Things I Discovered – January

Things I Discovered.Badge2
Well, what a month its been so far.  So much discovered and new things started I can’t fit it all in.  My finds have been rather eclectic, ranging from discovering how many doctors it takes to diagnose cramp in a child (go on, have a guess and don’t scroll down to the end yet!) to the power of twitter to keep me sober in during this long dark month, and taking in a sophisticated, non-alcoholic drink to get me through, a great game for playing in the dark, and a gripping novel about slavery and the Quakers in 1850s America.  And you’ll have noticed, I’m sure, that I’ve even had a super stylish make-over  for my blog, thanks to the multi-talented poet-graphic designer Helen Braid.  I love it, hope you do too.

So, here we go, lets dive in….

Matt Pritchett cartoon

Matt cartoon

Social Media: The Power of Twitter for DryJanuary

In a month when the rain has barely paused for breath it’s rather ironic to be talking about Dry January, but most of you will know I’m talking here about the lacking of alcohol kind of dry.   This was the year I finally got around to joining all you other fabulously self controlled people in abstaining from wine and beer and spirits for the month after Christmas. I’ve always meant to do this, but I’m terrible at giving up something that I enjoy that is social like drinking if my other half doesn’t join in too – boo.  Call me weak willed, or an extrovert when it comes to self control (personally, I like the latter :-)) but that’s the way it is.  We’re not big drinkers, more weekenders, but I found myself knocking back the vino every night from er, late November, so my body needed a break.

What changed all this was a group of parent bloggers, some of whom I’ve got to know, decided to do this Dryjanuary thing, and to keep an eye out for each other via twitter.  So I jumped at the chance.  Some were being sponsored and raising cash for charity but the rest of us were doing it purely for health and self control reasons (well, I think we were?!).

And here’s the revelation – I found twitter to be a fantastic accountability tool.  I’m not even a big twitter user, shying away from  its enormous time-wasting, distracting-me-from-the-present potential, but I dip into it for blog purposes.  The first few days it was like an Alcoholics Anonymous group and I couldn’t believe I was thinking “It has only been 3 days since my last drink.”  Every Friday night this month, you’d find me laughing at each other’s tweets on what boring drinks we were resorting to and how much chocolate were were consuming instead (including our children’s Christmas chocolate) but it kept our sticky paws off the Sauvignon Blanc.  As the month went by it got easier, until I hit the middle and weakened for a beer on a Thursday evening. But I confessed, as it someone else the week before, and promptly got told  told to pay a fine of £20 to Cancer research!   So yes, this only works as well as we’re prepared to be truthful with each other, and as far as I could tell, we were.

OK, I’d far rather depend on friends in the flesh to hold me accountable – who can lie whilst looking someone in the eye?  But the reality is I don’t have a group of friends who I see every day who were doing the same thing.  And in the end it was twitter that got me through.  So here’s to @3childrenandit @kateonthinice  @SThurley49 @NellB14 @dragonsflypoppy @LakesSingleMum @dragonsflypoppy and @The_Doves – cheers guys, we’ll be clinking our collective glasses on 1 Feb!

Eat/Drink:  Angostura Bitters

So, with all this no alcohol business, I had to find something to drink that wasn’t disgustingly sweet.  Becks Blue was ok, but still tasted like it had nothing interesting in it.  I used to drink tonic water sans Gin when pregnant, which did a great job of tricking the mind that it was having a G&T.  And then my mum suggested added a dash of Angostura Bitters to it.  Delicious!  Angotosta what? I hear you say. 

To those of you who’ve never heard of it, this bizarre, almost mystical, flavour enhancer  comes in its trademark bottle wrapped in what looks like newspaper (remember?).  Brilliant for cocktails, no respectable drinks cupboard in the country was without it in the 1970s.  It’s still around and has no rival because the recipe has been kept secret since 1824 when a doctor devised it for medicinal use in Angostura, Venezuela.  Clever people.  But it’s also good for cooking with as it has a mixture of spices that ‘marry’ flavours and, according to the website, it tempers the acidity of citrus so if you’re sensitive to acid, this is for you. Call it South America’s answer to Worcester Sauce, I suppose (but tastes totally different).  

So if you fancy being experimental and spicing up your life, try it.  You’ll only ever buy one bottle in your life time.  Oh and before you all tell me its cheating to put it in a non-alcoholic drink because its 44.7% alcoholic, the amounts you use are so infinitesimal, the drinks industry recognise it as totally fine to use in non-alcoholic drinks. So there!

Book:  The Last Runaway (Harper Collins) 

The Last Runaway - paperback cover

If you liked Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier you’ll most likely love her latest novel which has made bedtimes  so enjoyable this month.  A clever mix of historical and romantic novel, it is one of those novels which draws you into another world that you’re not sure at first you want to be in with all the discomforts for its heroine, but once you’re in, you don’t want to leave.  What’s more, it gives you a wonderful history lesson on 1850s America, in particular the life and times of the pioneer settlers in Ohio, the Quakers and how American culture contrasted with 1850s England.  You get a fresh understanding of how and why our cultures differ.  Chevalier draws you into the ways and mind of the Quakers, in particular their moral stand against slavery and how this played out in practice.  And those interested in the current Fair Trade Movement like I am will find the parallels with the abolition of slavery striking.

But above all, it plays an interesting, subtle love story which I won’t give away (that would be impossible as I’ve not quite finished it….!)

Play: Black-out Hide n Seek

Ok, this isn’t exactly a new find, but its so great for these dark evenings I had to tell you about it.  Its very funny and my 7 and 9 year old still adore playing it. Great to end off a dull day at school.

Its a fun twist on hide and seek which my son came up with one evening a few years back whilst waiting for me to come and read to him in our room.  Basically, you just turn all the lights off in a room, as large a room as possible to allow for hiding places. Shut all curtains and anything that will let light in.  The seeker faces the door, puts fingers in their ears and counts to 10 while the hider/s  ‘hide’ in the dark.  The beauty of this game is that you can hide somewhere that normally you couldn’t as you’d be seen in the light, so the thrill is much higher as the seeker shuffles right past you.  It forces you to use all your sense – none of this crashing about the house dashing around trying to find someone just with your eyes. Lets just say the person who can keep quiet the longest usually wins.  The kids adore the suspense and I get the complete giggles too.  Go try it (but make sure you put away anything breakable beforehand!)

Health:   It takes 5 doctors to identify cramp in a child from Wii Fit Cycling

Yes, a whole FIVE doctors.  Did you get it right? Tell me if you did!!  How I found this out is as follows:  One rainy day at the end of the Christmas holidays we rather neglectfully left my son playing on his new Wii Fit cycling game for far too long (several hours on and off), not realising quite how much it uses the lower calves.  Just before going to bed he started complaining of a pain in his leg. This is very common with our boy (growing pains etc ) and so we didn’t take it that seriously but after an hour of screaming pain, and my husband’s nurse sister on the phone saying it could be a pulled tendon, we went to the hospital.  After x-rays and goodness knows what else, they sent him home with crutches and another appointment 3 days later.  ‘Could it be cramp?” my husband asked.  “No”.

Off to the hospital with him!

Off to the hospital with him!

Three days later he is still on crutches, not enjoying them at all, falling down every couple hours, and refusing to put his leg down.  My patience has thinned like the hair on a 50 year old’s head, and  I try everything to get him to walk, chocolate included.  Nothing. He’s clearly in pain and miserable, I have to concede, despite his history of, shall we say, having “a very low pain threshold”.  So back at hospital, 3 days later we go through no fewer than 3 separate doctors in the children’s section of A&E, who all scratched their heads confusedly.  One even got out one of those ultra sound thingys.  We moved up the ranks to the Senior House Doctor, who decided to admit us in overnight so he could have an MRI scan.  Aaggh, what? This is crazy!

But then, at the last hour, a ‘Mr’ i.e. a consultant, walks into the room.  Like a knight in shining armour, his arrival rescued us from impending hospital doom and in the process turned upside down all my preconceptions of medical consultants.

Doctor Superhero

Doctor Superhero

Getting down to my son’s level, he puts him at ease by joking with him, then tells him to clasp his hands in front of him and pull them apart (distraction technique). He then proceeds to massage my son’s leg, starting where it doesn’t hurt and slowly working down.  He looks at me with a glint in his eye,  “This is muscular cramp”, he pronounces.  Refraining from bursting out “I told you so” to the SHO watching all this,  I beamed with joy that it was as simple as that.  However, I was slightly incredulous at how unconsultant-like he was, being so hands on and all.  Observing his physique, his muscly arms and a tattoo poking out the bottom of his short shirt sleeves, I wondered if he was a masseur than a consultant.  He was also rather good looking 🙂

I ask him if he used to be a masseur in a former life (can’t believe I did that!), to which I got the astonishing reply “I’m a Hungarian Judo champion, was on the Olympic team, work on sports injuries all the time.”  You what?   Yes sir.   He then proceeded to spend another half hour getting my son to stand and then walk.  I was starting to wish I had a pain that needed a massage from him too 🙂

What a hero.  The Hungarian Hunk saved us from a night in hospital, got my son off crutches and showed me that the NHS is definitely a better place for its foreign staff.  Oh and that we should never assume the other parent is keeping an eye on how long our son is ‘cycling’ on the Wii Fit for so long again……

Phew, that’s it folks.  Sorry, that was an exceptionally long TiD this month!  So, what were your finds this month?  And have you found Wii Fit Cycling to be a killer to the lower calves? Do you know any great recipes using Angostura Bitters? You don’t have to write anything as long as I did this month (check out previous ones for ideas). Just throw down your new finds and link up!  You have a whole fortnight!

20 thoughts on “Things I Discovered – January

  1. What a fabulous idea. Congratulations on staying dry in January and OMG, it’s a relief to hear that your son is OK. Here’s to the brilliance of the Hungarian doctor who could actually recognise cramp!

  2. Siobhan I love the writing here and the way u tell the tale of ur son and cramp. It is so amusing. Good job he showed up, otherwise what could have happened next?! Ps I was introduced to angostein bitters in oz. loved it!

    • Thanks Emma! I probably should have written that as as separate post but I ran out of time that week! Glad it amused. Sorry you’ve been waylaid with illness lately – I have been dipping into your blog though! x

  3. Oh, Siobhan – I’ll definitely download the book you recommended, I still have some Christmas money on an Amazon gift certificate burning a hole in my Kindle!! I have never read The Girl with the Pearl Earring, but I absolutely LOVED her Extraordinary Creatures – about 19th C female fossil hunters. Another Thing I Discovered In A Dry January was… vermouth. No, not for drinking, I *do* know that it’s alcoholic! However I make quite a lot of dishes that really need a bit of wine and I missed not having the odd bits leftover in the open bottles to use up. So I sprung a fiver for a bottle of Sainsbury’s own brand dry vermouth and used it wherever I would usually have used wine. It’s fortified, so it doesn’t spoil, and I can leave it by the cooker in its screwtop bottle. Really handy.

    • Brilliant tip, Liz, thank you. And if you have a recipe needing Vermouth thats good, bung it my way, i’ll review it here and plug your wonderful Local Kitchen catering company too. And yes, you will love The Last Runaway for the history of Ohio it gives you, thought of you several times when reading it as i know you go there every summer. Fascinating stuff. Thanks for commenting, Sx

  4. I’ve never heard of Angostura Bitters… but I may have to acquaint myself with them! And I’ve added The Last Runaway to my ‘to-read’ list. Happy to have found you through #PoCoLo!

  5. Second reply from S.O.M. Angostura Bitters was the basis of the Navy’s favourite Pink Gin which was super-alcoholic with nothing to dilute it. That;s why it was in your grandfather’s drinks cupboard.

  6. Excuse me, but I think it was your old Mum (having had four of you and suffering from cramp herself) who suggested cramp, and your husband who dismissed it, ‘Silly Old Think, what does she know ?’ thought but not said) and same S.O.M. who refrained from saying ‘ told you so’ after diagnosis by Hungarian judo champion..

    • Apologies mum! In my efforts at keeping the post from being even longer than it was, I overlooked that imp. fact!!! You had thought it cramp, and the first doc dismissed….what does that say? Listen to your Not-So-Silly-Old-Mother!

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