Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Heni's Story.... PART 1

"Our little Henibean"
 Life was ticking along just fine....I had a lovely energetic one and half year old son keeping me busy and on my toes and we were looking forward with anticipation and excitement to the birth of our next child within the year. 
It was at my 18 week scan that doubt started to creep in and that bit by bit life stated to turn upside down. 
Initially, it was a concern that the fetus' brain had an area (choroid plexus) in which they had found  a number of cysts. I was told not to worry as "they usually disappear by 24-27 weeks"..... what I wasn't told was that choroid plexus cysts can be a marker for a chromosome abnormality. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Book Review- Beyond the Summit by Todd Skinner

We just got back from a weeks break in the Lake district (Cumbria, England) and on the last day before returning home we decided to climb “The Old Man of Coniston”. It's a 3000ft trek up the mountain starting with a nice gentle incline from the lake and ending in a sharp climb up craggy rocks... (we did it on a respite day without Heni of course!)

During the walk/climb/scramble…I was contemplating the journey up the rocky terrain and a book that I had read came in to my mind. 

The Old Man of Coniston... in the background

A signed copy of “Beyond the summit” was given to us from my niece and husband quite a number of years ago. I’d read it, enjoyed it and then forgotten about it until that point.

The book was written by a rock climber, Todd Skinner, who scaled the infamous Trango towers… a 20,500ft vertical mountain in the Himalayas. The book is a recount of his teams story and journey to conquer the tower but within it he gives gems of wisdom gained from the climb and lessons learned along the way.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Sleep .....zzzz

 If some one gave me the ability to sleep for a week right now...I'd take them up on their offer. How about you?

The Easter school holidays are done and its back in to the routine of waking earlier and getting gradually more sleep deprived! 
I'm at least grateful for the chance to have had a bit of a lie in on a morning over the holidays to give me that extra half hour I feel I need.  I'm one of those individuals who needs AT LEAST 8 hours a night if not 9. Sometimes if I get lights out by 10.30 I can squeeze in the 8.5 but even then it's often not enough input for the output that I expend. Sleep is something I've been working on for some time... because without it I don't function very well. Anyone out there the same? 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Sanity Space - Project Outdoor Colour

The Bluebells at Ashridge today

 It's been so beautifully sunny again today : )
 I just had to get outside and to do some exercise during respite time....before the weather is supposed to turn on us tomorrow :  (
I went for a lovely walk with a friend ... all the time we were walking we were confronted with  colour.... blossom, fields and flowers everywhere. The sun makes everything look so much stronger and vibrant than on cloudy days.

Walking off your worries

Walking in the Chess Valley

Today I want to talk a little bit about something I do A LOT!
I've always been a runner (and I hope to be running in to my old age)... but running is NOT what I want to share with you right now. As much as I love running, In recent years I've cut right down on the amount that I do in favour of walking. Something I've done a lot of this week in the LAKES.

One of the reasons has to do with the total amount of stress I can or cannot handle.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Eating out with food intolerances - Lucy's in Ambleside ...Cumbria

On the waterfall trek- Ambleside
Unfortunately, food these days contains everything...YES...literally everything that you would never really recognize as food and it's causing a lot of problems for a growing number of people. Life with food intolerance means preparation is paramount if you want something decent to eat. It's a challenge at home but it can be even worse when out and about or travelling.

When we finally reached our cottage here in the Lakes on Friday night we were disappointed to realise that the Sainsbury's delivery didn't contain the gluten free wraps that we had ordered for our lunch packs.  I  don't usually like to eat the store bought gluten free wraps very often as they contain a bunch of rubbish (in place of the things that are taken out)... however when on holiday it's the convenience factor that outweighs everything else. The fact that they were missing has made life a bit more difficult for us when out and about on our Lakeland treks....and so our lunch packs have been ...well..shall we say... non existent!  Instead of taking a wrap (an easy quick thing to make for a big group of people - 3 of whom have intolerances) we have eaten out or at the cottage.

You would think that eating out would solve the problem....but again when eating out with intolerance's it can be even more of a challenge in trying to find an establishment that can cater to your requirements.
So far We've had both positive and negative experiences here in Cumbria.This post is a Review of one of the more positive examples.

On Saturday we hiked up to the waterfall in Ambleside (a lovely...but short walk to get the legs going up hill!) and then looked around the town at all the outdoor equipment shops. Then hunger struck!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Heart Rate Variability

Photography by Jade
One of the "tools" that I have been using recently is the measuring of my heart rate variability.
It's different from your actual heart rate, which is when you take your pulse and measure how many times it beats in a minute. Heart rate variability is  something commonly used amongst athletes to measure their performance and recovery rates.  

Lets say your heart actually beats 60 times a minute... you would naturally expect it to have a beat once every second right? Wrong. Most healthy hearts have a difference in length of time between beats. One beat could be 0.5 seconds apart, the next beat 0.8 seconds apart, the next 1.2 seconds apart. This is the variability bit. This is a good sign. It show that your body and your heart has a good level of adaption and can accommodate to different circumstances and stresses that are put upon them. So a high heart rate variability is a good thing.

In general  a high HRV is an indication of the parasympathetic nervous system response (Remember PEACE, relaxation, recovery..... from the previous post on the Autonomic Nervous System).  
If on the other hand your heart rate variability gets lower it shows that your body is having a hard time and is still under stress and need time to recover (sympathetic response). Elite Athletes use this to assess when to train and how hard to train and to get a feel for when they are sufficiently recovered for a harder workout. Even if you are no athlete this  information can be used as a means to assess your ability to handle stress and is a very useful, outwardly visible indication of your autonomic nervous systems functioning

I downloaded a bundle of four HRV measuring Apps from the apple store but I only use these 2 below. They work by putting your index finger over the light and camera on your iPhone?!

The HRV4Training App is  one of   the apps I use for measuring my base line HRV reading. I take a reading each morning when I wake up before I get out of bed and compare the scores from day to day. If my score is low..... I do less and try to do something relaxing or at least not taxing and stressful! If it's high then I go ahead and run or do something more energetic.

Stressed Out
Stressed out
The Stressed out app gives more of a percentage level of how stressed you are (not a HRV reading) and in this case a high % is bad and a low % is good. Currently I've been waking up at least %60 stressed .... not a good  thing after a supposed  restful sleep (I guess one of my next posts will be on sleep!) You can take a reading at different points through out the day to find out what you react to and what is relaxing. There is  also a relaxation exercise on there to practice lowering your %. It works like a biofeedback tool.

One caution.... heart rate variability can lower as you get more if you loaf around too much thinking you are resting, expecting your HRV to increase, the opposite may happen and your HRV may get lower. As always .. tools can be useful but they don't replace intuition and common sense so don't place all your trust in it!  (unless you have a proper heart rate monitor...and even then...)

As I type this I'm reading %28: relaxed.... not bad. Blogging must be good for me!
My 12 year old likes using the stressed out app as a game and as we sat round the dining table the other night we all took our readings and had a "competition" to see who could get the lowest %.... my son gloated that he had 0% stress.... but I'm not exactly certain that he was following the rules...  oh if that were so.... that would be an accomplishment!


There are lots of other HRV monitors  out there which are free (these ones cost me about 4 -5 pounds for a 4 bundle)
Why not go download  a free one and have a play around.

If you want to read a bit more go to:   
Photography by Jade

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Book Review - Calm by Michael Acton Smith and Alex Tew

During one of our stops on the motorway coming up to the Lake District I decided I needed to buy a book to read whilst I am away. Feeling stressed from the hours of waiting in stationary traffic on the M6 I decided that the little blue book called “Calm” was the one for me. 

Not only was the colour appealing to my senses but also the title held everything that I was currently… NOT
Maybe it’s the change in beds or possibly the change in surroundings, but last night I woke in the middle of the night and could not get back to sleep. What better time to pick up my little book of calm and start to read.
Within the first sentence I was hooked.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Journey to the Lakes -Travelling with Heni

I’m finally here in the Lake District, sitting in the holiday cottage we have hired for the week, on the East coast of Lake Coniston, Cumbria. I think I’ve just about recovered enough from yesterdays travel escapades to begin to put words in type.

Somehow we always seem to have something “fun” happen to us whenever we go away. We once got a tree dumped on our villa during Hurricane Charley in Florida when we took the kids to Disney. Another time we got stranded at sea in a boat in the dark, when we ran out of petrol (again strangely on another trip to Florida!?) Yesterday on our journey here we had a smaller… but probably equally stressful, memory building incident, on the M6 motorway.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Book Review....Animal Kingdom by Millie Marotta's

Millie Marotta's animal kingdom colouring book
My new colouring book!
 Are you following the new trend.....Colouring?
Yes I said colouring (or for those of you in America.... coloring). It's a pass time that I did lots of when I was a child but not too much of since my own children were little. 
 A while ago a friend of mine told me she had bought a colouring book. I had seen them around in various  places and they had piqued my interest, but I hadn't quite got round to buying one for myself. Anyhow, a few weeks back we went out together and came across one on our travels and I snapped one up. It's a beautifully patterned book full of  wild animals, flowers, foliage and a feast to the eyes...totally different to the stuff I had as a kid!   
I wanted to get stuck in straight away. Problem!  I arrived home and realised I didn't have any coloured pens...... so it sat around in my "Sanity Space" tempting me and drawing me to it.  Even though I didn't have anything to colour with I kept opening the book and looking at all the lovely pattens and feeling like I couldn't wait to get started. Why does it seem so appealing? Well, maybe it's because it  makes you feel like a kid again. 
I had to wait a full week before I eventually got round to visiting an art shop to find just the right pens. Too thin.... it takes forever (and you hold your breath).... too thick and you go over the lines spoiling the effect.... eventually I came home with  a lovely mixed 12 pack from Faber - Castell,  a skin tones 6 pack AND  6 pack of NEON colours. That would keep me going for a while! The good thing about Faber -Castle is that if you find that you are missing a colour you can add individual shades to your collection as you go. Sorted. 
Faber - Castell Pens

The wise old owl

Why is it all so popular right now? Probably because of its De-stressing ability. One of the first psychologist who used colouring as a relaxation therapy was Carl Jung. The practice of colouring is said to aid quietness and it stimulates areas of the brain related to motor skills and creativity.
 Jung used mandalas or circular designs with concentric shapes, the type you see a lot of in India.
Apparently psychologists these days say coloring activates different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres involving both logic and creativity and also involves areas of the cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills. It lowers the activity of the Amygdala, a basic part of our brain that is affected by stress  and involved in controlling emotion.
In  some respects while we focus on the activity of colouring we are not focusing on our worries. It can  also connect us with how we are feeling as we have a propensity to chose different colours depending on the mood we are in.

Indian Elephant
 It definitely brings out my imagination and takes me back to my childhood. I love the vibrant colours and mixing, matching and contrasting them. I probably should do colouring just by itself as a stand alone activity,  however I tend to do it whilst listening to things on pod casts or my Spanish CD's. However you  chose to do it just have a go..... it can enhance your relaxation, aid your learning and make you feel young again!

On to my next colouring adventure!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Sanity Space - Project Loyd Loom style chair makeover

In St Albans near where we live there is a really cool place called the "Fleetville Vintage Emporium" and every once in a while we like to go over and have a snoop around. Its full of furniture, bric a brac, bags, clothes, books...anything and everything.
My dressing table chair had previously fallen to pieces and I was resorting to sitting on my Swiss ball (not a bad thing for posture, but it certainly didn't look so nice and definitely didn't fit with the decor). We went with the picture in mind of finding something to replace the chair and that I could possibly store things in.  
We found this piece...

 Whilst sitting round the table at lunch today I asked everyone what they enjoyed most about having respite time...not everyone was there but one person said that they could sleep...(cant guess that was my 15 year old!), one said they could get out of the house and go places. Another said it was the freedom to do what they wanted to do. One of the hardest things I find is that there is a lot of things I'd like to do.... but don't seem to be able to have enough time to do them.  Being a carer means time is always a premium. There is never enough of it and when you get it you want to make it count. Yes... much of the time I use it doing jobs that need doing paperwork, gardening, housework... but I am always one for accomplishing something and seeing RESULTS. Something visible that I can see that I've spent my time on. The grass only lasts a few days before it needs cutting again and the housework ...well its never ending. Respite time Is something that I like to spend mainly outside of the house but when the weather is not so good I now have my sanity space to escape to and do a project or two. Sometimes I do MY THING and craft, but occasionally we will do a double act and me and hubby will do a project together or even get the kids involved (when we can persuade them!) Today I'd like to share with you this project that Tom and I did together last year.

 I'm not sure if its a REAL Lloyd Loom as it doesn't have the plate in side that is usually on a real on...but it does look like one to me...

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Working on Automatic... the A.N.S!

Ready for Fight or flight! (Hever Castle Triathlon)

Have you ever heard of the Autonomic Nervous system? (A.N.S)

It is probably something that we all take for granted and are unaware of the hard work that it does for us as it works beneath our conscious control on a day to day basis . It is the system that helps us to regulate certain body processes and keep them in a state of balance (homeostasis). It regulates things like our blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. Our body temperature, digestion and metabolism are also under its dominion. Even things like the amount of water we have within our systems and the regulation of emptying our bladder and bowels. Its hard at work even when we are supposedly resting or asleep.

I wanted to share with you today some of the  A.N.S Basics and its impact upon the way we handle stress:-

Monday, 6 April 2015

Walking with wheelchairs - Wilstone /Tringford/ Startops reservoirs

Wilstone Reservoir 

 Today is Bank Holiday Monday and it's been gloriously sunny.  Earlier, we decided to take Heni out on a walk around Wilstone, Tringford and Startops reservoirs near Aylesbury....a walk I have done before with a friend but have never done with "H". Unfortunately I  couldn't remember if there were any gates or stiles to contend with along the way.... a rather important detail for when walking with wheelchair users! However, seeing as the "P.E Mead Farm Shop" (where I buy my ostrich eggs)  is right next to the reservoir .... we decided to take the chance and  head up the A41 on the half hour journey. 

Heni looking at the lambs

We have two modes of transport for Heni is her "actual" wheelchair that won't go on anything other than concrete and very solid flat surfaces and the other is the "Advanced Mobility Independence Max " chair we bought from Chariots all Terrain Pushchairs ( about a year ago.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Celebrate Easter Because Jesus Christ Lives

Wherever He Walked
Wherever He Taught
Wherever He Healed
He changed Everything
Then everything Changed
The man They called the Master
Was Gone
But the greatest Miracle
Was yet to Come
He is not Here
He is Risen
He Lives
And Because He Lives
If you Reach Out
Call Out
Cry Out
He is Here, 
He is Here 
During the Good 
The Bad 
The In-Between 
He is Here
No Matter who  you Are, 
Or who you Were 
He is Here 
No Exceptions 
No Lost Causes 
At all Times 
In all Places 
He Rose on the Third Day 
He lives Today 
Find him 

 and #BecauseHeLives  You and I can live  with Confidence, Courage and Strength too!
Happy Easter

P.S See you after Easter with more posts on stress related issues, book reviews, sleep and some posts on Heni's story!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Easter - The Season of Uplift.

Not only do I love this time of year because there is promise of better weather and brighter skies ahead...(and possibly some sunshine) but I  also love that I can get a sense of renewal and answers to problems by attending April General Conference which always happens around this time of year. 
It doesn't always fall on Easter weekend but this year it does. What better way to celebrate the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ?....The reason behind the season.
So between spending time with family, doing Easter egg hunts around the living room or garden (depends on the weather as everything does in  England!) AND lots of lovely food.......I get to have two full days of spiritual uplift and strengthening. Something that I just can't do without.

Just like we need food for our bodies to have energy and strength to do the things in life that we need to do. I look forward to that spiritual nourishment that I gain from listening to the talks and council and wise words  gained from 5 sessions and 35 speakers. These give me strength of a different sort ...the type that allows me to carry on amidst discouragement, trial and hard times. Something that we could all do with. 

So this Easter it is my invitation to you to share in this feast and encourage you to go check out conference and see for yourself. I realize  everyone has different taste in "foods",  and this may not be to your taste. However... when I have a feast before me it only seems  right that I at least offer to share.


Happy Easter


Sanity Space - Project T shirt cushions

I'm back in the Sanity Space again.....
 I don't know about you but I just love some of the designs on kids clothes (especially T shirts) and just wish that they made them for adults too.  When the kids get too big for them I don't like getting rid of them all. I like to save a few and do some up-cycling and re-purposing. Last year I made a T shirt quilt for Heni (my first ever attempt) out of a heap of old T shirts that both of the girls had worn.
 I've culled the wardrobes again since them and found some more shirts  for another project.

Sanity Space - Ostrich egg transformation

Spring! EASTER on its way
With Easter this weekend...I've been wanting to transform my Ostrich eggs that I had hidden away in the cupboard with all the other Easter decorations that I've collected over the years. As usual Pinterest is my inspiration! I feel like I like to create things however I'm one of those individuals who finds it hard to come up with something new. I tend to look at  ideas  that are already "out there" and have a go at making it "mine". Besides, it seems that it doesn't really matter if someone else has done it before, it only matters that you have fun doing it and enjoy the process, right?  

I've been  amazed at some of the awesome works of art there are and all the amazing individuals who have such skill. Engraved  Eggs with dental drills, painted Eggs with enamels, Faberge eggs, its all there. Sometimes that can put you off having a go.... thinking that "mines not going to be as good".  But what the heck.... I decided to put all that aside and give it a go and do a "sharpie egg". 
I tried normal felt tip pens first but found that my hand smudged the ink as I worked around the egg. The problem with sharpies are that they are permanent and if you make a are toast!

 I did have a go at removing the first few marks I made with nail varnish remover and it kind of worked, however the egg is very bumpy and has little indentations in it and it's hard for it all to come off.  There was a faint marking still there. I hid it well though with the design that I ended up doing. 
Beautiful Egg just as it is!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Beginners mistakes! Mindfulness in eight weeks Book Review ...LOST

Bab AL Shams, Dubai
Ok so I'm very new to this blogging lark.... but I'm Learning fast because today I lost one of my posts on the blog or rather it just disappeared >  UNHAPPY! 
Well maybe not?
It was the book review that I had written on "Mindfulness in eight weeks by Michael Chaskalson. The book I had read on a respite holiday in Dubai last October.
Michael had kindly tweeted the review to his followers and It just so happens that it was becoming the most viewed post too : (
SO here I am, having to put in to practice what I wrote about in the review. I was thinking about recreating the post but I'm not going to do that. Instead I'm going to retest the practice of mindfulness.

Stop the ruminating thoughts.... what did I do wrong? Where did it go? How can I get it back?  ....and move on.... to now.
I guess its gone...and I  move my attention to being here and now. I have had to let the "case be the case". Whats done is done.  
 Now is the prime time to listen again to one of Michael's free downloads and just chill and forget. 

Well I decided to pause from writing for a while and go to the link (below) and  practice one of the exercises I recommended  in the last review to you. 
I have just literally finished the "3 step breathing space" exercise ( track number 8). It took three minutes to do and I'm back here to tell you the effect.

The exercise focuses you on what is here right now.....  
Whats up? What am I thinking? What am I feeling? ....Frustration. Irritation that the post can just disappear in to the ether....
A tincy bit of regret that I can no longer see the reach of the message...
What sensations are there in my body? Tightness in my back and lower rib cage
Impulses? The desire to hold my breath and resist the urge to let out a big aaaaaaaghghghghggh!
After acknowledge my thoughts and feelings, sensations and impulses  I am then redirect to
follow my breath. In breath and out breath... following the instruction to pay attention to my breathing. In out, in out, in out.
Breathing in to any tensions, aware of changes happening in my body. 
So simple, so quick, so effective. 
Three minutes that ANYONE can find in their day. Sitting at a desk between projects, standing in a queue, on the train on the way home. Any time, anywhere. Three minutes of redirection to the now.

 So I guess I don't have to be in Bab al shams, Dubai on holiday after all. I can be here sitting at my desk typing away after an irritating learning experience. Mindfulness is a tool, a practice that you can have with you where ever you are, whatever you are doing, feeling or experiencing.

Thanks Michael for "Mindfulness in eight weeks" but I have a better title for you, how about  "Mindfulness in three minutes?"

Just to remind those of you who read the previous review... the mindfulness practice downloads can be found at
...and the book is a great read to understand more about mindfulness and its effects.


Random stuff - Flat Stanley's Visit

 Flat Stanley at Warner Bros Studio Leavesden
Stanley visiting The Harry Potter Studios

I don't know about you, but every once in a while its nice to do something really childish and have some fun! That's what happened last month when "Flat Stanley" came to stay. 

My niece from America asked me if I would be willing to help her son do a school geography project which entailed sending me Flat Stanley and then taking some pictures of his Adventures while he was here in England.  I agreed and waited for his arrival. 

I'd never heard of Flat Stanley before so I guess when the "envelope" arrive I was quite intrigued to see what was inside. When I opened the letter, there was Stanley folded up nice a neat with a note from my nieces son. This is some of Flat Stanley's diary that I sent back:-
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