Category Archives: Health

The eczema exorcism

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I have to share with you an encouraging update on my recent battle with eczema

The Lord has been gracious to me, answering my prayers for healing and leading me to natural options to try. Topically I’ve been daily treating all the eczema patches on my face and body with the Bee Natural range of honey products. Fantastic balms and butters… even if I never have an eczema outbreak again, I’ll still use these products for my normal skin beauty routine. They’re amazing! 🙂

Keep reading…

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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 😦

Find out more…

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 🙂

A harvest of health

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Just think of all the beautiful sunshine that was poured into these natural delights!

My resolution to eat a salad as a main meal every day for 30 consecutive days has been going splendidly. I feel so blessed by the bountiful ‘harvest’ I’m able to buy!

Of course, I’m in a city in the twenty-second century, so unfortunately my fresh produce doesn’t come to me with bits of soil still clinging to it… One day I hope to have a little patch of land where I can experiment with growing a few of my own fresh goodies, but for now I buy the freshest and the best selections I can for my money and convenience, and it’s a blessing.

This is one way I measure wealth: when my fridge is full not just of food, but of good food that hasn’t been fiddled with too much between God’s hand and my plate 🙂

There are so many diets and eating plans out there, some of which totally take over people’s lives. That’s not for me. I’m just content to make small changes for the better wherever I can.

If the label says ‘organic’ and I can afford it, I’ll buy it. And on the other end of the spectrum, if the best-before date is in a year’s time, I don’t really want to be putting that stuff in my body!

I know most of my readers will be heading for their northern-hemisphere winter now, so salads may not seem very appealing. But may I encourage you to balance out your cold-weather comfort foods with fresh produce whenever you get a chance.

You’ll reap a harvest of health 🙂

Salmon fishing in Johannesburg

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It’s offishal: rats love salmon!

Recently our boys got a taste of smoked trout ribbons and salmon fish spread. (I know, they eat better than some people do. I feel bad about that sometimes. For a second or two. It’s not as though withholding a treat from my bubs will magically feed someone somewhere – it wouldn’t feed anyone at all, considering the tiny amounts it takes to please these guys…)

Anyway, they went crazy for the fishy treats, and I managed to snap a few pics of the fun 🙂

rats eat fish 1

Moon grabbing and Mishka begging

Vodka testing the taste

Voddy. Must. Have. More!

Knight's desperate flying leap to get to his fish

Knight’s desperate flying leap to get to his fish

Definitely Ninja's rat!

Definitely Ninja’s rat!

Mishka asks so nicely...

Mishka asks so nicely…

Teddy bear with his fishy feast

Teddy bear with his fishy feast

Those smoked trout ribbons were their best treat so far, but on a separate occasion I mixed some salmon fish spread with brown rice and veggies for their supper. That was gulped down just as quickly:

Hmmm, need a bigger bowl?

Hmmm, need a bigger bowl?

It looks like a hug, but it’s actually a warning

Mishka's nearly there...

With Tiny out the way, Mishka’s nearly there…

MINE!!!

MINE!!!

Footnote: Just so you know, rats are only allowed high-protein treats once in a while, and even then only in small samplings. Too much protein can cause their skin to become very itchy and scabby, almost like an allergic reaction. Under normal circumstances a pet rat only needs about 10% of its diet to consist of protein, and definitely no more than 18%. Our rats have almost no protein in their staple diet, so treats such as these once in a while are fine. And as with human diets, variation and moderation are vital 🙂

30 x 30 (x 30) challenge

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So! Who’s up for a challenge? :mrgreen:

30 x 30 x 30 challenge

Earlier this week I decided it’s time to tackle Goal #72 on my 101 things in 1001 days list, namely the 30 x 30 challenge of doing 30 minutes of physical activity for 30 consecutive days.

I planned it strategically right at the start of a blazing South African summer, of course.

And that wasn’t enough, so I decided to add another ‘x 30’ on the end of that challenge too. Along with the daily physical exercise regimen, I’ve committed to a personalised detox.

It’s nothing hectic – nothing like my 21-day sugar detox – but I’m cutting out as many fatty foods, processed carbs and sugars as possible for the next 30 days, and I plan to eat a salad for at least one of my three main meals each day. I’ve reduced all my portions too, and I’m stocking my pantry I don’t have a pantry fridge and cupboards with the healthiest foods I can afford.

Or at least I will be, once payday rolls around 😀

But like I said, it’s a personalised detox. I know myself well enough to accept that 30 days without any sugary treats at all is going to be counterproductive – I’ll just give up that way. So each morning with my cup of unsweetened rooibos tea I indulge in a single, small vanilla biscuit. Treat? Check 🙂

Over time I’ve come to accept that some diet fads and detox ideas will never work for me. For one thing, I don’t do low-fat dairy. Period. It’s yucky and a waste of money and full of unhealthy additives. I’d rather enjoy a smaller portion of a full-cream product than mess around with low-fat and fat-free options.

Also, I’ll never stick to a diet plan that involves foods I’ve never even heard of, let alone eaten. If I can’t find it in the shops I usually buy from, it’s just going to be a stumbling block in my detox. Ditto if it tastes gross. You can keep your kombucha and your tempeh, thanks very much!

And finally, I’ll probably never stick to a diet plan that cuts out one or more food groups altogether. Yes, I do intend to give a month of vegetarianism a go e.v.e.n.t.u.a.l.l.y (despite my repeated failures in that area), but I still don’t expect it’ll become something permanent. I like my food, and I love variety in everything, so that’s what my current diet plan is based on 🙂

I started the challenge on the 13th of November, so that it ends the day before my dating anniversary with Ninja… at which point I believe we can celebrate with a well-deserved, detox-destroying romantic dinner.

The salads have been easy to fit in and perfect for the hot weather, but the exercise is obviously the harder part. I often get to walk for more than 30 minutes during lunchtime at work, and there are stairs to climb and weights to lift at home. No excuses!

Being the pedant that I am, I laid out all of this in a handy checklist. And here it is, free for you to download should you wish to attempt something like this for yourself 🙂

My 30 x 30 x 30 challenge

Here’s to good health and achieving our goals!

Zest

Crispy savoury homemade crackers

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We call them biscuits here in South Africa, actually. But I think what Americans call biscuits are more like puffy scones to us, so I thought I’d go for ‘crackers’ instead.

Anyway, the point is: here’s a recipe for the easiest, crunchiest, thinnest, spiciest savoury crackers you’ll ever make at home… courtesy of my dear mom’s collection of recipes from years of kitcheneering 😉

Four main ingredients

Four main ingredients

Crispy savoury crackers

Ingredients

1 C cake/all-purpose flour

2.5 ml salt

1 ml pepper (1 ml? Seriously? Why not just say a pinch?)

1 ml cayenne pepper (or more if you like it hot)

15 ml butter

1/2 C cheddar cheese, finely grated (I like mature cheddar for this)

Cold water

Method

1. Sift together dry ingredients in a bowl.

2. Rub in the butter.

3. Add the cheese and just enough water to make a stiff dough. (Add it bit by bit and ‘cut’ it gently into the flour with a knife.)

NB: Avoid any unnecessary kneading and pressing. This is the only tricky part of the recipe. Your dough should be dry-ish to the touch but sticky enough to form a messy clump:

Don’t overmix or add too much water!

4. Roll out very thinly. What I mean by thin is this:

Roll out thinly

Roll out thinly

If it’s three millimetres thick, that’s about the max 🙂

Thin now = crunchy later

5. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter of your choice and place crackers on a greased baking tray.

6. Prick the crackers with a fork several times each.

Pricked and primed for the oven

7. Bake for approx. 20 minutes at 190 °C. Afterwards, leave them to cool on the tray and they should just pop off easily.

NB #2: They burn very suddenly! Please keep an eye on them after the first 10 minutes and take them out when they start to look golden. They’re irredeemable when burnt but they’re fantastic when caught just a few minutes before that :mrgreen:

Golden harvest!

Golden harvest!

The idea is that you then use them as a base for any savoury topping you like… if you can stop yourself from eating them all before you prepare the first topping!

Perfect with savoury toppings or eaten plain

Perfect with savoury toppings or eaten plain

I’m sure you could change the spices in this recipe as you like, even adding dried herbs or changing the whole recipe into a sweet cracker instead (mmm… with cinnamon and cardamom perhaps… served still warm cracked over cold ice cream…). Ah, I was born to bake 🙂

Goal #26 – Done!

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Goal #26 – Participate in a 5km run/walk – is DONE!!! Today my best friend and I finally checked this fitness goal off our lists, and if I may say so, I am inordinately proud of myself for succeeding! 😀

Jozi 2013 Spar 5km Women's Race

Jozi 2013 Spar 5km Women’s Race

You see, I’ve never, ever excelled at anything physical. I’ve rarely even participated in anything physical. I’ve just always felt clumsy and not 100% at home in my skin; I don’t take part in sports, I can’t throw or catch, and I’ve believed everything people told me through the years to affirm that I’m ‘no good’ at physical activities.

Occasionally it’s bugged me that that aspect of my self has been left undeveloped for decades, but usually I forget about it because most of my living is in the emotional, intellectual and relational spheres. That’s the stuff I’m good at, so of course that’s what I’ve channeled most of my energy towards.

But then along came two factors that set me on a path to working on what I lack – and that path led me to today’s race.

The first factor was a very negative influence: a job that robbed me of everything that mattered to me (or, I let it do so). Months of erratic overtime and constant stress made it all too easy for me to compensate with feel-good foods, quick-fix dinners and zero time for exercise. In short: I got fatter and unfitter than I’d ever been in my life. This negative factor pushed me to to a place where I was desperately ready to reverse the damage and improve my physical health.

The second factor is a very positive influence: my best friend. It was her idea to do this race at first, but the more we chatted about it the more I realised that I actually really wanted to do this for me too. I wanted to do it precisely because every voice in my head was arguing that it’d be too tough and I’d fail and I simply wasn’t made for this kind of thing. I wanted to do it because I’ve spent my whole life avoiding physical challenges, which is just ridiculous!

So I had a push factor and a pull factor that got me through today. I was running away from something – from being overweight, from disrespecting my body, from making unhealthy choices, from the labels of ‘lazy’ and ‘unfit’. And I was running toward something – a physical challenge, a body I’m more comfortable in, a special achievement with my sister, new labels of ‘growing’ and ‘willing to try’.

Being among those thousands of milling women of every shape, size, age, colour and fitness level, I came to accept that there’s no need to be as hard on myself as I have been in the past. Sure, I’ll never be a pro runner; I don’t aspire to it at all. I’ll never look that way or train that way or try to fit into that mould. But hey, I can still run for fun! I can still set goals that involve hard work and physical fitness. I can still deliberately choose to challenge myself to become better for as long as the Lord grants me breath.

Today was amazing 😀

One tiny 5k race for Jozi, but one enormous leap of growth for me!

My favourite meal of the day

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Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Breakfast is definitely my favourite meal of the day :mrgreen:

Nothing gets me up and out of bed like the anticipation of a good breakfast. While Ninja is one of those people who dislike eating too early in the day, I’m ready to nom as soon as I’ve opened my eyes.

Recently I’ve changed over from cold cereal as my standard start to the day, to a warm bowl of cooked rolled oats with a variety of toppings. Warm, healthy, tasty and filling… the ideal first meal of the day.

I loathed oats when I was a kid, but that’s probably because I only encountered them at church camps and other strange places, where they were cooked until they were grey and flavoured with salt as well as sugar. Gag. The oats I make for breakfast these days are gourmet in comparison!

The bowl pictured above shows one of the best combinations I’ve come up with so far. The oats are cooked in coconut milk and water, with a dash of vanilla essence. Then I top them with dried cranberries, blueberries, raisins and goji berries, drizzle on some honey and sprinkle cinnamon and a few flax seeds on top. YUM!

And when summer hits South African shores, I think I’ll stick to my warm winter cereal but top it with more fresh fruits instead 🙂

Do you enjoy oats for breakfast? What toppings have you tried before?