Wednesday, 20 April 2011


I have been reading so many good things about drinking kefir that I just had to try it.  Kefir is a type of fermented dairy product, much like yogurt, but with many more probiotics.  This makes it even healthier for you than your average yogurt.  Even folks who have some problems digesting cow's milk (like me) can manage kefir.  You can drink it plain, make it into smoothies, or use it in recipes.

Milk kefir grains can be obtained from friends or from the Internet.  They look a bit like cauliflower or like tapioca.  They are placed in a container of milk and they feed off the milk for the day.  They grow and can be used again and again.  You can use cow, goats, or sheep milk.  Some people also use coconut milk, but this is less successful from what I read, and the grains really need to be fed milk to thrive.  I may try to use coconut milk occasionally once my grains have grown a bit more.

I purchased my grains from Kefirshop in the UK for £12.  I received a very small plastic pouch of grains with a bit of milk and instructions.  I placed them in a jar.  Now, this company suggests that you use plastic in case the whole thing explodes.  But many websites suggest using a glass jar.  To begin with, you need to use only a little milk---200 ml or so until they grow.  It is also a good idea to only drink a small amount to get your body used to it.  So you will increase your consumption over the weeks and the grains will also be producing more for you. 

The most exciting thing for me was to discover that my Other Half loves it.  In fact it is exactly like the fermented milk he grew up drinking in Tanzania.  The fermented milk there is produced slightly differently in that the traditional way is to place the milk in a gourd which hangs in the kitchen.  During the day this gourd is swung about to mix the milk.  In the morning it is emptied, sugar added to the milk, and it is often served with maize porridge.  The gourd is not washed, so the residue from the previous milk helps to ferment the next day's batch.  (This is similar to how yogurt is made).

There is a lot of information about kefir available on the Internet.  One useful site is The Healthy Home Economist.  This includes a video on how to make it.

Vegetable Box Trial 1

I received a medium fruit and veg box, a litre of whole milk, and some meat a couple of weeks ago. The company is Riverford Organics which is a chain of (I think) five farms throughout the country.  I didn't fully realise that this was a chain until they sent me tons of leaflets about themselves with the first boxes.  They also sent some recipe cards to get me started and to tempt me to purchase more produce.  Here is my evaluation: 

Fruit and Veg Box---Well I obviously ordered the wrong one because although I received some really lovely produce (including mushrooms, bananas, and fennel), I did not receive onions, carrots or potatoes.  This came as a bit of a disappointment and now I have to go and purchase these items because I am all out.  Looking through the catalogue I have chosen a smaller veg box for 2-3 people, which has the basics, and a fruit box for next time.  (If there is a next time).  And I might add to my order avocados and lemons.  And make sure they do not ever put in grapefruit, red lettuce, or red cabbage.

Milk---When I ordered this I was thinking that this was from a local farm.  The packaging says it is from Devon which is miles and miles away.  So I am not any better off than ordering organic milk from Ocado in this respect.  However, the milk is non-homogenised.  Some would argue this is healthier, and it is certainly less processed and therefore "greener" in terms of fuel consumption.  I really need to consider this.  It is £.99 a litre.  This is comparable with Ocado prices.

Meat----They insist that you have a minimum order of £25 for meat.  This means that we cannot purchase fresh meat products weekly because we cannot afford to buy this much weekly.  So, we would need to purchase every other week and freeze some.  I am not against freezing meat, but I would find having to defrost meat every day for the second week both a hassle and a potential food hygiene hazard.  So when it arrived:
Firstly, I was actually disappointed to see how commercial the packaging is.  It isn't like my old scheme at all.  My old scheme was a farm which reared and slaughtered their own meat.  All of this meat says it was slaughtered in the UK and the labels, again, say Devon.  I am not better off than using Ocado for meat.  But I might be better off using a different local scheme.  The only thing to save the day is the taste.  The one drawback from my previous scheme was that the chicken and beef all tasted the same---very gamey.  Now some people love it, but I didn't appreciate it.  (Sorry to all food lovers, etc).  So here is our critique of the meat:

Sausages---I chose their regular pork sausages, which are gluten-free.  They are very meaty and way too salty.  I cannot possibly buy them again.  This is not great.  I do love a quality sausage if I am going to eat them.  I will definitely be feeding back to them about this. 

Chicken carcass for soup---I won't critique this for a while because I a put it in the freezer.  I have loads of stock in the freezer at the moment anyway.

Beef bones for stock----I have never made beef stock before, and we don't often have meat on the bone, so it is hard for me to do so.  So I was glad, firstly, to find that they sold bones.  There were a lot, so I put them in two pots.  I think this was a mistake.  Because although the stocks smelled good, they were watery and took a full 24 hours in the bottom of the AGA to make a decent flavour.  This is, of course, down to my skills rather than the bones they provided!

Chicken breasts and cubed beef--these organic meats had a bland flavour much like organic meats you buy from the grocery stores.  Some would complain about this, but I enjoyed it.

So, overall:  I liked the quality of the products except for the sausages.  Everything is a bit pricey, but that is to be expected with organic produce.  I am really wary of the food miles involved with using this company.  After a few weeks I am still really unsure about using them again.  I will be writing to them with this critique and see if they can answer my questions about food miles.  I would rather use a more local farm to support them. 

Birth Plans

During my last pregnancy my carefully planned birth plan went out the window as I went into premature labour and wasn't allowed things like water births, midwife-led units...etc.  And although I am happy to have a healthy son and a healthy me, I admit I was a bit disappointed how it all panned out. 

I so wanted things to be different this time around and thought I would do some research into ways to cope in natural childbirth.  I investigated home births, hiring birthing pools, Hypnobirthing, Natal Hypnotherapy, Active Birth and Homeopathy. 

But the best laid plans can go awry as have mine--again. 

I am not necessarily against medical interventions.  Ideally I could give birth under the moonlight with a wise woman and my mother, but the reality is that I am bit too squeamish--or nervous for that!  I like the security that a hospital provides, especially since I experienced some complications last time and needed to head to the operating theatre shortly after the birth.  I know full well that the glaring lights and strangers in hospital have been proven to slow labour down as soon as a woman walks in the door.  I also know that walking through the door can lead to all sorts of medical interventions which may or may not be needed.  But I can tell you that when a doctor tells you that you need to have some medical intervention in order to save your baby or yourself your ideals fly out the window and you simply want for a healthy baby.  It is all that matters in the whole world at that moment.

A few months ago I was told that a homebirth was not advisable due to the complications I had last time.  I was okay with this.  I did say I was nervous about the idea.  I was told a while back that there was a small chance that I would need a c-section due to a "low-lying placenta,"  which thankfully has corrected itself.  But now I have been told that in order to prevent problems with my baby I may need to be induced in the next few weeks.

This could mean a premature baby.  But apparently this is preferable to the complications which could arise if she stays in much longer.  While I await further testing and decisions, I am filled with worry, but also quite grateful for the advances in medicine which will give us the best possible chance of health for both of us. 

With an induction I can still use my Natal Hypnotherapy and Birth Skills, and Active Birth, as long as the induction is successful.  And I am still holding out hope that everything will be fine and I can go ahead with a completely natural birth.  So all is not "lost."  We will just have to wait and see what happens!

Friday, 15 April 2011


I have been having computer problems and have been missing being able to blog about my adventures of late.  And today I have some very exciting news to share

My cat, Ellie, was meowing rather loudly outside by bedroom door at 5 am this morning.  I knew something was up and followed her.  She led me to the kitchen airing cupboard where I had set up a few blankets and old towels in the hopes of enticing her to give birth there.  When I tried to leave and get a jumper, she followed me and brought me back to the airing cupboard and settled down.  We sat companionably for a five or ten minutes when she started convulsing a bit.  This went on for a bit and I was not sure that anything would really happen.  When I finally saw a shiny black thing coming out I could hardly believe it.  This first birth took the longest and she spent so much time licking the creature within an inch of its life, I thought maybe she only had the one.  They settled in together and I eventually decided to make some breakfast.  I took my tea to the sofa for a rest and checked on her one last time to find another kitten coming out.  The next one came quickly after that.  My son woke up at about 7 am and we watched them for a bit and left them to rest.  After I took a nap we went back to find a fourth kitten.

The first three have colouring and markings just like their mum.  The last one is a bit ginger or grey---it is too soon to tell I think.  More like their aunt.

I had always thought that cats like to give birth in private.  So I feel especially honoured that Ellie actually wanted me there.  She doesn't want me touching them I think.  But it was a very special morning.  They are tucked away and Ellie is getting a bit of sleep as they suckle non stop.  (And I thought newborn babies nursed a lot!).  She has been fed and seems content.

It is difficult to get a good photo in a dark cupboard when they are all tucked up.  But this one got away for a minute so I could get a shot.  He or she welcomed the opportunity to get back to Mum to suckle when I put her back!