Murder By Moussaka…

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Not moussaka… 

Now. Regular readers might remember I have a few issues around the subject of food. Don’t get me wrong – I love food, am an avid watcher of cookery programmes and enjoy myself cooking and baking when I have the opportunity.

No… it’s the reverse. The older I get, the more foods I find that dislike me. The other day I went to my mother’s for dinner – I am aware that she thinks my food foibles are pretty much in my head, but I also get extremely anxious whenever I discuss food and what I can and cannot eat with her. She comes from a generation where you show your love and appreciation by eating whatever is put in front of you, clearing your plate and asking for more… it took me twenty years to pluck up the courage to tell her I detest Brussels sprouts…

Look!” she said, gesturing proudly and a little defiantly towards the oven – “I made moussaka!”

Ah.” I said, a little hesitantly. “Does it have-”

Only the tiniest amount of cheese in the sauce, but you can’t expect me to eat it otherwise!”

I subsided, duly chastened and already worried… my stomach rubbing its nasty little paws in anticipation.

Mother served the moussaka, and it lay there, on my plate, plumptious and tempting. Savoury layers of aubergine and courgette, chinks of onion, like little pearls, interspersed with nodules of seasoned brown mince, glistening like the sweat on a lover’s brow, and over all this, billows of creamy white sauce, smooth, subtly beckoning, flowing sensuously over everything…

Reader – I ate it.

And managed to make it all the way home before the roiling indigestion, knotting stomach cramps, nausea – well, you get the picture.

Lying pale and limp on my bed, surrounded by sympathetic cats (well, vaguely concerned if I’m honest) I got a text from my mother.

Hope you enjoyed dinner – see you tomorrow xx”

I can only conclude she was setting up her alibi…

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A butterfly. Butterflies are good.

Who Ate All The Pi’s…

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No, not really. And obviously don’t eat stones either… not good for you… although I have a distant childhood memory of eating both sand, soil and catfood – purely in the spirit of exploration. Not as a regular food choice.

The pi’s that I mean are these wonderful shaped round stones, with a hole either in the middle or towards the top of the crystal, so it can be threaded on a cord or chain and worn, an item of both fashionable and practical jewellery.

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Pondering the Meaning Of Life… 

Due to their circular shape, they are also sometimes known as “doughnuts” (mmm…doughnuts…) but they are also symbolic of the circle of Life, the path the sun follows in the sky and basically the entire concept of wholeness.

These pi stones encourage awareness of the eternal pattern – we’re born, we live, we die … and so on, because the energy that we are never really dies, it just re-emerges in a different form or way. Pi’s are wonderful tools for use in healing and energy work, and in addition to the symbolic shape, there are the crystal benefits too.

The main photo is Lepidolite, the most recent member of the family, courtesy of Alex from when he went to Bristol. Lepidolite is a good stone to wear next to your skin as it actually contains lithium, as used in antidepressants, so it helps with anxiety, panic attacks and depression. It’s pretty and sparkly too…

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BEE HAPPY!

Then, of course, the basic starter kit as I like to call it, of Rose Quartz, Amethyst and Clear Quartz. Rose Quartz is a kind and caring crystal, stone of infinite love and compassion. Amethyst, again another lovely crystal – sorry, I know, they’re all lovely… and even if I meet a crystal I can’t get along with, I can still find something to admire – traditionally used to guard against drunkeness. But I use it more as an anchor as it is highly effective at both warding off negative thoughts directed at you, and also any self-directed negativity that you may feel bubbling up within you is gently soothed away.

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Rose Quartz and gladioli…

A comfort then, rather like the reassuring steak and kidney pie dinner on a wintry night. Pies have a long and honourable history, believed to be a Greek creation dating from the 5th century. Essentially, they started life as handy containers for savoury fillings, but now, obviously, there is a wide variety… the whole thing, top and bottom, encased in pastry, just a bottom, just a top, an individual rolled up thing – although we are straying into Cornish pasty territory there…

I must confess… I don’t really like pies. They seem to promise much and deliver little, and if my mother serves pie for dinner I invariably infuriate her by taking the lid off, generally giving it to a conveniently placed dog and dissecting the contents… rather appropriately I feel, since in mediaeval times pies were also known as “coffyns”.

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Shepherd pie!!

I think though, what finally did it for me with pies was when I had actually managed to find a decent brand, with a reasonable filling of chicken and asparagus, where the pastry wasn’t too stodgy either.

I left it on the baking tray for a minute while I went to fetch something and when I came back, Ting was curled up asleep on top of it…

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Bread.

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My mother’s freshly-made seeded bread

Looking back at this midpoint in my life, it’s funny to see how many markers are set in childhood, at least for me. By this, I mean how memories, smells, associations, images and even sensations like touch are ingested in early life, remembered both mentally and physically, and how they continue to have an emotional effect in later years.

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Brioche…with onion rolls on the right

When I was a little girl, we used to live in a village- a medium sized one, as it had its own little church and school – but most importantly, a bakery. Just across the road from our house, where it had been for years…

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Fig and walnut, sweet and rich…

I don’t know if it’s still there, I hope so, as it was the genuine article, big old bread ovens, kneading counters and proving trays, a real step back in time.

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Cheese and tomato flabread

And of course, the smell… that wonderful, evocative smell of bread baking, yeasty and warm, soul soothing and body nurturing.

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Wonderful artisan breads, thank you Alex for use of your photo

It was such a treat as a little girl to go carefully across the road with my mother and sister to collect the bread, choosing the great warm pillowy loaves, crisp and still holding the heat of the old ovens.

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Wholemeal…still warm… 

Then, at home, watching my mother break them open to reveal the complex textured inside, a miracle of tiny bready caves conjured by yeast, warm water and flour. A childhood memory layered with taste, smell and feel…

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A machine made cheese and onion loaf

This love of bread has stayed with me, and I am fascinated by the different varieties you can get nowadays…so essentially this is a food porn post… just look at that butter… melting…

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Food And Feelings…

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I’ve never had the best of relationships with food… I was a fussy eater when I was little, and even now, I have particular quirks that can irritate anyone who is nice enough to prepare food for me, yet seem perfectly logical to me.

For example, I have mixed feelings about stew… No matter what you call it, casserole, stew, cassoulet, ragout – to me it is a dish to be regarded with great suspicion as it appears an excuse to cover a variety of items that I might not like with a coloured sauce in an attempt to disguise them.

Like mushrooms. I can appreciate them for their … aesthetic value, but whenever my mother puts mushrooms in a dish, I will systematically pick them out and lay them on the side of my plate like a row of slimy brown corpses…

I don’t like all my food items to be touching. If I have something like baked beans, chips (fries) and sausage, there has to be a clearly delineated zone between the said items. This makes perfect sense to me – who wants to eat chips soggy with bean juice?

And yet, I love reading recipe books, I am fascinated by cookery programmes, follow various food blogs and can eat out once in a while without too much mental trauma…

18618386_128858504336024_1624263357_oDinner out with my son and a rare exception to my general rule of no sneaky sauces or intrusive ingredients… a lovely risotto

My mother is of the generation where food equates to love; for her, you demonstrate you care by cooking for someone, pressing extra portions on them, piling their plate high. Every food shopping trip is planned with military precision … and yet we still end up going back for an ingredient that she can’t possibly do without… much to my exasperation.

I go “off” items with, to her annoying unpredictability, refusing to eat things that my mother considers a delicacy and that I will have nightmares about… lobster equals luxury food item to my mother; to me… it’s basically a giant bug that belongs in the realms of horror. Or at least in the sea where it lives.

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My younger son is vegetarian, which is beginning to appeal to me quite strongly. It seems cleaner, somehow, and kinder. I’m not condemning meat eaters at all – who am I to judge? Indeed, as long as you eat meat with appreciation and gratitude for the animals’ sacrifice, then fair enough.

I would NEVER attempt to impose eating regulations on my cats, they are obligate carnivores after all and need a protein based diet, so I will (mostly) hunt far and wide for the perfect of catfood that will satisfy my girls’ delicate palates…

As for me? Well, I know I don’t have to go too far to hunt down my next packet of biscuits… or watermelon!

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Halite and Hydrated Cats

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Halite is a wonderfully different crystal with an interesting history behind it. It is part of the Salt family of crystals, and salt traditionally has a lot of symbolism attached to it, as well as many practical uses.

Salt can be offered to show hospitality – sitting above or below the salt in mediaeval times was an indication of social standing. It can be used as a symbol of purity and has its place in the armoury of protection against dark outside influences.

Salt was used to preserve and dry meat or fish, was a valuable trading commodity and can obviously just be sprinkled to enhance flavour…

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As a crystal, Halite draws on all of these family qualities. It will draw out any spiritual impurities and restore inner balance while helping you to assume a more objective perspective. Halite can open your eyes to the existence and guidance of a higher self, and will draw upon its historic background of protection to guard against any negative outside influences or dark energy attachments.

salty-4My son’s Pink Himalayan Rock Salt lamp…

Halite can help in the banishment of negative thoughts, soothing anxiety and encouraging emotional well-being. It can be used in acupuncture and acupressure to ground and magnify the healing properties of other crystals. As salt, it is used in water and sugar solutions to restore the balance of electrolytes in the body. ( Just a quick mention… Halite is NOT a crystal to cleanse under running water as it will do as salt does and just dissolve … leave it in moonlight or in a bowl or a pouch with another cleansing crystal such as Carnelian.)

Mankind has long known about the benefits and uses of all forms of salt; Halite is equally as useful for the spiritual body… soul seasoning, if you will.

Water and Salt are important elements in most forms of life and obviously any animal needs a constant supply of fresh water – this is number one in the list of Animal Freedoms : “FREEDOM FROM HUNGER AND THIRST – by ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigour.”

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My mother’s dog, Erin, has a 2 gallon bucket of water to drink from – I’ve had many an impromptu wash from this as I have changed it for her… My girls have a water fountain, two bowls of fresh water, humans ready and willing to turn the tap on so they can sit in the sink and have a quick drink… and yet they will still quite happily drink out of a muddy puddle or even the pond…

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My cats have all, at some point, spent hours in the bath-not full of water obviously – fascinated by the drips from the tap. I have spent time in the bath or shower being closely observed by the cats and, upon occasion, followed, much to my alarm and the cat’s surprise…

photo-0101Lily in the kitchen sink…

Suffice it to say, Water, like Halite, which also balances and purifies, is a vital element to the life and health of every living creature.

Curried Beans and Catfood

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I’m not the world’s best shopper. I don’t really care for buying clothes (although I have a weakness for shoes) and I absolutely HATE food shopping. However, when I do have to visit the supermarket, I believe I have the right to expect them to stock a few not unreasonable essentials… I’m not asking for exotic delicacies from far flung corners of the world… I JUST WANT CURRIED BEANS AND CATFOOD.

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Now my partner is a man of simple dietary tastes, but he does enjoy a tin of curried beans, either on toast or perhaps a nice jacket potato… Personally I don’t see the point, they look like your average baked beans with a few raisins added; but my partner likes them so I always like to have a few tins in for him. However, I have recently noticed that the familiar blue-purple labelled tin is becoming more and more elusive. Indeed, it has disappeared from the shelves of my native supermarket altogether. I am forced to forage further afield…

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Let me return to catfood first. Now. I have an ongoing silent war of catfood with my four girls. They have a mix of wet and dry food from the same company. I’m never entirely happy with wet food, as a lot of the colourings are from caramels – not good for cat teeth, and you can never be 100% sure where the actual meat comes from.. As obligate carnivores, cats NEED meat. I don’t mind that. Not at all, despite my son’s vegetarianism and my almost vegetarianism. It’s the pickiness that bothers me… how can two sachets of the SAME flavour from the SAME box be acceptable one day and then tantamount to poison later on in the SAME day ? I have tried cooking for them, proper, approved recipes and upon proudly presenting my culinary masterpiece the response has been:

“Oh. You cooked. You shouldn’t have. No – REALLY – you shouldn’t have.”

Herein lies the problem… the preferred brand of catfood is slowly becoming extinct. Perhaps it needed curried beans to reproduce and as the curried beans are dying out, inevitably the symbiosis of catfood and curried beans is suffering… I have ranged far and wide in my hunt for these provisions and I was fortunate enough one day to find a little, protected pocket of natural environment… giving ‘more reasons’ to shop around!

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