Happy Tracks in the Snow

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And she’s back… July 13, 2008

Filed under: General — paulabrown @ 9:05 pm

Above Glastonbury…

The blog is back and what a long 4 months it’s been. We went to Spain in April and climbing a mountain and lived there for a few days in a yurt (the kids loved it though Jude kept asking where the bath / TV / toys were – honestly what a City Boy). We visited my parents which was great, lots of beach time and reading and kids mooching about.

We’ve relaunched the Bristol Storytelling Cafe night at La Ruca which has been great, lots of opportunity to practice stories which are coming along nicely for both adults and kids. We did a fundraising night for the Precious Drops (breast milk bank for neonatal babies) – stories and music which was great and of course the Pirate Convention which was a jigging, sea shanty singing, ale swishing kind of night with spectacular costumes and a great pirate punk band, the Surfin’ Turnips. Loads of storytelling project ideas on the go too…

The kids are great and coming to the end of Reception and pre-preschool year. We went to Glastonbury which they loved and did Tatty Bumpkin sessions there, we attempted to go to Sunrise but got towed out by a tractor through the mud :o(. Tatty Bumpkin has gone from strength to strength but more of that anon. Nige is doing some environmental play ranger work which he’s enjoying.


Quote of the week… May 9, 2008

Filed under: General — paulabrown @ 8:59 am

“Do not follow where the path leads, Rather go where there is no path, and leave a trail.”


Happiness January 25, 2008

Filed under: General — paulabrown @ 9:29 am


You may have read in the papers this week that Dr Arnall of the University of Cardiff devised a way of calculating the most depressing day of the year using 7 variables significant to our feelings of wellbeing:

  1. weather
  2. debt
  3. monthly salary
  4. time since Christmas
  5. time since failed quit event (about setting unreasonble goals then feeling awful for failing)
  6. motivational levels and
  7. need to take action.

He calculated the point at which they all coincided and it was January 24th, so luckily it’s over and done with and we can move on.

I’ve recently re-read a book called Happiness, Lessons from a New Science which basically tries to answer questions about what makes us happy from a largely economic point of view but also looking at philosophy as well (with Jeremy Bentham featuring highly).

Anyway the nub of it all is that while poverty should not be glamorised, once we reach a certain level of income (and not that much), studies show that our happiness plateaus and even decreases with very high levels of income. It all makes sense really. In Bhutan, instead of measuring GDP (which they point out would be quite depressing) they measure levels of happiness to measure progress. He then goes on to propose higher taxes because it would discourage working long hours and spread the happiness around. Aaah.

These are the 7 (oh it’s an auspicious number that number 7, as the Chinese will tell you) major factors affecting happiness:

  1. family relationships (particularly marital status and quality of the relationship)
  2. financial situation (remembering that it seems you don’t have to be too much past the breadline before happiness levels increase markedly)
  3. work (preferably meaningful and where you can see your value)
  4. community and friends (involvement in groups, closeness to friends)
  5. health
  6. personal freedom
  7. personal values (including religion or subscription to a philosophy or spiritual system)

He invites us to consider how we would rate ourselves from 1-5 on the above and qualifies that you by no means have to have all of these factors going on for you as this is unlikely. And don’t forget, as Lisa Simpson always said “as intelligence goes up, happiness often goes down

How would you score?



Saggy Mattresses January 7, 2008

Filed under: General — paulabrown @ 10:18 pm


So I feel like the proverbial Princess and the Pea, or maybe more like an old lady. I’m constantly stiff and my back is shot through, not great for a children’s yoga teacher! I thought it might be the kids coming in in the night / morning and sleeping in strange positions then I noticed the mattress…  Bearing up under pregnancies of two enormous boys I realised there is a dip in the bed which doesn’t seem to disappear however much you turn it. Anyway, just thought I’d share the state of my bed with you so that you might check that your own mattress is doing what it should…


Sleep… November 18, 2007

Filed under: General,parenting articles — paulabrown @ 1:29 pm

So when Gabe, my elder son, was little I went through about 3 weeks of around 1 hr sleep a night and couldn’t manage to get him to sleep long enough in the day to catch up. I was desperate, I fantasised about sleep all the time, when I watch programmes that featured people getting into bed I would start weeping, I even googled how long you could sleep without dying. We’ve all been there but here are some great facts about sleep…


The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.

It’s impossible to tell if someone is really awake without close medical supervision. People can take cat naps with their eyes open without even being aware of it.

Anything less than five minutes to fall asleep at night means you’re sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you’re still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy by day.

A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours lost sleep for parents in the first year

One of the best predictors of insomnia later in life is the development of bad habits from having sleep disturbed by young children.

The continuous brain recordings that led to the discovery of REM (rapid eye-movement) sleep were not done until 1953, partly because the scientists involved were concerned about wasting paper.

REM sleep occurs in bursts totalling about 2 hours a night, usually beginning about 90 minutes after falling asleep.

Dreams, once thought to occur only during REM sleep, also occur (but to a lesser extent) in non-REM sleep phases. It’s possible there may not be a single moment of our sleep when we are actually dreamless.

REM dreams are characterised by bizarre plots, but non-REM dreams are repetitive and thought-like, with little imagery – obsessively returning to a suspicion you left your mobile phone somewhere, for example.

Certain types of eye movements during REM sleep correspond to specific movements in dreams, suggesting at least part of the dreaming process is analagous to watching a film

No-one knows for sure if other species dream but some do have sleep cycles similar to humans.

Elephants sleep standing up during non-REM sleep, but lie down for REM sleep.

Some scientists believe we dream to fix experiences in long-term memory, that is, we dream about things worth remembering. Others reckon we dream about things worth forgetting – to eliminate overlapping memories that would otherwise clog up our brains.

Dreams may not serve any purpose at all but be merely a meaningless byproduct of two evolutionary adaptations – sleep and consciousness.

REM sleep may help developing brains mature. Premature babies have 75 per cent REM sleep, 10 per cent more than full-term bubs. Similarly, a newborn kitten puppy rat or hampster experiences only REM sleep, while a newborn guinea pig (which is much more developed at birth) has almost no REM sleep at all.

Scientists have not been able to explain a 1998 study showing a bright light shone on the backs of human knees can reset the brain’s sleep-wake clock.

British Ministry of Defence researchers have been able to reset soldiers’ body clocks so they can go without sleep for up to 36 hrs. Tiny optical fibres embedded in special spectacles project a ring of bright white light (with a spectrum identical to a sunrise) around the edge of soldiers’ retinas, fooling them into thinking they have just woken up. The system was first used on US pilots during the bombing of Kosovo.

Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%.

– The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear accident have all been attributed to human errors in which sleep-deprivation played a role.

The NRMA estimates fatigue is involved in one in 6 fatal road accidents.

Exposure to noise at night can suppress immune function even if the sleeper doesn’t wake. Unfamiliar noise, and noise during the first and last two hours of sleep, has the greatest disruptive effect on the sleep cycle.

The “natural alarm clock” which enables some people to wake up more or less when they want to is caused by a burst of the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin. Researchers say this reflects an unconscious anticipation of the stress of waking up.

Some sleeping tablets, such as barbiturates suppress REM sleep, which can be harmful over a long period.

In insomnia following bereavement, sleeping pills can disrupt grieving.

Tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you do not fully wake. The light turns off a “neural switch” in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes.

To drop off we must cool off; body temperature and the brain’s sleep-wake cycle are closely linked. That’s why hot summer nights can cause a restless sleep. The blood flow mechanism that transfers core body heat to the skin works best between 18 and 30 degrees. But later in life, the comfort zone shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees – one reason why older people have more sleep disorders.

A night on the grog will help you get to sleep but it will be a light slumber and you won’t dream much.

After five nights of partial sleep deprivation, three drinks will have the same effect on your body as six would when you’ve slept enough.

Humans sleep on average around three hours less than other primates like chimps, rhesus monkeys, squirrel monkeys and baboons, all of whom sleep for 10 hours.

Ducks at risk of attack by predators are able to balance the need for sleep and survival, keeping one half of the brain awake while the other slips into sleep mode.

Ten per cent of snorers have sleep apnoea, a disorder which causes sufferers to stop breathing up to 300 times a night and significantly increases the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Snoring occurs only in non-REM sleep

Teenagers need as much sleep as small children (about 10 hrs) while those over 65 need the least of all (about six hours). For the average adult aged 25-55, eight hours is considered optimal

Some studies suggest women need up to an hour’s extra sleep a night compared to men, and not getting it may be one reason women are much more susceptible to depression than men.

Feeling tired can feel normal after a short time. Those deliberately deprived of sleep for research initially noticed greatly the effects on their alertness, mood and physical performance, but the awareness dropped off after the first few days.

Diaries from the pre-electric-light-globe Victorian era show adults slept nine to 10 hours a night with periods of rest changing with the seasons in line with sunrise and sunsets.

Most of what we know about sleep we’ve learned in the past 25 years.

As a group, 18 to 24 year-olds deprived of sleep suffer more from impaired performance than older adults.

Experts say one of the most alluring sleep distractions is the 24-hour accessibility of the internet.

The extra-hour of sleep received when clocks are put back at the start of daylight in Canada has been found to coincide with a fall in the number of road accidents.


Women October 5, 2007

Filed under: General,parenting articles — paulabrown @ 10:05 pm

Ok, so I was one of those girls that suffered my fair share of girls’ bitchiness, I probably gave my fair share but I’ve edited that bit out of my memory. For a while I chose male friends, particularly at university, for just this reason and when friends with girls talk of falling out and best friend’s heirarchy lists, a shudder goes down my spine.

But we’ve all come of age now and I can’t fault women of (roughly) my age for enduring support, both moral and actual. I’ve found while running a business that women are fantastic networkers and so many people will help, knowing that co-operation is always better than competing. Women are also a huge support in marriage, for those moments when it’s not going quite as perfectly as it should… Indeed many counsellors and psychiatrists would say that the best marriages are supported by good friends…

I know several successful businessmen who agree that women are far superior when it comes to networking type businesses and that ultimately when business people support each other the whole sector wins, even when supposedly-competing companies collude. It’s the same with mums at school, mums with new babies and generally women at work.

It’s beautiful and I’d like to take a moment to salute any reading this!


How to save money as a parent September 6, 2007

Filed under: General,parenting articles,Uncategorized — paulabrown @ 9:09 pm


This was in response to some great tips from Little Mummy‘s post about making one income work for a family:
– charity shop charity shop charity shop – posh ones are best but can sometimes be pricey – my kids say ‘can we have a toy today mummy? From the charity shop?’ bless their little hearts!

– use the sale rule – never buy anything in the sale you wouldn’t pay full price for, it means you don’t really want / need it

– good hearty food doesn’t need to be expensive, jacket spuds cheaper and better than oven chips etc etc

– swap with equally broke friends – babysitting, book swaps, meal swaps (can feel like night out if a friend cooks for you), clothes swaps

– there are millions of websites about free days out in your area and ALWAYS take lunch, s nax and drinks with you, you’ll spend a fortune otherwise

-camping can be one of the cheapest and most fun family holidays or if you like festivals, offer to do some kid’s entertainment in exchange for tickets

– buy ‘Self Reliance, A Recipe for the New Milennium’ if you’re really serious about practical and also crazy ways of saving money, growing food, joining wholefood co-ops, buying in bulk, swapping, making, reusing etc