Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Waffle Irons Aren't Just for Christmas

I finally did it!  I got a waffle iron.  For the last ten years living in the UK I have really missed waffles.  (You can buy some sweetened, Belgian style waffles in the grocery stores here, but they are nothing like American waffles).  So I have been toying with the idea of making my own for a while now and I have been fighting my tendency to avoid having too many appliances in the house.  But along with my breadmaker and ice cream maker, my waffle iron---in the space of a week--has become a valued member of the clan.

I chose an Andrew James waffle iron off of both because of the good reviews and the cheap price tag.  I was expecting American style waffles because some reviewers complained they were too thin.  But these waffles are thinner than American ones and thicker than pizelles or waflle cones.  The iron makes two at a time.  Each waffle is made up of six hearts which make a flower shaped waffle.  Fun, really.

My son proclaimed that he likes waffles more than pancakes!  And tonight I have made a double batch to stick in the fridge and freezer so I have them available to heat up for the next few mornings.  I am tired, but glad to know that I have a quick and healthy breakfast for all of us.  Add some more protein and we are away!

Okay, I haven't done the soaked waffles yet.  I looked at the recipe in a sleepy haze last night.  Not that they are really complicated...but the recipe says to separate the eggs and whip some whites separately,and all of that is a weekend kind of job...

I did, however, spice things up a bit.  So, I used light brown flour---this is similar to chapati flour and is a bit lighter than whole wheat.  As it happens this looks a lot like the flour that mamas in Tanzania grind themselves.  After grinding and sieving, they throw much of the bran to the chickens since humans don't digest it well! 

After making up about half of the waffles, I added some freshly ground anise to the batter.  Yum.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Spirit: Reminders

My son is a very early riser. (I too used to be a morning person before I had children).  So, I often find myself stumbling around a chilly house, getting some breakfast and cartoons for my son before crawling back into bed again for a few more minutes under the duvet.  The other morning he woke at 5:30 am.  So I did the usual and I had only been back in bed for a couple of minutes when I heard my son yelling from downstairs.  When I emerged it was into a pitch black house.  It was still so dark outside that opening the curtains did little to help us find each other in the dark.  We started looking (or more like feeling) in the usual places for torches, only to find a few which did not work.  I was about to look for matches when I remembered that my Other Half had left them out after using the BBQ last weekend. 

We were trying to negotiate each room very carefully because I also knew there were toys everywhere.  My son finally grabbed my phone to get a glimmer of light.  And with that I happened upon a working torch.  As I traipsed up and down switching the circuit breaker, and  looking for the offending appliance which caused our power cut, I had to laugh at myself that I was so ill prepared for such an event.  Between the toys everywhere, the dead batteries, and the lack of available slippers I was feeling rather silly.  And I told myself that I must sort this situation out.  These little things can make a difference.  It was then I heard a clear voice tell me: And you need to attend to your daily healing meditation. 

Just the day before I had been toying with the idea of setting aside an evening each week for a healing ritual and asking people via my blog if they would like me to send distant healing.  This voice seemed to say that healing was something I needed to attend to every day for myself and others.  Just as I intend to be ready with torches in an emergency, I dabble with prayer, healing and meditation when I can "find the time."  But busy family life means that I often only take the time when I am desperate.  When I reach a point of need.  But recharging my batteries is really something that needs to be done more often so I am prepared in a crisis. 

Later that day I realised the importance of the message when I found out that a former colleague of mine, Jude Tebbitt was abducted in Kenya.  I had been following the news story a bit anyway, but was shocked to find it was someone I actually knew.  (This type of thing doesn't happen to someone you know).  And right away I felt that I need to change my ways.  She needed help NOW and couldn't wait until next Monday.  I need healing every day and so does everyone else.  It feeds the soul and meditation helps us find ourselves and our purpose.  Prayer helps us achieve our goals and guides us on our path.

And so I am making more of an effort.  The batteries are in the charger.  We aren't that great at picking up the toys yet, but we are working on it.  And our spiritual practices are developing more and more.  It is important to me that the children are able to grow spiritually as well.  And therefore I need to teach by example.  Just the other night as I was tucking a very tired child into bed, I asked "shall we say our prayers?" and the reply was a sleepy, "no, thanks."  I think that too often I use this same excuse.  My quick thanksgiving prayer and then lights out.  Taking the time for Spirit is essential for wellbeing and needs to be done before the lights go out.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Drain Cleaner

How many times have I struggled to clear blocked drains with long sticks, an old cracked rubber plunger, or waiting until I could get to a shop to get a commercial drain cleaner? Those days are long gone and it was all a lot easier than I could ever imagine.

I have long applauded the amazing abilities of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) separately.  And the two combined make a perfect drain cleaner.  Even for standing water.  You can also use them to "freshen" drains to prevent problems.  Simply place 1/4-1 cup of bicarb and the same again of white vinegar in your sink or drain.  If you can, place the plug in (not for standing water).  Leave until the drain is clear.  You can rinse with a kettle of boiled water if you like.

Note:  Many drains are blocked by an accumulation of grease and then debris which settle in it.  For this reason you might be able to get away with a kettle of boiling water which will melt the grease away.  But the vinegar combo is more effective in the long run.

I have even used this in an outside drain where I was told I would literally need to scoop out the gunk blocking it and then use a commerical product.  Since I couldn't get to the shops for another day I figured I would give my method a go.  Two cups of each and we were away!  And we haven't had a problem since.

How to Get a Deep Massage for Under $1

Yep.  And you don't need to slave over a romantic dinner either!  What you do need is a cheap (clean) tennis ball.  You can get some from a dollar store or similar.  You aren't looking for a good bounce.

Next, you need a soft surface.  Your bed or a sofa are ideal.  Please do not try this on a hard surface such as a floor.  (You can use the technique on a wall.  More on that later). 

Now, lie on your bed and place the tennis ball under your back.  Move gently to massage your muscles.  Please DO NOT place this directly under your spine.  You can make the pressure deeper by pressing yourself more firmly against the ball.  This is particularly effective to break up knots of tension.  Simply place under a knot, press to your comfort level and breathe deeply.  Allow your tension to melt away with each breath.  Remember to use the ball all over your back, hips, bum, and shoulders even if your pain is in one spot. 

Breaking up tension helps restore a healthy blood flow to the area.  You may feel a bit sore for a day or so after a deep massage, but the tension will ease and the area will be able to heal.

Go easy with this technique until you get the hang of it.  Please resist the urge to use more than one tennis ball.  One will do the trick. 

You can easily fit a tennis ball into your suitcase or workbag to help relieve back tension from travelling or deskwork.  You can use your tennis ball against a wall as well. 

Healing Meditation for Sore Muscles

I find this meditation especially helpful for easing tight muscles.  This is one of the only meditations for which I recommend lying on a comfortable bed.  This meditation is done lying down, but is actually a moving meditation.  It involves very gently relaxing and stretching the muscles.  Massage is actually smply stretching the muscles nad this exercise can be just as relaxing as a good massage.  Although you may think you hold tension in a certain area of your body, you may be surprised to find it elsewhere as well.  This is because we tend to "guard" our pain.  We tense the muscles around pain, and they become painful and tense, so we tense more muscles around the pain which become tense and so on.  Treating your whole body for sore muscles is more effective way of managing the pain.

Find a few minutes of the day which are quiet and without interruption.  Late at night works well for this exercise.  Music is entirely optional, and should be calming.  You can dim the lights if you wish.  This technique, like other meditations, improves with practice.  Each time you practice, you will find it easier to remember how to relax your muscles.

1.  Lie comfortably on your back, using pillows to prop your head or knees if necessary.  (This works best without pillows).  Take a deep breath and as you release it allow your body to sink further into your mattress.  With a second deep breath in, gather your distracting thoughts and allow them to flow out as you breath out.  With your third deep breath sink into your supportive mattress...which is connected to your solid bed...which is connected to the solid floor...which is connected to the solid building with foundations deep in the solid earth.

2.  Take a few moments to observe where your tension lies,  Remember to breathe in and out in a calm and relaxed manner.  Now, taking a deep breath in begin to flex and stretch the muscles.  (If you have tension in your back you can start by rolling your shoulders).  When you begin, allow the muscles to flow.  Go where they go and allow them to move and roll, stretch and return.  As you breathe in and out very gently your body will ebb and flow.  Let go.  Allow your body to move continuously in and out, up and down, breathing very gently.  You begin with one muscle....which is connected to another and another and another...flowing, in and out up and down, to the next muscle...and the next....and back again until your whole body is relaxed....continue until the tension has gone....stretching gently as you go....and lie back and breathe...resting in your relaxed state...let it sink in...reconnect with your solid bed connected to the solid building connected to the solid earth.....

3.  Get up slowly from this meditation.  And drink plenty of water.  Repeat this exercise as often as necessary.

On Reincarnation...and Ikea

See, the way reincarnation works is like this.  We are all jollying around on the Other Side doing our stuff, hanging around and soaking up the love and joy.  I mean LOVE.  And joy.  Freedom from fear.  (Because there are only two things in this universe---LOVE and FEAR.  These act as opposites.  We experience one or the other in any given situation).  So there we are.  And yet.  And yet.  There is STILL room to grow, to develop as a spiritual being.  And so we decide to have a jaunt to earth to try another life.  And here is where the whole thing reminds me of a trip to IKEA.

For your first trip to IKEA, you are full of enthusiasm.  You may have a bit of a shopping list because you have been looking at your friends' catalogues for a few years.  You know there are bargains to be had, inexpensive food in the cafe and much of the merchandise is so colourful enough to make your heart sing.  You plot your journey there, plan to stay an hour or so, and make sure to take someone with you.  You want to share the experience for sure.

And when you arrive, the great Blue Warehouse does not disappoint.  The displays are inviting, the staff at the door are friendly, and you can feel the excitement in the air.  IKEA is set up like a long winding path.  You grab your trolley, begin at the beginning and you have to weave your way to the end.  Sure there are a few doorways where you can skip ahead or jump back again, but for the most part they want you to begin in the beginning and end at the end.  (Have you ever seen people with loaded trolleys come back down to the entrance lobby?  They are confused.  Out of place.  And they have to go back and try to figure it out all over again).

As you go around you cannot help but to toss a few more items in the trolley.  Your enthusiasm for what you can fit in your life knows no bounds when faced with such an array of choices.  And since you have driven all this way, you definitely don't want to miss out, to find your self at home wishing you had been bold enough to take the chance.  (And it is actually really very hard to find what you came for).  Two hours in and you are feeling overwhelmed.  After about three hours of navigating you find yourself at the checkout.  At this point, despite all of the hope and promise you came in with, you are losing the will the live.  Exhaustion and doubt set in. 

This is all because a trip to IKEA, like a trip to earth requires a bit more than a bucket of enthusiasm.  It requires planning.  It requires a steady heart and help along the way.  Because over the years trips to IKEA do become better.  Firstly you are more realistic about the length of time it will take.  And you know that one or two stops at the cafe are needed.  (As well as a trip back to test the sofas even though you aren't buying any).  Secondly you get help.  It may seem that the staff are few and far between once you get past the entrance, but you quickly learn to utilise the help available.  The free kids play place, friends, the computers and the staff are all used to your advantage.  Because we cannot go it alone.  

All of this planning does not guarantee success.It does not guarantee freedom from heartbreak (I drove all this way and it is OUT OF STOCK?!?), or  freedom from a few headaches.  And even though you have done the trip before, you can still get overwhelmed, overly enthusiastic, and experience ultimate joy (all in one trip!). 

But fortunately we never go it alone.  We have not only God, but a host of angels and guides to help us along the way.  We have fellow humans to provide support, help to teach us lessons and inspire us to keep going.  They help us on all of our adventures, no matter what.