It will be like doing a PhD in one year…

October 27, 2013 at 9:29 am | Posted in arthritis, creativity, health, Leslie Kenton | Leave a comment
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It is very hard for me to narrow myself down to focus on only one thing. I have two jobs, I do Argentine tango dancing, I’m a film fanatic and I love theatre. I swim and do tai chi and yoga. And I always want to read as widely as I want.

This week in my spare time after work and after my second job (the commissioned book, of which more anon) I read Leslie Kenton’s Skin Revolution (London, Vermilion, 2003). Leslie Kenton is a gorgeous guru for health and beauty. She is a wonderful writer and I love her books.

She’s got a five day skin diet in this book – a lot like a paleo diet and not a lot unlike my normal diet – except no dairy and no coffee. Oh, and no alcohol. Yes, my skin does look better plus I lost a few pounds. Hardest thing of course was giving up my morning cafe au laits for green tea. But I did it! Yay!

She has these inspiring quotations in her books. One in this I liked was Á beautiful young person is an accident of nature. A beautiful old person is a work of art.’ I liked Louise Nevelson’s one too: Í never feel age … if you have creative work, you don’t have age or time.’ Wonderful words of wisdom; they make me feel so much better!

Leslie Kenton’s books are always inspiring plus she does extensive research. I was researching Infra Red saunas – meant to be good for arthritis – and she has a whole chapter on them in this book! She reckons they’re great too, and you really can trust her research. Sunlighten ones have had various recommendations. I bought one of those – will keep you posted.

So that book should really be the last one for quite some time not related to my commissioned book. The thing is, I must focus on one thing (besides my main job) or I won’t get this book written in time. And I do love it – it’s fascinating and worthwhile. But we’re rushing towards the end of the year and I’ll only have a bit of 2015. I won a Fellowship to write fiction at the Eleanor Dark Foundation, then there’s an interstate Conference on Arts and Health – my favourite part of my main job. Then we have a big work conference thing and then it’s virtually Christmas.

That means that 2014 for me will be like doing a PhD in one year. I will have to focus on only that one thing, and I’m happy to do it – it’s so interesting. But no more reading books on beauty on the side. I must read only on Churchill Fellows – well, that’s lucky because you could not get a wider variety of fields. Churchill Fellowships cover everything from health to glass blowing, zoology to hat-making, agriculture to baking. So it really suits me. Now I must stop this and do some more on it.

“Mad with joy”

October 13, 2013 at 12:09 am | Posted in creativity, food, Quotations | Leave a comment

‘The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tyres.’

American writer Dorothy Parker said that. I was lucky to get four stepchildren, three of whom – the three boys – lived with us for about half the time. Lucky because it had become too late for me to have children (that drought of men remotely possible that happens to women about mid-way through their 30s) and lucky because the stepchildren themselves were wonderful.

The only down-side was more housework, but their dad was pretty good at doing his share. This puts me in mind of another American comedian, Joan Rivers: Í hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes, and six months later you have to start all over again.’

I recently converted the last, the youngest, boy’s bedroom into a gorgeous guest room when he moved into a converted garage at his mum’s place, not far away. Of course he is perfectly welcome to sleep in his old room any time he wants to, but now it looks (and smells) appealing.

The toy car engines are in the shed. The real car engines are in the shed. The heavy-duty dark blue curtains are in the shed. The dark furniture lasted about three minutes on the grass outside the house before being taken away. The desiccated rat behind the chest of drawers has gone.

His old single bed (handed down from older brothers) has become a sort of day-bed, with its pale green cotton doona cover with magnolias and embroidered blue and turquoise hummingbirds and matching pillows and cushions.

People – grownups, not adolescent boys – sigh with pleasure when they see the sunlight spilling in through the delicate white muslin curtains with blue embroidered borders onto the pale blue suede-painted walls and light cane and wicker furniture and recycled silk and cotton turquoise and blue rugs – it’s a dream of a room, they say.

And if it’s too “girlie” for the boys, there are always other rooms they can sleep in. When they lived here half the time, there was “girlie” bread and “girlie” milk, “girlie” butter and “girlie” rice. It was wholegrain versus white and full-cream versus skim and real butter versus margarine and white rice versus brown. A conflict expressed by the eldest boy with teasing affection to the only girl in the house.

Now they have gone except to visit, my house can be as “girlie” as I like. I even have flowers sometimes –pink lilies, delicate jasmine or armfuls of our jonquils and daffodils, bright yellow in blue glass vases. The boys don’t really notice flowers. But I’m with Iris Murdoch: “People from a planet without flowers must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”

A kinder way to treat a potato

October 5, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Posted in Books, food, health, nutrition, recipes | Leave a comment
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‘Don’t get your food from the same place your car does.’

This is the advice of writer Michael Pollan. American petrol stations make more money from food and cigarettes than from petrol. It’s very probably the same here in Australia. And the food is all ‘Highly process non-perishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened soft drinks…’ Pollan writes that petrol stations ‘have become processed-corn stations: ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside you.’ (In Defense of Food, 2008, p. 192)

I don’t know that Australia uses as many corn products as the US but the principle remains the same – petrol stations sell food that is very high in sugar and this is very bad for us. Very addictive too.So-o-o-o-o hard to give up.

I liked Pollan’s book a lot. His basic advice is this: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ It sounds a bit Zen. I love the simplicity of it. It doesn’t say anything about alcohol but grapes are food, are they not? You’re not supposed to have more than two glasses a day if you’re a woman. And the size of that glass is probably smaller than you imagine. Sadly.

Men can get away with a bit more than two glasses a day because they have bigger livers. A bit more though – not a lot more. I think it’s three glasses a day.

In Defense of Food is well written, informative and funny. I think people should read it because they need to know about the massive number of poisons and toxic chemicals in manufactured food today – and how this desperate situation came about. They can see the desperate consequences of it all around them: unhappy, sick, obese people everywhere and a national healthcare bill that is completely unsustainable.

Australia, like the US, has staggering levels of disease and ill health. Nearly 300 people in Australia are diagnosed with diabetes (Type 2) per day! With a population of only 22 million, that is awful. David Gillespie – – writes about this and has a similarly clear, witty style as Pollan. His books are a pleasure to read. A danger on public transport because you burst out laughing sometimes.

Pollan quotes Wendell Berry’s essay, ‘The Pleasures of Eating’ where he writes about monoculture and the increasingly vast size of farms. Of course this generates vast profits. ‘But as scale increases, diversity declines; as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines, the dependence on drugs and chemicals necessarily increases.’ (Pollan, p. 159)

And so, if we don’t want to be plagued by the ill health that makes us dependent on drugs and chemicals, Pollan advises to eat as many plants as possible – they all have different anti-oxidants and these help the body eliminate different kinds of toxins. The more toxins there are in the environment, the more plants we should be eating.

‘There are literally scores of studies demonstrating that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits reduces the risk of dying from all the Western diseases. In countries where people eat a pound [you know, that’s about half a kilo – Pen] or more of fruits and vegetables a day, the rate of cancer is half what it is in the United States. We also know that vegetarians are less susceptible to most of the Western diseases, and as a consequence live longer than the rest of us.’ (Pollan, p. 166)

‘A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.’ George Bernard Shaw said. When he was on his death bed – actually, he lived for years after that – he thought that his hearse should be drawn by all the animals he hadn’t eaten.

I’m not really a vegetarian. I just have never liked the taste of meat. I do like fish and chicken. When we lived in the bush (East Gippsland, Victoria) chicken used to be only for birthdays and Christmas. (Yes, they do run around the yard for a bit just after their head’s been chopped off. Ugh. But as kids we never felt Ugh.) On my father’s sheep farm, he’d cut the throat of a sheep and we’d live off that for a while. We lived on porridge in the morning (we had a cow) and mutton and mashed potatoes, mashed pumpkin and boiled peas. Oh, and bread. My mother made that as well as the butter and jam. (She even made the soap.) I always loved Fridays because we were Catholics and forbidden to eat meat on Fridays. To this day, decades after I could eat whatever I wanted when I wanted, Friday still has a great taste for me.

My older brother Bill told me that my father thought I was just being stubborn when I didn’t want to eat my meat and vegetables. So the last time I saw him, Bill was recalling when I was two, and our dad forcing me to eat my mutton, and I projectile-vomited all over him! From then on, I still had to eat it – there was nothing else and we lived in an extremely isolated place – but I could take my time to do it. This went on for years. I have memories of still being at the table at 10 o’clock at night; I wasn’t allowed down until I’d finished. Ugh.

No wonder I so enjoy eating now. And yes, I do eat mostly plants. No more mutton. No more mashed spuds and no more pumpkin. I know the latter two are plants but there are kinder ways to treat them. I still can’t stomach pumpkin (except in scones or the wonderful American invention of pumpkin pie) but the best potato recipe is Aussie food writer Jill Dupleix’s Crash Hot Potatoes. Ooooh, so good! And easy.This is how you do it:

16 small spuds or chats
Handful of thyme
Carraway seeds (or any herbs you have on hand, fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Parboil about 16 small spuds or chats. Put them on an oiled baking tray. Squash them flattish to about half-way through, with a potato masher. Then drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle thyme and caraway seeds – or whatever herbs you fancy – plus sea salt and ground pepper on them, and put them in the oven – 350 degrees, you know, average temp – for 20-30 minutes. Yum! They will emerge hot, crispy and aromatic.

Have with a green salad and some protein – meat, if you eat it, or grilled fish or chicken. Plus a glass (or two) of wine. The crash hot spuds are also very good cold the next day.

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