Author Archives: Alison

About Alison

Maritime Canadian abroad

November

So the Halloween decorations have been packed up for another year. October, my favourite month in my favourite time of year, has come and gone so quickly. I had four trick or treaters on Thursday night, same number I had in the last house. Not bad for a largely non-Halloween celebrating country. 
The avalanche of noise that is the retail build up to Christmas hasn’t quite started. I like to wait until the last week of November before the list making and decorating gets serious. 
The weather continues wet and windy with a day or so break in between what is this year, a mostly damp squib of a Fall. Thank goodness the OH bought a lot of waterproof gear in September. He intended it for camping, this was before Honey, our Lab cross arrived. He’s not done any camping yet, but the jackets and footwear have come in handy. At this rate we will need hip waders next to get through the sodden fields while doggo walking. Flooding is becoming a real problem and as usual, the authorities aren’t much use in a crisis. 
Brexit came and went on October 31st and the country didn’t implode and apparently, there is going to be a General Election in December of all months. I think they are taking crazy pills in London. Who in their right mind calls an election two weeks before Christmas? The whole leave/don’t leave the EU issue has dragged on for three and a half years and I’d say the average person could care less now. I don’t expect turn out at the polls in December will be high either and I wonder if the idiots, I mean the politicians, are counting on that. 
Regardless, they can get on with it. We are working to get home. Home being the Maritimes. I retire in three or four years and I don’t want to spend the last decade of my life on this side of the Atlantic. Thats my plan for the approaching new year.

Happy Halloween!

My favourite holiday of the year has arrived! Its very low key here in England, but I decorate and buy treats and wait hopefully by the door. I hope your Halloween is wonderful, however you celebrate.


Happy Halloween!


Baked Cinnamon Apples

Despite the seemingly non stop wet weather, we are having in England, it is definitely feeling like Fall now. There are more and more leaves down from the trees, the Fall colours are becoming more apparent, early mornings and late afternoons are chillier and of course, its apple season! Whether you buy them ready to use or make a day of it picking your own, your harvest can be turned into some delicious desserts.

I love cooked apples and have this easy recipe to share with you. Comfort food extends to more than main courses and hot desserts like this are perfect for the colder Autumn nights.

Baked Cinnamon Apples

When choosing an apple for baking, you want a variety that has a firm flesh and is more tart than it is sweet. The firmer texture means the apple will retain its shape during baking. The tartness will counter any sweetness you want to add. 
Good varieties include Granny Smith, Braeburn and Honey Crisp. Granny Smith is especially good since it is less juicy than other varieties and won’t become mushy when cooked.
What You Need
Six apples, peeled, but not cored
Melted butter – 2.5 tablespoons
Cinnamon sugar – four tablespoons of granulated sugar + one tablespoon of ground cinnamon, combined in a small bowl
Toppings (optional) – vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, custard (use your imagination!)

Method

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C. Place the peeled apples into a shallow baking dish. Drizzle the melted butter over them, coating them thoroughly. Mix the cinnamon with sugar and sprinkle over the apples. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and baste the apples in the juices. Return the dish to oven and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes until the apples are browned and there is a cinnamon sugar glaze on the bottom of the baking dish. The apples should be soft and tender.

For more glaze, add a quarter cup of apple juice to the dish before baking. Serve as is or with your favourite topping.

On the off chance you have any leftover, the apples will keep  in the fridge for three to four days in an airtight container. To reheat, place the apples in a covered baking dish in a preheated oven (350C/180F) for five to ten minutes, checking them to ensure they are heated through. 
Happy Eating! 

Hello Honey!

Well after a number of false starts we are finally sharing our home with this lovely girl who arrived nearly three weeks ago.

Her name is Honey and she is a one and half year old Lab Retriever cross. We adopted her from Guide Dogs UK, which was a surprise to us since I had no idea until recently that this organisation had dogs for adoption. However, we were having no luck with the animal shelters so when Guide Dogs came up on the eleventy billionth web search, I applied and we were accepted.

If a dog is not suitable for the Guide Dogs program (medical or behavioural issues) or is a retired dog, they will look for a new home for the animal. In our case, Honey has a minor ear condition which requires regular medication that would be difficult for an unsighted person to handle.

There is a vetting process which includes a home visit by a Guide Dogs staffer. You get full information about the dog you are adopting, so no surprises. If everyone is happy, a date is set for you to collect your new friend. Honey also came with a generous supply of Royal Canin dog food along with a voucher for a welcome pack which Royal Canin deliver to your home, her meds to get her through the next few weeks and a month’s pet insurance cover with PetPlan.

We were so fortunate to get Honey. Guide Dogs has done the hard work with all of her basic training. She still has a tendency to get over excited when she sees other dogs (and cats and birds! I put that down to the gun dog in her), but we are working on that behaviour with her. She absolutely loves the fields and woods around the house and the extra exercise hasn’t hurt us any either. She is typical of her breed in that she loves food. “Stomach on legs” is what one of the Guide Dogs staff called her. We are thinking of changing her name to “Miss Piggy”!

We are all still adjusting, but getting along like peas in a pod. I can’t imagine her not being here now. If you are looking to adopt a dog and are U.K. based, I would urge you to get in contact with Guide Dogs UK to see if you can provide a loving home. **

** note there is an adoption fee payable, which varies depending on the age of the dog you are adopting.

Epsom Salt & Lavender Bath Soak

With the colder weather coming and when Winter is holding on and Spring feels ages away, cold and flu bugs thrive in the low humidity. Low humidity is one reason you may be more prone to viruses during the colder months.

And is it just my perception, or does it take a lot longer to get over a cold than it once did? I can’t decide if the germs are getting tougher or our immune systems are getting weaker. Perhaps its a little of both. Viruses are, after all, living organisms that evolve and adapt to survive.

In any case, when you are waiting out a bug it can be soothing to indulge in a good soak. This soak has Epsom salts aka magnesium sulfate, as its base. The salts are a mineral compound with a wide variety of uses and benefits.

Where colds and flu are concerned, soaking in Epsom salts helps vasodilation, which increases white blood cell production that in turn can aid your body in fighting off illness. Magnesium also helps relax muscles to ease the achy feeling that a bad cold or bout of flu can bring on. The steam from the bath will also alleviate congestion, at least while you are in the tub! Lavender is a soporific, inducing sleep, as well as being a powerful antiviral, as are most essential oils.

Another bonus; both Epsom salts and lavender essential oil are very affordable.**

Method

Use a minimum of two cups to a maximum of four cups of Epsom salt per bath. To this add ten to twenty drops of lavender essential oil. Mix well and pour into a bath of water that is as warm as you find comfortable. Stir the water to disperse the mixture and soak at least until you can feel the water
is cooling. Take care when getting in and out of the bath.

Get well soon!

** Be sure of your supplier and their source for essential oils. So-called “fragrancing oils” are not suitable for this use.

Living With Arthritis

The Mayo Clinic defines the disease as: 

– “the swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.”


That’s the definition in its simplest terms. There are numerous diseases which fall under the general category of arthritis, each with its own symptoms and treatments.




I have osteoarthritis, but my mother had rheumatoid arthritis as does one of my maternal aunts. The progression has been slow but gradual. I first noticed symptoms I wasn’t sure of when I was in my late 40s. A decade later it was obvious I had inherited the disease. I consider myself very lucky in that up to this point, it doesn’t impact my life the way it did my mother who was nearly crippled by it. Ironically, when she developed metastatic bowel CA, the drugs she was given to treat that also helped with the worst of her arthritis symptoms. I’m grateful she was spared having to deal with both diseases at the same time.


Triggers & Symptoms

Everyone’s experience with arthritis is different. I find deep low pressure really hits me hard.  It is thought that changes in barometric pressure affects the fluid in the joints, triggering symptoms. Cold, damp conditions can also cause a flare-up with me. 

The medical profession will tell you that weather is still considered “anecdotal” when it comes to joint issues. In other words, its not proven, but you try telling that to the millions of people who have it.


My right side is affected the most, particularly in my shoulder and hip. When I’m having a full blown attack I ache from the right side of my head down to my right ankle. Oddly enough, it also affects my digestive system, giving me reflux and nausea. Sleep is also affected, the pain is either worse or more noticeable at night, I’m not sure which it is. I had a great GP, now retired and greatly missed, who told me why pain was worse at night, but I can’t recall what he told me. 


Treatment

Icing the shoulder eases the headache (the pain almost always goes up the side of my neck into that side of the head), while a warm, not hot, pack helps the stiffness in the hip. I’ll take paracetamol at the start of a bout and sometimes it helps. Too much pain reliever just aggravates the stomach problems. However once the symptoms have dug in, all I can do is wait it out. 

I have been doing some reading about the theory that diet can affect the body’s inflammatory response. The idea is that our modern diets with so much processed food, fat, salt and sugar may make some diseases worse. My husband and I recently changed our eating habits with an eye to weight loss, so I’m hoping that it might also help with the arthritis. 


You sometimes feel like its a Catch-22 situation; you are told to keep your weight down and stay active, but doing so doesn’t seem to lessen the severity of an attack. I’m just grateful it doesn’t happen more often. I still walk lots and until recently, cycled. My bike was stolen, an all too common occurrence these days, and I haven’t replaced it yet. And I’m getting better at being mindful to take frequent stretch breaks from my desk when I’m working. 


The last week or so has seen the jet stream fall just south of the country and with it came low pressure, wind, rain and disappointing temperatures for mid-August. Cue me obsessively checking the weather app for signs that it’s moving the hell on to aggravate someone else’s body.


In the meantime, you are still expected to be on deck and attending to business when all you want to do is curl up in bed and die. 


I know its going to get to the point where I will need prescribed drugs of some sort, but I’m holding off as long as I can. Keep eating healthy, walking, stretching and hoping the weather Gods smile on me. 


Do you have joint or muscle issues? How do you cope?