Creative Abandon

The Daily Post – Messy

Like many creative people my house can get pretty messy when I am busy making or doing a project. The key to this is to return to some order again once I am done. Admittedly sometimes this can take longer than I planned.

Yesterday I took over the kitchen as is often the case this time of year and made Winter Syrup. This will form the basis for some of my handmade Christmas gifts for friends and family.

As you will see in almost every hedgerow that you pass this time of the year in the Uk there is a plentiful supply of Rosehips just waiting to be utilised. After the first frost has softened them is the best time to use them. I love foraging for fruit and berries.

For the past three years I have made a Winter Syrup of varying ingredients. It is usually because I haven’t kept the recipe in one place and I strive to improve it each year. All have been based on a Rosehip recipe and are my first resort when sore throats hit since these wonderful fruits are packed with Vitamin C.

The first I made was the best since it was Elderberry and Rosehip and was what my brother who was a chef, described as “a little bottle of Christmas”. It was lovely with cake, ice cream and in sparkling cocktails. I resolve to make this version next year and not miss out on elderberries as I did this year I was just in the wrong place when the fruit was available. But for now, here’s the recipe for this year’s if you want to make some of your own.

1kg of Ripe Rosehips with stalks and ends removed.

2 litres water

1 Lemon with peel on, halved.

2 inches of Fresh Ginger root, sliced.

1 teaspoon Ground Mixed Spice.

2 tsp Ground Turmeric.

2 tsp Ground Cinnamon.

1 tsp Cloves.

Honey.

Mix all ingredients in a large pan, with 1 litre water lightly mash the Rosehips to break up the fruit and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Use a Muslin cloth in a colander and a bowl to separate the fruit from the liquid, leave to stand to drain as much liquid as possible out. Because Rosehips have fine hairs within them which can irritate the throat you have to separate the fruit from the liquid.

Return the liquid to a clean pan and add another 1 Ltr water and 1kg Sugar. I used both Demerara and white sugar since it was what I had to hand. Add 2 tbsp honey.

Bring the liquid to boil until all sugar has melted then simmer until it has reduced to half its volume.

Bottle it into sterilised glass bottles. I got 8 small bottles from this recipe.

It makes a wonderful sore throat remedy. You will notice that there is a slight sediment in the bottles, this is due to the use of dried spices. Shake before use and once opened store in the refrigerator.

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Favourite Places to Visit

Esther Chilton Challenge – Favourite Places to Visit

This is a place that really is my second home, the place I go to whenever I can. My sanctuary from all that has gone wrong in my life. Where I am surrounded by Nature and Beauty and I am reminded that there is more to life than whatever has bothered me before.

I can walk for miles, across those hills. Surrounded by greenery, trees, mountains and the sea.  The sunsets lift me, their warmth coursing through my veins and bathing everything in a beautiful glow. When I am fortunate to rise with the sun, then life is truly worth living and the day seems so much better. At night, when a magnitude of stars light up the sky, and everywhere else is black, what will catch me out every time is when the blackness suddenly turns from enveloping you to a blue blanket which surrounds you and the light creeps around the hillside fooling you  and the birds again into thinking that the morning has broken. When it rains, boy does it rain and the rain will come down sideways and soak you to your core and feels as though it could cleanse your soul.

It is one of my favourite places on earth.

Four Lessons I’ve learned whilst writing.

The Daily Post – Faceless 

My alternative title would be “Writing Under a Pseudonym Part 2”. Since this is not the first time that I have written about this subject. When I first began my blogging journey almost three years ago. I decided that I would not write under my own name back then.

I’d figured that since the subjects I could write about, might come out of nowhere and catch me by surprise. It would be better to keep some form of anonymity in case it didn’t work out. As part of my own healing process, I thought that since it was going to help me get over trauma in my life, by writing about the things that have affected me.  It doesn’t always do to be so frank. I could hide behind the other persona somewhat.
I thought about the fact that, since at the time I was suffering with very low self-esteem that if I wasn’t any good at it, then it would simply vanish into thin air. I could put the whole thing away, shut it down if I wanted to and chalk it down to experience and it wouldn’t jeopardise any future career prospects.  I have always been rather too concerned about what others think and it had often held me back.

I have learned some valuable lessons in the past few years doing this.
In no particular order…
I have learned that if you write under an assumed name, then sometimes it encourages you to be the person you hope to become.
1. If you mess it up along the way, then you aren’t called to account as such.
2. I have always been fairly careful in what I publish in that I do not want it to be held against me later. I set myself a rule that I would try to steer clear of bad language even when I am upset or angry about a subject. If you have to write when you are feeling like that, then don’t publish it for all to see, as you may feel differently later.
3. You can be transparent about all kind of things whilst hiding behind your assumed name.
4. It can be very difficult to promote yourself as a writer when you are someone else.  I still haven’t got past this last hurdle. I wrote a book you see, but how do you promote your self-published work when only a handful of people know who you are. If you go out there saying you are this new person, what happens if someone recognises you?

As time has gone on, I have wanted to write more and more under my real name though. To bring the writer within out into the open. I have gained more confidence in my ability to write. It was always something that I had out to the back of my mind, thought about pursuing on several occasions over the years,  but not really knowing where to begin. It was merely one of those skills that became incorporated into the repertoire of my working life.  I wrote good letters for my employers, could word adverts and job descriptions and was also thorough when it came to proofreading as well.   I enjoyed such aspects of my work.

Sure I am not everyone’s cup of tea. My style of poetry does not suit everyone and can sometimes seem like more of the same even to me if I revisit a subject. But there are times when it gives me the freedom to express myself in a different way to the norm, to say what is really on my mind.
I think about the many occasions where I have been going through whatever life has decided to throw in my direction.  I have thought about how I dealt with things and how I got through the hard times and it is there in the background, a constant.  I have poems I wrote in my young adult life, which I found in some papers a couple of years ago. There are bits and pieces, snippets of writing, a storyline which did not get continued which I began many years ago.  My own unfinished symphony. If I have been upset or confused about something in my life, it has always helped to write it down, see it in black and white in front of me, to get my head around it. I am not just a poet though. I write about all kinds of things.
Years ago, I found that a way to deal with things that I felt powerless about was to write a letter to whoever had upset or wronged me. Telling them exactly how I felt about the situation.  These were never meant to be read by the person and often written in the heat of the moment. They were usually burned, offered up to the universe to deal with in whatever way it saw fit. But it certainly helped me and as a consequence, once I had done so, I could let it go and move on. I do not hold grudges, but I rarely forget the lesson I have learned from an experience.

Latterly these past three years I have been writing more and more poetry. I had to find an outlet for it which is how the first blog came about. I had so many poems I didn’t know what to do with them, I wondered if others might like to read them. But I didn’t know where to start. Some people suggested I write a book, but I didn’t have the confidence or the know how to begin it. So I decided to publish it via a blog instead, who knows I might get some followers and later on if it was well received I might be able to write a book.

The poems came thick and fast. I wrote night and day, sometimes I would write ten in a night and sleep half the day. It was like a tap I could not turn off. I kept notebooks everywhere, made voice memos of subjects if I could not write it there and then, such as when I was out walking the dog, or had been driving in the car, I would pull over to record a thought of lines of this and that that I could refer to later. I kept a notebook in the bathroom, often clambering out of the shower or waking in the night when inspiration would hit with a couple of lines that would then turn into something quite magical. My fiance was concerned, as it seemed to take me over. That may seem like odd behaviour, however I have found out from other writers, this is perfectly normal! Within a few months I had written over 100 poems. I decided that was the goal that I would reach before publishing my book.

I still did not know how to go about it, but a friend also self-published and gave me some good advice about Amazon Kindle publishing.  I decided to take the leap. I selected about 60 poems from the 100 and wrote a little book of poetry.  My failing in all of this and lesson I  learned was that to get book sales, you have to promote yourself. I was not ready to get out there and do this at all. To take my work to a publisher for them to decide that it wasn’t what they were looking for. I didn’t think that I could handle any more criticism at that time. I was my harshest critic. Listening to the inner voice telling me that I wasn’t good enough was crippling me. But nevertheless, I put the book out there and there it remains, largely undiscovered.

But I haven’t given up. I thought about a second book and continued to write my poems, thinking that when I reached 200 then I would select again and publish another which had a title and a cover all ready to go. I also considered a third title.  I have now written over three hundred poems and have yet to select for the second book.  I figured that I was too busy writing them to stop and when self-doubt creeps in, I think what is the point when I did not get good sales of the first one. So some get published on the blog.  Others are put into cards for special occasions for loved ones.  My oldest friend said that I should write card poetry for someone like Clintons, but I feel that it would lack the personal touch.

I would like to use my skills as a writer more. I’ve been putting reviews on Trip Advisor for a couple of years now and thoroughly enjoy writing about my travels. I would love to travel extensively and write about it all. I love taking photographs and include many of them in the other blog that I write.

I had intended that this website would include more of my writing this year. It has been a tough one again and although I had thought that I was ready to unleash myself upon the world as a writer but it has been halted by family tragedy. I lost my brother suddenly in the summer and have had family responsibilities to carry out since then, so my writing has taken a back seat.  But there is hope still. I wrote several poems when he passed away. Although I published some on the other blog, I read one particular one out at his funeral, it was so important to me to do this for him. I am not a confident person and I have never been a public speaker. I do not crave the spotlight in any way, rather I tend to shy away from it. It wasn’t easy to be the first to get up and speak and to read something that I’d written in public. There were around 400 people who attended that day and heard it. Many came up to me later and told me that they were impressed by my poetry and that I should write more and publish it. So it showed me that I am on the right track after all.  What gave me a sense of pride was to hear from some of his friends later that my brother had been proud of my writing and often spoke about it. I had no idea, but I knew that he firmly believed we should both follow our dreams.

What I know now is that whatever direction my working life takes from here on in, I would like to continue to strengthen and use these writing skills.

Two Moments in the Rain.

via Daily Prompt: Rivulet

pexels-photo-459451.jpegThe Rain comes down sideways in Scotland drenching you to your soul, cleansing your mind of everything that needs to be gone, but getting into every crevice and stays there. Much like Scotland itself does. It gets in your head, unforgettable followed by the emotions of other seasons all brought to you, often in one day. The dampness carried around with you in your bones, never quite letting it go.  But you love it for what it does to you. The hours you could spend watching rivulets of rain pouring down a window in quiet contemplation.

The rain in Australia is somehow different. Yes, it will also soak you to the skin, but the warmth that follows it will brighten the day, drying out the very core of your being, bringing a different kind of happiness, as the steam rises from your clothes along with your worries, lifting your spirits and making you think of better things, a temporary blast of freshness which the world around you sings it’s Thank you. Scents and sounds of the forest thankful for the blessing of an impromptu shower. Droplets of rain disappearing in the heat.

Vegan Honey – Wild Food Recipe

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I have been working on my knowledge of Wild food and foraging over the past year or so.  I began to do this partly out of curiosity and also out of necessity. I have been looking for home remedies which I am able to make on a limited budget, in my own small kitchen, from things which are growing outside my front door or close by. This is to try and help my own health along, but also because I am also trying to live more sustainably, by using the things that I have already and recycling. It has also encouraged my family to save jars for me to use, rather than recycling them via roadside collections. This enables to me to stretch both the imagination and my creativity at the same time and even when I have been out of the workplace I have turned my hand to doing something useful.

With that in mind, I stumbled upon a recipe to use up the swathe of dandelions in my garden and set about making Vegan Honey.  I am not a vegan, but I do have food allergies and intolerances and try to eat healthily.  Having found the delights of the humble dandelion last year, I decided to delve further into its uses both culinary and medicinal.

This is a Bee Free Sweet Preserve, which resembles honey and can be used in exactly the same ways.

So on a sunny afternoon, the day before the lawn was due to be cut I thought I would save the dandelions from the garden, I picked about half a colander of them. Since there have been blooms for a month now and the spring flowers are also out, I have no qualms about using them. As always, I leave some for the bees since it is one of their first foods of the year. There are plenty in the garden but they would be going to waste on this particular day.

I have also noticed the thing about Dandelions is that once you take the flowers, they produce so many more blooms the next day they are abundant.

Fortuitously I found a recipe for Dandelion Honey, which got me thinking.  I do like to adapt recipes though it helps me figure out what works and what doesn’t in them. It’s all trial and error, but sometimes it goes well. So as I did not have all the ingredients to hand, I searched online for other recipes that I might adapt.  I also searched the freezer, where I had stored some apples.

Thankfully my friends and family are getting used to my concoctions these days and either wrinkle their noses up when I describe things, or alternatively agree to give them a go. Some have even come back for more, asking me to make them again.  I must be doing something right.

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If you would like to make your own “Honey” You will need time on your hands and patience. It is time consuming, but the taste is very pleasing and you will have your own little taste of sunshine for your morning breakfast, or afternoon tea if you prefer.

Here’s the equipment you’ll need:

A Large Pan, Knife, Wooden Spoon, Muslin Cloth to strain, Jug and Scales to measure, Sterilised Jars. I used 9 small jars.

Ingredients:

Dandelions – ½ Colander collected is equal to around 4 cups petals once split.

2 Cooking Apples

1 Lemon

Water 2.5 Pints or 5 Cups.

Sugar  Approximately 1.2Kg

Method:

Collect Dandelions on a Sunny Day from a place which is free from insecticide.

Rinse them in cold water, this gives any bugs a chance to escape.

Water the plants with the excess water, thus releasing the bugs to freedom again.

 

Remove all the petals and separate them from all the green stems and flower base. You need to keep the petals for your honey. Warning – This is very fiddly and time consuming, you may actually lose the will to live!

Once you have petals, I ended up with about 4 cups of them.

Wash and Peel the Apples and slice them.

Wash and Cut the lemon into quarters.

Add 2.5 pints or 5 cups of water,

Bring to the boil and then continue to fast boil for 30 minutes.

Allow to steep overnight in the pan. If you do not want a really lemony taste, then at this point I would remove the lemon pieces and crush to retain the juice in the mix since it helps the setting process. But since you are adding sugar, the end result is sweet.

The next day, measure the liquid and weigh it, heat in a pan adding the same weight in sugar.

I ended up with around 2 pints of juice at this point which weighed just about 1150kgs.

Boil until it reaches setting point, to test this take a spoonful, pour it onto a plate, leave it a few minutes and if it has a crinkle to it, or does not run, then pour into sterilised jars and seal.

It can take up to 2 days for the mixture to set apparently, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed at this point. But since I like Runny honey anyway, I’m generally pleased with the result and it has a pleasing Honey colour to it. Not real honey, but with all the goodness that Dandelions and Lemons can provide, I bet it will still soothe a sore throat and who would know?

 

Writing under a Pseudonym

via Daily Prompt: Nervous

It is strange now I come to think of it, I have been a writer for over two years now. I began on my writing journey long before that of course. Writing poetry which I never thought would see the light of day, for my own satisfaction, or healing. When I felt ill equipped to deal with what life had thrown at me, I sought solace in my writing. It made me feel better. I would write my deepest darkest feelings, or unrequited love, or break ups in verse and then put the pages away.

I decided two years ago, after some difficult things in my life to follow the advice that I had been given and find an outlet for my creativity. I decided to write down my deepest and often darkest thoughts. I had done this for some time, but as I began to do this again, suddenly the floodgates opened.  I was writing poetry, several poems per day, almost every day for months. I did not know whether it was any good or not. But it gave me a sense of purpose, right when I needed one.

It occurred to me that at some point I should probably do something with them. I read them to a few people, they told me that I had a talent and that I should publish them, or get them published.  I did not know where to start so I began writing my blog. I thought that whatever direction my creativity took, I would be able to express it there.  I include my photographs, occasional artwork, poems and musings. I must admit that back then I was nervous.  I worried what people thought alot more than I do now. If people liked it, I would soon know about it and if they didn’t, then well I wasn’t writing under my own name so if it was a disaster, then at least I could stop and my own reputation would be intact. It seemed like a win-win situation for me.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I began to put together my first book of poetry and came across some old papers in the loft.  Along with quite alot of junk and magazine clippings and artwork, I found my poems, well the ones that I had kept and proceeded to type them up so that I could have them on the laptop. Who knows, I thought maybe I will publish some of them after all.

I reached 100 poems, before selecting the ones which I would put into my first book, 100 seemed like a good starting point. I thought of a title and worked to put the book together, it even included some of the oldies that I had found.   But, this is when and where my cunning plan backfired. Under my writing name, no-one knows me. In order to promote a book, how does one go about it, well they usually send off to publishers, or magazines or they decide to self-publish and hope for the best.

I opted for the latter. Lesson’s learned is that the thing about writing about your thoughts, hopes, dreams, private life etc under a pseudonym, is that it eventually throws the challenge back at you. You either have to stand up and say, “This is me” at some point, or avoid the spotlight and continue to remain in the background and possibly go unnoticed. So my self-published book has not been actively promoted and there are no book tours for me so far. I am a poet and a faceless author.

So as a writer am I satisfied that I have gone about this in the right way? The outlet of blogging has suited me for a couple of years.  But as time goes on and my experiences and writing have improved I think that I crave more now.  I have some regular readers and have been writing reviews on Trip Advisor for the past year, with over 14000 readers there they have been well received and I have reached level 5 as a contributor also under my blogger name.

As time goes on I would love to write as myself, broaden my horizons and earn a living doing this thing that I love. I always intended to write more on this blog as time went on but have up until now remained a writer in hiding, nervous of taking off the mask of anonymity.

Is it time to bite the bullet and put myself out there? Am I ready to create my brand and market myself?  I am still unsure along with what my future as a writer may hold, but please come and take a look from time to time here, you might see changes in the website along with the changes in me. My journey is ongoing, I have not yet reached my destination.

MUFD

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A MUFD, which is not to be confused with “in Mufti”

I am of course referring to “Make Up Free Days”. Not the phrase which may spring to mind that is used by military personnel when they return to wearing civvies, or standard every day clothing.

About 5 years ago it was incredibly rare for me to go out without make up on. It was somehow as though I felt it was expected of me to look my best every time I walked out of the door and this was the way to achieve it. I worked several other non-make up wearing ladies at the time and they did not appear to be bothered at all. Perhaps it was that they were supremely self confident and I was not. Or maybe it was not about self confidence for them at all, just that they couldn’t be bothered or were short on time I neither know nor judge.

It was some time later, during a period of unemployment following injury which hospitalised me that I personally began to worry about it less. I never wore lots of make up anyway so people often didn’t realise that I would not leave home without mascara and eye shadow on. I stopped putting on my “war paint” as it used to be referred to every day. Did this make me feel any less capable of coping? Well I can’t say either way, it took me a while to heal from that both mentally and physically as there was damage which changed me. If I had needed it as a crutch then that would have been the time I probably needed it more than ever. But during that time I didn’t get up and put on my war paint every morning as I had always done. Whether it was linked to the PTSD that I was diagnosed with or not it was a turning point. When I went back to work again, I did wear make my up for work but not at weekends unless I was going somewhere special.

In recent months there has been a lot of media interest in the celebrities who have decided to make their Make Up Free Days the norm. They all have their own reasons for it.

The year before last, I suffered an attack where I had to have facial surgery and 50 stitches to my face. It was very painful and really affected the way I looked at things. Self-confidence became non existent and I needed help to recover. For about a month I did not leave my home alone unless I had to and otherwise it was under cover of darkness. I did not want to be seen by anyone I knew although I had to attend some appointments I felt physically sick having to push myself to do so. The stares from people and their reactions when they saw me were really difficult, it was even more difficult when I relayed the events to people I knew, to see them recoil in  horror is something that will stay with me. I had to focus on just getting better but I wondered if I would ever look like me again. At that point I could not wear make up for some months. I had to let the stitches do their work and the skin heal and Thankfully I had a good supply of Aloe Vera natural products to use to push that process onward. It took a long time, more and more since then I have been make up Free. It holds far less importance than it used to. What people do not realise until faced with that situation is that you have to be careful how you apply make up to Scar tissue. It just doesn’t behave in the same way and spots caused by make up or anything else can take a long time to heal up and cause nerve pain which travels across the face.

Whilst I was getting through those months, I wore no make up and find that now less and less I reach for it. I tend now to put it on as part of my brave face when I have to do something serious, like a meeting or appointment but now I regularly venture out to the shops without make up on. It gives my face the chance to breathe and I am just being me so take it or leave it. Although I don’t always have such confidence, it is now over a year after the injuries and you’d have to look twice to see the scars on my face. Thankfully they are fading as I am trying to rebuild my life.

#MakeupFree #selfconfidence #ptsd #scar #recovery #heal

Image@ Morguefile.com