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.

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/

 

 

 

One Day, It will be great.

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No this isn’t my office, you see I don’t have one at the moment.  I am one of the many who people who are job hunting.  Searching for the holy grail.  The perfect job, which will allow me to live my life again and give me the things that I crave.  Or even the sort of lifestyle that I used to have before three redundancies wreaked their havoc.

The competition is fierce and there are obstacles at every corner but I have a secret weapon. My determination and experience will send me in the right direction. I am eager to work, do not get me wrong, this is not a desperation which will allow me to make foolish choices, because this affects not only my future, but that of my family also.

I am going to share with you just an observation and just some of my experiences from one particular week alone,  to highlight what we go through in the search for a rewarding career and also my point of view regarding the process.

I’ve been applying for the jobs that I would like to do and dealing with the various recruitment process hoops you have to jump through to get to the next level. There are definitely pitfalls when you are job hunting, hoping to find the next career to take you forward into your life and give you the security that you crave, to say nothing of the lifestyle. Although for some that still eludes us somewhat.

It is often said that first impressions last.

The other day I received a call from the Managing Director of a company I had applied to for a job. It was 20 miles from where I live so would involve a small commute to the city. I had plenty of experience in the three roles in one that he wanted to fill and it was in an industry that I would like to know more about and be a part of. Although the wages were less than in my last job I figured that since it was about what I wanted to do for a living and what I would like to get into, then I would apply anyway and suffer the drop for the right position and progression. It isn’t all about the money after all.

Application sent off, a couple of days later I received the call. “Hello Esther, you have applied for PA/Aftersales/Reception with us and we would like to discuss this further with you. Please give us a call on…”
At first I wasn’t sure if it was a scam call since he gave no further details. The caller did not leave his name, the company he was calling from, or where the job was. So I tried to research both the telephone number he had left and the separate number he had called me on. I couldn’t find any company details for them and it wasn’t on the contact details on my application receipts either. I called the number and when the receptionist answered it confirmed that it was a company I’d actually applied to. I explained the person had not left his name or number. She told me she “Did not know who’d called me, but she would ask them to call me back within the hour!” I silently wondered if she didn’t know, then who was she going to ask to call me back? Undeterred I asked if she could put me through to the person who was recruiting for this particular role, she said that she “didn’t know who that was and that they were all in meetings but I would get called back within an hour” I asked if she could give me the name of the person who she would give the message to so I could expect a call from him but she wouldn’t say. I logged the company name in the phone.

So it wasn’t a great start, but I would not give up in my quest for my next job.
An hour and a half later, at just before 5pm I called back and explained I had heard nothing from them, perhaps she would ask them to email me instead and gave my email address and telephone number again, she apologised and said I would receive a phone all within the hour. The cynic inside warned me that this was a well-worn phrase or possibly company policy. I decided I would go and walk the dog as the past hour and a half had already been wasted, if they rang back then I could reschedule a call if it was bad timing.

After lunch the next day the same number rang me again. It was the MD of the firm, who introduced himself and apologise for not calling me back the day before. We had a ten minute chat where he briefly told me about what he wanted and asked if any of that was a problem for me and asked me to tell him what work I had done previously. He explained he would like to invite me for an interview and we arranged a time and date. He would send me the details. Later that day an email arrived. “Further to a successful telephone interview I had been invited for a face to face interview” I laughed, that was a telephone interview, really? It wasn’t like any I’d had before and aren’t they suppose to be scheduled? Oh well!

Since their office is within a city I wondered about parking there and began to look online for local car parks, since he had been rather elusive I thought I would drop a quick email thanking him for the invitation and to ask if there was on-site parking at all. Obviously this would be something I would need to know if I was going to work there too and I waited for his response…. and waited. The weekend came and went and so did Monday. No response.

Tuesday was my interview day. I had a missed call from their number in the morning and no voicemail left. I called back and explained I had a missed call and the young lady on the end of the phone told me she didn’t know who called me or what it was about. I mentioned I was attending an interview that afternoon with the Director so perhaps he had tried to call me. The MD was in a meeting, so I took the opportunity to ask if there was any parking on-site. She replied that she “wasn’t on-site so she didn’t know” but would ask “them” to call me.
I checked my emails before leaving for the interview in case I’d received the info I’d requested but there was nothing. On arriving there was no sign of available parking despite there being a car park behind the building, it was all allocated for other companies. It’s a good job I had left in good time and had 45 minutes to spare. I drove around and found a spot to park and walked back around the corner and crossed a small courtyard towards a period Tudor style property. Pressing the broken intercom I waited. A window opened and a man poked his head out and explained he’d let me in.
Another man appeared and I asked to use the bathroom before my interview, I was early he said to come upstairs when I was ready. The ladies toilet area did not bode well. It was an old building and so you don’t expect it to be pristine. However, the toilet seat was not only cracked but broken as were the fittings. Goodness knows when it was past cleaned in there. It was unhygienic and in need of repair. I washed my hands and noticed there were two towels, one dumped on the side and covered in what looked like foundation or possibly it had been used to stem the flow on a rusty pipe. It was streaked orange. The other hung over the radiator and smelled of sweat. The sink and taps were grimy and there was a tea stained teaspoon sitting on top of a rancid old pot scoured on the sink.
I tried to reserve judgement and remain positive, but I have worked in places like this before.
I went upstairs and smiled and said Hello to the other staff as I walked through their office. This was met with scowls from almost all of them. As I was shown through to the man who had opened the window. He introduced himself and it was not the man I’d spoken with in my “telephone interview” so he asked me to take a seat and “tell me about myself” It took me a moment to gather my composure and the door to the office was left ajar so the noisy conversation the other side of the door could be heard, as could everything I said.
I asked midway through whether I should assume that this was a preliminary interview and that I would have another if successful, he said yes. I said that this had not been explained to me. It was only then that he told me the MD had been called away and asked him to take the interview. I mentioned that morning’s missed call and said that perhaps that was the reason for it but that since no voicemail was left I wasn’t sure. He told me that the MD was totally disorganised. The interview was short. Mainly my asking about how the business runs and how the role would be split time wise and about growth and future prospects. I was back outside in my car less than 25 minutes from when I’d knocked at the door.
Now, I’m all for doing what you need to get a job but so far the experience screamed unprofessional and although I have worked in such places and turned them around previously. I am not going to give it the benefit of the doubt and I am going to follow my gut instinct on this one.

I arrived home and called the number on an email for an audio recruitment question. It is the second time I have had to do this recently. I am not enamoured by this process. You are given an inordinately short time to give your details and answer the question coherently advising the recruiter how you shine in a millisecond. Not quite but you get the picture. Yesterday it was 60 seconds to explain a problem you had on a particularly stressful day and how you dealt with it. I had written my response and rehearsed it to 45 seconds. I called the number, you have to leave your name and email address too in that time. It was achievable. So it was frustrating when at 45 seconds into the call (including the pre-recorded message with instructions) an engaged tone kicked in and the phone went dead. I called back. By which time I was hopeful it would work I spoke a little quickly as I left my message, the line was silent. No option to re-record if you made a mistake or save it. No message to say if it had registered at all. I wondered if it had.
I checked my emails since the last audio recruitment had sent a confirmation afterwards, but there was nothing. I still had time. I called back and tried again. Half way through the line went dead again.
To say I am determined is understatement. I decided to send an email explaining the situation and an invitation for them to call and speak to me at any time and I would be happy to relay my 45 second answer to them as I would like to work for their company but that they might wish to review their automated system slightly.

I don’t know if I will hear from either of these companies again. A lot of time is spent on what we the job hunter should be doing in the interview process. How we should behave and on getting that job. The onus is on us to do everything we can to succeed in our goal. It does not seem to be required that the employers have to make an effort any more. Wages have dropped dramatically over the past years and have yet to climb back to their previous level. Demand often outstrips supply for a good job. Loyalty is expected but job security now seems non-existent.

With just a little more thought and effort they could provide a healthy workplace, happy clients and a dedicated and rewarding team and that is the sort of company I want to be a part of, have a career with and would happily work my socks off for. It doesn’t have to be 24/7 fun, after all there’s a job to do. But fun should be encouraged as well along the growth and training. It doesn’t matter what the industry is. Surely those places exist and I would like to find one.

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