i mentioned cerelac in my last post about powdered food, and then i thought: how come i haven’t written about something so portuguese?!

every country has its own way to feed babies, and for a while in portugal, the staple was a fortified, sweet cereal concoction that toddlers inevitably fell in love with. the texture and taste are so reminiscent of a certain period of our childhood that nowadays, i think it’s mostly consumed by nostalgic adults who can’t get its catchy jingle out of their heads… :P

the whole thing was brought to portugal by egas moniz, our medicine nobel. he was a big fan of nestlé’s ideas and got the licensing to produce this particular kind of baby food in his hometown of avanca, where years prior he had set up a milk powder plant. over the years, he adapted cerelac’s formula to the national tastes and started using milk from the azores.

over 80 years later, cerelac is still being made there and exported to lots of countries, delighting children grown-ups all around the world. :)

analogue wednesday #139

more crops from R4R-31, which melissa and i collaborated on. featuring two things i like: neons and the barbican! <3

a week of powdered food

a while back, we spent a week eating just meal replacements, for the sake of the experiment. i love self-experimenting and stuff like soylent intrigued me… so after some reddit research, we ordered a bunch of jimmy joy and just went for it!

on a monday morning bright and early, we made our first plenny shake with lukewarm water, adjusting the quantities to our daily needs.

i confess the taste was my biggest fear — would it be too sweet? too grainy or gritty? turns out, neither! they all taste vaguely like oatmeal with hints of fruit or chocolate and definitely don’t feel weird or too sweet. the consistency is that of a thickened milkshake, and the best description we could come up with for the taste was “watered-down cerelac” — not a bad thing in my book! we tried all their current flavors: banana, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, mango, plain and cappuccino (with coffee), and even mixed a bit of leftover powder to make a sort of tutti-frutti flavor. :D they were all ok, some more true to their flavor than others, but never overpowering or off-putting. banana was our favorite, with vanilla and chocolate being close seconds.

we had 3 meals per day and tried to space our meals more or less 5 hours apart, so we could have a break in the middle of the day, and ended up not feeling particularly hungry at any time. turns out, drinking a thick milkshake can be quite filling! we drank ours in the terrace, enjoying the sunshine and getting some extra vitamin D in the process.

so… did we like it? unexpectedly, yes — a lot! :D

after giving it a try, i can definitely understand the allure on different levels, but especially if someone lacks the time, skills or motivation to cook. as every adult who leaves their parent’s home quickly discovers, cooking (and cleaning!) is a time-consuming activity which you end up doing most days of your life. so by not having to shop, cook or clean, one can easily save some time. it also makes it super easy to make sure you get all the nutrition and calories you need (and not more), which can be hard if you’re normally not in control of the things you eat, or you’re always on the go.

actually not having to worry about food, made me realize how much i worried about food on a normal week. even with our very streamlined meals (we mostly eat eggs for breakfast or soup for dinner, for instance), i would randomly find myself thinking about whether i had something prepared, or whether i had remembered to defrost the soup… before reminding myself that i didn’t have to do that.

some friends asked us whether it was boring, and it’s hard to say. i like eating, and i enjoy a good meal, but if i’m being honest, 80% of the meals we eat are nothing to write home about — just a way to get nutrition in our bodies. so eating the same thing over and over for a while doesn’t really bother me — but i guess it could be different for different people.

another thing we were asked was whether it was expensive, and honestly, i don’t think so. i ordered €80’s worth of meal replacements which i thought would last us a week, but we ended up using less than that after adjusting for nutrition, so maybe €70/week would have been a better estimation. my grocery bill for a week of meals for 2 doesn’t usually go that high… but in the end, i don’t think the difference is that significant, especially when you factor in the time saved.

the one thing i didn’t like about it was all the plastic packaging. as someone who shops mostly in the farmer’s market, i’m able to avoid most wrappings and just shove produce into my basket or re-use the same plastic bags until they fall apart. but with meal replacements, that’s impossible and it bothers me. so for now, a compromise: we’re using them as planters for all the cuttings we’re growing at the moment, extending the packaging’s lifespan until they end up in the recycling bin.

the plants seem to like it too! :)

ps – funny enough, on the week we did this experiment, our gas company decided to do some impromptu repairs which left us gas-less for most of the day. no problem though — we didn’t need it!


this last tool on the mini-productivity list is admittedly a bit weird, but bear with me because i think it has merit to it. it’s called beeminder, and the tagline is “reminders with a sting“.

so, here’s how it works: you set up a quantifiable goal, and commit yourself to reaching it within a certain amount of time. beeminder plots a nice graphic that shows you the yellow brick road, ie, is the path within which you must stay in, in order to reach that goal. the goals can be anything: read or write a certain amount, go to the gym, reach a certain weight, etc. and there are a number of integrations that import data automatically.

what happens when you don’t stay on the yellow road? that’s where it gets interesting. for every day over the line, beeminder will charge you — the amount is configurable, but increases over time. you don’t have to put in a credit card to give it a try, but it really helps make the threat credible. oh! and you can pause or delete your goals, but any changes you make will only take effect a week from now, to prevent any sneaky weaseling.

here is my “go 100 times to the gym in one year” goal:

i’m well above the threshold and could stay flat for another 42 days until i was charged $5. i’m not planning to de-rail on it, but i like the looming threat on the horizon, combined with the graphic representation of each goal. it’s a neat way to follow your progress and keep yourself in check.

so there you go, this is my trio of productivity tools! they’re a weird bunch, but hey… whatever works, right? :D

ps – do you use any other tools that i should check out?


the second tip on this mini-productivity list is a bit radical, but if you’re an habitual internet-fueled procrastinator, maybe you’ll appreciate the ruthlessness of the self-control app.

this is the thing: i know there are people who are able to do all the hard things or watch unfazed from a distance as distractions float around them… but i’m definitely not one of them. my mind is a whirlwind of ideas and connections, a place where the instant gratification monkey has both hands firmly on the wheel.

and this is where self-control comes in. the app is really basic: you feed it a blacklist of websites where you don’t want to go, and it blocks them for as long as you’d like. until the timer expires, you won’t be able to access those websites — not even restarting the computer or deleting the app makes it go away. alternatively, you can use it with a whitelist, setting only the websites which you want to be allowed to open for that period of time.

i use it to block all kinds of social media, news sites or search engines where my random thoughts inevitably lead me. i turn it on when it’s still early and i’m filled with good intentions, and set the timer for when i’ll probably need a break. and so in the meantime, whenever a stray thought comes in or i feel an urgent need to know more about the endemic cabbages of kerguelen islands, the browser just refuses the connection and i’m thrown back to work — easy peasy.

it’s a very effective way to “burn your ships” and make sure you don’t have to rely on your own self-control to be focused. the fact that you can’t weasel your way around the restrictions is what makes it work for me — there’s nothing else to do but work, and after a while, it’s easy to get the groove going and forget about the other thoughts.

if you’re easily distracted by all the shiny things online, i heartily recommend it.