World Rat Day 2014

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From me and my four furries, Happy World Rat Day everyone! :D

Happy World Rat Day!

Happy World Rat Day!

To celebrate the joy of owning rats, I’ll be treating Moon, Knight, Mishka and Vodka to some salmon today. That’s always fun :)

I also want to take a moment to say that you’ll probably be hearing less from me for a while, or at least between now and the end of May. Ninja and I are in the process of moving house, and as everyone who’s done it knows – it’s chaos!

If I do get a chance to shoot off some quick posts I will, but otherwise please bear with me as I make this transition. I’m sure once it’s all behind us and we’ve settled in, I’ll have plenty new stories and pictures to share. Besides, many of the goals I’ve set for myself can only really come alive once we’re in our new home, so that should kick off an exciting new season for us!

Until then, keep well and keep smiling :)

Zest

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.

~ Anthony J. D’Angelo ~

Meh.

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Now just in case you think I’m permanently bouncy or unendingly joyful, allow me to set things straight.

As I sit here typing this post all I really want to do is grab the nearest cheese grater and shear the skin off my face!!!

No, I haven’t gone mad.

But I have recently developed a sudden, ugly and unbearable case of eczema on my face. And behind my knees. And elsewhere on my poor battling body. Eczema

So you see, even though I’m generally an optimistic little person, I also feel down in the dumps sometimes :(

I’d never had eczema in my life before, until about two weeks ago when my face exploded overnight in a bright red, itchy, painful and dry rash. My legs soon followed suit. I did some reading online and discovered that patches of dry, itchy, painful skin behind the knees is one of the most common symptoms of adult-onset eczema. I immediately stopped using all my previous skincare products. The only thing I could apply on my sores that wouldn’t set my skin on fire was plain olive oil. Mmm, yucky!

Luckily my Faithful to Nature packages arrived shortly after, so I could find some relief through the Bee Natural honey and propolis balm that I’d purchased. But both the olive oil and the balm only provide temporary relief; when they’ve soaked into my skin, their effect wears off and the uncontrollable itching starts again.

The patches of flaky, inflamed skin also seem to be slowly spreading… up along my brow, closer to my eyes, across to the back of my other knee… :( I’m trying my very best not to give in to the urge to scratch, but sometimes the frustration makes it impossible to resist. The rest of the time I just keep my skin slick with oily balm and try to distract myself somehow.

I have to say, this whole thing is making me very drained. I’m tired of the constant discomfort and annoyed by the curious stares I keep getting. A lot of people have suggested that the eczema may have flared up because of stress, and I suppose that could be true. It has been one heck of a year so far, and even though we have the relief of my husband having a new job, we’re still facing the disruption of moving home in the month ahead. Add to that poor sleep patterns, a haphazard diet, virtually no exercise, substantial changes at work, and major internal shifts of perspective inside my heart… and I guess you do have the potential for an eruption in some form or shape.

But of course I also realise that bemoaning my fate isn’t going to solve the problem. Obviously I am praying for answers and for relief, but my faith isn’t the sit-on-your-hands-and-hope-God-will-work-a-miracle kind. I know I have to research this thoroughly to see if there are lifestyle or dietary changes I could make to alleviate the symptoms.

And I believe I’m most likely to find my answers in changing my lifestyle to do things God’s way – using natural prducts and eating healthier foods, with fewer steps of production between God’s hand and my plate (or my skin). I don’t see the point of going to the doctor if they’re just going to prescribe cortisone, which I definitely don’t want to use. Finding a good natural topical balm was just the first step. Now I need to see what I can change from the inside.

Joyful, joyful – that’s me!

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One of my favourite hymns – one of those I chose to be sung at our wedding – is the beautiful ‘Ode to Joy’, also called the ‘Hymn to Joy’ or ‘Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee’.

It perfectly captures the state of my heart today, even though I am ill with a cold and feeling otherwise rundown. Yet after spending time worshipping my great God, I forget the silly shackles of my weak earthly body while my spirit soars to sing this song to my King.

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,

God of glory, Lord of love;

Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,

Op’ning to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;

Drive the dark of doubt away;

Giver of immortal gladness,

Fill us with the light of day!

 

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,

Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,

Stars and angels sing around Thee,

Center of unbroken praise.

Field and forest, vale and mountain,

Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,

Singing bird and flowing fountain

Call us to rejoice in Thee.

 

Thou art giving and forgiving,

Ever blessing, ever blest,

Wellspring of the joy of living,

Ocean depth of happy rest!

Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,

All who live in love are Thine;

Teach us how to love each other,

Lift us to the joy divine.

 

Mortals, join the happy chorus,

Which the morning stars began;

Father love is reigning o’er us,

Brother love binds man to man.

Ever singing, march we onward,

Victors in the midst of strife,

Joyful music leads us Sunward

In the triumph song of life.

 

Music: Ludwig von Beethoven, Lyrics: Henry J. van Dyke

101 goals for the next 1001 days

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Note: In case you missed my previous posts relating to this new list of goals, you might like to first stop by here, here and here :) Goals 1 through 47 are adapted from my previous list, and goals 48 through 101 are the most recent additions. Where I’ve been working on an old goal but haven’t quite finished it yet, you’ll see the weird numbers reflect where I’m at today as I begin the new list (applies to goals 6, 9, 12, 16, 23, 26, 27, 30, 33, 34, 36, 40 and 47).

Enjoy! And let me know your thoughts…

Wood pennyfarthing

101 things in 1001 days

From 21 March 2014 to 16 December 2016

1. Read through the Bible in a year

2. Knit a couch throw with natural yarn

3. Get to my goal weight and/or goal size and maintain

4. Finish our wedding scrapbook

5. Go on 3 hikes

6. Go on 2 motorcycle rides

7. Work through Love Dare again

8. Get a pretty girly camera bag

9. Paint 4 artworks on canvas

10. Assemble an emergency kit

11. Visit a cave

12. Make a list of 48 things I’m grateful for

13. Complete a 1 000+ piece puzzle

14. Go on a rollercoaster

15. Find a personally inspirational quote and work it into a piece of art or home decor

16. Read 73 books and keep a list of them

17. Make a custom recipe book

18. Visit 5 different museums and/or monuments

19. Have a sleepover party

20. Go for a bicycle ride

21. Take 101 (poster-worthy) photos of my new pet rats

22. Grow a plant from a seed

23. Invite 5 different friends/couples over for a visit

24. Try 5 new cocktails

25. Write a letter to my favourite author

26. Apply henna 3 different times

27. Get 7 more hat badges

28. Navigate a maze

29. Use up a sheet of temporary tattoos

30. Write a list of 25 things I’ve already achieved in this lifetime

31. Leave an inspirational note inside a book for someone to find

32. Take part in a colour run

33. Eat at 2 new restaurants

34. Take 10 photos of 10 different birds

35. Go to Gold Reef City

36. Celebrate 3 obscure holidays

37. Make a time capsule

38. Visit a bird of prey centre

39. Revisit our wedding venue

40. Watch 6 movies I’ve never seen starting with K, N, Q, U, X and Y

41. Read Pilgrim’s Progress in the old English

42. Revamp my lingerie collection

43. Enjoy another spa day with my best friend

44. Photograph 10 old buildings in South Africa

45. Play the lotto with numbers from a fortune cookie

46. Put away R10 for each completed task

47. Write 4 letters to 4 people who changed my life

48. Buy 5 music CDs for my collection

49. Throw a housewarming party

50. Plan my 30th birthday party

51. Buy 3 more legit Bollywood movies

52. Complete a one-month photo challenge

53. Celebrate our 10-year dating anni in a special way

54. Get a good pocket/handbag camera

55. Interact with a raptor

56. Make a classic ‘Sunday roast’ meal

57. Get 5 new movies for my collection

58. Ride in a hot air balloon

59. Donate blood

60. Do 5 random acts of kindness

61. Find 5 inspiring new blogs to follow

62. Investigate becoming an organ donor

63. Plant a tree

64. Plant a vegetable garden

65. Go to the Lion Park

66. Host a Christmas gathering

67. Go to a theatre show

68. Visit an animal sanctuary

69. Go berry picking at Just Darling farm

70. Visit Lindfield Victorian House

71. See a movie at Rosebank’s Ster Kinekor Cinema Prestige

72. Have a ‘pretty boudoir’ photoshoot for Ninja

73. Hire an old car and go for a drive

74. Celebrate Raksha Bandhan in some way

75. Do a SCAD dive

76. Try 5 different natural foods from Organic Emporium

77. Get new running shoes

78. Get glasses frames that suit me better

79. Make or buy 2 decor items for the bathroom

80. Make or buy 2 decor items for the bedroom

81. Make or buy 2 decor items for the lounge

82. Make or buy 2 decor items for the kitchen

83. Get more potted plants

84. Upgrade our medical aid plan

85. Hire or buy another camera lens

86. Pay off our building loan

87. Make my own vanilla extract

88. Visit an organic/farmers’ market

89. Get a new set of bed linen

90. Make my own air freshener

91. Make my own potpourri sachets

92. Make my own jelly sweets

93. Make 5 new desserts

94. Create a photo album of all our pets

95. Cook homemade soup in winter

96. Define my own smart fashion style

97. Define my own casual fashion style

98. Buy 3 completely new smart outfits

99. Buy 3 completely new casual outfits

100. Revamp my jewellery collection

101. Take at least one mini-break away with Ninja

Autumn: a time for change

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Yesterday, 20th March, was our autumn equinox down here in the southern hemisphere. It was a particularly beautiful, quiet and sunny day – a welcome treat after all the rain that the Gauteng province has been receiving for most of March!

As I’ve mentioned before, this is one of my favourite seasons. I greatly appreciate the chance to stop and reflect on life. This autumn feels especially poignant for me as we’ll be spending the season wrapping up our lives in our current flat and preparing to move over to our new home. By the time the winter solstice rolls around, Ninja and the fuzzbutts and I should all be happily settled in our new cottage.

I really love that this year I get to clean out the cobwebs (sometimes literally!) at a time when I’m already feeling inclined to make changes. And because of that, I thought that today – technically our first day of autumn – would be the perfect time to share with you my updated and improved ’101 things in 1001 days’ list :)

As I explained a while ago, the direction of my life has changed so much since my original list (and even my updated version) that I need to redirect my goals to match my new circumstances. So you’ll recognise the first 47 goals, as they all come from my earlier list. But from Goal #48 onwards I’ve added new ideas that relate better to where I see myself heading over the course of the next 1001 days (all else being equal, and Lord willing). I also have a ‘someday’ list that I plan to set up separately (perhaps with a separate blog page of its own) and update and attempt as I’m able.

So here goes…!

PS – By the way, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet… Remember that my husband was facing retrenchment at the beginning of this year? Well to the glory of our great Heavenly Father, Ninja has been granted another work opportunity! Lord willing he’ll begin at his new job in April. We are very very thankful for this provision; it certainly changes the outlook for our year ahead :)

Questions to ask before buying

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Happy Friday all!

I hope you’ve had a lovely week and that you have great plans for the weekend :)

Healthy choice

As you know, I’ve been doing some research lately on how to change over to a greener lifestyle. This research has got me thinking about why I buy what I buy, and I’ve come up with 10 questions to start asking myself in future. Some of these relate best to choosing healthy foods, while others could apply to virtually any purchase.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Questions for smart shoppers

  1. Is the item processed or artificial?
  2. Could I make a better version myself?
  3. Will it do more harm than good?
  4. Does it help me to meet my goals?
  5. Does it honour God and care for creation?
  6. Is it habit forming or just a rare treat?
  7. Can I share it with others or use it to bless others?
  8. Why do I want or need it?
  9. Is it in line with my budget?
  10. Am I making an informed, well-researched choice?

There are probably a few more questions we could add, but the longer the list the fewer items will make it into your shopping cart! Even if I don’t remember to ask myself every question every time, I do find it a useful guideline for making better choices.

Let me know what you think! :)

OK, I’m revolting!

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It’s true.

"Hmmm... you are revolting, Mommy!"

“Hmmm… you are revolting, Mommy!”

I’m revolting against the beauty products I’ve been using up to now.

Thanks to recent chats with a good friend and hours of research about the junk that I’ve been slathering on my skin all these years, I’m making some drastic changes to my skincare and haircare products.

I’m tired of paying good money to buy lotions and potions containing dozens of ingredients that can actually harm my body. Often these products have also harmed a few lab animals before they got to me, and will harm the environment again after I’m done with them.

Some of these ingredients I can’t even pronounce! And it’s not just my cosmetics – it goes for food too. But for now I’m starting on a healthier path by making changes to my beauty products first.

I can’t believe I left it so long before I began questioning what goes into the things I buy. But thanks to a tip-off from my savvy friend, I discovered a wonderful solution: Faithful to Nature. Here’s a South African online store that sells a phenomenal range of natural, organic, eco-friendly and cruelty-free products. From healthy foodstuffs to natural skincare and everything in between, Faithful to Nature has made it a breeze for me to begin changing over to a greener lifestyle.

I placed my first order with them last week, and it arrived in record time. In each package the FtN team includes a few samples of other natural products you might like to try… and I just love that. Unwrapping all the goodies felt like my birthday! I was super impressed with FtN’s friendly and efficient service – so much so that I spent the next few days browsing their site again, and placed my next order shortly after!

One of the best products I tried in my first order was the Credé coconut oil. Mmmm… never did I imagine that I could walk around smelling like my favourite cocktail! Coconut oil (CO) is often in the green news these days, with health gurus lauding its use in cooking and as a natural beauty product.

Now my poor Ninja was so put off by the coconut everything that we ate when I was doing the 21-day sugar detox, that I haven’t risked adding this oil to our meals (as yet)! But as a moisturiser and a conditioner it has no equal. I used it as a hair mask overnight (be sure to cover your pillow with an old towel if you try it) and it helped revive my poor overworked hair.

I’ve also been using it daily as a marvellous moisturiser for my skin. (My ratties are quite delighted that I taste so good these days; in the pic above Voddy and Teddy are licking off all my CO handcream!) Next I plan to test the theory that coconut oil is even great for shaving. I’m so stoked about this product. It’s easily and quickly replaced my previous chemical body lotions.

Anyway, so that’s a little snippet of what I’ve been up to of late. I’m excited about changing over to healthier choices, and glad that the Faithful to Nature team has worked so hard to make affordable and varied options available. I still have a long way to go with this journey, but you can be sure I’ll be sending you postcards of my progress :)

The morning huddle

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Rats eating

This is how I start every day: with a view of four furry backsides radiating happiness around the breakfast platter.

Before I’ve rubbed the sleep from my eyes, usually before I’ve greeted my still-dozing Ninja, and long before I’ve started cooking my own breakfast, I – dutiful rat-slave that I am – obey the following silent-but-deafening hints:

Mishka

Mishka’s tactic: manipulative cuteness

Knight

Knight’s tactic: polite expectation

Vodka

Vodka’s tactic: a pointed stare

Moon

Moon’s tactic: Moonbuggy in overdrive!

So I blow them a sleepy kiss and slop off to the kitchen to mix up baby porridge with their flavour of the day. The flavour may be Ensure (a healthy meal-replacement powder), a dash of cinnamon, a tiny sprinkling of cocoa powder, a squeeze of honey or if they’re really lucky, a spoon of coconut milk.

Then I make the ‘click’ sound for my little Pavlov’s ratties and they leap into action, arranging themselves around the plate with their backs to me: ‘Thanks Mom, we’ll take it from here.”

Sigh :D

Goal #22: Bake 5 different cakes – done!

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Greetings from a very wet and surprisingly cold Johannesburg!

This sure is baking weather we’ve been having, so recently I decided to bake my fifth and final cake to tick off my 22nd goal. You see, even though some goals will be changing soon, I’m still working on a few that are staying on my list :)

The cake I chose was a buttermilk and pecan cake, from this recipe.

Buttermilk cake (plain and with pecans)

Unfortunately, I can’t say I was amazingly impressed with the results. Which is no reflection on the original recipe – it’s just that after going from this cake and that one then on to this one and that one, the buttermilk cake with pecans didn’t exactly make my tastebuds samba, if you know what I’m sayin’!

The recipe worked well but the flavours were a bit mild (the plain version was for Ninja, of course, and the nutty one for me). Plus, although the cake was tasty straight out of the oven, it didn’t keep very well and became a bit mushy. So it wasn’t the flashiest way to end off my five forays into cake baking…

Buttermilk pecan cake 2

Nevertheless, my Goal #22 is now complete. Of all the recipes I tried, my favourite by far was Kate Bracks’s lime, coconut and sour cream cake. That was gobbled up so quickly I didn’t get a chance to test how well it would keep! Second to that was the lovely fresh raspberry cake, and in third place I’d rate the versatile eggless custard cake.

This was a great goal to have on my list, especially because previously I used to only bake cupcakes and be worried that actual cakes would be flops. Now I know that if you pick a good recipe, and if you’re brave enough to experiment sometimes, there’s no need to fear the art of caking :D