Saturday, 20 May 2017

Healthy Body Tips

All of us want a healthier mind, body and soul. And the programmes, courses, books, audios and videos available to help us on our journey are mostly wonderful, but there's always the action part to take care of.

Dedicating a portion of a busy day to follow your preferred course, however much you want to do it, isn't always an easy step to take.

Even if you write 'meditate' at the top of your to-do list, how often does it get blipped over in favour of more 'important' stuff.

So, as with any change you want to make or learning you want to undertake, baby steps are key. Try these healthy body hacks to get your healthy lifestyle rolling. As you change the small things, the bigger picture becomes clearer, and that linear time thing just evaporates :-)

1. Ditch the Chemicals

*Grow an aloe vera plant on the windowsill - takes about 3 seconds every few days or so to water. Burns, cuts and scrapes are soothed by the gel inside an aloe vera leaf. Potions and creams often contain chemicals that could be counterproductive to healing.
*Avoid processed foods as much as possible. Fuel your body with fresh organic food and you can almost guarantee 100% health and wellness.
*Replace bleaching products with lemon! Save bits of old lemon and use them to clean the sink. Leaves a lovely lemony smell in the kitchen and bathroom.

2. Boost your Immune System

*Fresh fruit and vegetables are the obvious choice but sometimes, during seasonal changes especially, our immune systems can take a dip.
*Try fresh blackberry tea to give your immune system a boost. Put a few young blackberry (bramble) leaves in a jug. Pour over boiling water and leave to infuse for a few minutes. Cover to keep the flavour in. Strain into a cup or glass and sip when cool enough.
*Add fresh watercress to salads and soups. Chop finely and sprinkle over rice dishes etc; Watercress is full of nutrients that help keep your immune system healthy

3. Engage your Imagination

*There are many craft skills that can be learned in short bursts; knitting, crochet, sewing, scrap-booking, even basket-making if you have the room. The secret to success is to allocate a space and work on your project for a few minutes at a time.
*Another quick and easy way to get your imaginative juices flowing is to create inspiring words and pictures to hang around the house or your office. Draw them yourself if you want, or find the pictures you like and print them off. Create a vision board of your dreams and goals.
*Can you draw a cartoon or write a poem? Do you make up stories in your head or out loud?! Buy yourself a sketch book or get typing and develop your skills. Creations don’t have to be marketable. The reward is the journey and the finished product itself.

4. Relax and Think

*A favourite way to relax but let the mind wander is to do a jigsaw puzzle. All sorts of ideas spring up - the only problem with leaving out a puzzle to work on is that you can get obsessed with finishing it!
*Or take a gentle walk and let your mind wander where it will for 10 minutes or so. Then remember to enjoy and appreciate your surroundings.
*Crosswords and similar puzzles keep your mind sharp and can be very relaxing. Again, don’t obsess about it or it becomes a chore.

5. Relax and Don't Think

Meditate, meditate, meditate... If for only 10 minutes.  If you’re not used to meditating – or sitting still for ten minutes doing nothing at all - a guided meditation or creative visualization audio or video may help.
Plug in some headphones, lie back or sit comfortably, relax and allow yourself the few moments it takes to give your body, mind and soul a burst of energy and well-being. Do a little research and find those you resonate with.
Don’t bother to put ‘meditate’ on your to-do list, just have your headphones at the ready as soon as you wake up – or when you have that ten minutes you’ve allocated….. you have allocated them haven’t you ?

Be nice to yourself - you deserve it!

Healthy Body Hacks takes those baby steps just a little further. The newest edition has been reduced in price and is pretty much everywhere so you can download in seconds from your favourite digital book retailer:

Payhip (pdf version)
Apple Bookstore

To Your Good Health!

Linda x

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Growing Herbs

Herbs hold some wonderful secrets that we can share if we venture into their world for a moment. My favourite herb of the moment is Aloe Vera. Not a culinary herb perhaps but the benefits of aloe vera are enormous. For example, the sap inside the leaves will help soothe and repair your skin after a minor burn. Perfect to grow on the kitchen windowsill and you don't even have to remember to water it every day.

Many herbs will grow on a bright windowsill, although care should be taken that the sun isn't too hot through the glass as this will scorch the leaves of your herbs, and will dry the pots out very quickly. If you have direct sunshine on your chosen windowsill, create shade for your plants during the hottest part of the day.

The quickest way to get a herb garden going is to buy small plants all ready to go. Many supermarkets in the UK sell small herb plants but any garden centre should have a choice of herbs. Stick to three or four if you're new to growing herbs. You can add to your garden later. Always check on the growing requirements when you buy plants. Some hybrid varieties are less robust and may need to be grown indoors in a moderate climate.

Other herbs need a fair amount of space and may not be practical for the space you have available. Double check before you buy. Same goes if you're starting your plants from seed. Read through the recommendations on the back of the seed packet so that you get an idea how big your plants could grow and also check on indoor/outdoor requirements.

Follow any 'instructions' as far as possible for best results. It's worth investing in a Herb Book to refer to and be inspired by.

A couple of culinary herbs that work well on the windowsill or in a herb garden are basil and chives:

Basil is generally known as one of the tomato herbs, as a tomato really doesn't taste right without it. Many shop bought sauces are tomato and basil based, and growing basil on the windowsill will save a trip to the shops from time to time, as well as avoiding processed food - always a plus.

Basil is an annual plant in moderate climates but will grow as a bi-ennial in a warmer environment, producing flower and seed in the second year.

Chives are perfect to add a mild onion taste to your recipe. The flowers are edible and decorate a green salad perfectly. Every year or so, gently dig up plants or tip out of their pots, separate the roots and re-plant. Chive plants make great gifts if you find yourself with far too many to use.

There are many herbs that can be grown for culinary or medicinal purposes, although always refer to a reliable source before administering medicinal herbs.

At the first signs of a cold, a thyme and lemon tisane can soothe symptoms - especially with a little honey added -and possibly even stop the cold germs in their tracks! And, barring any allergies, this prevention plan is safe for practically everyone.

There are thousands of fascinating herbs and you can get lost for days in research :-) Sticking to a few at first might be easier.

This brand new edition of Growing Herbs at Home describes ten everyday herbs and how to grow them and is available on Kobo right now!

Growing Herbs at Home (Kobo US Link)
Growing Herbs at Home (Kobo UK Link)

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Tomatoes - Simply the Best

The best organic tomatoes are the ones you grow yourself :-)

If you're about to plant out your tomato plants, check these quick tips to help you get the best crops possible:

1. Give them space - rather than growing plants in a line, try dotting them around the garden. If one plant gets a virus, it won't spread so easily.

2. Grow them close to good buddies. Companion planting can help plants thrive. Grow tomatoes close to asparagus, beans and basil.

3. Avoid the bad guys. Place tomato plants well away from beetroot, broccoli, carrots, onions and parsnips.

4. Don't plant in soil where you've grown potatoes or peppers in recent seasons. These plants share viruses with tomatoes  so there could be residue in the ground.

5. Many varieties of tomato need support; put the canes or other support system in place before you set your plants.

And, as soon as your plants are in, water them well.

This cheap and cheerful Kindle guide to growing and caring for tomato plants - with a few yummy recipes thrown in - can be downloaded right now and will help you get the best results from your gardening efforts :-)

How to Grow Tomatoes (US Link)
How to Grow Tomatoes (UK Link)

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Friday, 5 May 2017

Bananas to the Rescue

Been playing in the kitchen :-)

This yummy recipe is gluten-free sugar-free and dairy-free tadah!

In a fairly large bowl, put:
125g gluten free flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
80-90g of sultanas.

Stir ingredients together

In another bowl, mash 3 small-medium bananas. Add:
1 egg
5 dessertspoons of coconut milk
50g of melted coconut oil
1 dessertspoon of honey

Beat ingredients together or use a hand whisk. Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients and stir well.

Put into a loaf tin - greased or lined with baking paper-(inside measurement approx.21x11cm) and bake in a pre-heated oven (175C,350F and Gas 4 ) for 35 minutes.

Leave in the tin for ten minutes before turning out onto a wire tray to cool. If you can let the loaf go cold, it becomes easy to slice. Otherwise enjoy the crumbly warm comfort of a guilt free desert straight from the oven :-)

I've been experimenting with this recipe and as long as you keep the proportions roughly the same, you could use:

chopped dates instead of sultanas
almond milk instead of coconut
maple syrup instead of honey
cashew butter instead of coconut oil

Also a couple of teaspoons of vanilla essence works well - add to wet ingredients - but be careful. I picked up a small bottle of vanilla essence the other day and it had sugar in it. Read those labels!

Linda x

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Garden Decor

If you have some outside space that isn't being appreciated, then maybe some stunning garden decor will inspire and motivate the whole family into spending a little more time outdoors.

These ten ideas are fun and don't necessarily need a credit card :-)

1. Wind Chimes

There are some beautiful wind chimes on the market, and you should be able to find some that suit your style and budget. But you could go one step further and make your own. Study how they're made and get the kids to join in. Wind chimes are soothing and can also be very practical. If you position close to your fruit and veggie patch, the chimes will help deter birds from your crops.

2. Lights and Lanterns

Choose candles for calm nights and maybe opt for lanterns if there's a breeze. Solar powered lights are a good choice as there are no cables, batteries or plugs to worry about. They must spend some time during the day re-charging. Read the instructions before you buy. Large garden candles will burn for many hours and are available in all sorts of aroma-therapeutic scents.

3. Garden Furniture

We often don't spend time outside because we can't feel comfortable. Invest in some comfy chairs or do you have a couple of well-placed trees you could sling a hammock between? How about a park bench set under the shade of an apple tree? Whatever the size and style of your garden, look for relaxing furniture so that you can fully appreciate your outside space.

4. Fake Flowers

Well, we don't all have mature gardens and fresh flowers blooming all year round. If you have to resort to a little deception, who cares if it looks good! Hang some pretty silk flowers on a wall or a low roof, or perhaps in a tree? If nothing else, it will keep your visitors guessing.

5. Colour

If you still could do with a bit more colour, get your artist's hat on and encourage the children to draw pictures of trees and flowers etc; pin them round the garden and on the patio but remember to rescue them if it rains.

6. Big Toys

Children's outdoor slides and swings can take up an awful lot of space in the garden. Choose carefully. Maybe for the teenies a structure that can be put away in the shed after playtime. Or go for something different. A giant chess set can be fun for everyone. Or get really creative and build your own 'wendy' house - which can double up as a children's toy shed.

7. Containers

Collect containers from everywhere. Old kettles or wellington boots can be used to grow plants in. Grow herbs, flowers and even strawberries in containers and position them in the garden as if you were creating a work of art - which you are of course :-) Make sure pots aren't too heavy to move and it's a good idea to stand them on a couple of bricks or something similar - otherwise unwelcome bugs can take up residence.

8. Wild Corner

This may not be to your liking if you prefer your garden to be neat and tidy, but leaving a wild patch can be very beautiful and entertaining - and good for the environment of course. Nettles and wildflowers attract butterflies and bees. You could build a little fence around the wild corner and erect a wooden plaque declaring it a wildlife zone!

9. Water Features

Create a water feature that will suit your garden; there are many enthusiastic sales people wanting to sell their, undoubtedly beautiful, water features but every garden is slightly different from the next. Do a little research first. There are many types of water features; ponds, waterfalls, pebble fountains etc; And you may need a little strong arm help when you start digging holes.

10. Rock Gardens

Rock gardens can take on different themes and colour schemes throughout the year with a little careful planning. There's some heavy physical work to begin with - enlist some help if needed - but it's well worth it in the end. Make sure you can reach all parts so you can tend to your rock plants and remove unwanted weeds etc; Choose plants that are happy in shallow soil.

Let your imagination run free, change things, find what works for you, and your garden will reward with with hours of love and joy.

Linda x

Monday, 17 April 2017

6 Fashion Tips for Gardeners

 Designer clothes and fashion shows are far removed from potting out your begonias or digging a trench for a line of potatoes.

But the clothes you wear are important for your protection in the garden. Here are six simple but effective solutions to various gardening hazards.

1. Starting from the Top:

You need to protect your head. Body heat escapes through the head and in the cold weather a warm hat should be worn. Knit yourself a unique garden hat or buy a simple woolly hat on the high street.

And in the summer, even more attention should be paid to your head. The sun's rays can burn your skin - and could do lasting damage.  We all know this but it's easy to forget when you want to soak up the sun after months of grey or cold winter weather. Invest in a cool sunhat. It will protect your skin and hair and save you from any nasty skin problems.

2. Mid Section:

Keep an old jacket or short coat, preferably with fairly large pockets, specifically for garden use. When you're working in the garden, you don't want to be concerned about muddy smudges and grass stains. And if they don't come out in the wash, the stains will enhance your garden designer look!

3. Legs:

Suitable trousers; Again, keep a couple of old pairs especially for gardening. Heavy duty jeans for heavy duty work and a pair of lighter comfortable jeans or other trousers for lighter work. A good waterproof pair are handy in damp climates as there are always times you need - or just want - to pop into the garden in the rain.

4. Protect Your Hands:

For potting small plants or pinching out your tomato plants, a disposable pair of plastic gloves, or kitchen rubber gloves, will protect your skin from staining. Also some soils and plant combinations may dry your skin out a little. Gloves will help prevent that.

For heavier work - pruning roses, weeding thistles and nettles etc; wear heavy duty gardening gloves or your hands will suffer.

5. Watch Those Toes:

Invest in a pair of steel capped boots and wear them :-) If you're pottering in the greenhouse or doing a little weeding, a simple pair of wellington boots will do, or even sandals if the weather and environment allows. But as soon as you pick up a large tool, steel toe-caps should be worn. If you're not used to them, these boots can feel cumbersome and heavy at first, but stick with it. If you're doing heavy work, you must wear protective boots.

6. Healthy Glow:

And last, but certainly not least, you must protect your skin. Moisturize all exposed body parts whenever you're working in the garden, rain or shine. Working outside will give you a lovely healthy glow, but the wind and sun will dry out unprotected skin. Use a natural moisturizer - coconut oil for example.

So, not exactly a fashion designer's dream but these 6 fashion tips will help make your gardening experience safer and a lot more comfortable.

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Friday, 7 April 2017

Wallow in Weeds!

Weeds are simply wild plants and can hold a huge range of medicinal and  nutritional properties, just waiting to be used.

Flowering weeds will help encourage bees to your garden, and plants can be easily contained if you harvest them before they seed.

 Don't rip out the dandelions or mow down the daisies before you enjoy their magic!

Dandelions may be a gardener's nightmare, but they are amazing little plants;

-Young leaves can be added to salads - only use very young leaves as they become bitter with age.

-The milky sap inside the stem can help cure warts and verrucas. Dab onto wart as it begins to show.

-The flowers can be made into a jam. ("tried, tested and delicious!")

-The roots are used in dandelion and burdock cordials and also can be roasted and ground to make a caffeine-free substitute for coffee.

Daisies have been recorded as a medicinal herb for centuries. They have been used to treat any number of ailments.

-Make a tisane from the flowers to soothe stress and anxiety

-Daisies have been used to treat wounds on battlefields and can help soothe bruising.

-A concentrated liquor or essence of the roots can help chronic skin disease such as eczema.

Nettles sting! Wear gloves to protect your skin - unless you're into 'grabbing the nettle' :-)

-Young nettle leaves are full of vitamins and minerals and can be used in salads and soups and steamed as a green vegetable.

-Make a tisane, adding other natural ingredients to taste, e.g. honey, lemon etc;

-And the whole plant can be used to make a greenish dye.

Collect some or all of these garden 'weeds' in any combination, for a super tonic to relax in the bath with:

-lawn daisies (flowers)
-dandelions (flowers and leaves)
-nettles (young leaves)
-blackberry/bramble (leaves)

Crush flowers and leaves together and place on a square of muslin. Bring up the edges to form a bag and tie securely with a length of string. Make a loop in the string and hang over the hot tap. Let the hot water run through the herb bag. Lie back and enjoy.

NB: When self-medicating, double and triple check your plants, methods of preparation and recommended doses - Google recipes and cross reference before you start treating yourself. Don't be put off by 5 or 10 minutes research though. The long term benefits are priceless!

Happy Gardening.

Linda x