Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Reflections on regrets of the Dying

It has been a memorable week for our little family. Transition week for the 11 year old to senior school. the 10 year old away on adventures with her school. I've seen photos on the school blog of her rock climbing and swinging off high wires so all is well there then! Add to that indoor sky diving and western horse riding we've been pretty active. So why the reflective mood?

Partly because we could have lost my nephew on Sunday. It is not uncommon for young men to die on the race tracks. Several are killed or maimed every year. He's not bothered but I am. Add to that the souls shot on the beach in Tunisia and imagining how it must feel to lose a loved one so suddenly and unexpectedly.

This little book is adorable. The author, Bronnie Ware, comes over as so gentle, loving and delightful. I won't spoil it for you if you have not read it but I do recommend it. I often have purges and de-clutter my books but this one is a keeper. It is moving and thought provoking. It is so easy to forget to live amidst the daily hustle of work and the things our days are filled with. So easy to forget to be mindful. I think I need to read more about Gandhi.

Who do you most love in your life and what would you regret most at your own end of life?

5 regrets of the dying

Monday, 29 June 2015

Dangerous sports

My nephew loves motorbikes. He is a talented trials bike rider and has recently branched into the racing world. This weekend, at Anglesey, in Wales he came off his bike at 130 mph. He survived with cuts and bruises and is very stiff today although working as normal. He will race next weekend and the fall bothers him not one bit, he regards it as just part of the sport.

It made me think how I would feel if anything happened to either of my children, yet this weekend they tried indoor sky diving and rode a strange horse without a bit. coached by a cowboy they had not met before. This morning the 11 year old left for her new big school on a public bus for the very first time by herself. She was so nervous but made it and managed to find her way safely home after school. Her self confidence has rocketed. She fears change and new situations. In contrast her younger sister left for a residential school trip this morning with a casual wave and plans for a midnight feast with her friends. She happily travels anywhere and is always first to try anything physical yet is very shy, very sensitive and easily hurt. I cannot protect them from everything and the gradual withdrawal from me to their own adult lives is a natural and welcome progression and in truth I would have it no other way.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Horse whisperer and Simon

Today we tried Western horse riding for the first time. It is so different from the classic English way. All three of us rode one at a time on a beautiful ex stallion called Simon. He was only made a gelding at the age of 10 so still acts the way he did in his stud days and adores females both equine and human!

The first thing that was unnerving was riding without a bit, just with a head collar styled piece of equipment. The saddle felt strange too although comfortable and your legs are straighter and longer than normal. We quickly learnt how to ask Simon to walk, jog (trot) but not lope (canter) although the 11 year old was treated to a few paces when Simon saw we had a camera. (sorry the photos are on her phone and there is no internet service to download and show you). Apparently he is a big show off and loves having his photo taken.

When it was my turn I learnt "rein back" and then a sideways movement like English Dressage. This was mostly because Simon didn't want to walk on properly. He was a real gentleman although feisty. Ray, the horse whisperer, says Simon will not perform any moves unless he is confident his rider is secure.

We loved it. It feels like a real partnership between horse and human, more of a friendship. You have to trust each other and work in harmony. Without a bit it felt as though the horse was enjoying himself and happy in what he was doing because if he didn't then there isn't much you can do about it!  I'll save up and we will go again. This session was a gift from Ray to introduce us to his way of riding.  Ray was patient, calm and very kind but then as he said, he has to be in his job of calming nervous upset horses. If we were lucky enough to own our own horse then this is the way we would want to ride. Converted!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Scary Doll

This scary lady is a work in progress. School project for the 11 year old is to make a toy. Other girls are making sweet dolls houses in shoe boxes. Not my child. She is making a character from Friday Nights at Freddie's, an internet craze of the moment. The thing above is Toy Chica and the pretty one of the bunch of monsters. I like that she has massive thighs and is not built like a stick insect. quite the positive role model for such a horror story.

Tonight the hands were completed and the 11 year old has carefully made all the fingers. The doll, for that is what it is. is made from papier mache and has moving parts. The arms are jointed. She made a hole through the shoulders, threaded string through the hole and this forms the bones of the arms. More papier mache is then moulded around the string and it seems to be working well.

She started the legs tonight and left it to dry but unfortunately the doll fell over and one leg fell off so I've just taken the liberty of quietly mending it and hopefully no-one will be any the wiser. For something made from paper and flour glue (just mix flour and water) Chica is surprisingly heavy. It's not the best photograph but I'll do another when she is finished. Well I hope she is completed soon as the remnants of all this creativity are waiting for me to tidy away (again...).

Friday, 26 June 2015

Indoor Skydiving fun!

                                                 Airkix Photo Galler

We are just back from Manchester after experiencing our first indoor skydiving.  Wow!  It is amazing and I don't think I've ever seen the girls (and my Mum!) grin so much. The girls had two extra turns and we all did the high-fly which is when the instructor grabs you and you both spin right up to the top. (The photo is one borrowed from the company website)

We drove to Manchester which was quite a trek and the traffic was awful but we arrived with one minute to spare. I used up all my adrenaline trying to get there on time. We signed consent forms and they ask about any shoulder injuries or heart problems and yes, we all weigh less than 18 stones. (Oh yes!)
Then we watched a short video and learnt four hand signals so the instructor could communicate with us in the noisy chamber. Next we were all given a suit, helmet, goggles and ear plugs and sat waiting our turn. When you watch the time seems short but once inside, trust me it is plenty long enough. It is nerve racking but brilliant fun and I'm so glad we did it. The 11 year old proved to be a natural at it and the instructor told her afterwards she was the best which she loved.

This company has three UK venues, Manchester, Basingstoke and Milton Keynes. As a memory maker and very special treat I recommend it.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Big School

First day at senior school for the 11 year old today. She seems to have coped well although our day did not start well. After driving 7 miles to drop the 10 year old off to join her school friends we set off back home to make the 8 mile journey from there to the new big school. All going well until we catch up with a huge lorry crawling along the winding country lanes. All the way to our destination. I could have screamed with frustration but what good would it do?  So we were late. On her very first day. Luckily no one minded and they were all very kind.

I joined the new parents, who were all having coffee, in a slightly dilapidated hall to hear about our little ones time here. This school invites all the year 6 primary school children, who are due to join the school in September, to experience a week at big school so they can gradually get used to the transition. This school is enjoying a transition of its own as there is a brand new school being finished for January 2016. The children are delighted to be having an extra 2 weeks holiday at Christmas as all the equipment is moved across.

The 11 year old is a feisty character so when an older boy made a sarcastic comment about her school uniform (she chose a bright yellow hoodie as her primary school leavers jumper and looks like a canary) she speedily put him in his place. I think she is going to be alright...

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Michael Jackson doll

I was reading one of my favourite bloggers last night, (meanqueen). She was showing some of her handmade wares and ideas for presents and it reminded me of this chap who appeared last Christmas for the 11 year old.
 The 11 year old adores Michael Jackson and reminded me it is the anniversary of his death on Thursday. She was a bit taken aback when she saw the doll but I know she likes him as he is a permanent fixture in her room and is positioned where she can see him. Do you like him? He is about 18 inches tall and very flexible meaning he can Moon-dance whenever you ask him too.

I adapted a pattern from a lovely book by Jan Horrox (Jan Horrox). Her dolls are exquisite and her patterns are well constructed and easy to follow.  I straightened up the body shape to make a boy rather than the hourglass figure but more or less followed the instructions from there on. Both my girls laughed with an uneasy fascination when they first saw him although I'm quite proud that no-one has needed to ask who he is! They are at an age when the unusual tends to embarrass but hopefully one day they will appreciate the effort that Mum made...We'll see on that one...

I'm not especially skilled, nor am I incredibly patient so if I can do it so can you. There is something special about making a present for someone you really love even if it doesn't turn out exactly as you hope. And my 11 year old did tell me, offhandedly, that yeah,, she was keeping Michael forever as he is precious to her.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Peas and Beans

Just come inside after doing a late planting of peas. Next to our cottage is some waste land which once belonged to this place but during the sale of this and the farmland and some other cottages nearby, this land remained forgotten and neglected. It was all part of a large estate once upon a time before being taken over by the Co-op group. Most of the properties are very old and in need of love and repair work. Last year the nettles and thistles were chest high so this year I've started to clear it and plant some vegetables so the place is less of an eyesore. If I'd known just how much rubble, bricks and glass there was I might have left well alone! It's getting dark but you can see the beans I've planted for my neighbour. He's decided he is too old to bother growing them this year so I'm doing it for him.

Gardening is hard work and I'm no expert, nor am I that dedicated to it. When we came here we planted young fruit trees around the border so that everything here is both functional and pretty. Sometimes it feels as if I've taken on too much. (Thank heavens for my Mum who helps out and has done wonders with the flowers and lawn). Still when I see the children rushing out to nab the juiciest strawberries and pottering in their own flower patches I know it's probably worth it and it is satisfying when you get to harvest what the rabbits, pigeons and other creatures have missed...

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Margaret's Damson Gin recipe

Margaret is a wonderful, kind and intelligent lady.  My mother helps her by doing some gardening and occasional decorating as Margaret is almost blind with a degenerative eye disease. This in no way impacts on her enjoyment of shopping and lunches out and no one would know how poor her eyesight really is as this lady is proudly independent and hides it well.

Anyway, she gave me a small bottle of her damson gin as a gift a while ago. I'm not a gin drinker or even a particularly big wine drinker either. I also hate the taste of beer and lager so I wasn't sure what to expect but one day I was tempted to try this gin. It was gorgeous. It was perfectly sweet but not too much and tasted like the delicious innards of one of those very expensive chocolates you sometimes get given at Christmas. My 11 year old sneaked a crafty swig and adored it too which was a bit of a worry! So Margaret gave us the recipe and a demijohn to get started and I've since collected 3 more jars through Freecycle.

2lbs Damsons
2lbs Sugar
1 bottle of gin 70cl

Remove any leaves or stems from the damsons but do not wash them. Place all ingredients in the airtight glass jar and leave in a dark corner. (Ours is out to be photographed). Shake the jar 2 or 3 times a week and leave for about 3 months. Do an occasional taste and add any one of the 3 ingredients to suit your taste buds. This is a bit of a hit or miss affair says Margaret. After 3 months sieve through a muslin cloth and bottle it. Give as gifts or drink and enjoy it.

Our first try at this will be ready in July. In the meantime I'd better find a use for the other demijohns.
Strawberry picking season starts this week, I wonder what strawberry gin or vodka would be like?

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Fathers Day

 As tomorrow is Father's day I am going to share a post I made on Facebook yesterday. It's not for sympathy or out of self pity but just to express that there are many stories to be told within families, some good, some not so. Wishing you a happy day tomorrow.
Much Love XXX

Father's Day.
I read your posts of missing your father, how great he was, loving and supportive. How sad you are and how you wish he were still here. Then I wonder what it could have been like, to have a father like yours. You see I didn't. Mine was vicious, mean, cruel and incredibly emotionally abusive. I don't remember a single cuddle, kiss or a kind word. Not once. He died a while back. I don't even remember the date or the year. Only 2 of his 4 children went to his funeral and in truth I only went to support my brother. So now my grieving is over. I did that while he was alive. For the father I never had. And I read your posts and am sorry for your pain as mine is over now but I remember it well. So celebrate your good fortune if your dad was and is wonderful and if he is no longer here then be grateful for what you had.
Love to you all X

Friday, 19 June 2015

Oh She Glows

Funnily enough I first heard about this book when reading through some reviews about the Deliciously Ella book. Some claimed the Oh She Glows book was far superior and one review accuses Ella of plagiarism. Well that's enough to pique interest isn't it?

 So I logged onto Angela's blog and here is another story of a beautiful young woman healing herself through food choices and making the decision to become vegan. But Angela's story somehow seems more authentic (sorry Ella). There is a real sense of the dedication, trial and error and sheer effort that Angela has put into her work.
 And that reviewer was right, some of the recipes are amazingly similar, almost exact but with the omission of maybe one ingredient. I started working through and comparing the books and until page 39 of Ella's Gnocchi (which was a massive fail in our household) the recipes are more or less the same. Even the blenders they use!  Both books cover the making of almond milk, banana ice-cream, granola, overnight oats with chia seeds...you get the picture. After that I got bored and will admit to disappointment with the Ella book. I bought it in high hopes of changing our diet in healthy ways that the girls and I would enjoy. Some of the recipes worked but some were really awful and I don't think it was me. Now looking at Angela's book which is the real deal and comparing it to Ella's  I feel a bit cheated, a bit suckered in by clever, expensive marketing. Angela doesn't have fabulously wealthy parents or well placed contacts, she's done it by hard work, and reading through the recipes, well they look flawless. I've only had time to do one and had to substitute a couple of ingredients as the cupboard was a little empty but even then it worked and was really tasty.
One recipe is not enough for a fair review but so far it's thumbs up to Angela and a little scowl at Ella, which is a shame, as she seems a lovely person. Only my opinion of course and as ever it's up to you to decide for yourself but I'd be interested in your views.

On that note, goodnight!

Oh She Glows

Deliciously Ella

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Little lost doll

We found this little lady in Ellesmere by the lakes looking very sad and bedraggled and probably in imminent danger of being hurled into the water. So we brought her home, washed her and made a few minor repairs and now I will post her picture on Facebook to see if we can trace her owner. A long shot as we don't know anyone from that part of Shropshire but it's worth a try.

My eldest has always been incredibly attached to Teddy, who is actually a cat from The Little White Company and funnily enough was originally white. Not now. He is grey, no longer fluffy, has been re-stuffed twice and his eyes are dull. No matter. If ever we were so unfortunate to have a house fire and need to escape fast, well he is on the list. Two daughters, the dog and teddy. Pretty much all we'd take although with an extra five minutes maybe some spare pants for us all!

I remember a black and white plastic horse that I loved. Don't know whatever happened to him, I must remember to ask my mum! My brother had a toy monkey that he adored and slept with until quite old, I think about 18, before his girlfriend laughed at him. Poor monkey was banished to the loft. I think he is still around.

What do you remember loving as a small child? and have you still got it?

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Shampoo; truth, lies and much confusion...

Tonight I'm choosing to look at Sodium Lauryl Sulphate or SLS, a chemical found in 90% of all our shampoos and toothpastes. Is it safe? In the interests of fairness I looked first for scientific research which promises this stuff is safe to use.

The one that kept being referenced was the CIR report of 1983 and I did track some of it down (http://www.dweckdata.com/Research_files/SLS_compendium.pdf). This basically says SLS is a skin and eye irritant but it's fine to use in cosmetics as we wash and rinse it away. Really?  What about the continued use over a lifetime I wonder?
Anyway I continued to read and it says it is not an independent hazard research but a compilation of literature from trusted sources. In the first conclusion it states SLS should not be used in concentrations higher than 1% yet the  report gives data showing shampoos containing 10% and more of SLS. Look on most shampoo bottles and after aqua (water) the next biggest ingredient is SLS.

It then says SLS is not carcinogenic because of 1 short study carried out on Beagle dogs. Even they admit this "limits the significance".

Fine, and it doesn't cause fertility problems either because it only does so when mice were given 600mg. Well that's reassuring (note the sarcasm please).

And for the other side of the argument here; (http://www.healthreport.co.uk/sodium_lauryl_sulphate.html)
 is a brief list of the dangers;
cataracts, flaking skin, irritation, chemical build up in the body (although I note it does not elaborate on how or what happens then) and biological dysfunction.

Personally I've found it hard to find conclusive evidence on either side but admissions of SLS toxicity even on the positive side. I think I've made my mind up. I'd love to know what you think?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Pet Love

Life was tough a few years ago and both girls have been through experiences I would not have chosen for them. The eldest was particularly hurt and angry, so much she turned that emotion inwards and it took a lot of patience to help her. One of the things that really helped was introducing a dog into our lives, the puppy she had always wanted. Animals are drawn to her and she loves them in return.

My mother, who is incredibly kind and generous, bought us a little Westie, a puppy the breeder had not sold because she was born with a hernia that need operating. We picked her up and it was love at first sight for dog and girl. Never mind the naughty mischief, the messes and puddles and the fact this animal hates being clean, she has brought so much joy to my children. She is always pleased to see us and rolls at most visitors feet to have her tummy tickled. She is noisy, often smelly and always has a mad half hour running in circles like a crazy thing. She has been dressed up, met Joe Swash (and won the Dog he would most like to take home prize - probably as much to do with the group of children walking her around the ring!) and is a regular on the trampoline to join in the fun.

So is it worth it having a pet? It is a lot of work for me and yes it is inconvenient sometimes but for us, this one has healed a little girl and that makes it priceless.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Evicting the bleach

You're smart, so you've already gathered I'm a bit of a green Eco/hippy kind of female. (I've been called worse... teased, derided and ignored but hey ho ain't life sweet!). So today it's the turn of the ubiquitous bleach.

I hate the stuff. I hate the smell and the way it makes my eyes water especially if the smell is strong. I really noticed an adverse reaction after months of close proximity to toilet bowls during both pregnancies. I had hyperemesis which is not much fun. I am convinced it does no good to the environment or our water systems so let's see what I can find.

Sodium hypochlorite is a chemical commonly found in bleach, water purifiers, and cleaning products.
Swallowing sodium hypochlorite can lead to poisoning. Breathing sodium hypochlorite fumes may also cause poisoning, especially if the product is mixed with ammonia.Sodium hypochlorite is a chemical commonly found in bleach, water purifiers, and cleaning products.

The second most common cause of poisoning is household products, which account for up to one in four cases.

Bleach can be very dangerous. If bleach is mixed with ammonia, a chemical reaction takes place and it gives off a dangerous chlorine type gas. 

A Caretaker died using bleach a few years ago. He went round putting toilet cleaner down his toilets. He was unaware that a cleaner had put bleach down only moments before. The ammonia in the toilet cleaner mixed with the bleach and created dangerous chlorine gas. He died on the way to hospital.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Deodorant: risky or lies?

This beauty arrived today along with my soap nuts following an order made with Natural Spa Supplies Ltd. I've owned one before and was happy until I dropped it on a tiled floor and it smashed into tiny unusable pieces. I'll have to be more careful with this one.

There have long been mutterings and concerns over the heavy use of deodorants and anti-perspirants and links with breast cancer. From all I have read there does not seem to be definite scientific proof but there are studies that do mention possible links. The first website I accessed was Web MD which is provided by Boots the chemists.

 Cancer Research UK says there is no evidence that aluminium in deodorants could increase the risk of cancer in animals or humans.

How would a mass rejection of deodorant affect Boots sales? I imagine the consequences of huge profit losses would be significant therefore I suggest that there may be a vested interest in not finding any links between cancer and Boots products. Call me a cynic?

Here is the one I found which; 
1) is most recent (2009) and 
2) in my view, the most balanced. suggesting there may yet be a link but not enough clinical research has been done to establish one. 
I'll let you read it for yourself.

The proposed link between breast cancer and the application of cosmetic chemicals with oestrogenic and/or genotoxic properties provides an evidence-based hypothesis capable of further testing. Although individual chemicals will have been tested by current safety guidelines, the effects of long-term usage of mixtures of these chemicals over an entire lifetime by people of all ages across the whole world warrants retrospective investigation. If use of underarm cosmetics is a factor in the development of breast cancer, then options for prevention could at last become a reality through individual decisions to cease usage or through alterations to product formulations.


The crystal stone is Potassium Alum and you can also find detractors of this and they recommend using baking powder under your arm pits after washing. I've been doing this but as the weather is finally getting warmer I'm not sure I'm so happy with it. Forgive the bluntness! 
My main reason for choosing the crystal stone is moving away from plastic consumption and lowering my personal contribution to landfill. 
I am in no way condemning anyone who chooses to stick with their favourite deodorants after all we all want to smell nice but maybe it warrants further reading?  What do you think?

Thursday, 11 June 2015

China Study Cookbook review

Hello everybody. We've had another creative evening of papier mache as the 11 year old is making a toy for a Year 6 project. She is making one of the characters of a virtual game she enjoys. Ever the perfectionist, she is designing this doll with jointed arms and legs in the style of a puppet. So minimal background reading for this post as I've chosen to review the China Study Cookbook.

Leanne Campbell is the daughter of Colin, the doctor who researched and wrote the China Study. It is based on the research findings and is full of recipes their family enjoy. She is obviously a dedicated mother who goes as far as packing snacks for her sons when they travel or are visiting friends so they don't veer off the recommended diet. Personally I think this is a little controlling and the odd occasion of different food is not going to hurt. Perhaps she is afraid her sons will rebel?

I wanted to like this book but I just don't. I think there are too many recipes based on whole wheat flour as well as a whole chapter on sandwiches. Come on girl we can all come up with healthy sandwiches surely? I was disappointed but then it serves me right as I did read many of the reviews on Amazon and was hesitant. For UK users there are too many unknown ingredients (sucanat, panko style bread, sambal oelek) and also there are a lot of ingredients in some of the recipes which is too time consuming when all you want to do is get a quick healthy meal on the table after work and school.

So if anyone in the UK would like my copy then make a comment below before Sunday and I'll choose one person at random. if no-one wants it then its off to the charity shop!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Milk in your coffee?

The more I read about milk consumption the more confusing it seems to get. Some highly promote dairy and recent research funded by DRINC is looking at adding oilseed into cows diets to lower the saturated fat in our milk. But the founder members of DRINC include Sainsbury, Danone and Nestle. Don't they have a vested interest in supplying us with dairy?

In The Diet Myth, Tim Spector eliminates the China Study findings linking dairy consumption with high blood pressure by pointing out that of the 65 Chinese counties observed, 63 of them didn't eat dairy at all. Spector uses data that links milk consumption to increased height and that the Dutch are statistically the tallest nation and they consume the most milk. Americans stopped growing in the 1960s and milk consumption there has fallen steadily from 1945 onwards. He believes humans have adapted the lactase gene through mutation although those without it can often still drink milk without adverse symptoms. Spector concludes there is enough evidence to support a small health benefit in dairy products, and the less processed it is, the better.

Kris Carr is one of Amazons best selling authors and claims she is keeping her cancer at bay by eschewing all dairy. Ella Woodward (Deliciously Ella) also is enthusiastic about the alternatives. Any google search will find hundreds of anti dairy advocates and just as many promoters.

Then there is the ethical arguments. Milk is produced by cows to feed their calves so they must often be pregnant and the calves are taken away long before natural weaning. In The way we eat why our food choices matter there is a heartbreaking story of a mother cow who never stops looking for her calf after he was taken away (p.58).

Almond milk has it's detractors both because of Almond farming and additives like carrageenan. Soy milk is reputedly highly processed and often genetically modified. They deserve their own post.

So what to do? The 11 year old loves milk and banana smoothies. She is a fickle and frugal eater. Anything other than a tuna or smoked salmon roll in her lunch box comes back untouched. She would happily live on chocolate alone and I have been glad to see her enjoy milk, believing it was healthy. We do have organic from a local milk company (not pictured above).

Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC) - BBSRC

In conclusion, this report supports and extends previous observations that high intakes of dairy products, and of calcium from dairy foods specifically, are associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The 4-hour Body review

This title promises everything doesn't it?   So I bought it on impulse not so long ago. I've not read his other book although I have heard about it and my expectations were quite high. Actually, let's face it, I was hoping this was going to turn me into a supermodel stunner by tomorrow thank you.

So, back to reality, what was it like? Well, Mr Ferriss is a man obsessed. He admits it. He's recorded almost every workout he has ever done and put himself through unbelievable amounts of tests and experiments. If you've heard of it, well he's done it and more besides. He reminds me of Andy Mcnab in The good psychopath's guide to success. Tim believes in doing the minimum effective dose to produce the desired outcome in all he does, even his chapter on sex promises to produce results in an almost clinical fashion. (And I thought that could have been another book, although I suppose he is linking the perfect body with perfect sex).

Tim Ferris and Tim Spector (The Diet Myth) both agree that calories are not equal and also that hormonal responses to carbohydrates, protein and fat are different. Where they differ hugely is;

Dr Spector presents the facts known currently and only mildly suggests how the individual may choose to live. He also leans towards a mostly vegetarian diet with wine and lots of cheese.

Mr Ferris gives highly regimented and specific instructions to losing weight and building lean muscles. He also insists on a one day a week complete pig out to keep the metabolism high but gives no thought as to the quality or health effects this junk may have. He also likes a lot of meat although he does cover vegetarian options. I couldn't help feeling that his main concern was the look of the body rather than the health of it.

It's an interesting read and if you want a copy, well there will be one in a charity shop in Shrewsbury tomorrow after I donate it!

The 4-hour body

Monday, 8 June 2015

Fastest cactus in the West (Midlands)!

"Oh Mum" says the 10 year old tonight at about 7 o'clock, "we've got to decorate our classroom tomorrow. Our theme is desert. Can we make a cactus please?"
"Of course my lovely. When do you need it? Next week?"
"No Mum, tomorrow"...

OK, time to improvise. Lots of scrap paper, an old flower pot, a long stick and some flour and water. The stick is placed in an empty bottle inside the flower pot and we secure the whole thing with cardboard and some poly filler I have in the shed. How to make it fatter? 10 year old comes up with brilliant idea to glue toy filling on the branch using a mix of flour and water. Works a treat and we wrap it around with strips of paper. We both work at it until her bedtime and she becomes upset as we have no green paint. No food colouring either. Hmm. So we find some old felt pens, snap them in half, use scissors to chop up the inky innards into a bowl of flour and water. Do you know it actually works!

We use wholemeal flour (how healthy are we!) which gives a lovely gritty texture and the thing starts to look fierce and ugly like all the best cacti. 10 year old goes to bed but shortly returns downstairs, worried that the thing won't be ready to take to school. OK. That's my cue to finish the thing rather than put together some of the research I've been doing into milk and milk substitutes. Never mind. It's after 11pm but cactus is finished although wet and stands at an impressive 2 and a half feet. 10 year old will be happy and right now that's all that really matters isn't it?

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Mud pies and Maths

Today has been lovely. Sunny yet cool and no pressing jobs or errands so time to play swing ball, talk, groom the dog and help youngest daughter with her maths homework. Modes, median and mean numbers. Thank goodness for the internet!  I really like that today's primary schools offer sites such as "I am Learning" for the children to work through at home. My youngest does it for fun and has clocked up an impressive 35 hours this year in her own time, way ahead of her classmates which gives her additional pleasure. I've heard one of my uncles moan (an ex teacher) that schools today focus too much on fun and not enough on drilling the basics into children. I'm not sure I agree with him but what do you think?

The photograph above is part of an Easter holiday homework which was to build a nature sculpture. This was too big to take in to school as the 10 year old wanted to experiment with building her own version of a Celtic home. There is a small river nearby and much mud and grass were packed down to form the walls in an amateur attempt at building a cob structure. It was messy, fun and satisfying! Who doesn't remember playing with mud pies as a little one? Ticks all my boxes anyway so credit to the school and teachers who expand knowledge through fun and hands on experience.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

A love of Music

I'm a pianist. Perhaps I should qualify that statement. You'll not see me on stage or hear me on any recording (I hope!) but sometimes I feel the need to sit and play and time whizzes by. Within 5 minutes I feel joyful and whatever stresses have been bothering me, well they become less urgent.

I remember seeing a documentary about a wonderful Jewish lady who survived the concentration camps by being a musician and she talked about the joys of music. It literally saved her life and her son's. She recently died and if anyone can remember her name please let me know with a comment below. It would be lovely to be able to share some details.

So what place does music have in your life? Both my girls have been given opportunities to play instruments and the 10 year old plays both violin and flute. The 11 year old has oodles of talent but no wish to perform, instead she listens intently to whatever currently fascinates her. An eclectic mix with Michael Jackson being a firm favourite.

I believe every child should have the opportunity to play. I believe music is an essential part of being human. There have been studies linking academic achievement with the discipline of instrumental practice although not all of us will have concert performer abilities of course. Still if I were Minister of Education I would want to pile a whole heap of funding into Music and Art.

Taking of teachers, if you have the time to watch this Ted talk, isn't this lady someone you'd really really want to teach your child? The part about her mother made me feel quite emotional. Lovely stuff. I'd love to know what you think?


Friday, 5 June 2015

A happy smile

I've been using plain bicarbonate of soda instead of toothpaste for about 2 months now with great results. My teeth are whiter and my dentist commented on the improved health of my gums. I smiled a sweet smile and said nothing. Tonight I decided to mix up a new variety; I used a teaspoon of coconut oil, a teaspoon of vinegar, a sprinkling of ground sea salt and about 3 generous teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda (I'm in the UK, it has a different name in the US). I waited for the vinegar fizz to stop then used some and it's nice. I reckon it takes 3/4 days to get used to using bicarb as a tooth paste but once you do there is no going back to the commercial stuff which seems cloying and horrible. Obviously I'm not a dentist so this is not medical advice so do your own research but this is a change I'm keeping.  There are loads of articles on the health benefits so I've put in one link I think is helpful if you would like to know more; baking-soda-a-good-alternative-toothpaste/ .  I've not asked the children to do it yet as I was being a guinea pig but I think maybe it's time for them to give it a try.

Do you see the bamboo toothbrush? I was stunned to realise how old plastic toothbrushes are filling up landfill and how they are virtually indestructible. Not a nice thought is it? So the bamboo ones are compost-able although if you choose the nylon fibres only the handle will rot down. We've all got one and although the girls seem to prefer their old plastic ones for now I'm hoping a bit of ecological reasoning may help them make the switch sometime soon. The downside is the frequent dampness does discolour the handle slightly but I think it's a small inconvenience to help reduce waste.

/bamboo toothbrush

By the way I have no commercial interests in anything I have linked, they are just articles I've read or products I've used. Enjoy!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The life-changing magic of Tidying review

Anyone who knows me will fall about laughing at the idea of me being tidy. I'm beginning to think it's a genetic lottery and either you are disposed to be orderly or you prefer to thrive in an apparently chaotic mess where you insist you know where everything is yet can rarely find the one thing you need right now. I regularly read my Don Aslett collection but our home still seems to full of stuff. Ah minimalism...perhaps this is the way forward? I do enjoy reading Joshua and Ryan's blog, The Minimalists. They seem so sorted. They recently toured the UK and came to Manchester but I missed them as the 10 year old was poorly.

Somehow I heard about this little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and in the spirit of minimalism ordered it on kindle. It is delightful and Marie Kondo seems so sweet, so nice and so perfect. She is obsessed with tidying and letting go of anything that means nothing to the owner. I'm working my way through her suggestions although I find I need to repeat as I'm still holding onto too much. There is an exhilaration and feeling of freedom and space with every full bag left at the charity shop. I've found it so helpful I ordered a hard copy as I find it easier to flick through to the pages I want. There is something special about the feel and smell of a book or am I just strange?

PS I made these; recipe from my Deliciously Ella book and they were truly disgusting. Oh dear and I did follow the recipe this time. I think I'll stick to a more traditional method next time but the dog

snaffled one and seemed to enjoy it!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The China Study review

This book was ground breaking in its time and became a worldwide best seller. It seems rude to condense so many years of meticulous research into a few sentences but basically Dr Colin Campbell recommends giving up meat and dairy completely. He claims the benefits are huge as this diet can largely prevent heart disease, cancers, arthritis and even reverse diabetes type 2.  He follows his own guide lines and you can see him on You Tube, still lecturing as a healthy man in his eighties.

 Personally I have no problem with avoiding meat as I've been vegetarian for years, (however my children are not as I believed they needed the protein), but giving up milk, yoghurt and cheese? Oh dear.  Yes there are good arguments for being vegan, not least animal welfare and economic reasons but it is surely not so easy unless you are a great cook with loads of time? How do you convince children to change and enjoy a largely plant based diet?

The China Study gets a bit of a bashing in The Diet Myth by Tim Spector who claims observational data can suggest spurious associations that are likely to be false. He points out that although large doses of milk protein casein may cause liver cancer in lab animals the same is true when non-animal protein is used during experiments. However Tim did a no meat or dairy challenge of his own and lost a little weight and lowered his blood pressure and blood cholesterol (by 15%) although he still says this proves nothing. Today he rarely eats meat. If you have the time, check out some of Dr Campbell's work and decide for yourself who's right.

I'm not sure my little family is ready to become vegan but I have served far less meat lately and introduced more pulses and salads (largely unsuccessfully I admit!). If only I employed a talented chef who would whip up amazing nutritious meals life would be so much easier...

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Diet Myth review

Look what arrived a few days ago! I LOVE this book. It's packed with useful and incredibly interesting facts as well as providing a comprehensive reference section for further reading.
The author, Tim Spector, is a Professor and a Hon Consultant Physician and has published over 700 academic papers, many of them concerning nutrition and obesity. (And he is handsome!).

I skimmed through it first at high speed, so eager to take it all in at once and am now reading it more thoroughly to absorb some of the facts. Tim agrees that "trying to work out what is good or bad for us in our own diets is increasingly difficult..."  He explains why dieting is so hard and ultimately fails, why individuals respond differently, why exercise won't make the average person slim but is important for health. He shows how we have come to falsely believe breakfast is essential, how some foods are promoted without real proof of goodness and how cholesterol scares may not be accurate. He explains the fats, protein, carbohydrates and fibre and how we owe so much to our very own internal microbe communities.

In his conclusion he states that some facts about diet are true, the ones most of us have probably heard many times, you know it, vegetables and fruit are great, high sugar and processed foods are not.
He does recommend skipping meals and intermittent fasting for health and above all aiming for more diversity in our food choices. He has also set up the British Gut Project so if you are so inclined you can send a small stool sample (wipe a cotton bud on used toilet paper) and learn about your own microbes. Fascinating but maybe a step too far for the more sensitive among us. My 10 year old is keen! All I can add is if you have an interest in healthy eating for you and your precious ones then this book is required reading...

The diet myth

Monday, 1 June 2015

Am I poisoning my children?

Thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte, who needed portable food for all his soldiers, we have all since enjoyed the convenience of canned food. Originally in glass jars, which have the downside of being relatively heavy, it wasn't long before the tin can was designed and used in food manufacturing. Great stuff guys.

Now there cannot be many of us in the UK who have never eaten baked beans or fed them to our children. A quick, healthy, tasty vegetarian meal full of protein, yes?  Yet there have been rumours rumbling for a while about the possibility of BPA, used in the lining of food cans, leaching into our food. Is there scientific proof? I read that France intends to complete the elimination of all BPA used in its food industry by this year. I don't know about the UK. What about imports? A quick look in my own cupboard reveals tinned tomatoes packed in Italy. Tuna packed and imported for John West and some cans purchased from Aldi which do not reveal their origins.

I have found it difficult to find any definite scientific study online which proves the link of BPA usage to severe ill health but there is a huge amount of doubt. I've provided some links below which explain far more eloquently than I can but I've read enough. Personally I think the risk may be too great so the tins are going, along with the tin opener!

What do you think?

Breast Cancer