Tuesday 29 March 2011

Put the pancreas aside and let's talk Spleen

And specifically Spleen Qi Deficiency.

Have I put you off already with the weird Qi word?

I hope not.

I hope you know me well enough by now, some of you at least, to know that I love good food. I'm not a great believer in faddy food trends but rather favour well-made food with real ingredients.

So, I am not about to get all weird on you all.

Let me tell you the story ...


I am a MamaPancreas called Jules.

I am a good pancreas and do a great job but I am tired.

Always longing for just a bit more sleep; not much, just a bit MORE than I am getting.

Since Frank started pumping insulin I and my sidekick Andrew have been doing more BG tests than ever and have been testing at 10pm, 12 midnight and 2:30 for around six weeks.

Those times make it hard to get sleep in between and have both tended to stay up until midnight every night.

This shouldn't be too bad but I was feeling really tired.

More than usual.

Add to this the general waking up suddenly every morning with a four and a half year old landing on me like an eagle swooping down on its prey, and the subsequent long days of mamalife.

I felt like I was walking through treacle.

Wading through life.

I hadn't expected to be skipping exactly but less backward drag in the heavy feeling legs and arms would be good.

So I decided to take restorative action and eat lots more salad and make green smoothies and pink smoothies, and eat raw food as much as possible.

You see I have a soft spot for craft blogs, and all these amazing women with their Waldorf children who wake up singing and bake bread together whistling and never watch TV, were drinking green smoothies and bleating on about how great they felt.

I swallowed this, wanted the light feelings and was dazzled by the idea, the mere smidgen of the idea of being LESS BLEEDIN' TIRED!

For the last three or four weeks I have included lots and lots of smoothies in my diet, lots of salads, lots of raw things.

OK, I still craved milk chocolate and gave into those cravings sometimes and I have been eating bread a lot too, to the exclusion of other starches, but let's be clear: I have been eating lots of salads and loads of fruit.


Then came last Thursday.

My sometimes day to do my own thing.

The day when heroic hubby sometimes steps in for me to do my own thing.

After a fruit and yoghurt breakfast I drove joyfully out to meet my Knit&Natter group at the tea room at the Tiptree jam factory, knitted sitting in the sun, nattered and then left bang on time to drive home as I knew I'd have lunch alone.

A huge salad and a green smoothie were made.

Spinach and oranges and red onions and pine nuts and cucumber and feta cheese were in the salad.

Mango and banana and apple and more spinach were in the smoothie.

I ate the lot whilst sitting on the bench in the garden in the sun.


I felt smug.

I was treating my body well.

I would feel so much better soon.


Cut to eight fifteen that evening and I was putting Frank to bed.

He is in his little wooden bed next to my big one and as he drifts off playing alphabet games with me I felt more weary than ever in my life.

My very bones felt tired.

I was face down on the double bed slurring my words Frank fell asleep and I slept too.

This is sometimes normal, this falling asleep with one's child, but believe me when I say this felt different.

There was no feeling of "I'll just have a nap".

I was pole-axed.

I woke at 9:45 just in time to do the ten o'clock test.

And then my tongue felt sore.

It felt really tender. So I stuck it out at myself in the mirror and saw a tongue but with these weird teeth marks, like scallops, down the edges.

Weird, maybe it's a sign of tiredness, I thought, and padded over to the laptop to look it up.


Ah me, I know what you're probably thinking.

The Internet.

Don't go on the internet for medical stuff. It will overload you.

Well, it didn't.

I was fine but I did startle my husband by laughing and snorting madly for long minutes at a time.


A tongue with indentations down the side is, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a sign of Spleen Qi Deficiency.

Fair enough, "But what does that even mean?" I hear you cry!

Here it is (and I am only kind of summarising what I have found out after a week on line, I am no expert in this):

In TCM Spleen Qi Deficiency can develop when a person is or has been stressed for a long time, is not rested sufficiently and has extensive worries either real or imagined.

Sound familiar?

It is a result of the body's resources becoming drained and of "dampness" and "coldness" and foods that create damp and cold in the body (as viewed by TCM) being consumed in large amounts.

Symptoms can include tiredness, heavy limbs, weight gain, sore tongue with indentations, weak muscles and thus sometimes prolapses and hernias.

Foods that worsen this condition were listed on quite few sites and they were ALL, without exception, the foods I had been eating and had been increasing in my diet:

Raw foods, salads, iced drinks, smoothies, cold water, wheat based bread.

I kept laughing because even the bloody pine nuts were mentioned!

EVERYTHING, absolutely EVERYTHING, I had consumed that day had wiped me out.

The theory is that cold and raw foods take extra energy for the body to process them as they have to be heated by the body to body temperature before it can extract the goodness from them.

I had always thought raw was always always preferable to cooked.

It seems not in certain cases, such as mine.

I would have loved to be cynical here but what I had eaten and how awful I was feeling just slotted into place.

By chance I hadn't eaten Spleen supporting foods but had eaten Spleen depleting foods.

To the letter.

It was a strange experience reading those papers and visiting those sites and seeing that maybe I wasn't so bad at no sleep as I'd thought.

Maybe nurturing my Spleen Qi would be of benefit because I'm not up for buying supplements or tonics when good food and some sleep and exercise should be good for all of us, right?

The next morning I began eating more cooked and warm foods:

oatmeal and maple syrup, rice cooked with milk and cinnamon, rye toast and honey, stewed apples or pears with maple syrup for breakfasts.

Soups and stews, and herbal teas like ginger tea for lunches.

More soups and stews, warm stir fries and sweet potatoes baked in their jackets for dinner.

Sweetness is needed and natural sweet flavours like maple syrup and dates and figs are good for this Spleen Qi Deficiency apparently.

Eating these has helped my chocolate cravings be less strident.

I am eating hardly any raw foods.

Just for a while, almost as an experiment.

It feels quite maverick in contrast to the raw foods, green smoothie, spring cleansing blogs I'm reading.

And the verdict?

After a full-on weekend and a really massively busy week this week so far and continuing until the weekend (hubby working two jobs this week, Frank out for the count with a fever today, Jack coming to sand the floor in the dining room on Thursday so it has to emptied etc etc - ie.LIFE!)?

The jury is out long term but in the short term I am feeling so much less tired.

I promise you I am sleeping no more at all but just feel normally tired rather than pathologically exhausted.

I know nothing really about Traditional Chinese Medicine and its recommendations but I am going to look more into it.


Here are some links :

I was going to ask you to let me know what you think, but I reckon you'll do that anyway!

Sunday 27 March 2011

This was the week that ...

...saw such wonderful Spring weather that we found loads of ladybirds sunning themselves in the garden and couldn't resist letting them crawl over our hands (I was secretly daring this one to try to nip Frank's finger! He has such tough fingers the ladybird would probably hurt itself more trying!!). ... saw us drinking green smoothies, although, to be honest this has now stopped. Frank objected to the colour, Andrew wasn't fussed and I am avoiding raw food for while (more on that soon).
... saw me completing my Reiki II course and loving it. (Thanks Meg, Lisa and Liz!)

... saw Frank and I planting garlic, and masses of it, in the garden. There will be no vampires on this side of town!

... saw Andrew and I planning a camping trip to Devon. Cream teas! Oh yes!

... saw me so tired that I could barely function. I need to sleep ... but wait a moment, maybe sleep isn't what I need (more on this later in the week)

... saw me changing Franks pump alone (twice!) and Frank not crying but looking at me and saying, "It didn't even hurt".

It has been a busy week full of activity and joy.

The house is neglected as is only good and proper during a week of such balmy temperatures that we have been outside most of the time.

Frank's BGs have been understandable rather than random and long may that continue.

All is busy but well on Muffinmoon Mountain.

Goodnight all!

Back soon (I won't leave it a week this time).

Sunday 20 March 2011

the art of living cheerfully

~ one hundred gratitudes ~

#18 : Walking the Cornish Coastal path and seeing the Bedruthan Steps with my love.

Around every headland was more and more beauty. We were surrounded by it. Fresh air, chatting to my love about everything and nothing and feeling like my life was in proportion and balance next to all this natural beauty.


A couple of weeks ago I signed up for an e.course called "the art of living cheerfully".

It began today.

I haven't been feeling especially miserable but rather that there are possibilities in life that Frank's diagnosis and the consequent white noise put out of my head.

I have been feeling ready for a small new project.

To spend some time allowing myself to dream and be grateful and seek out the joy every day felt like just what I should be doing right now.

I would like to share a little of the content with you all as the weeks of the course go by.

What attracted me to the course, aside from loving the idea of a project of a creative nature just for me, was Maddie's use of the word "cheerful".

She wasn't promising happiness or a state of Nirvana but a chance to be active in being cheerful.

One of the first exercises is to list one hundred things for which we are grateful.


From the past and present, situations and people, experiences and places ... one hundred.

And I am also to write about why I am grateful for these things.

And that is where the joy will start flying about, I think!

Really focusing on why I am grateful for these things will drag them squarely into the forefront of my brain and make the feelings of experiencing them come back.

How bloody cheerful am I going to be doing this?!!

I am already thinking of Cornwall and those blue waters.
And I am smiling...

What are you grateful for?

Friday 18 March 2011

Meaningful Numbers

A hospital visit yesterday.
A number.
A meaningful number.
Yeah, baby!
P.S. Look at those mad eyelashes!
Back soon.
Just getting a bit more sleep and spending less time on the computer this week.
It was needed.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

My Love the Poet # 2

A week ago saw us at SlackSpace in Colchester for a national evening called The Big Book Bang as part of World Book Night.
Andrew was performing as his alter ego Fred Slattern, Colchester's Slum Poet!
For once Frank was allowed out in the evening and was very excited to come with me to watch Andrew and others perform. When a little music was played Frank did a bit of dancing.

And at one point, I swear, he even channelled Reyna!

The poems were well received and everyone smiled when Andrew took to the stage for the second time with a four and a half year old attached to his leg!
It was a proud evening for me.
Fred Slattern will be appearing this coming Saturday morning at SlackSpace in a day-long event to raise funds for relief in Japan.
Maybe we'll see you there?

Friday 11 March 2011


Same place as last year, same scarf (must get a new one!) same face.
Just a few more lines but I don't mind that.
Getting older rocks!

Sev arrives home this evening for just 24 hours.
We will be quietly celebrating with honey cake.
I wish you all a very happy weekend and hope that you and yours are safe.
My thoughts and love are sent out to all in Japan and all who have family and friends there.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Armenian Soup

This recipe is from my oldest and most favourite cookbook : The Cranks Recipe Book by David Canter, Kay Canter and Daphne Swan.
My copy is from 1982!
As I said it's my first cookbook.
Cranks was a wholefood cafe and restaurant in Covent Garden in London for a long time.
It was not fashionable for a long time either.
The food was wholewheat and in most cases brown and a bit of a shock for most people's palates.
But for me, brought up in a family where white flour and processed food are kings it was a revelation.
I spent my pocket money as a teenager buying vegetables and tofu and wholewheat flour. We weren't well off and my parents didn't want to buy food they considered weird and scary.
I was the first to bring an onion into the house!
And a mushroom!
This book revolutionised what food I ate and taught me how to cook.
There are few pictures and so I learnt to not worry about how it was supposed to look and let myself learn from what came out.
Armenian Soup
red lentils, rinsed (100g)
dried apricots, unsulphured if poss (100g)
2 large potatoes
vegetable stock (around 2-3 pints) - his needs judging by your own preference of thin or gloopy
lemon, juice of one
ground cumin (2tsp)
parsley, chopped (6tbsp) - I often don't have fresh parsley and so just leave it out, it's still fine
salt & pepper to taste
Place lentils and apricots in a large pan.
Roughly chop the spud and add to the pan with the remaining ingredients.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for around 30 minutes, checking regularly that the lentils aren't soaking up all the stock and making it all burn (I speak from experience! Do not take a bath and leave this soup cooking).
Add more hot water or stock if so.
Allow to cool and blend until smooth.
Reheat to serving temperature and adjust seasoning to taste.
Serves 4-6
This freezes well and is fine left for a day in the fridge, although you will need to add more water as it thickens too.
I love it.
Mr Muffinmoon loves it.
My Knit & Natter group love it.
Frank falls to the floor clutching his throat and gagging at the mere sight of any soup.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

My Funky Tent

Thanks for all your kind comments on my last post.
I was glad to be welcomed back by such an esteemed group of people!
A couple of days ago there was a knock at the door and we took delivery of this beauty.

My birthday present from Mr Muffinmoon: a beautiful, funky bell tent.
I have always loved the style of these tents and my sister and her partner have one, which we stayed in once when on their farm.
I have no pictures of the inside yet as I want to take lots when we are actually using it and it's full of sheepskins and blankets and cushions, but inside is one open space with the tent pole in the middle.
I love the natural material.

Even the mallet is wooden and these cool tent pegs are so natural and rough that they look like Hagrid whittled them in a free period from teaching at Hogwarts!
I love them.
Is it insane to love a tent peg?
Hmmm... maybe ...

And this past weekend we erected the tent, Mr Muffinmoon being unable to not make comments about large erections, and watered it well. This, you understand, is not to make it grow into a bigger tent or bear tenty fruit but to enable the fibres to swell with the water and then as they dry the whole thing becomes water proof.
For you knitters out there it is blocking for tents.
This is England.
On our first camping trip with it I will find out whether that has worked or not!
It will rain at some point, indeed possibly at all points.
For the moment it sits in the garden, weathering, much like I lie next to my boy every night, weathering these first few weeks of life with Lucky Pump.
Tomorrow I have to change the pump site all alone as Mr Muffinmoon will be out late earning a crust (his job is safe for a few more months, by the way!).
And tomorrow I'll give you the soup recipe.
Blogging every day.
What the ...
I seem to be an all or nothin' kind of gal at the moment.
Ah, well, so ist das Leben.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Shrove Tuesday

So, ahem, more than a week has slipped by with me not finding time to post.
I will attempt to address the balance by posting more regularly for the next few days.
We are doing fine.
Lucky Pump is ticking over and we even managed to do a site change with no tears on Frank's part.
I cried though.
I spend the day of set change building up to it and get in a bit of a state at the moment, but I recall doing that with the injections and it got easier.
It's Shrove Tuesday today, aka Pancake Day, and Frank is (I'm almost scared to jinx it all by writing it) showing more interest in a variety of foods so we went for pancakes for dessert this evening.
Andrew is great at tossing the pancakes in the pan and he and Frank did that together.

Then they were enjoyed with a little muscovado sugar and lemon juice.

Frank ate two and declared them "really yummy".
I was proud of him as his usual response to an offer of an undesirable food is to make barfing noises and fall to the floor clutching his throat.
I then reply with withering sarcasm, "A simple "No thanks Mummy" would suffice Frank".
And on we roll.
Back soon with tales of my new tent (a birthday gift) and a recipe for the soup we've been going mad for for the past month.
Happy Tuesday, friends.