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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Aww what a lovely boy

Charlie Cox in Stardust


OK OK, I know I am getting old when I go to a movie and I think the hero is a lovely BOY. A bit like young mr G when he had floppy hair, aww. And a gang of teenaged boys on bikes gave me the eye today. I know I am getting old when I am appreciating youth and beauty with such a detached air! I did give them a little wave though, as I am a saucy miss! They probably would have been horrified to know my real age, but we won't speak of that.

Charlie Cox in Stardust
Mr G and I went to see Stardust- the movie, of course, being keen on Neil Gaiman - and I know the book is always better is a cliche, but I found my mind busily filling in the bits that were edited out. Sigh. What's left is so happy ever after. Don't get me wrong, the book is a fairy tale and has its share of ever after, but there was enough otherworldliness about it so it wasn't saccharine sweet. Maybe I should do a proper reader impression, eh?

It opened in the UK this Friday. It is fun and good to look at...we had relaxing time chomping on the toffee popcorn. I won't give it away, but I am fond of the swordplay. Cracking!

Robert de Niro in Stardust

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wot I et: for dinner - Autumn Chicken

Autumn chicken with chorizo - a warming dish made with one whole spicy spanish sausage, red with paprika. Onions, garlic and 5 bay leaves, generous grindings of black pepper. Cubed Maris Piper potatoes, butternut squash and carrots. Fried chorizo first, then added diced onions and chunks of garlic into the mix as the paprika flavoured oil seeped out. Then the bay leaves and black pepper. Two whole chicken legs on the bone, thigh and drum, skinside down. Layer the vegetables: squash, carrots, then a layer of potatoes with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover the chicken legs and cook in oven at about 190 celsius for one and a half hours or until chicken is tender. An all in one comfort dish! Err...not for dieters!

Lavender Blue


Ask anyone on the street what single oil they would name in association with aromatherapy and they would state: "Lavender". There are many, many varieties of lavender. There is a lot of confusion about the names, and gardeners have their own names for some of them. Therapists only use 3 to 4 varieties in treatment, so I'll concentrate on these.

In my own practice, I only use True lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), as well as the lesser known Lavendin (Lavandula x intermedia) and Spike Lavender (Lavandula spica/latifolia). These three are related to each other - Lavendin is a hybrid of the other two. True lavender likes to grow high up in the mountains, and the other two will grow happily on the lower slopes. French Lavender, the ones with the 'ears' (Lavandula stoechas) also produces an essential oil, but I find it is very strong and there are other things I can use instead.

True lavender is soft and sweet in its fragrance. It's very gentleness soothes us and sends us to sleep. My children do sleep deeper when I burn lavender in their room - I only use it if they are very restless and excited, have a snuffly nose (with Ravensara or Myrtle) or a drop on the pillow for the older one if she has a headache. I put it on neat on the back of my skull if I have a mild headache, but if it is a strong tension or flu headache you might need to massage it vigorously in the area top of the foot between the big toe and second toe. It is good for chronic grumpiness, maybe I need an automatic spray of it in the morning! Hmm. I'll make up a lavender flower water spritzer to wake me and my skin, and maybe I will have a calmer kind of morning! And it will help with spots or the time of the month. I also use it to clean scrapes and grazes and it helps calm the person who has fallen down.

If I had to choose one First Aid oil for my kit, it would be this lavender. It has a broad spectrum of uses and is gentle on the skin. I keep a special bottle in the kitchen for burns I get from cooking - hot oven, spitting oil. It stops blisters and scars from forming. It is brilliant for healing wounds and clearing inflammation: cooling skin that is red and hot. Like sunburn! Or a sprained ankle, or a hot arthritic knee (with Lemon Eucalyptus). If you are caught out without the Tiger Balm, lavender will help with insect bites. I always put lavender in an eczema blend to sooth the skin - and use lavender with ravensara and geranium to cool itchy chickenpox and prevent from scarring.

The other two do a lot of the same things - lavender isn't only for sedation - it is a balancing oil - which means that if you are hyper: it calms you, and if you are listless or fatigued: it will energise you. Lavendin is that little bit more energising, so I would select it if I was tired but needed to function clearly. I would select it in a blend for aching muscles. If my client had to go to work with a cold I would choose Lavendin, so they would not get too sleepy!

For someone with a seriously bad cold I would move a notch up to Spike Lavender - it has a stronger action on the Lungs and better for infection in that area. I choose it for someone who gets so tense that they get depressed and make themselves ill. It is very heart calming but vigorous. And I use it a lot in muscular blends. It does smell a lot like minyak angin! That is perhaps from its camphor content, which has that familiar decongesting smell.

A lot of the time I have a bigger bottle of L.angustifolia than anything else in my collection. Sometimes I take it for granted, it is easy to use and blends with so many things, often harmonising the mixture and making it more pleasant. For its gentle power and breadth, none can match it. We would be very much the poorer if we could not have lavender in our toolkit.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Can she bake an apple pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?

Perfect autumn food. Fresh off the tree, the apples are ready to eat. Cinnamon and nutmeg warm the body and soul.

The golden beech leaves are falling on our hill. The squirrels are busy collecting the funny angled beechnuts popping out from their prickly cases.

It is time to make apple pie. A toffee-like apple pie with dark molasses sugar and spice. Tarte tatin without the flipping, and it always reminds me of my friend Esther, who used to bake me covered pies like this in Virginia.

What do you do if you are girl like me and can't make pastry and can only make this recipe up new everytime? Well: 1. buy sweet pastry case. 2. get lots of dark molasses sugar and crumble all over base. 3. peel and cut up apples in chunky slices. 4. toss in more sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkled generously. 5. arrange artistically and dot butter strategically around the slices. 6. bake till brown sugar is oozing and apples shrink slightly. (And Mr. G, following his nose shouts to you, lounging on the sofa hypnotised by Elektra's flashing blades: "Oy! Does this need to come out?")

psst. As you can see, we each had a slice already, warm from the oven before bedtime!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Star Struck


I look embarassingly pleased with myself to have Neil Gaiman actually signing my book! He said he had only been to KLIA in Malaysia and of course politely said he would have loved to go. Oh, he was extremely charming!

He read excerpts from two new stories he is writing - a book about a child who is brought up in a graveyard...he says it is really 8 linked short stories. The story opens with a killer disposing of this boy baby's family, the baby crawls into the graveyard and is rescued and brought up by the ghosts. Someone in the audience asked how could this be a children's book (it had a rather chilling opening paragraph) . I won't be able to post the answer blow by blow but the gist was that children can take such things in their stride. He said that he had loved The Jungle Book as a child and it was full of Death, blood, hunting and killing, and that The Graveyard Book was a nod to it. When he wrote his children's book Coraline, his editor had nightmares about the story, while his two daughters aged 6 or 7 at the time loved it and wanted to know what happened next. Neil Gaiman is a great story teller - he can see the story going on anywhere. He got the idea for his book when he used to live in a house in Surrey with no garden and took his young son on a tricycle to the graveyard near by to cycle along its paths. I look forward to reading this when it comes out.

He also read us a chapter from Odd and the Frost Giants - his World Book Day 2008 contribution, which he's supposed to hand in to the publisher next week. Odd is the son of a woodcutter/woodcarver who is drowned at sea, he has a limp from injuring himself with his father's axe shortly after his father's death as he tries to take over the job, his mother remarries and the story begins as one winter, Odd takes himself off to his father's old woodcutting cabin in the forest and meets (I think...) a grumpy bear and two other creatures who turn out to be argumentative Gods trying to regain Asgard from an invasion of Frost Giants.

All in all a cracking evening - they even sent him on stage in a cloud of dry ice, LOL. Well, you know I'd do it all again. Check out his website for his blog and lots of cool stuff
http://www.neilgaiman.com/