Monday, 28 May 2007

Our world in photos

Theres been so much on lately that I've hardy had time to post the every day photos that I love to record on my blog. Now days, with digital technology, families can photograph seemingly every day moments and keep those images forever. I think this is great. There used to be a time when cameras were only brought out for special occasions. So people have grown up with an album full of Christmas, birthday and wedding photos. I prefer to record every day life. As these are the memories I want to treasure, and the things I want my children to remember about life as a child.

The images below were all taken on our new mobile phones this last week.

Jimmie finds a ladybug on a family walk with Aunty H and Uncle D.

Barney tries our his new bed set. Whilst shopping for veg in LIDL I found a pile of duvet sets for sale for just £4. I asked Barney if he'd like to pick one to take home, and he fell in love with this Sesame Street set. When I discovered that the Sesame Street one was actually £12, there was no convincing him to take anything else, and the little look of excitement on his wee face made me part with the cash. He couldn't wait to get home and try it out in his yellow VW beetle car bed.

This is a pic Daddy took of wee Barney soaked to the bone after playing Superheros in the rain.

After work on Wednesday Dan surprised us all by taking us to Pizza Hut for dinner. I think he was trying to cheer me up after my neck scan. Bless him.

Twice last week Barney climbed into our bed in the middle of the afternoon and went to sleep! I couldn't resist sneaking in to take this photo.

Today was spent working out in the garden. Jimmie cleaned out sheds, whilst I weeded and planted. Here little Barney is planting sunflower seeds. Last year his sunflowers made it onto the front page of the local newspaper! Let's see if he can do as well this year.

Here he is watering his newly planted seeds.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Carotid artery doppler scan

For those that are waiting to hear, I had my scan today and I'm none the wiser yet. The doctor scanned both sides of my neck. I was able to see the images from the left side of my neck (the good side) but I had no idea what I was looking at. I couldn't see for the right side as I was facing the wall. Confusingly the doctor spent twice as long scanning the good side of my neck as he did with the problem side. I'm not sure if that's a good sign or not. Perhaps there was something so obvious on the right hand side that he didn't need to look any further. Who knows? The scan machine made lots of gushing heartbeat sounds, which sound exactly the same as the noise in my ear. The doctor grunted, scratched his head, huffed and scanned a bit more. Then he said "right" - handed me a tissue to clean up all the goo "that's fine" and marched straight out of the room. The nurse then pointed me to a cubical to get changed again and I was on my way home. I have no idea whether he meant "that's fine, I can't see anything wrong", or "that's fine, I've gathered all the data I need to make a diagnosis". So I am none the wiser and will have to play the waiting game again until the next appointment with my consultant, whenever that may be.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Belly dance hafla evening, May 2007

As promised here are some photos from our Belly Dancing Hafla evening, which took place in the Radison Hotel in Belfast. Mum and I were dancing in the gypsy fan dance, which isn't traditional belly dance. This was kind of a practice performance for our group for the big show at the end of June. We aren't really completely polished up on this dance but I think it went quite well considering, and watching it on video will help us to see where we need to improve.

Mum and I before the show, looking mighty fine in our costumes!
And here we are mid flow in the fan dance. The group was much larger than this but Dan couldn't fit us all into the shot.

This is our teacher Karen doing the Isis wings dance. Barney was mesmerized by this costume and I can see myself making a pair of Isis wings for him out of an old sheet or something!
You can see all the photos from the evening by clicking here.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Bits n bobs & Tinkhani

I thought I better write a general update post as I've been quite slack and a lot has happened. First though, I'd like to say thanks to those of you who have emailed with hints and tips for our planned trip to the Americas. I will reply as soon as I get a moment to myself.

To those of you who donated money to Tinkhani, you may like to know that I received a letter from him last week. He has finally received the money. It took me some time to get it to him as I had to arrange for a church in Southern Ireland to take the money into their bursary. Then then had to wire it to a priest in Zambia which took almost 6 weeks. The priest could not collect the money until he made his monthly trip into the city. Then he had to go back to the prison to deliver it to Tinkhani. Next time the process wont take as long as I've already done the research.

I received a letter from a very delighted Tinkhani who informed me that he was eating a banana for the first time in many years. He is now able to buy nutritional foods to help him fight his AIDs and hopefully build up his immune system and put on some weight. He couldn't thank us enough. I will type some of his letter into a blog post about it soon.

I will also write a special blog post with photos from our belly dance performance evening which was on Saturday. If you know my bebo address you can see the photos there already.

On Wednesday I have the appointment for my carotid doppler scan on my neck. The pulsatile tinnitus is really bad at the moment. I'm kind of hoping it stays bad for the scan. Last night was a particularly bad night. The whooshing sounds in my ear got very loud indeed (and still are). I was sitting on the bed and felt quite ill with it. During the night I woke to feel a pressure on my chest, as if someone was pushing down on it. My chest felt like it was full of fluid. Every time I turned onto my side I could feel a sensation of fluid draining across my body. It was not pleasant at all. This morning I spent 2 hours with a fluidy feeling across my chest, and a mild pain when breathing in, so I phoned my doctor for advice. I have had these symptoms many times when the tinnitus is at its worst. My doctor requested I went straight to the surgery for an ECG test. Well, when I got there the fluid feeling had gone, but the pain was still there. They hooked me up to all these wires and did a sort of 5 second ECG. My heart appeared fine. She couldn't hear any fluid in my chest and I appeared normal. So I don't know whats going on. Now it is 1.30pm and my chest is still sore. At least I can explain all this at my scan on Wednesday. The doctor said that if the ENT people can not find anything I will then be referred to a heart specialist. I just wish someone could actually find something that matches my symptoms, because at the moment I'm sure they think I'm making it all up!

Well I have to go and make Barney some lunch now but I will post tonight with photos from the belly dancing evening.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Tentative Planning

Whether we do take the 7 month trip in January 2008 depends largely on whether Jimmie's school will keep his place open for him. They are meeting to discuss this next week. Until then we are trying to hold back on planning too much, or getting too excited. But this is difficult.

After much discussion we have decided that a tour of America will be the best for us. It's maybe not as exotic as the far east or scary as Africa, but it will be the best trip for us to undertake as a family with children. It will be the cheapest trip for us too.

Last night we tried to work out where we would visit and how long it would take etc. We know nothing about America really and so our initial plans could be way off and could change drastically. But taking into account the weather in the USA and Central America we decided that it would be best to arrive in Florida (see the blue dot on the map) in January, and travel around the southern states and central america before it gets to the heat of summer. So last night rough diagram shows our suggested route (honestly, we don't have a clue what we are talking about - so would greatly appreciate comments from our American blog readers!) Travelling from Florida (visiting the Everglades) we would go up to Georgia and visit my death row penpal, and then westwards through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana (possibly up a bit to Arkansas and Oklahoma) into Texas. From Texas we would travel down south to Mexico, Guatemala (I might pick up an orphan or two there!), Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, not heading any further into South America. We would then head back northwards into California (plus Disney World), and then spend some time in Nevada, Arizona and Utah (visiting the grand canyon for a week). Then we would travel up into Wyoming and from there eastwards through either the top of America, or the middle, until we got right back to the east coast. Then we would travel down into Virginia, North and South Carolina and back down to Florida.

So that was the first attempt at a travel route. As I said that plan could change, and we would appreciate suggestions from anyone who knows what they are talking about. Is there anything in the USA that we just should not miss? We will obviously buy lots of books to plan with, if we get the all clear from the school.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

My Mummy

When I was in Dubai little Barney missed me so much that he drew me a picture. This is a picture of me, his Mummy. Complete with glasses and long black hair (actually I thought it was hair but I'm informed it is actually my legs!) Its just such a cute picture. One that I will treasure forever. Thanks Barney :)

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

The question is, are we brave enough?

Well, there's been a lot to talk about here the last few days. As anyone working in the music industry will know, the whole CD business in general is slowly dieing a death. Music stores all across the nation are closing down and many owners are looking for new jobs or ways to make money. We are noticing a sure change in the amount of Cd's we are selling and will more than likely not keep the shop open once our contract is up in January. This is quite sad. For many years Dan has worked so hard to provide for his family in this way.

So we got to talking about what to do next. We decided that we have two options. 1) Feel sorry for ourselves, worry about the future, panic and generally stress. Or 2) See this change as a great opportunity. There have been so many things we have wanted to do but couldn't because of the tie of the shop and Dan being self employed. Come January we will not have these ties or any kind of responsibility, and will theoretically be looking for new jobs.

So why not take some time out? For years I've talked about selling everything and travelling around the world. But after talking with Dan this week we have come to realise that we wouldn't need to sell our home to do it. So what we are thinking about is freezing our mortgage for a year, renting out our house to a family, selling everything that is cluttering up our lives and taking off on a journey, with the kids for 8 months.

Why eight months? Well, in September 2008 Annabelle is due to start high school and Luke will be the age to start primary school (although we haven't yet decided to send him to school). What we are seriously considering is a big journey, by road, across a continent or two. We have so many ideas and feel a little scared by it all, but we've talked about it so much now that I really can't see us not doing it.

The question is where to go? At first I fancied a trip across Europe, and into either Asia or Africa (or both). I started researching on the Internet and found some fabulous sites recording journeys that people are currently undertaking.

The Africa Overland network contains hundreds of blogs written by people travelling across the world. Its an amazing read.

The possibilities of where to travel are endless and planning a trip like this would take months. We have 4 possibilities.

  1. Travel in campervan from Ireland, through the UK, into Europe stopping at as many countries as we please along the way (France, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Turkey - the possibilities are endless) and then travelling on into Asia through countries such as India, Nepal, China, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.
  2. Travel in campervan from Ireland, through the UK, into Europe stopping at as many countries as we please along the way, and then travelling on into Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya etc)
  3. Flying to America or Canada and travelling in RV across the Americas, (Alaska, Canada, various states of the US, Mexico) and then south into Guatemala Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Brazil, Chile etc)
  4. Flying to Australia and spending 8 months driving across the whole of Australia.

Dan is keen to do the Americas. I wasn't at first but after looking into it the prospect is more appealing. We could fly there cheaper than Australia, and we could buy an RV there which we could sell before we leave. We would speak the language in the north and break ourselves in slowly. America is a vast land with every type of scenery and landscape and weather possible. Then travelling into the South we would see more exotic lands and different cultures.

I was more keen to travel through Europe, as there are so many countries to see, all vastly different, and then into Asia or Africa. Travelling by car to Asia or Africa un-nerves me a bit and I'm not sure I'm actually brave enough! Travelling to Australia would be the most costly, for the flights.

So we are not sure what we are doing. But one thing is for sure, life will be changing round here come Christmas time, and I'd prefer it changed for the better, into something exciting and adventurous. It's also just occured to me that I may well be able to meet with one of my prison pen pals on two of these journeys. That would be exciting!

So what do you all think?

Monday, 7 May 2007

You know you're getting old when...

...Your eldest child goes on their first date! Oh yes. It has happened. Today Jimmie went to the cinema with a girl from his class, albeit she somewhat conned him into a date, but it was all very sweet. She asked him if he would go with her and her best friend to see Spiderman 3, and he agreed. But just before he left to meet them she texted him to say her friend had pulled out and would it be ok if they went alone. Like a true gentleman he texted her back to say it was fine with him as long as her parents didn't mind. Bless him, he was so nervous waiting at the cinema. Dan took him as far as the entrance, and he said that the wee girl was lovely looking, and all dressed up to impress. They stood in line and barely said a word to each other. When Jimmie got home he had to tell us that he had offered to pay for her ticket because he felt it was the gentlemanly thing to do, and she had accepted, and thanked him. He obviously takes after his father there. I was quite impressed. After he arrived home he got another text from her checking that he had gotten home safely! When did kids get so thoughtful?! It's like something from an old movie. Outside the cinema they bumped into some friends from school who asked them if they were on a date. Both of them said nothing and the friends so "oh, I see!" So no doubt they will be the talk of the class at school tomorrow. When did my children grow up? They were babies yesterday.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Sprouting - as requested

I promised a few people that I would do a blog post about sprouting. I will also do one about milling at some point.

As any regular readers of my blog will know, I am pretty into sprouting. I've read a lot of books and done a lot of research and practice on it. It's an every day part of life in our household now. More and more people are learning about the benefits of eating sprouts, but not many people here in Northern Ireland do it, or know where to get the ingredients necessary for sprouting. It has taken me literally hours and hours of research to be able to find retailers of sproutable grains that deliver to my address. In the US you can buy whatever you please to sprout at cheap prices. Here, a little more effort is needed. But I have noticed over the last year that our country is slowly becoming more aware of the growing circle of sprouters and raw foodists. Tescos have recently started stocking a whole heap of ingredients that I had to search out before. If Tescos are stocking it, then people must be buying it.

So why do I sprout? Well, in a country where most of our fruits and vegetables are grown half way across the world, packaged and sent on long trips and stored sometimes for many months before being put out of the supermarket shelves just before they go mouldy, it can be hard to get hold of really fresh produce, at a reasonable price. I do grow veg in my back garden but I can not grow enough to feed my family, year round, in our back yard. The beauty of sprouting is that it is extremely nutritious, extremely easy, extremely cheap, and you don't even need a garden to do it. We can grow enough green stuff via sprouts and sunflower greens to feed our family for a few pounds a week. That's five people. Not bad.

What is sprouting? Well, its basically the process of taking a seed, nut or pulse, and making it sprout. These sprouts would usually grow into new plants, but we eat them just after germination. I think that the average NI diet is extremely lacking in seeds, nuts and pulses. Many people here hardly eat fruit or veg, never mind seeds. The seeds used for sprouting can be eaten at the seed stage - sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, peas, etc. So why bother sprouting them? The sprouting of a seed starts a natural process. When a seed sprouts it produces enzymes which aid its digestion when eaten. Our pancreas produces enzymes to digest our food. But the pancreas is not designed to produce enough enzymes to digest everything. It is merely made to top-up our enzyme levels when we eat something hard to digest, such as meat. The majority of our digestive enzymes should come from the raw food that we eat. Any raw fruit or vegetable will contain enzymes. But many people eat little or no raw food, and so their bodies are put under strain, trying to produce enough enzymes to digest a very dense meaty, carbohydrate-full diet.

So sprouts are easy to digest, and aid the digestion of other foods. Not only that, but per calorie they are the richest source of vitamins, enzymes, minerals and protein. They nourish the entire body and enhance the immune system. During the sprouting process seed fats are converted to essential fatty acids and carbohydrates, and proteins are converted to essential amino acids. Both of which are sorely lacking in many western diets. The vitamin content also increases dramatically in comparison to its dry state.

Sunflower seeds can be sprouted (use hulled seeds) or grown into sunflower greens (use un-hulled seeds). Sunflower greens are high in everything that the sprouted seed has, with the addition of chlorophyll (anything that you sprout long enough to grow green leaves will contain chlorophyll). Chlorophyll is known to regenerate the blood stream and is also a powerful blood cleanser. Chlorophyll is basically liquid sunshine. The sun shine is what makes the plants leaves go green. Sunflower greens can be grown indoors without soil, but are better grown in soil trays outside in natural sunlight. They consume nutrients from the soil and are therefore higher in nutrient value than greens grown without soil.

When we buy our vegetables in the local supermarket we are basically eating something which has come to the end of its life. Sure, raw veg from the shops is better than no veg at all. But sprouts and greens grown at home are eaten whilst still alive. They are harvested and eaten straight away. They have had no time to lose vitamin or enzyme content. You literally could not eat anything better for you. There are many many books that promote the use of sprouts, greens and wheat grass juices to heal the body of many ailments, including cancers. I think prevention is better than cure. What is considered by most health professionals in today's society to be a healthy diet, is actually a very poor diet. Of all the animals on the planet we are the only ones to cook our food, or to package it and toxify it with chemicals. But now days this is considered to be normal (I am not, by the way, promoting the consumption of raw meat - so anyone who watched that episode of Wife Swap, please don't think I'm that crazy, LOL). Animals eat their food as it grows. They do not seem so be suffering from all the illnesses that have taken hold of the human race. I'm pretty sure that what we are putting into our bodies is killing us.

Anyway, before I start to sound like a paranoid control freak, let me summarise by saying this. Our family eats a lot of sprouts and greens. It is cheap, tasty, healthy and nutritious. Since eating lots of raw foods and sprouts my metabolism has sped right up, which is a bonus. When we eat more of this food we all sleep better, have higher energy levels, greater clarity and concentration, and just generally feel much better.

Sprouting is easy. Here are a few photos for those who are interested in learning more, and also a few links.

You do not need to buy specialist equipment to sprout. However, I use this sprouting tier a lot of the time. You can also use jars, hemp bags or just a glass dish and a colander. All work well. I like to use the hemp bags for sprouting sunflower seeds. I use the tier more for the smaller seeds such as alfalfa. I use the jars for the seed mixes, and if I am sprouting a lot of large seeds (chick peas, lentils, mung beans etc) I just use a colander and bowls.

In this photo you can see 3 tiers each containing just one tablespoon full of seeds. One tray has alfalfa, one has broccoli seeds, and the other has red clover seeds. From one table spoon you can grow a whole tray. These are the seeds on their first day, unsprouted.

Here in this sprouting jar we have a biosnacky gourmet mix of seeds. I buy many of my sprouting seeds from biosnacky. That packet of seeds cost 99p. I would get about 4 full jars of seesds out of that, so it goes a long way. You can see that there are only a few seeds in that jar, but in a the next photo you can see that they have grown to fill the whole jar.

Most of the seeds need to be soaked over night before straining (as in this photo). Then it is simply a case of rinsing them three times a day and draining them thoroughly until they have grown. You can eat most of them within a day, or you can let them grow until the leaf stage. The same seeds will taste different depending on how long you let them grow. We just keep harvesting ours as we need them, and leaving the rest to grow on longer, until they are all gone. Most of them take about 4 days to grow to an optimum size and taste.

Here is a photo of the sprouts after about 4 days of growth. You can see how one table spoon of seeds produces a full packed tray of nutritional goodness. And they taste amazing. I love eating these smaller sprouts. Sunflower sprouts are also a favourite of mine. Whilst Dan likes lentils, wheat and mung beans sprouted.

Here are some newly harvested sunflower greens. Little Barney picks these during the day and eats them straight from their growing trays! I doubt many 3 year olds consume as many sunflower greens as he does. I absolutely love these and they are so cheap to grow (about 12p a tray). We use them in salads and sandwiches mostly. The sunflower seeds are grown in soil for 1 - 2 weeks (depending on the weather or warmth). They must be harvested at the two leaf stage. We have accidentally let them grow another set of leaves but they taste better picked younger. I buy my sunflower seeds here.

Another day, if people are interested, I can post step by step photos on the sprouting process. But now I have to leave it because there is a queue for the pc!

A family evening

Daddy is flavour of the month with Barney at the moment. Since I started working almost full time in the shop, and Dan has been at home with the kids, my popularity has plummeted with our youngest who groans in despair if its my day to stay at home instead of Daddy. Daddy is, apparently, more fun and plays games. I lay in bed on Friday morning (my day off - Dan's day to work) with Barney and asked him some questions on the matter. What is Daddy better at? He's better at playing, laughing, having fun, jumping on the trampoline and doing fun stuff. So what is Mummy better at? He struggled to answer this and then proudly came up with "you are better at sleeping". Well, I had to laugh at that. So I set about making my day off work as fun as possible, in an attempt to win back some credibility. The problem is, you see, that I'm working maybe 5 or 6 days a week. Then when I get a day off there is always some huge chore to do - like gutting and cleaning one of the kids rooms. So I never seem to be fun. So on Friday morning I spent an hour playing in a duvet tent on my bed, with Barney. The tent was his cafe, and he cooked me all sorts of culinary delights including raspberry sandwiches, tuna salad, fish fingers and chips, and a magic cherry pie that changes flavours with every bite. Barney seemed to enjoy this, but later in the day when we were telling Daddy what fun we'd had he said "that wasn't playing Mummy that was just doing stuff on the bed". Sigh.

I did a few necessary chores and then we went out to play on the trampoline, but I jumped too high and sent him flying through the air, landing on his right hand and causing immense agony to my three year old. I thought I made up for it by doing a 20 minute intense workout on the trampoline with him - chasing him in circles around it, jumping, copying his moves (I must have lost half a stone). Then, in desperation I took him to tesco cafe for lunch. This was a good move I think and certainly boosted my popularity, although apparently Daddy prefers to take him for breakfast, which is nicer. Hmmm.

Barney had been asking to have a BBQ in the garden for ages, so in Tescos I said he could help me buy the meat to cook, and then we would surprise Daddy with a BBQ when he got home from work. He was certainly excited about this and we had a lovely family evening in the garden. It was a warm day, but since I've just got back from Dubai I had to eat my BBQ under a sleeping bag for warmth! Here are some photos.
Mummy and Daddy relaxing and enjoying the fact that their eldest child is now old enough to cook food on a BBQ unaided. Wow, finally we can chill a bit.
Here's young Jimmie doing his thing, preparing food for all us hungry carnivores.
(Yeah, I know, its not raw or vegan)
Dan set the camera to take a shot of all of us.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Elephant Poo Paper !!

How about this for the ultimate in recycling and reusing?! Elephant poo paper. Yes it is really made from elephant poo. I discovered it at this site and this is what they say about it.

Yes, this journal is made from elephant poo and other recycled fibres! In permaculture, they say "The problem is the solution" and the "problem" of what to do with elephant poo has been turned into a wonderful solution - 100% recycled paper.

Of course you're going to ask "Does it smell?" and the answer is definatly "No!". The poo is washed and dried to leave the fibres from the plants the elephant ate.

Size: 17cm x 20cm (7" x 8"). Hand made in Thailand.
A percentage of profits from the sale of this product is contributed towards the conservation of elephants.

Available in a choice of four colours: green, blue, pink and bark.