Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Bits and pieces

It's been a while since I wrote anything here. Life has been quite busy and there hasn't been much time to reflect - which, on the whole, I don't think is ideal! I've been particularly busy with the Just Kai stuff. It's still small-scale really, but Just Kai does seem to be taking off: more than a quarter of the people who are now following that on Facebook are people I don't know, plus I've recently been asked to speak at a friend's church and to figure out Just-Kai-compliant catering for a conference next year :-)

But it's been busier than I really want, so I've decided to take this week and next 'off'. I'm not going to be generating any more Just Kai information (although I did answer one query that turned into a blog post over there) - instead, I'll be catching up on myself a bit and resting :-)

I'm still struggling to manage my energy these days and have 'crashed' twice so far this week. I kept things a lot quieter today and hopefully that will help!

It hasn't all been hard work, though. On the 9th Martin and I went out for dinner for his birthday - something we've never done before! The only other time we've been out for dinner since we first started dating was for fondue in Vancouver in 2003... It was lovely to be out together. We went to a Turkish place in New Lynn.

Then last Saturday we biked to Anna’s (which was slightly further than I’d realised, so actually my longest bike ride yet), then walked to a cafe near her place for lunch. It was really fun. I enjoyed trying the different things (we all shared meals so we got to try three mains and three desserts) and it was relaxed and nice. Then we walked back, rested for a bit and biked home. Biking home was hard - I was really struggling by the end, to the point of being nauseous and having to have Martin talk me through intersections etc - so it was probably more than I could really cope with, but we survived!

On Sunday Martin picked up a new bike for me that he'd found on TradeMe. It's essentially brand new, having been ridden only twice, and a definite step up from the random bike I've been on thus far. As our two elderly neighbours commented, it's a 'proper lady's bike' :-)

All the soft toy people fit comfortably in its basket :-)

I rode it along the shared path yesterday, and got so many smiles and cheerful greetings :-)  I’ve ridden that route at more-or-less that time quite a few times and that hasn't happened before: I think the new bike makes me seem more approachable :-) 

I’m getting stronger and fitter and learning lots of things, but it still feels like there's a lot to learn. At the moment I'm working on trying to get off the bike so that my right foot is on the pedal and near the top of the pedal's arc, so I'm basically ready to get going again as soon as I stop. I just don't seem to be able to figure that out. But I've figured out plenty of other things, so we'll get there!
I’m enjoying the violin.  I’ve now got two pieces I can satisfyingly just play and two more I’m working on.

I've realised there is no longer enough quiet in my day though - and, bizarrely, that I'm probably getting a bit less sun than back when I was sick! On cycling days I'm usually cycling before the sun is that strong, plus I'm generally not out a full half hour; then on days when I neither cycle nor walk I often forget to go out. So I'm working on both of these by trying to spend half an hour sitting in the sun reading on days other than those when I go for a long walk. I've been enjoying that.

I'm also continuing to enjoy Oakley Creek, where I walk if I don't have anywhere in particular to walk to. There's one spot where you look down on some pungas, and I love the way they have purple morning glory flowers winding through them, even though I know it can't be good for them!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Slave- and child-labour free fish oil/omega 3s

Some months back our neighbour asked me if the cod liver oil she takes is slave free.  It’s been a bit of a challenge to find an answer, but I now have good news and bad news.  The bad news?  I'm not confident the brand she’s been taking is slave free.   But the good news? I’ve identified two other brands I'm confident are :-)

As well as looking into cod liver oil, along the way I looked into all major brands of fish oils and omega 3 supplements I found for sale either in supermarkets or online pharmacies.  You can read our detailed findings here.

It turns out this is a pretty complicated area from a human welfare point of view.   Most brands were keen to tell me about their quality standards and environmental standards, but it seemed few had seriously considered human welfare standards in their supply chain.   And the supply chains aren’t trivial to trace: fish oils are usually made from what’s left over after higher value parts of the fish have been removed, and oil from different sources seems not uncommonly to be mixed together.

Further complexities were in the labelling of oil.  A lot of fish oil is sold as being ‘Norwegian’: however, it turns out Norway is a major hub for the re-processing of fish oil, as well as being a major fish oil fishing nation.  So ‘Norwegian’ oil may have been made from fish caught on Norwegian boats (which have excellent labour standards) or it could have been caught who-knows-where and simply re-processed there. You don’t know if you don’t ask.

It doesn’t help that the two major certifiers of fish oil basically only certify working conditions in factories (rather than on fishing vessels), even though all the worst abuses happen at sea rather than on land. And abuses can be severe: fish that produce lots of oil are typically cold-water fish, occuring in deep sea far from land. Ships are frequently at sea for months on end, making these fisheries at very high risk for forced labour: workers can be tricked onto them and then have no way to leave.

Still, I did find three companies Just Kai can recommend:
  • Clinicians make their oil in Norway, from fish caught in Norway;
  • Ethical Nutrients make their oil from fish caught in low-risk jurisdictions (mostly Peru), and has strict responses to human rights abuses when they are found to occur;
  • Blackmores visit the fishing vessels that catch their fish in port and audit them for human rights abuses.
Particular products from other brands are also recommended.

You can read my full article here or download a summary pdf of my findings here.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Formalising Just Kai

Martin and I have been working hard on the Just Kai website in recent weeks.  We're wanting to break the 'Just Kai' work off from this personal blog now that people I don't know are showing such an interest in it.   I had nearly 3000 views on the 2019 Easter egg post - but I'm not going to retain those people if they have to wade through heaps of random things about my personal life to get to the content they're after!

I will continue to link my big fish research articles here, but if you'd like to be alerted to smaller, more regular updates, subscribe to the Just Kai blog here.  The latest post is my speech from the Fairfield Conference, which went online today :-)

My buying guides for fish, cocoa and sugar have also been collected there: from now on, those are the ones that will be updated, rather than the versions on this blog.

I've also set up a Facebook page for Just Kai.  I'll mainly use that to promote the blog articles, although it may also get some unique content.  If you want to like that, it's here.

Just Kai has also signed up to Twitter.  As well as promoting blog posts there, I'll use it to re-tweet articles relating to modern slavery and child labour.   I put one up today about modern slavery in the UK, featuring a number of people forced into very everyday jobs.

Exciting times!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

More milestones :-)

No photos, but I'm quite excited by a few recent developments.

As of Tuesday of last week, I'm playing the violin again :-)  I'd been doing physio exercises to strengthen my back so I'll be strong enough to play it, and I decided the time had come.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but it went reasonably well.  Since then I've done at least 10 minutes practise every weekday, working away at Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring.  It's going well and I've ordered some more sheet music from the library to be going on with :-)

Also, on Friday and Sunday I rode my bike to places I needed to get to, as opposed to just riding it for exercise.  On Friday I rode to the GP for a blood pressure check (it's been a bit high and they want to check it weekly for the next wee while to keep an eye on it) and on Sunday I rode to church.  Both are about 1.5km from home (if that), so it wasn't a huge ride, but neat to be using a bike for transport again :-)

When I started seeing the physio earlier this year, he wanted to know what my goals were in seeing him.  Eventually I came up with being able to:
  • go tramping;
  • use my bike for transport;
  • play the violin.
I'm not at the level I hope to get to with any of those, but I'm delighted to see I'm starting to do all three :-)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Citrus leaves

I've recently learned something super-cool: all citrus leaves are edible!

I've long known that kaffir lime leaves are edible (and widely used in Thai cuisine), but I'd assumed there was something special about them.  But no!  The essential oils that are present in the zest of citrus fruit are also in the leaves, so grapefruit leaves taste like grapefruit, lemon leaves like lemon etc.

You don't generally eat them as such: you infuse the flavour then discard the leaf, just like with bay leaves.  So you can pour boiling water over the leaves and drink them as tea; simmer in stews, curries or milky puddings; wrap meat in them before baking (apparently salmon wrapped in lemon leaves is super-yum) or even put a layer of leaves in the bottom of the pan when you're baking a cake and let the flavour infuse up through the batter.

Friday, May 10, 2019

I'm sick

I've got some kind of cold/flu thing and have mostly been in bed since Friday last week (that's 8 days now).  I keep on thinking I'm getting better (and yesterday even walked a circuit of our street with Martin) but then I don't.  I have a yucky, gunky cough and runny nose, my head is fuzzy and I just want to sleep.

Martin probably caught the same thing, but he only had one and a half days off work earlier this week.

Maybe periods of illness like this will also be part of my new normal?  I can think of a number of occasions in the distant pre-CFS past where I had 1-2 weeks in bed with a virus or tummy bug.  Now that I'm out in public more again (and now that my immune system is no longer in the hyperactive state CFS likely put it in) maybe that will be how it is again.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Holiday in Whangarei

On Easter Monday, Martin and I jumped on the bus and headed up to Whangarei to visit his parents for the week :-)