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Alternative Therapy

What do pole dancing, writing, Argentine tango and singing (shouting) all have in common? They are all things I do to help me vent, distract myself, escape the inside of my head and generally keep me sane. 

I have been pole dancing on and off for 6 years now and it’s a fantastic way to strengthen and push my body physically. I was hooked by the second class I went to when I’d improved vastly from the week before. It took me a week to recover from the first class though! I feel strong and confident when I master a new trick and for some reason I like the feeling the day after a class when I’m stiff and achy, perhaps because it’s satisfying to know I’ve worked my body. 

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Pole makes me feel strong and confident

Writing down my feelings helps me to process them and work through whatever is going on in my world. I express my inner most thoughts in a safe place that I don’t have to share with anyone, unless I want to.  If I want to share, I write letters (emails) when I have scrawled through the fury and got to the point where I can make sense of what I’m feeling and how to communicate that in a way that hopefully isn’t confrontational. I’ve kept a diary at various times since I was a teenager, mostly when I’m depressed and angry (I’m too busy enjoying myself when I’m happy). It has helped me through teenage angst, grief and most recently a traumatic divorce.  

Argentine tango is a new form of alternative therapy for me, having started taking classes a few weeks before Christmas. I have danced modern jive for well over a decade, my first class being just before I launched my clinic, Peak Wellbeing, in 2007.  At that time, it was the only two hours of the week I wasn’t in charge, and it was wonderful to be lead around the dance floor and legitimately blame someone else when I got it wrong! Argentine tango is quite a different kettle of fish, but still requires me to empty my head of all other busyness and tune in to my partner and the music. I’m finding it very technical and am getting used to the increased level of intimacy, but I am enjoying the challenge and am looking forward to it flowing effortlessly. 

Singing is also relatively new for me, having had a course of lessons in spring last year.  I was told at primary school I couldn’t sing and am naturally a quiet person so to be heard in a new way (even if it was just by my teacher) was daunting. I loved learning how to shape my mouth to hit the notes and turn the volume up. I’ve no plans to sing in public and I’m never gonna be Nina Simone but it’s fun to practice in the car on my own or with my son. 

I included shouting in brackets because sometimes, when I’m really, really angry, I shout in my car as loud as I can.  It can be an aggressive ‘aaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!’, or yelling along to a song, or roaring an imaginary conversation (including obscenities!) to whoever has riled me. I find it’s a fab way to disperse my rage and makes me laugh at myself too. You can’t be angry when you’re laughing 😂.

And I nearly forgot, which is appalling behaviour for an aromatherapist, that I also love to have an aromatherapy massage! If I could I’d have at least one a week as it’s so soothing and relaxing. The oils are tailored to my needs in that moment and work on multiple levels, the massage relieves aches, pains and stress and reconnects me with my body. I am still surprised when I feel which parts of my body are holding tension, and occasionally by which areas aren’t!

I’ve shared the ways I look after my mental, emotional and physical health. I know others find running, gardening and/or cooking helps calm their mind and bring balance to their life. What do you do? What can you add to this list?

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The Scent of Christmas

Wrapping presents, writing cards, eating chocolate and listening to classic Christmas tunes all help to get me in the mood for the big day. But there’s something missing from the picture, one of my senses is yet to be fulfilled, and that’s when I reach for my essential oils to concoct a festive feast for my nose. There’s so many to choose from at this time of year, each evoking it’s own memory of Christmas past.

Image courtesy of Black Velvet Styling

Pine and fir essential oils remind me of putting up the tree and decorating it, finding those lost baubles I’d forgotten buying and where I lived when they first went on the tree.

Orange and cinnamon bring to mind this delicious Italian chocolate nut Christmas cake by Delia Smith, which is a hit every time. To me it combines my all favourite Christmas flavours in one scrummy treat.

And last but not least, frankincense and myrrh, those most famous of nativity gifts. They bring back memories of my school plays as a girl and more recently my son’s star turn in his play group Christmas play. It was definitely a proud mummy moment.

I add a couple of drops each of 3 – 4 different essential oils to my burner, light the candle and let the scent of Christmas fill my room. If you don’t have a burner, you can always fill a small bowl/dish with water, add the oils to that and carefully balance it on a radiator for the same effect.

Wishing you all peace, joy, love and laughter for Christmas and the new year.

Image courtesy of Black Velvet Styling
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My favourite porridge recipe

The nights are drawing in, the mornings are getting darker and the car windscreen needs clearing before it’s safe to drive. All these things make me think about it being cold outside but cosy inside, and one of my favourite dishes to have for breakfast to get me warmed up in the morning is porridge.

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Image courtesy of Black Velvet Styling

This recipe happens to be vegan, not that I am vegan (or even vegetarian) but I’m not a massive fan of milk (love cream, cheese and butter though!). You wouldn’t know it’s dairy-free because to me it tastes like lemon cheesecake, I think it’s the oats thickening as they cook that gives it a creamy consistency. It also uses two of my favourite seasonal ingredients – apple and cinnamon.

I hope you enjoy it, let me know how you get on and what your favourite way of eating porridge is.

Lemon Cheesecake* Porridge

Makes 2 generous bowls

  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 cups water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 apple, cored & grated
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Ground cinnamon, to serve

 

  1. Soak oats, water and lemon juice in saucepan overnight – optional but optimal.
  2. Add the grated apple and maple syrup to the pan.
  3. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbling, thick and creamy.
  4. Divide between two bowls and serve with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

*As mentioned above, this recipe is dairy-free, there’s no cheese in it, it just tastes like lemon cheesecake to me.

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Lavender – grow and eat your own!

My first guest blog from my dear friend Barbara Goodall. She’s an aromatherapist, gardener and foodie so I couldn’t think of anyone better to write about growing and eating your own lavender. Head on over to http://www.timeout-for-you.co.uk/ for more about what she does.  

Lavenders thrive in full sun and well drained soil… Mine loved the conditions this summer!!

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Grow your own…

Two species of lavender are growing in my garden, giving a long flowering period for my pleasure as well as providing nectar for many butterflies, bees and other insects.

True Lavenders such as Lavandula angustifolia ‘’Hidcote’ (height c. 30cm x spread c. 30cm) provide a high quality essential oil. This compact plant has blue/green narrow leaves and intense, dark blue flower spikes from late spring to early summer. I also love the effect and simplicity of the vertical stems before the flowers open!

Hybrids such as Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ (Ht 90cm x sp 90cm) are slightly less hardy, have long, loose spikes and flowers a month later..

By cutting back my lavenders after flowering, just above the woody stems, I leave some green tips that will have at least a month’s growth to protect the plant from the frost. In the spring, after the frosts I give them a wee trim back to keep them neat and compact.

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Lavender Field in Wiltshire

In Cooking…

Adding fresh lavender to my shortbread and scone recipes is a gentle way to enjoy the therapeutic effects of the essential oil and is a reminder of warm sunny days…

I grind a few chopped lavender flowers (maybe half a teaspoon), in a pestle and mortar for a floral taste and smell, or finely chop the leaves for a more balsamic earthy flavour. See below for the recipe. 

So many therapeutic qualities to choose from…

Julia Lawless gives some wonderful descriptions in her book Lavender Oil, Nature’s Soothing Remedy.

An excellent essential oil for skin care, a valuable soothing remedy and a good analgesic, its regulating effect on the nervous system is unique.

Its nature is balancing and harmonising and is neither yin nor yang in the extreme and tends to increase the overall effectiveness of a remedy when used in combination with it.

Lavender is a supreme adaptogen.  It can have a restorative effect in cases of listlessness or weakness, yet has a calming effect on those prone to hyperactivity or agitation.

Lavender Shortbread recipe

190C/Gas mark 5/6 for 10 to 15 minutes

Makes c.24

Ingredients:

200g butter

100g icing sugar sieved

200g plain flour

100g cornflour

Pinch of salt

½ to 1 tsp finely chopped lavender flowers

Caster sugar for sprinkling

Method:

Chop butter and soften

Beat in icing sugar

Add flour, salt and lavender little by little kneading well to form a smooth dry paste, initially with a flat bladed knife and then with your lightly floured fingers

Turn onto a floured worktop and roll into a sausage shape, say 5cm in diameter

If you are patient, wrap in greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge for an hour

Slice into discs and place onto baking trays and sprinkle with caster sugar

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or so depending how golden brown you like your biscuits.

Leave on your baking tray for 5 minutes before you transfer them to a cooling tray

They smell and taste divine warm!

Store in an airtight tin if you like them crispy