Stir-Up Sunday and my MW Christmas Pud recipe

As it happens, I was taking a service at our local church today. Today being the last Sunday before Advent, known as Christ the King but also known, for longer, as Stir-Up Sunday (after the collect for the day which begins ‘Stir-Up, O Lord’) It also became the traditional day to Stir-Up the Christmas Pudding or, for some, the cake.

Taking a service??  No, I’ve not become a vicar overnight – but I have been a Worship Leader for almost a year – well – eleven months – ish.

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Anyway – back to the story … my idea was to get the congregation to bring up the ingredients and stir each one in – and to (here’s the difference to hundreds of other stir-up sundays) COOK the pudding to be eaten at the end of the service.

Those of you who have followed my blog for a long time know that I end up sharing my recipes with you – some of these are really popular – especially the microwave jam. You already have the Christmas – very rich fruit cake adaptable to any size or shape tin – cake) here  so today, after the response from those who ate the Christmas Pudding after the service – I’m going to share my recipe for a Microwave Christmas Pudding.

This is so quick to cook I have been known to stir-it-up on Christmas morning – though I prefer to make it the day before and just heat it up on Christmas day – as it takes longer to weigh the ingredients than it does to cook it! It is a light and fruity pudding – which is how we like it.

This recipe is adapted from one I found in a microwave cooking magazine many, many years ago (probably about 3o years ago!) but I have changed it so much to suit our family tastes it isn’t the same recipe any more – so I will call it ‘mine’. Note: Step 1 needs to be done the day before.

Ann’s Microwave Christmas Pud

This amount makes a One pint (550ml) Christmas pud

Ingredients in order of addition:

48g         Plain Flour
1/2 tsp    Mixed Spice
1/4 tsp    Cinnamon
1/4 tsp    Ground Ginger
pinch of  Salt
48g          Real Breadcrumbs (I prefer to use wheat-meal bread to make my breadcrumbs)
48g          Soft Dark Brown Sugar
48g          Butter (cut small)
90g          Sultanas (soaked – see step 1)
90g          Raisins (soaked – see step 1)
1/2           Apple (chopped finely)
24g          Dried Apricots (chopped finely) if you like mixed peel you could add this instead – I don’t.
24g          Honey (or you can use golden syrup)
Juice and grated rind of half a Lemon
1               Egg
1 – 2         tablespoons Milk – as required.

Step 1     THE DAY BEFORE – Wash the Sultanas and Raisins under hot water until the oil floats off – drain well, even pat dry with paper-towels. Then put in large shallow bowl, pour in about a teacup of wine or ale – or fruit juice if you don’t want alcohol (juice not flavoured drink – preferably not orange – cranberry could work well for this) Cover – but stir whenever you are passing – so the fruit all plumps up 🙂
I am assuming you will make your breadcrumbs – it’s easy enough, just make sure the loaf is not too fresh, remove crusts, cut into chunks and whizz in a food-processor.

Step 2     In a bowl mix all the ingredients in the list down to the butter.
Step 3     Add the butter – and rub in, until the mixture all looks like breadcrumbs again and the butter is evenly distributed.
Step 4    Add the soaked fruit, the chopped apples and apricots, the honey and the lemon. Stir in well together.
Step 5    Add the egg, mix really well – stirring until the egg completely coats everything.
Step 6   The mixture needs to be soft, so that the ingredients blend together. This is so hard to describe – but the gradual addition of a little milk, well mixed in, should see the texture change from a rough, lumpy texture to a smoother texture – but not wet!

Grease a 1 pint / 550 ml pyrex type pudding bowl

Fill the bowl with the mixture, pushing down to fill any air pockets
Make a slight dip in the centre of the pudding
Cover with a plate or a microwave plate cover with a steam vent is best (I do not recommend cling film)

Place in Microwave. A 900-1000 w MW will only need 6 mins – and 6 mins standing time.
therefore a 700-800 w MW will need about 7 mins – and 6 mins standing time.
The standing time is important as the centre of the top will go from looking a little sticky to dry and cooked looking in this time.
They will keep well overnight in the fridge (or outside it in a cool room)
If you are reheating from cold it will need about 3 – 4 mins (cover again to do this)

Loosen with a pliable spatula, place a plate on the top, invert, and the pudding should come out nicely.
ENJOY – with Cornish Clotted Cream – of course!!

How do you like your Christmas pudding?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you

X  Ann

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

pps – if you are reading on the email and can’t see a video when it says there is one – again , please go to the actual blog by clicking the title – then it should appear 🙂

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write  🙂 Thank You

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C.R.A.P. and the Joy of True Recycling

No, I don’t like the acronym either – CRAP is not a pleasant word in any way, sounds harsh, sounds coarse and creates unpleasant mental images  – however, just at the moment, I’m looking at the word a lot!

Why? Because this is the title acronym for Conserving Resources Associating People, which in the title is followed by an Area and is a Facebook page. So here, in Cornwall, there are at least eight that show if I search Facebook for C.R.A.P. – but I do not know if it is a country-wide phenomenon like Freecycle (which I don’t like for its ‘pleading your case – why you deserve this free item’ and ‘having to choose who gets it’ aspect – or is this only me) or just Cornwall and spreading. They referred back to ‘the first one set up’ Falmouth and Penryn (now with 5,400 members I see!) – so it may only be down here at this time.

Basically it is to save stuff going to landfill. Stuff that is still usable but not necessarily saleable – or stuff that’s good and usable that you’d just rather pass on than bother selling.

As we are downsizing in a major way – and have LOTS to get rid of – and then on top of that, quite a bit of the stuff I have hoarded kept safe was kept because it had been too good to throw away (to create landfill)  but not good enough to sell or to donate to charity for them to sell – this site is a blessing.

The local C.R.A.P. group has been running just over a month and has over 900 members already! Some giving, some finding, some doing both, some just watching until something catches their eye! And ‘local’ is important too, as members need to be close enough to pick-up the stuff.

It also encourages Up-cycling and Community efforts using recycled goods to help where needed.

You would be AMAZED at the stuff that goes – because it is so true – one person’s unwanted junk is someone’s ‘just what I need’.wp_20180917_22_21_53_pro

Unbelievable? You want Examples? Here you are then: an assortment of mixed glasses – went to two different people – both for crafting (glass painting / glass etching) 1950’s loo & hand-basin – to a retro loving home, 1980s grey loo, to become a planter, and to someone else, the handbasin – just what was needed.

wp_20180920_11_34_42_proScrolling through the page recently I’ve seen shoes, bowls, plates, lamps, rugs, old tables, cupboards, boxes, artificial flowers, table ends, woolly hats and comfrey roots – all go!

I called this the JOY of True Recycling because it is far more joyful than the necessary recycling of the waste we bring into our homes (plastic, card, glass and paper) and especially as the sort of stuff we can gift on this site is precisely the stuff that still goes to landfill – and there is a JOY in giving things away that you no longer need and knowing someone else can use 🙂

Off to take some pictures of the next pile of ‘treasure’ to give away …

Are you into recycling in this way?

Any good schemes where you are?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you

X  Ann

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

pps – if you are reading on the email and can’t see a video when it says there is one – again , please go to the actual blog by clicking the title – then it should appear 🙂

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write  🙂 Thank You

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Burlesque, Deportment and Wet-Day PE lesson

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Georgina Gale

We had the fabulous Georgina Gale from Art of Dance, Plymouth, come to talk to our WI last week about Burlesque.  Not a usual topic for WI you may be thinking – but maybe you have the wrong idea about burlesque – or the wrong idea about WI ?  🙂

Burlesque is more about the suggestion of sensuality than about sex : WI is about women having fun while learning stuff together.

As Georgina talked it was noticeable that she wanted women to ‘own their space’ to be ‘certain and proud of being a woman – and show it’ and that this was aided by a few minor alterations to how we walked, how we held ourselves, and how we used whatever props came to hand.

At one point I found myself flooded with a memory. A memory that was of a lesson I learned when about thirteen or fourteen and have generally tried to follow – when I remember.

It was a wet day, a really wet day and it was not only PE but our PE teacher was away and so the HE (Home Economics) teacher was covering the lesson. Worse, with only one Gym, the boys and the girls had to take turns on these wet days and it was the boys turn – so we were relegated to the hall. The hall was used for some sports anyway – it had a badminton court marked out on it.

Back in those days teachers were not expected to have lesson plans ready for another member of staff to pick up and use if they were away – so the HE teacher was left to her own devices.

She chose to teach us a little deportment.

Now this may have been usual in some schools (maybe in the nearby Princess Margaret-Rose school for instance) but in our mixed secondary modern it was not on the general curriculum.

She started with walking – as did our Burlesque teacher last week – getting us to walk around the hall following the painted badminton lines, placing one bare foot in front of the other, on the line, as we went. Placing was a good word for it, toe – heel, toe – heel. Those who straddled the line were put right – one foot in front of the other! We were walking with grace – not clumping along.

Then she upped the stakes.

She’d brought along a pile of soft-backed old HE books and now we were to balance one on our head and continue our perambulation. Head up, eyes forward, looking at the line now in the distance. How it straightened backs and shoulders! It sounds stuffy but we had fun – it isn’t easy, that balancing the book on the head stuff – especially when you turn – so there was laughter too!

And so it was in our Burlesque evening (without the books – but with shoes) plenty of laughter but then suddenly we were looking far more confident, all looking taller. You could see how someone walking like that would draw attention, someone looking so confident somehow makes you believe that they know who they are, what they are doing and where they are going – and that confidence is attractive.

It made me think – how often do we as women duck our heads, look at our feet, slouch, unsure what to do without arms? Giving the impression that we are not confident in the world. How much of this is learnt behaviour, learnt ‘feminine’ behaviour? That maybe we have lost some indefinable female power by ignoring, or deliberately turning our backs, on elegance and grace of movement. If you ever watch dancers, off  stage, they still have it – maybe we all need a few lessons.

How often do you see young women ‘clumping’ along (as my teacher put it) like a boy – but with the rest of the body language that says, ‘don’t listen to me, don’t look at me, I don’t know what I’m doing here’ ?

Maybe a little deportment should be taught – maybe under another name? Positional empowerment?

Whereas back in the school hall the teacher finished off by teaching us how sit and how to get in and out of a car elegantly without showing your knickers no matter how short your skirt – very useful in those early mini-skirt days! Georgina added how to stand, so that you are comfortable, your back well supported, (she’s also trained in Pilates), your hands poised in a relaxed position that allowed you to stand tall and look confident – comfortably. (Plus a few cheeky poses and the removal of … gloves 😉 )

What do you think?

Positional empowerment lessons for girls?

A load of old-fashioned nonsense?

Love to hear from you

best  –  Ann

Ok, you can admit it now – you went and got a paperback or magazine and tried walking with it on your head, didn’t you?   😉

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

pps – if you are reading on the email and can’t see a video when it says there is one – again , please go to the actual blog by clicking the title – then it should appear 🙂

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write  🙂 Thank You

 

 

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Apples and Memories

This week, on a warm day I went into the apple store and realised, by the fermenting aroma, that it was time! Time to sort out all the remaining apples and chuck out all the mouldy ones.

Now a really organised person would have been doing this all along – they’d have done this every time they collected apples – not dashing in, grabbing a few and flying out again, often at twilight, when sorting apples in an unlit shed is not easy.

Red admiral - telling us the apples are ready!
Red admiral – telling us the apples were ready!

As I stood turning over each of the apples that still looked good to check for damage, and chucking the obviously past-it apples into the bucket, I remembered picking this crop. We did it over a number of warm days, the butterflies dancing and tasting apples that had already fallen.

In past years Dad has always been the most assiduous fruit-picker in the family, he’d check the fruit, wait for the dew to dry and then set off into the orchard with a wheelbarrow full of boxes, and steadily pick apples and lay them out in the apple store all day, or until the apples that were ripe were all gathered in.dad-picking-apples-holding-on-2017

This year, ill as he was, he still wanted to help. So, over a few days, he did. I helped him walk down to the trees we were going to pick, and he held tightly to a branch and picked with his free hand, or propped himself against the trunk, and did the same. An hour or so of this and he was exhausted, but happy to have done his bit for that day, and after I’d helped him back he’d settle down in his armchair, feet up, and would swiftly be asleep. wheelbarrow-apples

trug-apples

 

 

 

 

dad-with-howgate-wonderThere had been an excellent crop, with some real whoppers from the Howgate Wonders – an apple I love to recommend as it is sweet enough for an eater, mushes down like a cooker (needing no added sugar) is a heavy cropper and keeps really well! Here’s a snap of Dad holding one, though not the biggest, of these lovely apples.

All this is going through my mind as I sort the apples, and here we are, the second week of April and I still have a range of apples left.wp_20180408_15_17_11_pro
They do not look as pretty as the chilled, native and imported, apples in the supermarket, but they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.wp_20180408_15_16_56_pro

They haven’t been waxed or coated in shellac . . . and if you don’t like the sound of these ‘old apples’ please note that *’apples you buy from the shops are usually anything from a few months to a year old’ * Times Newspaper 10/4/18

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Yet even after all these months, peeled, they still taste wonderful, are free – wp_20180408_15_17_23_pro

 

 

and I reckon I have at least nine kilos left!

 

 

The mouldy and too-damaged-to-eat apples I’ve spread out on our open-top compost heap – where it won’t take long for birds to find them to have nice, unexpected, spring feast.

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What have you been up to this past week?

What annual jobs in the home or garden are you tackling?

Do let me know in the comments – I love to hear from you 🙂

 

ps If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

 

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Belly Dance Hafla & at the Edge

Many of you know that one of my passions is the belly-dance classes I attend. I’ve been shaking it all about for nigh on seventeen years now.

The first time I was introduced to belly-dance, however, must be more than twenty years ago – when a belly-dancer came to our village WI, told us of the true history of the dances (celebratory or in commiseration, by women – for women) and got us all up and shimmying. Unfortunately she wasn’t running classes, and it wasn’t until a number of years later than I discovered Jules. I had been learning Cornish Dance for a millennium event, but that finished and my friend asked if I would be interested in going to belly-dance instead! Was I? Too right I was!

Our group holds an annual Hafla ( a belly-dance party) with which we raise funds for MacMillan Cancer support (in memory of one of our members). Belly-dance groups come to perform from all over Devon, Cornwall and beyond and great fun is had by all while raising a goodly sum for the charity! For this one we did a veil dance – lots of swishing of gauzy fabric! a youtube video can be found here

Our group, known as Shimmying Jewels, also dances out a few times a year, sometimes at Calstock Festival, sometimes at the Tavistock Edge Festival.  A couple of weekends ago it was the latter. We were all set with two performances and two dances in each part of the town (though the second dance was more as backing-dancers to a dance duet by two of our members)

The first dance was to a lively tune with a refrain that extols the ample virtues of Egyptian Ella – a belly-dancer. (And that’s almost a truism, some of the best belly-dancers are of very ample proportions, but with fantastic control over their sinuous movements!) Jules choreographed a stick dance to this – which means that a brightly coloured stick is used to enhance the moves.

I was hoping a video of this was going up on youtube – but it hasn’t arrived yet (I will link to it when it does) In the meantime here are a few stills. wp_20170708_12_08_06_prowp_20170708_12_08_28_prowp_20170708_12_10_32_prowp_20170708_12_08_32_prowp_20170708_12_10_40_pro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, if you fancy belly-dancing – and know where you can join a class but are wondering what to wear – I may have just the blog for your right here  which also goes a long way to explaining what I love about belly-dance.

Though I just love to dance … any dance really … belly-dance has a special place in my heart!

Do you love to dance?

What type of dancing do you do?

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

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No so much Navel Gazing as …

Oh! Here I am, back again after what seems a frenetic and frantic time. Oh, yes, life sometimes throws things our way that knocks all the writing to pot – including the blog.

In this case my father’s sudden eruption of a HUGE ulcer on his tongue, followed by numerous and sequential trips to the hospital for every type of scan, followed swiftly by an operation to remove a largish bite of his tongue and several lymph nodes from his neck following the diagnosis of cancer. Thank goodness for the NHS! Subsequently we’ve been on the recovery stage – trying to regain weight lost while eating was difficult – while eating is still difficult (with sore but healing new shaped tongue) However, things are stabilised now and I have found my lap-top and returned to all of you.wp_20170512_09_02_15_pro

And returned to the studies of everyday plants that my character – Dominica – might be able to use in her healing around AD689 – and today I’m looking at the plant known as the navelwort – or pennywort.

Wort, or wyrt,  is actually a Viking or Norse suffix meaning ‘medicine’. So the name of this plant in this country comes from later than the time I am dealing with, so I have to check with my sources as to whether it was an introduced plant – or was here already but known by another name. (Yes, Historical writing is tricky!)

I have always rather liked this plant. The round fleshy leaves are one of those edible leaves that my boys readily took to eating just for fun (after being told they were edible) They taste a bit cucumbery.. basically fleshy, wet and green, not bad in a sandwich. However, I didn’t know of their medical usage. The names, pennywort and navelwort I assumed came from their shape and the dimple, like a bellybutton, in the middle, even though, somewhere in the recesses of my mind the ‘wort’ rang a herbal-use bell.

wp_20170623_10_52_15_proNow, the mini-course I went on tells me that the navelwort, Umbilicus rupestris, have strong antimicrobial properties and would have been placed over the end of the umbilical cord and tied on, where they would dry-on forming a seal and keep infection at bay. Thus navelwort referred to this property (though under the doctrine of signatures – they would also have been saying – ‘look at me, I’m for use on the navel!’) Oddly, this use doesn’t seem to be generally mentioned in online sources, so maybe it’s a very old use, perfect for my story.

It seems that these can also be carefully dried and stored for babies that arrived out of the navelwort-growing season too. Now I am really hoping this plant in a real native as I am sure this could work its way naturally into Dominica’s medicine kit.

So, barring any other type of emergency, medical or otherwise, I’ll write to you next week – in the meantime –

have you ever eaten a pennywort sandwich – or even just nibbled a leaf?

Or do you know these plants by any other names?

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

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A Weedy Medicine Cabinet – Dandelions

Here we are again, we are back in the late AD600 – when the wise-woman, or the monastery-trained, were the go-to people when you were ailing. Why? Mainly because they still held the knowledge honed by the druids about which herbs had which effects on the body.

So it is that I found myself signing up to a herbalist-led course here in the Tamar Valley. My Dominica will have to use the plants that grow here if she is to be a healer (which – in my telling of the tale – she will be)

Here I am going to give a first glimpse of what I learned but how this will be used in the story I have yet to discover (that’s the way my writing works – fill up the  brain with lots of information and then let the sub-conscious sift through and weave it’s own patterns).

We didn’t even have to leave the property where the talk took place – and I suspect you wouldn’t have to stray far from your garden too for the one herb I’m going to touch on here. wp_20170512_09_06_03_pro

Hands-up those who have dandelions in their garden? *sees a forest of hands* Really? LOL 🙂 … well it seems that a Dandelion is a medicine chest all on its own.

Leaves: Make a ‘tea’ from them to drink. (A ‘tea’ basically is as it sounds, pour boiling water over them and allow to steep for a few minutes – remove herb bits – drink)

Many of you will know this is a diuretic (we all remember the warning as children not to pick dandelions as they will make you wet the bed!) Diuretics are used in many conditions today: – for reducing blood-pressure; congestive heart-failure and oedema (swelling due to water-retention) *This is not to say you should treat yourself for these conditions willy-nilly with dandelion tea!*

But did you know that dandelion tea is also a anti-lithic (a stone-breaker) that breaks gall or kidney stones to allow them to be passed?

Roots: Wash, cut and make a tea – this provides a liver-detox.

Then there’s the sap – that white milky fluid that comes from the broken stem. This can be used to treat warts. It is actually a form of latex and seals the wart off from the air. It needs to be reapplied frequently but eventually the wart will drop off leaving a wet pit on the skin that then heals up. (this make total sense – if you recall my experiment with the duct-tape method of wart removal (here) this works in the same way)

dandelion-fiels-freeimages-live! Not only that – but apparently dandelion sap was even used during the war as a latex (rubber) supply (Not one of us on the course had ever heard of that before!) but as things go – in a serendipitous manner – within a day an advert popped up on FB for Continental tyres – saying they are experimenting with dandelion rubber (due the disease attacking rubber plants worldwide) as well as for other things that use latex.

That’s dandelions for you – amazing and fascinating – now I need to check with Dulcie of Dumnonika, the Iron Age re-enactment group, who has an careful list of truly native plants, whether they were here in this part of the UK back in those times.

I’ll share some of the other medicinal-weeds I learnt about with you another time  🙂

What are your favourite herbal remedies?

Do you remember the warnings about picking Dandelions?

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

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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!

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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  🙂

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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?

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