“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”

John Lennon.

Whenever I get a bit of TV time I find myself being bombarded with cookery shows, including Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Hugh Fearlessly Eats It All, to Master Chef and a plethora of cookery competitions. Then if I try to turn over and widen my viewing choice I’m depressed to the point of giving up by the news of (so many) UK riots and foreign wars, nuclear fallout, devastation, tsunamis, politicians and our failing economy. Even though I rarely watch TV I’m finding myself exhausted by it. So I thought I would look at things through a different window, and get some food for my soul. Basically I’ve decided that for a while I want to think only about those people who inspire me, and use it as food to replenish my soul and help cure my fatigue of what’s going on outside my little bubble.

For me there are the usual inspirations like Helen Keller, Katie Piper, Richard Branson, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama, John Lennon, Audrey HepburnAnita Roddick and mumpreneurs (to name only a few).

Then sometimes I realise I don’t need to look any further than amongst my friends and family. There are my best friend, Roy, my father-in-law Beardy, my very successful friend Martin, the ‘campervan man’, my sisters who have moved to very different places to make their mark on the world, and my other friends and family who keep me inspired on a daily basis.

Of course my safest place, love, passion and inspiration is my garden. If things get on top of me then all I have to do is sit in a quiet corner and take it all in or get my boots on and make my muscles ache by working the land. It’s a great feeling that’s inspired by a great place. When I was pregnant I would find interesting things to do in the garden to help balance those hormones and let off some steam!

Then there’s the Beach and the people who visit it, and seeing how happy it makes them. The fresh air, open spaces, sounds, smells and treasures we often find there, like a meal, wood for the fire, something to add to the garden, a new friend, a memorable moment, surfing a great wave, or just realising I’ve been laughing and smiling ever since I arrived.

My other place of inspiration is our van. I stay in it with my family, socialise in it, go camping and hang out at the beach in it. I’m giving it a bit of well deserved love and attention at the moment, after all it is 24 years old, and for a van that’s old! It’s a bit of a thank you for boosting my inspiration enough to finish my book. To me it’s truly a treasure, a bit of a rusty retro one, but a treasure none the less.

If I’m really in need of inspiration and life allows it I might travel a bit or revisit my pictures of past trips. I’ve got some particularly amazing scenes of New Zealand which are hugely inspiring to me.

Fiordland National Park

Near Mount Cook

Oh and I mustn’t forget music. I don’t listen to it enough. It has the ability to morph and change shape to fit around any mood I might be in and wrap me up in a warm hug, get me feeling creative and productive or simply gives me a kick up the butt to get me moving when I really need it. Me and the kids are dancing to a lot of Eliza Doolittle at the moment.

So I suppose with all this in mind I’m going to make sure I don’t turn the TV on as often, and if someone else does then I’m going to make sure I turn it off and get them to take a trip with me to my places of inspiration or to meet some of the people I love to be with, playing a little soundtrack as we go. Lets look at it from the point of view of John Lennon.

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”

Amen

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Now The Garden Is Waking Up… So Should I!

Well I haven’t exactly been asleep… just offline a bit because I’ve been really busy. My life is a constant stream of family, work, creativity, writing, socialising, gardening and getting on the beach as much as time allows. The really exciting thing for me at the moment is watching the garden come to life after it’s winter hibernation, and seeing it move whole heartedly into Spring. So I need to follow it’s example and wake up and start making plans about the coming summer to make the most of the months to come.

It’s a really exciting time for me and I relish making plans about everything. From what I’m going to plant and do in the garden to help us with the rising food prices and radiation fallout from Japan, to how I’m going to kit out our old faithful Mercedes campervan to make our regular trips away and time down the beach that little bit more pleasurable. So my usual writing and blogging have taken a bit of a back seat recently, but I’m very pleased to see Beach Potato is still in the top 20 of iBooks… Yay and yay again!!

So my 2 main projects at the moment are implementing my plans for the garden and kitting out our van. I’ve been hunting out all my seeds and planning what veg to plant and where. My greenhouse is fit to burst with all the seedlings and I’m already having a glut of rhubarb. We haven’t got the biggest plot in the world, just 5 metres by 10 metres, but it’s enough to keep us supplied with veg through the summer months, as well as some tasty treats in the winter. This year I’ve also decided to increase our fruit output with an enviable list of blueberries, blackcurrants, strawberries, pears, cherries, 3 varieties of apples, plums, raspberries and loganberries to boast about.

I’m also trawling the internet for interesting retro and vintage bits and pieces to use in our van, and depending on how well it gets through it’s MOT (eeek!) I’ll be adding a bit of colour and variety to its interior. So similar to the greenhouse being fit to burst with seedlings, my head is fit to burst with ideas I’m hoping to trial in our van. I’m thinking bunting, crochet blankets, retro cushions and eclectic tableware to name but a few. At the very least it’s doing to create a bit of babble at the beach when others see the final results. I may even do before and after pictures for anyone who’s interested.

So all of this got me thinking… am I the only one who’s got a new lease of life now that Spring is finally here? Are others doing the same as me, and if so what projects are they taking on. So please do tell… I’d really like to hear more.

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Laird (a.k.a Lord) Hamilton Gives Me Wings!

I wanted to share a bit of babble with all the beach lovers out there who may be feeling like winter is finally coming to an end (on this side of the world anyway!), and as spring is on the way it might just about be time to think about doing something to shake off the cobwebs and kick start the countdown to summer. You could say the time has come to start thinking about getting ‘beach fit’.

I’ve not escaped this feeling. In fact I would go so far to say that I’ve been totally pre-occupied by it. In recent years as I’ve become a mother of 2, have written a book, Beach Potato, and have therefore left my surfboard in the garage unused since last autumn, (ok, the ice and snow didn’t really help there either!), I find that the following equation has happened.

2 children + 1 husband + Beach Potato = 0 time

0 time + 0 exercise = lardy arse and love handles.

So good fortune was smiling on me one day when my better half showed an interest in Laird (or Lord as I like to call him) Hamilton’s book ‘Force of Nature’. I therefore bought it for him for Christmas and then promptly monopolised it while I read it cover to cover. I came away from the experience feeling envious about his life (in a good way) and therefore wanting to better my own. Lord Hamilton is one lucky guy!

Now, before I go on any further I want to say that I don’t endorse Laird’s products or services. However, if I do find something that I really like or really works for me then I pass the information on in the hope it might also help others. So in simple terms, I’m not being paid any money to say the following.

I really liked the book and came away with a number of really good tips, which I thought might work for me, and I was right. For a start there’s a section about ‘dealing with fear and negativity’. Well I can assure you, if you don’t already know, that putting yourself out there and trying to sell what you do (in my case Beach Potato), results in plenty of fear and negativity. He also talks about how to deal with ‘life lessons’, and having had a near death experience in 2009 I can also relate to a lot of that too. However, the section I really found useful was on the body and training. Lord Hamilton is an impressive surf athlete so he puts a lot of time into this kind of thing so I was prepared to listen. There’s one particular section I was interested in about food supplements he calls “In Praise Of The Weird”. Here’s what he says:

“ACAI Native to the Brazilian Amazon, the purple acai (pronounced “ah-sigh-EE” palm fruit has 30 times the amount of antioxidants of red wine and also contains a large dose of essential fatty acids. In other words, these berries, which taste nutty with hints of chocolate, are nature’s own vitamin pills.”

Now, talking of endorsements, although I don’t I’m aware that Lord Hamilton does. If you were in his shoes wouldn’t you? But in this case he was only mentioning a berry and there are many brands on the market selling them. There are also a few fake products. Probably because he compared them to my favourite drink I splashed out and bought myself some from a trusted supplier, and so far I’ve experienced the following:

  1. I feel full of energy;
  2. I’m feeling much more positive;
  3. My cravings for ‘naughty foods’ have stopped;
  4. My appetite has reduced; and
  5. I haven’t had so many illnesses (such as colds) this winter.

I have been quite good about sticking to my plan of increased exercise and improved diet, but I feel Acai gave me the help I needed to succeed when I could have easily failed. You’ve probably heard of it many times before (I’m always a bit slow at picking these things up) but it was a first for me.

The result of this new plan of action for me is a loss of 9 lbs in weight (the lardy arse and love handles are reducing… yay!) and Roy now refers to them as my ‘happy pills’. So I find myself wanting to share this information with as many people as possible, so that they may also reap the rewards, but so far there have been mixed results. Some are like mine and others aren’t so positive. However, in my case I’m so happy about the results I really feel like Lord Hamilton has given me wings and helped me feel as though I might be able to become beach fit once more.

I’d be really interested to hear if you have already tried these berries and if so, how you got on.

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Exciting Beach Potato News!

I’ve been off line for a while… sorry all… but now I’ve returned, I’ve dusted off the Mac, flexed my typing fingers and have put home life on hold for a while, as I have a lot of exciting news to share with you. So thanks for visiting / popping back.

I have been totally thrilled by the positive feedback I’ve received for Beach Potato my free ebook, which as I write is in the top 20 of the iBooks charts… yay! I can’t thank you enough both for getting it where it is and for connecting with me in some way to tell me what you thought of it. So as a small way of saying thanks, I thought I’d share some exciting news with you about what I’m going to be featuring about Beach Potato on this site soon.

Firstly, over the coming weeks I’m going to share a few secrets with you. Keep it quiet but ‘Titterstone’ really does exist. Also, I have actually been around ‘anticipation corner’ and there is a beach near there where the cliffs, surf and sand come together making it a dream destination for someone hoping to explore the same ‘North Shore’ as Jess. I also have actually seen the house Jess lives in. ‘Tumbledown’ is real… although it’s not actually called Tumbledown and unfortunately the Muckabees don’t live in it, so it’s kind of real… well in my head anyway! So what I’m going to do is share a bit of the background to the book and where I’ve got my inspiration from to create some of the key places and characters.

But that’s not all. I’m also going to give a couple of lucky readers the chance to feature in a short story to be published involving Jess and the gang. Do you or someone you know want to be a character in a Titterstone adventure? More news on this and how to enter in a future post. So keep watching this space!

Beach Potato will also be going into print in the next few months. So if you know someone who would like a paperback copy then I’ll be posting more information about that soon too.

And finally… have you ever wanted to publish your own work? Do you have a book inside you, or your computer, just desperate to get out? Well you may not have noticed but we are moving into a publishing revolution (in my humble opinion), so now might just be the right time for you to do what I have. In a number of posts over the coming months I will talk about my experiences with self-publishing entering the world of iBooks, Kindle, Stanza, etc, and will share with you the secrets of getting there with as little hassle as possible. I’ll even help you avoid the mistakes I made. Now that can’t be bad! So pay attention all you budding authors out there as you might just find this bit very interesting.

Added to that, and with time on my side, I will also be blogging about the usual beach babble and what the beach crew are talking about now they’re finally coming out of winter hibernation.

And finally, I’d really like to hear from you. I find your comments incredibly useful and motivational, so please keep connecting. I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon.

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Daredevils in the sky!

Thanks again to Alex for passing this one on. You’ve got to watch it if you have a need for speed and dig the crazy side of basejumping…  Unbelievable stuff!

Daredevils!

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I’m Not Dying To Surf!

We’ve had some crazy cold weather in North Devon and the rest of the UK this year already and we’re only just half way through our winter. It’s nice to have a bit of variety, but not -15! It’s not often we get snow on the beach, as the sea temperature and salt keeps it away… but not this year. We’ve had all kinds of problems… but the one I didn’t expect was hypothermia.

I’m afraid since becoming a mum I’ve also become a fair weather surfer. I love the sun and heat and I find it difficult to talk myself into organising some surf time when it’s so bone shatteringly cold. It wasn’t always like this. I first learnt to surf in October and all through the winter and I know what it’s like to suit up at home before a surf then run back afterwards and jump in the shower. However, Roy has kept it up and still goes out when it’s good no matter what the temperature is… if he can get away from work and us lot for more than 5 minutes. But the last time he went in he told me some very worrying things that he and his mates went through and now, after a bit of internet surfing, I think they had quite bad hypothermia.

In mild cases you get the shivers, pale skin, low energy and feel cold (sounds like me and the kids most of the time in the winter!), but symptoms become a bit more serious if you don’t catch them in the early stages. You get violent shivering, unable to concentrate, confusion, loss of judgement, difficulty moving, feeling afraid, memory loss, bad coordination, drowsiness, slurred speech, indifference, slow breathing and weak pulse. Because of the symptoms it likely that those suffering from them are totally unaware of it, but it isn’t hard for anyone else to spot. Especially those like me, not happy to brave the severe weather.

Hypothermia starts when the body temperature falls below 35 degrees C. In other words if you are in water 10 degrees or less then you will die within an hour. Our water during the cold spell was 7-8 degrees. Yes winter wet suits protect you for a while but the one thing not on the surfers side is time. So after Roy was in the water for an hour with a wind chill enough to freeze the tail off a polar bear, he came out suffering from moderate hypothermia, and some of his friends were even worse than him. The worrying thing is that if you jump from being moderately to severely hypothermic you can die in just a few minutes and the weirdest thing is you may not be aware of it. This is because as a part of the brain shuts down which can result in blood rushing to your extremities and away from your heart, making you feel warm even though you are dying of cold. You’ll also get a desire to burrow into a small space, just like an animal hibernating and will be so confused you won’t be aware of the danger.

It’s all scary stuff, and I will never try to talk myself into going out when it’s that cold again. I’m definitely not dying to surf… well, not until the spring anyway! 🙂

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Top 10 Reasons Why I Like To Blog

With the approach of Christmas and New Year, I decided to think about the top 10 reasons why I like to blog. It’s an exercise to help me decide if I should continue to do it in 2011, or if I should use the time to do other things instead . So here goes…

1. It helps my family (who are scattered all over the world) keep in touch;

2. It’s good to be connected (I learn a lot from the blog community);

3. It helps others escape to the beach even though they might be land-locked;

4. It helps others understand the issues of rural beach life;

5. It helps me recognise and be grateful for the good things in my life;

6. It helps me deal with the bad things in my life;

7. It keeps me writing and sharing;

8. It’s free;

9. It helps me be constructive, when it would otherwise be easy to stay wrapped up in the chaos of daily life;

10. It helps me think more about the place where I live and what our family should be doing to keep life simple, put less stress on our environment and help keep it safe for our children’s future.

Now I have the list in front of me I’m actually surprised at how much I get out of blogging. So as long as life lets me have time to do it, looks like my New Year resolution should be to keep blogging. Hope you can join me in 2011 x

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Beach Kids: Skimming Pebbles

This post links to my Scavenger Hunt article and is about skimming (or skipping) pebbles. I thought I’d include it as I’m assuming not everyone knows how to skim pebbles (am I right?) It’s also a bit of a tricky skill, with a few key things to avoid to help turn you into a successful skimmer.

1. Carefully pick your stones. They shouldn’t be too thin, lumpy or heavy. Try one no heavier than a small apple, but flat and smooth.

2. If skimming in the sea wait until you have flat(ish) water before you throw your stone.

3. Bend your knees and tilt towards the hand that’s about to throw the stone.

4. Throw the stone so the largest flattest part hits the water so it can bounce on the surface.

5. More power means more bounces. The World Record set in 2007 was 51 bounces. Give it a go!!

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Beach Kids: Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts aren’t a new thing, but for kids roughly around the 3-7 age range they go down a storm. The best bit is they are free, it gets them out into the open air, if you take them to the right place they will get lots of exercise and if you talk to them about everything they find they’ll learn a lot too. I put one together for my kids to do at the beach so I thought I’d share it as they loved it so much (hopefully it wasn’t the prize of an ice cream at the end of it that kept them so motivated!)

Beach Scavenger Hunts; Give each scavenger a beach bucket to collect the following:

1. Some small, smooth and flat pebbles for skimming. Later you can show them how to skim;

2. A flint and/or chalk stone. If they are found at the beach you’re visiting tell them how they are used;

3. Animal tracks in the sand. Ask them to tell you what animal made them. If you have paper and a pencil you can make a copy and put it in their bucket;

4. A few different types of seaweed;

5. Some different shells;

6. A feather;

7. A small piece of drift wood;

8. Some pirate treasure. Discreetly drop some small change for them to find. They can use this later to buy their ice creams;

9. Something plastic or man made. Tell them why it doesn’t belong on the beach;

10. Something that has travelled a long way to be found on the beach that doesn’t include any of the above.

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Bye, Bye Supermarkets!

It’s official… there are alternatives to supermarkets for families with large weekly food bills, and get this… they’re better! I’m so pleased! This is the first time I’ve made an effort to REALLY use them and:

1. They turned up when they said they would;

2. They used NO excess packaging, just a recyclable, re-usable box;

3. They made my day easier (now that doesn’t happen often); and

4. I definitely think I’ve got more fruit & veg for the money than I get at the supermarket. Yay!

For anyone who fancies a change, wants to stop the excess packaging they put in their bin and wants to reduce their stress levels, go to Local Farm Box (north/mid Devon), and for anyone else who’s sick of going to the supermarket (this is why I did it) get on the internet as I’m really pleased to say there’s alternatives out there which are easier than going to those clinical, over priced, over gimmicked, over used, supermarkets! Hooray!

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