A Shooting Star

Me & Mum

Me & Mum

A little while ago Mum and I had an amazing time together camping out in a gypsy wagon.  We wanted to spend some time together just to hang out and talk. We had such a lovely time that we decided to do a joint blog about it. IMG_00000803

Mum

A Shooting Star – it’s beautiful, it’s magical and it’s always a delight to see but ultimately it’s gone in a flash.

I’ve been watching my beautiful daughter grow over the last 11 years and all of a sudden it feels like that time went by in a flash.

Wanting to spend some time just the two of us we planned a girly get-away and snuck off together for a night camping out.

Me

A Mum and a daughter should be close, they should spend time together. They should have a good relationship. Sometimes going off for a night or two is a good way to draw even closer.

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Sausage Sandwich for dinner

Sausage Sandwich for dinner

Mum and I had a good chat around the fire. In the dark the embers glowed and gave off a warm firelight that shone on our faces and lit them up. When it was just the two of us I found it easy to talk, Mum totally understood me and even if she didn’t, she still seemed understanding. We toasted marshmallows and stared into the flames. It was chilled, just the two of us, we didn’t have to be anywhere, not even bed………  well, eventually we did.

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When we went in we took a steaming mug of hot chocolate and played cards. After two or so games we stuck our woolly hats on and snuggled down under the covers. IMG_00000818

All snuggled up

All snuggled up

Mum

At 2am I awoke needing a wee.

Gracie fast asleep at 2am

Gracie fast asleep at 2am

Trying hard not to wake Gracie I tip-toed out to pee in the bushes. That’s when I looked up at the night sky, it was mesmerising. It was amazingly clear, every star shone so brightly in the depths of the darkness.  And then I saw a shooting star, it was just spectacular.

Upon re-telling my “adventure” to Gracie in the morning she asked me, whilst giggling, if I’d made a wish upon a shooting star?

After having had such a wonderful evening together, of course I had……….

Me & Mum

That night we made memories, magical memories, special memories, memories that have etched themselves on our hearts and will stay there forever.

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Melissa’s Rainbow Of Nutrition

My auntie Melissa is a expert on nutrition and she’s written a guest blog about it, I find it very interesting and I hope you do too. Eating the right things with the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals is really important for a balanced diet. Enjoy…………

 

Rainbows of Nutrition

Rainbows are nature’s amazing and beautiful way of saying there is sunshine to come. They are bright, cheerful, make us feel good and can be found in lots of ways in nature. One of the best ways of seeing a Rainbow everyday and helping you maintain good health is to include a wide variety of vegetables and fruits in your diet every day.

Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables helps us to feel good as they give us lots of essential nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals, plant chemical (phytonutrients) and fibre that can assist our wellbeing and good health.

We need a wide range of nutrients to support our body to carry out our day to day activities, make all the repairs it needs and help promote good health. By eating plenty of vegetables and fruit we also provide food for the ‘friendly’ bacteria that live in our guts in the form of fibre. This helps to support a healthy immune system, protect us from harmful organisms and also make some other substances such as vitamin K, which are also essential for good health.

Here are some examples of different coloured fruits and the vitamins and minerals they contain and how they may help us maintain good health.

Rainbow of Nutrition

Rainbow of Nutrition

 

We shouldn’t forget herbs and spices as they also contain lots of vitamins, phytochemicals and minerals. As well as being really good for us, they add extra zing and colour to our food. Spices such as Turmeric and Chilli are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, mint and ginger are good digestion aids, Rosemary is also anti-inflammatory and can aid concentration, Parsley is a good source of Vitamin C and A.

We are encouraged to eat 5 a day, why not see if you can include 7 a day?

My favourite rainbow is Tomatoes & Raspberries, Squash & Peaches, Bananas, Watercress, Kale and Avocados, Prunes, Blackcurrants, Blackberries and any purple vegetable, Onions and Garlic. What’s yours?

 

Spices of India

Saffron pickers, image taken from google images.

Saffron pickers (image taken from Google Images)

This is very exciting, at the ripe old age of 33 years I am writing my first blog. A big thankyou to my dear friend Gracie for inspiring me and letting me write a guest blog here.

Gracie and I share a love of plants and we have spent many days together foraging, learning about plant identification and their many medicinal properties. This is really where my heart lies. I am just about to qualify as a herbalist too, which only really means I know a small amount about the plant kingdom as all it’s secrets are never ending! Today I would like to share with you a little of what we learnt on our visit to Sahakari spice farm in Goa, India.

Some of the most expensive spices to buy are Saffron, Vanilla, Cardamom, Clove, Cinnamon, Pepper and Turmeric. Have you ever wondered why?

Saffron is THE most expensive spice in the world. It comes from the stigma of the blue flowering crocus (Crocus Sativus). The stigma must be hand-picked and it takes a lot of stigmas (200-500) to make 1 gram of saffron.

Our guide pointing to the little cardamon flower at the base of the plant

Our guide pointing to the little cardamom flower at the base of the cardamom plant

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world and comes from the beans of vanilla orchids. The flowers may only be naturally pollinated by a specifically equipped bee found in Mexico. Growers have tried to bring this bee into other growing locales without success, so the flowers are now artificially pollinated by hand and the fruits are picked by hand once ripe. The vanilla flower only lasts about one day, sometimes less! Therefore, farmers have to inspect their plantations every day for open flowers on the vanilla plants, a labour-intensive task. It takes up to three years after the vines are planted before the first flowers appear. The fruits, which resemble big green beans, must remain on the vine for nine months in order to completely develop their signature aroma. However, when the beans are harvested, they have neither flavour nor fragrance. They develop these distinctive properties during the curing process.

Cardamom (Elettaria Cardamomum), the Queen of Spices,  is a perennial herb and member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. Like ginger, cardamom has a fleshy rhizome and long, lance-shaped leaves. In Goa, cardamom plants flower continuously from the last week of April or first week of May until the second week of October. Each cardamom flower lasts a single day. Insect pollinators are required for fruit production. A single flower receives as many as 130 visits from pollinators on a sunny day to just over 20 visits on a rainy day. If pollinated, each cardamom flower produces a single capsule containing about 10 seeds and about 10 pods produce 1 teaspoon of powdered cardamom. Cardamom has long been used for calming digestive complaints and has strong anti-oxidant properties.  It is also high in iron, manganese, potassium, calcium and magnesium.  I like to add it to my occasional cup of coffee as it takes away the unwanted side effects and keeps me grounded in the caffeine buzz.

My wonderful husband Ollie smelling the cinnamon bark

My wonderful husband Ollie smelling the cinnamon bark

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum is the true cinnamon, you will often see ‘Cassia cinnamon’ for sale so read the labels) is obtained by stripping the outer bark of the tree and removing the inner bark in rolls. The bark is then dried and sealed in airtight containers. Cinnamon trees are small evergreen plants that can reach 32 to 49 feet in height. Cultivated cinnamon trees are grown in the form of a bush. A cinnamon tree can live from 30 to 40 years in the wild but when cultivated they are killed during the harvesting process.  Did you know cinnamon helps balance blood sugar levels? It can also be used to help digestion and reduce muscle spasms, colds, diarrhoea and vomiting,  and has anti-fungal properties.

Pepper (Piper Nigrum) is known as the King of Spices. It is the most traded and most used spice in the world. Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae. Peppercorns are harvested while half-matured and just about to turn red. They are then left to dry under the sun light until they become shrivel and turn black (black peppercorns). Alternatively, green peppercorns are picked while the berries are still unripe and green. The white peppercorn got its name when a completely ripe berry is soaked in brine in order to remove its dark outer skin, exposing the inner white-colour pepper seed. Adding pepper to your food helps you absorb other nutrients from your meal, has anti-inflammatory properties, helps digestion and is full of vitamins and minerals. So move aside the salt shaker and bring on the pepper!

A pepper vine growing high up a tree. Can you see the strings of pepper corns dangling down?

A pepper vine growing high up a tree. Can you see the strings of pepper berries dangling down?

Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) is a perennial herb which grows to 1m tall with underground rhizomes. It produces tall, very beautiful, white flower spikes. Turmeric is now being successfully grown in the UK in polytunnels and greenhouses. Why not try and grow it yourself? Buy some fresh root from your local Asian store, leave in a paper bag in the dark until it sprouts and then plant in a large pot in your greenhouse. Rhizomes are harvested 9 to 10 months after planting, when the lower leaves are turning yellow or when stems dry and fall over. It is possible for the home gardener to just dig carefully at the side of a clump and remove rhizomes as needed rather than harvesting the whole clump. It is important to buy organic turmeric as often the active constituent (called Curcumin) is extracted, sold in tablets, and then the left over powder sold for culinary purposes.  Curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a strong anti-oxidant too. Curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream though and needs a little helping hand from pepper which will improve it’s absorption rate by 2000%.  Turmeric would be very useful in prevention and treatment of arthritis, Alzheimer’s, depression and age related diseases.

Herbalists use spices a lot in daily life with the principle that “food is medicine, and medicine is food”. I think it is really important to understand where the herbs and spices come from and to appreciate every process that took place to bring it to you and for you to use them wisely and in a sustainable way. For example, you can re-use your vanilla pods time and time again and this recipe for an immune boosting winter tonic tea can be re-used up to 3 times by just adding more water.

  • 4 large slices of fresh ginger root
  • 8 slices of fresh turmeric root
  • 2 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 clove
  • 2 star anise
  • 3 peppercorns
  • 4 pints of water

Boil all the spices together for 10 mins, letting them all infuse in a strong decoction. Drink throughout the day, hot or cold.