Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A First!

After 4 weeks, Dougal finally got his first wash today by my own fair hands! I find this remarkable considering I haven't washed a car by hand since I moved into my house about 6 years ago!  He is gleaming and ready for his next trip later on this week.

To enhance his looks further, I have started to add a few personal touches to the outside:

This is only the start - I have just purchased a load of flowers and butterflies to stick on Dougal too...

Monday, 29 August 2011

Week 8

I gave Dougal a rest this week.  Instead, I concentrated on my reiki.  Fortunately a couple of my friends were willing guinea pigs and allowed me to practice on them.  It feels so good to be taking this skill further and each session brings a new insight and allows me to hone my reiki skills further.  I find the reiki practice on myself is so much more intense when I meditate beforehand so I would encourage others guinea pigs to ask me to put on a guided meditation track before I practice reiki so they can get into a deeper state of relaxation.  It is a joy to be able to practice on willing friends and family.  Thank you and spread the word...

The rest of the week involved a trip to Dunkeld with extra special friends who are both about to embark on new and exciting journeys in their lives.  I wish them both all the luck in the world.  We went to the Birnam Art Centre for lunch.  Check out their website - as well as lovely home cooked food (and scrummy cakes) they have events on throughout the year plus a gorgeous Beatrix Potter Exhibition (which incidentally I didn't get to see because I was stuffing my face with cake but I've been assured it is worth a visit on my next trip). The week ended with a Girls Night Out! Who can beat a girlie night out? It is always amazing catching up with the friends that I grew up with. Their company is superb, their energy is buzzing and the laughter flows from the first sip of wine!  I love you guys! 

It was a late night and I had to work at the Guide Dogs the next day. But, just one look from a guide dog in training relieves any tiredness I might have felt.  My skills are coming along at my work too: so far I've been involved in grooming, bathing, play sessions, walking and feeding.  There are so many dogs at the centre and, because I only work there 4 hours a week, it can be difficult differentiating between all the dogs...which means feeding time takes twice as long (compared to the regular staff) because I have to check and double check who I'm giving the food to. The dogs are, obviously, a lot less patient with me when it comes to their food.

It's just a short post this week.  I have big events happening next week which I will tell you about later.  As September looms closer, I am getting ready to start the research into my animal psychology course.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Plight of the Orang-utan

I have to promote the wonderful products that Paterson's produce.  They are one of the few manufacturers in the UK who can proudly display the Orang-utan friendly logo because they have switched from using palm oil in their products to sustainable olive oil. 
For those who don't know the palm oil story, scientists say the palm oil industry is the biggest threat to orangutans, with the species driven to extinction within 12 years unless the devastation of their natural habitat is halted. Palm oil (or vegetable oil as it is labeled on most of our products) is in a vast number of your supermarket purchases from your bread, margarine, biscuits to your pizza, chewing gum and toiletries. Initial estimates had palm oil in one in ten of your products but the Independent published a study in 2009 that had palm oil "used in far greater quantities". It went on to say "it is confirmed or suspected in 43 of Britain's 100 bestselling grocery brands, representing £6bn of the UK's £16bn annual shopping basket for top brands". A Friends of the Earth publication "Oil for Ape Scandal" had the UK as the second biggest importer of palm oil in Europe behind the Netherlands.

Campaigners do not want to ban the use of palm oil - it's far too widespread - instead want a greater use of sustainable palm oil and "Orang-utan Friendly" labelling to inform the customer. The land that has already been cleared is enough to sustain the palm oil demand but companies in Borneo continue illegal logging.

All I can ask you to do is be aware of this when doing your weekly shop.  If you feel as strongly as I do, write to your supermarkets or sign online petitions like this one (http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/say-yes-to-orangutan-friendly-palm-oil.html) to put pressure on supermarkets to be more responsible in sourcing palm oil (or joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil - RSPO).  If you can, buy more organic food and check the labels on products for vegetable oil/palm oil.  You'll be amazed how many products contain palm oil.  Donate money to worthy charities like Friends of the Earth, Save the Orang-utan or WSPA

The orang-utans say thank you very much:


Week 7

escapism n. Indulging in enjoyable activities so as to ignore unpleasant realities
I’m writing this in the beautiful Findhorn.  What a stunning part of Scotland.  I’ve never been here before but people rave about this place and now I can see why.  I’ve got friendly neighbours and the sea is a few hundred metres away.  I’ve got Skye’s head on my lap as I type this and a glass of red wine within reach.

So let me take you back...I got back from my last trip on Monday and really only had Tuesday to organise things for this trip – because on Wednesday I ticked another one of my actions off my checklist – get a “new look”.  I got a perm!!!  How very 80’s!  Thanks to Jennifer at Bodywork Aveda and to Olivia for organising.  I forgot how long a perm takes but Jennifer was awesome and I am over the moon with the results. I’ve got long hair so I never really expected actual curls in my hair but I have a lovely kink which looks kinda surfy or messy when left to dry – just what I was looking for!  Having said that, I haven’t washed it yet.  I have to leave it for 48 hours which is why it was perfect to be camping!
I got back home late on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning I headed up to Findhorn Sands.  It was a slow journey and - of course - I had a queue of traffic behind me...with my max speed 50 mph and up hills more like 38 mph!!!  But I made it here!  The campsite is definitely more laid back than last week.  I had the usual numpty stuff going on though – at reception I was given pitch 18 and I found it ok – so far so good.  But do you park in front of the “number stone” or behind it???  I parked behind it first (2 attempts) then took Skye to the beach and came back and found my neighbours parking in front of the stone so I disconnected my electrics and moved a few feet forward then finally settled.  Honestly, I will get used to all this camping etiquette.  Dougal is settled and looking very cool with his new purchases:
Plus the new lighting courtesy of my lovely sis-in-law:

After a cuppie, Skye got another walk:
I arrived back to Dougal at teatime and heard a welcome sound – music playing in my neighbour’s caravan!  To top it all, the black lab from 2 caravans up was off lead! Hallelujah! With that in mind, I got my wine open, stuck on Marvin Gaye and made my tea and let Skye eat her chew outside off lead – shhh don’t tell!  Tea was delicious.  I had leftover Jamie Oliver pasta sauce from last weekend so I made it again along with sweet chilli salmon. Yum.
I savoured every mouthful and took in the wonderful views and counted my blessing that I get to life such a wonderful life.  Honestly, I am in total heaven.  Skye came and sat with me on the sofa and rested her head on the table after I finished my meal – how cute is she?
My i-tunes is now playing "The girl from Ipenema” by Astrud Gilberto...but it fits with the chilled out atmosphere here.  I’m going to sign off now and continue this tomorrow...

Friday morning was spectacular.  I woke up about 7.30am to beaming sunshine so after a bit of reiki, got up and walked Skye along the beach then it was back for breakfast, shower, another walk, lunch, nap, walk, tea then sleep eventually...I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it is to feel this relaxed.  The day has been tremendous...the sun was shining and my meals have been eaten outside.  Talking of which, here’s my menu for the day:

Breakfast was my usual Special K topped with my home-made superfood topping consisting of: Wheatgerm, Oatbran, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, gogi berries and coconut. 
Lunch was Jamie Oliver’s Mackerel Pate (yes, again for those of you who know that I eat this ALL the time) with crispbread and salad with a balsamic dressing.
Dinner was sweet chilli salmon with sun-dried tomato and garlic couscous with sweet chilli houmous and salad with balsamic dressing.
The afternoon walk took me to the Findhorn Foundation where I bought a few nic-naks from the gift shop for Dougal.  He’s looking great – all homely and cosy now. 
And a final word on camping – it can be dangerous – I am covered in bruises!  I keep banging into things or whacking my head off the cupboards. I feel each trip is making me a worthy camper.  My fellow campers here in Findhorn are truly magnificent – so chatty and friendly – are campers always like  this?  Also, does wine ALWAYS taste better when camping with Dougal?  Oh, talking of which – a few people have asked me why my van is a male – well, it’s because he protects me and keeps me safe and warm – isn’t that what every woman wants from a man???

Monday, 15 August 2011

Week 6

First of all, I have to say a huge thank you to Andy who gave me a crash course in Campervan mechanics and had a good survey of my engine – I can tell you all about my distributor cap, spark plugs, air filters, rotor arms and points and timing.  We even figured out why a red light has been flashing on my dashboard since I got the van.  I was told it had “always flashed” but since discovered that Dougal was crying out for coolant!  That could have been a disaster.  I appreciate all your help Andy.
The oil cap arrived from Just Kampers but it didn’t fit so I’ve been searching the net for the correct part...the things you unearth when searching for VW parts.  I’m now a proud member of the T25 80-90 Club (the 80-90 refers to years that the T25 was manufactured).  And my search was not futile because the correct part arrived from e-bay 10 mins before I left for my first camping trip!  Talk about good timing.
So, the first trip with Dougal took place and was relatively successful.  I can’t tell you how amazing it was to take off and visit new places and be self sufficient.  I had my nephew (J) and Skye with me plus lots of sunshine – woo hoo!  We arrived late Saturday afternoon and had a recce of the site whilst I tried to figure out the right way to do things.  I noticed that this site was quiet, peaceful and efficiently run – perhaps that is a good thing for the accomplished caravanner - but I was with a 7 year old and a dog and between us there was quite a bit of rule-breaking going on.  Within an hour of setting up, J was told off by our neighbours for playing with a ball within our pitch – apparently ball games are only allowed in designated areas.  Secondly, there are signs everywhere saying dogs have to be kept on a lead.  Now, I completely understand that some dogs are excitable but Skye is an angel and completely obedient (also, she doesn’t like doing her business on the lead) so I had no choice but to let her off the lead for part of the walk.  Oops – I hope no one noticed.  When we were chilling outside Dougal, Skye was off lead lying by our sides until a woman crossed over our pitch to get to the toilets and Skye had a barking fit at her...did I say she was always obedient???  I was waiting for this lady to complain but thankfully she didn’t.  The first meal went without a hitch – not so glamorous but who can beat fish fingers and pasta? 
Later on in the evening, J and I put I-tunes on and were grooving around in the camper...we started with Barry White and moved onto the Reservoir Dogs compilation CD then J had a great idea to move the music outside and dance in the twilight.  As we stepped outside, I had a strange feeling that what we were doing would be frowned upon – I swear there were no other sounds in the park...no laughter or music or chatter...and this was at 9pm!  Much to the annoyance of J, I had to convince him that playing music outside was probably not a good idea.  I didn’t want to be banned from the first campsite that I visited!  On Sunday morning my dad visited the campsite and completely ignored the rule about “no visitors beyond a certain point” (you are supposed to park and walk) and drove straight past the guy on reception who was waving his hands.  My sister-in-law arrived a few minutes later (to pick up J) and was told by reception to get my dad to park his car in the right place.  To top it all, I checked out an hour later than I was supposed to...but the woman on reception was lovely when I explained it was my first camping outing! Ho hum...I’m probably not worthy of being a member of the Caravan Club!
The rest of the week has been really special as I’ve been catching up with my amazing friends - some who I don’t see often enough.  I saw a quote on Facebook this week that sums up these friends “ It's been said that everlasting friends go long periods of time without speaking and never question the friendship. These friends pick up like they just spoke yesterday, regardless of how long it has been or how far away they live and they don't hold grudges. They understand that life is busy and that you will ALWAYS love them.” So true!
I might have said earlier in this blog that, along with the career change, I also have numerous house “projects” that I want to tick off the list during my time off.  And I can report that they are slowly getting done.  This week, I turned my attention to my deck which is desperately in need of TLC.  My dad introduced me to Patrick the Polish Painter who made a start to the prep work this past weekend.  I guess I should be helping him and that WAS my intention but there are so many fun things to do instead....This week, for example, I’m off to another campsite – one which comes highly recommended and I’m very excited about.  This time it’s just me and Skye.  I wonder if I will get on better than last week...


The reiki room is ready:
I have invited friends and family to come round so I can practice reiki on them.  I expect the sessions to last somewhere between 30 mins to an hour.  I have got relaxing reiki music to play and if people want to meditate beforehand, I've also bought a guided meditation track which I've just tested and it works wonders.  I'm at Reiki level 1 so I cannot charge people for my time but have asked f&f to donate money to a worthwhile animal charity in my new piggy bank (which was kindly given to me by my mum):
If you're interested in receiving reiki and you didn't get my text/e-mail, then please leave me a comment.  I've got a couple of bookings already! 

Monday, 8 August 2011

Week 5

This week has all been about Dougal.  He's had a thorough clean and has some new accessories to make him look all cosy and comfortable - check out the groovy kettle and cushions!

We had a trial run at the weekend.  Parked up in my brother's driveway, Skye, my nephew and I spent Saturday night in Dougal.  And what a night it was - it poured with rain the whole time but at least Dougal kept us warm and dry.  I don't think I slept very much - all the new sounds were a bit distracting but it was fun and I think my nephew enjoyed it.  I am still without gas (apparently Campingaz is not as readily available as Calor gas) so we had to sneak into my brother's house to make our morning cuppie and heat our pancakes!  Oh and another thing, Dougal reached a milestone - check it out:-
And a final word on Dougal - I have to thank my local garage for helping me out...I was advised by a neighbour that I was missing an oil cap so my garage devised a temporary device and told me the place to go for ordering parts for old campers - http://www.justkampers.com/

The rest of the week was tremendous - I had visitors Monday to Thursday so it was lovely to entertain and have good energy in the house.  Unfortunately we had fog most of the week so they weren't able to appreciate the true beauty of my home town.  Of course, the sun came out the day after they left and went away again for Dougal's test run.

On the reiki front, my massage table and reiki music arrived so I have turned my spare room into my "treatment room".  I'll put a separate post out to let you know how and when to get in touch if you would like me to practice reiki on you.

I continued my volunteering work at the Guide Dogs and learnt the feeding routine which can get quite loud when you have 20 to 30 dogs barking to be fed first.  The few hours that I work flies by, but it is a joy to be working hands-on with animals.

Next week - if my gas cylinder is refilled (as promised), perhaps I'll venture to a real camp-site!!!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Some of my Favourite Things

The Colour Purple:-

Puppies (black labs especially):-

Butterflies (these were photographed in Peru!):-
Red wine:-
Stormy Weather (with the appropriate clothing on!):-