Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why aren't the FDA stepping up? Or is this another Killer in our Kitchens like Aspartame?

I came across this study showing Branded foodstuffs in the US which contain large amounts of harmful food colourings / dyes.  Shockingly enough, these are products marketed for children to consume and the FDA have agreed that the levels are too high but have done nothing to rectify it.

Here in South Africa no study has been done that I am aware of, although some of these sweets are available here. My kids (and I) have eaten these at parties or when we are out with friends (we don't buy them as a norm) but it really makes you wonder how safe all the rest of our food is.

The number of allergies and intolerances in children has sky-rocketed over the past 2 decades and there are many more cases of neurological disorders reported than ever before.

Now I must apologise to Nestle. About 5 years ago (just when my children were starting to have birthday parties) Nestle changed Smarties from beautiful, brightly coloured orbs into dull, lifeless, pathetic little things and I was mad!! Just when I was about to start making bright cakes with bright Smarties!! They said it was because they wanted to reduce the amount of dye in the products and I was livid!  Who cared about the dye? Hadn't we all grown up eating Smarties and we were all fine? NO. Over the years the dyes were made cheaper and nastier and we didn't know the difference, we're consumers, not food technologists!! We rely on regulators such as the FDA to take decisions on our behalf, so I have changed my anger to direct it where it is due, at the organisations put in place to protect us and our children from harmful foods and additives. So Nestle I apologise because you were trail blazers and although I don't know what's in those colours now, I'm sure it's a lot less harmful than they were.

Of course I also only started educating myself and began caring when my daughter began to be one of the affected ones and the impact of these foreign ingredients forced our family to start questioning everything we ate. This put us on the path of seeking REAL food without the weird stuff.  See The Eczema Chronicles for updates.

Interestingly, on Saturday, for the first time I saw protesters at our local mall protesting GMO seeds. Maybe there are more people becoming aware.

To read the study click on the link below.
Study showing Brands with harmful dyes

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Stinky Stuff

One of the things I really hadn't given a second thought to, when I started trying to be more healthy, was what we put ON ourselves. I was so pre-occupied about what we put IN ourselves that this little gem didn't cross my mind. I remember Mrs Sharples, my standard 6 (Grade 8) Home Economics teacher, warning us about wearing anti-perspirant deodorants. She made sense at the time, saying anything that stops the sweat from leaving your body cannot be a good thing as it forces your body to absorb it and release it in another way. Agreed, but at the tender age of 13 she was speaking to bullet-proof teenagers who were boy-crazy and were only interested in smelling nice, so that that boys would like them and girls wouldn't tease them. We were not very receptive.

When I stumbled across this article Top 7 Ingredients to avoid in a deodorant, I decided to check my deodorant's ingredients and low and behold, mine has 6 out of 7 of the toxic ingredients! Seeing as I have been using deodorant for MANY years (I'm not going to say how many, but a lot), this can't be good for me, putting these chemicals on my skin day in and day out. Mitchum deodorant advertises that their product is so effective that you can skip a day. The reason for this is that the chemicals remain on your skin even after washing, again a bit of an eye-opener. 

Okay so this article makes sense and I think I should make a change, scan down to what they suggest......


What do they recommend? Not shaving! Apparently openiong up the hair folicle after shaving is the kiss of death, allowing the toxins free access to your pit and lymph nodes. Otherwise? Washing your pits with soap and water twice a day! Seriously?? Who has the time to do that? I can just picture me, excusing myself from a meeting and nipping into the bathroom at work for "the wash". Seriously, how would I do it? Have one arm in my blouse, the rest of the top around my neck, my bra wound around the blouse already around my neck, while I lean over the basin and wash my arm pits one at a time, trying not to splash on my bra, top, shoes etc! Lovely image. And then I suppose I would either have to bring my own bar of soap or dispenser to work or use the pink standard-issue soap from the hand wash dispenser, boy I'd love to smell like that all day *not*.  Then do I have to hang under the hot-air blower to dry off?  I can see those promotional prospects disappearing before my eyes as I get labelled as the whack-job in the office. OK to be fair I may already have that title........

Googling this topic has been interesting! Apparently I can even make my own deodorant wahahahahaha *pause* wahahahahahaha. I'd love to spend my weekend making my own deodorant *not*.

Why is EVERYTHING healthy so damn INCONVENIENT?? Well it does seems that way. Okay, way down at the bottom of the article it does state that you could find some natural deo and I think I've seen a Salt Crystal one somewhere long long ago and there are quite a few on the internet. So I suppose I better start looking around to see where on earth I can find a natural deo without importing it from Germany. If I find one I'll let you know! 

Until then....... to stink or not to stink? That is the question!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bone Broth - The Great Health Elixer

I have made quite a few changes to our food consumption as a family since finding out that I have some sort of disease that seems to change on a quarterly basis. Currently my pain levels are so great that I am inspired to intensify my search for better foods, which I am not finding to be easy in this remote part of Africa. In the "real" food department we are seriously lacking.

My latest discovery that I just have to share with you, is bone broth, yes the stuff that Granny used to make from left over bones, the stuff that she would re-use in curries, stews, casseroles and the good old South African bredie. Now Granny used to make this stock/ broth to save money and add flavor to the next dish she was making, so it is quite understandable that this long, drawn-out process was slashed from our to-do lists as soon as we were able. After all, who had the time to boil meat bones for hours on end right? 

After being exposed to some bone broth fundis, I suddenly began to realize what the fuss was about. I can honestly say that I have not consumed bone broth in any way, shape or form in the past 20 years and I have never fed my children this delicacy. A few years ago I was stunned at the pharmaceutical sales of a product for arthritis which contained Glucosamine and Chondroitin, the magic pills to help with cartilage erosion and the pain induced from this condition. The product literally flew off the shelves. I wondered at the time, why there was such a major surge in arthritis sufferers. Now I discover that meat, chicken and fish bones contain these miracle ingredients (including a whole lot more - see list below) and the only reason so many people need to take this (super-expensive) supplement is because they we are too darn lazy to make bone broth and add it to other meals. Problem is that I've realized that there are very few meals that I COULD add this to - eek! I also couldn't understand why our black population are not suffering as much from diseases which seem to be increasing in the white population - the majority are still eating "the old way" due to financial constraints and their most popular meal is bone broth (made from any part of the animal they can find e.g. feet, necks, gizzards) spooned over pap to add flavour to their meal - wow, a real eye-opener. Are the more privileged getting "privileged" diseases because we are no longer wanting to eat the "yucky" parts of the meat?

Stock, Broth and Frequently asked questions

Upon scrutinising our lifestyle, I was shocked to realise that although we eat a lot of chicken, we never put pieces, on the bone, into any type of stew where the bones could leach their goodness into the food, we always cut up breast fillets. All the "gross" bits have never entered my home!! I have also only given my children this type of meat; is this why I have a child with immune issues linked to her gut health? I'm pretty sure that this answers the question of why my cartilage is dwindling. 

So I have started to make the broth and it is damn time-consuming (boiling bones from 6 - 12 hours is a pain) but it makes sense. I am now sneaking it into meals without anyone knowing (popped it into bolognaise last week). But the real challenge is to get more of this broth into my family in ways that will turn meals on their heads and change our way of cooking and eating, but it must be done. I've read about people who swear by the amazing results from starting to consume bone broth and some even claim that their cartilage has regrown (that would be nice).

A bit of a curve ball is that the bones should come from an organic animal otherwise the antibiotics, pesticides and hormones are leeched into the broth! I haven't done this up to now, so I'm going to have to source organic chickens and meat. Interestingly studies have shown that 40% less protein is required in the diet if you consume bone broth as it is packed with so much good protein, so ideally you could reduce the costs of your meals overall, by consuming the broth from the bones of the meat you consume and having some meat-free days.

Here is a link from an inspirational lady named Alexx Stuart. She explains everything so well that I won't bother trying. Everything you ever needed to know about bone broth

I found that it is better to get a whole lot of bones together and make a huge pot full. It is also easier for me, as I'm starting out, to freeze in small containers, even ice trays because I'm not using that much at the moment, while I try to come up with meals to include it in.

Good luck if you're going to try it. Let me know if it helps :)

Below taken from Mercola


Helps heal and seal your gut, and promotes healthy digestion: 
The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid.
It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion.

Inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses, etc.: 
A study published over a decade ago found that chicken soup indeed has medicinal qualities, significantly mitigating infection.
Reduces joint pain and inflammation, courtesy of chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage.

Fights inflammation:
Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis (whole-body inflammation).
Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better.

Promotes strong, healthy bones: 
As mentioned above, bone broth contains high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation.
Promotes healthy hair and nail growth, thanks to the gelatin in the broth

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Planting Organic Veggies *groan*

There is nothing more organic than growing your own veggies (unless the seeds are genetically modified or you ply the crop or soil with chemicals!)  Hubby sent me a link [do you think he's trying to say something? you'll see what I mean later] which boldly tells us how easy it is to grow our own veggies in containers or in a garden with very little hassle. Hmmmm reading further down into the comments I find a lot of people are poo-pooing how easy it actually is, although to be fair, I don't really have a squirrel problem here!

12 fastest vegetables to grow in home gardens and containers for the first time

Ok the author has a point, it does look pretty easy and to be honest we have had some success before with tomatoes and herbs. So I'm going to "out" myself and show you what my herb garden looks like currently DON'T JUDGE ME!!! *shameful face* I'm sure that's why Hubby sent me the abovementioned link.

Exhibit A shows I have a beautiful lemon tree planted in the middle and on the left hand side are the remains of the wooden "trellis-type" poles which Hubby constructed when he planted tomatoes - we actually had a bumper crop that year.

Exhibit A

In Exhibit B you can see that I planted mint and lemon balm and the mint went crazy. I took the advice of a gardening friend, to plant mint in separate containers and then plant the containers in order to curb the root system taking over the entire herb garden, but the mint still took over! Maybe the trick is to use hanging containers so they can't spread. Some herbs, especially good-smelling ones look and smell great planted amongst your other plants BUT NOT MINT!! It will take over your whole garden!! As you can see, there is an upturned plastic container that has been living in my herb garden for a few weeks and when I turned it over, there was actually mint growing underneath it! I think mint is stronger than Chuck Norris!!

Exhbit B

In Exhibit C, the best results I'm getting seem to be OUTSIDE the herb garden! This basil plant is thriving on the gravel between the pavers! Shows how little attention you need to pay to growing basil! Although some really good advice about basil if you want to use it as a herb, is to remove the flowers because they seem to suck out all the good taste from the leaves! But obviously if you're growing it for the flowers (darn boring-looking flowers) then they smell awesome! Also a great tip with basil is to plant it close to where you've planted tomatoes because the tomatoes take on the taste of the basil! Just add mozzarella and you've got Caprese without the hassle!

Exhibit C

On the upside my lemon tree has grown well and although it has had some issues, it has borne great lemons for us to use and for the kids to play with and squeeze and make revolting homemade lemonade.

Exhibit D

So I am going to pledge to sort out this veggie garden once and for all! Pain and fatigue will not be an excuse, laziness will not be a factor, homegrown produce, healthy eating and fun will be the reason for my new challenge. "They" say that children eat veggies more often if they plant and harvest them themselves, so I will test out this theory. Now, what needs to be planted in Autumn for a bumper crop in Winter?  Hmmmm better get to work!

Anyone keen to start their own with me? Even in a container, I need some moral support! Now don't all shout at once ;)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Natural Effect

A friend of mine posted a video on Facebook which really brings home my schizophrenic tendencies whereby I LOVE my career of marketing and the way in which marketing can make just about anyone believe anything if executed correctly, it is a major passion of mine! But on the other hand the ethical dilemma of how an unscrupulous marketeer can con an unsuspecting consumer into believing things that are just plain rubbish, does nag at me. I come from a highly regulated industry but the regulations within the food industry seem to be very loose, to say the least.

Labelling is often in the spotlight and although it is better than it has been in previous years, it infuriates me as a mom with a "special dietary needs" child that I have to scrutinise ingredient lists, to the point of having to be a dietitian, when I know that the manufacturers are hiding the common names of "bad" additives or genetic modifications or anti-biotics or hormones to con me into buying their "healthy" products.

This video is a humorous look at what "natural" really means on packaging.

Thanks to my friend KS for sharing this. *hug*

Click here to see The Natural Effect video

Friday, January 24, 2014

On Purpose

I have noticed, that more and more I am hearing the same question from different people:

When I asked Google this question, I got 1,1 billion results! Seems like it's not just the people around me who are seeking answers. So what does it really mean? Purpose. Again, I turned to my best friend, Google who instantly responded with:

"The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists"

I have amended that to my own, less broad, definition of

"The reason for which someone was created. The reason for that person's existence"

Many people seem to be struggling to find their life's purpose and have not succeeded. This has lead to emotional downward spiraling, depression, discontentment with their lives and those around them, lack of direction and worst of all, stagnation. Human beings, when faced with uncertainty, seem to stay rooted to the spot, fearfully awaiting "a sign" or confirmation of their decision, or they retreat to safer, more solid ground, where their confidence gets a boost, due to familiarity. Very few stray from the beaten path and forge their way into the unknown. People are turning to spirituality and questioning their God - why am I here?  I must admit I have never asked myself this question because the answer has always seemed so simple and clear to me.

Everybody has been put on earth for the same reason - to use their special qualities for positive results by giving of their time, intellect, energy and love to make the world a better place, whilst experiencing as much as possible in a limited space of time (a lifetime). The only difference is HOW each person does this. The goal is the same, the method is up to you. Here is an example:

An intellectual, using his aptitude for medicine, might conduct a clinical trial proving how to reduce recovery time after a medical procedure and publish the results thereby educating health care professionals on the breakthrough. A stay-at-home-mom who loves baking, might spend her time testing favourite muffin recipes and share the best ones on her blog. The mom requires a procedure and her doctor utilises a new method to reduce her recovery time. She is delighted to be discharged sooner than expected. The intellectual needs to unwind and decides to have some fun and bake muffins with his children. Google is consulted for a foolproof muffin recipe...... and these two lives are both enriched by the other.

Simplistic example. Each person is giving of their time, intellect, energy and love, while doing what they enjoy. Extrapolate that out to the global population and you have a whole lot of focused, positive energy! 

Do what you LIKE doing
This may seem obvious, but there are a lot of people doing things they don't like to do. Obviously there are chores and responsibilities like paying bills that nobody likes doing, but is 80% of your life filled with things that you like doing?  If you don't know what you like doing, write a list or start Googling fun things to do and keep at it until you find things to fill your list. Nobody can do this for you. Each person's list will be very different and personal.
Your purpose is to enjoy your life

Be who you are - all the time
Again, seems obvious, but if you are pretending, even a little, you are not fulfilling your purpose. If you have to lie to other people because you are too embarrassed or afraid of judgement, then you are eating away at your very being. If you are in any way uncomfortable with what you're doing, it is not who you are and you should change it. Make plans to talk to someone to help you if you need support.
Your purpose is to be true to who you are

Never sell your soul
We've all heard that we should turn our hobbies into a job or do what you love doing as a career. Great if you can get that right, but for most, that advice is just not practical. However, never take (or remain in) a job where you are not valued and treated with dignity and respect, no matter what your position. If you don't like your job at least 80% of the time, move on. If you feel that tightening feeling in your stomach when you see the office, it's time to start "looking around." Even if the money is less, unless it is critical to your survival (you and your family will starve on the salary) make changes that will allow you to enjoy your job and which will fill you up, not add to your stress.
Your purpose is to feed your soul

If you have children, they are your purpose! It might be a real wake-up call but "finding your purpose" is not all about YOU! It is your purpose to nurture, protect, hug, kiss, cuddle, teach, guide, encourage, share, laugh with and love your children, while allowing them to make mistakes and become the best person they can be. It is your purpose to identify and grow their strengths and support them and show them how to overcome their weaknesses.
Your purpose is to cherish and guide your children and be proud of who they become

Friends, family and loved ones
Connecting with your partner is your purpose. A happy, loving home takes commitment and a lot of time, that is your purpose. Keeping in contact with your support structure and being a support structure is your purpose. Sometimes a hug, a phone call, a Skype chat or a few texts is all you need to lighten a loved ones load, making them able to face their challenges, that is your purpose.
Your purpose is to listen to and connect with loved ones in a non-judgemental manner

You do not need to save the world!
People think too big and get overwhelmed and then, as previously mentioned, stop dead in their tracks. For example, I don't mean to burst your bubble, but the chances are quite high that you're not going to be the next Madiba, BUT you can emulate him and help people like he did. By "helping" you don't need to suddenly volunteer at a children's home every afternoon (that would be great, but not if that doesn't resonate with you or your children are stranded at soccer practise because you've over-committed.) Start small. Let someone into the traffic, Help an old lady carry her shopping, offer to get provisions for your next-door-neighbour who isn't feeling well, take a friend's kids to the park.
Your purpose is not HUGE, your purpose is to make a daily positive difference in someone's life

We share this earth and energy with 7 billion people, all of whom share the same purpose. As mentioned above, the only difference is HOW we achieve that purpose and that's where individuality, personality and creativity come into the equation. Stop looking for a physical thing or job or path to be your purpose and listen to yourself, that little voice inside your head. Ask yourself some basic questions - what makes me smile? What makes me feel good? What makes me feel proud? What makes me laugh? What do I do that makes other people smile? What fills my soul? What excites me? When you have answered those questions, you have discovered your PASSION. Once you have discovered your passion or your gift or your talent, you need to share it with others. It is important to note that your purpose may not be mind-blowing......  your passion may be in gardening or singing or sewing or playing tennis.

Share your passion. Ever noticed how excited you get when you talk about your passion. Teach someone how to grow herbs, join a choir, teach children how to serve a tennis ball. Don't procrastinate, start sharing your gift today! That is your purpose.

It is that simple!

If you are STILL confused -
  • Your purpose is to GIVE of yourself
  • Your purpose is to use your personal talents 
  • Your purpose is to inspire others
  • Your purpose is to leave the world better than you left it
  • Your purpose is to feel a part of this world
  • Your purpose is to tap into your spirituality
  • Your purpose is to bring up well-rounded, loving, giving children who respect themselves
  • Your purpose is to be who YOU are and not what somebody else wants you to be
  • Your purpose is to help others who are further behind you on life's path
  • Your purpose is to stop being scared and start living
  • Your purpose is to have fun. A lot of fun.
  • Your purpose is to love
  • Your purpose is to experience as much as you possibly can during one lifetime 
  • Your purpose is right in front of you, acknowledge it and grab it with both hands
  • Your purpose is to be the best you that you can be and share it

If you have read this far, you may have guessed that I am fulfilling my purpose. My passion is "getting my teeth" into a subject, researching it and writing about it. Hopefully it gives the readers some food for thought and provides some clarity on the topic. I do not need the reader to agree with all my opinions (some of them are strong) but if you have read this far, I have fulfilled my purpose for this post. x

Never miss a post! Sign up to be a follower of this blog or my other blog at home with my BLT

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Salad in a Jar

Oh boy am I excited!!

Remember me being all bummed out about convenience and how I'd never have it again if I try to be a bit more healthy by avoiding pre-packed and processed foods? Well along came a post on my Facebook newsfeed and it had all the things I wanted - quick, easy, delicious, cost effective and healthy AND it was slimming as well - *bonus*. What am I going on and on about? It's called "salad-in-a-jar". Seriously it couldn't be more descriptive than it is! It is...... wait for it....... a SALAD.IN.A.JAR!

Basically you get a glass jar (in my case a beetroot one) and put your favourite salad dressing at the bottom and then you layer it potjie style!! After the dressing you add non-absorbing stuff like cheese, cucumber, lentils, beans, seeds, nuts etc (croutons wouldn't work very well!) and then you add the rest, like meat (I added roast chicken) or anything left over from dinner that would be considered salady (e.g. couscous, rice, even curry) finishing with the leafy stuff like lettuce or spinach. You cram it in and shut the lid tight and pop it in the fridge ready for work or any rushed lunch-on-the-go. I LOVE IT!

What's even more amazing is that you can make 7 salads-in-a-jar for the whole week, in one go, when energy strikes (with 3 children you really need to take advantage because it doesn't strike as often as it used to!) In order to stick to my eating plan I have to prepare ahead of time because if I'm not prepared and get too busy I end up eating everything that's not nailed down in a starvation-induced feeding frenzy. So making salad is a mission especially in winter when my hands freeze. So this is perfect for the lazy food preparer - do it once and it's done for the week.

But won't lettuce wilt and go slimy? No! Because the dressing doesn't reach it, it stays crisp and delicious and due to the glass container, it lasts so much better than in a Tupperware. Also, we like glass because plastic releases toxins and although plastic is really handy, we are trying to limit the use of it. So lazy time-challenged people like me, can make lunches for the whole week and line them up enticingly in the fridge. Now this is something I can work with!

So I immediately set to work [actual meaning - I saw Hubby making a salad and told him about my new discovery and he made me one - gotta love a man who knows his way around a kitchen!] We were having a chicken salad for dinner so he just popped some in a jar, it looked so delish. I often have salad for lunch that was made the night before and in a Tupperware it never looked so inviting. This darn jar was tormenting me - "Eat me!!!" it was screaming! Normally the only food screaming at me to eat it, is chocoate, so this was a pleasant surprise!

This is my salad-in-a-jar

Salad dressing on the bottom (homemade awesomeness with honey, balsamic vinegar, plain yoghurt and mustard) then carrots, cucumber, red pepper, tomato, roast chicken and lastly lettuce. Admittedly I was running out of the homemade dressing because I ate most of it at dinner, so it looks a little sparse in these photos, but I'm sure you get the picture.

And it became this after I dumped it out into my bowl :)

This salad in a jar making was completely unplanned and we didn't have any exotic ingredients like nuts, seeds and feta - but not too shabby for a first try!

This is where I got the idea Salad in a Jar and she's got some great combinations if you want to try.

Now I'm off to eat some more beetroot as I only have 3 empty jars and that's not going to make me a week's worth of lunches!

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Today I was so proud of Tomato. She made her "famous Tomato cups" (self-named sweet treats made with a Tennis biscuit, honey, ice-cream cone cups and a chocolate egg) and went door-to-door in our complex flogging them so that she could make money to buy a teddy at our local hangout. Tomato has always been a shy child and her skin condition has exacerbated the problem, so I was thrilled that she went out and did this all on her own.

When she returned a storm was brewing so I suggested that we go get the teddy tomorrow - this suggestion was met with wild screaming (ah the joys of parenthood *sigh*). Once I had calmed her down she explained that she had promised the teddy that she would come TODAY to get him and she couldn't break a pinky-swear promise with a teddy! Hmmm that put me into a bit of a quandary. Were  we being played or not? Hubby and I decided, not. This decision could have been swayed by the awesome coffee at said hangout which we would get to enjoy even if it was raining, but we finally went with the reasoning that we are just being awesome, kind, understanding and loving parents.

We got to the place and purchased the bear (which was anxiously waiting for us), thank goodness we were able to "do right" by her teddy pinky promise. We ordered a BIG coffee and Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato went out to play in the rain-washed playground and all was right in the world............ until they returned having had a BALL!!

We had to laugh! We want our kids to "go play outside" we want them to get away from the TV and computer screens, we want them to do more running around, playing and "earthing". Be careful what you ask for!! Fortunately Lettuce was only wet as his idea of "earthing" was steering clear of the mud and simply jumping in every puddle he could find!

Note to self: next time, specify for them not to do this while wearing their new used to be white fairy dresses!! Lol


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year's Revolution

Hello and welcome 2014!

A new year just wouldn't feel right if you didn't have at least ONE New Year's Revolution [no that's not a typo, they should be called New Year's Revolutions because they seem to revolve and return the following year, like a boomerang, having done a full revolution but getting nowhere - eat less, exercise more, drink less, blah blah blah... but I digress.....]

My revolution for this year is to do better than last year and make healthier choices for me and my family. As much as I hate all this natural cr*p, there are such strong links between additives, preservatives and chemicals to the increase of so many illnesses that I can't ignore it anymore. I have to do it for the sake of my kids (especially Tomato) and myself, so that is my plan, I'll keep you posted on my findings, shock horrors and irritation of not using the convenient stuff (boy I love the convenient stuff *sigh*).

Last year I was chatting to a friend of mine in Australia on Skype. We both use a LOT of words so after about an hour and a half chatting away, we suddenly realised that it was something like 1.30 in the morning for me! We discussed how we are both obsessed with media and information and basically using screens to connect with the outside world and that got me thinking......  [always a problem when I start thinking]. So, without thinking it through, I ludicrously blurted out the suggestion to her that we make a pact to not use any screens for the first week of January between 7pm and 7am. Google was taking over our lives and reducing our communication with real people and we were both sleep-deprived due to our addiction! Well, not to be small, I got all excited and said something even more stupid [as you do when you get really excited and are not thinking clearly at 1.30am] I challenged her to not only the first week of January, but the first week of EVERY month in 2014. What the hell was I thinking???

It was late early so we said goodbye and that was that. [no it wasn't].  2014 was months away. [no it wasn't].

The new year loomed and the little voice in the back of my mind was whispering "hypocrite" every time I took the iPad away or turned the TV off and told my children "you've had too much screen time today." So I decided (and of course when I decide, Hubby gets thrown in with my hair-brained schemes) that we're always limiting screen time for the kids,so we should put our money where our mouths are and do the same - eeeeek!!!

Let me clarify what "screen time" means - ANYTHING with a screen e.g. PC, laptop, TV, cell phone, iPad, iPod eeeeeek again! To garner support from my friend, I texted her to remind her of the deal and she seemed hesitant, her hubby was not keen. "Not keen" was an understatement for my Hubby the super-geek who spends every waking moment glued to a screen of sorts. He gave me a pained expression when I laid out my not so well-thought out plan, but the good sport that he is, he agreed to go along with my latest scheme. But wait, he had a condition...... no fighting!  Haha was that all? No problem, we hardly ever fight, game on!

Now the only problem that I have, is curiosity. [Ok so that's not my only problem, but let's not go into that here!!!]  So I knew that I was really going to battle with the *pling* of my instant chats, knowing that I was not allowed to look at them the instant that they sounded. That was going to really bug me. However I did not tell family and friends beforehand because I have a large group of depraved family and friends with a warped sense of humour (you know who you are)  who would love to torture me by sending me constant messages, knowing I was being driven crazy by the unanswered *pling* and the tormenting little red BlackBerry light [yes I am a slave to the little red light! There I've said it OK???]

Of course there had to be some ground rules. We were only allowed to use a screen to enter appointments into our calendar, look at the time (my BB is my watch) or if we had urgent, unexpected work that we were unable to complete in the day due to spending time with the family. Oh yes, and of course, no fighting.

Day One
Heated debate (not a fight, a debate)
We both started reading books! Like the ones made out of paper - seriously!

Day Two
Full on BIG fight (oops!)
In bed by 11pm

Day Three
Too tired to fight, in bed by 10pm!

Day Four
Sat chatting late into the night

Day Five
I had to work for an hour and then we went to bed early

Day Six
I had to do quite a lot of work so hubby got to read

Day Seven
Had to change from 8pm to 8am as Hubby was working late and we needed to text each other to see what was happening. Once home we sat chatting for hours until we realised it was 1am and went to bed.

The Result
The first week ended last night and it has been a huge eye-opener (someone moved my cheese) but after a day or two I wasn't chomping at the bit to check my emails and messages. As a matter of fact I even forgot to check them in the morning after 7! To be fair it is still pretty much holiday-mode everywhere so I wasn't too concerned that I was getting an urgent mail, that the world would go into a holding pattern, if I didn't react to urgently! And surprisingly I received very few messages during that time, so the *plinging* was kept to a minimum. It also helped that I left my phone upstairs, out of earshot.

What surprised me was that I had to find other things to do and I got to read almost 100 pages of my book that I started and discarded years ago. Hubby and I reconnected in a more meaningful way because we were forced to talk more, instead of both passing out in front of our seperate screens which we use as down-time from a hectic day. We got to bed much earlier (most nights) because Google wasn't tempting us to do more and more and more.

The downside (and my friend in Oz also battled with this) is that if you devote your whole day to your children and their needs, the quiet evenings are the only time you have to get things done, like make payments, send important mails (in my case, do some uninterrupted work!) or just relax and check out Facebook. The fact that I was unable to have screen time, did not make the screen time business go away, it just reduced the amount of time I spent in front of the screen and now I'm catching up on all the things I couldn't do like medical aid claims etc.

But we will learn as we go and hopefully this working-from-home-stay-at-home-be-everything-to-everybody-mom will learn to juggle this extra complexity and be mindful of the time she spends in front of a screen instead of looking after herself, by getting sufficient zzzzzzz and eating real food. We're off to a good start - this as our afternoon tea, supplied by Hubby!

Talking about Hubby, I must admit that I didn't find him cheating on the no-screen-time challenge, not even once, although I did see him gazing longingly at the alarm-system screen for longer than usual...... hee hee!

Have a happy, healthy, earthy 2014!!