Wednesday……chocolate update

It’s been a month since my self imposed chocolate ban and I have to say that it has actually been a lot easier than I thought it would be to forgoe my daily chocolatey treat. I also have to report that I feel absolutely no different now than I did a month ago. Which is more encouraging than disappointing.

My experiment if you can call it that was to ascertain whether or not eating raw chocolate on a near daily basis – actually who am I kidding – on a daily basis was having a detrimental effect on my health.

There is much debate within the raw food community as to the pros and cons of eating raw cacao. There are two very distinct camps and they don’t mix or compromise one inch in their views on the subject. It is difficult then to know who is right and who is wrong. I like to think that my body knows what is best for me and so hence the experiment to see if I did indeed feel any benefits laying of my chocolate fix for a month. But no. Zippo. None. Which means……..

Yep, you guessed it I’m back on the raw cacao and just in time for Easter. Lucky for me that our local health food shop stocks a particular variety of raw chocolate bar that I love. Now where are my car keys…………………….

Food today will be:-

Green morning smoothie – the usual.

Large salad with lettuce, cucumber, red onion, tomatoe, avocado, carrot, beetroot, olives, sprouts and coconut oil dressing – will pop it in the dehydrator for a bit as it has turned cold again. Winter is not ready to give up on us yet????

2 apples

2 clemetines

1/2 pineapple

1 chocolate bar

Exercise today will be:-

Not sure. Have a chesty cough at the moment and had to skip yoga class (as I was still asleep) so may try some self practice later and see how I go.

Thanks for reading……….

Monday – a weekend of ‘uncooking’

I spent a lot of the weekend just gone playing in the kitchen. The thing with raw food is that it will either take a very short amount of time to prepare – salads, juices, peeling fruit etc or it will take forever. This weekend was the latter. I wanted to try some new recipes out courtesy of The Raw Food Chef – Russell James, but because they involved dehydrating I had to plan my weekend around them. A bit of a pain to be sure but the results were well worth it as the resultant dishes were scrummy yummy.

I made Falafel and hummus wraps with ‘roasted veggies’ and carrot cakes and both were delicious and lasted a lot less time than they took to prepare. Suddenly hubby is into raw food!! Both recipes can be found on Russell’s website – see the above link.

I also spent the weekend locked up in the greenhouse potting seeds out and tending to the young lettuce that I seeded a few weeks back and spinach that has been overwintering and suddenly gotten a new lease of life.

Our lady duck has now disappeared and I guess must be sitting on her nest. Daddy duck still comes for his breakfast, lunch, tea and various snacks during the day but he seems a bit lost without his mate. He quacks for her and then forlornly drops his head and waddles over to eat by himself. Its quite gut wrenching to watch and I have to stop myself rushing out to give him a hug – I don’t think he’d appreciate my sentiments. Will keep you updated as to when D-Day is (Duckling Day)

Food today has been:-

Green smoothie – oranges, grapefruit, celery, spinach (from garden!!) and banana

Salad – lettuce, toms, red onion, avocado, cucumber, beetroot, olives, sprouts and olive oil

Satsuma x 3

Apple x 2

1/2 pineapple

Drinks – water, chandra piedra tea, hot lemon and honey

Exercise today has been:-

Rest day

Thanks for reading…………………….

Wednesday – Happy Talk……

I have been tagged the Happy 101 award. I have to list ten things that make me happy and then nominate other blogs to do the same. So, without further ado, the 10 things that make me happy are:-

1. My man. He makes me laugh everyday and after 20 years there is still nobody I would rather share my crazy journey with.

2. My three adorable cats. Loving, affectionate and a tad neurotic they make me smile and provide soft, furry cuddles on demand.

3. My bed – more often than not shared with aforementioned cats and man it can tend to get a little crowded but when the world gets a bit too mad to handle its my safe refuge and the snuggliest (is that a word??) place to be.

4. Yoga. Love, love, love my yoga. Enough said.

5. My garden. Helps keep me grounded and I love that I can lose track of time digging and planting and watching my food grow.

6. Dvd nights. Man, me, cats, glass of wine, tasty snack or two and a good dvd equals blissful night in. Am very easily pleased.

7. Facebook. Keeps me connected to friends and family.

8. My best mate. 35 years after meeting at junior school our friendship is still going strong. We’ve been through all of life’s momentous occasions together and will be there for a few more yet I’m sure.

9. Trees. A weird one I know but I have a ‘thing’ for trees. Majestic and powerful they draw me in like a moth to a flame.

10. Food. I love my food and so meal times are always a happy time for me.

Todays food has been

Green smoothie – oranges, grapefruit, celery, spinach and banana

Large, large salad – leaves, tomatoes, red onion, avocado, cucumber, carrot, beetroot, sprouts, olives and coconut oil.

1/2 Pineapple with raspberry coulis

2 Apples

Exercise Today has been

90 ashtanga yoga class – was pretty achey as did a yoga charity event on Monday night. 108 suns salutations in aid of a childrens orphanage in Goa. There were about 30 of us and we raised over £1000. Brilliant.

I’m not going to nominate any other blogs for this award as it has been doing the rounds for a while and most of the blogs that I read have already done it. Instead I am going to come up with something else. Watch this space…….

Thanks for reading……

Wednesday – Avocados

It is difficult for me to believe that up until 3 years ago when I first discovered the raw food diet, I had never eaten an avocado. Now I rarely go a day without eating at least one – sometimes more although I do try to limit them!

I add them to salads, use them to make cheesecakes and deserts and best of all just spoon their lovely creaminess out of their skins and eat them naked. Yummy.

Apart from their scrumminess they are exceedingly good for us and have the following numerous health benefits:-

  • Lower Cholesterol – they are high in beta-sitosterol, a compound that has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. In one study 45% of volunteers experienced an average drop in cholesterol of 17% after eating avocados for only one week.
  • Breast Cancer Protection – Avocado like olive oil is high in oleic acid, which has been shown to prevent breast cancer in numerous studies.
  • Eye Health – Avocados have more of the carotenoid lutein than any other commonly eaten fruit. Lutein protects against macular degeneration and cataracts, two disabling age related eye-diseases.
  • Heart Health – One cup of avocado has 23% of the recommended daily value of folate. Studies show that people who eat diets rich in folate have a much lower incidence of heart disease than those who don’t. The vitamin E, monosaturated fats and glutathione in avocado are also great for your heart.
  • Stroke prevention – The high levels of folate are also protective against strokes. People who eat diets rich in folate have a much lower risk of stroke than those who don’t.
  • Prostate Cancer protection - Avocados have been shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer.
  • Oral Cancer defence – Research has shown that certain compounds in avocados are able to seek out pre-cancerous and cancerous oral cancer cells and destroy them without harming healthy cells.
  • Better Nutrient Absorbtion – Research has found that certain nutrients are absorbed better when eaten with avocados. In one study, when participants ate a salad containing avocado, they absorbed five times the amount of carotenoids than those who didn’t eat avocado.
  • Glutathione Source – Avocados are an excellent source of glutathione, an important antioxidant that researchers say is important in preventing aging, cancer and heart disease.
  • Vitamin E Source – Avocados are the best fruit source of vitamin E, an essential vitamin that protects against many diseases and helps maintain overall health.

Wow – who knew that these little green fruits were such powerhouses of health?? as well as being so scrummy (think I may have already mentioned that!!) They are definately a keeper for me and writing about them is making me hungry so I think I may go and track one down for a mid morning snack!!

Todays food has/will be:-

Orange, grapefruit, celery, spinach and banana smoothie

Orange, grapefruit and banana smoothie

Apples and mandarins

Salad with lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, carrots, beetroot, cucumber and of course avocados.

1/2 pineapple and kiwis

Todays exercise has/will be :-

Ashtanga yoga self practice – full.

An early post today as hubby and I are off to Oxford to see Ronan Keating in concert tonight. It is with a little trepidation that I am going mind as I used to go and see bands like AC/DC and the Stranglers and going to see Ronan seems a little unadventurous and old – sorry Ronan, I’m sure you will be great!! Mind you my avocados are said to prevent aging so maybe I’ll have a few extra before I go and it will negate the whole Ronan experience for me!!??

Thanks for reading……….

Friday – Helen goes shopping……

This post is only going to make sense to you if you are above a ‘certain’ age and can remember the Ladybird books ‘Janet and John’ of the 60′s and 70′s.

Today I felt like Janet from said books. Why?? you cry (well if I listen closely enough I can just about hear someone faning an slight interest!!) No, seriously, the reason I feel like a character out of a book from my childhood is that I am experiencing something of a rebellion against supermarkets. I know they are convenient and I know they sell a wide range of products that it seems impossible to get elsewhere, but my patience is wearing a little thing with them.

I pretty much buy the same thing every week which I’m sure most people do but every week it seems my bill is getting more and more. On comparing old bills (I am self employed and keep everything for tax purposes) it would seem I am right and prices are on an ever climbing rise. Also I’m fed up of special offers – especially on fruit and veggies because it normally means that said items will rot in your bag before you get them home!! and it’s just mind numbingly boring wandering around these huge spaces, it’s like they suck the energy out of you as soon as you walk in and then I end up buying more than I need in the vain hope that I won’t have to come as often.

Well, I am not playing anymore. I have thrown my toys out of the pram and am taking action. From now on I am going to try and do as much of my shopping on my local high street instead of at my usual supermarket. I am lucky in that I live a few miles outside a very traditional market town which still has a good variety of shops – butchers, bakers, health food shop, deli, discount store – there is quite a selection. No greengrocer though which is a shame, however I get most of my veggies from an organic home delivery service so aside from a few things that I can’t get anywhere else my expenditure at the supermarket should be significantly reduced.

So, where’s the link with Janet and John then? – well pottering around town this afternoon popping in and out of different shops with my little shopping list just reminded me of the story about them doing the same. They went to the ironmongers and the bakers and the haberdashiery shop (we actually still have one of those in town!!) and the butchers and I guess that’s the way shopping was done back in those days. I actually found the whole process a lot less stressful than doing it in one place – strange I know – and I didn’t spend as much as I would normally as I had my list and wasn’t bored because I was in town and so was a lot more focussed on what I really needed. Don’t know if I will feel the same in a few weeks time but I’m willing to continue this way of shopping rather than keep filling the pockets of the supermarkets who seem to be getting greedier by the week.

Today’s food has been:-

Usual green smoothie

Orange, grapefruit and banana smoothie

Apple

Mandarin

Large salad with toms, cucumber, red onion, carrot, sweet potato, avocado and seeds

Medium sized pot of olives stuffed with sun dried tomatoes – from the deli and absolutely delicious!!

Half pineapple and 3 kiwi fruits

Exercise Today has been :-

90 min ashtanga yoga practice

No chocolate today has been:-

Ok – I had my olives instead.

Thanks for reading………

Thursday – More levels of raw……

Just as important to me as the food that I put inside my body is the skin care products that I put on my body because a fair proportion of those products get absorbed and end up inside as well. It makes sense to me to know that I am not blowing all my healthy eating by slathering chemicals all over my body when I could avoid it.

All the products I use have natural ingredients and I don’t use anything that contains sodium lauryl sulphates, parabens, petroleum based products or anything that is actually a chemical. If it has a warning against it in terms of ‘may cause’ then it sure as heck isn’t going anywhere near me that’s for sure.

The following is a list of the products I use on a daily basis:-

  • I use a vegetable oil based soap scented with essential oils that I get from our local health food shop.
  • In the mornings I just wash my face with water and in the evenings I gently exfoliate with an exfoliator pad infused with a few drops of lavender essential oil.
  • I moisturise my face with some lovely face cream from a company called Raw Gaia. There products are completely natural and very scrummy and last a surprising amount of time. I am also going to be experimenting with making my own face cream from coconut butter, cacao butter and essential oils – I’ll let you know how that one goes.
  • I moisturise my body with coconut butter infused with essential oils of my choice.
  • Shampoo/conditioner – at the moment I am using a brand called Faith In Nature which is working well. My hair care has probably been my biggest experiment to date. I have tried to go ‘no poo’ – no shampoo – and lasted about 10 weeks and although I got through the initial ‘yucky’ stages I can’t say as I really got used to it. I found that washing it every few days in ‘rhasoul clay’ helped keep it clean but my hair took on a very different texture when ‘unwashed’. My hair is quite long which didn’t help with a natural wave but it went very curly and in all honesty just didn’t feel clean. I may try again in the future but for now am happy using a natural product on it.
  • Toothpaste – we use a product from Green People, and I only brush with it once a day. The rest of the time I just use the brush and swill my mouth with water.
  • Deodrants – The best product I have used thus far is Tisserand’s deodrant range.
  • Perfumes – I use vegan perfume by a company called Dolma which I spray on my clothes rather than directly on my skin.
  • Make – up – I very rarely wear makeup any more – not practical in my line of work! but when I do I use products by ‘Beauty Without Cruelty – although I did borrow my sister’s eye shadow the last time we went out – no-one is perfect and mine had exploded in the bottom of my makeup bag (probably through lack of use and boredom!!)

So, for me what goes on is just as important as what goes in. I also only use natural products around the house and have been known to make my own as well. Vinegar is a god send for mirrors, limescale and the bathroom – although diluted and scented is best if you want to avoid your house smelling of a fish and chip shop!! I use olive oil as a wood polish and lemon juice is also a good astringent for cleaning kitchens, tiles etc. I love incense sticks and they certainly beat air freshners although nothing is as good as fresh air and open windows – although not in this weather and definately not when they have been muck spreading in the fields. One of the few hazzards of rural life in an arable area. We have to run the gauntlet of pesticides and fertilisers being sprayed on the crops on and off throughout the summer as well. On the days when the farmer is spraying we all stay in (cats included) and keep all windows and doors shut and hope for the best…….

Todays food has been:-

Orange, grapefruit, celery, spinach and banana smoothie – aka the usual.

Orange, grapefruit and banana smoothie

2 Mandarins

Very large salad with lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, carrot, avocado, cucumber, olives and olive oil dehydrated for about 30 minutes.

1/2 pineapple

3 kiwis

Exercise today has been:-

90 minutes Ashtanga yoga

No chocolate today has been:-

Haven’t noticed!!

Thanks for reading…………………

Tuesday – levels of raw

What does a raw food diet involve, what can you eat and I guess more importantly what can’t you eat. It’s a question I get asked a fair old bit – along with the ‘where do you get your protein from??’ so I thought I would address it in a little more detail today.

The raw food diet is based on unprocessed plant foods, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouts left in their natural and raw state; that is not heated above 116 degrees F. It is believed that at this temperature and above the enzymes, nutritional value and ‘life force’ of the food are diminished.

There are many ways to eat a raw food diet but the most popular are the following:-

  • Raw gourmet – The same cooked dishes eg – pizzas, breads, cakes etc remade with all raw ingredients. This type of food relies heavily on nuts and other fats and is probably not an altogether healthy way of eating on a permanent basis.
  • LFRV – Low fat raw vegan or the 80/10/10 diet is Dr Doug Graham’s take on this way of eating. He recommends that 80% of your daily calories comes from carbohydrates, 10% from protein and the other 10% from fat.
  • Fruitarian – An all fruit diet.
  • Raw diary and raw meat eaters – some people eat raw milk and products and also raw fish and meat and still consider themselves part of the raw food movement.

I do a combination of the first three. I pretty much stick to a version of 80/10/10 with lots of fruit during the week and then experiment a little more with raw gourmet dishes at the weekend.

Drinks cause another topic for discussion and I think the general concensus is that sun-warmed drinks are preferrable over hot drinks. Personnally I couldn’t do without hot drinks throughout the winter months and also use the dehydrator to warm foods over the colder part of the year along with soups made from hot water.

I think if you are living in a tropical country then eating a very strict ‘raw’ diet is easier to achieve than living somewhere like the UK. I would rather allow myself warmed foods and hot drinks and have my diet retain (in my mind at least) its raw status, than try and force myself to eat a diet that will make me miserable and is darn hard to achieve in this climate.

The other subject that normally divides the raw food community is supplements. Should we supplement our diets. I’m for supplements for several reasons.

  1. I believe that our soils are severely mineral deficient due to years of intensive farming.
  2. Long transit times of fruit and vegetables contributes to a higher rate of degradation of key vitamins and minerals.  A lot of my calories comes from juicy, sweet fruits that have been on said long journeys.

It is for these reasons and others that I supplement my diet with the following:-

  • Probiotics – for good gut health.
  • Kelp – supports the thyroid gland.
  • Selenuim – I am on a couse of daily infrared saunas at the moment and selenium is lost through the sweat so is important to keep it topped up.
  • Blue green algae, spirulina and chlorella – are extremely rich in minerals and have a higher concentration of beta-carotene than broccoli. They contains about 60-70% vegetable protein and all the essential amino acids. Also a rich source of iron, B vitamins including B12, enzymes and antioxidants.
  • Vitamin D3 – very imporant little vitamin and my only source of this vitamin is through the sun so an important one to supplement because living in the UK = no sun.

So, as you can see I take a fair amount of supplements on a daily basis. These are probably the ones that I take consistantly. I normally throw them in a smoothie first thing and then they are down and out the way. I do take other things from time to time for example I am experimenting with the following at the moment to see if they make any noticeable difference.

  • Maca root – a root plant from Peru it is widely used to help balance hormones – a girl needs all the help she can get!!
  • Mequite meal – A North American plant highly effective in balancing blood sugar.

Hope this gives you a little more insight into the raw food diet.

Today’s food has been:-

Orange, grapefruit, celery, spinach and banana smoothie.

Orange, grapefruit and banana smoothie.

Large salad with red onions, toms, cucumber, avocado, sprouts, seeds, beetroot, carrot, sweet potato and coconut oil.

Pineapple, banana and coconut water smoothie.

Few mandarins.

Exercise today has been:-

Ashtanga self practice – standing sequence.

Ab workout.

No chocolate today has been:-

Better…….

Thanks for reading……………….

Sunday – My ducks……..

Before I begin I must confess that I absolutely love ducks and so apologise in advance if this post seems to be a little over the top!!

Last year at around this time whilst lying in bed on a lazy sunday morning I noticed that we had a duck nesting on our garage roof. Over the course of the next few weeks we noticed her coming and going into her nest which was perfectly camouflaged by loads of ivy and so the perfect place for her to be. Until I got on the internet and found out a little more about ducks and their ducklings – of which we were soon to have many!!

Apparently once hatched the mother duck proceeds to return her brood to the body of water where she normally lives (in our ducks case a neighbours pond across the road) and her mate within 24 hours.  Hmmmmm……now her nesting spot didn’t seem quite so smart as she was about 8 foot of the ground and correct me if I am wrong here but ducklings haven’t got very big wings????

There was nothing for hubby and I to do but wait nervously for hatching day to arrive, hoping that we would be around to divert a tragedy from ensuing. Luckily she planned delivery day for a weekend and we were in the garden when hubby declared he could hear ‘cheeping’ coming from the roof. Sure enough as the day progressed the cheeps became louder and finally mummy duck emerged followed by 12 very unsteady babies. Then the fun began. The garage roof is corregated iron and sloped. Not a good combination for newly hatched ducklings. Two slid of the back into the field behind and hubby was immediately dispatched to rescue them whilst I dug out a crate to put them in.

Thankfully we saved them both and the others spent the day following a very distressed mummy as she tried to work out how to get them all off. We kept out the way so as not to upset her further and eventually she flew off the roof and landed in the garden waiting for her babies to follow. They weren’t having any of it though and congregated at the edge of the roof churping for all they were worth. Now it was our turn and hubby went up the ladder and managed to pluck them all off with me putting them safely in the crate. Next up was how to get them all to the pond and after a few minutes deliberation I decided to just go pied piper style and after showing her the crate full walked slowly ahead of her towards the field. She followed me all the way quacking her displeasure with the whole situation but we made it over the road and before long they were reunited and on their way to the pond and daddy duck. Hubby and I had a well deserved beer to celebrate!!

So, this morning I looked out of the window and there were two ducks outside. Whether they are the same ones I don’t know but it would seem that our garden in a good place to nest – although having cut the ivy back on the garage roof they may have to find another spot this year. I’m bracing myself for a repeat performance and getting the beers in ready. Haven’t told hubby yet that his duckling rescue skills may soon be required again!! Oh the joys of country living………

Thanks for reading……..

Friday – TGFF

Many years ago when I was a 9 to 5 girl working in London Friday’s were my favourite day of the week. With the promise of two whole days to do what I wanted with stretching ahead of me I would sit and will the hands on the clock to move faster. More often than not Friday’s would find me in the pub at lunch time with a glass of wine and a jacket potato (these were pre raw food days) which would inevitablely mean that the afternoon would go even slower as I struggled to stave off the post lunch snooze attack.

Nowadays Friday’s don’t hold quite the same attraction as being self employed my work life is less structured and my work hours more erractic. However, I still get a sense of ‘ahhhhhh’ when Friday’s roll around as for one thing it means I can have a lie in on saturday morning – although this means being attacked by three cats all wanting morning cuddles – but hey cat cuddles at 6am are still better than getting up at 5am. I’ll take what I can get and be thankful.

So, today I am looking forward to the weekend ahead and the promise of sunny weather and a few hours preparing my veggie patches in the garden. Of course back in my London girl days the only gardens I would have seen at the weekend would have been beer gardens – oh how times have changed!!…….

Today’s food has been:-

Orange, grapefruit, spinach, celery and banana smoothie

Orange, grapefruit and banana smoothie

Pineapple, coconut water and banana smoothie

Apple and Kale juice

Exercise Today has been:-

Ashtanga yoga self practice to Navasana

No chocolate today has been:-

Tough – I’m saying no more.

Thanks for reading……….

Tuesday – Age is just a number

In my humble experience it would seem that for some people – myself included – age takes up way too much thinking time. When you are younger you long to be older and then when you get to the age that you always thought would be hip and cool you start to long to go in the other direction again.

I remember once having a slight mid life crisis in a pizza bar at San Fransisco airport whilst hubby and I were killing time for a connecting flight to Las Vegas. The reason I found myself blubbering into a rather non descript cheese and tomato pizza was that we were on route to celebrate my 40th birthday and I just couldn’t quite believe that I had gotten to that age. I had a real problem with what is supposed to be a milestone and the gateway to euphoria – I mean life begins right – yeah right. All that was beginning was my mid life crisis.

Whilst I managed to pull myself together long enough for us to enjoy our holiday I can’t say that I got over being 40 all that quickly. In fact 2 years on I am still smarting over the fact that my age now has a 4 in front of it although granted the embers are cooling more rapidly now as I resign myself to the decade that is supposed to be the most fun.  After all as everyone always says ‘age is just a number it’s how you feel inside that counts’.

Well if that is to be believed then I should be ok for awhile yet as inside I still feel pretty much the same as I did when I was a kid – I certainly don’t feel grown up. Maybe the answer should be to stop acknowledging what age I actually am. I am not a number I am a free person and all that, or maybe I should just make it up as I go along. Or, maybe, just maybe I should let my mid life crisis finally burn itself out and start to enjoy my 40′s just as I have enjoyed all my other decades…….. just don’t ask me how old I am……..

Today’s food has been/will be:-

Orange, grapefruit, celery, spinach and banana smoothie

Orange, grapefruit and banana smoothie

Pineapple, coconut and banana smoothie

Apple and kale juice

Today’s exercise has been:-

Ashtanga yoga self practice

Ab workout

No chocolate today has been:-

Possibly a few moments of temptation – probably brought on by writing about my age!!!!!

Thanks for reading……..