glad I got this done early in the year, as I haven't raced since June, and my training volume has dropped right off (from 13-14 hours a week to less than 4 during the worst of the sciatica and back issues). I'm now in a maintainence training plan, and I'll look to start the ramp-up to the 2019 season once I'm back off the honeymoon.

2) Top 5% in Closed Road Sportives - my back gave way the week before RideLondon, so I didn't ride...you can't defer 2 years on the trot (this time last year I had a broken wrist) so I've probably lost my "good-for-age" position now. I had said this was the last year I was going to do it (as it's a logistical ball-ache) so not overly worried. I've ended up doing 2 sportives in total this year (open roads), and "won" them both. THe Revolution Ultra I did back in May, and I also did the Wallingford Flyer...I was marshalling a race in the afternoon, and we got free entry to the "short" 60km option, but I reckoned I could do the longer 120km one and still be back in time. I was right, and as a random aside also beat everyone else back by half an hour. Not that it was a race of course.

3) Avoid the Performance Dip - this one got thrown on the bonfire in June. Weight is right out the window, at somewhere between 68 and 70kg. I've been doing as much training as a I physically can, rather than following any improvement plan. I was able to attend my own stag do (that would have been awkward) which was 4 days riding mountains out in Nice, southern France...but I was a fair way off in terms of fitness...however not as far as I had expected.

If you like numbers, then on the last day we did a hard effort up a fairly famous (cycling) climb...Col D'Eze. I'd done an identical time in April last year. It's just shy of 10km long, with an average gradient of 5%, but starting steep (10% for 2.5km), then a couple of plateaus and ramps. In April 2017 I did it in 28m37s, averaging 308 Watts. This week I did it in 29m48s (1m13s slower), with an average of 287w (21w lower). For reference the fastest "Pro" who has logged a time and power up there was a german chap called Simon Geschke, with a time of 21m09s and a power of 389W. There are faster times (20m times), but power was not recorded for those, as Pro's can be a little precious about their numbers.

4) Discover 4 new authors - One plus side to being crippled is that you do have some time to read! I've ticked off a fair number of books, with a smattering of new authors in there;

  • Peter Watts - Firefall (fairly meh, basically 2 books stuck together)
  • Emma Newman - Planetfall (really dull...didn't like it)
  • Gareth L Powell - Ack-Ack Macaque Omnibus (good mindless fun, plenty of action and energy)
  • Edgar Cantero - Meddling Kids (a very good book, based on a Scooby Do/Famous Five group encountering actual occult as adults)

I've also read new books by EM Foner, Becky Chambers, Joseph Lallo and Adam Roberts.

5) Complete 2 games of reasonable size - I've been playing on-and-off on the Switch...Dead Cells has taken up a lot of my time, as it's excellent (if impossible to finish really). On my stag-do I took the Switch, a small HDMI adaptor, 4 controllers and Mario Kart, and that saw a _lot_ of play time. Turns out racing cyclists are very competitive about that sort of thing.

I do now have a PC gaming setup (my Dell XPS13 laptop, linked to an Aorus Gaming Box with a GTX1080, and a mechanical keyboard and mouse). I've not physically been able to play many games on it yet (sitting up has only recently become viable), but I have a couple of games I picked up cheap that I'm hoping to attack once life calms down a bit.

6) Have good finances - Once again fortunately we sorted out the re-mortgage early, before all the chaos. The re-mortgage completed at the beginning of September (with a couple of hiccups, but all managed and resolved fairly quickly). The wedding is (currently, as I speak) under budget, and the joint savings account is looking healthier than expected. I can't promise that will survive the next 3 weeks though.

7) Baking - next weekend is the trial bake run...half volumes on all cupcakes (so _only_ 72 of them), and the top cake as a complete run. I have (I think) all the items I need (cupcake cases, a display tower, storage boxes), so it's really down to recipes and logistics now. The trial run is scheduled over 3 days (Saturday, Sunday, Monday), and I'll be selling them at work on the Tuesday, with proceeds going to Macmillan (for obvious reason). The main run is over 4 days, however I'm hoping that I have a bit of spare time and it's not full blast for all those days.

8) Get Married - despite everything, still going ahead.

babychaos's picture

I think I speak for all reading this that you've both kept your shit together amazingly given the unutterable summer you've had. Life has kicked each of you once and again but you've ploughed on undaunted. Maximum respect to you both.

I'll probably never drive again

AH HA! So we see the conspiracy of it! I see, I see. I get the picture. "If I bunk of work complaining about back ache, they give me the best drugs and I don't have to be a 4 wheeled wanker anymore!". Well played, well played. ;-)

I reckoned I could do the longer 120km one and still be back in time. I was right, and as a random aside also beat everyone else back by half an hour. Not that it was a race of course.

Everything. Is. A. Race.

I must admit being surprised that you went on your Nice holiday given your back but then backs are funny things; you can be fine in one position but fucked in another (seemingly easier) position. The pictures coming off the back of it were ace.

I'm always keen to read about the Switch as I think Felix is going to save up for one. Dead Cells does look like good fun, I might seek out the Steam version.

72 cupcakes. Just saying.
Seventy Two.

brainwipe's picture

I think the best of the Switch is yet to come...now that games for it are regularly hitting the topseller list, more of the big developers are supporting it (helped by Nintendo's decision to build the Switch out of generic parts, rather than a lot of bespoke chipsets, making ports much easier than it was for the Wii and Wii-U). Civ 6 is coming out in Novermber, Diablo 3 is on the horizon, and a lot of board game conversions are out next year. the boardgames will work a treat with the couch co-op potential. For portability, I had the switch, extra controllers, the power adaptor and a third party USB-C to HDMI adaptor which also works for my laptop (which allowed us to watch the final stages of the Vuelta Espana on the big TV in the house). Apaprt from the power adaptor (and I could probably have used my laptop one) it all fit in third party carrying case which makes shipping it around a doddle (my flight bag now consists of a small laptop, mouse, keyboard, Switch, Kindle and noise-cancelling headphones...apart from having to completely empty it through Security, I have most delays covered...)

I'd say the only downside is the relatively high cost of games (there is a definite Nintendo tax going on), but for the convinence of playing on the go, and not having to take over a TV all the time, it's worth it. For pissing people off on a flight next to you, it's priceless.

babychaos's picture

I'm just finalising the baking plan. I've (obviously) got it all in a spreadsheet, and just pivoted up the shopping/ingredients list (this is for the final bake, not the trial one thats happening this weekend)

babychaos's picture


Still, you're saving yourself a load of money; bought cakes cost WAAAAY more.

brainwipe's picture

Yeah, that was one of the driving factors. This will serve ~160 portions that are way more generous than a traditional wedding cake "finger" portion (144 cupcakes, and another 16 slices of the top cake, which includes a maracon). The cheapest quote for cupcakes (undecorated, single flavour) was £2.50 a cake...then a basic (un-decorated) topcake was another £75. So £435, for plain vanilla cakes. Plus delivery. For reference, a basic cupcakes ingredients are about 25p from Waitrose...and if you shop around you can get sub 20p. I suspect what Im going for would have cost 4 digits from a supplier.

My list price is inflated, mainly around the lightweight ingredients (for example the spices in the carrot cake are done by weight, where I assume 1tsp = 5g, whic his incorrect). Also, egg yolks and whites are priced separately, but they sort of come in a 2-for-1 deal (ditto for fruit juice and zest).

The favours were as bad. The "preferred supplier" of the venue did bags of fudge for £1 each...these bags were 3 cubes of fudge. On saturday I made 2.5kg of fudge as a starter (it keeps well, so I can prepare if well in advance). That will make ~300 pieces. Ingredients for the entire thing were about £2.50. The bags were £5 off eBay for 200 of them. The only downside to making fudge is that the bloody stuff is like napalm if it gets on your skin.

babychaos's picture

Well, this year went to rat-shit about halfway through. Excepting the fortnight around the marriage, it's been the hardest year I can recollect in a long time. Many goals went right out of the window.

1) Retain 2nd cat license - In retrospect it was very fortunate that this one was targetted and done early, as I havent ridden competitively since June, and not ridden outside since September. I highly doubt I'll hold the license next year, as I suspect I'll spend most of my time trying to get back some of the fitness I'll have lost (it's a lot, I have numbers).

2) Top 5% in Closed Road Sportives - didn't actually do any cloed-road sportives this year...the one i was down to do I had to drop out. Im probably not going to sign up for anymore...they are expensive, and more hassle than riding and enjoying local roads.

3) Avoid the Performance Dip - Oh boy. OK, this has gone badly. Lets have a look at my distance logs for this year

Good until the end of May (when we went to Majorca), then inconsistent, followed by disasterous as various things went wrong and broke. Current medical estimates are that I may be able to get back on the bike in January, depending on how treatment goes in the next week or so. I conservatively think it will take 3-6 months to get myself back to where I was, so with a bit of luck I may be competitive for the second half of 2019, but there are a lot of dependencies on that.

4) Discover 4 new authors - If it can be called an upside, I've had plenty of time to read! I've tapped through 30 books this year (and there are a couple of omnibus editions in there as well), of various styles. Some good, some bad, plenty of new authors, and a fair bit of re-visiting old ones as well. Specifically new authors are S.J Morden, Rob Boffard, Peter Watts, N.K. Jemisin, Martha Wells, Gareth L Powell, Emma Newman, Edgar Cantero, de Bodard, Claire North and Annalee Newitz.

Favourite book was probably "The First 15 Lives of Harry August", and least favourite was "The Tea Master and the Detective", which was so painful to read that I didn't finish it.

One Way S.J. Morden
Outer Earth: The Complete Trilogy Rob Boffard
The Freeze-Frame Revolution Peter Watts
Firefall Peter Watts
The Soldier (Rise of the Jain Book 1) Neal Asher
The Stone Sky: The Broken Earth, Book 3 N. K. Jemisin
The Obelisk Gate: The Broken Earth, Book 2 N. K. Jemisin
The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1 N. K. Jemisin
Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries Martha Wells
Rogue Protocol: The Murderbot Diaries Martha Wells
Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries Martha Wells
All Systems Red : The Murderbot Diaries Martha Wells
Wheel of the Infinite Martha Wells
City of Bones Martha Wells
Cipher Hill (Free-Wrench Book 5) Joseph Lallo
Beta Testers (Big Sigma) Joseph Lallo
Stealing Light (Shoal Sequence Book 1) Gary Gibson
Ack-Ack Macaque: The Complete Trilogy Gareth L. Powell
Planetfall (Planetfall 1) Emma Newman
Meddling Kids Edgar Cantero
Magic Test (AI Diaries Book 3) E. M. Foner
Human Test (AI Diaries Book 2) E. M. Foner
Turing Test (AI Diaries Book 1) E. M. Foner
Career Night on Union Station E. M. Foner
LARP Night on Union Station E. M. Foner
The Tea Master and the Detective de Bodard
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Claire North
Record of a Spaceborn Few: Wayfarers 3 Becky Chambers
Autonomous Annalee Newitz
Jack Glass Adam Roberts

5) Complete 2 Games of Reasonable Size - done early in the year...latter half of the year has seen me playing less linear games (Diablo 3, Dead Cells, Mario Kart) more. Special Mention should goto Mario Kart, which saw massive play during my stag do...being able to take out a full console with 4 controllers, and a HDMI link in a small case in my hand luggage was amazing, and most evenings descended into abuse and red shell slinging. Mario Kart is a game that non-gamers will happily play for hours.

6) Have Good Finances - All 3 sub-sections done. We'd set a financial limit of not dipping below £5K in any of the savings accounts we have prior to the wedding, and with a bit of management we were able to be well clear of that acros the board. The re-mortgage was fortunately sorted out well in advance, so when the shit hit the fan in June/July we didn't have to do anything (apart from an evening of chaos when the solicitor mucked up on the completion date). We now know where we are financially for the next 5 years on the house (and it's quite good being able to see the mortgage real-time, as we are now with HSBC across the board, so we can see all our accounts), so can try and plan some stability while the shitstorm that is Brexit howls along.

7) Baking - the main goal here was "make the wedding cake", and it all went well. A fortnight before the wedding I did a trial run at ~75% of the full volume, and was able to put in place a very good plan. I ended up producing a booklet and spreadsheet (more details here) so that I didn't really have to think, I could just do.I was really happy with the final cake...I'm not great at presentation, but think I came up with something that looked the part witout being too overtly faffy. Based on some initial quotes I got I reckon with the cake and favours combined we saved in the region of £1000 compared to going with a local wedding supplier.

8) Get Married - It very nearly didn't happen. There were a number of points from June through to September when if something had turned out differently, we would have had to cancel. Gill's treatment for cancer ended in September, and any complications would have caused us to delay or cancel everything. Add in my inability to walk until the first week in September (I had a nerve root blocker injection that lasted about 6 weeks...it ran out pretty much as we were getting off the honeymoon), and it was not a great build up.

So that was 2018, a year that put up some challenges. It will definitely be one I remember...got married, changed my name, felt like I aged 30 years in 3 months and joined the "you need specialist travel insurance" club for all the wrong reasons. 2019 will be about re-building, and stabilising.

babychaos's picture