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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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?

 

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 

Endometriosis Awareness Month

img_5486As March is upon us again and our thoughts turn to Spring and of new growth and warmer weather.  There are some ladies who just think about coping with what life has thrown at them.  They are the one in ten women who suffer with Endometriosis.

Endometriosis.org describes the disease as, “where tissue similar to that of the endometrial lining travels and attaches itself elsewhere in the body causing all kinds of issues, including a chronic inflammatory reaction, that may result in scar tissue. It is primarily found on the pelvic peritoneum, on the ovaries, in the recto-vaginal septum, on the bladder, and bowel.” It can then grow on other organs as well and is difficult to find.  It is debilitating often causing chronic pain and is far more than just “a heavy menstruation” as it is often thought by those who are alas ill informed.

March is for them.  Those women. In the past few years March is not just the month we have just stumbled upon.  It is what they do, in a bid to raise awareness for a debilitating condition, which is not yet recognised as a formal disability, but wreaks havoc upon the lives of women across the globe. Many are hoping that by doing so, their family, friends and employers will have an understanding of this invisible illness. One which can cause a multitude of symptoms and a world of pain.  They do not require sympathy for they are fighters and far stronger than you might think, they go through so much but they do require your understanding.

It takes a minimum of seven years to be diagnosed with this disease, but it is incurable.  It renders many women infertile and can cause unbearable pain.  Multiple operations, hormone treatments and periods of time when you could be absolutely fine, lulling you into a false sense of security and having taken seven years toll upon you, it can cause depression and the breakdown of relationships and the loss of employment. You may be pain free for months, or even years following treatments and possible surgery and then it will suddenly rear it’s ugly head again causing new symptoms which you had previously thought were unconnected, but later turn out to be.  It can affect women from puberty to menopause and sometimes further than that.

There is so much more information about this disease available now at your fingertips. From groups on Facebook set up by women who want to share experiences, research and competent medical contacts and offering support to fellow sufferers to Endometriosis Research Foundations and Charities, who enable us to find out more about the condition. They are known as “Endosisters” and are united by their illness and the need for understanding it.  Should you wish to find out more about this condition please feel free to select the link below for more facts. http://endometriosis.org/resources/articles/facts-about-endometriosis/

 

 

 

All In a Day’s Work? Actually No, It took a while longer.

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This is my first post here for some time.  It wasn’t that I had forgotten about this or decided that it would no longer be.  Since I had decided that I would continue to write, but for the past few months I have concentrated on writing elsewhere.  Now before I apologise for neglecting my website for so long. I do have my reasons. Of course I do, for what would life be without reasons?

Without making excuses.  Last year was tough on so many levels and I needed to take the time to recover from everything that was thrown in my direction.  Health and Wellness and everything in between suffered along with my confidence. I know many people who really went through it and Thankfully some of them came out the other side continuing to fight. I think that everyone when faced with difficulties tries to take stock of their life and circumstances.  So I guess I needed a break from what had previously been normal, thinking time to try and prioritize what I would be doing in the future.   I still don’t have all the answers but all progress however slow it may be, is progress after all.

It would be very simple to say that I have not written and that was for personal reasons but that would simply not be true.  Over the past six months and throughout the last year, I have written something almost every day.  Although my writing doesn’t always rock the world, I was on a mission having made myself and a friend the promise that I would do something creative again for me, just one small thing.  I had time out from work, although unscheduled it was necessary and so I used this to begin my book of poetry and later self-publish it.  I had a handful of poems at the time, but then they came to me and once I began, it was like turning on the tap. By July I had over 100 poems and decided to select around 60 of them for the book. Having edited several times and then given it to a few trusted people to read I published in November. Meanwhile I have been working on my other blog, regularly posting there.  I started to write that one in February 2016 and have a small but somehow dedicated followings. It was somehow easier to write under a pseudonym about what was going on and where life was taking me along with observations and photographs along the way during these past few months. That is the place where I can express myself better, with experience we continue to grow and this is the person I am becoming as well as the person I have been. It is not a hiding place for my alter ego, but this side of my personality was almost unknown to me 12 months ago, buried in the past. I have found that it gives me the platform to be honest, more daring and open than I have been previously.

So it took me a while to come back here.  Several of my own professional goals were not achieved last year and although I am continue to work on that, at the moment I am taking small steps and moving in new directions. Some things have been on the back burner, they may get moved to the hotplate in time, but when I am ready to do so. I have really good people around who were there for me when I needed them and who continue to push me forward but in different ways to before.

I hope that you will stay with me as I try to develop my writing here too since I am now going to try to split my writing between both blogs, whilst I continue working on my second book of poetry.

Daily Prompt – Successful

Image: 5demayo at Morguefile.com

Food Glorious Food! Or not as the case may be…

Breakfast

As this blog continues and I set up each category, you will notice that I want to cover many subjects.

One of the first will be Food Glorious Food, I have to admit that I love food The inspiration of colour and palette can brighten the dullest day, lift your mood and create endless possibilities, if you get it right.  Get it wrong however and it’s a whole different ball game.

Food Intolerances

I do love to cook, now I don’t claim to be a great cook, but I do have my favourites which are welcomed when we have dinner guests. I enjoy cooking and experimenting with food, I think that I get that from my Mum, who served me nettle soup when I was six. Green soup to a child captured the imagination.

Over the years, I have had a love hate relationship with it. There have been foods which I used to eat, which suddenly I could not anymore and whilst I attempted to find the things that I could, it was at times a rocky road. Now I find that I look at the ingredients in everything I buy, do not have many processed foods and stay away from take-away and fast foods wherever possible.

I try to live healthily and make sure that I cook every day, using fresh foods wherever I can, to keep me and the family healthy. This is borne more from necessity than following a fad.
There are foods which I miss, but I have learned that the side effects of eating something which does not agree with you, far outweigh the joy of that naughty treat. But life is easier once you know what to avoid.

As a child, I remember that I did not have the food allergies or intolerances which I do now, but there was something which set me off with a headache even back then. Strawberry flavoured anything and Pear drops. It is probably one of the E numbers in them, a flavouring of some kind, but it was guaranteed to make me ill, they also have them in those tinned travel sweets and to this day I avoid both. There was also about 18 months after I was knocked down when I was a teenager when I could not consume anything with caffeine in. Right at the time when Chocolate, Coca Cola and Coffee are the staples of most teenagers and young women as they get through teenage life and their studies, I could not have it. It brought on an instant migraine. Other than those things, I don’t remember there being any allergies although I wasn’t keen on Liver,but could happily eat Kidneys, which seemed strange to me even then.

Fifteen years ago, I was put on a medication by my GP. It was supposed to help the Endometriosis which I had been suffering with for many years at that point. Although there was un upside to it, it seemed to alleviate the symptoms of the condition for a short time, in the months that I took it, it caused havoc in the side effects department and I suddenly found myself with other issues. My eyesight went from “perfect” 20/20 vision at eye tests to me needing a prescription for glasses and I became Lactose Intolerant. For me, two things which caused me great distress. 6 months later and I would need another prescription for glasses even stronger than the first and so it went on. But the food issue was huge for me. I had been able to eat almost anything for the whole of my life and suddenly, I couldn’t keep food down. I had no idea what the cause of it was so as the doctor prescribed antibiotics first and then sent me for colonoscopies to get to the bottom of the problem, to see if it was bacterial. Following a clear diagnosis that it was not and with him not being able to offer any other advice, I decided to try something novel and try the elimination diet. I did this for a couple of months and found that as I tried to reintroduce anything dairy related, it set me off once again. At the time, there was very little in the “Free From” aisle of the supermarket as it didn’t exist. and I ate a lot differently to now. Previously I used to eat dairy products regularly, having had problems with my teeth as a youngster and always suffered with weak nails, I was convinced that I needed to up my calcium intake to compensate for it. So at the time I regularly ate Ambrosia Creamed Rice, Camembert and Cheese in general, Philadelphia and Bio-Yoghurts. I included them in my food preparation and thoroughly enjoyed cooking. Back then I really struggled to find food products which did not contain lactose, to my absolute dismay, even in Ready Salted Crisps most brands added it to the ingredients. Who knows why? But it forced me to think about the food that I consumed much more carefully and check the ingredients thoroughly.

I think that eating Bio yoghurt, first thing in the morning, when you have nothing else in your system, definitely does not help. If you think about it, they contain friendly bacteria which gets to work on what is in your stomach. However if there is nothing there, what is it going to work on. So not the best plan having digested everything you had eaten the night before. When you think of it, it makes sense, but how may of us do actually do think about that?

I also found that every time I tried to introduce Pork back into my diet, it disagreed with me, I loved sausages, I didn’t eat them often, but a good breakfast on a lazy weekend was a bit of a treat and suddenly I couldn’t eat it anymore. Gone were the Bacon sandwiches and Spaghetti Carbonara, which were other regular favourites in my kitchen.

I thought back then that writing a dairy free cookbook might be a great idea since there was no such thing readily available and not everyone had the internet as a resource. However I did not have much confidence in my own culinary skills and had no idea as to how go about creating it. Now of course it is so much easier to find good dairy free ingredients and recipes to feed the family and many such books now exist. Unfortunately it has become something all too familiar within so many families the need to cut out foods which were once the norm, as allergies and intolerances grow common, I may still write one, after all, one more surely can’t be a bad thing.

I also found out that I am highly allergic to Oysters, now that was an odd one. I had never had them before, although I regularly ate Chinese food with an oyster sauce and never made the connection that it was that which made me ill. We went to Paris for a ten day holiday over Christmas and New Year and I hired a car to explore, it was supposed to be terribly romantic and we had saved to go and enjoy ourselves. The Eiffel tower was going to be just wonderful. The first meal on our first evening was a seafood platter with Oysters. Afterwards I was so ill that I could not leave the room for a week, my body went into shut down, it totally poisoned my system and I spent a week in a hallucinating, violently ill. There was no doctor available, it was not a grand hotel and the local doctor was away for Christmas and no-one would attempt to move me. So there I stayed delirious in the hotel room, watching “Finding Nemo” in French on a loop and watching the Eiffel Tower twinkling the year in the distance every evening. My partner was very worried about me and spent most of the time by my side, or pacing the hotel like a tiger in case I took a turn for the worse. I did not eat at all for several days, consumed only water it was not the holiday either of us had planned. I was so delirious over that time that when Finding Nemo was on TV some years later, I suggested that we watched it since I had not seen it. He looked at me in utter disbelief, that I had absolutely no recollection of it. Thinking back, despite the twinkling year on the tower, I cannot recall what year it was. I remember that we had to dig the car out from the snow before heading back home but must have blocked as much of the experience as possible from my mind.

Dining out became such an issue so many years ago, that my first task on any holiday or visit to a restaurant is to ask the chef for the dairy free options on their menu. I quickly learned that despite the phrase Non- Laiterie being used in France, the chefs in most establishments claimed not to understand me. They did not want to defer from their usual route and would not prepare anything without dairy produce. I resorted to a list of “Non’s” Beurre, Oeufs, Fromage, Lait, Yaourt, which I handed to the waiter or Maitre d’ on arrival and ensured that they passed it to the chef who prepared my meal. One such time was particularly difficult where we stayed at a beautiful chateau.  Although I had a lengthy discussion with the Management and the chef he felt that he knew best and since he always cooked everything in butter, he would continue to do so. I spent a wonderful weekend there on a Dinner, Bed and Breakfast package being unable to finish a meal that he had cooked and breathed a sigh of relief when the breakfast chef came on duty, so for that holiday, on his day off breakfast in the hotel was the only meal I could safely enjoy when the chef who covered him actually listened. After that, we have not returned there, for the sole reason that it is important that your chef listens and understands. Immodium and Antacids have become my travelling friend in case of emergency, but not one wants their holiday ruined or to be reliant upon them. As I pointed out, if it had been a nut allergy that I suffered, where you can go into anaphylactic shock would he have served nuts?

 

The Consequences of our Actions and “Doing our Bit”.

Environmental Pollution.

When you come to think of it….

Except that quite often, we just don’t.
But if we did more often, I mean truly think about the consequences of our actions

Then we and the world would have a better chance.

This post got me thinking about this, Environmental Pollution – Thriving Healthy

We often try and “do our bit” for the environment, it is usually just to improve our direct environment whether it be eating healthily, recycling our waste, using less packaging etc, but just think that if we all, just “Did our Bit” then half the problems which are photographed within this post alone, would not even exist.

Man, you have a lot to answer for…