Saturday, 29 September 2012

Gymming it Up

I just changed a noun into a verb, in the title up there. Thanks for the tip, Calvin. (oh, and also Shakespeare)

So today I went gymming. I gymmed. For the first time in over a decade, in fact!

You'd think I was going through a midlife crisis or something. I've stopped eating sugar and meat, I've joined the gym and next week I'm going to begin a personal challenge of meditating for 40 days (no, not nonstop. just consecutively!).

But I don't feel like I'm grasping at straws, trying to reclaim a lost youth or whatever. I'm still totally young and nobody will convince me otherwise!

In fact, I feel like I'm finally coming into my own - and scientific research backs me up! Apparently, the human brain doesn't fully mature until you reach your 30s and even 40s. Wild, huh? Makes me realise that our youth obsessed culture is REALLY backwards in so many ways!

So anyway, back to gymming. I was pretty nervous, considering I've never really been into the whole gym scene before and I haven't been physically active on a regular basis since quitting roller derby late last year. Yikes! It's been a long time! Even so, I was pleased to see my blood pressure is perfect and resting heart rate is within the bounds of normal-for-someone-who-doesn't-work-out.

The gym is up the road, a literal five minute walk from my house, so that's really awesome. The trainer dude who went over my goals with me was really encouraging and was pleased with my squatting technique (or is it form? either way it's kind of an odd sentence right there). I attribute that to my time spent in roller derby where squatting was a way of life. A burning, killer way of life! You try to squat non-stop for an hour while also trying to knock other people off their skates. Not an easy task.

So my goals are to build up core strength and do some heavy lifting! Yes, none of that pansy 20 curls with a 5lb weight for me. I'm going for the heavy stuff. Today I lifted a 14kg kettle bell fifteen times, which doesn't seem like a whole lot, but I felt it by the end, I'll tell you! The gym dude wrote up a personal fitness programme which should take me an hour to complete and give me some major back and abdominal strength, along with legs, arms and cardiovascular health.

I am really excited! I told the kids that my goal is to lift them up with a single pinky finger. They decided that would make me a super hero so I am now looking forward to becoming Super Mum with a super hero costume consisting of my pyjamas. Save the world in my pj's? What more could a girl ask for?!

Three times a week, from 7am-8am. By the end of the year, I'll have been gymming for 40 sessions, which is a good start to forming a lifelong habit.

I am pleased that my health isn't bad right now. Considering my lack of physical exercise, it's almost a surprise. I can't count on that forever, though! Life won't always be easy street; old age will come and with it a whole host of issues that could have easily been avoided if I was active in my younger years.

This is my personal future investment. I know that eating right and exercising isn't the magic panacea for perfect health that it's made out to be. Life throws curve balls and challenges come to all of us, but this is a good thing for me, right now.

Well, since I am financially committed for the next 12 months, it better continue to be a good thing for me for a long while to come!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Macmillan Cancer Support Charity Event

Macmillan Cancer Support provides practical help for those people afflicted with cancer and their families.

This charity is especially dear to the hearts of many people in my church community, because unfortunately there are many members that have either died of cancer, are currently in remission, or are facing ongoing treatments. Macmillan has helped every one of them.

Today we had a "hot chocolate" morning. Macmillan stages a country-wide charity drive that they call "The World's Biggest Coffee Morning."  Obviously, being LDS, we don't drink coffee, so we provided hot chocolate instead!

But the real stars of the show were all the cakes. People made cakes, bought cakes, and ate cakes. For a couple of hours this morning we had the perfect excuse to chat, munch and donate.

In fact, we took in over £150 today! I am so excited about this, and really proud of everyone who took part, especially my children.

I temporarily lost my mind and encouraged everyone to bake their own cakes for the day. We went through a recipe book, made a list and went shopping.

 The oldest, age 9, made a carrot cake. She pretty much did the entire thing, I just read through the recipe with her. I topped it off with a ginger and lemon glaze after she went to bed. This recipe could have been cut in half, it was so HUGE. Massive, heavy, dense cake. She was on cloud nine when people asked for the recipe! It was a big hit.

 My gap-toothed, nearly 8 year old made sugar cookies. Lots and lots of them. The reddish-pink ones were iced by himself, and the purple ones were iced by his sisters. The little children in attendance gobbled them up!

My five year old made a lemon cake with her daddy. We have specific nights of the week where each child is allowed to stay up past their bed time and have special one-on-one time with their parents. It's usually Dad who spends time with them, because he's not around as much as I am! She really enjoyed baking with him and was very proud of how the cake turned out.

The baby of the family will not be left out. I neglected to choose a recipe for her before we went shopping, but she grabbed a boxed cake mix with Peppa Pig plastered all over it. Those little white squares on each cupcake are sugar rice papers of Peppa Pig's face. She is especially proud of the chocolate icing on top, and when I asked her later what she thought of the cakes, she just said "CHOCOLATE." Thatta girl.

I got in on the baking action, too, despite the fact that I don't eat sugar any more. Glutton for punishment? Maybe. I used to enjoy baking and even had a blog devoted to it, but now I find it more fun to watch other people bake. I was disappointed in my creation, an apple flan, because the pastry didn't turn out right and the apple topping was watery. People had a hard time getting it out of the pan, too. Oh well. At least I wasn't getting judged on it.

And just for fun, some out-takes:

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Family Proclamation - In Photos

My family is very important to me. Families are central to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is my family.

ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.

WE DECLARE the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.

HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for 
each other and for their children. 

Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the 
teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.

In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help 
one another as equal partners.

This post was inspired by a blog hop going on over at Middle-aged Mormon Man. He's a funny guy! He has thought-provoking posts! Go have a look...

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Parable of the Lost Keys

Once upon a time, not so very long ago (about last week), a boy woke up early in the morning. The sun was shining brightly, the birds were singing happily, and he desperately wanted to play outside.

Knowing that his mother kept the back door locked, the boy carefully took the keys off the hook, chose the key for the back door, and escaped into the beckoning world beyond.

When his mother, still tired and slightly annoyed at herself for sleeping in, came downstairs to the kitchen and noticed the boy was outside. "Hmmm...", she ruminated, "I wonder how he got out there?"

As she cast her eyes about the room, she saw the car key on the counter top. This key was normally attached to the house keys, and she realised the boy must have used them to play outside.

The boy skipped into the house, joyful and carefree. His mother asked him where he put the keys, and when his pockets turned up empty, he shrugged his shoulders and ran off to play again.

His mother tried not to panic, but the shrill tone to her voice made it clear that she was worried. The boy helped her look in cupboards, under furniture, and in bushes. The keys could not be found!

Feeling worried, the boy's mother asked him to lead the family in prayer, in the hopes that their minds would be clear and they would know where to look.

To their disappointment, nobody found the keys.

Many days later, the boy's mother still had not found the keys. She was happy that she had spare keys, and although it was inconvenient to use the car key without a key ring, she had every key she needed.

But she still wanted to find the missing keys. She was grumbling over their loss, and while she tried not to feel annoyed at her son for losing them, it was hard not to harbour a bit of resentment. Looking in the back yard a bit more thoroughly, she spend some time on her hands and knees trying to find the keys.

While searching, a thought came to her mind. She realised that all this time, while she thought her son's prayer wasn't answered, it actually was answered before the prayer was even said.

The car key was waiting for her in the kitchen before she even knew the house keys were missing.

Her spare set of keys had the exact ones necessary for locking the house before she left the house or before bed at night.

Although what she wanted was to find the house keys quickly, she already had what she needed.

This thought filled her with peace.

(and she still hasn't found those keys)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Women in the Scriptures Giveaway!

Heather at Women in the Scriptures is hosting a Blogiversary Giveaway! She has several postcard-sized prints of a beautiful painting of influential Mormon women to give away to one of her lucky readers. What a perfect gift from her blog!

I am so grateful that I stumbled across her blog a little over a year ago. Her insights and testimony have helped my own to blossom, and I really feel more at home with my place in the world and the eternities. She even encouraged me to write a guest post for her blog a few months ago! That is an honour that I am still quite giddy about, actually.

It is really hard to narrow down a favourite post, but one of the best is about the symbolism of veils. It made me realise how much I DON'T know about ancient times and Old Testament symbols, and how the permeate our modern day culture in so many ways. It has given me the "bug" to learn more about the Old Testament and make it a priority to study more. I love to learn, so this is a great gift.

Living in England, I don't often enter blog giveaways. Most of the blogs I read are based in North America and the postage is too high for many people. But I don't care about winning; I just wanted to spread the word about this lovely blog and the artist whose work is being showcased.

So go click on the links and enter the giveaway, or at least have a browse in the Etsy stores. Gorgeous paintings and a wonderful blog. Hurray!

Friday, 14 September 2012

I'm Just So Flighty

I was recently having a discussion online about why I don't have a blog dedicated to home educating my kids.

My reason was: I don't have the attention span to maintain a blog about only one thing! What I love about my blog here is that I feel free to write about whatever I want, whenever the mood strikes. I'm not interested in a tight focus or cultivating a following, or anything aside from writing my random thoughts.

But since that discussion, I have been thinking of a different type of blog that I might be interested in writing; a food blog.

Oh yes. I've done one before. A few years ago I had a wordpress blog called 30 Cakes in 30 Days. That was before my sugarless way of life and while it was fun, it wasn't exactly the best for my waistline or health!

So today I started a new blog, called The Vegetarian Tricentarian. Not only am I admitting to the world my age and eating habits, I am inviting any of my readers here to join in the discussion.

I'll probably re-post a few blog entries from here - can you plagiarize yourself, by the way? - and add things like recipes, health updates, what my kids are eating, and so on.

I don't know how long it will last, to be honest. I have had several blogs in the past with a tight focus (the cake thing, home ed, health at every size issues, parenting a disabled child) and always give up after a while. In fact, I deleted all the other blogs so I wouldn't feel guilty about not updating them anymore!

Yes, I have a strange mind. Won't you join me?

Friday, 7 September 2012

Kicking the Sugar Habit for Good

Back in May, I wrote a little bit about my sugar addiction.

For a few years now, I have told people in a jokey sort of way that I am addicted to sugar. I gave it up completely before I got pregnant with my youngest (so about 3 years ago now) but fell back into the habit - or the sweet, cloying grip of sugar as I often describe it to myself.

Some of the common symptoms of addiction are:
  • Tolerance - the need to engage in the addictive behavior more and more to get the desired effect
  • Withdrawal happens when the person does not take the substance or engage in the activity, and they experience unpleasant symptoms, which are often the opposite of the effects of the addictive behavior
  • Difficulty cutting down or controlling the addictive behavior
  • Social, occupational or recreational activities becoming more focused around the addiction, and important social and occupational roles being jeopardized
  • The person becoming preoccupied with the addiction, spending a lot of time on planning, engaging in, and recovering from the addictive behavior

If I read through that list with my experiences of eating sugar in mind, I can nod my head YES to every single one.
Tolerance? Check - I was always having to up my intake of junk in order to get the same level of satisfaction.
Withdrawal? Check - I would get headaches, dizziness, mood swings, etc when I went too long without the stuff.
Difficulty cutting down? Check - there is no "consuming in moderation" for me. If I indulge, it is like opening the floodgates to devouring sugar-laden foods at every opportunity.
Focus on the addiction at social activities? Check - I couldn't enjoy myself at a function with food unless I was eating something sugary.
Preoccupation with the addiction? Check - If I was afforded a rare opportunity to be alone in the day, I would always plan on a sugar binge to go with that alone time. I would often plan for it many days in advance.

All summer, I have avoided sugar. I think I slipped up a handful of times, and the cakes/ cookies/ biscuits/ chocolate bars weren't even good enough for me to fully enjoy it! (although the still-warm and gooey rice crispy treats were totally amazing, so there is that...)

But the temptation still existed. Every day, in the back of my mind, I would desire sugar. It was always something I had to control, manage, and somehow ignore.

Living like that is hard work. I would set up little "tests" for myself, like making cakes for the family or buying the kids treats, while I had nothing or maybe a piece of fruit.... not exactly the healthiest mindset, but there it is.

About a year ago, I came across this video:

It is a long one, about 90 minutes, but it is well worth your time. The doctor in the video was recently interviewed by 60 Minutes, a Panorama-type news show, where he laid it out in no uncertain terms:

Sugar is addictive.

Sugar is toxic.

Nobody should be consuming it, at all, ever.

Yikes! It took a long time for me to be brave enough to stare my weaknesses in the face and not only admit there was a serious problem but to get the gumption to make a PERMANENT change in the way I live my life.

What steps did I take to make this happen?

Replacing Sugary Foods with Fatty Foods

Yes, that's right. I read this blog post on Healthy Home Economist (she's pretty extreme in her thinking, but if you can sift through her strongly worded posts there is some good stuff to take away from her blog), and decided to change my palette from it's permanent "sweets" setting to a "savoury" one.

I bought lots of fancy, interesting cheeses. I started using REAL butter (yummmm). When I felt the sugar cravings strike, I went for crackers, butter and cheese instead. 

It worked pretty well. I enjoyed some new foods, and didn't feel so left out when my husband had a treat and I couldn't partake. I felt quite smug, actually, when he had a cheap little chocolate bar and I had a plate full of amazing food to munch on!

Eat Lots of Fruit

If I had a sugar craving I couldn't kick, I would reach for my box of frozen mango pieces. Or make some banana ice cream. I would drink a glass of fruit juice, or make an amazing fruit salad. The point is, I ate a LOT of fruit. 

It gave me that sweetness I was looking for, but with the bonus of nutrients and fibre attached. Excellent.

That was pretty much it, for the past several months. I didn't follow any "plan" I found on the internet, I just went with what worked for me, picking and choosing from ideas and tips that I came across, and applied it to my life as I saw fit. Like I said, it wasn't foolproof, and I did consume refined sugar a few times during this attempt. 

I made a point to fully, knowingly eat the sugar, accept this as a moment in time and not a complete reversal of all my efforts, and just ENJOY the food as I ate it. I refused to feel guilty, and then I moved on. 

I also accepted that I would always, always have this monkey on my back. Sugar was my Achilles heel and like drug users or alcoholics, I could never consume in moderation. It was all or nothing. I chose nothing. 

(Even as I ate sugar those few times, I felt my control slipping away at an astonishing speed that was almost frightening. I know that if I gave up entirely, I would be back to square one in a week or less. It is that bad.)

Recently, though, something has changed. It all started two months ago....

My husband and I are planning to have another baby, and have been for about a year, but my body wasn't cycling at all because of breastfeeding. I didn't start my cycles again until she was 23 months old - amazing - and I've been doing a lot of reading and researching about how women's bodies normally respond to such a long cessation of ovulation.

It turns out that the delicate balance of hormones needed to ovulate, achieve pregnancy and then maintain that pregnancy can sometimes take a while to get back to normal after a 2 year pause. I have been taking my temperature as described in the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility and noticed a distinct 3-phase temperature shift last month. I was almost certainly pregnant, but started bleeding 11 days after ovulation. My luteal phase was too short, which turns out to be a common issue after lactational amenorrhea. 

If all this is getting TMI and technical for you, I'll sum up by saying: If I took a high dose of B-complex vitamins, I would have an easier time of staying pregnant the next time. 

So I did.

I have been taking B-vitamins for 3 weeks now, and I'm feeling fine. 

More than fine, actually; soon after taking them I started noticing that my cravings for sugary foods had disappeared.


The thought wasn't even in my head anymore. There was nothing to fight against. No secret plans of buying, making or consuming treats without anyone knowing and then hiding the evidence. No longing looks at cakes and candies in the store or at social functions. 

I no longer cared.

Now, at first, I attributed this change to my success at resisting sugar for so long. But as I already admitted earlier, I still "caved" and ate sugary stuff from time to time. It was rare, but it happened.

It wasn't until I watched a random food documentary that mentioned the use of Niacin (a b-vitamin) in treating alcoholics that all the dots started connecting.

In the video up there, Dr Lustig explains that alcohol and sugar are metabolised by the body in exactly the same way.

And if Niacin can help alcoholics with their cravings, why can't it help sugarholics with sugar cravings?

I think it can. I think it has helped me.

There are websites out there that talk a little bit about using b-vitamins to curb sugar cravings. I don't know why I never researched this before! I suppose I didn't think that there was any way to kick this besides will power and complete abstinence.

And now? I am going to keep on keepin' on. I will continue to take the b-complex for two reasons now, and live my life sugar free as I was before. 

I feel better. My skin is clearer and has more colour. I am truly healthier because I don't eat sugar. 

I will never go back to the way I was eating before, and now that the addiction seems to be broken, I will never even desire to. It's amazing!

Do you have a sugar habit? Have you thought about quitting? What worries you about making the change?

Monday, 3 September 2012


I usually think of something to write in my blog when I'm doing the dishes or making dinner. Unfortunately, at those moments, I am very far away from a computer and unlikely to get the chance to sit down and write anything for several hours.

By the time I do sit down, my ideas have followed the dirty dish water down the drain and I'm drawing a blank.

So today I am going to force myself to write something anyway, and I've decided to write about my day.

This morning, unlike most mornings, I did not get up with the kids. I prodded and poked my husband to do it, while I went back to sleep. Usually, I am up with my toddler at around 6.30am, I say my prayers (if I remember!) and then we head downstairs to start our day. I clean the kitchen, make a green smoothie, and give people breakfast-type foods. After drinking my smoothie and taking vitamins, I head upstairs for a shower. Sometimes the siren's lure of the computer screen sucks me in and I don't get ready for another half hour, but I try not to sit at the computer first thing.

Today, because I didn't do my normal morning routine, I felt "off" most of the day. Dishes didn't get done until late afternoon, I didn't have my smoothie or vitamins, and I spent too much time pootling around on the computer.

But I also accomplished a fair amount. A few loads of laundry were washed, I helped my daughter get packed - not quite finished - for her trip with my husband to America in a couple of days, I collected a parcel from the post office and waited in all morning for two other deliveries.

The kids and I went to our allotment and released the chickens (6 eggs today!). They aren't quite free range yet, unfortunately, because my husband and a friend are in the process of building them a fox-proof run with a roof to prevent them from flying off. At the moment they are in a little hen house with an attached run that we open up twice a day to let them feel the sun on their backs. They are ex-battery hens so didn't really know what to do with themselves out of doors at first, but now they dearly love scratching in the dirt and get very excited when we arrive to let them out! I can't wait until they have their permanent outdoor home so we don't have to coop them up any longer.

This afternoon, we relaxed with a bit of screen time, watching a movie. Right now my kids really enjoy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I introduced them to the cartoon a few weeks ago, and we are making our way through the cheesy 90s live action movies, too. My little brothers used to love TMNT! I was too old to enjoy them to the same extent, but memories come flooding back when I watch the movies alongside my kids.

The bonus of my kids watching older cartoons is that the huge marketing hype that surrounded the TMNT franchise no longer exists. I just bought a few old toys on eBay for a fraction of the cost of what they would have been brand new, even 20 years ago. (ack! has it been that long?!) So now my son has a few toys he can play with and can't beg me for more, because they don't exist. See the beauty of this logic? Hee. As long as nobody tells him about eBay, I'm golden.

In food news, we are 2 weeks and counting with no meat. Dinners have been hit and miss, but to be fair, they were hit and miss when I was cooking meat, too. I enjoy eating bean-based dishes more than the family, it has to be said. It's okay, though! We'll get there in the end! There have been very few complaints about no meat, but my daughter did ask me if it was okay for her to eat a burger when she is in America with her dad. I had to laugh! It's up to them, of course - I'm not the dinner police - but I worry that they will get an upset stomach if they chow down on meat after not having it for a while.

I am toying with the idea of going vegan, myself. I wouldn't necessarily force this on my family, because they are a cheese loving bunch! But I am experimenting with making almond milk, and it's not half bad! I just soak the almonds overnight, rinse them off and blend them with water. To strain the almond puree, I've been using a fine mesh bag that I originally bought to use for buying loose produce in the grocery store. Since I often get my groceries delivered, I don't use the bags much! But they are perfect for straining the almond milk, so it's not a total waste of money.

So the milk tastes pretty good! I'm trying to acclimatise the children by mixing it in with the half-empty milk carton. I thought I was getting away with it with my first batch of almond milk, but I didn't strain it very well so it was still rather "bitty" and they noticed! Drat! I've made a much smoother drink this time, so hopefully they won't notice as much.

Tonight I cleaned the front room and moved our dining table away from the window. Our landlord is coming tomorrow to replace the leaking radiator and this room was downright embarrassing. Some would say it still is, what with the random stacks of books everywhere and crooked pictures, but at least the floor is clear of debris and the dirty clothes are in the laundry room! I swear, the only time I clean thoroughly is when people are coming over....

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Something I nabbed off Facebook

Ten Foods Packed with Calcium

Not everyone has “Got Milk?” as the ad campaign queries. That’s because not everyone wants milk. Whether you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, cutting down on fat, having trouble digesting dairy products or simply don’t like milk, there are still many milk-free ways to get adequate calcium in your diet.

The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) state that an a
verage adult needs 1000 mg – 1300 mg of calcium daily. This number is slightly higher for lactating and pregnant women.

When you think of non-cow-related sources of calcium, what comes to mind? You may think of leafy greens or orange juice – but, have you checked out black eyed peas, sesame seeds, salmon or molasses?

Sufficient amounts of calcium are required to maintain healthy bones and teeth. The mineral also helps with vascular contraction and muscle function, secretion of hormones and enzymes, and the transmission of impulses throughout the nervous system.

Orange Juice: Many fruits contain calcium, including oranges. Enjoy a glass of orange juice with your breakfast and boost your calcium stores. Calcium-enriched OJ will provide even more of your daily needs.

Almonds: Almonds contain almost 100 mg of calcium per ounce. Almonds also may be beneficial for those with high cholesterol.

Black Eyed Peas: Not only are black eyed peas a good source of calcium, these little beans also contain potassium, folate and other nutrients.

Blackstrap Molasses: Use molasses instead of syrup or sugar in some of your recipes to increase your calcium and iron intake. Molasses contains even more calcium than milk.

Broccoli: Steam broccoli for a high-calcium side dish or add it raw to salads for an extra boost.

Figs: Fresh figs are a good source of calcium; about four of them will give you more than 100 mg of calcium.

Kale: This super-green is high in calcium, other minerals and antioxidants. Add shredded kale to your salad if you need a calcium boost, or serve it cooked as a side dish. Beet greens and spinach are also rich sources.

Oatmeal: Oatmeal is considered a heart-healthy way to start your day. But, oatmeal also provides a significant amount of calcium. Just one packet of instant oatmeal provides about 100 mg.

Salmon: We already know salmon is a nutritious fish, loaded with essential fatty acids, but this fish is also rich in calcium and other minerals.

Sesame seeds: Sprinkle them on cereal or salads; sesame seeds are not just high in calcium, but also provide fiber and unsaturated fat.

Source: Assia Mortensen,