and it’s from the old we travel to the new

Yesterday I cried on and off most of the evening, went to bed and cried a little bit more. Woke up at 2.30am and failed to go back to sleep for another 2 hours as my mind wove its way through memories.  Had a near one died? No.  Was a loved one diagnosed with  terminal illness? No.  Were we about to declare bankruptcy? No.  The source of my sadness … a friend moved to the other end of the country.

We make friends at many different stages in our lives.  When we are young children our friends are mainly determined by our parents, they tend to be the children of their own friends.  We start to take control of our friendships at nursery and then school.  Some of our most enduring relationships are made at that time and I can include two friends I know I could call in the middle of the night from that era.  However, most of those don’t last the strains of time, travel and growing up.  During university and the early career years friends come and go as we move jobs, towns and even countries before we finally settle down in a career and/or a family.

It was at this stage in my life that this friendship was born.  I had moved to Durham from Scotland, newly married and with a toddler daughter following my husband’s medical career to his first consultant post.  She had just returned to Durham after a decade away, with three young children following her husband’s medical career to his first consultant post.  We both had a ribald sense of humour seasoned with plenty of sarcasm and an instant understanding of what is was like to be the non-working, non-medical wife of a hospital consultant (in those days – fairly shit – you are pretty much a non-person in the eyes of many of their colleagues of all ranks). It transpired our husbands had been at the same college at Cambridge (although like most men they couldn’t remember)  Our children were about to start in the same class at the same school.  Hello new friend.

Like all relationships we moved along with the tides and there would be periods when we didn’t see each other as much.  Once children became old enough to have outside interests and hobbies and husbands senior enough to be rarely around as they are sought after for conferences and committees across the country free time for coffee with friends is in short supply.  Thank goodness for friends with more time who arranged dinner parties etc.

Then finally the children gained driving licences and then moved away to university.  We began  a regular knitting and stitching group, six friends with a wicked sense of humour and a mutual love of knitting and stitching.  Ladies in Stitches was born.  Twice a month we spent the day at my friend’s house and upped the yarn and thread ante.  I learned to crochet, a dyed in the wool (no pun intended) stitcher learned to knit and has just completed her first pair of socks.

My friend introduced me to crewel work and I am still inordinately proud of my first ever attempt.

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I rediscovered ribbon embroidery.

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Another, a seriously accomplished crafter and professional seamstress took up lace work knitting with astonishing speed and equally astonishing skill.

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We had in-jokes.  At least five other people reading this will appreciate the significance of the squirrel!

We had days out  to festivals, exhibitions, gardens, we opened each other’s eyes, we learned from each other, we had a lot of fun and we supported each other quietly as we did so.  As each of us faced crises of sometimes quite frightening severity Ladies in Stitches wove a small part of the overall net that caught our fall.

Then a little part unravelled.  My friend announced that they were moving to the other end of the country.  It made perfect sense, that was where all their children lived, including her new grandchild.  Having brought my own children up without grandparents within 300 miles I understood, but my lower lip wobbled just a little.

They sold their house but without somewhere to move to down south they were looking to rent.  Lo and behold the tenants in our Barn had just left and they moved in next door.  My girls thought it was hysterical.  When they were younger the house next door to one of their friend’s in a nearby village came up for sale.  They were desperate for us to buy it so they could live next door to their best friend, they planned on digging tunnels  between the houses for ease of access!

We didn’t need tunnels. For a glorious year I had a good friend (and their two lovely dogs one of whom became bosom buddies with Poppy) a mere couple of yards away.  We didn’t live in each other’s pockets but the kettle was often on.

It couldn’t go on forever.  Yesterday she started the next stage in her journey and I wish her nothing but love and good fortune.  I am mourning the death of one friendship and learning to love the birth of a different one.  I am 55 years old, I have lived in this part of the world for 25 years, longer than I have ever lived anywhere in my entire life, I have been married for 25 years and this friendship has spanned almost all the time I have been married and lived here and so is intrinsically linked to a major part of my life so far.  It is hard to unpick it and re-work it into a different form.

But I will.

Love Gillie x

 

sore muscle salve

I can bend my fingers in weird ways and and despite my deceptively large size am quite the bendiest person in my yoga class.   While once, when I was much younger, this was something of which to be proud and to show off, now I am still bendy but a lot wiser, and have a pilates personal trainer to work on building muscle strength to hold those joint in place.

Being hypermobile has many disadvantages from a tendency to be flatfooted and twist over on one’s ankle (tick), to gut and bowel problems (those connective tissues just aren’t up to the task)  (tick),  thin skin that heals poorly (tick) to full scale Erlers Danlos Syndrome (fortunately for me no tick as this can be pretty horrible).

As I have got older some joints flake out more than others.  A recent development has been my shoulders.  Quick anatomy lesson, shoulder joints the most shallow and most mobile joints in the human body and is essentially held in place by ligaments, which in my case are long past their sell by date.  Net result, gravity has a tendency to pull the ball out of the socket (subluxation) and not surprisingly it hurts!

As one of the assignments for the Herbology Certificate and the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh  was to create a herbal remedy so it didn’t take long for me to chose something that I could use on my very sore arms and shoulders.  Here is a précis of my assignment, I do hope it is of help to someone else too.

 

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GINGER, CAYENNE AND TURMERIC SALVE

Ingredients 

  • 15ml Ginger root infused oil*
  • 15ml Red chilli (cayenne) infused oil*
  • 15ml Turmeric root infused oil*
  • 6g Beeswax granules

Method

  • Melt the beeswax granules in a bain marie over a low heat.
  • Add the infused oils and mix thoroughly.
  • Remove from heat and pour into clean jar.
  • Wait until salve is cooled and solid and then secure jar lid.

(Storage 6 months)

* To make infused oil

  • 50g Chopped/grated plant material
  • 500ml Sunflower oil

Method

  • Place oil and plant material in a bain marie over the lowest heat possible.
  • Cover bain marie tightly (tin foil is excellent)
  • Leave for 3 hours (check water in bain marie regularly)
  • Remove from heat and leave still covered in a warm place overnight (I use the shelf above the aga)
  • Strain through a muslin and decant into dark glass bottle.

(Storage 6 months)

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At least 115 constituents have been identified in ginger, of which the highest percentage are gingerols. Research has shown that some gingerols exhibit analgesic and potent anti-inflammatory effects.  This is achieved through a variety of actions: 

  • Thermogenesis (heat production), partially attributed to –
  • Vasodilation increasing blood supply to the afflicted area;
  • Modulation of calcium levels affecting heat-pain receptors.

There have been some inconsistencies in clinical trials and the use of ginger in alleviating inflammation, osteoarthritis, and rheumatism. However, the positive results, particularly in double blind, placebo controlled trials have prompted further research and there is a theory that ginger acts in a similar way to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) by inhibiting cooxygenases (COX) production and thus the production of prostaglandins which in turn promote pain, inflammation and fever.  However, prostaglandins are also vital in the protection of the stomach lining and long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to ulceration of the stomach.  Most NSAIDs inhibit both COX1 and COX2, however it is COX1 that is required for stomach and intestinal lining protection and it would appear that ginger falls into the selective inhibition group and inhibits only COX2, therefore acting as an effective anti-inflammatory but not having an undesirable effect on the gut lining.  Clearly this is of relevance when comparing remedies that are taken systemically rather than topically (as this one is) however it is a valuable property of ginger compared to most NSAIDs on the market.

There is also some evidence to suggest that ginger can have a role in the reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines which promote inflammation in body tissue, of relevance here in their role in the promotion of joint inflammation.

Cayenne is a very powerful systemic stimulant, regulating blood flow and energising and stimulating the heart.  In this respect, it encourages blood flow to the peripheral areas and is an effective remedy for peripheral muscular pain and cramps.

The active ingredient in cayenne is capsaicin, a pungent alkaloid with analgesic properties through the release of neuropeptides which control the peripheral neurons. There has been extensive clinical research in the relationship between capsaicin, Substance P, serotonin, somastatin and the pain pathway.  One theory is that it produces a rapid release of Substance P which is required for the production of pain, but the release is so concentrated and rapid that Substance P is depleted from the neurons and the pain threshold released.

Clinical trials have also shown that capsaicin has anti-inflammatory properties at a level to that of diclofenac, and like ginger, it does so without affecting the gastric mucosa, in fact it has been shown to have a digestive stimulant action and aid in the uptake of micronutrients through the intestinal wall.

The anti-arthritic effects of turmeric include the inhibition of joint inflammation and bone erosion.  Clinical trials have shown that turmeric has a positive effect on tissue inflammation and pain control in osteo-arthritis, in post-operative molar tooth removal, in rheumatoid arthritis, 

The main ingredient in turmeric is a volatile oil containing tumerone and a number of agents producing the vivid yellow colour called curcuminoids which are found in natural anti-oxidants.  It is the curcuminoid curcumin which is the main active ingredient in turmeric.  Precisely what the mechanism of action of curcumin is has not been fully determined.  However, it is believed to be a similar COX2 blocking mechanism as demonstrated by ginger.

However, the question is does it work?  Well for me yes it did.  Pain relief within 30 minutes which lasted for approximately 4 hours.

NB:  I am not qualified herbalist, for further information regarding the constituents please consult the references below

  • Bode AM, Dong Z.  The Amazing and Mighty Ginger in Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors.  Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects.  CRC Press/Taylor and Francis 2011
  • Grieve, M.  A Modern Herbal.  Tiger Books 1992
  • Griggs, B.  The Green Witch.  Vermillion 2000
  • Hoffman, D.  Holistic Herbal.  Thorsons 1990
  • McVicar, J.  Jekka’s Complete Herb Book.  Kyle Cathie 1997
  • Prasad S, Aggawal BB.  Turmeric the Golden Spice: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine in Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors.  Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects.  CRC Press/Taylor and Francis 2011
  • Wong, J. A Year with James Wong.  Collins 2010
  • Wood, M.  The Earthwise Herbal Volume I.  North Atlantic Books 2008
  • Wood, M.  The Earthwise Herbal Volume II.  North Atlantic Books 2009
  • Wood, M.  The Earthwise Herbal Repertory North Atlantic Books 2016
  • Dinarello, CA.  Proinflammatory Cytokines.  Chest Vol 118, No 2: 503-508
  • Srinivasan, K.  Biological Activities of Red Pepper (Capsicum annum) and its Pungent Principle Capsaicin: A Review.  Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr.  2016 Jul 3;56(9):1488-500
  • Karlapudi V, Prasad Mungara AVV, Sengupta K, Davis BA, Raychaudhuri SP.  A Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind Study Demonstrates the Clinical Efficacy of a Novel Herbal Formulation for Relieving Joint Discomfort in Human Subjects with Osteoarthritis of Knee.  J. Med. Food.  2018 May;21(5):511-520
  • Maulina T, Diana H, Cahyanto A, Amaliya A.  The efficicacy of curcumin in  managing acute inflammation pain on post-surgical removal of impacted third molars patients: A randomised controlled trial.  J. Oral. Rehabil.  2018 Sep;45(9):677-683
  • Haroyan A, Mukuchyan V, Mkrtchyan N, Minasyan N, Gasparyan S, Sargsyan A, Narimanyan M, Hovhannisyan A. Efficacy and safety of curcumin and its combination with boswellic acid in osteroarthritis: a comparative, randomized, double-bline, placebo-controlled study.  BMC Complement. Altern. Med.  2018 Jan 9;18(1):7
  • Comblain F, Barthélémy N, Lefèbvre M, Schwartz C, Lesponne I, Serisier S, Feugier A, Balligand M, Henrotin Y.  A randomized, double-blind, prospective, placebo-controlled study of the efficacy of a diet supplemented with curcuminoids extract, hydrolyzed collagen and green tea extract in owner’s dogs with osteoarthritis.  BMC Vet. Res.  2017 Dec 20;13(1):395
  • Amalraj A, Varma K, Jacob J, Divya C, Kunnumakkara AB, Stohs SJ, Gopi S.  A Novel Highly Bioavailable Curcumin Formulation Improves Symptoms and Diagnostic Indicators in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Two-Dose, Three-Arm, and Parallel-Group Study.  J. Med. Food. 17 Oct;20(10):1022-1030.
  • Srivastava S, Saksena AK, Khattri S, Kumar S, Dagur RS.  Curcuma longa extract reduces inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers in osteoarthritis of knee: a four-month, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.  Inflammopharmacology. 2016 Dec;24(6):377-388
  • Asha J, Ronggian W, Mian Z, Ping W.  Mechanisms of the Anti-inflammatory Effect of Curcumin:  PPAR- µActivation.  PPAR Res.  2007; 2007: 89369
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Capsaicin
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/substance%20P

Love Gillie x

 

tour de fleece

Today is stage 6 of the Tour de France and all 160.5 km of it is pretty steep.  However, whilst Giulio Ciccone et al are spinning their wheels from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belle Filles, I and thousands of other people are spinning their wheels for yarn.

spinning

The Tour de Fleece was started by Star Athina and a few friends back in 2006  The idea was to dedicate 21 days in July to spinning, and maybe watch a little cycling too.  Flash forward 14 years and there are thousands of spinners all around the world, spinning on thousands of different wheels and drop spindles all united in their desire to meet whatever personal challenge they have set themselves.

This is my first Tour de Fleece.  Mainly because although I have done a little drop spinning, I haven’t done much and I only learned to spin on a wheel earlier this year (with the lovely Katie Seal of Sealy MacWheely in Kirkintilloch).

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However, I have been making up for lost time, and whilst my new (to me) wheel is being given the once over by the superb Dr John, Physician to spinning wheels of distinction, I am currently spinning on Frankie, a wheel belonging to his lovely wife Carol.

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There are teams you can join, prizes, challenges and all sorts going on.  I am starting small.  I am a member of the FB group which is as close to a team membership as I have got and my challenge (met so far) is to spin a minimum of 30 minutes per day.

At the moment I am getting myself by into the spin of things (pun intended) by using up some Blue Faced Leicester which is nice and easy.  But I have some lovely fleece I bought in Iceland

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and a fabulous top and batt (which I designed myself)

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from Sealy MacWheely

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and when I am confident enough I shall move over to them.  I can’t wait!

Love Gillie x

herbal loose ends

At this time of year you can usually find me either grubbing around in the garden and hedgerows collecting herbs or in the kitchen infusing, decocting and generally making remedies for the year ahead.

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Today was a catch up day.  I have several tinctures that are ready to be bottled up.  A tincture is a simple method to harvest the medicinal qualities of a herb.  All you need is the herb itself and base solvent.  The most common solvent is alcohol as it has the ability to dissolve almost all the constituents of most plants and acts as a preservative at the same time.  If you prefer not to use alcohol then vinegar or glycerine can be substituted.  Vodka is my preferred tincture solvent, a minimum of 37-40% proof.  I have bought much stronger vodka in Romania and Latvia where is was quite reasonably priced compared to the UK.

The common home method for making a tincture is to fill a small jar with the chopped herb and cover with the solvent liquid.  There are guidelines for different ratios of herb to solvent (see Hoffmann or Bartram for details).  I tend to use the common method but I do make a note of the strength of alcohol used.

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Earlier this summer I had put aside :

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Chilli
  • Chickweed
  • Lemon balm
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
  • Hawthorn leaves
  • Motherwort
  • Dandelion leaf and root
  • Lemon balm and basil in witchazel

So  much of this morning was spent bottling up and labelling.  I add the plant (Latin name if there is a risk of confusion), date of bottling, solvent and place the plant was harvested.

The first three (turmeric, ginger and chilli) are part of my personal treatment for muscular strain in my upper arms/shoulders as a result of hypermobility.  I’ve made a very effective salve using these three ingredients and was interested to see if the tincture taken internally was as effective.  I’ll do a post on the salve later this month.

Chickweed and lemon balm are both exceptionally good for skin irritations.  Mugwort is bitter tonic and helps with digestive disorders, stimulating bile production whilst also providing a carminative action reducing gas in the digestive system.  Hawthorn (more commonly the berries but also the leaves, I shall harvest the berries later in the year) and Motherwort are both cardiac tonics and whilst everyone knows dandelion as a diuretic few also know that it is an excellent source of potassium thus negating the need for potassium supplements required when synthetic diuretics are prescribed. (See Bartram or Hoffmann for detailed information on the herbs listed).  Finally some of you will remember the lemon balm and basil witchazel tincture as the basis of my first attempt at home made insect repellent.  I’ll let you know how it works!

The lemon balm infusion was ready to be turned into a salve.

  • 60 ml Lemon balm infused oil
  • 6 mg beeswax granules

Add both ingredients to a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and stir until the beeswax is melted.  Pour into clean jar and leave with the lid off until the salve is solid.

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Now, I have to bottle up the rest of the tinctures and get out in the garden and do some more harvesting, the sage and verbascum are vast and the mint needs my attention!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

lovely left-overs

We have had a busy couple of days.  On Wednesday we were here.

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That is Novak Djokovic serving at the end of the day on Centre Court.

The weather was perfect, the tennis excellent and the Pimms and knitting not bad either.

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We found a small but perfect airbnb The Pancras Parlour just around the corner from Kings Cross with, and this is very important, quite the most comfortable bed.  There is nothing more irritating than a house/hotel who has scrimped on the bed.  I was once told by a B&B owner in Tintern that when asked what made the perfect B&B (his was pretty darn close) he always replied The Bed and The Breakfast.  He is right it really is that simple, anything else is a pleasant extra but get the bed (and in the case of a B&B the breakfast) wrong, then all the toiletries and fancy gizmos will never make up.

However, the previous day I had been hosting our bi-weekly Ladies in Stitches stitching group.  In fact most of us were knitting this week, only one lady brought her stitching, but only after she completed her first pair of socks, we bring most people over to the knitting side at one point or another!  And alongside all of that I have been suffering from a ghastly throat/chest virus, which a week later is still hanging on.  Net result, by the time we returned home from London last night I was in no mood to cook a proper meal, supper was most definitely going to be a fridge left-over offering.

Sour mint lamb pockets (sounds so much better than left-overs)

  • left-over roast lamb sliced thinly
  • half a small red chilli
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon (in this case rather in need of using up as I had zested it a couple of days a go for a madeira cake and it was looking rather sad)
  • 2-4 tbsp mint sauce (our mint is going ballistic, I have masses of home made, if you use commercial mint sauce you might want to dilute it down or use slightly less
  • Left over gravy, if you don’t have gravy water or a little stock would be fine, you just want something to keep the meat moist.
  • Salad
  • Pitta bread
  • yoghurt

Layer the sliced lamb in a baking dish.  The cake tin was already out so rather than dirty a new dish I used that!

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Sprinkle sliced chilli, minced garlic and mint sauce, squeeze the lemon over the top, repeat until all lamb used up.

Dollop the left over gravy over the top (or dribble a little water or stock over)

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I appreciate this doesn’t look too appetising.  Stay with me!  Cover tightly with tin foil and pop in a medium oven (180 C) for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile chop a couple of tomatoes and grab a few lettuce leaves.  Warm the pitta breads.

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The lamb is ready.  Stuff the pittas with lettuce and tomato, fill to the brim with lamb and top with a good sized tablespoon of thick yoghurt.

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This is a messy eat, serve with napkins!

Love Gillie x