We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time. ~T.S. Eliot Four Quartets

28 June 2012

Its Raining, Its Pouring, the old man is snoring..

It has been raining in the valley. That is nothing new, it rains a lot here, its what makes England so green (and far too often, gray). Last weekend it rained a month's worth in one day. The valley where I live, from Mytholmroyd to Todmorden was flooded. Since I am on a hill, I felt lucky to only have a small puddle of water in my cellar. But many businesses were devastated by all this water. I am always in awe of water, how it is such a force, the highest force in nature? Its very essence is life giving, and yet it can cause so much destruction. I didn't get out in the midst of it, but here are some superb photos taken by those who did. http://www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/news/2012/110.html

07 February 2012

Little Box of Delights

I find myself looking forward to Tuesday mornings,  my organic veggie box delivery day. The box is usually sat outside my door waiting for me, like one never-ending Christmas present. The driver starts deliveries at 6am so its often here before I wake up, but today it was late. It is very cold and things are frozen, slowing everybody down. Using a box scheme has been a wonderful way to shift how we eat and our perspective on food. We now eat in sync with the seasons, eat  more organic and perhaps most importantly, support local farmers. Having been a vegetarian for something like 14 years or so, I had never (knowingly) eaten Celeriac prior to having this box delivery [embarrassed smile].. Its a fairly common British vegetable, rather gnarly and brainy looking, but apparently originated in the Mediterranean basin. Since its part of the celery family- which I have never been a fan of, it doesn't surprise me that I never encountered it before now. I am now using celery more in soups these days and Celeriac chips dipped into baked Camembert is heavenly.
The lovely Celeriac
    Having children on the autistic spectrum, eating can be a stressful and troublesome daily event. Thankfully my kids aren't that rigid in their ways, but given the choice would exist on cereal, yogurt and ice lollies--in that order--- breakfast, lunch and dinner. Butternut squash goes down a treat blended in soup, but not so much roasted in chunks. My son was introduced to Thai food at age two (when we still lived in Chicago and had three lovely restaurants within a few blocks of our house) and still has a decent tolerance for spices, and tofu- which surprises everyone! Now its more Indian based curries, that are his favourites. My daughter is also a fairly decent eater and using a box scheme every week has lifted us out of our vegetable rut- that's the broccoli-cauliflower-pepper rut we were in.
  Now we enjoy purple sprouted broccoli, every colour-shape-variety of cabbage, turnips, celeriac, beet root (admittedly still a challenge), leeks, mushrooms, squashes, etc. Each week a recipe is included to help you along, because obviously there's lots of folks coming out of vegetable ruts. If we were meat eaters, locally produced organic meats are also available on the scheme and we also get a dozen organic eggs each week. It gives me a chance to talk about the veggies with the kids-- they usually want to have a look in the box before they leave for school. Its teaching them about what grows around here, and when. The veg comes to us with the soil still on, and they can handle it and know this is how its meant to look. The kids often cringe and complain its dirty, but I tell them we just have to wash it off.

      This is also part of my plan to reduce supermarket consumption. We haven't been able to return to dairy milk again fully (so don't take advantage of  the local dairy farm) we still rely on soy milk, and we like our Quorn products -which means we haven't been able to make the supermarket break completely. I make the effort to visit  the local market, and topping up weekly in independent shops. Several years ago we were on the box scheme but somehow drifted away from it, and back in the states, we lived near a lovely organic farm which delivered veggies on a box scheme. It seems that now it has sunk in, its feels right on a personal and political level and I enjoy it. For children with autism, eating vegetables that have not been chemically sprayed, and that have more available nutrients is a necessity. As vegetarians where vegetables make up the bulk of our diet it is also a necessity.  Sure it does cost a little more to eat organic, but I just balance it out by tightening the budget elsewhere, because our good health is non-negotiable.

04 February 2012

National Libraries Day

Hebden Bridge Library
Hebden Bridge Library

In a world where we now pay for so much of what we used to get for free, the public library is like an endangered species and its hard to know how much longer it will survive. Here in England the government is closing libraries across the country, so today on National Libraries Day, my daughter and I are going to our local branch to show our support.
     As an avid reader and writer, naturally I love books. I buy them, swap them, donate them and borrow them- in copious amounts. I've regularly used the library since childhood. In Chicago we had a very local branch which I would spend ages in, browsing the children's section but having even more adventures sneaking round to the adult aisles, where a whole new uncharted world awaited. The library was a place that fueled my imagination. I have tried to instill this spirit into my own children, using the local library everywhere that I have lived. We have enjoyed story times, author readings, films, book sales, etc. We borrow dvd's which although we now have to pay for, are still better value than anywhere else. Although I do buy books, its a wonderful privilege to be able to go and pick out a book, or five, and take them home for free. We learn many hidden values by using the library, things like non-ownership or perhaps collective ownership, sharing, and a sense of community. As a Buddhist this fits in well with my world view, that we can appreciate something, without attachment, without always having to acquire it, own it. I am fond of bookshops in much the same way, except that I know if there's a book I  really want to read, I won't be able to unless I have the money to buy it.
    Artist's impression of the new library and archive
     In the valley I live in, in West Yorkshire, the council controversially plans to tear down the main library branch to build a new one costing millions of pounds. A new library should be a welcome idea anywhere, but with money being cut from every sort of service, and other libraries being closed, it begs the question as to why, when the one we've got seems perfectly fine.The council has given its reasons such as the current building will cost too much to update (things like mould problems) and the benefit of building a new one on a different site allows the current one to remain open until completion. That sounds like a valid point, as I would be more concerned if the library closed before they actually had a new one, that could result in no library at all. Another point the council made is that research shows more people are attracted to new and updated buildings. In today's mass market world that is probably true, we are like magpies always seeking out the new and shiny. Yet do we need to perpetuate that idea? are there not other ways to generate interest  in libraries? I don't know the answer but, the more people that use the library the better.
      Public libraries are one of the last bastions of democracy, providing knowledge and information accessible to all. Sure, just about every thing you could want to know or not want to know is accessible within seconds on the internet- and to some extent its free. The question of unlimited access to the internet is also under debate but for some its still not free. There are many who cannot or do not want to have the internet in their homes. If you can't afford to buy a computer, set up and pay for a phone line, pay for access every month, pay the electricity etc.. you can use the internet for free at the library, for a period of time. It would be a tremendous loss to society if our democratic system of public libraries disappeared, so that's why we continue to use and enjoy ours, and don't take the privilege for granted.

*proposed new central library, Halifax artists rendition courtesy of http://www.calderdale.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/new-library/index.html

03 February 2012

02 August 2011

Where I Live

Profile On... Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge - Features - Yorkshire Post


I've been to Liverpool before, many years ago to see all the Beatles things, but I think I must have been on the train at the time because driving there last week was a magical mystery tour for sure. Sat Nav be damned, because it always seems to suggest the wrong direction, and following the directions from google maps also led us to a point, not the point we wanted, but a point nevertheless. So I ended up driving through a bus only area outside some shopping centre and am hoping that no fine appears through my letterbox.

We arrived at our destination an hour after we had planned, destination The World Museum. Once arrived, with kids wound up tight, and myself wound up even tighter, we headed straight for the cafe on the top floor. Bellies filled and some views of the city taken in, we descended the stairs as the elevator was forever in use.

Museum entry is free, and the planetarium show we took in was also free, and highly relaxing, my daughter fell asleep and I nearly did as well, among the stars. It was one of the things I wanted them to see since there are no planetariums nearby here. In the aquarium section there was a presentation and the kids got to touch a starfish and a crab- both alive.

Working our way backwards, or top to bottom, we entered the Eye for Colour exhibit which was filled with some fun exhibits like the Mood Room, where you just sit inside and observe how you feel as the walls & ceiling slowly change colours. I was surprised to find that pink made me feel energetic! Also my daughter built a rainbow and my son camoflaged himself. It was a great exhibit for autistic spectrum kids, with colour, texture, and lights!

My son liked the dinosaurs still, and both seemed pretty fascinated by all the intricate wax models of bugs and such. While walking back to our car an amphibeous vehicle with tourists passed by, and the kids were really excited and wanted to go on one, so maybe next time as there is so much more to explore in Liverpool.

22 July 2011

Photo Friday

Tracking Boggarts in the Woods

First day of the school holidays and the day started with a meltdown over the suggestion that we go out for a walk, because it was a spontaneous suggestion and my son had other plans (sitting at the computer all day). Eventually we managed to get out of the house and head up to Ogden Water Nature Reserve to take in the Boggart Festival. Ogden is a few miles away, free (except for the ice cream van in the parking lot) and has two main paths for a long or short walk around the resevoir and woods, with various paths leading off and around the main ones.

     "Each year the fairy folk meet within the Ogden woodlands to feast and make merry on nuts and berries.  Unfortunately the Boggarts tend to over indulge on the Blackberry wine and forget to hide before falling asleep. The rising sun turns them to stone, allowing us to catch sight of these rare creatures.There are many different types of boggarts to find at Ogden.  Some are small and well hidden up in trees (not much bigger than the palm of your hand). Look on walls, bridges and even on the roofs of buildings." -from http://www.ogdenwater.org.uk/index.php

It didn't take long before the kids were competing to see who could find the next boggart first, and I was amazed at their impeccable eyesight. And with the added incentive of a prize for finding all the boggarts (we won't know if we had the correct amount until the festival ends in August) two hours walking through the woods passed without notice.