The Bajan Vegan

On a quest for wholesome living

Whither the introvert?

The Oxford Concise English Dictionary gives two main definitions of an introvert:  (i) a person predominantly concerned with his/her own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things; (ii) a shy, inwardly thoughtful person.

The first definition could imply a selfish, self centred person. I am an introvert. I am largely unconcerned with external things, inwardly thoughtful and often quiet, but certainly not shy and hopefully not selfish. I truly describe myself as a solitary being, motivated from within. Given a choice, it will always be to keep my own company. My own company is not always restricted to me alone but can be extended to include those that understand where my boundaries lie (a euphemism for when to leave me alone). They understand that I am highly protective of my “personal space” and that I am deeply offended when it is invaded.

I am highly sensitive to the needs of others and often do “put myself out there” and make myself available; I can socialise as well as the next person. Admittedly, it does take some effort. These periods of extroversion make me treasure and appreciate my solitude even more. All I ask for in return is, that when I retreat “under my rock,” that this is respected. It is the frequent failure to understand and respect this need, especially in today’s electronic world where the expectation seems to be that we must be available 24/7, that offends me so deeply.

I find it puzzling and amusing how “introvert” seems to carry a such a negative connotation; this is a less than desirable personality trait, even a flaw. “You should be more outgoing.” “It’s not normal.” What is abnormal about being entirely comfortable in your own company? If you can’t be with yourself, with whom can you be?

Yes, I am an introvert, and perfectly happy to be so; no apologies.

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6-weeks in the life of the mother of a 9-year-old

It’s been a while since my last post. This is because I have been overwhelmed by life! It’s great being the 50+ mother of a 9-year old but it is at times like these that I can appreciate the benefits of having children earlier in life. I have a very active child who loves to participate in everything. I admire her enthusiasm and hope that she never loses it as she grows up but the reality is that my husband and I are often exhausted and struggling to keep up.

The madness started in February:

  • Feb 8th-12th: I was struck down by a terrible flu. Zicka?  Thankfully not but can’t remember feeling so sick since the bout of Chikungunya. Think I succumbed after  the little one came home from school with similar symptoms a week earlier. She bounced back much faster than I did!
  • Feb. 13th: After working in the morning and ballet for the little one, family time during the afternoon at the annual Fish & Dragon Festival, a week of activities  to celebrate the start of the Chinese New Year.
  • Feb. 14th: Start of 3 weeks of extra rehearsals on Sunday afternoons for daughter’s fast-approaching violin exam. Her first exam and couldn’t miss these rehearsals; imperative for becoming familiar with the format of the exam and the accompanying pianist. A long afternoon.
  • Feb. 15th-19th: Usual flurry of after-school activities i.e. violin & ballet classes; Brownies – for both of us as I planned and supervised the activities for the new Biodiversity Challenge badge. Can’t seem to shake the after effects of the flu!
  • Feb 20th-21st: Brownie Thinking Day activities – all day rally on  Saturday, 9-3. Made it to the rally as soon as we could after ballet class, around noon. Just as well that we missed the morning session. Pure bedlam. Sadly, missed the church service on Sunday morning. Just couldn’t face it. Substituted some Brownie badge-work at home instead. A good session at violin rehearsal.
  • Feb. 22nd-26th: Put in extra violin practice at home – YouTube assisted. Thank God for YouTube! I don’t know much about the violin. Led Brownie session this week – craft activity with 19 girls – whew!
  • Feb 28th: Final violin rehearsal, scheduled for 3:30. Everything planned around 3:00 departure. Received email at 12:45 – rehearsal moved up to 2:00! After some lip tightening (me), got there at 2:30. Solos performed. Mercifully it went well!
  • Feb 29th: Week of End-of-Term tests postponed – thankfully. Last violin class before exam. Not sure who’s more nervous, me or child.
  • Mar 1st: Cross country competition at school. Cautioned child to be careful. Mustn’t get injured now with violin and ballet exams looming! Left work hurriedly at midday for 12:30 pick up from school. Exam call time at 1:00. Exam scheduled for 2:00 but ran behind. Started closer to 3:00. A mad scramble driving through after-school traffic to get to ballet class by 3:15! Husband had to leave for work by 4:30. We are a one-car family. Felt absolutely shattered!
  • March 4th: Sports day at school. Great day for the kids but pure torture for we parents. One fall, grazed knees. “I don’t think I can go to ballet tomorrow Mum.” Power of Maternal Veto used. Ominous sniffling though. We have a history of sinus infection after every sports day.
  • March 5th: Little one looking a bit peaked but insisting “I’m fine”. Probably something to do with birthday party in the afternoon. Went to ballet and to the pool party. Caught in really bad traffic jam afterwards and took over an hour to get home. Sore throat and sneezing. Fever meds administered and sinuses rinsed with saline. Hoped for the best. No time for sickness – end of term tests at school this week.
  • March 6th: Full blown cold/sinusitis. Not a good day. At least no violin rehearsals.
  • March 7th-11th: Went to school, against my better judgement but made it through with no calls from the sick bed. End of term tests completed. Intense rehearsals for annual school music concert every day (her, not me).  I organised donation of refreshments for after the concert and supervised Brownies again this week. Oh yes, husband had bad cold!
  • March 13th: Music Makers Concert; great success. Very proud Mum & Dad – 5 performances this year! Some hiccups with the refreshments but, thanks to the team, everything turned out just fine in the end.
  • March 14th-18th: Fairly laid back except for final ballet classes before exam. Also Easter Parade & Fun day at school. Afternoon of raucous play. Fortunately no injuries!
  • March 19th: Ballet exam completed. Happy dance (me)! First fencing class – a mother-daughter activity.
  • March 23rd: It’s all over. Easter vacation started today. But wait, we came home from school with invitations to three birthday parties. This revelry and high living has got to stop, or at least slow down!

I continue to live vicariously through the life of a 9-year old.

 

 

 

 

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Versatile Eggplant

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Eggplants, also known as aubergines in Australia and the UK, are members of the nightshade species and are related to tomatoes and potatoes. Other common names include binjal, as they are known in South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Africa and other common names are melongene, garden egg or guinea squash.

There are several varieties, ranging from those that are almost spherical and deep purple in colour, some that are elongated and lavender, to those that are small, round and yellow. Though different varieties differ slightly in taste, they all have a faint, pleasantly bitter taste and are spongy in texture. They are widely used in cooking.

Eggplants are low in calories, high in fibre, have a low glycemic index and are good sources of several nutrients.

Nutritional value of one cup of eggplant:

(%DRI/DV) – based on US recommendations for adults
Nutrient
Raw Cooked
Carbohydrate 5.88 g 8.64 g
Fat 0.18
Protein 0.98 mg 0.82 mg
Fibre 3 g 2.47 g
Niacin (Vit.B3) 0.649 mg (4%) 0.59 mg (3%)
Pantothenic acid Vit. B5) 0.281 (6%) 0.07 mg (1%)
Vitamin B6 0.084 (6%) 00.09 mg (5%)
Folate 22 micro g (6%) 13.86 micro g (3%)
Manganese 0.232 mg (11%) 0.11 mg (6%)
Potassium 229 mg (5%) 121.77 mg (3%)

Eggplants also have several health benefits. They are rich in phytonutrients, including phenolic compounds, such as caffeic and chlorogenic acid, and flavonoids, such as nasunin. These compounds are antioxidants and free-radical scavengers that promote brain health and cardiovascular health and are also said to be cancer fighting agents. They also have anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.

Eggplant is a staple in our diet and we use it in a variety of ways: on its own, and as a substitute for mushrooms on pizza, and in sauces, to name a few. It’s full of nutrients and extremely versatile as how it tastes is largely dependent on how it is used.

Eggplant Casserole Recipe

One of our favourite dishes is eggplant casserole. It tastes great and is easy to make. It works well as a topping on pasta or rice and it also makes a fantastic side dish.

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Ingredients:

*Dried herbs may be substituted
• 2.5 lbs. eggplant • 1 cup cheddar cheese (grated)
• 1 large onion • Fresh herbs (thyme, marjoram, basil)*
• 4 cloves garlic • ½ tsp. powdered mustard
• 1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz.) • Salt & pepper to taste
• ½ cup breadcrumbs (optional) • 1tsp coconut oil (for sautéing)
• 1 tsp fresh turmeric (finely chopped)

Method:

Wash the eggplants and cut into ½-inch cubes. Boil the eggplants until just tender and drain thoroughly.

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Peel and dice the onion (not too fine) and chop the garlic finely or, if you prefer, use a garlic press. Heat the coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes, lower the heat and add the garlic and turmeric while stirring to prevent the onion, garlic and turmeric from sticking to the pan and burning. Add the diced tomatoes, mustard, herbs (note that if dried herbs are used, add these while sautéing the onion, garlic and turmeric) and salt and pepper. Stir, reduce the heat and simmer until the onions and garlic are just cooked.IMG-20160124-00208

Place the drained eggplant in a bowl and stir in the sautéed mixture. Add grated cheese (leave just enough to top the casserole) and mix well. Pour into a lightly-sprayed casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes or until the cheese is lightly brown. Serve on top of pasta or rice, or as a side dish.

NB You may add ½ cup of breadcrumbs to the mixture just before adding the cheese if you prefer a firmer texture but I find that it turns out just fine without.

Servings: 4

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Vegetarians & Anaemia – Fact vs. Fiction

What is anaemia?

Anaemia is a condition that develops when the blood does not have enough healthy red blood cells or haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is the main component of red blood cells and carries oxygen throughout the body. If there are not enough red blood cells or they are abnormal, or there is not enough haemoglobin, the body’s cells will not get enough oxygen and the organs will not be able to function properly.

Types of anaemia

There are more than 400 types of anemia, which are categorised in 3 ways:

  • Anemia caused by blood loss
  • Anemia caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell production
  • Anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells

Some types of anaemia are hereditary and some are acquired through injury or conditions such as gastritis. Even natural processes such as menstruation can result in anaemia. The most common type of anaemia is caused by iron deficiency. Haemoglobin is made in the centre of bones by bone marrow and iron is required by the bone marrow in the manufacture of heamoglobin. Vitamin-deficiency anaemia may occur when vitamin B12 and folate are deficient. These two vitamins are needed to make red blood cells.

Anaemia & vegetarianism

It is widely believed, even among vegetarians, that because they don’t eat meat, they must, by definition, be anaemic, but is this actually true? In our household, we have over 60 years combined of practicing vegetarianism and none of the 3 of us has ever been anaemic. Granted, none of us is vegan; two of us are ovo-lacto vegetarians (i.e. we include dairy products and eggs in our diet) while the other is lacto vegetarian (i.e. includes dairy). We try to adhere to the recommended balance of dietary food groupings and the majority of our protein is obtained from legumes, though we do occasionally include processed soya products and sometimes gluten. I had particular concerns about anaemia during pregnancy, lactation and in raising a vegetarian child, but these concerns were not shared by our health care providers, at least no more so than for omnivorous families and we, nor other vegetarian families that we know have had problems with anaemia. Research supports this anecdotal evidence and has shown that, although vegetarians are at greater risk of being anaemic, most can and do avoid this potentially life-threatening condition.

Fact vs. Fiction

  1. The incidence of anaemia is higher in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians. FICTION.
  • The American Dietetic Association has stated that, based on cross sectional studies, the incidence of iron-deficiency anemia among vegetarians is similar to that of non-vegetarians. Although vegetarian adults have lower iron stores than non-vegetarians, their serum ferritin (the protein in the blood that stores and allows the body to use iron) levels are usually within the normal range.
  • Several other studies support that vegetarian diets increase the risk of developing anaemia but that the occurrence of anaemia in people on well-balanced, vegetarian diets is comparable to that of people who follow omnivorous diets.
  1. Iron is obtained only from red meat. FICTION
    • Iron is prevalent in many plant foods, including dark green, leafy vegetables, legumes, grains and nuts
    • Iron is also found in meat such as chicken and other poultry, pork, as well as fish
    • The type of iron that is found in meat and fish is different from that found in plant foods. Haem iron is found in meat and fish and is more easily absorbed and used by the body. Non-haeme iron is found in plant foods and is not as readily absorbed by the body as haem-iron.
  2. Iron content of meat is higher than that of plants FICTION
    • Some plant foods do contain levels of iron that are comparable to those found in meat and fish sources. The following table shows the iron content of some common foods:
Food Serving Size Preparation Iron content (mg)
Broccoli ½ cup Boiled & drained 1
Lentils ½ cup Boiled & drained 3
Raisins ¼ cup   1
Beef (3oz) 3 oz. Braised 2
Chicken 3 oz. Roasted with skin 1
Beef liver 3 oz. Pan fried 5
Breakfast cereals (fortified) 1 serving   18
Whole wheat bread 1 slice   1
Potato 1 medium Baked with skin 2
Spinach ½ cup Boiled & drained 3
Tuna (fresh) 3 oz. Dry heat 1
Kidney beans 1 cup Canned 8
  1. Iron requirements and absorption for vegetarians are different than for non-vegetarians. FACT.
  • The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the Institute of Medicine has suggested that iron in vegetarian diets is absorbed at a rate of 10% compared to 18% from omnivorous diets and that iron absorption could be as low as 5% for vegans.
  • For many vegetarians, much of their iron is obtained from plant-based sources and, because of this they need to increase their intake of iron-rich foods in order to avoid developing iron-deficiency anaemia.
  • Vitamin C should be eaten along with iron-rich foods as this increases the absorption of non-haem iron by the body.
  1. All vegetarians must take iron & vitamin B12 supplements in order to avoid developing anaemia FICTION
    • Vitamin B12 is only available in meat/meat products so for vegans, supplementation of this vitamin may be necessary but for ovo-lacto and lacto vegetarians, the consumption of dairy products usually provides adequate intake of these vitamins
    • Several cereals and breads are also fortified with folate and B-vitamins which can also mitigate against the exclusion of meat and meat-products in the vegan diet.
    • Iron supplementation may also be unnecessary, even for vegans, provided that a well-balanced diet it consumed.
    • As is the case for non-vegetarians, dietary supplementation should be considered only after consultation with health care providers and careful consideration of individual dietary habits and needs.

Conclusion

The prevalence of anaemia among vegetarians is comparable to that among non-vegetarians and the most common cause is as a result of iron-deficiency. Much like omnivores, vegetarians can avoid this type of anaemia by understanding their nutritional requirements, educating themselves about the nutritional content of the foods that they eat and with careful dietary planning. It’s all about balance and variety.

Sources:

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/#h3

http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/iron#mvp

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/understanding-anemia-basics?page=3

 

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Summer Projects Journal- Composting

Oh, these lazy days of summer! Not in our house, but we do look forward to the summer vacation. Though our days are busy, we get a break from the pressures of term time routine: the school-run traffic nightmare and the precision scheduling that is required to fit everything in and get everyone to where they should be on time.

I always plan lots of summer “projects” in which we can be involved as a family. This summer, we’re focusing on our recently resurrected kitchen garden (thanks to Umsebe and her hard work on her Gardener Badge for Brownies),  improving our composting efforts and adding Neem soap and cocount oil to our range of home-made products. This summer’s will highlight these activities and any others that get thrown in along the way.

Today’s post is about composting. We’re very committed to reducing our garbage output to the landfill. We’ve been recycling for a long time and in doing so we’ve managed to reduce our garbage by around 50%.  Our biggest components were, by far, newspapers and juice/milk cartons, followed by plastic bottles and other plastic containers, with cans and glass bringing up the rear. It took a while to get everyone into the routine of rinsing and sorting but, thanks to the growing recycling project at Umsebe’s school, we’ve been able to recycle our newspapers/cardboard, tetrapaks and glass. We buy few products in refundable bottles (pet and other soft drinks), certainly not enough to bother to return them ourselves but we found (actually, he found us) someone who collects them in small quantities so we save them for him; it’s a great symbiotic relationship! We’ve a friend who collects plastic as a fund-raiser for an organisation of which she’s a member and we pass our non-refundable plastic on to her.

Approximately 50% of our remaining garbage is now comprised of kitchen waste (vegetable peelings etc.) and I’ve resolved to remove this component from our garbage, starting this summer. We’ve dabbled with composting before, but I decided that we really need to do it properly, especially now that our kitchen garden is up and running again. I wanted a simple system that doesn’t take up much room or require much effort and, after doing some reading and asking some questions of more experienced composters, I decided on a 4-bucket rotation system: filling one bucket, layering the wet (vegetable/fruit waste from the kitchen) and dry (dry leaves and grass cuttings raked up from the trees in our back yard and the lawn) components in the recommended 1/3:2/3 ratio, then starting the next bucket when the previous one is full and leaving its contents to break down. I’m hoping that by the time the fourth bucket is full that the first one will be ready to start over (after approx. 3 months). We’ll see how that works and add another bucket if necessary. I’ve found a suitable spot in the back garden.

2015-07-19 14.18.06The Composting Corner

I mobilised my husband into getting the buckets (discarded as garbage by another household after construction ), cleaning them out and drilling the air and drainage holes. 2015-07-19 14.00.00Compost bucket (you can see the air holes if you look closely)

Then we raked  the dry leaves that we’ll be using for our “dry” matter.

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Having fun gathering and stockpiling dry leaves

It took us 3 weeks to fill the first bucket and we’ve started on the second. I was very concerned about smells but, if the wet/dry ratio is correct and the “wet” is covered properly, there should be no smell at all and so far, so good.

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Vegetable waste layer on the left; dry leaf, covering layer on the right

I was also worried about insects, especially cockroaches and rodents but I haven’t noticed any of these either.

We are quite excited to see and use the compost when it’s finished. I’m pleased to report that our garbage output has been reduced by at least a further 50%, and not a minute too soon in light of the SSA strike last week. Though the future of recycling might be hanging in the balance right now (because of our Governments seeming about face on their approach to waste management), I think that composting is here to stay in our household. More updates later during the summer.

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Motherhood and Plans

I became a first- (& only) time mom just 2 months short of my 41st birthday. By this time in my life, I thought that I had everything figured out; it was just a matter of planning and organization. I was only half-listening and rather dismissive of what a colleague said 2-weeks before I gave birth: “you think that it’s going to be so simple, but it’s not.” I remember thinking “What is he talking about?” I think that it was then that the Gods started laughing; they haven’t stopped since!

I should have known that things would seldom go as planned when I went into labour at 38 weeks and the nurse told me that it would probably be long and difficult, only to have my daughter appear, fairly effortlessly, 20-minutes later.

Things went smoothly during our first night in the hospital; we both slept like angels for the entire night and I thought “this is going to be easy.” I started to see the flaws in my reasoning during our first bath and again after my first attempts at breastfeeding; I didn’t seem to be sure about anything: Was I really as awkward as I felt trying to bathe my newborn? Why was she screaming more loudly than the other babies in the bathing area? Was I doing something wrong? Was I producing colostrum? Was she drinking it? I had myriad uncertainties and questions and seemingly few answers.

Our second night in hospital ushered reality in. My daughter only slept when I held her and this continued for months after. I had only imagined sleep deprivation before this time. It is remarkable on how little sleep one is able to function. My child is still not a sleeper and I am just grateful for all of the unlimited sleep that I experienced before she was born. I’ve been warned not to expect a full night’s sleep ever again (with boyfriends, drivers’ licenses and such things yet to come) and, so far, this has held true.

I had breast feeding all worked out; I had planned to feed on a schedule and express and store milk for in-between. Well, that didn’t work out. We had a rocky start and, if I let her, my child would have been permanently attached to me; she was the consummate comfort feeder. I gave up on expressing milk very early on. I never seemed to be able to get more than a few drops after hours of trying, quite unlike the pictures of those smiling women in the books who appeared to get gallons effortlessly. I thought about buying a pump but decided not to bother. My nipples felt as if they were on fire and I was sure that I had mastitis, but I was determined and never gave up. We breast fed for far longer than I had originally intended, amidst all the negativity that came along with that!

The initial breast feeding period was accompanied by immense anxiety regarding constipation. I received varying advice regarding the correct frequency of defecation. My child fit none of those categories. Our paediatrician prescribed an enema, just in case. I just about fainted when I saw the suppository; how the hell was I supposed to get that thing into her rectum without causing serious damage? Fortunately, I only had to try it (unsuccessfully) once. After delaying the second attempt for as long as possible, she produced all on her own. Such euphoria over a bowel movement! After that, I decided to let nature take its course, and it did.

Then there were my great plans for starting school. I was going to be a stay-at-home mum until time for school (4+). My daughter had other ideas. She begged to “go to play with other children” by the time she was 2, so off she went to the nursery for 2 ½-days per week. Then the vicious cycle of constant sickness began: infections, fevers and gastroenteritis. Surely her immune system was severely compromised, to say nothing of mine; I caught everything from her. We virtually moved into our paediatrician’s office. When she said “Expect this to continue for 3 years,” I panicked “3 years? We can’t survive this for 3 years!” Well we did, somehow.

Now, almost 9-years later, I treasure the memories of those first few months of motherhood. How much I’ve evolved since then; how much I’ve realized that I have yet to learn. Very early on, my best friend, a more experienced mother, told me that “there are always problems, they just change.” I did listen that time. Such a simple statement, but it could hardly have been more apt. I’ve survived and grown through the newborn, toddler and infant stages; I’ve had to wing it more times than I care to remember. I still plan, but do so with every expectation of disruptions along the way. As I approach the pre-teen years I can only imagine what is to come. When I am daunted by the responsibility and unpredictability of parenthood, I remind myself that having all the answers before the fact is less important than the ability to figure things out as we go along. As I watch my child develop into an increasingly confident, capable and independent person, we seem to be doing just fine. I can only marvel at the joy and fulfillment motherhood has brought me.

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Health & Happiness

For many of us, adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle often revolves around diet and exercise and there are myriad options and opinions on how to achieve maximum results. A third, equally important, but often neglected, component is that of emotional wellbeing, or simply being happy. Having achieved optimal diets and levels of physical activity, even then can we consider ourselves to be truly healthy if we’re not happy? Some people seem to exude happiness; does this just happen or does it require constant work, as do the other two components?

What is happiness?
Fundamental happiness comes from within; too often we rely on external sources and allow our happiness to be defined through the eyes of someone else. Each of us must determine for ourselves what constitutes our individual happiness, rather than adopting the dictates of family, friends and society in general. Through we might lose sight of it, fundamental happiness prevails, no matter what.

The bases for my own, personal happiness are:

  1. Being myself and being true to myself. We may find ourselves “dancing to the beat of someone else’s drum” too often and compromising our principles in order to achieve success. Pretending to be someone that you’re not is also self-destructive. It is essential to determine and apply our own standards of success. Inability to do so must surely lead to an unhappy existence.
  2. Giving service. Volunteering & helping provides a great sense of satisfaction but it’s important to be able to recognise when to say no; equally important is learning how to say no. Knowing when to accept or ask for help is also critical. These are often easier said than done and continue to be a work in progress for me.
  3. Having a sense of humour. Sometimes laughter is inappropriate but being able to have a good laugh, or even just a private smile, can help to put things in perspective. This is especially true of being able to laugh at yourself.
  4. Working hard and giving of your best. Staying focused and making your best effort can never be discounted or taken away from you. Sometimes our best efforts will fall short or we may feel unappreciated despite having worked our hardest but personal satisfaction should not be underrated.
  5. Having fun. Discovering what you enjoy and clinging to these or just the notion of these when things get tough can help in achieving and maintaining fundamental happiness.
  6. Learning from past mistakes. Many things will go wrong as we journey through life. Accepting responsibility and learning from these experiences and moving forward are essential; excessive brooding and bitterness are destructive.

Life is not perfect and it is also dynamic. There will always be factors that we can identify as contributors to our immediate happiness or unhappiness. Realising that these are often transient and understanding the underlying tenets by which we want to live our lives and upholding these principles are the key to happiness, success and to overall wellness.

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Challenges of vegetarian pregnancy and raising a vegetarian child

Pregnancy

I was fortunate to have had an easy pregnancy, despite being described as high-risk, because of my age. The only real challenges that I faced were the negative comments that I received on the improbability, if not impossibility, of being able to gestate a healthy child on vegetarian a diet. Admittedly, these comments were mainly from older, female relatives for whom vegetarianism is inconceivable, but I still found it surprising, even in 2004. Like all expectant mothers, I wanted to do the best for my unborn child, and these ladies meant well so I took their warnings under advisement. I expected some prolonged discussion from my OB when I told him of that I was an ovo-lacto veggie but he was unconcerned, and even surprised that I should raise it. I continued with my regular diet, supplemented by the pre-natal vitamins that are usually prescribed for most expectant mothers. All went well and I gained the requisite amount of weight except that I found it difficult to eat anything at all towards the end of my pregnancy and was mandated to gain 2 pounds before my next weekly visit. Fortunately this became a moot point as my healthy daughter arrived the day before my “weigh-in”.

Breast feeding

Having proved the critics wrong, I was then warned of the problems of breast-feeding as a vegetarian and then raising a vegetarian child. Many said that the two were simply not be possible while others seemed to delight in brandishing terms such as “anaemia” and “malnourished”. I sought advice from our paediatrician during our first post-natal visit and she was extremely supportive and, once we got the hang of it, I was able to breast feed until well past the recommended minimum 6-month period and my daughter followed her growth curve and reached all of her major milestones as expected, if not before. When I weaned her, I fed her blended versions of what we eat, as we learned her initial likes and dislikes.

Handling a vegetarian toddler

Having defied the naysayers yet again, my husband and I were advised that we wouldn’t be able to sustain this vegetarian diet once she started school. She went to the nursery when she was 2½. We had concerns about food sharing, as children do and we discussed these concerns with the staff. They were most accommodating and we experienced no problems with respect to her vegetarian status. We were considerably less successful regarding her introduction to junk food at all the birthday parties and other celebrations!

Her transition to preschool was again problem-free. She started acknowledging differences between her lunch items and those of her friends and asked more questions but was quite content not to eat things with which she was not familiar.

Vegetarianism in primary school

When she started primary school we were pleased to discover a few other vegetarian children in her class. Her new friends were as curious about the contents of her lunch kit as she was about theirs. She was quite proud to explain that she is vegetarian and what this means and it was simply accepted. We’ve found that food allergies are, understandably, of far greater concern than vegetarianism. She sometimes asked why she didn’t have some things that her friends did and we explained that they probably eat what their parents do, as does she and that when she is old enough she’ll make her own food choices, just as they will.

Now, at 8 1/2 and expressing her independence more and more every day, she asks more questions about the benefits of eating many different types of foods. She remains proud to be a vegetarian and thinks it odd that people would want to eat animal products. We encourage her to respect other people’s choices as we expect them to respect ours. We try to demonstrate a holistic approach to healthy living, emphasizing the importance of healthy eating habits and regular exercise. Just as in omnivorous families, our lifestyle is not perfect but we continue to strive towards what works best for us. There might come the day when she decides that she doesn’t want to be a vegetarian. We don’t expect this to happen soon, but if it does we also expect that she’ll be open and honest about it and, that as a family, we’ll be able to find an acceptable solution.

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Lessons from my Dad

My Dad was a great man.  He died rather unexpectedly 5 1/2 years ago and though he’s gone physically, his spirit remains very much alive.  My fondest memory of him is that he always had time for me. No matter how busy or tired he was or what problems he had, I never knew it. He was a teacher and, after a whole day of devoting himself to other peoples’ children, he came home and did it all again with his own. I never realised how exhausting this must have been until I became a parent myself. I took it for granted and wish that I had told him explicitly how much I appreciated it. I consider this the greatest gift that he has given me. I don’t consciously think about him every day but there are some things that were fundamental to his character that are always with me. From him I learned:

The value of hard work. There’s simply no substitute for it. Although we might not recognise it right away, the harder the job, the greater the reward, in whatever form it might be. Who wants to work harder than they have to? But it’s true, often things that come easily are of the least value.

The need to have a good sense of humour. Not everything is funny but the ability to have a good laugh with others and especially at ourselves goes a long way; cheer yourself and someone else up.

The importance of a good education and making the best of opportunities. It was always very clear to me that knowledge is a great equalizer and no one can take it away from you. There are so many ways to learn and a lifetime in which to do it. Seize as many opportunities to learn as we can, formal and informal, they’ll never be wasted. It’s also important to share our knowledge with others.

Always try to give of your best. No matter the task, it’s important to give our best effort. Sometimes our efforts will fall short, but we’ll always have have the satisfaction of knowing that we have done our best.

Learn from past mistakes. Admit them and accept responsibility for them. Don’t forget but keep moving forward; get over disappointments, avoid being consumed by bitterness or wasting time on “if only.”

Try to do the right thing and to thine own self be true. This doesn’t mean going through life without consideration for others but to have the courage to stand up for what we believe is right, irrespective of the opinions of and sometimes pressure from those with opposing views. Life is about compromise but we have to learn where to draw the line.

Give service. Focusing on others’ needs is not only satisfying but can be beneficial in helping to put our own problems into perspective.

True happiness comes from within.  There will always be external factors that cause unhappiness but these are transient and knowing what makes ushappy and even just thinking about these things can sustain us through the bad times. Seize the day! Life is a cycle of good times and bad; sometimes we can’t fully appreciate the good without having experienced the bad. The human psyche is marvellous, allowing us to remember the good times more vividly and in far more detail than the bad. I know my Dad is where the best ones are and I’m sure he’s still looking out for us  everyday. His love lives on as I try to maintain these values myself and teach them to my own daughter. Happy birthday Dad!

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Achieving better health in 2015

We’re constantly bombarded with so much information for promoting better health and living healthier lives and we all know the drill, “eat better“, “exercise more“, “get enough rest“, “minimise stress“, and the list goes on, but how many of us are really doing enough. It’s one thing to know it but quite another to do it.

I’ve always been conscious of the importance of a holistic approach to healthy living and never more so than now, as I approach my 50th and my 8-year old announced recently that she hopes that I (and her Dad) will still be alive to see her get married and have children (where did that come from?).

I’m constantly trying to improve my family’s diet, rest more, find more time for the things that make us happy as well as exercise more consistently. I think that I do reasonably well most of the time but I find it tremendously difficult to keep all the balls in the air. I’m most consistent with maintaining a healthy diet but there’s still room for improvement. I’ve also been making a more determined effort to get enough rest and eke out some quality me-time, but these are also not always so easy to achieve.

The weakest link in my chain is not exercising enough. I remember the days when nothing, and I mean nothing, stood in the way of my workouts, 3 times a week. That was before the demands and responsibilities of family life took over. “Make time for yourself, what use are you to others if you’re not at your best……” yeah, yeah, yeah, heard it, know it, but what am I doing about it?  I just don’t seem to have the discipline of earlier times and despite my best intentions, exercise time is the first to go. I do love to exercise and absolutely feel so much better for having done it, so I am mystified as to why I find it so hard to sustain this component of my life these days. I do know that what worked for me a decade ago doesn’t work for me now. I’m trying to be more patient and just do the best that I can until I can figure out how I can achieve the best results.

There’s definitely no “one size fits all” approach to healthy living . It’s a marriage of physical and emotional well-being and requires constant re-evaluation to determine what works and what doesn’t. The most important thing is to keep making the changes that are necessary to improve our quality of life.

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