Friday, 30 January 2015

Healthy eating and superfoods - expensive versus frugal

These days the teen (Daughter) spends much time soaking up the lifestyles of Youtubers such as Niomi Smart and Zoella. Thanks to them, she knows far more about hairstyles and fashion and make-up than I will ever know or will ever want to know. And not only do these Youtubers have beautiful outsides but they care about their insides too.

Niomi Smart

As a result Daughter is regularly asking for superfood items (some of which I have never heard of) to be added to the shopping list. I'm all in favour of her developing interest in healthy eating but these new-fangled superfoods don't come cheap.

Included in her requests have been: chia seeds, goji berries, quinoa and cacao powder. Agreed, a little may go a long way - you only need a sprinkle of chia seeds on your oats - but as well as the cost factor, many of these foods have ethical issues. For instance, it is claimed that quinoa, once a staple food for its farmers, is now such a valuable crop for export that locals cannot afford to eat it themselves. And what about the food miles? These foods are hardly very local to Wiltshire.

Time to refer back to an article that my Dad sent me a while ago from Which? magazine which includes the following: "Some superfoods (such as oats and broccoli) are cheap, but others (such as goji berries and spirulina powder) are an expensive and unnecessary addition."  Thank goodness for that.

The article goes on to recommend some cheaper superfood substitutions...
  • Kiwi fruit instead of blueberries.
  • Eat sardines rather than salmon.
  • Goji berries can be replaced by spinach (maybe not on top of cereal though...)
  • And wheatgrass (what on earth's that?) for broccoli.
  • Substitute sunflower oil for coconut oil.
...and Which? also gives some medically proven advice on eating healthily:
  • Lower cholesterol - limit saturated fat intake.
  • Get your five a day - fresh, frozen, tinned or dried fruit and veg all count.
  • Eat more fibre.
  • Reduce your salt intake.
  • Cut your sugar intake.
So I'll be sticking with my wholemeal bread, porridge, spinach, dark chocolate, apples and bananas for now, and when I start a Youtube channel to go with the blog and get sponsored by Kelloggs or McDonalds (*jokes*) I'll think about buying the more expensive superfoods.

Nobody wants to argue with the teenager though so I am trying to meet her half way with Aldi's cheaper alternatives...spinach and milled linseed with a microscopic amount of added goji berries...

Monday, 26 January 2015

Back to the library...

I love books and I love blog posts about books. I've discovered some interesting reads from other bloggers' recommendations. Today I seem to have a pile of books going back to the library some of which a) I have actually read (well, mostly - I can't say I read all the knitting patterns letter by letter) and b) seem to fit in with this blog's theme.

From the bottom of the pile, The Gentle Art of Knitting by Jane Brocket. I borrowed this for its scarf pattern*, which I followed for my sister's Christmas present. (As a notoriously slow knitter and project completer, remarkably, I did actually finish it in time to give it to her when I saw her just after Christmas). There are several other patterns in here which I reckon are within my ability range, so I might be back to the library for this book again. Thumbs up.

Next up, David Sedaris - Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. Does not really come under the eco, simple or frugal theme, this one (although there is a chapter about his obsession with picking up litter), but very funny. A friend introduced me to David Sedaris last year (not literally, although I'd love to meet him or go to one of his live readings) via his programmes on Radio 4. His wry, observational humour appeals to me. When I saw Let's explore Diabetes with Owls at the library I wondered whether his writing would work on the page as well as it does when he reads his books out loud. I certainly didn't chortle at all of it, but there were many passages that had me laughing out loud.

I'm a sucker for any 'escape to the country' type book, so when I spotted A Gull on the Roof, a slim volume written in the 1960s, I was surprised I hadn't stumbled over this series before. Written by Derek Tangye, a journalist, the series, of which AGotR is the first, tells the story of him and his wife Jeannie's move to Minack, Cornwall. Here, they began a new life far removed from their time schmoozing with celebrities in London (Jeannie worked at the Savoy). They took on a farm by the sea where they grew daffodils, other flowers, and new potatoes. Although well written, there was a little too much detail about the daffodil growing for me - it just didn't grab me enough. I've decided I prefer general small holding to flower growing in an 'escape to the country' book, and I took my time to get through this one. I won't be working my way through the rest of the series in a hurry, although I would probably borrow one of the sequels out if I happened to come across it.

Mindset appealed to me as a parent and teaching assistant, containing ideas on how to develop a growth mindset. It was case-study rich - I skipped many paragraphs and relied on the end of chapter resume boxes! The main thrust for me, was to be careful about the messages I deliver: they ought to be of the "you're a developing person and I'm interested in your development" rather than "you have permanent traits which I'm judging". Praise should be for strategies, effort or choices made, not for innate talent or intelligence, and constructive feedback should help a child understand how to fix something. I shall be photocopying some of the handy summary boxes for future reference.

How about you? Any good reads to beat the January blues?

* Scarf pattern, in case I want to use it again:

Cast on 43 stitches. Knit 1 row.

Then a ten row repeating pattern: 

Row 1: K1, P1, [K7, P1] to last st, K1.
Row 2 - 3: As Row 1.
Row 4: K3 [P5, K3] to end.
Row 5: K1, P3, [K3, P5] to last 7 sts, K3, P3, K1.
Row 6: K5, [P1, K7] to last 6 sts, P1, K5.
Rows 7-8: As Row 6 twice.
Row 9: As Row 5.
Row 10: As Row 4.

Continue until scarf measures approx 160cm, ending on row 10, knit 1 row, cast off.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Simple Living Challenge - Days 2, 3 & 4

I'm still following Kindspring's Simple Living challenge. I'm not keeping up with the challenges on a daily basis - a long weekend away with no internet access has put me out of sync slightly. (Although the weekend was a meditation retreat so dovetailed very well with the Simple Living theme.)

Day 2 of the challenge was good preparation for someone heading for a device free meditation weekend. The challenge was to 'Make time to unplug and enjoy some screen free time.' I'm always banging on about this to my kids so this was right up my street.  I even blogged about this very topic a couple of years ago. I was really keen to get the whole family on board for the Day 2 challenge, boldly declaring it to be a Screen-free Sunday. Mid-morning arrived and I was the only one still on board...*sighs*

Apart from two minor transgressions, for me - the solo challengee, the whole day passed with no smartphone, no TV, no PC. Despite being a blogger, I would consider myself a low level 'device' user. I'm a notoriously sporadic blogger, not very active Facebook user and practically non-existent Twitterer. I anticipated that the day would be a breeze and the no TV and no PC part was. However I was really surprised, even shocked, by how many times I had to 'surf the urge' to check my phone. There were some useful revelations from the day - nothing earth shattering but notable none the less:

1) My phone makes me lazy - for example, I reached for (but resisted) it straight away when I awoke, to check the time...I don't need a phone for this...

2) The day seemed waaay longer than a usual Sunday and I got loads of real world jobs done; most notably a pile of mending that had been demanding my attention for several weeks, and I guzzled a good chunk of my book. It's easy to get distracted once interacting with a screen - if I check my phone to see if there are any text messages, then it's all too easy to pick up my emails as well, and if there's an interesting link to a web page in the email then I'm gone, and what was a 30 second job has turned into twenty five minutes reading stuff that I didn't mean to. With none of that going on during my screen free day, it's easy to see how I apparently gained time!

3) Technology engenders a false sense of urgency and immediacy. Maybe I lead a less exciting life than many but most of the messages I would have sent or responded to came to no harm by being actioned the following day. 

To conclude, I really enjoyed this challenge and would like to aim for a screen-free day every weekend.

As for my minor transgressions? I had a really quick look at my text message inbox last thing on Sunday night, just to check there was nothing urgent relating to the week ahead. There was not. I clearly have delusions of being important.

The other transgression was using my Insight Timer app, which leads me nicely to Day 3 'Spend ten minutes in silence'. I've been trying to be a meditator for a long, long time now, so Day 3's challenge was no stranger. Although the brief did not stipulate that you had to spend ten minutes meditating, I decided that my daily 'sit' would fit the bill. Now that mindfulness and meditation are trendy, there are many websites and apps to support a home practice; since acquiring a basic smart phone last year, I use an app called Insight Timer. 

It allows you to choose a singing bowl type bell to sound when your time is up, or set it to ring at various intervals during your 'sit'. There are guided meditations to listen to and you can see how many other Insight Timer people are meditating around the world and buddy up if you want to. I have a few meditating friends in my online Insight Timer community, ranging from real people I know locally, to people in Australia, Germany, Italy, the US and Canada. I've overcome my initial scepticism and it's probably my favourite app of the few I use; I allowed it through the net on my screen-free day. The irony in using a digital app to help develop a steady mind with the potential to be less distracted by, amongst other things, the digital world, does not escape me...

Day 4's challenge was to clear out your Inbox. Having a very full email inbox does not bother me at all, so I focused on my real inbox and spent 15 minutes de-cluttering papers that were no longer needed. This was a challenge I could use more often.

That's probably as much simple living as you can take in one blog post, so I shall leave it there for now.

Friday, 9 January 2015

New Year, new challenge.

Back to blogging in 2015 with a capital B. If there's one thing bloggers like, it's a good challenge.  When I read about KindSpring's 21 day Simple Living challenge at the end of last year, I was drawn to it and signed up straight away. 'Keep it simple' seems to be a mantra that I say to myself more and more these days - it can be applied to so many areas of life. I'm intrigued to see what the 21 day challenge (which started today, 9 January) will bring.

What I do know is that there'll be a daily email containing the challenge, a video to watch, and an online forum where participants can connect with one another. If you're interested you can check it out here. I'm not in the habit of blogging daily, but I'm sure there will be some food for thought and some inspiration for writing over the three weeks.

Day 1's challenge arrived in my email box this afternoon and for once I was ahead of the game. Good old decluttering was bound to be in there somewhere and there were no surprises today with the task being to Declutter your home and give away at least one thing that you don't need with the reminder that: "The benefits are far-reaching. Well-organized and uncluttered spaces help create more peace and spaciousness in our minds, while chaotic environments full of too much "stuff" can do the opposite." In my bones I know this to be true but in practice we put on a really good show in this house when it comes to chaotic environments.

To try and counter this tendency to chaos, nearly every time I went up to town during December I scouted around for a few things to take to one of the local charity shops, and I have good intentions to continue with this habit. Before reading today's challenge, I had already taken a couple of items sold on eBay to the Post Office, posted some late Christmas presents, and taken a bag of books and three items of clothing to the Oxfam shop. 

Simple Living Challenge Day 1 - CHECK! I doubt that I'll be able to pre-empt ensuing challenges quite so successfully. 

As if that wasn't enough, it's a challenge double whammy. Rachelle of My Zero Waste is running her own January challenge - Dump Your Junk (without resorting to landfill of course) so I think today counts as a #dumpyourwaste - CHECK too!