Monday, 30 December 2013

Little Owl @ 20 months

20 months!  Doesn't that sound all so grown up!  A very dear friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby boy this month and its just made me realise how far Little Owl has come from those hazy new born days, she's definitely not a baby anymore!

After bobbing up and down for a few weeks, I'm pretty sure all four canines have finally broken through!
Signs and Speech
Little Owl's communication is coming on brilliantly.  When she first started signing, it was all about immediate wants, it then moved on to things she was observing such as passing seagulls and dogs.  But now it has progressed onto her telling me about things that have happened in the past.  A couple of weeks ago I got home from work and she couldn't wait to tell me that Granddad had been to visit, that the cats were outside and that she had eaten all the snacks in her pot!
What's new?
Little Owl is down to 4 floats at swimming!!!  However, she is struggling a bit with that so I don't see us dropping any more any time soon, especially with the Christmas break but hopefully we will be swimming daily in India so we can catch up!

Little Owl has also started reacting to CBeebies - she'll get up and dance when they play the music in Show Me Show Me and even copies the moves on Carrie and David's Pop Shop!

Finally, Little Owl is getting better control of her fork and insists on holding a knife too, pointing the tip of it to the food her fork is on - it looks like she is using it properly but she doesn't understand that we cut with it!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Knitting Fridays

So here's my last knitting post of the year and I really hoped to have a finished jumper to show off but I'm afraid an Angel costume got in the way of those plans.
I managed to get the final sleeve finished before the Angel crisis hit and my mother-in-law translated the finishing instructions for me - it was only then that I spotted the instructions in English were on the next page!  I had thought they were for the next pattern, but once I knew the translation I realised they were for this jumper!
The instructions said I had to pick up the stitches at the neck with the dark green wool but then purl the first row in the orange.  I had only ever picked up stitches before by kinda tugging at the knitting and creating loops but seeing as I had to pick them up in a different colour I figured that this wasn't the 'proper' way of doing things! 
I dug out my knitters handbook, looked at the various methods (none of which included 'kinda tugging') and decided on using the crochet hook method where I poked the hook through the knitting and pulled the dark green wool back through and then threading it onto a knitting needle.  The neck was then knitted on a round needle which I quite enjoyed and was ever so excited when it was finished and I could cast off.
IT DOESN'T FIT OVER HER HEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So near and yet so far... could cry but I am so tired, I must admit I swore... maybe next week eh?

My little angel

Twas' the night before Christmas, well, not quite, it was actually the Sunday before Christmas and I was doing some last shopping of presents before the next day of wrapping, when I received a text from Papa Owl telling me that Little Owl needed an Angel costume for Christmas Eve!
I'd love to say that by the 22nd December everything was ready for Christmas, that by Christmas Eve I could spend the day watching Christmas movies, but I had suspicions I would be up to the wee hours finishing off the last little bits.  I'd love to say I was the type of mum that could just whip up a costume in the beat of a heart, but I fear I more like my own mother where this sort of crisis is best solved by spending money on a costume someone else has made!
But it just so happened that I was in a shop that sold, well, everything, or nearly everything.  I had a hunt about and found their Christmas costumes - a snowman and a Christmas tree... wasn't sure how well that would go down in a church nativity... so what I bought instead was a metre of white satin and a ball of wool that looked like tinsel but was much softer.  I also happened to bump into a friend who when I explained my crisis, sketched a little diagram on a bit of paper for me.
A year ago, when Papa Owl gave me a sewing machine, I had never ever used one.  I've had a few lessons at The Owl and Sewing Cat this year, and have made a few cushions single handed too.  But clothing... this is way beyond me!
Now I'm sure anyone with any experience can look at this and tell me where I went wrong, and I can see now that it was just too tight across the chest, so I ended up undoing it under the arms.  The wool needed finger knitting it to make it thick enough but with wings borrowed from another friend, in the end I was delighted with the result!
Little Owl loved her first nativity!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Knitting Fridays

Don't you hate it when Christmas shopping gets in the way of knitting?!!!  I am a committed internet shopper, which means its an evening task for when Little Owl is in bed.  I only started my shopping on Monday and with a carol service on Wednesday evening, there hasn't been much time for knitting! 
So here is the second sleeve, not quite finished.  Am I going to reach my goal of completing this jumper by Christmas?  I feel so close but with a tree to decorate and presents to wrap I'm not feeling that confident! 
Oh, and a pattern still to translate...
So how is everyone else getting on?  If you take a peek over at Toby Goes Bananas you'll not only see a completed elf hat, but a rather cute Toby modelling it!
Don't forget to pop back next week to see if the jumper makes it under the tree!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

This time next month I will be in India!

Gosh - doesn't that sound close?  But with a week until the jolly red man drops down the chimney its really taken a back seat at the moment!

The important thing is that we now have our Indian Visas - actually, in the end I was really impressed with the service - I posted our passports off on the Tuesday and they were back in my hand on Saturday!

I've also started to gather a few little bits together that I want to take. 
I know what you are thinking... that's not a lot for 10 days away with a toddler huh? But these are a few bits that I don't want to forget!

The yellow packet contains disposable bibs that I got given as a freebie when Little Owl was small... I've never tried them as, well, I don't often use disposable nappies or wipes but I figured as I have them, then I might as well use them. 
Several people have recommended that I take plasters instead of stickers on the plane so Little Owl can stick and re-stick without getting them permanently stuck to the plane!
The earplugs I got for Bonfire as Little Owl refused to wear her ear defenders this year!  She seemed quite happy to have them in her ears so worth a go!
Finally my bling!  There will be one night where we put on our new saris (yup - going to buy another one) and dress up in our finest to enjoy a traditional Maharashtrian dinner.  This will be the first time I have visited India since I got married and am looking forward to being able to wear my Mangal Sutra.  My trefoil earrings are also for this evening, they don't come out often as they are very 'geeky girl guide' but they have fond memories for me, I bought them in Taxco, Mexico when I spent a summer volunteering at Our Cabana.

So um... that's it!  Think I'm going to be panic stations in the new year - particularly as I might have a new job or two!

But I've learnt the sign for gecko!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Shhhhhh.... she's sleeping!

I'm a bit nervous to type this... so come closer and I'll whisper...
Little Owl is sleeping all night!
Its not every night, but its happened enough to not be a one off...
Her best night was 13 hours - 7pm until 8am!  Although we're not actually sure what time she is waking because the real magical bit is that when she wakes in the morning, she plays with her toys in her cot instead of calling Mama Mama MAMA!!!
Little Owl did follow this mammoth sleepathon by waking the following night at 11pm and refusing to go back to sleep until gone 1, then up again at 5... so we're not out of the woods yet...
But there is, just a glimmer of hope on the horizon!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas Wreath

Christmas is slowly beginning to make an appearance in the Owl household... The decorations have come down from the loft, the tree has been bought, and a holly wreath has appeared on the front door thanks to Papa Owl!  He took some photos and has put together this guide to making your own wreath.

Stage 1  Cut yourself some leylandii and some holly from your garden.  It's good to get a mixture of ordinary and variegated holly to give some contrast in your wreath.  You will also need a wire florists ring, a ball of garden string, some florists red berries, florists wire, ribbon and a pair of secateurs.

Stage 2 Attach one end of your string to your wire ring.  Take a good handful of leylandii and tie it onto the ring.

Stage 3 Continue wrapping your first handful of leylandii until you there is about 4cm left.  Take another handful of leylandii, tuck the twiggy ends under your first bunch and carry on wrapping, keeping the string really nice and tight. 
Stage 4 Carry on doing this until you have completed your ring.  Tie the string off to the wire ring and cut.  Now take your secateurs and trim your wreath to get rid of any loose bits of leylandii sticking out.  Be careful not to cut your string.
Stage 5  Cut your holly into lengths of about 10cms at an angle.  You can now start to stick them into your wreath. 
Stage 6 Continue placing the various types of holly into your wreath, until you can no longer see the leylandii.  It is useful to look at your wreath from a distance to see how balanced it is.
Stage 7 It is best not to use natural holly berries as they can attract birds who will subsequently eat them and make a mess on your door!  The florists berries are easy to get hold of and don't lead to the same side effects!  Take a couple of berries and twist them together, wrap a piece of florists wire around them and use that to stick into the leylandii. 
Stage 8  Make yourself a bow with the ribbon.  There are many ways of doing this, let your imagination run free.  Again use the florists wire to attach to your wreath.
Stage 9  Make a loop out of the florists wire and attached to the back of your ring which can be used to hang your wreath from your door.

Many thanks to Papa Owl for kick starting our Christmas decorations off... really must get around to buying some presents soon!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Knitting Fridays

It feels like I have made loads of progress on the jumper this week. 
I finally untangled the great big knot that I had last week and have managed to complete a sleeve!
 And made a start on the second one!

It feels like the end is near... and so I glanced to the end of the pattern to see what was next and....


The sleeves are the last bit on there.

On the English version at least.

The other 3 languages have 'finishing' or 'assembling' instructions at the end... so part of the challenge this week is to translate the German, French and Dutch instructions to see how to finish the jumper!  Its not just a case of sewing it together, I will need to pick up stitches and knit on the neck... I have a pretty good idea from the picture in the pattern book but would rather know for sure!
I feel so near and yet so far!
So how are your knitting projects going this week?
Take a look on TobyGoesBananas to see if Sarah has managed to finish the elf hat in time!
Also joining in on the knitting fun is the lovely Kerrie from Wife, Mum, Student Bum who has been knitting scarves for her family... if only they didn't leave them at school!

If you are a blogger and have posted about a knitting project recently, leave a link below and I'll include you in next week's post!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Natural Sensory Play

Little Owl just loves to explore the outdoors and we are very lucky to have a park nearby with several sets of swings, large grass areas, a café, plenty of ponds and some great wooded areas too!
The leaves on the floor at this time of year are just great fun and we don't get to walk very far as Little Owl wants to stop and look at everything! 
 There were sticks...

 And plenty of leaves!
We took a small bag with us so Little Owl could take some of these things home.
Two days after our visit to the park, I gave Little Owl her bag of bits and let her explore.
 At first she took one leaf out at a time, looked at it then put it back in. 
The holly leaf caused a lot of interest!
 After a bit, Little Owl realised that she was only seeing the same leaves over and over,
and it was time to empty the bag properly!
 She had a great time exploring the different textures.
 Watching the leaves fall back to the table.
In the park, Little Owl is always distracted by the next thing she has spotted and so it was great to see her taking her time over all the items.
After Little Owl had finished, most of her collection went in the bin
but I kept a few interesting bits to come out again.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Brooklands Barn - Three Score Years and Ten

Recently my old man reached 70, an achievement we felt couldn't go unmarked and so the clan decided to gather!  My parents still live in the house where we grew up, which while plenty big enough for them, my two brothers and I, it doesn't have enough beds now we all have partners and there are four grand kids in tow. Oh, and not forgetting a dog!
So the search began to find somewhere that could house eight adults and four kids and that's when we came across Brooklands Barn.  It looked perfect, not only did it have more than enough beds - it even had a swimming pool! 
Brooklands Barn is located just outside Arundel in West Sussex.  The complex itself has 3 separate apartments which can be hired individually, the smallest of which would be perfect for a small family or even just a couple. We hired the larges apartment called the Barn and Greystones, one of the smaller apartments.
Papa Owl and I were the first to arrive, the sun had just set and it was a very cold November evening.  While delighted to see it was a traditional Sussex barn, I was worried that the large windows taking up a good proportion of the walls on either side, would mean it would be quite chill inside.  However, my fears were unfounded as the Barn was toasty warm when we entered!
The ground floor of the barn is a large open space which proved perfect for our family gathering.  The open plan kitchen was spacious and had everything you could need - although another large saucepan might have been helpful.  The dining table was big enough for us all to sit together even though there wasn't enough beds in the main barn for us all.  On the Saturday evening we hired in a chef who was recommend by the owners.  It was a lovely way for us to be able to celebrate together, no one had to cook, but meanwhile, we didn't have to worry about Little Owl practicing her vocal chords in a restaurant!  Actually, this was when the open plan living space was brilliant.  The kids had their main course while we tucked into the starter and then they took themselves off to the other end of the room to watch X Factor!  Little Owl thought it was brilliant to be with her cousins but also able to wander back to me and have a bit more to eat!
The upstairs of the barn was equally spacious, with another seating area on the mezzanine floor and four double bedrooms with ensuite, two of which could also be arranged as twin rooms. 
The second apartment we had was called Graystone and was accessed across a courtyard.  We were lucky with the weather, that although it was cold, it was dry.  Even so, I'm glad we decided to keep the kids in the main barn!  Graystones was much smaller then the barn, but it was equally as beautiful with 3 double bedrooms and  its own kitchen/living space. 
All three apartments faced into a central courtyard, but they also faced out to the beautiful Sussex countryside with outside seating in their own private areas.  The above was a secluded courtyard behind the Barn.  As well as this table, there was another that would seat at least 10.  I can imagine it would be perfect in the summer.  You can just make out the table in the picture below. 
Looking at this photo just makes me want to go back to Brooklands in the summer!  The building to the right houses the swimming pool.  Despite the cold November weather, the pool was toasty warm.  Little Owl and her cousins loved splashing around in there, and the adults had some fun as well!  There was a shower room too so you could get changed before going back to the Barn.  It really did make the icing on the cake!
Arundel itself is less than a mile away which makes it walking distance in my book!  It was a little bit sticky in the mud but a lovely walk by the river.  However there is plenty of parking in Arundel if you would prefer to drive in.  Yes that is a castle and a cathedral you can see!  Arundel also has a train station with trains running direct to London which makes it easily accessible. 
It was a fantastic weekend. Its not often our family all get together like this - in fact it was the first time Little Owl had met one of her Uncles as he lives in Australia.  Brooklands Barn was the perfect setting for us all and we hope to go back one day!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Knitting Fridays

The back is finished at last!  After a couple of false starts,
I have finally finished the back of the jumper.
So now its onto the sleeves.  I had hoped to knit both simultaneously like I did with the legwarmers but I only have one ball of orange and one ball of yellow. But I have made a start on the first sleeve...

 I would have got further but the light green ball got itself in a bit of a knot,
and I have spent the last 2 nights trying to untangle it!
With hindsight I should have just cut the yarn and start again...
Over on Toby Goes Bananas, Sarah has nearly finished his elf hat! Pop on over and take a look!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Indian Visas

Indian bureaucracy is second to none and I was first introduced to it back in 2002 when I applied for my first visa.  I was fresh of a plane from Mexico, suntanned and jet lagged, facing a 9 day turn around to get myself a flight, visa and bags repacked for 7 months in India.  I had been given some advice on which visa I should be applying for and an accompanying letter to support my application.  However the visa I was told to get, didn't appear to exist and the letter contradicted itself and didn't leave me with much confidence!
I headed to India House, just off The Strand to see what I could do.  I went to the ticket counter on the outside, was issued my ticket (think it was pink and a bit like a deli ticket) which meant I was to go upstairs to apply for my visa.  I remember a large room with dark wooden counters on two sides, somewhat reminiscent of an old fashioned Post Office and lots of seats. 
I waited my turn, my number was called and I approached the desk and handed over my passport and visa form.  Having got up early to get the train to London, my jet lagged fuggled brain wasn't thinking clearly.  I was answering the questions asked but not adding any additional information, I was thinking in straight lines.  My Mum sat in a chair behind me, could tell things weren't going well.  She had been watching everyone take their turn at the desk, observing the process and could tell something wasn't right.  She leapt to my side and said "have you given them the letter?"  "What letter?" said the lady behind the counter and I passed over the letter.  Apparently that changed everything and I was told to go into the waiting room.

The waiting room was off to the side, a smaller square room at the back of the building with a window overlooking a courtyard at the back where I was to wait until my name was called (no longer a number).  Looking out over the courtyard, things took a surreal turn - my mother announced "I've been here before".  Apparently, in the 60s she had attended a Traction Rally Annual Dinner on The Strand with my father.  This courtyard had seemed a good place to park until they returned to their car in the early hours to find it had been blocked in.  They were left with no choice but to knock on the door and ask for someone to move the car...  the story goes that the door was opened by an Indian man in his pyjamas wearing a turban who was none too impressed.

I had images in my mind that my mother would be recognised some 40 years later and my application turned down but to my surprise, my name was called and I had been granted a visa that did not exist!

Today it is slightly different.  The visa process has been outsourced to an agency and so it is easier to apply on line.  There were some slightly confusing questions, especially for Little Owl but once I had worked out that her education status was "below matriculation" and I entered her occupation as "other" and specified "child" it was then just a case of plugging away at it.  To support Little Owl's application, Papa Owl and I had to write a letter to the High Commissioner of India to give our consent for her trip to India.  For my application I had to check with my parents where they were both born as well as with Papa Owl.  I also had to list the countries I had visited in the last 10 years... but the box wasn't big enough!

All that was left to do was to get our photos taken -

put it in the post and keep our fingers crossed that our passports will be returned before the Christmas postal rush!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Addis Beza: Helping Prevent HIV Through Dance

Today's young people are the first generation that has never known a world without HIV and AIDS. In Ethiopia, where more than half of the population is under the age of 24, cultural attitudes among the older generation towards sexual health issues are making it difficult for young people to arm themselves with the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe.

But one enterprising group of youngsters in Addis Ababa, the BEZA Anti-AIDS youth group, are determined to use their combined talents for music and dance to get messages about HIV prevention across to the public and their peers. Members of the youth group, all aged between 15 and 20, have founded a dance troupe called Addis Beza, meaning “to live for others”. The troupe perform regularly in popular public spots around Addis Ababa, using the occasion to hand out information leaflets and to encourage people to get tested for HIV free of charge so that they know their status and can be treated accordingly.

The mobile testing clinics are organised by the Organization for Social Services for AIDS (OSSA), Ethiopia’s largest NGO working on HIV, and attract up to a thousand people over the course of five days. If somebody is found to be HIV positive, they are then referred on to a local health facility for access to treatment, care and support.

At the youth club centre, as well as training long hours to learn dance moves, members take it in turns to offer a drop in counselling service for young people and to give out free condoms. Habtegoregies Hailu, better known as Habte, is the club’s chairman, and is determined to help them navigate through their teenage years.

The troupe practising their dance moves

Photo credit: duckrabbit\International HIV/AIDS Alliance

 “We’re going to save ourselves first, and then become a shelter for others who need protection,” he says. “This is the start not the end for us, helping protect young people from HIV.”

The Youth Group’s Debates
The club’s regular debate session is always well attended by members and this month’s topic - what is the right age to start having sex – drew quite a crowd. At these debates, opinion is often fiercely divided, but everybody gets the chance to express their view.

Club chairman Habte’s offering sees him open up the floor to personal opinion and thought. “How much control we do we have over ourselves, over our bodies? Marriage is not necessarily a timetable for having sex. It’s ok to experience, but we must be careful. It’s ok to jump in and enjoy life but do we take responsibility for our actions? Enjoy life but go and get information on how to enjoy it responsibly and carefully.”

Charismatic troupe leader Samson, 17, had this to say: “We have to have sex, we strongly have to. Because the Bible says to be reproductive – so we have to fulfil God’s word and use our body.  What is it for otherwise?”

Wendimagegne is more hesitant: “I’m waiting until marriage, because otherwise we won’t be able to handle the consequences. We’re not knowledgeable enough at 16.”

Samson and his story
Samson is typical of the kind of young person that the club aims to attract. Now a model student taking an evening class in hotel management, he was once branded a troublemaker and had a history of petty stealing. Brought up by his grandmother, his father died when he was a baby and he has no real knowledge of his mother. Remembering when he was younger, he says: “We got into fights with gangs from other villages and had problems with the police.”

Samson standing in front of a mobile HIV-testing clinic

Photo credit: duckrabbit\International HIV/AIDS Alliance

 “I feel I have benefitted greatly from joining Addis Beza,” he continues. “The main benefit is a change in my life. Although I joined for the dance troupe, I’ve learnt lots of things. I did not have self-awareness until now and it has helped me to teach other people what I have learned. There is a big difference between the old me and the new me.”

Samson has seen first hand the tragedy that HIV can hold for young people if they do not have the knowledge they need to understand how to manage the virus. His friend Abel took his own life on discovering that he was positive, too frightened to reveal his diagnosis to his family for fear of being rejected.

“If you catch HIV it means that everyone will discriminate against you,” Samson says.  “People will think that you can’t live with anyone, that it is an alien disease. [Before joining the youth group] the opinion I had is that it’s not even possible to eat together.  Our families used to say that it's a punishment from God.”

 “I did not have any knowledge and didn't know its methods of transmission, but I have learned to practise safe sex, when I should start having sex, what I need to do after sex if a woman gets pregnant.”

With young people aged 15-24 accounting for 40% of new HIV infections globally, Samson and his fellow dancers are playing their part as duty bearing citizens. “I want to make Ethiopian culture known to the world,” he says proudly.  “Here we say that we want to be the light for others.”

The troupe performing in the piazza

Photo credit: duckrabbit\International HIV/AIDS Alliance

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance and Link Up
Ethiopia is one of five countries currently being targeted by the Alliance and its partners through Link Up, an initiative that aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of more than one million young people living with and affected by HIV.

Over the course of the next three years, Link Up will reach more than one million young people aged 15-24 by implementing tailored HIV and sexual and reproductive health interventions to increase uptake and access to services and reduce unintended pregnancies, new HIV infections and HIV-related maternal mortality. In Ethiopia the initiative aims to reach 140,000 young people to improve their sexual health.

What can you do to help?
Show your support to Addis Beza, the Link Up programme and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance by:
  1. Sharing the dance troupe’s story on Twitter and on Facebook) #LinkUp
  2. Keeping up to date with the work being carried out through Link Up at
  3. Follow the International HIV/AIDS Alliance on Twitter @theaidsalliance and on Facebook

Thank you for taking the time to read about Addis BEZA today. It means a lot to everyone involved in this project.

 Guest blog post by Battenhall, 22 November 2013

Momina's Story

Meet Momina

Momina is a 22 year old single mother of two who lives in the city of Adama in central Ethiopia and was diagnosed as living with HIV three years ago. Although she wears a smile, sadness is etched across her face when she talks about her younger son, Yerosa. Born HIV positive, he is now three but Momina knows very little of his life save for the occasional photos she is sent by the American family who adopted him. Momina took the agonising decision to give him up for adoption in the hope that he would be able to receive medical treatment.    

In telling her story today, Momina hopes that she might help other young women just like her, to know how they can protect themselves from contracting HIV and get the care and support they need through projects like Link Up being led by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

 Momina’s Story
When Momima was a teenager, she left her family home as she was afraid that her parents would marry her off to an older man as they did with her older sister - who later died of AIDS. After falling pregnant with her first child Rapira, and without the support of her parents, she was forced to move from community to community, taking temporary jobs where she could, to try to provide food and shelter for her son.

“I don’t want my child to starve or get hurt,” says Momina.

“There are times when I feed my child and I do not eat at all. I sometimes come home late from work, there are times when I wake him up and feed him because I don’t want him to sleep on an empty belly.”

Without life being tough enough already, three years ago Momina was diagnosed as living with HIV. At that time she had no idea that she was pregnant and subsequently she was not able to receive the treatment needed to protect her unborn child from onward transmission of the virus. When her youngest son, Yerosa was just four months old, Momina learned that he was HIV positive and took the agonising decision to give him up to a family in the US with the hope that he would receive the medical care he needed.

“I convinced myself that it’s better to see my child well. If he had not been seriously ill, I would have not given him away. I would have fought until the end. I am praying for him to be well wherever he is.”

Living with HIV
Determined not to be defined by her HIV status, even when her own mother will not allow her into her family home for fear that she might infect her siblings, Momina remains candid about her condition with friends and colleagues. But in a country where HIV stigma and discrimination still prevail, her openness sometimes costs her and she is presently between jobs.

“I do not let myself down because I live with HIV and have my own objectives.”

“I want to continue my education and qualify as a nurse. I have always had a passion and love for the profession and I want to serve people like me, people living with the virus. I would be happy if I could do that. My biggest aim is to get educated, get a job and live my own life but at the same time I don’t want to cry over split milk”

Momina is assisted with access to HIV treatment and care by Ethiopia’s largest NGO working on HIV, the Organization for Social Services for AIDS (OSSA), who in turn is supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. Every fortnight she attends a support group meeting organised by OSSA where she and other members of her community living with HIV meet to share their experiences.

OSSA have also helped contribute to her son Rapira’s annual school fee. Momina is determined to see that he gets a good education.
 “I wish for him something much greater than I had,” she says with feeling.

“I hope he can go all the way and graduate which I was unable to do.”

In another world, life for Momina and her family could have turned out so very differently. If she had known how to protect herself against HIV. If she had gone through proper antenatal care when she was pregnant with Yerosa. If she had not felt compelled to run away from home for fear of early marriage. If she was able to work freely without worrying about becoming a target for discrimination.

“I would like people to see me a strong person,” she smiles. “I know that there is strength in me; I got that strength from the life I have had. I want young people of my age to be strong and to have the strength to face and overcome challenges.”

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance and Link Up
Ethiopia is one of five countries currently being targeted by the Alliance and its partners through Link Up, an initiative that aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of more than one million young people living with and affected by HIV.

Over the course of the next three years, Link Up will reach more than one million young people aged 15-24 by implementing tailored HIV and sexual and reproductive health interventions to increase uptake and access to services and reduce unintended pregnancies, new HIV infections and HIV-related maternal mortality. In Ethiopia the initiative aims to reach 140,000 young people to improve their sexual health.

What can you do to help?
Show your support to Momina, Link Up and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance by:
  1. Sharing Momina’s story on Twitter and Facebook #LinkUp
  2. Keeping up to date with the work being carried out through Link Up at
  3. Follow the International HIV/AIDS Alliance on Twitter @theaidsalliance and on Facebook
Thank you for taking the time to read Momina’s story today. It means a lot to everyone involved in this project.
Guest blog post by Battenhall, 22 November 2013
Photo credits: Benjamin Chesterton\duckrabbit\International HIV/AIDS Alliance


World Aids Day

Sunday 1st December is World Aids Day.

Aids is something we have heard talk about for many years, but for most of us in the UK, the nearest we have knowingly come to it in our lives was watching Mark Fowler in Eastenders - but that's been over 10 years now!

Back in 2010, I was ask to take a group of Senior Section girls aged 14-17 to South Africa.  Its was part of the centenary celebrations of Girl Guiding, and 100 members from London and the South East travelled to South Africa over the summer and between us we built a house for a local family in the Kwa Zulu Natal area just north of Durban.  The materials for the house were paid for by fundraising in the UK, all the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides helped.

We were helped in our quest by an organisation called Gods Golden Acre.  They describe their work as "Supporting and caring for orphaned and vulnerable children whose lives have been devastated as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, poverty and violence."  You see, its not just those living with HIV who are affected, its their families too.  Gods Golden Acre recognises this, and doesn't differentiate when it comes to helping those in need. 

In recognition of this year's World Aid's Day, I have been asked to host two guest posts by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.  I hope you stop by to read them.

The first is Momina's Story, a young brave woman and mother who has had to make enormous sacrifices in order to provide the best for her children.

The second is the upbeat story of a dance troupe called Addis Beza who are using their youthful energy to create a safe environment for HIV to be discussed.  Its a happy story.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Knitting Fridays

Not as much progress as I had hoped this week!  I always imagine that when I go away for a weekend, that somehow I will have lots of time to knit... think I managed about 3 rows!  Not to worry though - I did get the chance to let my Mum take a look at the pattern and scribble some notes so hopefully I can finish the neck now!
More exciting than my knitting this week is that I have been joined on my Knitting Fridays by the lovely Sarah from Toby Goes Bananas.  She is busy making Toby an Elf hat for his Christmas party - be sure to pop over and take a look, the colours are fantastic!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Little Owl @ 19 months

Still with a nice even 12 but at least one of her canines is making a bid for freedom!
I really have lost count now!  Little Owl made it to 50 signs but I just can't keep up!  One of her current favourite signs is for pen or writing.  Little Owl just loves drawing and even holds her pens properly!  Always in the left hand - she used to swap over but I haven't seen her use her right hand for a pen for at least a month possibly two.  Another favourite sign is the letter 'I' which stands for Little Owl's best friend and cousin Woo.  You can sign 'I' by pointing with your forefinger to the middle finger on your other hand.  Little Owl doesn't always get the right finger but she made a very good attempt at the first go which shows how hard she is trying to be understood.
The other day I heard someone speaking on the radio about speech development in toddlers.  She said that most fall in to one of two types.  The first type is the kids that can say lots of individual words.  The second type was described as those who know the tune and not the words.  Little Owl definitely fits into this category - I think she may even start to talk without me noticing as I'm so used to hearing her chatting away and sometimes you can join in a conversation as you can fix some words to the sounds she is making.  Way back in September, Little Owl was able to say 'where mumma is' without actually saying more than 'mumma' before.  This weekend I was out with my family and Little Owl was on my back.  I could hear her babbling but didn't really pay any attention until a stranger handed me Little Owl's hat which she had dropped on the floor.  It was then that I realised that she had shouted 'my hat my hat', my family had also heard this but not taken it in until we were given the hat!
What's new?
Most of the new things this month involve talking - she now says 'choo choo' whenever we mention Granddad who works for a preservation steam railway.  Everything at the moment is 'upthere' 'upstairs' 'downthere' 'downstairs' for which she also points in the appropriate direction.  I think without the pointing, you wouldn't understand what she is saying, again, the tune is there but not the words.

In the water, Little Owl is just growing in confidence - we have gone from 7 floats on her belt to 5 in the last few weeks.  She didn't notice when I took the first one away, but its taken her a couple of weeks to get used to 5.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Knitting Fridays

Here it is - this week's effort.  The next light green stripe will decrease for the arms, then two more dark stripes before I really do have to shape the neck and shoulders... can't put it off much longer...

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


It was one of those days with lots of errands, not so much mine but my parents and I'd been ask to act as chauffeur to help speed things up and save them from parking each time.

Stop one was my mum's first errand and left my Dad, Little Owl and I in the car. Little Owl was asleep already after a superb effort at swimming in the morning. Mum gets back in the car and we go to stop two and drop her off before going to stop 3. Stop 3 was a shop - the good news was that we got parked outside, the bad news was it was shut. Still, at least we didn't wake Little Owl up.

Stop 4 was my errand and as I couldn't park I just stopped in the road and dropped my item off before heading to stop 5 to pick my Mum up. Do you see the type of day it is becoming?

On the way to stop 6 I noticed a rather unpleasant smell but chose not to say anything. Stop 6 was my Dad's errand (on behalf of my brother) which he failed to complete and upon returning to the car, he noticed a rather unpleasant smell but again didn't say anything. The smell was getting stronger.

Stop 7 and it was my Dad's turn to stay in the car whilst my Mum and I visited a few shops. The smell was really unpleasant now and as we got out of the car Little Owl woke. My Mum said to me "I think your daughter has done something in her nappy - let's be quick".

Now that thought had just been occurring in my mind - but at 18 months I have only had 5 dirty nappies since Little Owl turned one - the thought of her producing one in her sleep seemed unlikely - but if not - what was that smell?

Stop 7 took longer than expected and we returned to the car to find my Dad frozen and huddled in the front seat - he said he couldn't decide whether to stay in the car with the smell which by this time was getting unbearable or stand outside in the cold. I couldn't take the smell and opened the windows as we drove back to stop 6.
On the second visit, my Dad managed to complete his errand at stop 6 but by this time the smell was really getting strong and the window remained open at stop 8 and then for our return journey back to my parents house.
I was surprised that Little Owl wasn't making a fuss about the stink bomb in her nappy and I braced myself as I got her out of the car and into the house to change.  I really wasn't looking forward to it.... I'd stopped using liners ages ago as there seemed not point and never before had she produced anything this bad.  Not being at home, it took a bit of time to make sure I had everything needed to perform this stinkiest of changes, but eventually I couldn't put it off any longer... I undid her nappy and...
It was empty. 
Lovely white minkee staring back at me. 
So it wasn't Little Owl.
I call to my Dad who then goes on a sniff inspection of our shoes - surely one of us must have trodden in something.
Back to the car for a full sniff inspection.
The smell had gone.
Couldn't find it anywhere.
That was until...
we opened the fridge!
At stop 5 my mum had bought....

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

World Toilet Day

Did you know that today was World Toilet Day? Did you even know there was a World Toilet Day?! The aim of the day is to raise awareness of the one in 3 people on this globe who don't have access to a toilet. Can you imagine not being able to go in private? As well as that thought being just quite horrific, it is also believed to be on of the main causes of girls dropping out of school when they reach puberty.

It didn't come as a surprise to me to learn that 66% of those in the world practising open defecation live in India. You see it, children going at the side of the road, properly going.  Its never pleasant and never a sight you get used to, I find it one of the most disturbing things to see.  I know there are lots of unpleasant things that happen in the world but as a whole they are behind closed doors.  This should be and isn't.  
About 10 years ago, I visited a crèche on a building site for the children of the construction workers run by a charity called Mobile Crèche.  The children ranged from 12 days to 12 years old.  None of the bubas wore a nappy and after meal times all the children that were big enough to walk were led outside to an area where they could all 'go' together. I wonder what Ofsted would make of that?

So in honour of World Toilet Day, I thought I would share a campfire song with you that was very popular when I was a Guide, particularly on camps where there weren't plumbed in facilities!
 (The chorus is to the tune of "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas")

I'm dreaming of a flush toilet
Just like the ones we have at home
With a silver chain
and proper drain
And somewhere for it all to go
Tiptoe through the tent pegs
Through the tent pegs
To the lavatory
Come tiptoe
Through the tent pegs with me
I'm dreaming of a flush toilet
Just like the ones we have at home
With a silver chain
and proper drain
And somewhere for it all to go

And if that wasn't exciting enough for you - have a go at this great little game from Unicef - Toilet Trek
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