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!

 

0 Comments

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!

3 Comments

Salt of the earth

There’s been a lot of publicity over the past few years about cutting down salt intake as it is ‘bad for you’, especially with regard to blood pressure… but let’s not get too panicky about it. Salt is actually absolutely vital for our bodies to function.

Salt – whether it’s the stuff they spread on the road in winter, common table salt or an exotic pink one from the Himalayas – has the same chemical composition, an equal amount of sodium and chloride. Salt is essential for life and, as the body can’t produce it itself, we have to add it to our diet in some way. Without it, our bodies become chemically unbalanced, our muscles and nervous system cease to function and eventually we will die.

If you think about it, all our body fluids are salty – blood, sweat, tears and saliva. The general consensus among experts is that a healthy adult should aim towards a daily intake of five or six grams of salt to maintain a good balance. It seems the biggest problem with controlling our salt intake is through eating convenience foods as these often contain astonishing amounts of salt – and that’s in both savoury and sweet dishes! If you prepare most of your meals fresh and from scratch, you can govern how much salt you do, or don’t, add and your intake is probably absolutely fine.

Salt is all around us. Underground and on the earth’s surface in the dried up residues of ancient seas. Some salt has even arrived from outer space in meteors. But our biggest source of salt is in our seas and oceans. With an average of 26 million tonnes per cubic kilometre, seawater offers a seemingly inexhaustible supply that, if extracted, would cover the world’s total land mass to a depth of 35 metres.

Apart from its essential health benefits, salt is also a fantastic flavour enhancer. It is one of the key five tastes that we experience on our tongues, the others being sweet, sour, bitter and umami. It can reduce bitterness and enhance sweetness – salt just makes things taste better!

And what an amazingly useful thing it is too. Think how we use it as a preservative (and have done for thousands of years), it improves texture and colour and is an abrasive too. It’s soothing – we take salt baths and my Mother used to make me gargle with it as a child if I had a sore throat and if you spill any, do remember to chuck a pinch over your left shoulder and it will ward off evil spirits too!

Salty facts:

  • Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt – which is where the word ‘salary’ comes from
  • Every cell in the body contains salt – an adult contains about 250g
  • Salt is used to remove traces of water from aviation fuel after it is purified
  • Salt was used to preserve Egyptian mummies
  • Salt removes red wine stains.
4 Comments

Putting your garden to bed…

scabious

Scabious, always so vibrant.

Gardening is such a wonderful thing! It’s good for you physically and mentally and you get lovely flowers of fruit and veg as a reward for all your effort. I must say I am really enjoying the new hour-long editions of Gardener’s World. I did wonder if an hour might drag but it is a tranquil, yet inspirational, hour on a Friday evening – just lovely!

It is easy to think that come the Autumn the garden just goes to sleep until Spring but that’s not the case. Your garden needs help ‘putting to bed’ in all sorts of ways. Put in the work now, and it will pay dividends in the Spring.

It’s always good to be thinking about colour in the garden next year, planning ahead and sowing now will save you a lot of money too. Sow hardy annuals, such as cerinthes, scabiosa and cornflowers, for flowers early next summer. You can also plant wallflowers, pansies, forget-me-nots and other gorgeous spring bedding in pots and borders. And, to keep interest in your garden now, how about planting up containers for autumn colour, using cyclamen, heathers, heucheras and other colourful bedding plants?

One of the best ways to save money and feel chuffed by your own efforts is to collect ripe seeds from your favourite flowers and store in labelled envelopes, ready to sow in spring. I can confirm it is a very good feeling to see the seeds start to germinate.

As you know, I have really been getting into growing veg this year and I want to try and keep greens growing in my raised beds so I am going to sow some hardy greens such as kale, lamb’s lettuce and mustard, for delicious winter pickings.

Rather than splashing out on supermarket-grown herbs, why not pot up herbs, such as chives and parsley, and place on a sunny windowsill to use during winter?

If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse you could plant prepared hyacinth bulbs in pots or hyacinth glasses, for fragrant indoor flowers at Christmas – lovely! You could also plant dwarf spring bulbs in pots, including irises, crocuses and scilla, for early flowers. Remember to keep your eye out for pests and diseases in the greenhouse, and tackle any you find immediately.

Finally – garden maintenance! I know it sounds dull, but these routine jobs can really make a difference. If you have a pond, put netting across to stop autumn leaves falling in and rotting. And, finally,­ and this one is very important – clean out water butts and check downpipes in preparation for autumn rains and leaves. There’s nothing worse than looking out at the pouring rain and seeing your gutters overflowing and knowing that someone (ideally Richard!) will have to go outside and clear the blockage!!

1 Comment

A different twist on a quiche

I know ‘Real men don’t eat quiche’ is a well known saying, but I found several men really enjoyed this quiche over the weekend. Technically, I made it for me as it is Slimming World friendly, but with the addition of some Charlotte potatoes from the garden and a lovely salad – tomatoes, radishes, lettuce also from the garden – everyone seemed to really enjoy it. As autumn draws in, I shall miss the warm weather and the free salads sitting outside just waiting to be picked!

The joy of this recipe is that it is endlessly flexible – have a look in the fridge and see what you have left – onions work well, courgettes, spring onions, bacon, prawns, the list goes on and on!

crustlessquicheCrustless quiche – serves 4-6

  • 150g chopped mushrooms
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2/3 tomatoes
  • 3 thick slices of ham
  • Small tin of sweet corn drained
  • 100 ml milk
  • 3+ tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
  • Chives or parsley and salt/pepper
  1. Stir fry the mushrooms in a non-stick pan – use a tiny amount of oil or butter if you like. The reason for cooking these first is to get rid of the grey liquid that can seep out of mushrooms while they cook – so fry them until they are well cooked and then drain thoroughly.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the chopped ham, mushrooms, corn, seasonings and herbs. Once mixed turn into a fluted flan dish as pictured or a cake tin or skillet or whatever cooking pan you want. Slice the tomatoes fairly thinly and arrange on the top of the quiche in a circle
  3. Now mix the eggs well with the milk and cheese. Pour over the other ingredients.
  4. Put into a medium hot oven about 200°C and cook for 25 minutes.

This can be served hot or cold depending on your preference.

5 Comments