I love the Bumbles of Rice blog, showing life as it really is. Sinéad, from Bumbles of Rice often shares images and recipes of what the family is eating on an given day. Sometimes it turns into a whole week in dinners, and a linky. I took part in one last year and I’m delighted to do so again. Apart from being “nosey” I love getting ideas and inspiration from what other people share, and it’s nice to see that other families have their quick-cheats too.
So here is what we ate in the Sicence Wows house this week…
Dinner was home-made burgers with home-made chunky coleslaw, for me anyway, my kids turn their noses up at the coleslaw (which was a favourite of mine as a child) so they got corn and carrot sticks instead. A good start to the week, no complaints, no bribes required and they all went back for seconds. What’s seldom is wonderful, as they say!
I decided to try something new on Tuesday, some sticky chicken wings with chilli dip from The Extra Virgin Kitchen Cookbook. I served them with home made oven chips and broccoli. They were fairly successful, despite the request to “remove the black bits and then I’ll eat them”. Good enough that I would make them again, but maybe with a second batch of chicken wings containing no marinade.
Wednesday night I kept it easy and simple, fish fingers, beans and mashed potato. Another good night (it turns out this week contained less dinner complaints than usual, it is a good thing I have it documented for my own records!).
This one I knew would be a crowd pleaser… home made chicken goujons, served with (ahem) more home made oven chips and broccoli and peas. I could go a whole week without cooking with potatoes as my kids are not big fans but this week I had a big bag and used them (it seems) in every meal. The vegetables were a bit repetitive too, it was a case of using up what was there.
No matter what is going on in the world there is always one constant that can be relied upon… Friday night is pizza night in the Science Wows household. The kids like them with corn, salami and olives. Sometimes the sauce is home made roasted veg, sometimes it is from a jar. I made a big batch of sauce last week and froze it in portions (I make it a bit like a ratatouille then blitz it so that no one can recognise an “offending” vegetable).
The adults had theirs with a bit of blue cheese, pear and prosciutto (this is the posh combo that would ideally be completed with some caramelised onion – but not this time).
That is our week in dinners, if you want to see what other families are really eating, check out the posts in the linky by clicking on the image below. I’m off to steal some ideas for the next few weeks!
Did you guess last week’s Mystery Creature? It is such a master of camouflage that it was difficult to even see it in the picture but it was the very awesome Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus).
Here are ten facts about this amazing creature:
1. Orchid Mantises are native to the rainforests of south east Asia… the word mantis comes from Greek word “mantikos” meaning “soothsayer” or “prophet”.
2. The Orchid Mantis gets its name from its amazing ability to mimic an orchid flower, with the abdomen and four walking legs appearing as the body and petals of the flower. The insect may be white, pink or purple with a range of colour combinations.
3. What is truly remarkable about the Orchid Mantis is that it appears to exhibit “aggressive mimickry”. According to a 2013 study carried out on Malasyian Orchid Mantis it is not mearly hiding among orchids and using them to lure in its prey but they are the lure themselves. The Orchid Mantis appears to other insects as an actual native flower, so much so that the insect is attracted to it, and once it comes within reach it becomes dinner!
So effective is the Orchid Mantis at this that these initial studies reported it to lure 30% more insects to it than the actual plant itself.
4. Orchid Mantises, along with other Mantids, share a common ancestor with termites and cockroaches.
5. The Orchid Mantis can fly; males are thought to be better flyers than females
6. Orchid mantids are sexually dismorhpic, the females can grow to double the size of the male (about 6cm). The male matures more quickly, taking five to six months to reach full maturity, compared with the females eight months.
7. Female lays a cluster of 50 to 100 eggs, wrapped in a foamy, protein rich layer (Oothecae);
8. The nymphs when hatched, look more like ants (with black and orange/red bodies) but lose these colours as they grow and molt. It is thought that the newly hatched nymphs have this colouration to mimic aggressive or foul tasting insects.
9. Orchid Mantises eat a large variety of flies and pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies and moths. They may also eat small lizards and bananas. They are preyed upon by lizards, toads, certain jumping spiders and bats.
10. As with many other species of Mantises, the Orchid Mantis has spiked forlegs that they use to hold their prey securely in place while they eat.
I recently wrote a post about my aims and goals for 2015, and beside my laptop there is a serious plan of action for me for the upcoming year.The kids are in school, the sun is shining through the window, the dishes are not sitting in the sink and the Christmas tree has been removed. No distractions, no excuses, I am ready and primed for action….. right? WRONG!
I am lacking some very important factors…. energy, creativity and motivation!
In fact I am standing on the precipice of disappointment and failure. It is half way through the second week “back to work/school/life” after Christmas and I am pretty sure I am not alone. Before I give up on myself and my abilities, bin the plans and ditch the diaries, I have decided on a different approach.
I will arm myself with knowledge, because understanding why I feel like this will help me to accept it and help me to pass through it, so I won’t end up “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.
Why the lack of energy? Well, is this one really surprising? For most of us we just have to look at our diet over the last few weeks… sugar is probably high on the consumption list.
Originally sugar does give us energy, it causes a rapid peak in blood sugar levels. It can be quite similar to a caffeine hit. With every high there comes a low and for sugar that usually happens within an hour or so. A hormone called insulin is released in response to the high levels of blood sugar. Insulin instigates the uptake of sugar from the blood to the cells, resulting in low levels of blood sugars, fatigue, weakness and hunger. On top of all that, the cells will convert the sugar they do not use directly as fuel into fat, as it is lighter and easier to store in the body.
In general, the food we eat over the holiday season, although tasty, often has the overall effect of lowering our mood. Protein rich diets for example (how much turkey did you eat?) can lower our serotonin levels and leave us feeling low. Carbohydrates can increase serotonin levels, but, if eaten with protein, can have the opposite effect… back to that serotonin slump again.
So the lack of energy is not exactly surprising.
For most of us Christmas is about doing very little, exercise wise. I am a firm believer in taking time off and just resting for a while and those dark days at the end of the year seem like a good time to do so. The lack of exercise does, however, come at a cost… not only does regular exercise boost our mood, our energy levels and our general wellbeing, it can also increase our creativity.
Considering the fact that I barely left the house for much of the Christmas, it is little wonder that I am feeling low in mood and motivation.
Change of body clock
Then there is the change to our body clocks. Most of us don’t get up as early in the morning, if we don’t have to. Even the children tend to sleep a little later (if we are lucky) because they too are staying up later every night. So we shift our body clocks on an hour or two and feel like we are recharging the batteries. The only problem is, once work and school resume, we need to jolt our bodies back into that early rise again.
The more clever and organised among us may do this in a gradual way but I inevitable cling to it until the very last second and then just go “cold turkey” on the first morning back after the holiday; Not exactly conducive to good energy levels and motivation.
We have just established that I am tired, my body clock is out of whack and that my diet has made me sluggish. Not exactly great motivators. So how can I improve things? I came across a really interesting article all about the science of motivation. To understand motivation, both lacking and encouraging, we need to take a look at the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Dopamine is commonly linked with triggering pleasurable feedback and reward within the body. Its true role goes a little deeper than that as it is also actively involved in controlling mood, attention, behaviour, memory and motivation. The complex fine-tuning of the effect of dopamine on our bodies comes with examining the route the neurotransmitter takes within the signalling pathways of the brain. If we imagine these pathways as a very complex rail system. The tracks the dopamine train follows, along with the individual stations the train passes through, dictate the overall response. When dopamine reaches certain parts of the brain, it signals feedback to anticipate reward or predict a particular outcome. This creates the motivation to act, rather than the reward for acting.
Spikes in dopamine levels have been recorded in situations of high stress, coming before any reward and likely to create motivation to action to reach a certain outcome.
This knowledge is very interesting but how does it help to motivate us when we are in a slump? By knowing how it works we can manipulate the system; create small, achievable tasks that will result in a drip feed of dopamine within the brain. As each small task is performed the levels of dopamine will increase and so too, hopefully will our motivation. This system certainly got me through this blog post, when the task appeared too big I broke it down into words, sentences, adding images, choosing title until eventually the motivation increased, the reward feedback kicked in an the paragraphs began to add up.
In other words, I took it in baby steps, allowing myself feel the individual reward as each step was achieved.
How does all this help me with my New Year’s resolutions?
Firstly, I have realised that I may be aiming too high, new year plans are great but it is never a good idea to try to force them into being in early January. Better to implement these goals and changes gentle, over time, and in small doses.
I need to remember to cut myself some slack. I chose to take the down time and I am really glad I did. Now I have to accept that it may take a little time to shift life up a gear, just as it takes time to shift the extra weight that comes with a good Christmas season.
The first of January may be a great day to make all these predictions but the first of February might be a better date to roll them out! In the mean time I am going to shuffle slowly and quietly through this month, I’ll call it “working behind the scenes”. Maybe by February I’ll be all revved up and ready for action.
I am sure that there is still time to cram a year of plans into 11 months – once I remember to take it in baby steps and let the dopamine flow!
This week’s Mystery Creature was the indian Purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis). A very unusual looking frog found in certain parts of India;
Here are ten facts about this unusual creature…
1. The Indian purple frog is so called because it tends to have a dark purple colouring. It is also referred to as the purple frog or the pig-nose frog.
2. Unlike most frogs the body of the purple frog is round and bloated looking, with a very small head and short, whitish snout like nose. The legs of the purple frog are short and protrude out from the side of the body, the hind legs are strong with wart like lumps that appear to aid digging. They have partially webbed feet with rounded toes.
3. The tadpoles of the purple frog have oral suckers to allow them live in fast flowing streams.
4. The purple frog spends almost it’s entire life underground – only emerge for about two weeks at the start of the monsoon season (around May) for mating; The frog’s strong hind legs are used for digging, acting like shovels and scooping the earth out of the way, as the frog reverses into the newly created tunnel. It can burrow up to 3.7 metres below the surface. The frogs need soft, moist soil; a dry, hard terrain makes digging impossible for them.
Unlike most other burrowing frogs the purple frog feeds underground. They eat mainly termites which they are thought to suck up with their fluted tongue. The diet also includes ants and small worms.
6. Purple frogs grow to no more tham 7cm in length. They are sexually dismorphic, the males are smaller than the females (about a third of the length of females).
7. During the mating season the males use sound to attract females. They start their calls from underground, giving a very unusual sound, like a chicken or wild fowl.
8. These reclusive creatures are listed as endangered species – threatened mainly by deforestation for coffee, cardamom and ginger.
9. The purple frog is considered a living fossil. It provides evidence that Madagascar, the Seychelles and India were all part of the same land mass at one point. Genetic analysis confirms that their closest living relatives are frog species found in the Seychelles.
Ancestors of the purple frog shared the earth with the dinosaurs; These frogs are unique in that they have evolved independently for over 130 million years, surviving mass extinctions and the break up of a continent. Their solitary life underground has probably been their saving grace.
10. Despite the fact that the purple frog species has been around for 130 million years, it was only formally recorded as a species in 2003.
I saw 2014 out with a bit of reflection, now it is time to look forward with some predictions and projections (let’s call them anything but resolutions). My first thought when starting this was to keep it short and simple, I am doomed to fail if I make more than a few “changes”. Clearly I have failed already…. I finished up with ten! But they are necessary and they overlap… in places… if you look hard enough. Just trust me and take a look!
1. TIME, TIME, TIME
OK, so I have learned that I can’t make more of it but I really have to work out how to manage it a lot better. This year my focus is on compartmentalising my time, dividing my day into its appropriate parts and then sticking to it. Working when I should be working, cleaning when I should be cleaning and most importantly, being a present and calm mum when my children are around me.
2. REMEMBER TO BREATH
This leads me to the second point… to stay calm. I find that the further behind I slip on my to-do list the higher the stress levels. Remembering to simply take a few deep breaths can quickly ease the stress… I just have to work on making it a habit!
New research shows that lungs are the primary excretory body for weight loss with a staggering 84% of fat burned off in the body released as carbon dioxide; this definitely gives me double the reason to remember to take some daily deep breathes in 2015.
3. JUST SAY NO
No I am not starting an anti-drugs campaign, I just need to learn to use the word a little more (except when talking to my children, then, apparently, I use the word all the time). I have a tendency to just keep saying yes to every request, adding projects and tasks to my list, thinking I will manage. This year I hope to be more realistic – taking on less and achieving more.
I am all about memories, I have even written about them here a few times. But sometimes I am so busy creating new memories that I forget to stop and remember the ones I already have. Technology is great… these days you can capture a moment with so many different devices and within minutes they are safe in some form of cloud storage. But that is where too many of mine are ending up… in the clouds! This year I hope to actually write moments down a little more or even print some photos out and update our wall art a little.
I even received a cool new present to help me out on this one… (once I have read the manual!)
6. ME, ME, ME
This one is predictable I know but we could all do with a bit more me time right? I plan to find simple ways to look after myself a little more which brings me on to…
7. KEEP IT REAL (OR MAKE IT DO-ABLE)
This is usually where I fall down. I come up with some of the best plans that are going to turn me into everything I ever wanted to be. But then I fail! The secret, as I have finally learned is to keep it real. I know me well enough to know my own limitations. I have placed skipping ropes beside my laptop as I work (they go unused as the timer beeps).
I have failed to implement changes even when they involve things I actually want to do. So now I know I have to keep it simple… and do-able. Here is one example… every year I say I’ll dance more as it is something that really lifts my spirits, but I never seem to do it. But if I put on some funky tunes while I do the dishes then it might just work… I just can’t help but shake this booty when it’s all about that bass!
8. BE IN THE MOMENT
This will be my hardest challenge. If anyone had to ever spend more than a few moments in my head (*shudder) they would agree. But time (there it is again) is moving quickly and my babies are growing fast. I have so much in life to be grateful for, I just want to take the time to enjoy what I do have, when I have it.
It just so happens that my other half trains people in mindfulness meditation… I think it is about time I tap that resource and find out what it is really all about! This time next year I could be a whole lot more zen baby!
9. FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY
Corny I know but we all succumb to self doubt, right? Some more than others, maybe. It has certainly been knocking on my door of late; but I have some new ideas for Science Wows … some big plans for 2015 and although they fill me with both fear and excitement I am determined to give them a shot. I’m ready to dive right in and hopefully when I look back at the end of the year I will have reached the shore.
10. TURN IT AROUND
We all have traits within ourselves that are perhaps not the kind we like to brag about. I have come to acknowledge and accept mine (or most of them). It seems they are not for shifting, so instead I am planning to use them to my advantage. I am planning to put my pig headed (teeth gritting) stubbornness to good use… and call it tenacity. Last year I used it to increase my fitness, change my diet and even slim my waist a little. I may have slipped off that wagon but knowing I have the tenacity to do it makes me look forward to taking on the same challenge in 2015.
I also have a bit of a hang up with anything to do with numbers. Getting those five a day into my kids used to literally keep me awake at night. If I don’t keep myself in check then blog stat watching can get to obsessive levels. This year I am planning on using this numerical OCD to my advantage, by tracking my daily activity. Another nifty present I received over the festive season will hopefully allow me monitor movement, activity, sleep and all that jazz. Once I can get some numerical feedback there will be no stopping me… with daily, and even hourly targets to set myself I can change my figure while watching the figures (sorry couldn’t resist that one).
This post is part of another linky… a great idea from the wonderful Busy Mama blog with the theme of Imagining the New Year. Click on the image below to see what other people have in mind for 2015… well worth a look.
This time last year I was deciding whether to continue blogging, or not, and now another year has gone by and I am so glad with my decision. This year blogging has really become a way of life, an integral part of me; when I lived in France (sooo many years ago) I knew I had made a leap in learning the language when I started thinking in French. I felt the same way this year about blogging, I realised I was ‘thinking in blogs‘.
So, time to reflect on my second year of blogging and what better way than to take in the 14 from ’14 blog linky by the wonderful Sadhbh from Where wishes come from blog. It has been a good year, here is the journey…
The Science of Imagination – is it more important than knowledge?… you only have to watch children at play to observe the wonder of imagination. It is a subject that fascinates me, especially since I became a mother. This post was in my head for a long time and finally I got to put it all together in once post. I was happy with the results and the response from others too.
Three little words… sometimes the blog acts as a diary of important moments and events. Writing them here I have somewhere safe to store these memories. This is just one simple example.
3. FAVOURITE PHOTO
They say a picture tells a thousand words and to me this picture says it all; the people I love in a place I love during a wonderful and memorable family day out this Summer. It was included in a post where I let the pictures speak for themselves.
4. BEST ADVENTURE
This year we were very lucky to go to the Carlow walking festival as part of a blogging tour set up by Green and Vibrant. It was such a great experience it required two posts to cover it all… as we got to go on a canoeing safari and a family cycling trip, all in one weekend.
5. FAVOURITE EXPERIMENT
We had so much fun in the Science Wows house this year creating and testing experiments to share on the blog. Most of them are found on the Fun Friday spot; Again it was hard to pick just one so here are my top three from 2014…
I was not even sure this one would work but as I was set the challenge by Dee Sewell from Greenside Up I had to have a go and was really pleased with the results!
At Halloween we decided we wanted to make our own glow in the dark slime, we were all delighted with how our recipe worked and it has been a big hit with children and adults alike! It was great to receive photos and message from people who had tried this one out with their children too!
We had a real laugh with this one… especially when I offered it up for dinner in the Science Wows house!
6. MOST COMMON THEME
There have been some unusual search terms that lead people to my blog… here are my three favourites from this year…
“How many hugs a day do you need to survive?” – I really love how important hugs are to that person, literally life or death, I like the way they are thinking! I suspect this was the post they found.
“Maggot hair rabbit extraction“… I have absolutely no idea what that search term means nor do I know which post it lead to!
“Goblin juice density” … I imagine that search arrived here but unfortunately there was no recipes for Goblin juice to be found, even worse, no reference to its density!
7. FAVOURITE COMMENTS
I am sooo delighted when I see a comment pop up on my blog so a huge thank you to everyone who has commented this year! Some of my blogging highlights include a number of articles for The Journal; It was a great experience for me but as always, when you put yourself out into a bigger domain you open to all kinds of comments. For the most part I was lucky with the comments I received. My favourite comments were in response to this article on appreciating the simple moments in life!
The post on the blog that received the most comments was this one, part of Learner Mama’s blog linky on lessons of parenthood!
8. BEST MOVE
There were BIG moves for Science Wows this year… in February I moved the blog from blogger to Word Press, and amalgamated it with the Science Wows website as well. It was definitely a good move, but took a lot of time to get used to!
9. FAVOURITE CHANGES TO THE BLOG
Apart from the BIG change to Word Press there were other changes around here. A new character arrived on the scene in June, the every-geeky Dr. Simple was created to answer a science question in just 30 seconds. I was delighted with the very positive response he received and plan on having him around a lot more in 2015!
I also created a “school corner” on the blog; although I had a good idea of how I wanted it to look it took a good bit of tweaking to create what I had in mind. I love a good challenge and am very pleased with the end result.
10. BEST BLOG MOMENT
There were many but top of the list was probably making it to the finals of the Blog Awards Ireland, in the Education Category and attending the awards in Clane in October. I got to meet up with many bloggers I had previously only know virtually.It was a great night and a great blog high to get that far!
This year something I wrote got a mention on Ryan Tubridy and lead to an on line interview on The Spin 103.8 radio. I even had five seconds of fame with a tv appearance on RTE junior during Science Week.
11. MOST BIZZARE BLOGGING MOMENT
As I mentioned, there were radio interviews and a tv appearance for me this year, leading to the most bizzare blog related moment in 2014. The radio interview with The Spin 103.8 was conducted by phone from Mallorca and required me to literally hang out of a top floor window in order to get a good mobile reception;
12. FAVOURITE TITLE
I do not come up with the most creative of blog titles but perhaps a favourite is “Like the scientists on da telly” a tongue-in-cheek look at the reality of life in a lab compared to how it is portrayed on tv.
13. FAVOURITE INFOGRAPHIC
The great thing about the blog is that it has reintroduced me to another hobby of mine, graphics and design. I had great fun designing logos and layouts and creating Dr. How and Dr. Simple. This year I have dipped my toe into the world of infographics. Nothing too big or complex but enough to light up my creative side. I hope to expand on this in 2015 but my favourite so far is this one… “Should we be burning plastic? That is the burning question!”
14. WHAT MY BLOG DID FOR ME IN 2014
When I look back over this year of blogging I am really happy with what I see. The new blog design and format are still a work in progress but I am pleased with the way the blog is developing. Writing for The Journal and talking on the radio are certainly nice achievements from my second year of blogging. For me though, the best thing about the blog is the people it has introduced me to; this year I got to meet some virtual friends “in the flesh” and they were even more lovely than I imagined. That it is why I love getting comments and interactions through the blog, either directly here, or through social media. It makes the experience of blogging more interactive, more alive and more human.
So thank you all for your support, encouragement, questions and comments through 2014… without you all this blog would just be words on a page. Your support and interaction give my words a new dimension and this year I hope I get to meet even more of my virtual friends.
I wish you all a happy, healthy and fulfilling 2015!
This post is part of a blog linky hosted by Where Wishes come from, one of my favourite blogs by a very creative lady! There are many great 14 from ’14 posts included in the linky, just click on the image below to check them out… that’s my new year’s day reading sorted 🙂