Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog Action Day 2012 - The Power of WE



Some may write about great world-changing organisations or groups. I would like to share a personal experience that has the potential to change the world, one fatty at a time :).

< .Insert cheesy stock image of a childless anorexic model wrapping a tape measure around her 12 inch waist here. >

I have been overweight off and on for about the last 12 years, weight gradually creeping on, clothes sizes gradually getting bigger, holiday photos getting deleted more often 'cos I can't stand to see myself. Before that, since my teens I have been off and on diets, the F-Plan, the Grapefruit, the Cabbage Soup etc etc.

I have, in the past, attended Weight Watchers, which was a great help but the momentum faded as I reached plateaus or got tired of logging every single last bite or swallow of food and every single last bit of exercise. As well as paying each week at the meeting, buying special snack bars etc it started to get expensive.
It has always been easier with a group than trying to do it on your own. In the past though it has beem about losing weight by diet rather than changing your habits for ever, eating and exercising for the weight you want to be, not the weight you are.

Recently through the power of Facebook, Twitter and MyFitnessPal.com with friends (most of whom I've never even met) I have successfully lost 10 kg s, I have 5 to go till my preliminary goal weight. without paying for meetings, support groups or buying special snack bars!

Some girls I got to know through Twitter started up a private Facebook group, through our Facebook group I discovered MyFitnessPal, with that, following Jillian Michael's Podcasts,  keeping the discussion and interaction going online, as well as following following inspiring Pinterest boards it has been a lot easier to keep up the momentum this time and I know that I have the tools to be successful and keep at a healthy weight as well as generally keeping healthier in what I eat & drink, plus the type, and frequency of exercise I do. even though I have reached a bit of a slow down, we try to remember it took years to put on so it could take a year or so to get off...

The main mindset change brought about by this collaboration is
Fit > Skinny

I have found that with the support of the others, some a lot keener than others ;) I have been more successful.

If anyone needs a little nudge, log onto myfitnesspal.com and explore, it has certainly made the difference for me
I feel more confident about the long term and I know that there will always be some-one there if I log into Facebook, Twitter or MFP to have a moan about the scales or crow about a workout or ask advice about a recipe.

So there you go, not just about I but about the power of WE, it is not just I who am benefitting, I like to think its helping all the other Shrinking Tweepettes out there too and we can continue to shrink, get fitter and healthier.

Go Girls! - you know who you are :))


Friday, August 24, 2012

Bee Week! - Wax & Bees in Art

Bees excrete wax from glands on their abdomen, sounds bizzare and looks even weirder!


They pull the wax off with their back legs and work it into shape with their mouths to create the comb the queen will lay the eggs in and the workers will store their honey and pollen in.

It takes a lot of energy for a Bee to make wax, they consume about 8oz of honey to create 1oz of wax.

A swarm of Bees can be encouraged to cover objects with wax by the use of pheromones. This sculpture was created by trapping a swarm of Bees in a glass box with a wax covered human form on which they started to draw out comb. The artist had coloured wax already on the form, the Bees drew it out with their own wax to create this amazing work of art.


Here are the Bees building it:


Here is the Artist explaining his work:


He has done quite a few pieces with Bees in this way.

Further Reading:
http://www.tomaslibertiny.com/?works=sculptures
http://beesinart.com/

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bee Week! - The Sting - Allergies

Firstly you need to know this - Bees do not sting just 'cos.
It kills a bee when they sting a human, our skin is so tough that it holds onto the stinger and when the Bee tries to fly away, their intestines get pulled out with the sting as it stays behind.
Eeuw, indeed!

Zeus and the Bees

A Greek Fable by the story-teller Aesop

One day the bee, the mother of the candles, paid a visit to the gods and brought them honeycombs and honey. Zeus, the King of the Gods, took great pleasure in the gift and wanted to offer the bee whatever she would ask.
And the bee said: "Zeus, give me a sting to defend my labors from the humans".But Zeus loved the human race too much, so he told the bee: "Certainly! I'll give you the sting, so you can defend yourself if someone takes your honey. But you must know that if you do evil to man, hitting him with the sting, you will immediately die- your sting is your life!"




In all the books and websites I found when I was investigating having Bees it always said, make sure you get tested for allergies to Bee stings before you get  a hive.
I wonder how many people actually do that, I also wonder how many people realise how bad it can be if you are allergic to Bee stings.

We didn't test for allergies in our family....turns out that we didn't need to as none of us started out allergic.
What I also didn't realise was, that you can become allergic, I guess I figured that you were either allergic or not, like some people can't deal with peanuts, gluten, lactose, tomatoes (I have a friend who cannot eat anything from the nightshade family - tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, aubergines etc etc).
I thought you would have been born this way.



WRONG!

Having had the Bees for about 3 years and having been stung about 4 times during that period I though everything was ok, each time I got stung though, the local reaction was more severe than the time before. Starting with a small red bump and a bit of itching, then a bigger area that turned red and swollen, next time it stayed painful and swollen for about 5 days. The 4th Bee sting was earlier this year, I wasn't even inspecting the hive, I was sliding a sticky board under from the back of the hive to check the mite levels. Which is normally a safe place to be. A Bee flew up to check me out, got caught in my hair and rather than squash it, I tried to get it out.
It panicked and stung me.
I removed the sting by scraping it away, (Never try to hold a Bee sting and pull it out as you will end up squeezing more venom into yourself) I put a cold flannel, and some baking powder on my forehead and took a swig of liquid antihistamine.
Within 10 minutes, my whole body was itching, and I had come out in hives all over my face and chest. So I did what any self respecting geek does and Googled my symptoms.
Having come to the conclusion that I was suffering an anaphylactic reaction to the Bee Venom I drove to the Emergency doctors 5 mins down the road. As I was filling in the admittance forms I could feel my throat closing up and started to feel faint, they got me on a stretcher, set up an IV and dosed me up with Hydrocortisone. Luckily I reacted to that and didn't need the adrenaline or the ambulance. I lay there for about  2 hours while the drugs took effect and  they made sure I wasn't going to 'bounceback' and suffer a relapse.

Swelling 2 days after the sting at my hairline.

Next steps, make an appointment with my GP for a referral to a specialist allergy clinic, luckily its only 10 mins up the road from work, and even luckilier (if thats even a word) my health insurance covered the cost of specialist consultations and de-sensitizing injections.
I tested highly allergic to Bees and now am on a course of De-Sensitising injections, I have been having a jab every week for about 10 weeks now, soon I go onto monthly ones. They increase the dosage a little every week, this week I got 1.2 of a Bee. My arm went red, swollen, itchy and sore but the reaction was only localised so I know its working so far. By the end of the course (5 years) I will be up to 2 Bees at once in the injections.
Giving up the bees wasn't really an option if there was a possible way around it, I'm looking forward to the summer now with them even though I still have to carry an epipen with me in case I ever get multiple stings.


While I was waiting for the results to come back and the options to be presented about de-sensitising I tracked down a Radio New Zealand Podcast by Simon Morton who went through a similar thing last year.
Simon puts out a radio show at the weekend on RNZ called 'This Way Up' all about various interesting things. He has documented his own experiences with installing chickens and then Bees in his backyard. We got our bees shortly after Simon got his and we were rapt by his stories from bee keepers about how you go about getting bees and looking after them. I contacted Simon who is a thoroughly nice chap and had a chat with him about how his treatment was going and how he felt now about dealing with his bees, he couldn't bear to give them up either once he had had an allergic reaction. It put my mind at ease about getting stuck into it and now I am immensely pleased that I have started the treatment. I don't think I would have been able to go through it without  health insurance though as it's not a cheap fix.

Thanks Sovereign Insurance :)

Further Reading and Resources:

Twitter accounts to follow
@simonmorton
@upthisway

Podcasts to subscribe to
RNZ:ThisWayUp
The Kiwimana Buzz

About Allergies and Desensitising treatments for insect stings in NZ
http://www.allergy.org.nz/allergy+help/a-z+allergies/insect+sting+allergy.html
http://www.allergyspecialist.co.nz/
http://www.allergyclinic.co.nz/guides/20.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allergen_immunotherapy

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bee Week! - Beginning Beekeeping,

I saw an episode of River Cottage a few years ago where Hugh had Beehives at River Cottage and someone else had hives on their roof in East London. They did a blind taste test and the one from the city hive actually came out in front!
I also realised then that you didn't need a 40 acre field if you wanted to keep Bees.
this is the segment that got me thinking about having our own hives.



Urban beekeeping - (River Cottage Spring -... by dafoo


Here in New Zealand the feral honey Bee population has been decimated by the Varroa Destructor mite  since it arrived here in the late 90s, so it's up to Beekeepers (hobbyist and commercial) to keep the managed Bee populations going now.

If you don't feel ready to have and care for your own Bee hive there are companies who will site a hive on your property and look after it, often involving you as much as you'd like. They normally charge a small fee but you will get honey and the experience of looking after the Bees if you'd like. Plus your plants, and your neighbours plants will get pollinated.

Our first hive, right at the top of the garden.




















You may be lucky enough to find a local Beekeeper through your Bee club who will put a hive in your garden and not charge you but still give you honey! Bonus :)


Our First Honey












First steps for anyone who thinks they might like to have Bees.
1. Find a local Bee Club, go along to a meeting, ask questions, remember that we all started somewhere so ask whatever you want. They are generally quite a friendly, if often eccentric bunch.
2. Do as much reading as you can about Bees and Beekeeping. I went to our local library and ordered all the books, there were about 15 different publications available, I devoured them all. I spent hours online looking at forums and finding stuff out.
3. Buy the kit, smoker, veil, gloves, hive tool.
5. Buy your first hive from someone you find through the local Bee club.
6. Get stuck in!

Further reading.
Local Blogs, Websites, and Twitter accounts to follow.
Twitter  List twitter.com/#!/KerryPayne/bee-tweeples
www.nba.org.nz
www.nzbees.net/
www.kiwimana.co.nz
www.justaddworms.com

Starting out
- http://nba.org.nz/about-bees/keeping-bees
http://www.greenurbanliving.co.nz/index.php?CID=100032
Want someone to look after a hive on your property?
http://www.urbanbees.co.nz/
http://www.beezthingz.co.nz/









Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bee Week! - Bee Friendly Gardens & Plants

Look after the Bees and they will look after you, by pollinating your flowers fruit trees and veggies. Bees need water, different varieties of pollen for their proteins year round, and nectar for their energy as well to turn into honey for themselves and us.

Water.
A strong hive can use up to a litre of water a day in the Summer! The Bees take it back home to evaporate to cool the hive. as well as drinking it.

One of our girls taking a drink
Hives right by the pond
Most urban beekeepers will make make sure that their hives have a supply of water nearby to prevent the Bees from hitting up the neighbours swimming pool in summer. This can be a slowly dripping tap into a post with stones in, to give them something to stand on and not drown, a poultry drinker, dog bowl or siting the hives near a pond or stream.
Our Bees love to hang out at the edge of the waterfall in our pond which is near the hives.

Pollen.
Bees need pollen all year round to feed their babies, it is their source of protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Therefore a variety of plants, some of which flower in winter and autumn as well as the summer and spring flowering varieties is a good idea. Some research into CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) suggests that urban Bees do better than their rural counterparts as they have a wider variety of pollen and nectars to feed from. The monoculture environments where Bees are shipped from orchard to orchard for their pollination services (in the USA for example in the almond or stone fruit industry) will only provide pollen from one type of tree/plant. It would be like you or I only eating one type of protein rich food all the time, we would eventually lack some of the vital minerals, vitamins and amino acids our bodies need to be strong and fight infection. It has been suggested that that Bees who feed only one kind of pollen all summer are more likely to contract disease as well as succumbing to the deadly Varroa Destructor mite.

Bee with full pollen baskets on her legs 
Bees store Pollen as 'bee bread' in the frames next to the honey see the different yellow/orangey coloured cells? 

Nectar.
The primary energy source for Bees. Nectar contains sucrose, fructose and glucose. Again, different species of plants produce different types, flavours etc of nectar, this can give the honey some of its characteristics.

Each worker Bee in her lifetime only produces one teaspoon of honey - think about that the next time you get to the bottom of the honey jar and there is a teaspoon left.

Bees take the nectar back to the hive by storing in a separate 'honey stomach', when they get home they transfer it to a house Bee by mouth to mouth, the recipient house Bee mixes the nectar with enzymes from their stomach, this breaks down the sugars, starting to turn the nectar into honey. This nectar is stored in the cells of the honey comb and once most of the water has been evaporated from it, it is capped over with wax for storage.

Bees transferring nectar, mouth to mouth
Our early season light floral honey

We have found that if we take honey off the hives early in the summer it tends to be light and floral in taste, if we take the honey off towards the end of the summer it tends to be darker and richer.
This produces honey which are advertised as 'Clover',  'Pohutakawa' or Manuka' where the hives have been placed in locations where there is an abundance od one plant flowering at a time.
Bees tend to visit one species at a time, so If you do plant flowers for them its a good idea if you can, to have a lot of the same species so the pollen and nectar produced are utilised by the Bees.

Further Reading.
http://good.net.nz/blog/janet-luke/creating-a-bee-friendly-garden
http://www.waikatobeekeepers.org.nz/bee-friendly.aspx
http://nba.org.nz/beneficial-plants-for-bees
http://nba.org.nz/pdf/Nectar_Pollen_Sources_NZ.pdf
http://www.greenurbanliving.co.nz/index.php?CID=100037





Monday, August 20, 2012

Bee Week! - Why Bees are dying off and how we can help.


There has been a lot of press over the past few years about Bees dying off, many theories have been put forward over this time and they seem to be distilling down into a few things working with each other that weaken colonies enough to prevent them surviving.
CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) is where they just disappear, one day the hives are busy with tens of thousands of Bees going about their business, the next day there are only a few baby Bees emerging, dying or dead brood (from getting chilled as no Bees to keep the hive warm inside).

The latest theory about this is that Bees become disorientated when out foraging, can't find their way home they die in the field at night, cold, alone and frightened. This can happen as a result of them absorbing pesticides that contain neonicotinoids which are found on pollen, nectar and the leaves, flowers and stems of plants that have been treated with it.
Studies have shown that Bees exposed to the Neonicotinoids have trouble navigating and aslo learning (including learning the routes from the pollen and nectar sources back home)
some countries have taken the step of banning this chemical and subsequently seen increases in Bee population, specifically France.
A study in which Bees exposed to neonicotinoids found that they were especially vulnerable to the Varroa Destructor, a common Bee parasite. Another study found that neonicotinoids dramatically increase the toxicity of fungicides to the affected Bee population.

The real scary shit is that once this stuff is in the soil it will affect the water quality in the aquifer and will never actually disappear from the bio cycle of the earth and water-table.

What we can do about this.
On a scale of 'really easy' to 'really passionate' here are some things you can do to help.

1. On a small scale these pesticides are also available scarily enough in your local garden centre. So firstly don't buy them, choose something else, read the labels and see whats in it before you hit the checkout. the thing you don't want in there is Imidacloprid



2. If you do see them in the Garden Centre, DIY store, mention it to the person on the floor or ask to see the manager and suggest to them that they stop stocking such a nasty chemical ( there are plenty of other pesticides out there that are Bee friendly and work just fine.
3. Let all your friends and social network know about his step, make others aware that they are contributing to the problem by buying this. 
4. Write to the company responsible here in NZ ask they to reconsider selling this or making it more apparent that this chemical is responsible for declining Bee numbers.
Yates New Zealand,
PO Box 1109,
Auckland 1000.
6. Write to David Carter (Government minister for Primary industry in NZ)or your local MP , Bayer Industries and/or the USDA, urging them to reconsider the viability of this poisonous chemical.
5. Make your garden a bee friendly place - more on this tomorrow.

Further reading.
http://www.xerces.org/neonicotinoids-and-bees/
http://kiwimana.co.nz//neonicotinoids-available-now-at-your-garden-centre/
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/03/neonicotinoids-bee-collapse/
http://www.mendeley.com/research/mechanism-differential-toxicity-neonicotinoid-insecticides-honey-bee-apis-mellifera/
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/01/pesticides-honeybees-update/
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0030023
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/12/epa-clothianidin-controversy/


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Winter

Well its been a while since I posted here, the weather is colder, I seem to be reading more blogs than posting on mine also pinterest is getting a bit of a bashing these days, using it more of a bookmark keeper than a wish list.

The chickens have been separated (no thats not a euphemism), it means that the two we got from Pauls, who were about a year older than our 3 have gone back to Pauls and now live in the garden of his new house. They had to move out of his old house as they were totally free-range and used to shit all over the deck. Not cool when there is an open home.
The original three looked very pleased when I dropped a bale of pea-straw into their run to give them something to do, it is particularly horrible, smelly and muddy in there this time of year and I only get to see them at weekends as its dark when I leave the house and dark by the time I get home at night too :(

When all 5 were at our place (in less muddy times)


There are a  few good things about this time of year as far as I can see,  Woodburner, red wine and films on the telly.
Of course the beach is wonderful too but daylight is limited so not so much of that happens, at least I can watch it from the house.

This weekend I shall plant garlic, I have meant to do it for the last 2 years and missed the midwinter window. I am looking forward to harvesting green garlic on the longest day

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 29. Something you're listening to.

Current music:-
'These Days' - Foo-Fighters - The rock band with the best teeth in the whole world.























'Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' - Santa Esmerelda.
Great 10 min track for my morning walks and I love Kill Bill.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 28. Money.

I found this in the garden yesterday, just laying there.
Its from 1975 but I don't know how long ago they stopped using 2c coins here.

#FebPhotoADay 27. Something you ate.

This little puppy kept us fed for 3 days (no puppies were harmed, just one Kingfish).

#FebPhotoADay 26. Night.

Time for a spot of reading.

#FebPhotoADay 25. Green

My favourite kind of Green right now, yummy on toast with tomato and lemon pepper for breakfast.

#FebPhotoADay 24. Inside your Bathroom Cabinet

The family bathroom cabinet.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 23. Your shoes.

Not my shoes, but my RWC Toes :)
The type of shoes I prefer to wear.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 22. Where you work

Once a wool warehouse on the waters edge. The tallest building in NZ when it was built.
Now its a lovely office building full of character.
The roof above the 3 story deep atrium opens on sunny days breathing life through the whole building.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 21. A fave Photo of You.

Me, in my element:- Water 

#FebPhotoADay 20. Handwriting

I knew a developer who used Comic Sans on web pages cos "it looked like handwriting" (last year, not in 1992!)

#FebPhotoADay 19. Something you hate to do.

The thing I most hate to do in the whole world these days is put the grocery shopping away, we just don't have enough storage in our crappy kitchen (I suppose this could come under the heading of #firstworldproblems , but there you go).

#FebPhotoADay 18. Drink

My new favourite water glass made by a friend and available in sets on Trade-Me.
I'm consciously drinking more water
these days...

Friday, February 17, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 17. Time

I always smile at this time of day when I see it on my computer screen
















(It also makes me smile cos its nearly home time)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 16. Something New

I got a swing-ball set yesterday for my birthday, I asked for it (no I'm not 10). I couldn't play with it as it was raining, hopefully I'll get a go tonight after work.

#FebPhotoADay 15. Phone

My uncle tried to ring me on my birthday yesterday, he couldn't get through.
:(

#FebPhotoADay 14. Heart

I collect Hearts that I find in Nature.
The stone was from a beach in Devon.
The leaf was from our back garden.

Monday, February 13, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 13. Blue

It's always been my favourite colour.

The colour of the sky today with me at work and a basket of wet washing at home that should be hanging out to dry :(
Sucks after a nasty rainy Sunday.

#FebPhotoADay 12. Inside Your Closet

#FebPhotoADay 11. Makes You Happy

My Beautiful Son - who probably wouldn't want to be called beautiful.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 8. Sun

Today at 11.30 it looked like this at my house :)



















"New Zealand has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world with almost 50,000 new cases diagnosed each year!! Thankfully most of these cases are not serious, but the reality is that about 200 New Zealanders die each year of skin cancer."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 7. Button

1st day of a week off work so it has to be this :)

#FebPhotoADay 6. Dinner

Forgot about this till after we ate most of it.
Bloody awesome chicken & veg pie.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 4. A Stranger

A bit deep, and personal, this one.
This is my Sister.

#FebPhotoADay 3. Hands

I went to the Doctors yesterday (when I should have done this entry), and I though it would be cool to take a photo of her hands for this but I didn't have the bottle to ask :(

This one is from our wedding reception, showing off our new wedding rings - it will have to do!
Scuse the Ultra Cheesy grin but I was a tad happy.....

Thursday, February 2, 2012

#FebPhotoADay 2.Words

The words that set the tone for the morning commute, writ large in lights.



 I always think of 'Bruce Almighty' when these signs are in use, even if they have bad news for me (like this morning) I still smile.

#FebPhotoADay 1.Your View Today

Tonight's view was of the sunset (surprise. surprise!) we have been having some stunners recently.

#FebPhotoADay The Beginning

I always need a prod to post things here so when I found this via @bronninator yesterday on Twitter I thought I'd give it a go.

Post a photo a day for February each with a specific theme as per the list here.

http://www.fatmumslim.com.au/2012/01/february-photo-day-kicks-off-tomorrow.html

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chickens Arse - (losing feathers and red skin)

The one one the left (Benny) is the worse one, the one next to her (Betty) is one of the 2 older hens that we have who is starting to look a bit bare and the one next to her with the blue bracelet on is the one that I have seen doing the pecking.


The next one is a close up of the worst one  - sorry if you're having your dinner :P

Its been going on for a couple of months, gradually getting worse.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

'If only they knew' - A Photograph by Andy Lackner


A candid shot taken by a friend of ours who grew up to become a professional photographer (http://www.diepixelgarage.com/html/eingang.html)
We have had this picture on our wall ever since (apart fron the 7 years when we lived on the boat) and I often look at it and think, if only they knew, what strange and interesting adventures they had to look forward to.
This was before we even had inklings of being screwed over by Margaret Thatchers Monetarist economic policies, giving the house back to the bank, sailing away, exploring the world, getting married, surviving hurricanes, having a kid, moving countries, and growing up.
We were in a hiatus, having sold our first home and making squillions, looking to move to where the work was.
We lived in a small rental in Ringwood while we were trying to buy our next property in Stanwell. Our lodger was 'Nutty Norman' a perennially pissed sea captain who, when at sea would be in command of huge tankers over 300m long (Bigger than the QE2). He looked a little like Captain Haddock of Tintin fame, shorter and rounder but with the same black beard and big ruddy nose, would disappear to the Pub at 10 am when they opened, get shitfaced, come home at 3 with a 4 pack of special brew to keep him going through the afternoon then off to the Pub again when they opened for the evening, after that hed come home and cook stuff, once nearly burning the house down when he fell into a drunken stupor while making chicken stock which boiled dry in the middle of the night.
Andy had come over to the UK from Switzerland on a working holiday staying on a friends farm, we used to hang out a lot and road trip, exploring the countryside.
This picture was taken in about 1987 out in the back blocks of Dorset/Wiltshire.