Tuesday, 22 September 2015

October Challenge: A Preview

Yes I know.  There's still more than a week of September to go, but I'm going to need a little help with my next challenge, so I'm making this appeal in plenty of time to learn from the experiences of others.

My challenge for October is to eat vegan.  For some time now I have been attempting (not always successfully) to be a semi vegetarian, ie restricting meat consumption to the weekends and special occasions.  I'm doing this mainly for ecological reasons, to limit my contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, but also for health reasons, to limit my intake of saturated fat and to hit my 5-a-day target.

However, in October I'm going to try and go one step further and cut out animal products altogether.  At first I thought this would be a doddle, but the more I think about it the more problematic it grows.  My main concerns are around alternatives for milk (I can't do without my morning cuppa!), eggs (no cakes? no puddings?) and cheese (I'm not convinced by any of the alternatives).  What will I eat for breakfast?  What can I order when I eat out?  What can I put on the table when I've only half an hour between getting home from work and going out for the evening?  How can I tell at a glance whether something I pick off the shelf is vegan?  What are the ingredients to look out for?  How can I ensure that I maintain a balanced diet and don't run myself down?

I know there are people out there who have the answers to these questions.  If you're one of them please share your wisdom below.  I will be most grateful.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

September Challenge

During the month of September I have challenged myself to begin each day with 15 minutes silence.

My normal routine would be to begin the day in a mad rush to shower, dress, grab some breakfast, pack my lunch and hunt for my keys before slamming the front door and haring down the road to get to work on time.  It's not the ideal way to ensure a good day.

As a Quaker attender I have grown to appreciate the value of waiting quietly during Meeting for Worship on Sundays and have decided to introduce it into my daily routine.  I may even try to end the day with a few minutes of silence to prepare me for a good night's rest.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

A Daughter's Secret: A Year in Books

When I popped in to the library last Monday morning to return an overdue book it was with no intention of borrowing another.  A cursory glance around our living room would assure anyone I had enough reading material to keep me entertained for a good few years.  But I can never resist checking out the display of new acquisitions and I had a yearning for a an easier read than any of the volumes in my 'to read' pile at home.

Eleanor Moran's 'a daughter's secret', a tale of two women hiding devastating secrets and needing each other to survive, was irresistible.  I just had to find out whether they learnt to trust each other before it was too late!

Next stop was the doctor's surgery,  I arrived early and decided to get stuck in straight away.  My first reaction was one of bitter disappointment.  I took an instant dislike to the author's vocabulary and use of imagery, so much so that I seriously contemplated returning to the library to swap it for another straight after my appointment.  But I was persuaded by Daisy Goodwin's 'gripping, emotional' review of an earlier novel to give Ms Moran a chance to live up to her reputation.

Having reached the end I'm glad I did.  For although I continued to struggle with her style I was emotionally engaged and gripped by the story.  Even better I found myself in that delicious state of being unwilling to put it down, something I haven't, for various reasons, experienced, but deeply missed for some time now.

So while I don't imagine I'll be scanning the shelves for any of her other novels I'm grateful that 'a daughter's secret' has got me reading again.

When choosing a book I usually read a paragraph selected at random to test whether I'm comfortable with an author's style, and immediately reject anything that jars.  I also admit to judging books by their covers.  How do you choose a new book?  How long do you allow yourself to persist with one which doesn't instantly please?  Is there a particular book you have been unable to finish, despite it being highly recommended?

I'm (rather unsuccessfully so far!) joining in The Year in Books with Laura over at Circle of Pine Trees.   

Sunday, 1 March 2015

March Challenge

During a recent long weekend visiting family in Scotland I was dismayed not only by the sight of so many people glued to their mobiles but, more importantly, by the realisation of how much time I spend checking for updates on my social media sites.  It has become an embarassing habit.

So the challenge for March is to spend less time on my mobile and more time living.  There will be no more peeking at Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at the beginning and end of each day, during breaks at work, on the bus or in cafes.  There's really no need for it.  Instead I will give my full attention to the people I'm with and the world around me, and confine my internet browsing to half an hour or so in the evening.

I'm hoping it will make me more mindful of my surroundings and reduce my stress levels.

Let's see.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

February Challenge: A Review

Although I didn't succeed in buying absolutely nothing in February I did manage to confine my purchases to pretty much the essentials ie food and drink and bus fares.  Drawing up a list of the contents of my kitchen cupboards helped.  However even after a month of raiding the shelves for ingredients they are still remarkably full.  So, as was the case with January's Dump the Junk Challenge, it is definitely work in progress!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Rising Up

 This morning I visited the Rising Up camp off Frenchay Park Road, where a group of people are protesting against the destruction of prime agricultural land in order to develop the site for the Metrobus scheme.

The background and history of this campaign can be found on the Rising Up website.  No one is denying the importance of public transport but the Metrobus scheme has been discredited, while the land it threatens is Grade 1-3 Best and Most Versatile soil and home to smallholdings and allotments.  All this takes place in Bristol's year as Green Capital of Europe and the United Nations' Year of the Soils!

Back to the camp which is well organised but, after yesterday's rain, is wet and muddy.  The site is dotted with tents pitched on pallets to keep them dry, a communal kitchen with a fire on which to cook and gather round to eat, and a compost loo.  There are variety of shelters in the trees, including one designed as a birdbox, and protestors take it in turns to sleep up in the branches.

I spent an hour or so looking round the site and chatting to the protestors, asking them why they were there and how they were coping with living in the wild.  They are a diverse bunch of individuals but with a single commitment, to protect this piece of precious land from the developers.  I admire their courage and determination and feel slightly ashamed of my reluctance to join them.  I left them a rucksackful of food and a gingerbread cake by way of compensation.

If you live in or around Bristol and would like to support them in some way they have drawn up a list of  ten things you might like to do.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Wolf Hall: The Year in Books

I was only a day late in finishing my January book (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler).  However, considering I was only a third of the way through it on Friday, I was rather pleased with myself.  On the Saturday and Sunday afternoons I did what I haven't done in a long time.  I curled up under my fleece blanket on the sofa with a mug of tea and read for a few hours.  It was sheer luxury.

So, what did I make of it?  I'm not sure.  I raced through the first few chapters and then ran out of steam.  I only had enough time to read a few pages a day which didn't work well with the non linear narrative.  I had to keep flicking back through the pages to refresh my memory.  It wasn't until the weekend that I go back into the story.  

It's a tricky book to review on account of the dramatic twist it takes fairly early on and which is intrinsic to the story line.  I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone.  So I'll settle for saying that I enjoyed it, but no more than that.  It's carefully researched, well written and the story moves on apace.  It deals with a fascinating subject.   But I didn't really care very much for any of the characters and it ultimately failed to grip me.

My book for February is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  I bought the hardback copy for £3 from a charity shop some time ago and hoped to have it read by the time the TV series began.  I didn't but watching it has inspired me to pick it up again.  I'm taking it up to Glasgow next weekend to leave it with my daughter so I'll have to get a move on.

I'm joining in The Year in Books with Laura over at Circle of Pine Trees.