Friday, 31 May 2013

A Fresh Vista

David and I are about to set sail for a month in Sardinia!

The bags are all packed and half of my suitcase is packed with scribble pads, colored pens, anatomy books and fascia guides so that I can do some reading and revision before I head of for a week with Gil Hedley up at St Andrews at the end of July. The other half is packed with embroidery patterns, calico, knitting and cameras. In the middle is a small space for a couple of bikinis!

I am looking forward to blogging from Italy on lots of subjects around anatomy and massage practice, so keep checking in to see what's new and fresh from the foot hills around Cagliari.

Take good care and keep breathing and I look forward to seeing you in the treatment room in July.


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Class of 2012 has now Graduated!

David and I at my parents home before we celebrated! 

The class of 2012 from the Jing Institute of Advanced Massage has now graduated.

As you know, I have been going to the Jing Institute of Advanced Massage since 2008, studying for my B-Tec Level 6 in Advanced Clinical and Sports Massage, as well as Muscular-Skeletal Anatomy. Well, it's now all over and I am a very happy woman! 

My family and I went out to celebrate Graduation on Saturday at The Noah's Ark Inn over in Lurgashall, whilst Jing celebrated their 10th Birthday and Graduation down in Brighton that night. I send my love and heartfelt congratulations to all my class who got to throw their caps into the air that night.

I just want to thank you all; my family, friends, clients and blog readers, for your support over the years as I couldn't have passed without you.

The pink bubbly was wonderful and I'm now looking forward to getting down to business! Now I feel as if I can walk forward with my head held high and my hands grounded in super body work. In the words of Mumford And Sons:

'Let me learn from where I have been, 
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn.'

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Stuff Of Life (2)

There have been two things that have come up this week after the last posting: A question and a comment.

The Question:

If food is so vital for us to function, why is it that we have grown to be so far removed from its production? 

It's a question that won't be answered in these blog posts but I think it's important for you guys to start thinking about.

The Comment: A reader got in touch after the last posting saying how living an environmentally sustainable life is really hard to do when you need to sustain a budget. It was a very fair comment and one that links very much to my questions about food and our relationship to it.

Not so very long ago David and I decided to clear our debts, cut the credit cards and live off cash. Oh, how halcyon! The idea was so simple, but yet the living out of it was astronomically difficult. However, the only way that I could manage the day to day living out of this dream was to take a long hard look at our larder, and this, dear readers, is where the question and the comment collide.

When we decided to look at how much we were spending, the kitchen took up a load of our budget and we had to start cutting back. It was at the same time as when we started looking into the environment and I started boring our dinner guests. The budget we had didn't seem to stack up with our way of thinking on the surface, but we learned that we had to think a bit deeper, act smarter and make some tough choices.

Back then we bo
th worked five days a week and I also worked in the evenings, so both David and I knew that we had a limited time in which to get cracking on three levels: Our budget cuts, which took first priority, our environmental stance on organic and sustainable living and our big passion for eating.

We decided to cook from scratch and make lists. It's basic home economics, but I would sit down for half an hour and work out a meal plan, look at the ingredients for each recipe and write it down. I would then go into the kitchen and work out what I already had and what I needed to get for the week. This act alone cut the food bill down by a third and although we had to stick rigidly to the food plan, it worked well.

For dinner I started making extra portions, so if I was effectively cooking for four as this would give us both a good sized lunch box to have for work the next day and we didn't have to buy extra. This saved us a minimum of £8 a day, which adds up to about £160 a month.

The other thing was I started looking at how I buy food. When I push a trolly around a supermarket I buy loads more than I need: That extra bag of crisps, chocolate bars, three for two offers on orange juice that go off before we drink them all ... you name it, and I bought it because I was mentally flippant. So, I got on to the organic veg-box guys; Able And Cole. I still do my shopping with them as they can offer me the organic food I need that is sustainably grown by farmers who get paid a fair amount. Bonus, and I don't have to look at the candy stand!

Then I chose the hard part. I started carving out three hours on my day off to make a 'tool box' of ingredients for the rest of the week. This is an idea from Skye Gyngell's book 'A Year In My Kitchen', a book I got for my birthday the year we started this mad-cap scheme! Basically, she cooks with the seasons which is great when you are trying to eat organically within a budget as the veg and fruit that are in gluts are a bit cheaper. However, the trick is to make things taste amazing with out feeling deprived and what Skye's book taught me was that if I made things like lemon oil, basil oil, mayo, oven dried toms, red onion chutney, braised lentils and the like once a week I could produce small batches in one day, have them ready to go when I was busy after working in the evenings and make dinners taste great. I now add bread baking to the list as well as making sure I have pastry, both sweet and savory, ready to go in the fridge. It was a tough decision to make the time, but it has paid off in so many countless ways!

Meat and fish is a big issue for people as it forms a daily staple for many. It's expensive to buy organically and I can understand why people take a step back and shy away from paying the prices as it's very tough to fit it into a budget for a family. However, it's worth the price, and David and I decided to eat less and buy it from the farmer where possible. I am now a veggie, but David enjoys meat and now when he cooks it he chooses to use it as a garnish rather than the main event. Also, we don't use it as our staple diet and have learned how to see it as a treat. David's advice to many has been to cut meat down, rather than cut it out, and keep it to twice or three times a week, buying only the best your budget can afford.

We also started growing our own salads and that saved us a bomb. As organic salad bags are now £2 each, there is no way we can sustain buying them at the rate we eat them, so we have pots of rocket, spinach, lettuce and other goodies. We cut as we need to and then we buy small amounts in the winter.

I am not pretending that this organic lark is easy. It's a life choice and personally it's one I made as I realized that our home planet cannot support us if we carry on the way we are. I would encourage you to make little steps rather than jumping in with both feet and be easy on yourself. Little and often is so much more sustainable than one big crash and burn.

If you want more advise on budgets and getting out of debt, I would advise Pam Young's The Good Book. Find out who is controlling your spending and see how you can change habits. I laughed all the way through the audio version!

So... where are we now? ... Happily, after a couple of years David and I did get debt free!! We have a credit card that neither of us use and we are saving. It's a very slow road and we don't get to splurge on things that we want when we want them. But I think we are happier and I know that we are eating really well! I also know that of course we are making a dent in the environment, but it is smaller than it could be and I'm o.k with that for now.

I hope you enjoyed the read today. I know it's a bit off the therapy beam, but I knew that the last post needed a follow up and I hope it's helped.

Friday, 3 May 2013

The Stuff Of Life

Over breakfast this morning I thought back over the past decade and realized that if I had met myself eight years ago I would have run from the hills and never returned. I was an environmental bore. I had discovered the issues around the Pacific Gyre as well as ranted and raved about the estrogen in the water and how it is effecting living beings on our planet, long before Ted Talks got chatting about it. Organic Farmers were telling David and I about chemicals being pumped into the earth whilst we were staying in their B&B's and I was an avid fan of Turtle Bags. I bought organic products as much as possible and bored our dinner guests for hours about the subjects. 

And now....

I still believe every word I said. 

The media is telling us that in the new economy the organic movement is one of luxury and so should be shunned. Plastic bags are seen more and more now as the canvas alternatives are seen as more expensive. The problem that our dairy farmers are not being paid enough even to cover the costs of producing our pint of milk is not headline news. Basically, we are being told that although we have a new economy, the health of our world is not important enough to invest in. 

So, why I am I telling you this and how does it link in to what I do every day, which is treat my clients for skin care and massage? Because I care about your insides, not just your outsides. 

This week there has been a few things trending on Twitter: What are you eating today? Was just one question posed by the Jing Institute yesterday and the theme also co-in-sided with the new book by Michael Pollan; 'Cooked'. There have also been conversations about how we can live a bit more simply and regain out equilibrium and how slowing down just a fraction can boost how we feel. 

As I said in my last post, I am not asking you to meditate under a tree and I don't think birdsong for 90mins at lunch time is helpful when you have stuff to do at the office. BUT, I think maybe just carving out some time to eat would be a good thing for us to do. Or, if you don't plan to do it, at least you can think about it! 

I am not asking you to bake your our daily bread. I work from home and am really fortunate that a sourdough loaf that takes 8 hours to make is something I can reasonably do three times a week ... I know that is not normal for you guys who work in an office and have families to organize. What I would challenge you to do though is take a walk down the road on your lunch break and find a baker who has his own bread for you to buy. Find out what types he makes, where he bakes it and what flour he uses. Get a connection going with the guy who makes your bread. Why put up with the basic stuff of life being mass processed in a cold factory using the Chorley Wood Method in less time than it takes me to do a facial?!

I have tried, (often failed), to grow some our own salads. I use organic seeds and compost. There is little financial gain in growing my own, but then again I know what has gone into making my salad today: Sun, water, earth and a seed. In the U.K Neonicotineoids are allowed to be used in farming. The E.U have banned them. If you want to eat products that have been sprayed with this stuff, then fine, go ahead! But I really want you to research the chemicals that go on your food before you do. If one seed has Neonicotineoid sprayed on it, it can kill a small song bird in a day and a mallard duck within two weeks and it isn't pretty. The U.K is talking about the bees, and so we should, but it's the birds that we will loose as well if we don't get rid of these chemicals soon.

Finally, this all does take time. I have to think about the half hour it takes to look after my tiny crop every other day. I do worry about the fact that I was too brutal with my tomatoes yesterday when hardening them off, (three snapped in half due to the high winds on my balcony). I am passionate about sourcing good food and that does take time and because cooking is not instant I was very happy to visit our local pizza joint last night! There is a balance to be set between looking after ourselves and our planet as well as getting on with the day-job. 

Good luck to all who take this on, but I am pretty certain that you are guaranteed a different, and arguably better, way of life if you take a bit more interest in the stuff you put in your mouth. 

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