Lost in Time – researching for Dominica!

I’ve been gone one thousand, three hundred and twenty-eight years – back in time … to an era we call ‘The Dark Ages’. The Roman garrisons have gone – left these isles to tend to their problems closer to Rome with a farewell letter to the Romano-British from the Emperor Honorius, in AD410, to see to their own protection  – even as they called for aid to fend off the raiding Saxons. However, by the date I’ve been visiting, AD689, the Angles, Jutes and Saxons are well ensconced in the majority of what will become England, but the Vikings are not yet attacking.

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Can you see the river Tamar, just behind the trees – and further beyond?

I am in Cornwall, here, just over the border – the river Tamar. Though, in AD689 Cornwall is not Cornwall – as such, it is part of Dumnonia, roughly Devon and Cornwall and part of Somerset and Dorset, and it is a different place culturally to the rest of ‘England’. The West Saxons (those being the closest – Wessex) have not overtaken the people of Dumnonia yet – in fact – even the Romans had made little impact here, this side of the river, either … a few forts only – no fancy towns all laid out Roman style with villas and influence over the local Kings* here. (*or ‘big-man’ as the system seemed to be in Cornwall in the pre-Roman times … and probably was even at the end of the AD600s.)

So it is a tumultuous time on the border, the threat of invasion by the West Saxons is real, they have made in-roads into Dumnonia … and they have a new battle-cry. By this time the Anglo-Saxons had, by and large, turned from their pagan gods to Christianity, some converted by missionaries from Rome, some by missionaries from Ireland. This had resulted in a clash of Christian doctrines – the Roman church and the Celtic church having different ways to work out the Christian calendar, different tonsures for their monks, and differing rules and ways of worship and a different attitude towards women. Within my time-line comes the decisive synod of Whitby, AD664, that found in favour of the Roman Church and meant that the Celtic churches that would not change were then seen as heretical – and to be wiped out.

The Church in Dumnonia, and especially the ‘Cornish’ ones backed by King Geraint and so rich in Celtic saints from Ireland, refused to change – setting themselves up for the West Saxons to proclaim a ‘religious war’ as a motive to back-up their invasions.

It’s been hard to get back to the here and now – I look at the landscape around me with different eyes – where would have been occupied? Where would have been safe? I read the names of the places I know and refer to my books to see whether I can call the place by its current name – whether the name we know is, in fact, original Celtic (Cornish) or an English name given only after the West Saxons’ invasion, or a blend … and even that has made me look at the landscape again and see things with different eyes as I find the meanings behind the words.

Those who know me in person, know that I am interested in history, mainly local history rather than that of Kings and Queens, but this is something different. To weave a story based on a few scanty legends (Dominica and Indract), set in a time that is poorly recorded (there’s the reason it is called the Dark Ages) and to try to throw myself back into that time and inhabit that landscape and that life is, for me, an extraordinary experience, both thrilling and very scary. It is also totally absorbing and takes me to a place I have never travelled before!

Wish me luck on my time-travels 🙂

Do you go time-travelling?

Do you find yourself inhabiting a different world when visiting ancient houses or estates?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you!

Chicken talk of yolks

The recent government rules on keeping chickens in / away from migrating birds which might be carrying H5N8 bird flu –  has made me do something I have intended to do ever since we stopped keeping goats.

When you mainly cook from scratch and grow a lot of your own veg, and buy the rest from local sources, you end up with a lot of peelings. Especially when you like to have a lot of different types of vegetables with each meal!wp_20170226_12_56_25_proNow this was never a problem when we had goats – there was always the bucket for the edible scraps for the goats and the bucket for the compost heap. The latter generally only had onion skins, citrus skins and teabags in – judiciously mixed with torn cardboard loo-roll tubes and such stuff.

When we sold the goats, prior to putting our beautiful house on the market, the vegetable peelings joined the compost bin . . . even though I kept saying to myself that I ought to prepare them for the chickens.

With the chickens compulsorily being kept in closed-off quarters I eventually did something about it!

I first found that if you just give raw peelings, toppings ‘n’ tailings, outside leaves etc to the chickens they will peck at it … but they will not clear it up efficiently … for that you need to give it a light cooking.

So, after I have cooked and served-up our meal I now drop the whole pile of peelings into the largest pyrex bowl I have already used (in cooking the meal) and pop it in the Microwave for 10 minutes. wp_20170226_14_47_25_pro

When it is cool I put it back into an old bowl (or a re-purposed sweet tub even) to take out to the chickens.

They love it – especially with the odd soft apple, from the apple store, sliced up in it too.

AND as a bonus, now they are back out on the grass and getting the extra veg-peelings regularly too, we now have the deepest yellow yolks going – yes even darker than usual – and that was pretty good anyway – and yes – this is the actual colour  – it is not a trick of the light.wp_20170301_07_06_42_proSo we get to eat tasty, rich, healthy eggs and I get to feel even better now that the peelings are being used properly again.

What do your do with your veg peelings?

Are you a chicken keeper?

You know I love to hear from you – do share

🙂  Ann

Lichen sclerosus and Why Borax is my new best friend

It’s difficult to talk about this – and this is why it has taken me two weeks to write one blog! After just telling my husband the diagnosis, lichen sclerosus, and that I had been prescribed ‘a cream’ for it I hadn’t mentioned it again even to him – and even though, over the course of four or five years, the symptoms got worse and worse.

Back at the end of October, the symptoms had become excruciating – and the ‘cream’ useless. I had been told that as an auto-immune condition there was nothing else medicine could offer apart from suppression of the symptoms by the ‘cream’ – a corticosteroid – classified as a ‘potent steroid’.

So, what is Lichen sclerosus? It is an auto-immune condition that affects mainly children and post-menopausal women. (Yep, tick that last box)  As I am sure you know, and auto-immune condition is one in which your own body turns on itself, destroying cells, and in this case making the skin thinner, prone to blistering, swelling, soreness, irritation and inflammation.

Lichen sclerosus also has a favourite location for this disruption of the skin – and this is why I (and many other people) don’t generally like to talk about it. It affects the skin between the buttocks and reaching forward to include the skin around the vulva. In people who have had it for decades it can even result in atrophy of the flesh.

By the end of October I was in pain all the time, especially when sitting, and every time I needed to use the toilet I faced the agony of cleaning and drying myself, and the area affected seemed to be extending. Now Corticosteroid must be used sparingly – frequent reapplication is not acceptable – not desirable – as Corticosteroid also THINS the skin!

I positioned a mirror to look – the skin was red, shiny, swollen, cracked and blistered – no wonder it stung to blazes!

This is where I am surprised at, and ashamed of, myself. I have been looking into natural ways of supporting the body and brain by supporting the health of your whole system – but I hadn’t looked for a natural way of dealing with Lichen sclerosus. I had been ambushed by the fact that it was considered an Auto-immune condition  – and, therefore, I knew that meant it wasn’t curable.

…  or did I?

 After all, hadn’t I been reading about other auto-immune conditions that had been helped by natural means – by a rebalancing of the gut-bacteria, specifically. However, I have already gone down this route for the sake of my brain, and I hope my gut-bacteria are now in a good balance and are being ‘fed’ the food-stuffs to keep them happy. I would say that in other ways my body was feeling better tuned and functioning well.

So it was, that feeling desperate, I began to research whether there was a natural way to help the condition . . .  and there was!

I read so many pages, so many personal responses. I read of people with this condition who were in a much worse state than I was – whose body had suffered permanent changes that were life-affecting. I also read of those who had found the answer – or an answer. And it involved my new friend Borax – also known as Sodium Tetraborate. I read around the subject – finding out lots more about Borax (especially about uses here) and it’s uses, trawling sites for negatives as well as positives – until, convinced it was worth a try, I sent off for some, it was only £5.95  a kilo.

First it said, once you have obtained your borax have a bath – with one tablespoon or borax and one of bicarbonate of soda – just for relief. OH MY! That was SO GOOD, just in itself! That alone was enough to convince me to take the course.

Then there was the taking of borax in solution every day for a fortnight. This was in a specific high dose: One eighth of a level teaspoon of borax to be taken everyday, dissolved in one litre of (warm) spring water – consumed over the day.  Followed by a life-time of a much lower dose of borax –  every day – forever. AND the mandatory taking of a magnesium supplement always – as the borax needs that to work effectively. Magnesium citrate is easily absorbed but can also act as a laxative so I researched and decided on magnesium glycinate – which is also easily absorbed but does not have that side effect. (magnesium oxide – often sold in supermarkets – is very poorly absorbed)

(NB. The site I looked at also advised adding one eighth of a teaspoon of ground Himalayan Pink Salt to the Borax – so I did this too … to begin with, until I had the odd reaction of tingling in my face – that seemed to be caused by an overdose of sodium – so I dropped the pink salt and continued with the borax – the odd reaction faded away.
Himalayan pink salt is often recommended by natural health bloggers for ailments – and I wonder if someone was trying a belt and braces solution that worked for them – but overloaded my system with sodium? My verdict – I believe this works just as well with Borax only)

ANYWAY…. On day 5 – when I was drying myself I thought ‘Oh! What? My skin has gone numb in one small place.’ So I checked with the mirror to see where this numb area was. It turned out it wasn’t numb at all – just healed-up and looking normally pink, surrounded by skin that was still screaming at me – it only seemed numb in comparison.

Over the remaining time of the fortnight this small normal area grew – until all the skin looked pink and healthy and did not hurt any more. The swelling had gone down too – and it was only then I realised how bad that aspect had actually been.

One other thing I used over that fortnight was a simple ‘cream’ I made-up myself. Without the corticosteroid cream there was no slippery barrier to each inner cheek rubbing against the other and causing pain. So I used one rounded tablespoon of coconut oil (which is a solid at room temp) and mixed into it one level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, one level teaspoon of Borax and 3 drops of lavender oil (essential oil) The dry ingredients are dissolved into the warmed oil and constantly stirred – even as it begins to solidify. The essential oil added before it solidifies but after the oil has cooled a bit.  This then sets to a hard ‘cream’ – so I would scrape off a little and it would melt on my skin providing the lubrication on the sore skin with the soothing qualities of the other ingredients.

Three months down the line and there has been no more pain, I still take the 3mg dose of borax each day [1 tsp of borax dissolved in 1 litre of water – kept in fridge and only 1 – 2 teaspoons of this solution taken each day in water] and use a little of my own ‘cream’ especially after showers or baths.

This borax treatment is such a blessing that, despite the embarrassment, I have to share it – even if only one other person with Lichen sclerosus gets some relief from the symptoms – then it would be worth it.

 

Comments welcome as always – but …

If you wish to keep it private and just contact me then just reply to the email this arrived on – otherwise go to the actual page and click comments to add yours

Best – Ann

 

ps weight stayed the same last week, down 1 lb this … and still happy with the new borax and bicarb hair treatment – and my hairdresser said that my hair felt thicker!

Something else I have never (knowingly) done before…

I don’t know about you – but I do not usually re-read novels. I may re-read a paragraph if, as I’m going through a book, I wonder if I understood properly something that was intimated, when subsequent events suggest I didn’t – but a whole novel – no. Even as a writer of fiction I tend to think that if I have read it – that’s it, done and dusted – there are far too many books out there to re-read fiction. Usually, if I have read a fiction book I have got from it all I wanted. Intrigue, thrills, laughter, a new perspective, escape … and then I look for the next novel to entertain me. nation

So, I can honestly say, I have never consciously re-read a novel. Now, I do know that I have sometimes started to re-read a novel … one that has come out in a new cover say …but as soon as I get into it and realise I know where it is going and that I have read it before I abandon it.

Just after January settled itself down, I was tidying a book shelf … !yes, unusual phenomena – but there were a few books that needed to be homed – so a bit of judicious shuffling had to happen! … and I spotted a novel by Terry Pratchett that I had not read – and I thought I had read them all over the years. Now I need to explain that #2 son had emptied his rucksack of books out onto these shelves, in what had been his room, before he set off to ‘climb around the world for a few years’ – and at some time he’d had a lot of Pratchett books too.

‘Nation’ is not part of the disc-world series, in fact it is not part of any of Terry’s other series either … it is a complete stand-alone. Weirdly, I hadn’t even heard of it. So I picked it out of the shelf and began reading. ‘Nation’ is set in a parallel world at a time we would call early Victorian, so much is recognisable and that which isn’t is just that little shift different and all this makes for an unusual and engaging book.

Mau, a boy about to become a man, has left his tribe as boys must, to go to the boys’ island, to come back a man. I do not think I will spoil anything by saying that as he leaves the island to return home a big wave comes, a tsunami … and all that follows is as a consequence of this.

I couldn’t but help think about the tsunami that hit Thailand, and neighbouring countries, on Boxing Day of 2004, and of the island of Koh Phi Phi where #4 son spent a few years, more recently.  There  70% of the buildings were flattened, and up to 40% people of the ten thousand estimated to have been on the island at the time (including tourists) were wiped off the face of the land by the wave, leaving 104 children with no parents. Only 850 bodies were recovered, the rest remain missing.

After I had finished reading it I went to my Goodreads page to write a review … and while I was looking for the correct version cover to put on the page I realised that this book had been first published under Pratchett – Children’s books, then only later more generally. I wondered why it was ‘for children’ – as are a few of the disc-world linked novels – but decided it was only because it featured young people as the main characters as it is as intricate and full of meaning as many of his other books.

Yes, full of meaning – as well as being full of ‘funny layers’ and ‘hard truth layers’ and quirky asides. If you are a Pratchett fan you will recognise all these aspects of his work. If you have never read them – or just picked up one and read a little bit here and there, you may think that his books are too weird, too ‘other’ for your taste, but I would urge you to settle down and read a few, to get to know the city of Ankh-Morpork and the Watch as a start. You do not need to know about their world view (a world that is a disc, on the backs of four elephants balanced on the back of a celestial turtle, hurtling through space – it doesn’t really feature much) you only need to know a heaving metropolis populated by the adventurous of every kind of sentient creature that exists on their disc-world – be it dwarf or troll, werewolf or human, vampire or Nobby Nobbs.thud

So it was, that, after reading Nation, and feeling in the mood for more Pratchett I had to resort to re-reading a novel. I chose THUD!.

THUD! Is an exquisite commentary on our times. If you swapped out dwarves and trolls for Muslims and Christians you could be near the mark. And history – oh, history and how it can be manipulated and cause trouble in the mouths of the wrong people. And then there’s the Watch – Ankh-Morpork’s policemen – made up of almost the right mixture of beings to represent the inhabitants of the city…  Sure – there are comic elements – in fact I know I literally laughed out loud more than once – but there … there it is – a fundamental message, glowing in the ‘dark’ of a ‘fantasy’ novel.

I have since gone on to re-read ‘Jingo!’ about War and those who actually wish for it, create it, push for it … to further their own agendas  – regardless of the consequences to the ordinary people … also somewhat pertinent.jingo

Do you re-read novels?

If so – What is your favourite – and how many times have you re-read it?

Do share – I’d love to know which novels you think are worth reading twice.

 

 

ps another 1lb down … 🙂

and hair still looking great 🙂

 

Cold Turkey Shampoo

No, Not a new ‘flavour’ of shampoo, but the first new attempt to use fewer nasty chemicals on my body.

Let’s face it – our skin is our largest organ AND it absorbs anything we put on it. Despite the long-held belief – which I occasionally still hear someone spout that ‘our skin is waterproof, sealing our flesh in and protecting it from everything’ – IT ISN’T.

Just think ‘nicotine patches’ – if our skin were truly impermeable these wouldn’t work – would they? They don’t contain a magic key to open the skin door.

I was reading around this when I read “shampoo and conditioners are applied to the whole body if used in either the shower or the bath” Oh! Come to think about it – so they are – and especially if you have washed your body while waiting for the shampoo or the conditioner to work and therefore rinsing those off is the the last bit you do – leaving them clinging to your skin.

So, what’s wrong with that? Nothing, if you like the idea of parabens and petrochemicals left on your skin.

Parabens are there more for the producer than for you – they are a type of preservative. They also happen to be a exonoestrogen and as such are able to mimic oestrogen in the body, and it is this factor that has shown a link to breast cancer.

Petrochemicals –  well, I don’t know about you, but I just really don’t like the idea of putting a petrochemical derivative all over my body (not now I think about it) This may not be rational – there are some studies out there that say the 1.4 dioxine is cancer linked – and others that say the exposure is minimal – you get more driving your car. What sort of concerns me is that if all these minimals in our lives are put together they they turn out to be maximal – to have those undesired effects within our body.

Now, I figure, if I can cut down on those that I CAN avoid – the ones I can’t may just remain at minimal levels.

There are also lots of other nasties in shampoo and conditioner – some to make the foam, some to coat the hair after the foaming chemicals have raised all the scales and made it tangly.

And apparently we do not need either of them – our hair and scalp was made to be self-cleaning … only it takes a while – anything from four weeks to 3 months to achieve its new equilibrium.

However, this doesn’t mean you do not clean your hair – you can go completely cold-turkey on any cleaning product and just wash with warm water – this may take the longest to transition, depending on hair type, or you can go the simple solution way – using Bicarbonate of soda and / or borax then vinegar or ascorbic acid (vitamin c) as the neutraliser/conditioner.

I looked to my friend Krissi – a long-time advocate of No Shampoo – for advice and she favoured the bicarb solution and just rinse. However this can lighten hair and as my hair is darker [and the grey coloured with a temporary colour two shades lighter than my hair – so the coloured grey looks like highlights 😉 ] I didn’t want to just do that. (If I had blonde/ going grey hair I’d definitely do that!) [Incidentally, Krissi used to make all organic, no nasties cosmetics – and this part of her life I borrowed for the character Marian Wood in A Respectable Life – with her knowledge 🙂 ]

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Ready for fourth wash today

Now, my new friend, Borax, (more about this when I get the courage up to tell you*) in a combination with Bicarb is also recommended by various No Shampoo (also called, unpleasantly, No Poo) websites, and as I am very happy to rinse my body in borax* (you will understand when I do get to tell you, honest) I went for this.

Having made up the mixture of 1 tablespoon of borax and 1 tablespoon of Bicarb in a litre of water I doused all my hair in it. Massaged it in*, then rinsed with 1 teaspoon of ascorbic acid (you can use apple-cider vinegar) in another litre of warm water. Again I massaged it in a bit then thoroughly rinsed it out.

My hair is very fine, and there is not as much of it as I would like! Usually, for the first day after I wash it it is all fly-away and won’t stay up in a clip, but irritates and tickles my face if down … but by day three it gets greasy and hangs limply and separates into ‘strands’! I also have to give it a good condition too, other wise I can’t get a comb through it for the tangles. Generally I am only happy with my hair on day two.

What happened with the borax bicarb solution?

The first time I think I left the borax and bicarb on too long* (ten minutes) as I was concerned that my hair wouldn’t get clean! And my hair came out like straw! Not the desired effect. However, it didn’t take long for it to ‘calm down’.

The second time, five days later, my hair was much better as I’d reduced the time the borax/bicarb was on my hair to about 2mins – and though my hair started out feeling heavier (less fly-away) than it would after a shampoo wash, it did not change and get any greasier for days. And, I realised it wasn’t tangly after washing – which, if I ever used just a shampoo, my hair definitely would be!

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After washing this morning 🙂 And it doesn’t tickle!

The third time (six days along) my hair was even more manageable again and I’ve left it a whole week before I felt like it needed washing. Today I’m going to wash it again … and though it has not quite been three weeks I think it is beginning to find its equilibrium.

I’ll continue to fill you in on this experiment as it goes along …

Anyone already transitioned to No Shampoo?

Any good advice / thoughts about ditching the commercial products?

You know I love to hear from you, do share 🙂 – Ann

 

ps. weight report: another 1lb off this week – only 4 to go lose that December stodge

 

 

 

 

The perfect (weight-gain) storm

Ever since I came to you in 2012 to be my unseen cheer-leaders in my quest to lose my menopause weight-gain, I feel honour-bound to tell you what happens, good or … bad and make my confession.

So when my weight remained off a long-time past reaching my goal (in comparison to many ‘quick-fix’ weight-loss programmes) I told you. Well, it was good news, you’d expect me to.shocked-face

But now – today – I’m going to tell you how I put ON 8lbs over December… and Why – and How – I mean – that’s two pounds a week – on!  So how did I achieve this???

Firstly I didn’t do my weights exercises for all of December. I had a good reason for that – in the context of a minor catastrophe – whereby I was carrying a pyrex container of six pints of very hot milk from the microwave to the utility room (to cool it in a sink of cold water – half way stage of making yoghurt) when it started a wave motion and began to splash out of the covered bowl onto the floor – then I slipped on this as I stepped up into the utility room – the pyrex dish flew and smashed and six pints of milk sprayed itself liberally everywhere! The pyrex, as it exploded – which pyrex does when thrown on a tile floor – managed to send a piece up to slice through the flesh of my middle finger, on the top just above the first joint. I’ll draw a veil over the dripping blood and the clearing up – suffice to say – six pints of milk go a long way and broken pyrex is vicious!

Result – however, was that I couldn’t do my weights exercises as gripping anything caused the semi-circular cut of pop open [maybe it needed a stitch or two? I’d used butterfly strips to hold it together as my skin doesn’t likes stitches – usually swelling and going sore and red around them…] but the scar is very neat now – so my way was probably ok after all.christmas-food

So – no exercises = less muscle – so I didn’t even notice a weight gain the the first couple of weeks as fat on, was balanced by muscle lost… and secondly – then it was Christmas – and my total failure to stick to my usual careful watching of those SS (sugar and starch) carbs. Yes – I ate the second mincepie – the slice of cake each evening, the roast potatoes, the chocolates (an open tub of chocolates is the devil in disguise) AND even too much of the healthy foods, of which I cooked plenty

Lastly, I’d also been experimenting with gluten-free recipes through December, trying some out and making-up others, as a preparation for going gluten-lite (more about these another time) but what with having to taste (when you try or make a new recipe) and falling into the ‘Health Halo trap’ (just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean its not fattening) I was already eating more that my usual amount of carbs (even non-wheat grain carbs are still carbs!)

All of which, oddly enough, tends to prove that the weights programme and the sensible low carb eating works … and, as exercises are done at home in less than 15 minutes and as no food is banned (just kept a close eye on) it is sustainable – barring accidents!

Confession over – so what am I doing about it?

January the first, like many people, I was making my New Year resolution – of which I spoke last week – now here’s a bit of the detail:
1, return to my weight exercises,
2, return to watching the SS carbs carefully,
3, to SLOW it all down – to eat with more consciousness – slowing down the consumption, tasting the food more – chewing more. (difficult when the other half is a very fast eater and seems impatient for his pud – AND frustratingly – is one of those people who can eat what they like and stay slim!!)
4, Only eating if I feel hungry. (the first couple of days after a New Year’s Eve and Day over-eating I hardly felt like eating anything – so I ate minimally just for those days {frowned upon by the other-half} until my body started telling me it was ready) And it has begun to work – for as of Monday this week I had lost 3lbs of that gain – and hope the rest follows … I will keep you posted.

Any other confessions out there?

Did you take your eye off the (weight) ball over Christmas?

Do share, confession is good for the soul  😉

Is it Monday?

Hi All, and yes, I’ve got to that stage when in the Christmas – New Year break when I am confused over what day it is. I’m sure I lost a day somewhere. Am I the only one feeling like this?

However, I am assured it is – and now offer my belated New Year’s greetings – and do wish everyone a peaceful 2017. Peace – in all parts of the world, but also peace within ourselves.

Perhaps this is why we try to set new targets for the coming year – we have ideas about what we want to be that we are sure would help complete ourselves, let us be happier in our own skin or boost our self-esteem. diet 1

However, it seems to me that, unless we make our goals very realistic, we are instead setting ourselves up for a fall. I now set targets that allow for the fact that I am human – and I offer this – as I find it works for me.

I allow myself a lapse within each week, for each resolution, as long as I can keep it for five days I allow myself the other two. I do not have to give up on the resolution on those two – but if I do, I do not have to beat myself up about it… AND as I’ve not ‘broken my resolution’ I do not have to ‘give up on it’.

How does this help? Well, low-self-esteem is a driver for many ills / addictions / lows in our psyche and so keeping our self-esteem high helps. Oh, yes, and the extra pat-on-the-back we can give ourselves if we don’t use the get-out clause and manage 7 out of 7 is a boost as well.

So if my aim is to exercise more, to eat less carb-loaded and wheat-based food, write more (as an author who finds it difficult to carve the regular writing times out of busy days), sleep more (definitely related to the writing and health) then I can do this for at least five days out of seven and, oddly, achieve more than if I aimed for 7 / 7.

I have one other aim this year – that is to cut back on the number of chemicals in my life. I’ll be looking at chemicals used for cleaning around the house – and chemicals that come into contact with my skin – and, as usual, I’ll be reporting along the way and hope you’ll find it of interest.

Are you making any interesting Resolutions out there?
– do share – you know I love to hear from you!

So here’s wishing you a Healthy, Peaceful and Happy 2017tigger

best

Ann

 

 

 

Doing Christmas – lametta and cake

Here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas from this blog.
I have decorated the tree …

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 … and then finished it off with lametta – oh, how I love lametta – regardless of fashion – I love the way it pulls the tree decorations together and gives more sparkle than you would expect! {pictures much clearer if clicked}

And then the cake... and I left it rather late (last weekend) to make but still dropped it, well wrapped, into the freezer for three days – just to help it mature! Oh, Yes! Freezing a fruit cake helps it mature, because the ice crystals that form break the cells and releases the juices and flavours from all that fruit, and, if you had followed a recipe like the Adaptable Rich Fruit Cake recipe I use – then you’ll be releasing extra wine flavour too!wp_20161222_20_43_58_pro

My decorations this year used a large holly leaf cutter and a small heart shaped cutter and roll-out icing. Having covered the cake I mixed a little gum tragacanth, so it will harden, with the remaining icing and rolled it out. The white holly leaves and the hearts were cut out from this, the holly leaves left to dry draped over scrunched paper covered with cling-film to give them shape. (The same was done with some other remaining icing – coloured green)

The heart shapes were stuck together in fives to make the ‘Christmas Roses’ and set to rest in a piece of foil, each in a dip in a bun tin. A little icing was coloured yellow and pressed through a sieve to make the centres, ‘cut’ off the sieve and pressed onto a, dampened, centre, with a few presses of the knife tip.

One of the most useful cake decorating things I ever bought from Lakeland was the sets of letters and numbers. These have been used SO many times over the years – the letters much more than the numbers but both are useful.

With these I cut out my message to go all around the cake …

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I hope you can read it … it’s for you …

it says Merry Christmas and a Happy (2017) New Year … my wish for you All  🙂

Parkinson’s and the gut

I know you’ll think I have a bee in my bonnet about gut bacteria – well maybe I have – but it is like the stuff I was going on about for YEARS regarding low carbs rather than low fat … gradually there is enough new evidence (and enough of the scientists who made their lives on the old science have gone) that the main-stream have to (grudgingly) accept that there is FAR more to the gut bacteria than just breaking down foods in the gut.

mitochondrion
A cross section of a mitochondrion

I am fortunate in that I do not have anyone actually affected by Parkinson’s in my family, but I have known people affected by it.

When I was regaling you all on this blog with the findings of Dr Permutter and his book Brain Maker I touched on many aspects of the way the wrong bacteria in the gut affected the brain. I did not mention Parkinsons directly (I wasn’t copying out his whole book!) – though HE DOES.

He says that many brain disorders – including Parkinson’s – have been linked to mitochondrial ‘glitches’ – and these are caused by inflammation – yes, caused by a malfunctioning gut-biome.

This review of the LATEST news of the studies into gut bacteria and Parkinson’s, on a NHS site – link here, would be better if they explained more about the function of the different types of gut bacteria and the consequent different types of short-chain fatty-acids they produce (as the wrong type of bacteria produce the wrong type of short chain fatty-acids) [nb – nothing to do with ‘fat’- by the way] BUT it does show that this idea, of the power and importance of our gut bacteria, is becoming more mainstream – more acceptable to the medical community as a whole (who were previously more sceptical than open to the idea!)

It finishes with this comment from Dr. Arthur Roach, Director of Research and Development at Parkinson’s UK : “This paper shows for the first time a way in which one of the key players in Parkinson’s, the protein alpha-synuclein, may have its actions in the brain modified by gut bacteria. It is important to note however that this study has been done in mice and we would need further studies in other model systems and in humans to confirm that this connection is real … There are still many questions to answer but we hope this will trigger more research that will ultimately revolutionise treatment options for Parkinson’s.”

Yes – well, they always start with mice… but when the ‘treatment’ could be as simple as a Faecal Microbial Transplant – as recommended by Dr Perlmutter for other certain cases (affecting the brain) where the gut bacteria are so wrong that they need more direct intervention to sort them out quickly (rather than the slower method of ingesting fermented foods and changing the diet) surely someone can start a trial soon with (relatively) little expense (compared to doing the same using new pharmaceutical drugs) and see if this works. If it were me – I’d certainly try to eat the foods that feed the right bacteria and take a course of the main beneficial bacteria recommended for good gut health (discussed previously here) as it costs relatively little and could do no harm even if it didn’t work.

(the cynic in me says – that no pharma-company will fund this further research, into sorting out the gut bacteria, as it offers no profits, though they may seek to make an alpha-synuclein modifier or blocker or similar that they can sell  – so it will be down to non-profit groups to follow this up (like Parkinson’s UK research or independent philanthropic funders etc)

I watch with interest.

and how about you … any bees in your bonnets I should know about?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you

 

Looe Literary Festival and an authorly-secret

 

‘Welcome to Looe’ the sign said – indeed – welcome to the Looe Literary Festival 2016, no longer a baby – now a three-year-old and growing and learning every year.

I was honoured, once again, to be invited to present my new book at this festival – the places aren’t unlimited, even though the brave organisers, June and Amelia, try to make space for all.

It was great to see Waterstones, led by Lee (who held my launch of Some Kind of Synchrony in the Plymouth, New George Street, branch) getting involved as the Literary Festival’s main book seller – and it was great to have the pop-up Art Gallery and ‘locals’ book shop at Archies once again (after missing out on it last year.)

The venues had almost all changed as well. Us Local Authors were in the very nice space of the upstairs of The Black Swan. So it was there that a goodly number appeared to hear my talk. Now, without an interviewer this year I planted questions to get me on my way. (*if I do this again, and you happen to come along, you might like to know that if you volunteered to ask me a ‘planted’ question you would be entered for an instant draw – the prize for which, this time, was a signed copy of The Angel Bug.*) – but this isn’t my authorly-secret.

This scheme kept me on track with the main bits I wanted to include – but I also left a gap for random questions from the audience. One that I have never had before was concerning the book that will never be published – the first one I ever wrote. I had pointed out that I was glad that it had not been possible to just pop a book up on Amazon back when I started writing – as I might have been tempted and ruined my writing career before it had begun, whereas I could now see that it was full of the worst ‘first-book’ ‘new author’ errors. (no, this isn’t the authorly-secret either) looe-lit-fest-reading

‘What were these errors?’ I was asked … and I had to admit to ‘purple prose’ – too much description, every flower, every petal described on a walk… type of thing. I also admitted to ‘far too much introspection’ as the protagonist contemplated her lot and agonised over decisions. What eluded me at the time, but I recalled when I returned home, was the lack of real driving storyline. Sure she went from one relationship to another – but she did not exactly grow in the transition – and throughout was beset with angst. I’d called this book, eventually, ‘Windmills’ – after the song title ‘Windmills of your mind’ and had each chapter headed with a different line from the song. (seems that, had I actually published this, I might have ended up in trouble for using the lyrics without permission – who knew! – but this isn’t the authorly-secret either)

As it happens this never-to-be-published book found its way into A Respectable Life. It gets a sideways mention as one of the other books that the book group are reading from the ‘Best-Reads’ short list. It amused me to put it in there but, until now, only I knew! – and that IS my authorly-secret! And now you all know and will recognise it when you read that line!  looe-lit-fest-signing

All in all it was a fantastic weekend and it was SO GOOD to meet some of my readers – especially those who have read my other books and came along specially – if that was you – it was great to meet you!!

Thank all of you, both at the book launch and after the Looe Lit Fest reading, who also encouraged me to put my poems out in book form too. I am now considering it…

Back to researching and writing now … and working on fermented foods … and researching natural healing … and sorting poems … and …

What are you all getting up to as the days draw in and the cold weather starts?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you

Best – Ann

Please, if you enjoyed a book by an indie-published author, help them gain a wider audience by doing a review on Amazon – doesn’t have to be in depth – just has to be heartfelt. Thank you X

 

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