Natural Migraine Relief Remedy – Elderflower cordial

13-Elderflower cordial -010 I am a frequent migraine sufferer – they appear suddenly sometimes lasting as long as two weeks. I have tried several different ‘cures’ and  spent a great deal of time investigating various solutions. While medication is the only thing that allows me some respite, I was delighted to read in my book, The Natural Guide to Medicinal Herbs and Plants, that the Elderflower can help with migraine. It makes sense, often during a debilitating attack the nausea is so bad that I can only tolerate small sips of lemonade, so elderflower would be a welcome alternative.

Elderflower plants

As I was wondering along the lovely hedgerows in the last few weeks I spotted a huge number of these plants in flower – they are tall bushes, the tiny flowers are in flat topped clusters and the leaves are usually in fives. If you get closer to the plant, especially this month when they are at the height of flower, you will notice their distinctive delicate scent. (It is always good to be sure about any foraged plant so make sure you know what they smell like).

elder flowers

These are the tiny elderflowers, they have pretty small blooms, each flower has five petals with pale yellow five pointed stamens around a yellow centre. Pick them when they are fully open, not green (in bud) or brown (gone over), best around mid to late afternoon when the dew has gone and their scent is at its height. Pick from waist height and above, taking care not to strip one plant bare of blooms, there should be plenty of plants to choose from.

You should not wash the elderflowers  it is good practice to gather them in a wicker basket, then lay the flowers out on a tray for a couple of hours in the sunshine if you can- it allows all the little creatures to escape and find alternative accommodation.

elderflower Recipe

You don’t need expensive ingredients:

For every pint (600ml) water add

1 large unwaxed lemon washed (zest and then simply cut into slices)

1lb 10oz (750g) of granulated sugar

2 1/2 table spoons of citric acid.

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Surprisingly citric acid is difficult to get hold of, Chemists will only sell small quantities if they sell any at all. It is used in winemaking so brewing shops might sell it. I bought mine at Lakeland – but I was emphatically informed by the staff,  I could only have three small sachets due to government restrictions. Thankfully the vintage dress and straw hat I was wearing was enough to convince staff  I was not a bomb maker nor a drug dealer, so they passed over the citric acid to me without complaint, although it did make me feel somewhat subversive!  Mr D spent his time pretending not to know me in case I needed more than my allocated 3 and he could pose as another customer, luckily one sachet was enough for my recipe, so he did not need to jump into action!

A basketfull of elderflowers

The recipe called for 7 flower heads – however I wanted to make the most of the properties of this plant so used a basket full of elderflowers and used three times the quantities mentioned to make three pints of cordial.

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The method is straightforward:

Put the sugar and water into a large preserving pan, heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved. You will notice that the liquid goes suddenly clear. Turn off the heat.

Add the lemon zest, sliced lemons, citric acid and finally the elderflowers, stir gently.

Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to stand for at least 24 hours. I started my cordial off about 9pm on a Friday evening and left it until Sunday. (giving it a little stir and poke now and then!)

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I also put my glass bottles into a cold oven and then switched it on to about a gas mark 4 for around half an hour. It is essential that the glass goes into a cold oven and is brought slowly up to temperature otherwise you might end up with shattered glass. After the oven has reached its temperature, turn it off and leave the bottles in there to go cold, until you are ready to decant your cordial.

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It is vital that you strain the liquid through a fine mesh muslin, or a jelly bag. It is not pleasant trying to drink liquid with little bits of flower (or the odd bug or two!).

I did my first strain through a colander lined with some fine net, but still had the odd debris, so ended up using a funnel and filter paper from my coffee machine. It ended up pretty clear.

elderflower Cordial label

It is a great idea to label your bottles as soon as you have bottled it up – it is surprising how one clear liquid can look exactly the same as another! I made these labels so feel free to right click and download if you want to use them. They are scaleable.

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I serve mine with a good quantity of sparkling water as it is very sweet.

They make lovely gifts and will last up to 3 months in the fridge or in a cupboard stored away from sunlight. The citric acid works as a preservative as does the sugar quantity.

If you wish to keep the cordial longer – simply pop it into ice cube trays and transfer to a freezer bag once frozen. (Its a good idea to label it too, as one block of ice looks very much like another! as I have often discovered. It might look like a frozen egg white but doesn’t beat up the same when making meringue!)

It is a wonderful accompaniment poured over ice cream or you can poach peaches in the syrup for its delicate floral essence.

heavenly!

I’ll let you know how I get along with the migraine solution when I get my next bout!

ttfn. x

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The Little Paris Book Shop – book review

The Little Paris Bookshop

Bear with me, while I enthuse about another wonderful book!

This little delight, called the Little Paris Bookshop is written by phenomenal Nina George and translated from German into English by the talented Simon Pare.

Nina George is a wonderful story teller, there are some sublime pieces of writing that simply stopped me in my tracks; given that this has been translated, I have to admire Simon Pare for being able to translate so beguilingly.

It is different from anything else I have read – but does bear a slight resemblance to Paulo Coelho – in that there is an air of wisdom that simply slips off the page and does your soul some good. However, I found the characters in this book more accessible than Coelho’s; they are more emotional and less remote.

and very, very lovable.

The Little Paris Bookshop-10

If you like the idea of a book apothecary where books can offer solace to the soul for every heartache then this is the book for you.

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I have peppered this post with quotes from the book, but I could not include all the pencilled highlights and margin notes because there are too many.

This is a book about love, not the falling boy meets girl type of candy floss, but the hard edged, gut wrenching, soul destroying heartache of love’s ending and how to come out the other side alive.

It is also about healing, hope and friendship.

This is not a story to scan in one sitting – this is a book to savour, slow down – read and re-read. I wanted to bask in these pages, in the way that Perdu prescribes a book to one of his customers:

‘This book which you will please read slowly, so you can take occasional break. You’ll do a lot of thinking and probably a bit of crying. For yourself, For the years. But you will feel better afterwards. You’ll know that now you don’t have to die, even if that is how it feels because a guy didn’t treat you well. And you will like yourself again.’

I ended up reading with pencil in hand underscoring and writing in the margins. I rarely keep fiction books, but this one will sit on my shelf and I imagine will be dusted off and fingered through when I need the solace and comfort.

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I admit here, there was one point in the book that really did hit home. I took a break, cried a little but mostly I felt comforted because I was not the only person to suffer in that way. I felt no longer alone with that small, tiny, heartache. And I felt absolved of blame, that it wasn’t my fault – and it was healing.

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For all Perdu’s ability to look at a customer and reach into their souls, touch their pain and prescribe the book that will heal them, Perdu is lost, (it took me a while to notice but his name is French for lost!). He cannot heal himself.

When he can’t over come his pain he distracts himself by healing other people in the vain hope it will silence the aching wail inside him. Its like a sort of deal we do with ourselves. We want to avoid feeling or expressing the hurt because we are frightened.  Thus Perdu has been running is book apothecary for twenty years – sending customers off with books that soothe their troubled souls and mend their broken hearts. Only, it is he who needs the healing most of all.

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At some point in our lives we have to face the heartache inside us, examine and feel it. Overcome the fear that we will drown in our own tears and let our crying begin – only when we have done this can we start to piece ourselves back together.

Perdu faces his pain by reading a letter written by his lover twenty years ago before she left him. He has reduced his life so much, in order to protect himself from any form of human contact. But he is forced to read the letter and the tight constrains he has placed on his life begin to crumble – he runs away.

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Everyone is carrying some form of pain or other -this book offers hope.  You will discover that your pain is not unique, others suffer the same maladies, just the names, times and places are different.

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This is also a tale of friendship – not the superficial kind – passing acquaintances that we see regularly – but the true friendship that develops when you are prepared to strip yourself emotionally naked of the culture and masks we wear in society and show another soul our scars. Those are the friendships that matter and not a process we can do with hundreds of people – a handful is too many, if you have one or two then you are blessed.

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We see this happen with Perdu on his journey south, the fear of expressing his pain had him locked down where only the feint brush of a cat around his leg was the only tender contact he bear without fear of breeching his defences.

‘Habit is a vain and treacherous goddess. She lets nothing disrupt her rule. She smothers one desire after another; the desire to travel, the desire for a better job or a new love. She stops us living as we would like, because habit prevents us from asking ourselves wether we continue to enjoy what we do.’

I think that is a very profound truth, one that we can all do with pondering now and then. I know that fear hides in many of the limitations we place in our lives in order to be ‘safe’. While security is a good thing, a little bit of danger and adventure makes us feel more alive!

Perdu is writing a Great Encyclopaedia of Small Emotions on his journey, collecting different experiences and noting them down. It is our thinking, that frames not just what we believe about ourselves but our world, our experiences and ultimately our lives. Science is already showing the close connection between thoughts and the body, even to the point of suggesting that in order for a disease in the body to begin we activate the messages that send out a trigger. These small emotions, these little heartaches are the things that eat away at us, if we aren’t careful, affects our health.

Perdu begins to participate in life again, no longer hiding in the shadows, but opening himself up to friendship and then to love. He makes peace with his lost love – he firstly begins to say her name eventually, finding forgiveness in his heart not just for her but himself.

With all these quotes it might seem that this book is a hard tome to plough through, but it isn’t.

It is an easy story to read – a canal boat trip with friends at the very least.

The tale gently unfolds, like the pace along the river itself.

The wisdom drifts off the pages like a feather resting gently on your lap – for you to take up if you wish.

The Little Paris Bookshop-14Our experience shapes us forever, the people we meet every day, the interactions, misunderstandings and aggression that is all around us; life does sometimes feel like a battle.

The ultimate anti-dote for stress is reading,  an escape into worlds where usually wrongs are righted, justice prevails and we can all be heroes. For me, they have always been a lifeboat – a place of sanctuary.

I read as a child, taking comfort and adventure from other children’s lives; the famous five, ballet shoes and the Chronicles of Narnia.

Reading preserved my sanity when my children were small, I would take long baths with a book – so I did not get distracted by the housework piling up around me.

What has reading done for you?

Today

rose bud colour pencils

Today…

I shall leave the dishes

unwashed

the bed

un made

I won’t straighten the cushions on the sofa

or launder the clothes

that lay on the floor

Today

I will delight

in half drunk

cold cups of coffee

squashed cushions

and scattered clothes

I shall lie

listless and lazy

in an unmade bed

with crumpled sheets

because

each

is

imbibed

with you

I can caress

the rim of the coffee cup

knowing

it has touched your lips

or trace

the cast of your face

on the pillow

or the imprint

of the cushion where you lay

each item

carries you back to me,

as if

by preserving these things

I can keep you

here

because today

I miss you

I am as empty

as the hollow cast

on the pillow

in my un-made bed.

When – Poetry rehab challenge

Full moon needle felted picture
Full moon needle felted picture

When did buying a new dress

become child labour and exploitation

When did buying food

Fill our bins more than our mouths

When did repairing things

become more expensive

than buying new

When did banks become

gambling houses?

Where money

become speculation

rather than solid silver?

When did we become a nation

Of food banks

Where children go hungry?

And houses grew out of reach

for the young?

When did we stop doing

instead of just watching

When are we going to

wake up?