The Teacup Chronicles

Month: February, 2011

Inspiration Short #15: Do a media fast

It really alarms me when I take a moment to reflect on how much of my life is spent in front of a computer or television. Not that all the time spent engaged in such activities has been bad – I love a good movie as much as anyone, and who can deny that the computer allows us access to so much great information and such a huge community of people? But honestly, I think I could really do without all those hours looking at other people’s pictures and lives on Facebook, or googling such and such just because I am bored. Just imagine how those minutes add up – I probably could’ve written the novel I’m always thinking about in that time!

I was just such reflecting that led my husband and myself to decide to pull the plug on our television and computers this past week (or at least using the computer ONLY for work and research). The first night,  I drove home from work thinking of how I could use a good laugh – and then felt just the slightest rise of panic when I realized there would be no Seinfeld DVDs or Monty Python to pull me through. We aren’t television addicts by any means in our house – days often pass where the TV sits collecting dust – but we use it enough that it was a crutch and a coping mechanism for unwinding and de-stressing at the end of hard days, and the absence was surely felt.

So what to do when there is no prospect of zoning out for some semi-mindless entertainment? Well, we got a pile of books from the library and began reading to each other in the evening (Sherlock Holmes in fact! – very suspenseful, I was in no want of entertainment with that). I worked on my knitting (a scarf that has been nearly two years in the making now), took long hot baths, and wrote in my journal. Suddenly I found I was doing all those little things that normally I told myself I didn’t have time for. Indeed I was amazed at how much extra time I had! I felt less stressed, slightly sharper in my wits and processed a sense of inner calm. Life felt somehow simpler.

Today our fast ends, but I can’t say that I’m in a rush to turn the TV back on, or log into my Facebook account. I’ve come to enjoy the extra time I have – the sense of quiet and clear-headedness – the gentle notion of being present in my own life. And, I just can’t wait to find out what happens next in dear old 221B Baker street…

So, from trying it myself, I urge you all to try it too. Hide the remote, unplug the television, cover it with a sheet – whatever you have to do – and use the computer only for the most pertinent work related activities (no YouTube, Facebook or shoe shopping allowed). Avoid the news on the radio, and just be in your life and nowhere else. I think you’ll find that the latest bomb explosion, the status updates on Facebook or the latest episode of your favorite show are really not that important after all.

Dulse and pumpkin seed oatcakes

Oats have always been one of my favorite foods. Perhaps it is the trickle of Northern European blood running through my veins that does it, but they are just so wholesome and satisfying that I feel I could live on them and nothing else if I had to.  There is nothing very exciting about them –  in taste and appearance both they might be called “bland” – but they just make me feel…well, nourished. They are sustaining, nourishing and stick to your ribs kind of good. They are the homely staple of the pantry.

And I don’t have to tell you how wonderful oats  are for your health. Their stick to the ribs quality comes from their high fat content (the highest of any grain), making them a wonderful cold weather food.  They are also high in protein (13 grams per half cup); B vitamins;  minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and manganese, and have a small amount of omega 3 fatty acids. All this and they are also a great source of fiber. They nourish the nervous system, support healthy cholesterol levels and are thought of by some as possessing the same balancing, stress normalizing effects as many adaptogenic herbs. They are balancing both to those of a dry, depleted constitution or those who have an excess of heat and inflammation.

My second favorite way to prepare oats, aside from maybe oatmeal custard, is to make those delectably wholesome little crackers that the Scots love so much: the oatcake. The oatcake is your canvas – you can leave it plain as day and celebrate its unpretentious charm, or you can jazz it up with all manner of stylings.  Paired with a little crystallized ginger and lemon zest, and you have a lovely little nibbler for your tea. But my latest favorite is the dulse and pumpkin seed combo – a nutrient rich pair that seem to figure prominently in my savory snacking, if I do recall (popcorn anyone?). The trio works some kind of umami magic together in the mouth – the perfect symphony of crunch, salty, nutty and hearty. You hardly need the slab of cheddar or slather of nut butter to top it – though I would highly recommend it.

Dulse and Pumpkin Seed Oatcakes


1 1/4 cups oat groats

1 1/4 cups rolled oats

1/8 cup dulse flakes (or other seaweed, broken into small pieces)

1 handful pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted in a dry pan

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup just boiled water


1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking trays with parchment paper (or lightly dust with flour).

2. Grind the oat groats in a coffee grinder until you have a somewhat coarse meal.

3. Mix all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, then make a well in the center and add the olive oil and a good splash of water. Continue adding in water until you have a firm (not sticky) dough. If the dough is too sticky, simply add more ground oats.

4. Form the dough into a ball, and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. Then roll it out on a floured surface to a 1/4 inch thickness.

5. Cut out discs with a cookie cutter, and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, then turn and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bottom.

6. Cool on a rack, and then store in an airtight container. Enjoy topped with cheese, nut butter, hummus, sardines, pesto….the list goes on.

And remember, though Samual Johnson, in his English dictionary, defined oats as “A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people” – any Scotsman would tell you that, while England is noted for its excellence of horses; Scotland is noted for the excellence of her men.

Gems from the Herbal Library

After reading through all the lovely posts for the blog party, I’m starting to have regrets about choosing this topic: I’m sure to go into debt after being introduced to so many wonderful and intriguing books that I’m now lusting to add to my collection! There are indeed many treasures to be found in each of our libraries – some shared by many, some rare and unique, and all well-loved and cherished by their owners. Hope you enjoy reading about one another’s library treasures – and please note, I bear no responsibility for any debt or extreme book lusting caused by the reading of these posts 🙂

Brigitte at My Herb Corner shared a list of favorites old and new. She introduces us to some of the first German herbals that set her passion for herbs alight as a child in Austria. There are also New Zealand field guides and Southern Hemisphere based herbals that helped her connect to the flora of the Southern Hemisphere when it became her home many years ago. She lists some of her favorite reference books, and introduces a few of her newest favorites, which she describes with such passion and zest you can hardly wait to add them to your collection. There is surely something here to grab the hearts of everyone. Read her post here.

Lucinda over at Whispering Earth posted a feast for the eyes on her favorite illustrated herbals.  As Lucinda says, “Sometimes, reading reams of research material and the like can begin to sap the joy from our herbal learning and it’s easy to forget the simple pleasures of gazing on a wild plant or a herb in our gardens.” As the winter makes that impossible for many of us, Lucida has found beautifully illustrated herbals to be a good substitute in the wintry months.  Her post is chocked with vibrant, beautiful books that truly do re-kindle the joy and excitement that comes from simply admiring the beauty of our plant friends. Read the post here. She also wrote a post just before the blog party began about some of her favorite inspiring books for the last days of winter which is also well worth a read – find that here.

Celia from Dandelion Revolution found as I did that narrowing down the list of her favorites for the confines of a blog post was not easy – which is actually quite lucky for us because she introduces so many wonderful books in her post. She reveals that the books of notes from past herb conferences are some of her favorites – great reference material with loads of practical information.  She  lists some her favorites for understanding the essence of herbs;  introduces books for the Inner Goddess and Healer; tells of some wonderful books on women’s health and a few of her best quick reference books. She finishes with some extremely enticing looking books on Chinese Medicine, which she says helped her to understand, “more about energetics than 8 years of studying Western herbalism and 4 months of formal Chinese medicine education, combined,” after just reading the entry on 1 herb! Read about them all here.

Lusach over at Wild*Crafty took a different angle on the theme, and wrote  an in depth and beautifully written book review on Eco Colour, a book on dying with natural plant pigments written by natural dye artist India Flint. As Lusach says, “When I was young, like many of that age I loved dyeing clothing. There was a magic in the transformation of an old favourite or a new opshop find simply by immersing it in coloured water.” As she grew older and learned of the environmental and health consequences of many common dyes, she yearned to learn how to use the natural dyes that our ancestors once used to color their clothing. She found just what she was looking for in India Flint’s beautiful masterpiece – a book that satisfies Lusach’s passions for low impact and bioregional living. Read her inspiring account of this book here.

Debs of Herbaholic’s Herbarium takes us on a wonderful chronological journey, beginning with her oldest herb book, Flower Land by Robert Fisher, written 1889, which she quotes this great line from, “As we walk along I can tell you what it is to be a botanist. It is to know about plants” – which as Debs points out, must make all us herbwyfe’s botanists too!  Then on to The Ladybird Book of British Wildflowers, a book that caught her imagination at just 5 years old, all the way to the present which finds her with over 500 books! She truly has a remarkable collection and introduces us to some great selections in her post. You can read it here, and be sure to check out part 2 as well.

Ali over at Eldrum Musings wrote a fantastic post about her favorite books with a slant towards those of myth, lore, magic and spirit. She includes such gems as Brighid’s Healing by Gina McGarry- a truly delightful sounding book full of spiritual connections, recipes, and earth-based wisdom.   The Master Book of Herbal Medicine by Paul Beyerl, which includes myth, lore, legend, magical and medicinal uses of many herbs, but also “astrological associations with various plants and their meanings.”   A Women’s Book of Herbs by Elizabeth Brooke is, “detailed and fascinating, with plenty of recipes, tidbits of lore and emotional indications for various herbs,” while The Celtic Wisdom of Trees (I’d buy this one just from the name!) follows the Celtic tree year with “gorgeous photography” and “medicinal, magical and emotional uses” for each tree. Read more here.

And on my post I share some of my earliest herbals that are still favorites; some books that I value extensively for my clinical work; books that allow one to know an herb as intimately as an old friend; and some books simply for the fun of it: witchcraft medicine, tree mythology and a beautifully photographed botanica of North America.

Thank you all for these wonderful posts with so many fantastic book selections. I can hardly wait to add some of these great gems to my library!