Quote of the Month – Repeat

You get what you repeat.

James Clear

From Atomic Habits

This applies to your work, your finances, your health, everything that makes up your life.

Your body is the result of your daily little habits. Eat just a little better every day and you will become slim and healthy.  Do a diet for a few weeks this year and you’ll probably be having to do another one next year.

Build good habits a bit at a time.

If you set any New Year Resolutions, I hope they’re going well.  If you didn’t, or enthusiasm has started to wane, I’m doing a special Jackie’s Gee Up looking at Goals and Habits on Tuesday 15th February, 7:30 – 9pm on Zoom. In it, I’ll use some tips from international sport’s psychology and the Silent Coaching technique so you each finish the evening with a clear idea of where you want to get to and how.  Contact me to learn more.


Last month I shared the soothing drink I have when I catch a cold: honey, lemon, ginger, cloves and coconut oil with hot water.

Why include cloves? Well they have anaesthetic properties, useful for a sore throat. You can even chew one or pop one against your gums if you have toothache.

In the depths of winter, mulled wine (gluhwein, vin brulé) is fantastically warming. There are cloves in that too as well as cinnamon and nutmeg.

When we were small, we used to stick cloves into an orange, with a bit of ribbon round, then put it in the airing cupboard to dry and give it to Grandma as a Christmas present. Smells divine!

We tend to use herbs and spices this way – for flavour and pleasure – without thinking much about their beneficial properties. As well as being a mild anaesthetic, cloves are anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, help digestion and reduce wind. They have been used as insect repellent.

We can buy them cheaply now but cloves and other spices used to be worth their weight in gold so they’ll actually really special.

Caution – some people have allergic reactions to cloves and they may interfere with blood thinners.


Quote of the Month – Passion

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.

Maya Angelou

It’s good to have role models and here’s a lady with a philosophy to aspire to (although I doubt I’ll ever have her style!)

Wiki commons


I’ve seen people grow ginger on gardening programmes but have never managed it myself. The part used in cooking is the root. Fresh gives the best flavour, peeled losing as little flesh as possible, then sliced or grated. Powdered is fine for cakes and biscuits.

Famously used for travel sickness, ginger also has great anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. It has been used to manage osteoarthritis.

I’ve used it a lot recently so I thought I’d share a few ideas with you.

Like so many others, I caught a cold. There are few things more soothing to drink than a mixture of honey, lemon, ginger, cloves and coconut oil with hot water.

Also for the cold, I made some of James Wong’s potent soup which includes onion, ginger, chillies, garlic, chicken and mushrooms.

To top my low-carb porridge, I stewed some of the apples from my tree that were beginning to go soft in storage. I mixed in blackberries and bilberries picked in the summer and frozen, zingy ginger and lemon juice. Delicious.

From a community recipe book, our home-made burgers get a twist with ginger and soy sauce.

For a quick boost of nutrition, vegetable juices are refreshing – but can be rather bitter if you use wonderful dark, leafy greens like cavolo nero. Ginger is a useful flavour addition to make green juices more palatable. You can also add a piece of fruit like apple and some lime but take care not to juice too much fruit.

Make a tasty, nutritious dinner; stir-fry thin strips of beef with onion, mushrooms, ginger, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts before adding soy sauce.

I know a lady who’s a brilliant jam maker. Her rhubarb and ginger is fabulous.

How do you enjoy using ginger?

Scary Times

Halloween is coming up soon. It’s the evening before All Saints’ Day, literally, all hallows even. Houses and shops are currently festooned with scary stuff. But for me there’s something even more scary.

I got this flyer through the post – encouraging me to spend money on sugar and chemical laden drinks and snacks to damage the health of children.

Junk foods are often advertised as ‘treats’. Something special to be enjoyed. It’s true I am a grumpy old woman these days but it makes me angry that they take advantage like this. Here we are in the European country that eats the most processed food and has the worst health and they want to profit from making it worse!

The biggest cause of child hospitalisation is for surgical tooth extraction – sometimes because teeth are so rotted by sugar they all have to be removed.

Rather than clamp down on manufacturers or adopt policies to help with teeth cleaning (like the Child Smile programme in Scotland where fluoridation is illegal), the Government now wants to put toxic fluoride in all of England’s water. Most countries of the world do not do this and rates of tooth decay are the same as countries that do.

Fluoride is very poisonous and damaging to health in many ways, particularly the brain. Applying it directly to teeth may be helpful (eg in toothpaste, which you may or may not have noticed comes with warnings against swallowing it!). Taking it systemically does not have the same effect. Water fluoridation is unethical mass-medication without informed consent and with no dose control. And it brings a host of problems including reduced IQ in children. I’ve signed the Government petition against it and you can too here.

So back to the Halloween sugar problem. If you want a fun time on 31st October, look for other ways to provide treats.

What about going on a nature walk and looking for the scariest insect or creepiest tree branch? You could hold a party or play some games, do something crafty, make some tasty pumpkin soup or roast what you hollow out from your lantern.

Top tip – find better treats than junk food.

Quote of the Month – Misinformation

The lies of Big Food and Bad Pharma are destroying lives on an unprecedented scale.

Dr Aseem Malhotra

Dr Malhotra has been appointed Chair of the Public Health Collaboration and is taking the first step to clean up the health and medical information mess that continues to harm millions of people on a daily basis.  Here is his short video on the state of misinformation.


He says the charity PHC is an army ready to take action to clean up the health and medical misinformation mess that continues to harm millions of people on a daily basis


Other quotes on this theme:

Science has taken a turn towards darkness. Possibly half the medical literature may simply be untrue.

Richard Horton

Editor in Chief, the Lancet

Is it time to assume all health research is fraudulent until it can be proved otherwise?

Richard Smith

Former Editor of the British Medical Journal



Bake Like a Chemist

The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens to cheer and amaze us with wacky creations – hurray!!

Baking was the biggest growth activity under lockdown – you’ll remember the empty shelves where the flour had been snapped up.

Our U3A Science group is also back up and running – hurray again!!

The first talk, from the highly entertaining chemist, Steve Wilson (he does talks on cruise ships), delved into the science of baking.

Chemists make great bakers being expert and weighting, measuring, mixing and heating things. We’ve seen something similar with the precision of engineer Bake Off competitor Guiseppe.

So here is a cakey mix of Steve’s fascinating insights and my thoughts on health.

It starts with beating sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. The sugar keeps the specs of butter apart. Any blobs of butter left will melt in the oven, leaving holes in your cake.

Health-wise sugar is bad. You can retrain your palate in only a couple of weeks to prefer less sweetness so you can cut down the amount of sugar in the recipe. You can also use substitutes like xylitol (a sugar alcohol).

Fat is an essential ingredient – butter works well, gives great flavour, is stable when cooked and is healthy.

Vegetable oil and margarine are unhealthy and damaged by heat so it’s better to avoid them altogether.

Coconut oil is very good and gives a different flavour and texture.

Flour brings gluten which provides elasticity. Anyone trying gluten-free baking will miss how pliable bread and pastry dough are in particular.

Flour is soon-to-be-sugar. It’s starchy carbohydrate which is a chain of hundreds of sugars holding hands. Your enzymes quickly break starches down into simple sugars which hit your blood stream and stimulate insulin production. The insulin takes excess sugar out of your blood and stores it as fat. This is the Carbohydrate/Insulin model of weight gain.

Baking powder is a raising agent found in self-raising flour or added separately. It contains acidic cream of tartar and alkaline bicarbonate of soda which react when wetted to make bubbles of CO2 and cause your baking to rise and be light and fluffy.

Eggs are high in protein which has many hydrogen bonds and these give strength to the bubbles. Eggs are also a raising agent. If you use coconut flour, it’s very dry and it helps to add an egg for each ounce (28g).

Dr Phil Hammond calls bought cakes, chemical cake. As Steve pointed out, it’s all chemistry! But Dr Phil is right, bought cakes have undesirable ingredients that your body doesn’t appreciate. Also they’re usually made with unhealthy vegetable oil so baking your own is preferable.

Portion size does matter – cake is something to be enjoyed in small amounts. I think I remember reading that Paul Hollywood put on a stone and a half during the last series of Bake Off! Huge slabs of cake have become normalised in shops over the years (I wrote about muffins some years ago) but you can of course ask for extra forks and share between friends.

Top tip: Love cake? Make like a chemist and get baking.

Quote of the Month – sustainable

What we need now is a nation of well-informed consumers who understand the difference between the unsustainable plants and animals which are part of the problem and the sustainable animal systems and products which are part of the solution.

Patrick Holden

CEO of Sustainable Food Trust

…in the future sustainably managed livestock will play a central role in rebuilding the fertility that we’ve lost. So we need to eat the livestock products which come from those regeneratively managed animals, but we need to give up the ones that come from the intensive side. And the key is to know the difference between the two.

Green Lumpy – Not Recommended!

I was reminded of how much we take our gadgets for granted while making my breakfast the other day.  I had the ingredients of my favourite green smoothie ready and my trusty stick blender poised when – the electricity went off!!!!

I did my best to mash things up – not too bad with avocado and banana but hopeless with apple and lettuce.  The result was most unappealing as you can see.