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About 15 years ago, my friends and I used to attend music summer courses (yes band camp!) and I can honestly say those days were some of the best of my life. It was a way to have focus, in our rehearsing and performing music together, in a social circle of people that we had things in common with. I loved it. One day, on arriving in the clarinet practice room, I spied a boy across the room on his own and being my presumptuous, outgoing and overly friendly self at that age, I introduced myself.
Stephen started hanging out with us sometimes, in fact it was easy to make friends there and at the end of the course, like with so many other new friends, we said sad goodbyes and vowed to meet again the following year.
This friend was different though. A couple of weeks later, I received a letter, from Stephen. He’d managed to get my address and his letter was so endearing and honest, blatant and clear, that I couldn’t help but reply. We wrote for the whole of that year and for many years after that.
At the following years ‘camp’ we hung out all the time, and the next. We were great friends. Our letters gave us common ground and a connection, that I see now as more deeply rooted than I ever imagined.
We stopped writing eventually, occasionally caught up on the phone and years later reconnected on facebook. We both led different lives, made mistakes, had our fair share of heartbreak.

One day, after feeling particularly sorry for myself, I took a look at what was going on with me. I my stress levels were at a high, my confidence had been knocked, my life seemed monotonous and I was quite clearly going through the motions.
For a couple of years I had been vaguely monitoring my diet. I had a particular like for eggs and drank gallons of cow milk. One day whilst eating a quiche, I suddenly started feeling very dizzy and sick, with a pounding headache. I had to go home from work it was that bad. I realised it was egg, milk/cheese or the wheat in the flour. I’d suspected it for a while, but this was a minor turning point for me. I decided to eat less eggs at least.
I started to get the dizzy spells more often, especially after eating and by now, I was having problems with my stomach and menstrual issues too. My gums and teeth were sore and I wasn’t sleeping. I had heart palpitations after eating quite regularly and I was incredibly moody, lethargic and anxious.
Until this point, I hadn’t been to a doctor in years. I had childhood epilepsy from a bump on the head until I reached about the age of 22, but aside from that, I had no doctor worthy issue. I rarely took even painkillers except in an emergency. I hold very strong naturopathic views after taking the epilepsy medication for so long, but I eventually decided I had to go.
What made the visit to the doctor more difficult was that my regular doctor had retired and so I had to see a locum. I had blood tests done, they searched for anaemia, diabetes and other bits and pieces and tested for depression. They couldn’t find anything and so it was suggested that I had mild depression and stress and that a change in my lifestyle, diet, more exercise would help.
I was relieved that I didn’t have to think about medication. I started to change a little, but not nearly enough. I sat around a lot in the evenings, working, marking for school, watching crap TV. I ate food, plus food. I would feed others in order to provide myself with cakes and snacks. My other issue was drinking. I had been drinking alot since my teens. It had gotten better, I didn’t go out to do it as much, but I certainly managed to drink red wine most nights.
Basically, I was killing myself slowly. I was allowing myself to eat and drink things that were making my body react in a myriad of terrible ways. I was completely aware of it, but I was continuing and actually, I was miserable. My heart was pleading with me to work it out, but. Wasn’t listening. It would pass. I kept tell myself. Ignore the headaches, lethargy, difficult stomach, gum issues, anxiety, bloating, irregular, basically permanent incredibly painful periods, reclusiveness, hangovers, depression, irritability, insomnia…this had to stop.

I remembered years ago seeing an article on a morning show about detoxing by eating one fruit only for a weekend. This really interested me, so I started to research. I also found articles about eating less animal products and how they could affect menstrual patterns and how a raw vegan diet could alleviate the pain, give you more energy and help rejuvenate the body. Having been brought up believing that certain nutrients could only be found in animal products, I started to look at ways of finding these in plant food. It was not as difficult as I thought.

The realisation that this change in diet could be the way to escape all my physical problems, coincided with another appointment with the doctor, as he suspected that some of the symptoms could be signs of cervical cancer. It was a big fear. Also, in contrast to this, the light in my life appeared.

I saw a photo Stephen had posted online and commented on it, then, sent him a message. We chatted all night. He had also been trying to eat more raw food and had successfully done so. It was as if the one person on the planet to help me start this journey had been put back into my life at precisely the right time.
The next day, he came to pick me up and we drove to a raw food restaurant in London. It was wonderful. Seeing him again after all these years, catching up, sharing food that we were both very interested in welcoming into our lives. From then on, it was upwards. We ate so well. Smoothies, juices, super foods. I loved the challenge of meeting my nutrition needs this way. It gave me new passion for food and life seemed to lift out of the rut I had been so blindly comfortable in…I sold my television, stopped eating meat and dairy, cut all refined sugar out completely. I went swimming, went for walks. I stopped drinking so much, if at all, and I got the all clear from a gynaecologist.
I have no idea if that first burst of energy would still have happened if I hadn’t messaged Stephen that night, but I’d like to think that he has and still does play a huge part in my motivation to take control of my health.

I do slip up. During my pregnancy with Bear, I did eat more cooked food and dairy than I really wanted to. This also came with feelings of guilt, due to the information I had now discovered regarding farming and meat production, plus I was starting to get heart palpitations again and some of the lethargy and bloating. After Bear was born, I also lost a bit of my motivation to be in the kitchen. It was easier to cook a soup, get a takeaway, or bung processed vege food in the oven, but every time I did, a million thoughts crossed my mind.

I think now, that I truly know the real food culprits and the impact they have in my body.
Refined sugar is a no no. It makes me tired in all its forms and makes my teeth sensitive and my gums sore. It’s worse when with white flour, or in beans or other tinned or processed food. These combinations also give me stomach cramps and other stomach symptoms of old.
Another no for me is cow milk. It leaves an awful bitter taste in my mouth and my stomach feels nauseous and inflamed. It also smells awful to me and I feel sick just thinking about what awful things are in it and the cruel slavery its production entails.
Noodles (apart from rice noodles) result in all of the above, any processed food. The same goes for eggs. I do eat free range organic eggs when I fancy it, but it’s not so often anymore.

On the better side, I have so many other foods that invigorate me and give me the energy that those few above zap. The sheer volume of options left to me are why I really need not worry. I am at my best on a fully raw vegan diet, with occasional cooked vegan food, long walks in nature, sunshine, love and meditation.

I remember Stephen asking me on our date to the raw restaurant all that time ago. ‘What would you do if money were no object? Not the usual answer, like a nice house, pay off my debts etc…what would you do with your life?’
I remember my answer.

‘I would travel around, learning about cultures and food, so that I could teach people how to eat as well as possible, look after them, feed them, listen to them and show them different ways of life around the world.’

Well here I am, almost 2 years into this relationship, with a wonderful man who has made sure I am living my dream.
I feel that truly, honestly, you must ask yourself his question and strive to follow your dreams. In whichever way you can possible. I cannot imagine where I would be if I hadn’t chosen this path.
Take a look at your life often. Open your eyes to the possibilities and opportunities. See past the man made distractions that blot out the very nature of our human souls and let life carry you and teach you. Trust in that, because I believe it for everyone. It is never too late.

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A good 10 years or so ago, I lived in a small town in West Wales. I attempted a degree, but it didn’t work out and I ended up working and eventually managing a busy little cafe there. I loved the social side of it, my friends would come and hang out there, I met so many different people, i loved shopping for the kitchen ingredients, catering and developing new dishes. The people I worked with were like my second family and most of all, I learned so much about food, especially vegan, vegetarian and how to adapt dishes for various intolerances and tastes. It was most probably one of the most influential times in my culinary journey.

Since then, in all my jobs, i have worked with food. People and food. It is my passion. I love to discover new ways of making food, particularly now I prefer not to use animal ingredients. It has been interesting and a real challenge sometimes to try and produce the equivalent vegan dish. I like doing this, because it can demonstrate that some ingredients are just not necessary, if the equivalent can be made with plant based food.

Today I thought I’d share with you my kitchen here and about some of the food I always like to have stocked up and about the new ingredients I have discovered on my stay in Koh Lanta so far.

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I love my fridge to be packed out with fresh green vegetables and herbs. The smell as I open the door is divine and it helps me keep a good mindset when I open it to find foods that I feel are healthy and contributing towards my body being its best.
Amongst other things, today I stocked up on lemongrass, spring onions, holy basil, coriander, galangal, thai aubergines, sweet potatos – about four different kinds, squash and various Asian greens, like Pak Choy, Gai Lan and Choy sum. I’m going to make little Bear a salad later for his tea. He adores any greens, especially lettuce, so I’m going to put those together with some tomato. Another of his favourites.

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We love bananas, well I love bananas. They are my favourite fruit and I eat at least 3-6 a day. Today I think I’ve had about 12, including some of the little thai kind, which are much sweeter and intense in flavour. I have banana in my smoothie for breakfast and then as a snack whenever I fancy something sweet. I really enjoy them in a curry too. They add a rich sweetness that counterbalances the spice. I also love them as a dessert and use them to make dishes like my Raw chocolate pie and Strawberry macadamia ‘cheesecake’. Stephen has a pineapple and ginger smoothie in the morning, or we just cut it up and eat chunks of it as a snack. Best served chilled from the fridge I find.
Onions are an absolute must in my kitchen. I adore them cooked and raw. I also respect their medicinal properties. They’ve helped see colds off!
The other fruit you see in the picture here is Tamarind. When we visited the herb garden last week, we were given some to try. It’s a particularly poignant discovery as Stephen is investigating natural healing and Tamarinds have medicinal properties that are extremely relevant in his research. What makes it more exciting is that we found a Tamarind tree in our garden!

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On my little spice shelves, you can see jasmine green tea, mung beans and chick peas to sprout (I will show you how to do this and why in a future post) garlic, soy sauce, salt, ground cumin and coriander, ginger, dried chillies and the bits you can’t see are young peppercorns, which I am going to stock always now, Kefir lime leaves and these teeny tiny pea aubergines. All in all a wonderful mix of flavours and textures.
Also today, I found a Pomelo! The biggest citrus fruit there is!

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I used to drink a lot of cows milk. My mum always made sure I had it available. It was the only drink that seemed to quench my thirst for so many years. There are a myriad of sweet, creamy desserts and accompaniments made of milk that I enjoyed.

I was brought with the best possible, I never went hungry and mum always cooked for us all or we could help ourselves. I was lucky. I still am. My mum really makes an effort to look after me, even with my changes.
In the last few years I have changed my diet, mainly because I had some underlying health issues, which I wanted to address and I felt that they might be linked to food, because a lot of the feelings and symptoms I seemed to get, happened when or after I ate. I’m not going to go into too much detail and I am not a health practitioner, I am just sharing with you my lifestyle choices, because they may be of interest to some. All I know, is that I cut eggs, dairy and meat from my diet and my issues stopped. I do suffer occasionally, because I give in to my habits and ‘cravings’ for comfort eating, but I always realise afterwards the damage caused. One day I will be able to eat the food exactly right for me.

I would rather show you alternatives to the cows milk, because there are plenty of sources regarding our consumption of it, from health professionals and experts to show that it might not be as good for us as all those adverts would have us believe. After I started investigating the health benefits of cutting down on these foods, I came across the ethical implications of this mass production of cows milk and other animal products.

I don’t really want to debate the mass production of animal produce and in my opinion, the unnecessary need for meat at every meal. I have just found ways to remain healthy and feel good. That is, predominantly plant based.

I was thinking about all this when I was drinking my coconut shake this morning. It’s coconut water, coconut flesh and a little ice. It turns out like a creamy milkshake like texture when blended. Similarly, another favourite of mine is banana shake, a few bananas, dates and enough water to make a good consistency.

Nut milks and seed milks are nutritious and have health benefits that in my opinion, outweigh hose that are traditionally associated with dairy.
It is difficult when surrounded by dairy products, especially when they have direct habit and comfort links to childhood comforts and when these ‘free from’ and whole products are given a higher price tag. It doesn’t seem right or fair to me that a family should have to choose what could potentially be the more unhealthy option, just because of budget. How clever and convenient for the dairy industry bosses.

We have also been told public facts in marketing about dairy, regarding its calcium content being high, yet nothing about the risks of osteoporosis, anaemia and iron deficiencies.

I’m not telling people what to eat, I’m just giving my opinion, and the suggestion that, with a little research, alternatives can be found, even if they are once or twice a week. With this much information now at our fingertips, there is no need to make uninformed choices anymore. We are free to decide, without blindly accepting every piece of information fed to us by profit hungry multi million pound industries.

The implications of us eating less animal products would of course affect them the most, so they will try whatever they can to convince us otherwise.

This isn’t just milk from a cow in our back garden, it isn’t like that anymore. A cow should not produce milk in the quantities they do it is not natural.

Here is how milk is mass produced
Here is what is in the mass produced dairymilk we drink
Here is what milk can do to our bones
Here is some nut and seed milk info
Here is a link to plant based calcium sources
Here is an opinion on eating less animal products

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Nature boy…

You know when I was growing up, even when I was little, I always remember The Beatles songs and relate to many of them, lyrically and emotionally. My mum was a huge fan in her teens and still is, my dad was a DJ (Charlie Farley) and they listened to music all the time, my dad played his guitar and still plays all the time, only now he has many more instrument to play!

Music is a big influence in my life. I guess lyrics really can hit home when you connect with a song and you can be transported to a place in time, or to an experience or a person’s presence by a song.

I was hanging out with Bear today and I thought of one particular favourite song. He is generally a happy baby, pretty quiet except for his epic evening repertoire of putting the world to rights in baby language.

But when he is upset and inconsolable, we take him outside and he settles. So much so that it makes me wonder why We are not just living out in nature. It makes me wonder if he’d ever have to be inconsolable if he was there all the time. Would any of us?

Mother Natures Son

Born a poor young country boy, Mother Nature’s son
All day long I’m sitting singing songs for everyone

Sit beside a mountain stream, see her waters rise
Listen to the pretty sound of music as she flies

Find me in my field of grass, Mother Nature’s son
Swaying daises sing a lazy song beneath the sun

Lennon/McCartney

Today we went to the sea. It was a warm day, humid. Bear loves playing in the sand and today he was covered from head to foot in it. Every inch! We played for a while there in the shade, popping into the water every so often to chase and be chased by the waves.

Suddenly, the heavens opened and rain poured, sudden and tropical. Everyone hurried to shelter, but Bear and I took our time, feeling the warm splatters on our sand peppered skin. We laughed as I stumbled and smiled as we watched the sea change. As we made our way along, Bear started waving at the Sea. Saying ‘ayohhhh…’ Which amongst other things, could mean ‘bye bye sea. See you soon’

I love being so close to nature like that and I was honoured today -experiencing the feeling with Bear and knowing we felt the same. Plus, we get a really good nights sleep!

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So we popped to a couple of stalls yesterday. There are lots of them here. It seems in the more built up areas that every building is a shop, restaurant or stall. We go there to find ripened coconuts and some fruit and veg. We also have coconut trees growing near our house, but they seem to be smaller and not as sweet. Just as delicious and nutritious though.

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Bear and I cracked open a couple of the smaller ones today. As you can see from the photos, they are a long way from the shrivelled dry husks we see a lot of in the UK. A fresh green coconut is filled with the sweet milky water, then if you split it open, or can fit your spoon in the hole you’ve made, the meat can be scooped out. It’s soft, sometimes jellylike, sometimes tougher.

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I then made a really simple salad for lunch. It was basic, because I haven’t quite worked out the best sources for my nuts, dried fruits and seeds yet. Once I have, I can add more texture, balance and flavour. Not that I don’t enjoy the taste of these ingredients alone, I just like to make a dish with depth.

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I made a basic salsa dressing with the tomato, mango, chilli and lime juice.
I think perfect additions would be garlic, toasted/raw peanuts, dried apricot, a little sesame oil and spring onions. But the beauty of any salad is the adaptive nature of it.

I half wish I’d brought my spiraliser with me so I could make raw vegetable noodles, because I’ve seen squash in season, but having loads of gadgets really defeats the object of simple food. I have some good knives here though, so watch this space for a raw pad Thai salad yummycheffarley style πŸ™‚

Here’s a picture of one I made a few months back.

Now I’m here in Thailand, I can try to make a more authentic version…with no gadgets!

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I have hugely supportive friends in my life, who never judge me, who see the real me and know everything I do in my life is with purpose. I can look back on decisions I’ve made in the past and choices I’ve made and have no regrets (perhaps I would never have started plucking my eyebrows!) I would do everything I’ve done so far again and again. I may have made mistakes, but I have become who I am despite them and I am not a bad person.

I have needed for a long time now, a way to open my eyes in the morning and feel good, with no worry or thought outside the present moment. It’s been a struggle though and I’ve been blessed with a partner who sleeps and wakes with the sun. At first, this irritated me, because I always enjoyed staying up all night and sleeping til late, but that was always so solitary. Which I’m also okay with. Now, with my beautiful son also waking at that time, I need to get up anyway, but I get a wonderful smile from him and instant connection to my little family. That sure enough eradicates my minds thoughts, that snag and grab at my attention.

This is another reason for coming somewhere different for a while. We deliberately chose extreme difference, not just for its beauty and warmth, but for a chance to let all the unnecessary routines, barriers and possessions fall away. To kick start our life into one of tuning in to our bodies needs and our spiritual balance. The way we had become accustomed to, was crushing. It had something at every turn to hamper growth and change – or so it seemed. Now I see how I had to go through the storm in order to realise what I truly wanted. Dry land. A place to be me. A place to become a strong family as naturally and with as simple means as possible. I want to show Bear everything there is to offer and share experiences with him. It can teach him and us about opportunity, abundance and health amongst many other things. I’m trying to make sure Bear experiences and sees as many life options as he can, before he settles or decides, if he ever decides or settles.

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To start the day with a buzz, wake up and watch the sunrise. Take away your TV, radio, newspaper…the most stunning way to welcome in a new day. A few minutes where you are standing there, just with the sun. If you say you don’t have time, there is no other time. Just sunrise and sunset. It doesn’t happen at any other time. Even if you have to work at that time, Sneak out for a ‘sun break’, get a few minutes. Try it, even once or twice a week. If I include this in my day, or the sunset, then I feel peace and this is a good mindset to ground myself and return to if anxiety or fear comes.

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Another good way to start the day, for me, is a smoothie or a juice, or some fruit. Here in Koh Lanta, they serve fruit crushes, which is basically fruit blended with ice. That’s what we’ve been doing. Stephen likes pineapple crush (with ginger or basil) and I like a coconut and banana. Bear has really taken to coconuts, he loves all fruit, but so far I really think his favourites are apple and mango. He has always liked smoothies though, which we found out at my mum and dads. My dad drinks a lot of smoothies these days too and Bear loves to share!

Four bananas, some dates and water with ice all blended together is a yummy, healthy way to start your day πŸ™‚

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Bear was getting a little restless and vocal for some stimulation on our way back from the market so I took him down to the pier to chill and listen to the waves lapping. Exactly what he needed and I think I might have needed it too. I’m going to try and start phasing out the need for too many bought toys with more time in nature and natural or useful, everyday tools and textures. He picked four stones to bring home and is exploring them now.

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