Posts tagged ‘tips’


A Crohns Girls Travel Kit.

One of my most difficult, and fraught undertakings is travelling anywhere more than five minutes from home. This is hardly surprising when your bowel control can at best be described as tentative. But there are ways to make travelling that little bit safer, the main one being a small travel kit.

What do I mean by a travel kit? Well that’s a little difficult to explain, as it will vary from person to person, so the best that I can do is give you my travel kit. You can then easily adjust it to fit your exact circumstances.

Spare undies 2 pairs pretty obvious really, but make sure it’s two pairs. If you lose it once there’s a good chance you will again.

Heavy flow sanitary pads – Even when I manage to keep things under control until I get to a toilet, I’ll often find myself passing lots of mucus for hours after. The sort of mucus that you don’t realise is there when you fart and….woops sticky mess. The pads will at the very least keep the mess in check ’til you make it back to the toilet. Also very useful if you have piles that tend to bleed.

Motilium, and Lomotil/Imodium – If your symptoms are anything like mine you’re probably going to feel nausea while you travel. So Motilium or a similar medication to control it is a good thing. Likewise an anti-diarrheal medication is a great idea to have with you.

Small hot-water bottle – Sit on it and you’ll have cramp relief, hold it to the back of your neck and you’ll have some relief from a dehydration headache (But remember to drink that sort of headache is not fun.), and if you, like me, find yourself shaking from cold after a bad attack it’ll help you to get warm again. Most places are very accommodating about filling a small half-litre water bottle if you ask politely.

Mints/chewing gum – To help cure the post vomit bad breathe. Alternatively carry a small fold-able travel toothbrush with a really small tube of toothpaste. If you vomit a lot this is really important to keep your teeth…no not clean, not sparkling, I literally mean to keep them; vomiting is basically enhanced tooth death.

Flushable wet wipes/baby wipes – Not only much gentler for wiping a tender backside, but will help to eliminate any lingering smell. But really do make sure that they’re flushable.

I can, with some creative packing, fit all of those in to a very small handbag, and they really can be a sanity saver for the travelling Crohns Girl.

Any suggestions for things I’m missing out on? Please comment below.


It’s cold outside, lighting a log burner.

Just recently I had a log burner installed in my house, and I have to say it was one of the best decisions ever made by myself or my Partner in Crime. Our living room is positively toasty when it’s burning well, and the heat is intense enough that it even penetrates to other areas of the house, making them if not hot, then at the very least, not cold. But that said the first two weeks of owning it were occupied by a pretty steep learning curve.

You’d think that running one would be much like lighting any fire, and to a certain extent that is true. You still start off your fire with paper or firelighters, kindling, and all the rest. But there are a few differences from just throwing down a fire in an open fireplace.

– If you have a cheaper burner, and we do, the two vents built into it are essentially ornamentation.

The first week we had ours was mostly spent in frustration trying to keep the damned thing burning. It quenched itself constantly, in no small part because those two vents. The vents, one beneath the fire-grate and one well above the fire itself, are meant to allow you to keep up a draft inside the burner, allowing more or less oxygen to get to the flames and thus getting you more heat, but a shorter burn time, or the reverse. Well on ours they do nothing much. So when we need some extra air in there we just open up the little door that’s meant for cleaning out ashes.

– Log burners are made up of a LOT of cold metal.

This is sort of an important consideration when you’re impatiently waiting for your fire to really take off, because frankly until that metal has gotten hot enough it’s just not going to. Think of it this way, when you preheat an oven before putting in a roast it takes times, then you put in a big hunk of very cold meat, on a very cold metal tray, and the oven temperature drops like a stone until at least some of that material has heated up as well. And it turns out that’s kind of how log burners behave as well. So that being the case, we’ve taken to using scrap material for the first while until the burner itself is far too hot to touch. Then when you put in heavier logs, and more solid fuel it takes a flame very quickly, meaning you don’t have to keep a draft going through it for very long, and you get more burn time for your fuel.

– If you open the bottom door even a tiny bit for the first minute or two of a new fire, you won’t spend ages on your knees blowing on embers later.

Kind of self-explanatory really. But we have found that if you make sure that for those first couple of minutes there’s a good strong draft in the burner, the fuel really takes off well. And it’s so much easier to make sure the fire is burning well at the beginning than trying to dismantle it later, and relight it.

– Log burners are dangerous for your skin.

Log burners, once they’re up to temperature, are monstrously hot. To the point that it can actually be very uncomfortable, even with tongs and heavy gloves, when you have to lay a new log into them. That heat is a godsend in cold weather, but it’s definitely contraindicated to make direct physical contact with one. I am typing this piece with more burns on my hands than I’ve had at anytime in my life, including when I was in the scouts and pretty much permanently had cuts and burns on them. All it takes is one moment when your concentration is lacking, or instant of distraction (like a puppy deciding your ears need a good cleaning) and, SIZZLE! And you better believe it makes that noise. So wear those bloody gloves, and use the tongs, your skin will thank you for it.

Oh, and unless you like serious pain don’t forget yourself and grab the handle of the main door with your bare hand. It hurts, a lot.

– “Log Burner’s” burn pretty much anything.

If it’ll take a flame, it will burn in a log burner. Which is good news if you have access to things like old pallets, or other scrap wood, as it makes it those first two fires each day a lot cheaper. How so? Well instead of chopping perfectly good logs down small, you get to use scrap wood, and keep the good stuff for when it’ll burn properly.

– Cigarette lighters really shouldn’t be  left on top of the log burner.

I did. My right ear was still ringing three days later. And I had to change my underwear. I got lucky, it also flung shrapnel in every direction and I could have been hit by molten plastic, or sharp pieces. Don’t do that. Also don’t leave anything small and flammable on there either. It’s a little scary when the spare piece of kindling you forgot was up there, decides to burst into flames.

– Pay attention to how you stack the wood inside.

If burners have one draw back, it’s that door in the front. Yeah it’s great in many ways, but when the wood burns down and the embers come to rest against the glass…that can be trouble. A lap full of red-hot embers type trouble. You can mostly avoid this by thinking for a few moments as you lay the next fire, and placing the fuel in the right way so that it burns down evenly.

– Does you log have spiky bits.?

If it does chop them off. Seriously, take a hatchet and cut those buggers off. They can punch through the fire-glass in the front of your burners door, leaving you with an often unusable burner, and a hefty bill from glazier’s.

– Clean the ashes out every day.

This one is sort of debated, some people think that it makes the fuel last longer if you don’t clean it out too often. But personally I haven’t noticed any real difference, except that when you don’t clean it out, you spend a lot more time trying to relight it.

– Clean the glass with vinegar.

Yes it does sound like a tip from a really bad reality television show, but it really does work, and nothing beats looking in and watching those flames dance. Especially when it gets so hot inside the firebox that those flames are almost, but not quite, invisible. Gorgeous.

And that’s pretty much it. They are a great way to heat your house. Efficient, actually quite easily managed, economical to run. But to get to the point where they really star to pay off, you have to take a little time, a little care, and get to know your burner. Then it’ll give you sterling service, and keep you warm all Winter long.


Digging up those diamonds – Minecraft.

In the past I’ve written a two-part review of the pre-full release Minecraft, here and here. I’ve also written a post which dealt with how to escape a few of the silly situations that beginners, and occasionally overenthusiastic experienced players, can get themselves into. Well today for a change of pace I’m going to provide a personal insight into the acquiring of those most sought after of Minecrafting materials, diamonds.

This will mainly be aimed at the beginner player, but it’s possible that an experienced player might just pick up something new. So please keep reading if you’re interested. If not come back on Saturday when we have an extra special post where your humble narrator writes not just one, but three very personal letters to Satan Claws.

So let’s start by speaking a little about why you want diamonds. First of all, just like in reality, in Minecraft diamonds are a girls best friend. They’re pretty, sparkly, and they make the best tools in the game. A pick made with diamond for example will mine over 1,500 blocks before it’s destroyed. This compared to a mere 250ish uses for diamonds nearest rival, the iron pick.  So it uses much less space. It lasts longer. And guess what? I actually mines faster as well. Here we’ll use the nastiest substance in the entire game for our example, obsidian. Obsidian is a stone cold pain in the patoote to mine. Even with an iron pick it takes almost a minute to mine just one block. However with a diamond pick you can chop through them in ten seconds. Oh and let’s not forget that diamond tools also just look cool. Not an inconsiderable selling point if you play on a multiplayer server.

Now with the why out-of-the-way, let’s move on to the how.

Diamond only occurs below level 18. By that I mean up to 17 levels above the bedrock region. So our first challenge is reaching that depth without getting a molten lava facial, or having a heart to heart with a creeper. Obviously if you play on Peaceful mode you can scratch out the creeper. My method for this is as follows.

Pick a location a reasonable distance from my build site, I do this because I tend to build from bedrock upwards, I know I’m nuts. Put way-markers between your dig site and build site, a couple of blocks with torches all around the top of them being a good way. Right now a hundred readers screamed as one “Just carry a compass.” Yes that’s a solution, but here’s the thing, that’s a backpack slot you won’t have to carry tools, or loot.

Now build a covered doorway, nothing fancy just a tube three high and maybe five or six long. Close off one end, put a nice thick door on it, and surround it with torches. This will mean that you don’t have to worry about covering your back from those sneaky creepers quite as much. After this step you’re ready to mine.

Start digging down on a diagonal line. After ten drops plant a torch, turn 90 degrees, and repeat. You’ll do this until you either hit bedrock, which is our initial goal, or lava. Lava is the reason for the diagonal movement, nothing ruins your day like a swim in the hot red-stuff, but by being sure that the block you’re standing on is safe you can avoiding losing your life, and all your resources. If you do hit lava, and the pool is small enough just fill it in with gravel, then keep digging. If it’s too large to do this, then go back up one flight of your mine stairs, and turn the other way, this should get you around the obstruction. Once you hit bedrock you can start the next stage.

For the record bedrock is easy to identify, no other block in the game looks like it, and it won’t break. Seriously it won’t, so don’t even try.

From bedrock go back up 9 or 10 steps, and cut a 3 block high shaft at 90 degrees. Cut it as far as you feel appropriate, but I would keep it limited to about 100 blocks. Next pick a side, left or right it doesn’t really matter. Now cut into that side four deep, and plant a torch on the side furthest from your shaft entrance. (Yes folks we’re going to make a branch mine, my personal favourite type in fact.) Now every 20 blocks dig a similar short shaft, putting a torch where you won’t be digging again, until you’re back at the entrance to your branch mine. Then excavate between them. That’s it. you’ve done the first segment of your branch mine. Have probably found several iron ores, perhaps even your first diamonds. But that’s not the end of the story.

After you’ve gone back segment by segment maybe ten times you return to your original shaft, and now you cut in,  leaving a solid two block space between every shaft. This means you will not miss any diamonds or iron that might be available. but still minimising the amount of material you have to mine.

I use this system for a few reasons, but the two main ones are these;

  1. If you hit lava it’s no big deal, you just drop a block in front of yourself straight away, and either fill the pool, or ignore it and work around it.
  2. At that depth you’re very likely to hit a large cave system, as well as dungeons. Mining this way means that you have a higher chance of hitting them, and when you do it’s a piece of cake to explore them, thus usually finding a lot of easy to mine resources.

The only real catch with this method is that in order to keep yourself safe from the nasties that dwell below, you’re going to need lots of torches, and sharp ears. But trust me it works. A single hour of this method usually leaves me with enough diamonds to outfit myself for the following week of play.

Anyway I hope this is of help to someone out there. And I’ll see you again on Saturday for a very special Christmas edition.


Five Minecraft situations you should never get into, and how to get out of them without suiciding.

If you play Minecraft then you’ve been there.  You’ve braved dark, Creeper filled chasms, and after hours of careful exploration your inventory is bulging with loot.  For possibly the first time ever you have an embarrassment of Minecraft riches, a full stack of diamonds, several stacks of iron ore, loads of lapis and red dust, and of course endless quantities of coal.

The only problem now is that you’re stuck.  Somehow you’ve painted yourself into one of several corners, leaving yourself with that classic of Minecraft conundrums.  Find a way out of this, or suicide and just give up on the riches you’ve gathered.

Well worry not friend, here at Random Ruminations we don’t want to see you drop a fortune in diamonds just because you’re lost.  So we’re here to give you a way out, a way out that doesn’t involve charging a Creeper in nothing but you skivvies.  A lot of these will seem to be very obvious pieces of advice, and they are.  But it’s advice which took me time to learn for myself, because believe me when it all goes in the pot, you find very quickly that logic takes a back seat.

1. Damn it I got carried away and went digging straight down:

Every Minecrafter makes this mistake at some point.  You hit a really promising vein of coal or iron and tunnel vision ensues.  I like to think of this as going with gravity, and just like in reality, gravity in Minecraft is a cruel mistress.

You see if you dig straight down there are several nasty possible endings. You might pop through the roof of a cavern.  It’s not much of a fall so it doesn’t kill you outright.  Unfortunately though the floor is made of lava, now that’s a tan that’ll kill you.  Or there’s a body of water down there with some tricky currents that wouldn’t be a threat at all, if you could see.  Or it turns out to be the nesting grounds of many, many Creepers, spiders, zombies and skeletal archers.

Alternatively you might just hit bedrock. But either way you now have to get the hell out of Dodge before you end up as lunch for something.

First piece of advice, do not dig straight down.  It doesn’t matter how unbelievable that vein is, do not dig straight down. At the very least dig in a spiral around it. But if you lose your sanity for a few moments, leading you to go with gravity, and somehow you don’t end up instantly dead, for a start don’t panic.  Don’t go wandering, don’t decide to compound the problem by going any further in any direction apart from up.  After all you got into this situation because of a sweet load of something, wouldn’t it be nice to get back to your base with all that sweet, sweet loot?

So start digging upwards on a diagonal.  It’s that simple.  If you hit a cavern don’t explore it just find another wall and dig upwards some more.  After all this way once you’re home, unloaded and reloaded for bear you can always go back.

2. I went exploring and got lost, Mommy!:

There’s really two Minecrafts, the subterranean Minecraft and the surface world.  And strangely when I get lost playing Minecraft it’s never underground.  You see underground you have the tunnels you’ve dug to follow back out, along with a bread crumb trail of torches.

But on those occasions where I take it into my head to do some impromptu exploration of the surface world, it almost always ends with me hopelessly lost.  It happens very easily, I mean let’s face it Minecraft generates some truly beautiful landscapes.  But it also creates some very disorienting ones.

So take Sunday night.  I decided to scout around the giant water tank I’m building to see what resources were easily available in the area around my two bases.  Five minutes later I was completely lost.  I did not however panic.  I simply remembered that I was infinitely better equipped to survive that I had been when I started building on this particular map.

So steps to surviving without suiciding and thus losing the three diamond picks, three diamond spades and the diamond sword I was carrying.

Find the lowest point nearest to my current position and stop going further away.

Cut down some trees and make a crafting table and forge.

Dig down until I found iron, coal and red dust.

Do what I should have done before I left my base, and build a compass.

That’s all there is to it.  The compass will bring you back to the last bed your character slept in, thus making everything hunky dory.  But it get’s better and there’s a way to make this minor disaster a good thing.  You see you just dug a mine, if you’re lucky like I was you may even have found a great cavern system with tonne’s of resources.  It would be a shame not to find that again, wouldn’t it? Well then my friend just leave a trail of torches behind you as you return home.

See? Simple and you’re mommy didn’t even need to come and hold your hand.

3. I don’t know how but I just got trapped by lava:

This one is an oddity which happens with horrific frequency to me.  I’m minding my own business digging away looking for yet more diamonds, they are after all a geeky, minecraft playing, girls best friend, when I make a break through.  Right into a pool of lava.  When that happens you have a tiny amount of time to react, if you’re fast you can back away enough to get out of the line of flow.  If not you get burnt to a crisp.

Sometimes though through over enthusiasm, poor planning, or momentary idiocy, it’s very possible to end up with lava all around you, while you stand on a single, solitary block.  This is especially possible somewhere like The Nether though occasionally it can even happen in regular caverns. Well as usual don’t panic, I know broken record or what?

You’re going to have an inventory that’s packed with things to walk on.  So pick a direction, preferably one that’s going to get you to solid ground fast, start crawling backwards and lay one block at a time very carefully.  I know most of you are scratching your heads right now.  After all this is basic, basic Minecrafting technique.  But I have chatted with players who genuinely didn’t realise you could do that.

Alternatively you can go for the overkill method, and smother the lava all around you. Leaving a moat of lava, which might lead to the future construction of the Bond villain hideout to beat all other Bond villain hideouts.

The main this is to always be prepared for lava to start pouring near you, move fast and think carefully.  It’s all about protecting those ores, diamonds and the tools you’re carrying.

4. Great now I’m trapped, underwater and drowning:

I’ve saved the funnest one for last.  Nothing is quite as unpleasant in Minecraft as being trapped underwater, okay Creepers are but that’s sort of a given. Well let’s paint a picture.  You’re exploring and you bravely dove into the waters of some cove, you found a small cave down there.  They do show up occasionally, after all the land underwater is generated much the same way as the dry land.  You peeked in and thought you could see an air pocket.  Turns out you were wrong and now you’re watching in horror as your air supply vanishes.  You’re screwed, right?


Just dig an air pocket for yourself.  I’ve been playing Minecraft for months now, and I only discovered this trick in recent weeks (I should point out I don’t use the Wiki’s or guides, I decided to figure everything out the hard way).  But it turns out that if you’re quick enough you can create air pockets in the cavern roof, better still you can even plant a torch in it.

But best of all this technique opens up the ability to efficiently build underwater.  Now how awesome is that?

So I hope that this will be of some help to someone.  As I come across other life saving techniques I might even write a follow up.  If you have some creative, awesome or just plain odd method of avoiding the suicide escape in Minecraft please feel free to add it to the list.

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