Monday, 27 October 2014

Born in the wrong century - so to speak & a gorgeous vicar!

J. Howard Miller's poster from 1943 - Wikipedia
Since summer transitioned to autumn I have been waking up earlier, which doesn't make sense as at 4 or 5am it's pretty dark. I have this issue in summertime, when at 4am it is incredibly light and the birds are chirping away in the back garden.

Why now? Perhaps it is because I am juggling too many balls. I am not SAD - I was down in the dumps last year as autumn/winter are not my favourite seasons. I feel contented with my daily life. When stressed or depressed I also wake up early, my brain kicks into action and I cannot go back to sleep as I think about potential problems to be addressed, chores, etc. Not exactly fluffy, happy thoughts. 

But not this year! This autumn I am fighting negative thinking with positive thinking, if there is a cloud I quickly grab a silver lining. For instance, Yes, it would have been better to schedule those two appointments in town closer together but... POSITIVE THOUGHT... the big gap was not a waste of time as I managed to visit the library and borrow that book I was meaning to read in the weekend. So I saved a library trip, freeing more time for other activities.

There is so much I am trying to do: work part-time in an office, work at home as consultant, spend time with my daughter, do creative writing workshops (I went to a drama one yesterday), see friends, go to public lectures (the Festival of Ideas is on now), grab some time for training (I am doing a MOOC and have other courses lined up), update my blogs (five of my own and one for community project), read that book I borrowed, look after house and garden and last (always comes last since I became a mother) look after myself. And it might not be all as I have a list on my desk with a few little chores that need doing this week. This week... the half-term week. It is going to be a squeeze! My partner is taking three days off, which leaves two days to do it all and with my daughter in tow.

But no negative thoughts, please, "We can do it!" So to put a positive spin to my hectic life, let's say I am trying to be a Renaissance person. This is not a popular character to be in this specialised age, but lo and behold, there is an article online that explains how to be one!

Challenge 1: "Building your physical prowess". Right, I have this covered. I was lucky enough to win a month's membership to local sports centre. I did various classes and swam. Problem is that I can't sustain it at that pace. Yes, I want to continue but not right now I have to negotiate childcare with my partner to attend evening classes or find a daytime one I can do, which is tricky with my ever-changing schedule. But let's be positive and wait after the half term.

Challenge 2: "Developing your creativity""Understanding art". Yesterday I went to a drama workshop and had to perform at the end, in front of an audience. I also go to a writers' group now and then. I like to go to museums and art galleries, stress-free outings I can share with my daughter, no problem here.

Challenge 3: "Honing your intellectual skills". Easy peasy, I do this all the time because I get a kick out of learning. My various projects  involve learning about new processes and subjects. And I am going to teach next year! Also I read a lot. But let's keep this in check, there is nothing more irritating than a know-it-all.

Challenge 4: "Balancing your life" Ouch. My happy balloon burst there. My life-work balance needs some serious TLC. Still, it's not an epic fail, yes we can do it!

Challenge 5: "Developing your character and temperament". This includes "Be brave" and "Be thoughtful and generous". I think these two are OK. I can manage to make myself do things I don't want to do and find charity work satisfying. There is also "Be courteous", I do believe manners cost nothing and try hard not to be upset by morons. When I was living in London I kept getting this comment: Cheer up, it might never happen, but not now. Either people in Cambridge are more polite or I stopped looking grim. And last but not least, "Be a leader". How? "A real Renaissance person is a person who helps others and cares for their neighbors". Bingo, I joined a local exchange skills scheme recently and I hope it works out as it will make every-day life more interesting and fulfilling. 

I leave you with this last bit of advice/tip: " If anyone ever insults you about it or is ever hostile to you about being a Renaissance person, do not take it personally. They are jealous."

And here is a bonus gift, a screenshot of my current fave period drama actor. Who knew vicars can be this gorgeous? 

Screenshot from Grantchester, ITV drama

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Winter wellness for the whole family

Photo: Stephanie Lepoint

Today I am not feeling my best, I am coughing, feeling light headed and my stomach is not happy - paracetamol works well but always has that annoying side effect. It's a cold, grey day and luckily I can work from home. It could be worse, I could have that nasty flu that drains your brain while your body aches all over.  

I am a strong believer that prevention is better than cure, so as soon as the autumn started I did a stocktake of my medicine cabinet and bought a few items to see me through the winter. Here is my honest review of them all, including products that were sent to me by health and wellbeing PRs. New products are launched every season and I am always keen to try new things. Plus it is very convenient to be able to try before you buy.

What I bought

Nature's Answers Bio-Flavonoids & Rose Hip, around £12
I bought this a long while ago so it only has a few spoonfuls left. I originally collected rose hips and wanted to make my own syrup but the process put me off. I don't think I will buy this again as it tastes awful. I try to swallow it quickly but it lingers in the mouth. I am not sure if it does me any good and it is not cheap for 120ml. Maybe I should give the syrup a go so I can make it as sweet as I like. This is suitable not for children, the homemade syrup would be OK.

Ortis Vitality Ginseng, around £17
I bought this when I was feeling drained and needed a pick-me-me-up. This works very well and is reasonably priced for 250ml. The taste is fine, I would recommend this if you are feeling down and have not much appetite. This is not suitable for young children.

D Lux Vitamin D 3000, around £8
This was recommended to me by a SAD friend, who called it liquid sunshine. Pleasantly minty, it is a wonder for dark moods on grey days, whatever the season. Don't be greedy, though, stick to the dosage. It can last quite a while. It is not suitable for young children.

Fisherman's Friend, around 70p per packet
This is not a medicine or health product, it is an amazingly long-lasting lozenge. It kills my cough and even helps with throat pain. I bought a retail-size box of these from ebay. I don't care if the brand is not cool, I can't live without them. I have a sensitive throat that needs soothing whatever the season.

Forever Aloe Vera Bits & Peaches, around £22
This is the children version as I didn't fancy the taste of the adult one. I do enjoy aloe vera soft drinks but even this peach version is not to my liking. I took the adult dosage and had some unfortunate tummy effects then read about it online and found out it is used as laxative and as a slimming aid. I cut down the amount I take to child's dosage and it works fine. I won't be buying it again as I can't stomach the taste of it, even mixed to orange juice.

What I was sent by PRs

Dettol Anti-bacterial Cleansing Surface Wipes, £2 for 36
Wipes? You might ask. I am a fan of baby wipes for cleaning almost anything, such a pity I discovered their power only after having a child. These Dettol wipes, though, have a stronger germ-killing power. So whether you have a young baby of weaning age or a school-child with mucky lunchbox, they come in handy. The only thing I'd say to manufacturer, make them a bit smaller and a bit cheaper! That said, I managed to use them to clean the burned grease and food spills off my cooker - Mr Muscle, eat your heart out!

Proven Fit for School Probiotics with A-Z Multivitamins, around £13 for 30 chewable tablets
There is a tempting claim on the box: shown to reduce absenteeism from school by 30%, which could be very popular with working parents! The tablets taste nice and my daughter likes them. Suitable from 4 years of age, they are not cheap compared to standard multivitamins, but if they work! So far so good.

Proven Probiotics Adult Probiotic Plus Total Immune & Energy Support, around £11
This box contains 14 sachets of "delicious effervescent drink containing real orange". To me it tastes like an adult multi-vitamin drink, a tiny bit bitter, so not as nice as the children's tablets! I have a sweet tooth, sorry... Apparently you can take it directly into your mouth like a sherbet, which was nice and tingly! Not bad value for money since it is also an energy drink for those drained days.

Quest Vitamins' Forte 4000 Vitamin D, around £12 for 60 chewable tablets
With sun doing a disappearing act during the winter, your body could do with a vitamin D boost as only 10% comes from food we eat. This is particularly important for adults over 65, pregnant women and children. Vitamin D also helps fight SAD (seasonal affective disorder). As I mentioned above, Vitamin D is liquid sunshine and it does work!

I also got a few other items to try out from a very generous PR person, a real healthy treat! This 'health hamper' included Carnation socks in my child's size in a lovely pink shade; BrightStart Vitamin D3 Drops + DHA for children and SwimSeal drops, which deal with ear pain in little swimmers. 

My family is well set for winter indeed!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Friday fun: what type of biscuit are you?

Last week I went to Camjelly and after toiling on a boring job for an hour or so, I quit and started working on this fun personality quiz.

Whatever your occupation, please have a go - it will only take you two minutes.

Hope you enjoy it - this is great with a cup of tea or coffee!