Monday, 20 December 2010

Sun Soaking

Here is a wonderful piece about Sun Soaking by mind, body and spirit author and educator William Bloom, its something i feel we all need to practice right now in the depths of winter and in the snow chaos all around. (Well the chaos is mainly in the UK right now where everything has ground to a halt, in Norway they are so used to snow that they just carry on as normal, but that means i'm keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that my family can still fly out from London tonight to join us for Christmas here in Oslo.) But wherever you are have a read, its good stuff:


As we move deeper into the winter months some of you may begin to miss the sunlight and even go into that form of melancholy and low energy, known as SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder. There is a natural remedy for this, which might work for you — it works for me — and which also teaches some useful lessons for other areas of our lives, personal and spiritual.

I am sure that many of you will be familiar with these strategies, but this is what I do. It does not matter what else is going on in my life, if the sun is out, I make sure that I go and sit in the sunlight for fifteen minutes every day, my face directly towards it. I wrap up warmly, plonk myself in a garden chair and absorb the rays. I learned this years ago from a young Norwegian friend who told me that this was the way that he survived the long Scandinavian winters. I do it first thing in the morning or during work-breaks.

When I write ‘absorb the rays’, that is exactly what I do. Using my imagination and visualisation, I work with my body’s subtle sensations so that I imagine and feel that my flesh, muscles and bones are absorbing the sunlight. I breathe it in. In particular, I feel it coming into my eyes and travelling down the optic nerve and into my brain. I absorb the sunlight into my brain cells and then visualise it going down my spinal cord and into the rest of my nervous system.
This is not simple sun-bathing. It is sun-soaking.

I also practice a strategy from internal martial arts and qi gong, known as ‘bone marrow breathing’ and I sense the sunlight sinking into my bones and bone marrow. As I inhale, the sunlight comes into my bones. As I exhale, the sunlight is absorbed and distributed.

Whilst, I am focused on the sunlight, I know that I am also absorbing into my body the natural healing energy and vitality that permeates the natural world and the universe. At the same time, this triggers the production of endorphins, the ‘miracle’ hormones of wellbeing. This is very good for my health. It feels great.

Now you may be familiar with these strategies, but here is the point. Do you actually practise them regularly? Every day? Do you do what is good for you? Over the years, over and over again, for example, I keep meeting healers who never use their own strategies on themselves.

‘I have a toothache,’ one of them says.

‘Have you directed healing energy into the roots and pain?’ I ask.

Typically, they reply that they have not. This is interesting, isn’t it, this forgetfulness we may have about looking after ourselves. Sunlight and healing energy are there for the taking. You don’t have to do anything except be open to receiving them.

So here is another crucial question, which may be relevant both to your relationships and your spiritual life. Are you open to receiving good things? Do you allow yourself to receive people’s love, affection and positive comments? Do you also allow yourself to receive the healing energy that permeates the whole universe?

In spirituality, one of its most central practices is to connect regularly with the wonder and energy of life — with God, with spirit — and be able to just relax, be empty and receive its blessing of positive energy and love.
You do not have to do anything special to receive this love except be open to receive it. This basically means that you stop buzzing around for a while, calm down and place yourself in a receptive state. In some spiritual traditions, this is called ‘emptying’ — just being an empty pot and allowing yourself to be filled.

Most of you know about these strategies, but as I wrote above, many of you may not do them. Often, I have noticed, this forgetfulness is accompanied by self-sabotaging.

Perhaps you lack the self-discipline to do what is good for you. Perhaps you take your work too seriously. Perhaps you feel some kind of psychological block to receiving and absorbing good things. Perhaps you feel unworthy or are simply just not in the habit of receiving.

Well, let me give you a brotherly nudge, my friends. Absorb the good energy from the sun. Chill out and absorb the benevolent healing energy of the cosmos. They are abundantly available. Just because you are alive and part of the cosmos, you are able to access and absorb them. All you have to do is open up and let it all in.

And here is another important reminder

Even when it is hidden by cloud or during the night, the sun is always there. This is a bit like a pantomime when the audience shouts, ‘It’s behind you!’ Whether you can see the sun or not, we are always part of the solar system and the great golden disc, the solar deity, is ever present.

Just open your heart, visualise and sense its presence even when you cannot see it.

So, in the long winter nights, especially when your own internal weather is moody and melancholic, lighten up. Cheer up. The sun, the healing energy and the unconditional love that fills the cosmic ocean are always there. Relax and receive.

All my love


Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Christmas Countdown

"December in my favourite sweater"
One of many wonderful prints from the Sarah Jane Studios

The new traditions and the old.
The month of December and Advent in both Norway and in the UK means the delicious countdown to Christmas and the holidays. It's a time to enjoy running around trying to find the perfect presents for friends and family and to slowly get ready for time spent at home as well as out seeing friends at the end of a busy year.
But there are a few variations in the way things are done.  In my family we had beautiful tradtional paper advent calenders like this one by Matthew Rice ( husband of Emma Bridgewater) which this year my mum has sent Theodore, isn't she amazing!

....and perhaps we would also light an advent candle too.

Here in Norway the traditions are a little different, but i'm really enjoying adopting them.
On the first sunday of advent Norwegians put up an advent/christmas star in the window, like these:

Our Kitchen star

The one in our sittingroom.

The colour of the month is purple and a lovely new friend here gave me an advent flower to celebrate that fact:

In my husband's family they hang up a material advent calender and fill it with small presents, one for each day, from the Julenisse (Father Christmas) for the children. This is Theodore's:

This is my fabulous advent calender from my sister in law which she brought back from a weekend away in Berlin. It's an advent tea calender with a different organic herbal tea for each day:

I love it, what a genius idea, i can now can drink a different delicious tea everyday until December 24th

Christmas markets with real reindeer, what could be better:

and sleigh rides

Christmas markets in the snow:

Many friends have made a pepperkakehus ( gingerbread house) like this one with their children, which i would love to make with Theodore:

So far we have just made gingerbread men, but they have bee such fun to make and delicious even though they came out quite puffy and nothing like these beautiful ones below:

.......and in our house we have put up lots of lights and red decorations:

Now with just under two weeks to go i need to get the presents wrapped, go into the forest to get greenery to make a wreath and decorate the house and make long lists of things that need baking before my family come for the christmas week. Yipeeee!It's the first time that we've hosted Christmas and for both families, i think it's going to be such fun being all together and doing something completely new.

Have a look at the Veronika Robinson's (from The Mother Magazine)- blogpost about the Winter Solstice it is an inspiring read about this time of year.

Enjoy sign from the cox and cox website.


Monday, 29 November 2010

You decide

I love this fact, that you can choose your attitude in each and every moment no matter what the circumstances. It's a useful thing to be reminded of as it can be so easy to get bogged down by things and swept away on a negative tide of thought.

Friday, 26 November 2010

aaaah the ease and love of the thing

Although in my opinion, not the prettiest shoes in the world, i would definately not trade my Ugg boots without a serious fight. They were heaven when i was given them the winter before we moved to Norway, when we lived in a very chilly cottage in Oxfordshire. I didn't take them off unless i could help it and even on occasion considered wearing them to bed, and i really don't think i would have survived my first winter in Oslo without them. However that is precisely when i trashed them as i lacked waterproof snowboots at the time and simply wore my Uggs instead. Sadly they were not happy meeting deep snow, but i couldn't bare to take them off. Now they have come into their own again in a big way with the temperatures well below freezing every day (minus 11 degrees C today) and as i am now 8 and a half months pregnant and having problems getting any other shoe on or off, they are a godsend.

Aaah the ease and comfort of my well worn Uggs! I am still in love despite their lacklustre appearance!Just please can they make a waterproof pair...and soon!

P.S Having written that i couldn't find any waterproof Uggs i thought i better do a quick search and found that they do now do some wonderful ones called the  Women's tall UGG Adirondack. What utter bliss and they look good too! A little more tricky to get on for the heavily pregnant than the classic Ugg boot, which is like a wonderful comfy wooly sock, but waterproof and warm! Heaven!!

The Ministry of Stories and Monster supplies

What a totally fabulous idea. The people responsible for the "We Made This" blog have just launched a project called The Ministry of Stories on Hoxton Street in east London.  The Ministry follows the model of the 826 centres: a writing centre where kids aged 8-18 can get one-to-one tuition with professional writers and other volunteers; with the centres being housed behind fantastical shop fronts designed to fire the kids’ imaginations (and generate income for the writing centres). But in this case the shop is Hoxton Street Monster Supplies – Purveyor of Quality Goods for Monsters of Every Kind.

A sample of what they sell in their Monster Supplies shop

See the blog post from the blog "We Made This"to read more about this wonderful project :

The opening hours are currently Saturdays and Sundays, 11am-5pm so do pop in for a bit of monster magic if you get the chance.

The Ministry found its name, mood, and identity from an old post-war ration book, featuring the Ministry of Food's logo. I love it.

Ways of seeing

Painting The Family at Breakfast Pace in the studio, Bungay, 2003 photographed by his son Peter from the book Sargy Mann: Probably the Best Blind Painter in Peckham

I came across this fascinating article by Tim Adams from the Oberver newspaper last sunday (21/11/10) about the painter Sargy Mann who started to go blind when he was 36 (he's now 73 and completely blind), but has continued to paint and find new ways of seeing the world.

Even before he lost his sight, Sargy Mann was obsessed with ways of seeing. He felt that the eye was an entirely passive collector of visual stimuli, and that "seeing" was a learned activity that went on in different, discrete parts of the brain – the imaginative piecework of collating form, and colour, and light into an understandable vision of the world, one you constantly made up as you went along.

Studio at Lyndhurst Grove, painted in 1983 before he was registered blind

The day after his 68th birthday the ulcer on his cornea perforated causing the eye to collapse; it was the start of total blindness. After some days in hospital Mann returned home, sightless, and wondering what he would do with the rest of his life. He had never been much interested in sculpture, though that was a possibility. He felt his way to his studio by the river, and there the subjects that had most recently been on his mind became insistent: the light and space of Cadaques that he had been planning to paint. "Well, I thought," he recalls, "I have got a ready stretched canvas and all my paint and brushes that I had imagined giving away, so why not have a go?" It was a sunny day, so he put the canvas up on the windowsill outside his studio, carried out his painting trolley to the usual place and started to feel the canvas and imagine his subject: one of the bar scenes he had painstakingly mapped out.

"After a bit I thought: 'Well here goes,' and loaded a brush with ultramarine," he recalls. "What followed was one of the strangest sensations of my life: I 'saw' the canvas turn blue as I put the paint down. Next I put my Schminke magenta, and 'saw' it turn rose. The colour sensation didn't last, it was only there while I was putting the paint down, but it went on happening with different colours…"

Frances Going Downstairs, 2010

He didn't look back. "Once I had started painting blind, there was no stopping me. It just became the new way of doing it. It was difficult, but art had always been difficult, and having a new set of difficulties was no bad thing." It was, he thought, a bit like a deaf composer hearing orchestra parts in his head.

Frances in a Black Coat, 2010

As well as telling Mann's story, the article also looks at work being done by Professor Semir Zeki, a neuroscientist working at University College London, who is a leading authority in the science of how the mind - and particularly artists' minds - "see" or make sense of the world around them. There is also a film that Sargy's son, Peter, made about him in 2006.

A selection of Mann's pictures - both from before and after he went blind - can be found at:
Cafe Above the Sea, 2010
 "I was saying to someone at the private view," he says, "how incredibly lucky I have been. I had about 25 years' apprenticeship for going blind. It was a bugger, but I kept working out how to paint over those 25 years, and my brain kept finding new ways to see the world, if you like." Sargy Mann


Thursday, 25 November 2010

A Moving Tribute

Milly and Lucia

I posted here back in march about an incredible family friend of ours called Milly Douglas Pennant who had Cystic Fibrosis and at the age of 29 years old was on the waiting list for a lung transplant. Tragically Milly died in July still waiting for the transplant. She was the most incredible, courageous and inspiring person and my sister Olivia ( is running the London Marathon in 2011 in her memory and to raise money for The Cystic Fibrosis trust. She wrote such a moving tribute to Milly on her Just Giving page for the marathon that i would like to quote a little here for you.

"Mills died in July. Thinking about it now it seems apt that the brightest spirit I have ever known should leave us in the height of summer in full sunshine. I have known Mills my entire life and have vivid memories of her going back to about the age of two, but I think even if you met her for a minute you wouldn't forget too quickly...she was pretty remarkable.
I remember when I was quite young being asked as home work to write a piece about the person we most admired. Everyone started chatting about their favorite film star. Apart from the fact that I had never heard of half of them I immediately thought of Milly. I never once heard her complain about any aspect of having Cystic Fibrosis. In fact she would make friends and years later they would discover that she had the illness because she was so determined not to let it take over her life......She was a truly courageous fighter with an indomitable spirit and unquenchable optimism. I would feel my own grumbles ashamedly skulk out of the back door in her presence and often when I am feeling negative I will adopt a Milly-esque positivity. Going to visit her earlier this year in hospital I couldn't believe that she even managed to make me giggle as she described a recent 'near death drama'."

Olivia Mann

Please do take a look at Olivia's Just Giving page to read the whole tribute, it is well worth the read.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Aaaah the stupidity

 I adore a bargain and today i found the most wonderful Voksi bag (for the uninitiated a Voksi is an amazing wool lined sleeping bag for a pram to keep your baby warm and toastey in the winter) for almost nothing in a local charity shop.

Yeah i thought to myself a true steal and one more thing off my list to get as i'll now have something to keep the new baby warm this winter if i choose to have him in a pram or just something cosy for him to lie on or wrap him up in, in the house.

We were so lucky when we moved to Norway because we were given an Urban Voksi for Theodore, the latest in the Voksi range,which was a total godsend. Even though we've had to replace it twice (for free, no questions asked) because the original zips broke, they have now redesigned the zips and we have hopefully exchanged the bag for the final time. It's meant though that essentially we've had a whole new bag with better zips for free even though it was purchased over 2 years ago now.

Urban Voksi
Urban Voksi in a pram

BUT having got such a wonderful bargain i'm not sure what i was thinking when i decided to wash the duvet (and not on the delicate cycle as one would obviously do with anything wool) and promptly shrunk it from its former delicious fluffy duvet glory to a severely reduced looking specimen which will no longer fit the cover or perhaps do it's job. I'm SO cross with myself and wonder where i left my brain for those moments when i rammed it into the machine. Its not the first item to have suffered this way and sadly i'm sure it wont be the last, but for now i am greatly mourning the loss of rather a nice Voksi bag and an amazing bargain.

 Any tips about how to get the Voksi back to it's former glory?

Back views

Theodore Autumn 2010

I adore back views of people and of children in particular.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Tricks

We gave Theodore a baby toothbrush when he started teething so that he had something to chomp on and could get used to the feeling of having a toothbrush in his mouth. When he got older it became part of the bedtime routine to try at least to get him to brush his teeth. He loves the taste of the Kingfisher toothpaste....

but it does depends on his mood as to whether we manage to get him to clean any teeth. I figured he would just get there sooner or later as long as we kept going with it. I did start to think that maybe these cool toothbrush holdesr/timers might help.
But i've discovered that it may be as simple as an electric toothbrush! Due to a wisdom tooth coming through i went to the dentist for a check up recently and was told among other things to start using my electric toothbrush again.  Theodore on seeing it immediately wanted to use it and has done ever since, allowing me to get it to clean every inch of his mouth and more as he doesn't want to stop using it. The novelty value may of course wear off quite quickly, but for now it seems to be the answer to the brushing resistance!

There are of course electric toothbrushes designed just for children. But for now Theodore will use mine and we'll just see how he gets on.

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