Poppies, workshops and fabulous felting!

I love Autumn; its a time of nesting, gathering ripe blackberries to create jams and jellies, pickling onions and cucumbers: the anticipation of cosy nights by the fire crocheting or knitting while the cold nights stay outside the warm glow of the windows. The summer activities are winding down, my focus turns to creating a comfortable cosy home, and crafting.  
I have been speaking to Clothkits and Eternal Maker about running workshops, the first of which will be needle felting poppies for remembrance day in November. Its the centenary of the start of the first World War this year, the BBC have been running such interesting programmes about the lives of ordinary men and women a hundred years ago.  Yet in recent years, we are still seeing soldiers return home injured or worse, it has begun to feel less like history, and lamentable that we are still engaged in conflict today. I hope to give a donation to the Poppy appeal as it is such a great cause. 

I really enjoy needle felting, it is so satisfying to be able to replicate the beauty of flowers and leaves so easily, blending colours, shaping the wool; it’s a pleasurable way to spend half an hour, the projects evolve very quickly and easily. (You just have to keep your fingers out of the way!) 
If you would like to try this yourself, I can recommend Gillian Harris’s book Felting Fabulous flowers, the projects are delightful and the step by step instructions are easy to follow. You can purchase a copy on amazon.

A vintage supper

We attended a pop up restaurant in the form of “A Good Vintage Supper Club” It is a great idea, you never know who you will be eating with and the food was lovingly prepared by Daryl. As it was Goodwood Revival weekend, we were encouraged to dress up Vintage style – I thought I would pay homage to Downton Abbey that returns on our screens this month! (Can’t wait!)
The menu was interesting, wild rabbit served in a spicy crust, drunken guinea fowl served with seasonal organic vegetables and a beetroot chocolate brownie! Mr D enjoyed a Selsey Crab macaroni dish which was so generous he was unable to finish. 
The wine was provided by the local wine shop and they encouraged us to taste five different wines over the course of the meal from France, Italy and New Zealand. 
Conversation flowed easily around the dinner table and friendships forged, it is a marvellous idea and was a lovely evening. 

What’s healthy?

I saw the doctor the other day, I have been struggling with my health for a couple of years but she forced me to get on the scales and I had to face it – I am overweight and heavier than I have ever been – (including pregnancy weight).

I know I am not unusual, Women’s hour reported that 61% of the UK population is overweight.

I needed to do something, I could not keep on simply buying bigger and bigger clothes and my health is really starting to suffer.

I started as I love to do, with books. I sat in my favourite Waterstones, with my green tea, thai noodles and a pile of books so high, I could not see above them.

I chose randomly, picking up one here and there from the shelf right at the bottom of the cooking section, below the bake offs, sweets and pudding books. It seems in order to be healthy one must be able to bend down that far. (I still can so all is not lost!) My pile included, sugar free eating, wheat free eating, healthy living, cleansing, medicinal foods to name but a few. The sugar free one seemed to offer me hope that I could continue to eat cake that would also magically be low in calories, and it looked promising, pages and pages of savoury food, (cheating!) finally the puddings section which included cakes and biscuits. I was surprised until I discovered the recipe included ‘dextrose’ not sugar… er… isn’t that another name for sugar?

Another book substituted sugar for weird ingredients – some of which were unpronounceable leaving me to wonder about the processing and artificial sweeteners have been linked to increasing obesity and cancer.   Coconut sugar? er.. isn’t that still sugar? Xanthan gum was proposed as a ‘heathy’ alternative to sugar, but it is created from the fermentation of sugars, identified as a polysaccharide (poly as in multiple + another word for sugar) combined with bacteria. Call me old fashioned, but sugar looks to me to be the healthiest option.

Another told me that wheat was virtually poison and I should never eat it, suggesting  odd ingredients that were most likely found in health food shops. I struggle to imagine any natural foodstuff to be poison, but rather than point the finger at wheat, maybe the cause of the problem is what happens to the wheat between the field and our plate? Bread can be natural, made simply from flour, yeast and time. The choreley wood method of bread making has been identified as bad for our health while a huge advantage for the stores. It speeds up the process chemically, then introduces chemical retardants, eventually to be heated up in a store giving us the impression that it is ‘freshly baked’. Its not made for our benefit, but maximise profits. I can’t eat it – the last time I had a tiger loaf I ended up in hospital, but I can eat home made bread.

The debate rages on about Butter, but to be honest why does spread need probotics, or cholesterol lowering plant enzymes? I would rather eat something that has the simple ingredient of churned milk and a little salt than soya lecithins, potassium sorbates, emulsifiers and acid stabilisers.

I glanced at the packet ingredients for my Thai noodles, it was the only healthy option available in Costa. I had ignored the cakes, biscuits, cheese laden toasties, it looked like a healthy choice, feeling saintly for my good intentions which was sabotaged; it contained over 10% fat! It would appear that in order to make the salad more tasty it needed a sauce containing not just fat but sugar!

Call me old fashioned but healthy food to me is as close to its natural state as possible – I am so tired of the manufacturer’s spin. Today’s nonogenarians ate food in season, grown slowly without pesticides or growth enhancers, they walked. food was expensive, farmers were able to make a living from non-intensive methods, bread was baked locally using local flour, not shipped half way across the world.  Snacking between meals was unheard food was restricted to mealtimes when they sat round a table and concentrated on the taste of what they were eating. 

I am astounded at how many times I reach for food as a matter of habit – a cup of tea seems to need a biscuit, or I grab a few nuts while I am waiting for the kettle to boil. My favourite programme on TV has adverts for chocolate and sweet things – subliminally I want something that I don’t really need – I have made a link with comfort and food. I reward myself with sweet things because my parents taught me good children get sweets, sugar is the reward – its embedded in my psyche. I  need to find a way to reward myself with other things. 

We can’t have our cake without calories, there is no magic that melts away the food we chump into our mouths and just because a food comes from a health food store it doesn’t mean to say that it isn’t processed. 

So I am going to follow the doc’s advice: eat less move more. 

I’ll keep you posted!