August 28, 2013

What does “spring” mean to you?

Posted in brisbane, health, life tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:45 pm by Margi Macdonald

Celeste and Jasmine

What does spring time mean to you?

Newness and all that’s fresh and enlivening?

Quiet times in nature, or pottering in the garden?

Cooking up a storm with abundant fresh produce?

The torments of hay fever or asthma? (and yes, acupuncture and herbal medicine may help with either of these conditions)

Feel free to share the best and worst of your spring time experiences with us.

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Cautions & Care: This post and the pages here are for your information, and are not a substitute for the medicines, care and attention of appropriately qualified health professionals.

Image: ©Margi Macdonald

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January 13, 2012

Messing with pomegranates and rose water

Posted in brisbane, cooking, food, health, life tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:23 pm by Margi Macdonald

We are lucky to have fresh pomegranates available this summer.

A fan of the opulent colour, sweet-sour taste and reputed health benefits, I’ve been drinking prepared pomegranate juice for a while now.

Recently with time on my hands, and holiday-season catering in full-swing, the time was right to experiment with the fresh fruits.

Without pre-reading any recipes, I set about extracting the seeds and juice with a spoon. Violet-ruby juice splattered our kitchen and so too my white T-shirt. My daughter later told me that the most effective method is to place the pomegranate in a snap-lock plastic bag, and gently beat it with a rolling-pin until you feel the seeds popping inside the fruit. It’s then a simple matter of removing the fruit from the bag, slitting the skin with a knife, and gently squeezing the juice into a suitable receptacle.

I eventually made Pomegranate and Quince Relish to go with our summer feasts. Here’s how:

In a small, heavy-based saucepan sweat a thinly sliced, large red onion in a little water or olive oil until the onion is soft and translucent. Keep the heat low, as you don’t want browning or scorching. When onion is very soft, add a heaping teaspoon of quince paste and a tiny splash of water, and stir vigorously until the paste if fully dissolved. You may need a little extra water if the paste is not easily dissolving. Add the juice of half a lime – if no limes, you can use lemon juice or verjuice or white wine vinegar  – and keep stirring. Wooden or silicone spoons are the best tools for this job. When the quince paste is fully dissolved, add pomegranate seeds and juice of one fruit, and keep stirring until fully mixed. Sprinkle in a smidge of ground cinnamon and stir very well. A turn of the pepper mill with white pepper is probably a nice addition. Taste and see if you need to adjust sourness (add lime), sweetness (add quince paste) or spice. If too wet, keep stirring and cooking until the excess moisture has evaporated. Store in a pre-sterilized jar.**see below

This pomegranate relish is delightful to the eye and the taste buds. It’s a richly hued, sweet-sour accent to salty, smoked or cured meats and sausages, it’s fantastic over hot fresh haloumi on a bed of rocket leaves, and for all I know, it may even be nice with tempeh.

Pomegranate sherbet… the drink of love, or the great panacea for horribly hot days and nights?

Makes about 1.1 litres (2 pints)

2-3 large pomegranates

175 g (6 oz) sugar, or more

5 ml rose-flower water

Squeeze or press pomegranates all over until the fruit is quite pulpy and soft to the touch. Holding the pomegranate inside a deep bowl, carefully make a slit in the skin with a very sharp knife and carefully squeeze the juice – the juice will stain everything it touches. Squeeze gently to extract all juice. Dissolve the sugar in 600 ml (1 pint) of water, then add the juice. Taste to see if you need more sugar, as the sourness of this fruit is variable. Pour into a jug and chill well. Add ice, sprinkle on the rose-water and serve with more iced water if wished.

A wonderfully exotic, deep purple drink, popular in Persia and also Iraq….I love its bitter-sweet flavour. It also makes a spectacular jelly, Try to buy plump-looking pomegranates – dry wizened specimens will have no juice. Rosamond Man. The Complete Meze Table

Be sure to bookmark this page and come back, as the next post will explore not-quite-101-things to do with rose-water.

**Keeping it nice: We stored our relish in an old salsa jar which we ‘pre-sterilized’ by boiling in a big pot of water, being sure to include the lid of the jar. As the jar and lid must be dry and scrupulously clean before adding the relish, we dried them in the oven at low temperature with the fan on, and made sure we didn’t touch the inside of the jar or lid . Once you have all the relish safely stored, you may lick the spoon!

For some – unverified nutritional and other information about pomegranates, go here and here

January 22, 2011

Fresh New and Blue: it’s sing-along-time

Posted in brisbane, health, life, love, music tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:21 am by Margi Macdonald

Round about this time of year, I change the blog’s visual theme.

I have no idea why I hadn’t found this theme in the past, as it sits nicely with my business card, and is so fresh and clean.

In Brisbane this morning it’s fresh, sunny and cool, and there’s a song for that!

Now play the video and sing along. Singing is very, very good for our Lung qi – a vital energy.

Traditional Chinese Medicine understands our Lungs are like a bellows which pumps qi through our bodies. Lung qi also oversees our immunity and assists with fluid metabolism. Grief and loss cause Lung qi to dissipate. So really, truly sing out loud!

November 21, 2009

Grappling with the night – insomnia and related torments

Posted in brisbane, health, life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:48 pm by Margi Macdonald

There really is nothing worse than spending wretched nights tangled in the bedclothes, thrashing, watching time tick slowly by, while all around one’s family and neighbours lie sweetly sleeping.

Similarly, nights spent interrupted by graphic, unsettling, incessant or just plain terrifying dreams are no recipe for a refreshed and quietly enlivened mind and body.

Detail from the right ("Hell") panel of Hieronymous Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" c. 1500

Afterall, such nocturnal torments will have us falling asleep at the wheel, frustratingly unproductive, snippy and snappy, fraught and frazzled.

So what’s going on here?

Quite a bit! If we consider all the information we receive in a day, the thousands of visual and auditory stimuli – many of them pernicious – the way we use our minds, life events and our reactions to them, and what we eat and drink, you can see why difficulty falling and staying asleep can become a problem.

There is an art and science to welcoming sleep into our busy lives, called sleep hygeine by those in the western medical sciences. So as well as counting sheep, you might like to see what works for you here:  Reach Out

Some things to remember:

Daytime – Yang time – is the time for most of our mental and physical activity, including eating and digesting.

Nighttime – Yin time – is for restoration and relaxation of mind, spirit and body.

Our bedrooms are for sleep and sex. They are not information super-highways, so keep your electronic geewhizzery such as TVs, computers and telephones out of them! Why anyone would want these intrusive information-overloaders interfering with two of life’s simple pleasures is a modern-day puzzle!

If alcohol is needed to help us nod off, then we’re headed for trouble, and must seek the help of an empathetic, appropriately qualified health professional.

There is an emerging body of evidence which links high blood pressure and stubborn weight gain with poor sleep. There are also some significant medical and psychological  problems associated with insomnia.

The good news is that most of us will experience transient periods of insomnia which resolve spontaneously. For those who grapple with a chronic inability to sleep well, help is available.

Fortunately Traditional Chinese Medicine provides us with a supreme framework in which to understand the relationships between consciousness – our Shen or Spirit – organ function and dysfunction, the Will and Intellect, the body’s natural rhythms and cycles, our Blood, Essence and Fluids, and our ability to sleep restoratively. Acupuncture, professionally prescribed herbal medicines and essential oils, Reiki and massage can all help us to re-establish restful, refreshing sleep.

But for now, turn on your sound, and enjoy the poetry below, accompanied by this famous old lullaby.

Serenade

by Mary Weston Fordham

Sleep, love sleep,
The night winds sigh,
In soft lullaby.
The Lark is at rest
With the dew on her breast.
So close those dear eyes,
That borrowed their hue
From the heavens so blue,
Sleep, love sleep.
Sleep, love sleep,
The pale moon looks down
On the valleys around,
The Glow Moth is flying,
The South wind is sighing,
And I am low lying,
With lute deftly strung,
To pour out my song,
Sleep, love sleep.
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Staying safe
These pages and the information here are not a substitute for safe and correct health care. If you have a concern about your own physical, mental or emotional health – or that of another – you must seek the guidance of an appropriately qualified and experienced health care professional.
Acknowledgements
Insomnia graphic by ArtbyAllyson; Counting Sheep by matt_collingwood. Both available at BigStockPhoto{dot}com
Artworks available everywhere:
Hieronymous Bosch Garden of Earthly Delights detail from the panel Hell 1504
Gustave Courbet The Sleeping Spinner 1853
Serenade sourced at Poetry Foundation
Blog post content © Margi Macdonald.

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