What you eat…

The saying goes that ‘you are what you eat’ and if a recent report in The Guardian newspaper is  true, lots of people in the UK are fakes! What with vegetable fat being passed off as cheese, prawns being mostly water and cupcakes decorated with plastic glitter, it seems that what we put in our mouths is not all that it seems.

I have been cautious about processed foods for a while now – I like to know what ingredients constitute my food and so my inclination these days is to make things from scratch. We make our own bread, pizza bases, cakes, soups, pasta sauces and even (sometimes) pasta. We process lots of our own fresh foods into readily useable forms – frozen passata, bottled peaches and apples, jams, jellies, dried chillies and so on – and so I feel quite confident that I know what we are eating. However, we do buy some things that are ready-made: tomato ketchup, baked beans, chocolate… so there are  ingredients that I don’t have control over.

Settling down with a good book

Settling down with a good book

Having an interest in the food that we eat I was attracted to a book that Candy Blackman mentioned on her Cakes blog a few weeks ago: Harold McGee: Food & Cooking. An Encyclopaedia of Kitchen Science History and Culture. I don’t really need any more recipe books, but a source of reliable information about food and cooking seemed like a great idea. Despite being a massive tome, this book makes for surprisingly engaging reading, containing information on the history of everything from chocolate to saucepans, along with nutritional information, food chemistry and cooking tips. I am really enjoying dipping into it a little each day. Of course it doesn’t tell me about the plastic glitter that I might find on bought cupcakes, but for that I probably need a book on petrochemicals, not food!

Say a little prayer, or not

Sissie in her blankie in the garden at High Bank

Sissie’s blankie was described in the pattern as a ‘prayer blanket’

Recently, I have come across numerous patterns for prayer shawls and prayer blankets and I was beginning  to wonder whether the knitting and crochet community was undergoing some great religious revival. However, the other day I discovered that these are not shawls to pray in (like a Jewish Tallith) nor blankets to kneel on whilst doing so (like hassocks), but creations that include simple repetitive patterns. The idea is that the shawl can be made whilst praying because there is no need to concentrate too much on the pattern, so one’s mind can be occupied by something else.

inner-peace-awardIt was quite a coincidence, therefore, when a few days back Megan (my chronic life journey) nominated me for the ‘Inner Peace Award’ and got me thinking about the whole idea. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a great fan of the chain letter type blogging award, but this one doesn’t really involve that aspect and did start me considering the importance of things like prayer shawls. Even if we do lead a stressful life, finding time to create something simple and beautiful (like Sissie’s blankie in the photo) can really help us to achieve a little inner peace. I have written before about crafting and mental well-being – the fact that repetitive activities, like knitting, crochet and wet felting, can increase alpha waves in our brains and encourage creative thought and relaxation. As a person who has the propensity to get very uptight I can highly recommend this approach to achieving a happier life and as a way to develop a calmer and more positive state.

Other people, of course, seek peace in different ways. Recent research has demonstrated the value to our health of visiting natural places or simply being outdoors. There is also clear evidence that walking can be a useful tool in treating depression. Whatever we choose to do, it seems that our mental state can be improved by participating in the right activities.

As I explore the blogosphere, I come across all sorts of approaches to peace and happiness and I want to share one in particular with you. I found Candy Blackman’s blog London Life with Bradshaw’s Handbook quite recently. You may be wondering what this has to do with inner peace, but if you read this post, you will find out. Candy is exploring London using Bradshaw’s 1862 Hand Book to London as a way to deal with her grief following the loss of her mother. One day a week she visits London, following Bradshaw’s guide and she blogs about it. It’s lovely – great pictures, fascinating links, a whole new (old?) perspective on London. She says that she hasn’t found a direction yet or arrived anywhere, but clearly the pure act of doing something is helping her… and providing those of us who follow her blog with fascinating information.

So, if you are feeling blue or stressed – put on your walking shoes or pick up your knitting needles and see if you can’t achieve a little inner peace.

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