Category Archives: Herbs

Spirituality Without Fanfare

Once you have been on your spiritual path for a while you will start to realise that it is best to not take yourself too seriously.

There are two types of people who practise spirituality, in my experience. Those who tell others how powerful they are or how enlightened they are or how good their expensive courses are…and those who just get on with it, quietly and without fanfare. Do a course for fun if you think you will get something out of it but do realise that the only thing really worth spending is time itself. Time to learn, time to experiment, time to let things simmer.

Unfortunately being bombarded with all these enlightenment sellers can put some potential newcomers off discovering more about themselves and their possibilities and that’s a shame as there is nothing to be nervous about. Don’t be scared by the hype, don’t be put off by those who dress themselves up as mystical beings who need to be adored. They are selling a service which is the spiritual equivalent of getting your nails painted…it’s fun but it isn’t an essential life choice. You can do what you need to do with a little online research, free resources, reading books and, most importantly, living the life and gaining the experience.

Those who are quietly spiritual know that everyone is an individual who will be spending years on their unique path, no expensive course is going to get anyone there quicker. Sorry. Sometimes it can even slow progress down as you are following someone else’s path not your own. Their way of doing things might not be yours.

Your path is your own and you don’t have to be doing A, B or C to qualify for any award. There is no award. There’s a reward for taking a spiritual path though. Several of them.

If you can successfully meditate you can make your daily life calmer and happier. This can take the edge off the hardest situation. YouTube has some really good meditations. Try Michael Sealey or Jason Stephenson.

Practising mindfulness will give you a better outlook on life and will make those challenges easier to deal with because you stay in the moment, at least long enough to have a break from your mind chatter. Here is a 8 week free course, run by Dave Potter a fully certified MBSR instructor.

Being able to work with the energies to heal yourself and others for free is your way to give back and to do your bit to help change one small part of the world which is suffering…whether that be an individual or a situation.  Learn how to give reiki to yourself with this previous article of mine Reiki For Self Love.  Where you go with it afterwards when it comes to helping others is for you to decide.

Ritual is a way to bring order to chaos as well as engaging in aged practices – whether you just count your morning ritual of shower, tea and toast before work or rituals used with your deity of choice, such as prayers. A good morning ritual sets you up for the day and most of us have several rituals which we enjoy. Perhaps yours is a candlelit bath or a cup of chamomile tea last thing before bed. A ritual is simply something you do at a certain time and, sometimes, for a certain reason. Getting a few rituals of your own in place will bring structure and certainty to your day and you will find you look forward to doing them. They will bring a comfort and a smile, a sense of well-being.

Learning how to work with herbs is another way that you can help yourself. Again there are many online courses out there for the basics but a good book will do you just as well too if money is tight. The work of Susun Weed is a good start if you are in the USA or Herbcraft by Anna Franklin and Susan Lavender is an excellent choice for those in the UK and Europe. Herbcraft gives a broad use for plants including medicinal and magickal as well as a bit of history for interest.

Learning which plants are edible is very important so do take care as there are some deadly ones out there too. 

Knowledge is essential when using herbs in whatever form you choose them. Several good books for cross referencing are essential and you should never rely on just one photo in a book to decide which plant is in front of you in the wild. Several good, clear close up photos are needed. Of course, the company of someone who already knows is ideal but few of us have that and so we must take things gradually and be careful with our choices by being sensible.

Here is a fun video done by someone just starting out using herbs. We all have to start somewhere…

Many of us enjoy a cup of chamomile tea or peppermint tea so why not take it a step further and start learning how to work with the energies of the plants in your vicinity, growing your own or even just in their essential oil form. Pure oils can be used for cleaning and sanitising your home, refreshing the aroma, getting rid of garden pests, used to heal yourself and pets and in a multitude of ways.

I have had no training in essential oils but taught myself gradually over many years and now use them in every part of my life. They are surprisingly versatile, useful and helpful and, of course, chemical free if chosen wisely. There are many articles online which will help you choose a starter arsenal of essential oils. My first three choices would be roman chamomile, lavender and peppermint. I have linked to an article for each to get you started if you are new to essential oils.

If you are starting off on your path and follow the signposts above and in my previous nine articles then together they should give you your first few footsteps. You will be on your way to a spiritual life which allows you to grow, gain confidence, deal with challenges, heal your everyday niggles and give love and strength to those around you. There will be days when it all seems too much and you will want a break. Be kind to yourself on those days and do whatever you need to do. Everyone has a spiritual crisis at some point in their lives…sometimes more than one…but this is good because this is where the biggest shifts happen.

My final suggestions are to enjoy life, love who you are and do what you have to do to make your life your own. Never be dictated by those who surround you or even those in your area of choice spiritually. Always trust your instincts and if you aren’t sure what they are saying then meditate and wait. The answer is there.

This article is part of Your Spiritual Life series. Other articles in the series can be found in the top menu.

Update – Air Dry Clay Playtime: Herbal Impression Tiles and Earth Goddess

Just a little update to show you how the tiles I talked about in my previous post came out after painting. They aren’t quite finished yet as I intend to add some imitation gold leaf before setting them out as a large tile. I am really pleased with how it is going so far.

I am itching for my Earth Goddess to dry completely so I can cover her with gesso and start painting. I will be adding dried plant matter to this under some mod podge and concentrating on textures rather than detail before covering her with colour and some imitation gold leaf.

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I can really recommend getting stuck into some sort of craft project. Make the time to create. Find something which brings you joy. You don’t have to be an expert in it, the important thing is to get satisfaction from the creation and have fun doing it 🙂

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Earth Goddess…finished ‘for now’

In the end I really liked the way she looked as above and so I decided to keep her like this for now and see how she develops. Lovely energy from her!

What’s In Your Mix? Fun Times With Creation and Growth

Creation is an important part of spirituality. Whether we choose to show our imagination through cooking, crafts, writing or growing herbs in the garden (or all of those things and more!) it is important that we have an outlet to manifest, achieve and create.

We don’t have to be especially talented in our chosen media. I admit if I had to make a living using my art then the chances are I would be hungry but the important thing is that I enjoy doing it. I have fun! Also, if things go well, I have something to decorate my altar, other parts of the house and the garden which I admit is rather satisfying.

Just lately I have got into working with air dry clay and have made the amulets (and several more) that you see in the header photo for my nature altar.  I really like exploring symbolism and I try to incorporate as much as I can into my work, practice and life in general. The above photo is my Mother Earth Goddess figure. She now has pins coming out of her underskirts ready to be rooted into a base which I will be doing in the near future. I intend for her to have flowers, herbs and plants at her feet.

I also like to draw and spent quite a while drawing out the above Antahkarana symbol for use in the room I send my distance healing sessions. It was surprising how long it took to work out how to draw the squares on to top on another like that. It looks so simple but…well, it was a little taxing surprisingly but good fun, especially for the youngest teenager who enjoy the process and her mother’s struggles immensely. She also had the lesson of ‘never giving up despite having an obvious inability to use a ruler with ease’ 🙂

Having something arty or creative on the go is a fabulous way to relax and find our inner child too. Remind yourself what it feels like to squash wet, sticky clay between your fingers or how great it feels to eat something you have grown yourself.

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Those of you who follow my blog will know I spend a lot of time in my garden. I like to think of myself as a small time gardener and herbs are my go-to plants of choice. The slide show above shows some of this year’s produce in its very early stages. In the last week alone things have really started to come to life.

Bringing the garden indoors sounded like a wonderful idea to me when I saw some inspirational mosaics made out of clay and so I decided to try a herb press mosaic and have produced some quite pleasing results so far.

I hope to incorporate the leaves I used once they are dry and then I intend to try out Pebeo’s Mixed Media paint on these once the primer and base colours are on. I have heard some good stuff about the possible effects when using this media.

Below is a photo of an interesting example and you can click here to see more ideas on Pinterest.

I am itching to have a go. I will also be making some clay beads for some particular jewellery I have in mind…watch this space as there is a chance I will inflict them on you all 😉

Creating and growing are important parts of spirituality. It isn’t just about where you are in your head, it is about where you are in the outside world and how you interact with that.

If you want to imagine those roots of yours going deep into the ground to nourish your soul then what better teacher than a willing herb you have grown from seed who is happy to show you the way in the real world in return for a little care and appreciation? See how she grows when she is well nourished, has just the right balance of sun and shade and is given a good and healthy compost mix to grow in?

What’s in your mix?

This article is part of Your Spiritual Life series. Other articles in the series can be found in the top menu.

When The Menopause Bites Back

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I am feeling quietly pleased with myself as I have just changed the keyboard on my laptop all by myself. I grant you it isn’t a really difficult task for a normal person but I am menopausal…tying my shoelaces on my own these days is a real achievement!

I’m joking…kinda 😀

Today I wanted to talk about the menopause. I thought I was nearing the finish line since Mother Nature hadn’t paid me a visit since last July. Then on the 6th of the month she called unexpectedly and overstayed her welcome. I was not exactly thrilled. Yesterday she popped in for a quick coffee yet again and now she has gone…with a flea in her ear, let me tell you!

There is plenty of information out there telling us about some of the symptoms of a looming menopause but not many websites talk about the days or even minutes of numbness, the crying for no reason and the crazy lady syndrome which can beset some of us. Now, let me be clear. Depression is a long lasting condition which needs medical care. If you have it, you will know it. The type of low mood I am talking about is one which comes and goes. The low mood, brain fog, irritability and crying we get periodically on and off in the months/years leading up to the menopause is very different from full on depression and is very similar to PMT at its worse in my experience. It is just more irregular in appearance and can strike at any time and go away just as quickly, sometimes even in a day.

With changes in our bodies and also possibly in our life circumstances emotionally and family wise such as children leaving home for university and parents needing care, this is a time for many changes not just THE change and we can be thrown off balance far more easily. We are still warrior women but we do have to remember this is a time to be kinder to ourselves and less judgemental of what we feel we ought to be. The Crone is emerging, the wise woman with decades of life experiences to share is settling in. We look to grandchildren now, the next generation to teach and nurture. We look to ourselves and our own needs a little more and this we MUST do, with no guilt attached, if we are to find joy and contentment with what our bodies and minds now offer us. Do you know who you are? Are you who you want to be?

Sometimes it can be difficult to maintain your Zen. I think it is important to be honest about how we feel rather than trying to make out these things are below us (makes it easier for the next woman who comes along to know she isn’t alone too) so let me share the following with you. Two weeks ago I was an absolute mess. The flu, migraines, anxiety, tears whether sad or happy (fluffy bunnies set me off!) and increased pain levels by about a good half. All a prelude to a time of the month I didn’t know I was expecting but it scared the heck out of me. I battled down with herbs, crystals, a blankie and a lot of mental thumb sucking and rode the wave out but, gals, I thought I was losing it at the time until the reason became clear when my period started. It was just PMT and a wash of hormones.

This week I mostly feel as I usually do (the flu is lessening…one hopes!) and what a relief it is! I also bought myself a copy of Susun Weed’s Menopausal Years and found it to be the perfect companion. Susun tells you about all the nitty gritty stuff and gives you the confidence to know that things will be alright even when you are drowning in the emotional riptide.

Your hormones are such fun companions but if they really start to bully you for more than two weeks then do get yourself to the doctors and find out what is available to help you. Get yourself informed about herbs and natural supportive treatments. Meditate. Do what you can to stay in the moment and don’t allow yourself to linger on unhelpful thoughts of guilt, shame and any other negativity which rears its head. Keep away from the news, social media and any other potential trigger of a drastic mood change and wait it out. If it lasts longer than a couple of weeks then seek help. The menopause is a natural transition, it is not something to suffer for.

Do yourselves a favour and buy a copy of this book. It is an absolute must for the shelf of the personal library of every women from 30+ years old and will save you from a whole heap of trouble later. Trust me. 

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The best book on menopause is now better. Herbal solutions for osteoporosis, hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, flooding, fibroids, low libido, incontinence, anxiety, depression.

Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones.

Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD.

One of the world’s best selling books on menopause still comes on strong. Called “indispensable,” “incredible,” and a “treasure trove of information,” Menopausal Years is the “bible” for the 87% of American women over the age of fifty who want nothing to do with hormones.

Includes information and remedies for problems with premenopause — flooding, erratic periods, fibroids, spotting, water retention, muscle soreness — as well as menopause — hot flashes, sleeplessness, mood swings, headaches, palpitations, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and much more. Final chapters speak to post-menopausal women’s concerns: including ways to maintain heart health, prevent and reverse osteoporosis, deal with dry vaginal tissues and incontinence, ease aching joints, and maintain healthy libido.

The soothing, wise voice of Grandmother Growth guides each woman through the book and through her own menopause metamorphosis. Ritual interludes interweaves a spiritual dimension often lacking in other works.

Includes superb resource lists for menopause information, index, glossary, directions for using (and preparing) herbal medicines, complete descriptions of the most-used menopausal herbs (including nettles, ginseng, dong quai, red clover, oatstraw, and motherwort), recipes for heart- and bone-healthy dishes, and lots of illustrations. 

 

A Time To Reap

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Supermoon 2016 (copyright – In The Autumn Of My Life)

This week’s supermoon has presented us with many opportunities for spiritual involvement, whatever our religion of choice. For me it has been a time of gratitude for everything I have and for the wonderful Earth, which we are all so very fortunate to be caretakers of. I say a gratitude prayer every day to thank the Source and my Goddess for looking after those I love and for giving us enough food to eat and water to drink.

The full moon is a time to heal ourselves too. I like to have a sacred bath around this time to wash away any negativity and to boost my inner courage. I will bathe in salts and dried herbs of mugwort (cronewort), lavender, yarrow and myrrh to cleanse and rejuvenate me. I will add some essential oils of choice usually something sensual and divine such as patchouli,  ylang ylang or jasmine and a touch of ginger spice too for passion in love and bravery in life.

Now is also the time for selenite, moonstone and clear or rose quartz as we invite peace and purity of thought into our lives, letting go of those things which make us feel sad or bad about ourselves. Sip a cup of lemon balm tea or a take a taste of Motherwort tincture. This is now a time to dance, to laugh and to be joyful.

The supermoon this week is your chance to make big changes in your life. It calls you to make a decision and not to dally any further with procrastination. It invites you to shine brightly and be completely at one with the things which bring you joy.

Closer to deity and bathed in the soft, purifying light of the moon; now is the time to just be you and be in your truth. Enjoy 🙂

Getting Rid Of Black Aphids/Black Flies – Essential Oil Recipe

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My herbs in pots, namely most of my mint family, were all put in the greenhouse a couple of weekends ago ready for the colder months. I thought they would be nice and safe there but some late visitors, (probably left over from an insect 18-30 (day) holiday jaunt by the looks of them…rabble!) decided to drop in unannounced at what was obviously the equivalent of an insect Little Chef. Whatever the reason there was a brand new menu at The Little Black Aphid and diners were aplenty.

Feeling fairly put out, I put the cauldron on the fire and added a couple of toad eyes, three stag beetle antennae and a handful of vervain. Once this hearty family supper was on I decided to tackle the aphid problem.

The completely natural method is to hand pick them off one by one. I thought about this option for a few seconds but discarded the idea when I realised I had a life. However, it may have also been because I just didn’t fancy it 😀

Here is my essential oil recipe for tackling the beasties –

200ml of water

6 drops of thyme

5 drops of peppermint

5 drops of clove

6 drops of rosemary

1 spray bottle

At this time of year you can probably afford to cut your herbs back a little anyway but for those leaves left I suggest a liberal spray of the above concoction. It only took one application and a few choice words and my aphid invasion ceased production. Of course I am not a qualified aromatherapist so it may have been my few choice words which made the aphids drop down stone dead. I can’t say. If in doubt then I urge you to try reasoning with them first…and if that doesn’t work then do try the essential oils  😉

Do be careful not to spray any loitering spiders. I accidently caught two right in their eyes and they were not happy! It’s the peppermint, they hate it apparently. When I went back later they had moved out and left the place in quite a state. I don’t recommend it.

I suggest always washing leaves you intend to consume very well before eating, especially after spraying with the above recipe.

Always consult a qualified aromatherapist and your medical provider before trying any of my recipes. Do not use essential oils if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Please note: I can’t be held responsible for the demise of any pet aphids, this mixture will probably kill them whether you have given them pet names or not. Thank you  😉

Ancient Woodland Tour

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Last weekend was spent settling our garden in for the colder months again so we had time yesterday to go a little further afield and visit an ancient wood we had been meaning to see for ourselves.

This wood is particularly special to me as it was the wood my grandparents walked in as they courted each other many years ago. My grandmother’s family moved up here from London and she was born not long afterwards.

The wood is looked after very well and the ancient ash stools created by the coppicing make some of these trees the oldest living things in my part of the country.

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There are wonderful plants growing in the woods including Spindle with its popcorn shaped fruit.

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Crab Apples – my grandmother made crab apple jelly when I was a child, very sweet to counteract the bitterness of the fruit.

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Lots of lovely berries and fruits including rosehips.

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There was plenty to see here, untouched by pesticides and just how a wood should be with food and healing plants enough for all. At the end of October the fungi this wood is also famous for will start appearing in abundance.

If only all woods were kept like this we would be able to heal ourselves of so many ailments using what Mother Nature has so generously given us. As it is we salivate at conservation areas like this, look but don’t touch and wonder if lessons will ever be learnt.

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Autumn Gardening

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As autumn approaches it is time to start thinking about pruning things back and tidying up ready for the colder months. We only have a small patch of soil but there is still plenty to do.

There are several shrubs which need a prune and a particularly hardy creeper plant that takes over the gardens hereabouts (but whose name escapes me!) needs taming before we disappear under it. It does go a beautiful red and copper shade so I confess I am really waiting for that but it is nearly its time.

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The herb garden is coming along nicely and has provided me with a big jar of dried lavender and many daily herbal tea infusions this year using the lemon balm, catnip, peppermint et al. It’s been very generous.

I decided not to take any more of the herbs to dry as I feel they need to get established before we take too much from them. The roman chamomile has started to trail across and the bergamot has come back after getting a little sickly. The first lemon balm we bought and planted (in the top right of the photo above) is doing really rather nicely and, I think, will be strong next year.

I have decided to put a crystal grid in the herb garden next year and I am in the process of designing it. We had to cut a few branches off a tree and I hope to use some of those sliced up in with the design.

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The pinapple mint is loving the spot it is in as are the second lemon balm, the catnip and the lemon verbena. I am going to put these four in the greenhouse over winter along with the moroccan mint and a few of the others. I am not sure if the lemon verbena will survive in our unheated greenhouse but we shall keep an eye on her and see how she goes.

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So during winter this year it looks as if I shall have to buy some dried catnip, lemon balm and some others if I am to carry on with my various potions but this time next year I have a feeling I am going to be drying out plenty to keep me going over the winter of 2017 and I am hopeful I won’t have to buy many herbs in at all! How satisfying!

It has been a very successful year in the garden with my partner having a good stock of potatoes, onions, fennel, tomatoes, peas, asparagus and all sorts to offer to the table. He is hoping to have some potatoes ready for Yule dinner too. I’m very grateful and proud of his work in the garden this year in particular. He doesn’t have a lot of spare time but what he does have gets used to provide extra food for our family from our small patch and he also builds things from scratch such as wooden wall units for my jars and crystals – my hero – couldn’t ask for more!

I know he reads this blog of mine so just going to say a big Thank You!

 

Over 40 and Missed A Period?

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Today I thought I would write about missing periods whilst going through the perimenopause and how doing so might effect you. There are other reasons for missed periods, the most obvious one is pregnancy, so do get checked out if you are unsure or concerned.

There is a lot of information out there about the various things which you can expect during the lead up to the menopause (which is called the perimenopause) but not much on what can happen to your body and mind when a period is missed. Some women may sail through this time but for those unlucky ones who don’t here is the lowdown on what it does to me and my experience.

For me a missed period will mean extended and heightened PMS amongst other things. I have read an article recently which says PMS doesn’t really exist but there are a lot of women (including myself) and their men who will disagree with that. Having had a house full of girls (five daughters!) for over twenty years and my own hormones to deal with I can say PMS and I are old friends who regularly sit down to drink a cup of herbal tea together. As an aside, I do wish precious research money was spent more often on finding cures, especially for pain and fatigue related illnesses, rather than trying to disprove something exists when so many people have whatever it is.

This time around I have missed two periods. I forget what I am doing more often, I get distracted more often, aches and pains have increased, irritability has increased, patience has decreased and musings have increased. Hot sweats have increased and their duration is longer (that’s been particularly fun at this time of year!), my mood has been rather low and my fatigue worsened by a good 50%, on some days it is difficult to keep awake. I don’t feel depressed as such (that is a very different ball game indeed and not one to be taken lightly) I just feel a bit low as we all do on occasion but in this case simply due to the worsening of my health. All in all really not myself and rather ‘off’ with a suit of black and yellow to warn people I might sting 😀

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Lemon Balm

I am dealing with my symptoms with a herbal remedy and meditating twice a day. I make a tea of fresh Lemon Balm, Catnip, Peppermint/Moroccan Mint and dried Vervain every morning and drink two cups*. I have been doing this for a couple of weeks now and it really does seems to be keeping me calmer and easing the tendency to anxiety and irritability. I can deal with everything else but the anxiety is the killer for me. This particularly mix of herbs will make you sweat a little more for a short time after taking them which does seem a bit daft if you are trying to avoid hot sweats but actually it does have the knock on effect of keeping you cooler. Remember hot sweats come from the inside, not the environment so anything which will break the ‘fever’ going on inside by cooling you down is a welcome relief. It really does seem to lessen them and make my whole core feel easier too for a few hours. It has also had the knock on effect of reducing the frequency and severity of my headaches and THAT has been a wonderful and very welcome side effect. Works for me! Do read the disclaimer below and research carefully for yourself (as well as taking medical advice) before ingesting any herbal remedies.

I have been reading a book called The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup. In the first few pages she actually made me cry because it was like she was writing about me. Some people don’t like her work because they feel she writes as a feminist! I don’t feel she does but, sorry lads, just as most of us woman don’t pee standing up (who has seen The Full Monty?!) most of you don’t go through the menopause…wanting a sports car at 45 doesn’t count *laughing*…so, as far as I am concerned, a little unity with the girls and female power is rightfully in its true place when it comes to female sexuality.

I think it is an excellent book, written by a woman who is a doctor and has dealt with female problems in her clinics for decades but who didn’t want to write a book about the menopause until she had actually experienced it. I appreciate that. I remember dealing with midwives who weren’t mothers and therefore had never given birth. There is a lot to be said for experience over book learning in many situations…child birth, breastfeeding and women’s hormonal sexual health are three of them. If you are over 40 then do give this book a look. It will prepare your mind and body for what is to come and make sure you are at your healthiest. You may thank me for this later. On a side note I would like to thank my dear friend Cynthia Harrison for sending me the book. When someone feels strongly enough to put a book in your hand then you know you have to read it. I wish I had read it a decade ago! Thanks, Cindy!!

Since starting to write this particular article I have started a monthly and what a difference to how I feel! I am pretty much back to old self, as I would normally be feeling when the PMS has gone. PMS doesn’t exist, huh? Wanna live in this body for a bit? 😀

*If you are thinking of using herbs then do check with your doctor and a herbal specialist as I am not either of those. Many herbs will interact with drugs already being taken and so caution is needed. Do not take these herbs (or any others without advice) whilst pregnant or breastfeeding.

 

Refreshed!

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I am back again after a few days off with my wonderful other half and our teenagers! We spent the first few days decorating our bedroom (looks fantastic!!) and then we went out to the forest, the beach and to a local market on the other days.

The hound went to the beauty parlour and came back trimmed and powdered. Frankly he knew he smelt like a girl and he was not in the slightest bit impressed with this until we went for a walk by the beach and he got lots of compliments. He was also chatted up twice which pleased him no end and his tail curled back up as he strutted down the prom at the head of the pack with a ‘Look at me! I’m so handsome it hurts!’ vibe going on. And he was and it did, until he found some mud later on…

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We also did some work in the garden and I bought more herbs! I now have 25 different herbs I have specifically planted in the garden. I have used each one which is established enough to do so and have plans for the others once they take hold. The most interesting experiment is the morning infusion I created myself to help with my perimenopause symptoms using Lemon Balm, Peppermint and Vervain in various amounts. I really do think it is making a difference so I shall continue for another three weeks and see how I feel then. I have certainly had less headaches so that’s a plus in itself! I will post the recipe up once I am happy it works…having a holiday in the middle of the test may have altered the results so I need those extra weeks to be sure. Every little helps though, so fingers crossed it carries on working so well!