Lately it seems that every time we turn on the tv there is another advert for a charity such as water aid and startling images of desperately starving and sad faces of African children, these adverts are intended to pull on the heart strings and they do. I do to a certain extent agree with the showing of these adverts and I know it probably creates such a lot of much needed funds but unfortunately it can also make you feel that every child in Africa has permanent tear tracks on their face.
Two years ago I was lucky enough to spend some time working with the WYCE ( wonder years centre of excellence) charity in The Gambia and it was the most fantastic experience I have ever had. It wasn’t a holiday but it was still one of the best holidays I’ve ever had if that makes any sense!
I found out about WYCE through reading an article in a workplace magazine written by a man from Swansea who had recently been to work with them and within a few weeks of reading it had booked the flights and reserved a room at the working lodge. Flights to The Gambia aren’t cheap and by the time you added in the necessary jabs,malaria tablets and food and lodge it was probably about the same price as a luxury all inclusive holiday but it was going to be a far cry from luxury.. Cold showers and no electricity were a slight worry for me! But still if I could go back and swap this trip for a 5 star hotel in Barbados I wouldn’t. I’m not going to tell you that it changed my life but it definitely changed the way I think about certain issues.
From the moment we arrived at the rickety little airport in The Gambia we felt welcomed, another volunteer and Malang our guide (and protector) for the duration of our stay greeted us literally with open arms and ice cold water. It took us around an our hour to get to the village of Madina Salaam and as we pulled into the lodge several of the local children lingered nearby shouting toubab (white man) and smiling at us.
We were shown to our room which to my relief were basic but quaint with everything we would really need and the basic rules of the lodge were explained to us.
The next step was for us to be taken to the centre of the village and introduced to the elders who had to accept us for us to be able to work there. Luckily for us they did, although this was an extremely surreal experience. We met what I suppose would have been the mayor of the village in a tiny one room hut ( which we would later discover was the height of luxury compared to the rest of the homes there ) where he lived with his three wives and a number of children! A girl of around 4 sat just outside slicing a mango with a huge machete which I would have been afraid to hold myself!
The villagers were very welcoming to us and were just slightly bewildered as to how myself and A had been together for two years but were not married and even more astonished that I was in my mid 20’s with no children.. Different worlds. The next day after a lovely breakfast of pancakes cooked for us by the fabulous WYCE chef Ensa we were put to work helping in the school (me) and with heavy lifting.. man stuff of course.
We took a number of school supplies over with us ( 1 whole suitcase full) generously donated by friends/family.
We also took a big bag of modelling balloons which went down a storm with the children even after they had burst the remains were kept in the childrens pockets until the day we left which was incredibly touching.
The children of Madina Salaam have nothing in the way of toys, TVs etc but they are the happiest most content children I have ever met. They all hold each others hands as they walk to school and share fruit with one another and just smile all day long! We were told not to give personal items or presents to individuals so as not to encourage jealousy which we abided by but it was hard as we did grow close to some.
I could probably write all day about all our different experiences there so I will try to limit it!
Above is a coconut tree plant which we each bought to plant outside the new school building, as they grow they provide much needed shade for the children during playtime. Looking forward to going back to see it in a few years!
Above is Andrew enjoying a traditional Gambian meal which I helped the ladies of the village prepare. Everyone sat on the floor to eat together and it was a strange, messy but fun experience.
Me with a lovely little baba .. Everyone wanted us to hold their children! I was never going to refuse a baby cuddle. It seemed to astonish me daily seeing very small children carrying smaller siblings on their backs but it seems a way of life there .
Painting the new school building was a longgg process as the paint was extremely watered down but fun!
To sum up. We had a once in a lifetime experience in Madina Salaam and I would love to go back when Izzy is older to show it all to her but maybe wait a while as it got up to 50 degs Celsius whilst we were there. WYCE are doing an incredible job of increasing and improving education, skills and employment possibilities in The Gambia and anyone who is looking for a more meaningful holiday could not look for a better place. http://wyce.org.uk/
I hope you enjoy reading and understand I am not making light of the very real problems that many people in Africa are experiencing every day but to share some happy news about some very special people in a magical village called Madina Salaam.
One final pic to end.. The lovely Bindu:
Twitter is a funny old world. I seem to chat to other mums, mums to be and dads more than anyone else on twitter these days and obviously there are many contrasting opinions on everything from pregnancy to parenthood but a few days ago I read a tweet from someone who seems pretty sensible stating how they were on a strict calorie controlled diet whilst heavily pregnant as they didn’t want to gain as much weight as their friends had while pregnant. I was shocked. Pregnancy isn’t an excuse to eat all the rubbish you want ( well maybe a little) but eating enough is SO important for your growing baby. When I was pregnant I did have a few worries about how my body would look afterwards as I’m sure everyone does but I didn’t once consider dieting.
Pic: At 6 months pregnant.
When my daughter was born I kind of expected my stomach to just vanish and all the other chubby bits which appeared in the last trimester to come off with ease but I’m not one of those lucky ladies. For the first 6 months I was breastfeeding so I didn’t think about dieting as I know how important it is to eat well at this time but I started to cut back on the naughty stuff. A month after I finished breastfeeding I thought it was time to get back in shape so I started eating healthily and exercising ( a lot ) and the weight very slowly started to go down but then it was my birthday and a holiday to France ( there’s always an excuse) which resulted in a 2lb gain and I thought enough is enough so I am now on a strict but healthy diet and I have so far lost 7 &.1/2lbs. I am disappointed that I didn’t complete the 30 day shred but I got to day 25 so I know it’s achievable and I’m starting it again from the beginning as of next week. So far I have attended a jubilee party and a birthday BBQ and not wavered from my diet so my willpower is strong.
Losing baby weight is hard. I’ve dieted a few times over the years and this is the hardest weight I have ever had to lose but to have Isabelle in my life I would have happily put on 5 stone! Thankfully it wasn’t that much.
I really want to have lost a stone by June 17th so I can take my OH out for a meal for his first Fathers day and eat without guilt.
Help motivate me to keep going please with success stories and exercise tips. If anyone would like a copy of the diet I am on send me your email addy.
*If anyone needs inspiration to diet just go to the South of France. Nobody is overweight.
A little while ago I was given the opportunity to try out the retox and revive gift set from www.cocooncollection.co.uk
I was excited but kind of expected it to be the same as all the girly pampering gifts you see in Boots at Christmas time, I am happy to say I was wrong.
The set arrives in a lovely big gift box wrapped in pink ribbon so the first impression is good.
Here is a list of what the set contained and what I thought:
Relax & revitalise body & mind
A perfect collection of gifts designed to uplift, pamper and make her smile, with a gift box containing:
Hand Wash & Cream Set -with a gorgeous fresh White Linen & Jasmine fragrance set in a ceramic dish –
This is probably my favourite part of the set as it looks so nice in my bathroom and I will get a lot of use out of it. The hand wash and cream both smell fabulous and there is a even a tiny glittery sheen with the hand wash which makes it a little different.
The Relaxer 4 point massager – it’s called The Relaxer…we’ve tried it…and we think the name is well deserved!
I’ll be honest and admit I haven’t used this as much as I would like as I have an 8 month old baby but it is really good and I like putting it behind my back and rubbing it between me and the sofa!
Reef Reviver – a genius soap that’s just perfect for the shower!
Ok after the hand wash set this is my next fave.. It’s a sponge kinda built into a really fresh smelling soap so it feels like it exfoliates while it cleans and is really convenient to use both in the bath and shower.
Rose Body Polisher – made from recycled materials (plastic bottles) to exfoliate, soften and refine.
This is awesome. I love the fact that it’s a GREEN product so you can feel good about indulging in a little pampering. Ooh and it’s pretty.
Eye Gel Pads – the ultimate pamper! Revitalises tired eyes that need a little ‘me-time’
I haven’t used these yet as I am waiting for when I next have a bad night with Izzy!
Crazy After Dark Bath Blaster – a blend of mischievious essential oils to wash away all cares for complete relaxation!
This was lovely and smelt tremendous but if I can say one negative thing it’s that I wish there were 2 or 3 small ones rather than the huge one as once you have had one bath it’s gone which is a pain cos they smell so nice.
‘Matchbook’ of Mini Emery Boards – 10 mini emery boards in a fabulous design
These are handy to just throw in your bag and use on the go.
Breakfast at Sniffany’s – a very glam pack of amusing pocket tissues.
I like these they are very cute.
All in all it’s a fab gift set and I would happily buy it for a girl friend or sister/mum .. Possibly a nice baby shower gift also?
There are some really fantastic gifts on the website other than the one above and I will certainly be making some purchases soon. Maybe some more treats for me ;-).
A few months ago I read about the amazing foodie penpals run by @thisisrocksalt in the UK and @leangrnbeanblog in America. It’s a simple enough concept you join up and then each month you are given a name of a foodie penpal to whom you send a parcel, you then receive a parcel from another penpal. So a parcel each month of surprising, new foods to taste.. whilst having a good excuse for shopping for delectable foodie items sounded too good to be true! I had lots of fun making up my parcel for the very sweet Catriona in Glasgow who loved it (thankfully) and has written a lovely blog post about it which you can read here: http://whitecatherblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/spicy-thai-hazelnut-heaven/
I was like a child at Christmas waiting for my parcel to arrive and when it finally did today from Lex @LadyNom1 it was just lovely.. Very well presented minus one spillage and it contained two of my favourite things: alcohol and cheese! Ha.
I read the letter that accompanied my parcel first which was nice in itself as its been a long time since I have had a hand written letter and it explained all of the items and gave serving or recipe suggestions.
My parcel contained 4 items:
1. Dunham Massey Beer: Lex explained that this is a locally brewed beer and is great for cooking with beef so I think I’m going to save it for a special meal.
2. Marmalade: This looks yummy. This was homemade by Lex using oranges from her friends orangery. I wish my friends owned an orangery! She advised that this can make a lovely sauce when combined with white wine and coriander for chicken or duck so I will certainly be trying that out.
3. Port & Duck Liver parfait: Unfortunately this didn’t survive the journey so well and was kinda smushed up out of the pot but some managed to stay in the pot so will give it a whirl later with some toast. This was homemade by Lex so I’m disappointed that it didn’t make it in one piece but that’s royal mail for you!
4. Burts Blue Cheese: Lex wrote that this was handmade by a woman in Altrincham and although I rarely eat blue cheese I’m quite excited about it as I love to try new recipes and she said its fantastic in a souffle which is what I intend to use it for.
All in all I really enjoyed my first foodie penpals experience, it was lots of fun and quite exciting for a foodie like me. I would urge anyone with an interest in food to join in.
I always have two lovely new blogs to follow which is a bonus.
Before I had my daughter I thought that babies were very cute, occasionally smelly and maybe dare I say it a bit boring. After all they only sleep,eat, poop and repeat yes? I thought it would take a few years to get to the fun stage of having a child and doing all the fun stuff that you have secretly been wanting to do for years but had no excuse..such as impromptu trips to the zoo, park, swimming pool (but not to swim) indoor play areas… etc etc.
I was completely wrong. Firstly your own baby is never boring. Other babies can be I suppose although when you become a parent even other people’s babies become more interesting. It’s very strange. Watching my child sleep is still exciting.. I still find myself calling to my oh at least once an hour to say look look what she’s doing. Every day seems to be a new milestone as she discovers the great big world she lives. There are so many little things she does that pleases me that I could literally talk about her for hours and this kind of worries me because surely this is annoying to others?! I remember listening to other people drone on about their children and zoning out .. I know I waffle about her too much, 90% of my tweets are baby related but I’m sorry I wouldnt really have it any other way. I love that I am so into her. It appears I have wonderful friends as not only do they listen to this droning on but they also ask questions, ask for photos and are fascinated by our bundle of cuteness.
I thought it was just a girl thing but it’s not because men are just as vulnerable to the baby chatter and not just my OH who adores our little un (and annoyingly gets the biggest smiles off our daughter when he returns from work) but lots of men. All of our male friends ask after Izzy whenever we chat and not just in a polite way, they actually care. I think. I seem to read more daddy blogs then mummy blogs these days and it’s great to read a male point of view.
Anyway today we did our first exciting baby day out when we visited The Wales Ape&Monkey sanctuary*. It was fab. I pretended it was for Izzy but really I wanted to go and seeing her little face light up when looking at the monkeys was just a bonus.
I am looking forward to lots of similar excursions. In fact I maybe at some point even want to visit Peppa Pig park- yes I admitted that.
So anyway to sum up..babies aren’t boring. Not at all really. If you think so try having one and see your attitude change in an instant. 😀
*if any of you do make a trip and have slightly older children you may want to avoid spending too much time looking at Ronnie the chimp. He does RUDE things.
Ok so before I got pregnant I was in decent enough shape although I had been a bit lazy with exercise for about a year before so I wasn’t anywhere near as fit as I should have been. Pregnancy came along and with that extreme morning sickness and insomnia which meant that I really didn’t feel up to exercise so although I didn’t put on more weight than your average pregnant woman I felt so unfit.
Since having Izzy I have wanted to lose the baby weight but when I dieted strictly I found I had little energy to look after my bundle of fun and I’d rather be healthy and happy. I struggled to find the time and motivation to start up an exercise routine but when my sister gave me a stepper and I found it exhausting after 5 minutes I realised it was time! A lovely lady I follow on twitter had been talking about The 30 Day Shred and how it was working for her so after a bit of google research I decided to buy it from iTunes. As I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle it I only bought the first video which was a bargain at £3.99. The idea is you do level 1 until you are ready for level 2 then onto level 3 to finish.
This is how it works:
30ds is a combination of strength, cardio and abs. The whole workout from warm up to cool down lasts just 25 minutes and it is totally doable even if like me you are ridiculously unfit. The trainer is Jillian Anderson (biggest loser USA personal trainer) who I had not heard of before but now just the sound of her voice makes me feel sick. This is a good thing, you are not supposed to like her. There are two intensity levels you can choose for (most of) the different exercises and I started off ( very sensibly) with the easier option. I found the first session hard and almost quit after the first circuit but somehow I continued and felt tired but pretty pleased with myself afterwards. The next day I ached a LOT but I carried on and for the following 9 days I used level 1.
On day 10 I felt able to complete the higher intensity exercises of level 1 and wasn’t feeling too uncomfortable the following morning so I moved onto level 2 which was a shocker!! It was so much harder but I am now on day 16 and am so happy that I have pushed myself to get this far. I have skipped a few days as had a pretty nasty flu bug but it just means it will take me that little bit longer to complete the 30 days. So I now have 14 days left of the challenge and don’t quite feel ready to move onto level 3 in fact I am little scared at what it might entail but I am aiming to switch at day 20. Wish me luck.
The results so far:
I didn’t measure myself all over as most people do at the beginning of the shred which maybe I should have but I did weigh myself and so far I’ve lost 6&1/2 lbs which I have to attribute to this as although I have been cutting back for a while I’m not strictly dieting. I am also starting to feel more toned all over already, my arms, legs and bum feel so much better than before and my clothes fit better and the best part is that I’m only giving up 25 minutes of my day to do it. I mostly do the exercises whilst Izzy is napping but she will occasionally play next to me or try to get involved in her walker as I do them and she finds it pretty funny.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to get back into exercising, as although it’s difficult there are ways to modify the exercises if you can’t handle them and you see/feel results very quickly which is an excellent motivator.
New things that I hate: Jillian Anderson, planks, walking push ups, plank jacks, plank thrusts etc etc.
After the shred I may consider trying Insanity so if anyone has done that let me know how you got on.