Sleep on it…

Humans, like all animals, need sleep to survive. For we humans, sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being. I am always amazed when I read that we spend up to one-third of our lives asleep!

Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few of us actually make those eight or so hours tucked up in bed a priority. To make matters worse in today’s busy world, stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights—including those from electronic devices—interfere with our ‘circadian rhythm’ or natural sleep/wake cycle. And then of course… there’s our old friend stress, perfect for inducing insomnia!

Anyone who has woken up at 3am, eyes wide and mind racing, knows how difficult it is to get back to sleep or, as affects many people, getting to sleep in the first place! I know when I’ve been going through stressful times, I tend to fall into the ‘middle of the night wake up’ category, which can be utterly exhausting.

There are, however, lots of things you can do to ease your passage into a restful sleep, so here are five suggestions you might find helpful.

Music
Small children invariably fall asleep to the sound of a lullaby and adults can do the same thing too. With modern technology, falling asleep to soothing tunes or the sounds of nature (I love the sound of waves on a beach) is not difficult to organise through smart phones or even a special pillow with built-in speakers!

Essential oils
I have written a lot about essential oils over the years, and they are really not to be under estimated. Chamomile, marjoram and, of course, lavender are all known to help relaxation. Sprinkle a few drops in a bath before bed (the post-bath drop in temperature is also sleep-inducing) or onto your pillow, I find lavender especially soothing.

Bed socks rule
If cold feet are keeping you awake—especially during the winter—warm them up with a soft pair of socks. The extra layer under the covers can help improve circulation in your extremities, which can help you fall asleep more quickly.

A good book!
I don’t know if my novels send people to sleep (probably!!) but reading, or listening to an audiobook is a great way to help you nod off.

Country air
Well actually, it can be country air or sea air for me, but the important thing is clean air and a bracing walk! I can guarantee it will make me feel tired in a really lovely wooly way… if you know what I mean!

 

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The sweet smell of rain…

We have enjoyed the most beautiful October here in the Westcountry, in fact, I think most of the country has too. The Autumn colours have been fabulous and it has been unseasonably warm and dry ensuring lots of lovely crisp leaves and breathtaking sunsets.

Today, we have had rain for what seems like the first time in months and, as I went outside, I was struck by the ‘smell’ of the rain. Seriously! It’s rather like that wonderful smell you get when you brush against geranium leaves, an earthy richness, a sense of, well… nature!

As is my way, I looked up ‘the smell of rain’ on the internet… and was delighted to find it has a name – petrichor! I am now working at dropping this word into casual conversation at least once a week! Petrichor is ‘the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil’. The word comes from Greek ‘petra’, meaning stone, and ‘ichor’, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology, all rather lovely I thought.

Before it hits the ground, rain is just water, it has no smell. But after the drops hit the ground and interact with soil, the fresh and almost sweet fragrance of rain is released. Now, scientists think they’ve identified the exact mechanism that releases this aroma into the environment. When a raindrop hits a porous surface it traps tiny pockets of air. These bubbles then speed upward, like bubbles in a glass of champagne (hic!), before breaking the drop’s surface and releasing microscopic particles, called aerosols, into the air. The researchers think it’s these aerosols that carry the ‘rain like’ aroma.

This set me thinking about a farmer friend who has a very sensitive nose (he does not like all the stinky cheeses I enjoy!) and he always says he can smell rain coming. Pah, I thought, a Devon farmer’s yarn… but no! Following on from my discovery of petrichor, it seems weather patterns really do produce distinctive odours that sensitive noses can sniff out.

Before the rain begins, one of the first odours we may smell, as winds pick up and clouds roll in, is a sweet, pungent zing in the nostrils. That’s the sharp, fresh aroma of ozone — a form of oxygen whose name comes from the Greek word ‘ozein’, to smell.

After a spell of heavy rain has passed, what’s often left is an earthy, musty whiff of wetness. This is the aroma of geosmin, a metabolic by-product of bacteria or blue-green algae. Ok, not quite so romantic, but interesting, nonetheless.

So, what’s the point of all these strange smells? As you may have guessed, Mother Nature doesn’t do anything without a reason and all these chemicals stirred up by the weather carry messages. Some biologists suspect that petrichor running into waterways acts as a cue to freshwater fish, signalling spawning time. Microbiologist think that geosmin’s fragrance may be a beacon, helping camels find their way to desert oases.

Although humans don’t appear to have a built in response to these odours, we do learn to associate them with our experiences. Flooding may forever scar us with moist, ‘mildewy’ memories, but for many of us, the smell of rain is cleansing and refreshing.

So, if I am spotted running around the car park outside the Create & Craft studios, skipping and shouting “Yippee!” in the rain, I haven’t gone mad, I am simply enjoying the scent of petrichor. Well, that’s what I shall tell everyone anyway!

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Parsley harvest!

parlseymontageParsley grows very well in this part of the world it would seem. I can’t say I grow masses of it, but it appears my neighbour has an entire flower bed full! So he very kindly brought round a massive basket overflowing with curly leaved parsley and said, ‘You’re a good cook, you’ll know what to do with this won’t you!’

Hmm, ok… Well, I do use parsley, but this could be an entire year’s supply, how best to preserve it? Never one to waste anything if I can avoid it – I dived into the Internet (thank you Google) and got cracking. I am lucky enough to have a dehydrating machine (bought from Lakeland some years ago) and it’s really handy for herbs. So, we all stood for what seemed like a lifetime stripping leaves off the stems (the term ‘green fingered’ has never seemed more appropriate!) and filling all the trays of the dehydrator. Phew, coffee time.

Looking at the basket when we returned from our break… It looked even fuller than before! This was rather worrying, so drastic measures were called for. So, it was out with the food processor and we whizzed and processed our way through the greenery until it was all finely chopped. I then packed it into the plastic freezer tubs I keep in the cupboard, labelled it and chucked in the freezer! Using it from frozen is fine – just scrape or crumble a bit off and add to whatever you like. I scattered some over the top of lasagne yesterday and a good tablespoon or more has gone into pumpkin soup today – the only good thing about Halloween, in my opinion!

So, I still think it may take a year to use it all up but it’s going to be really handy and a big thank you to my neighbour!

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Lovely garden flower dies …

lovelyflowerdiesOn Thursday this week I’m launching a new set of garden flower dies as well as some nifty edging dies too! I confess I have totally fallen in love with the cards we have all made for the two shows, so if you have time on Thursday 27th, there’s a show on Create and Craft TV at noon and another at 3pm.

This card uses the lily of the valley option from the set of garden dies. The main image is from the Jane Shasky double CD – one I keep beside my computer as it is my real ‘go to’ answer for card making!

This sample was made by Suzanne and it’s really pretty isn’t it? It’s not too difficult (many of the nicest cards are straightforward) and needs few instructions apart from noting that the case, the lenses in the pair of glasses and the tea in the cup have all had a quick coat of crystal lacquer. This adds some lovely highlights and just finishes the card perfectly.

The other thing worthy of a mention is the green tinged edging that’s made by swiping a distress ink pad gently around the edge. This ageing, or distressing, looks so effective and is a very simple technique to apply.

So whether you set your recorder, or watch live, do tune in to see all the samples. The set of edger dies is in the afternoon and I have some really fun ideas for you to copy!

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All about Autumn…

Autumn is the time of year that the poet Keats called the ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, and how right he was. Autumn is the season famous for its harvest time, turning leaves, cooling temperatures and darkening nights.

mosslaneleavesWe often talk about it beginning to feel like Autumn when the nights start to draw in and temperatures start feeling cooler. Here are a few facts about this mellow season…

Autumn begins
So when is the first day of Autumn? It depends on whether you are referring to the astronomical or meteorological autumn. There are two different dates when Autumn could be said to begin. Autumn, as defined by the Earth’s orbit around the sun, begins on the Autumn equinox which falls on 22 or 23 September. However, for the purposes of recording climate data, it is important to have set dates that can be compared, so the meteorological Autumn always begins on 1 September.

People born in Autumn live longer!
A study in the ‘Journal of Aging Research’ found that babies born during the Autumn months are more likely to live to 100 than those born during the rest of the year. Their study found that 30% of US centenarians born during 1880-1895 were born in the Autumn months. I had never heard that before… and as my birthday is right on the cusp of Summer and Autumn, who knows what that means for me!

What is an equinox?
The word ‘equinox’ comes from the Latin equi (meaning equal) and nox (meaning night) accounting for the equinox marking the time when day and night are of equal length. We often notice the nights begin to draw in from this point as after the Autumn equinox, the night becomes longer than the day, until this is reversed at the Spring equinox.

A date for your diary – 24 September 2303
Generally speaking, the Autumn equinox always falls on either 22 or 23 September, but not quite always. Because the Gregorian calendar is not quite in perfect symmetry with the Earth’s orbit, the Autumn equinox will very occasionally fall on September 24. This last happened in 1931… and will next happen in 2303.

Autumn, or Fall?
I always think of ‘Fall’ as the North American version of the word ‘Autumn’ and as being the ‘new kid’ on the block! However, the term fall was actually in widespread use in England until relatively recently. Originally a shortening of the phrase ‘fall of the leaf’, the phrase was common in England in the 17th century. Although Chaucer first used the word Autumn in 1374 it did not become common usage until the 18th century.

Personally, I think Autumn is a lovely word and I shall continue to use it to refer to this beautiful time of year. Right, I’m off to sweep up some leaves in the garden now…

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