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The Pounamu Prophecy - birth of a book Two women, two cultures and an ancient Maori prophecy that will change their lives. That's the tag line for The Pounamu Prophecy - my first novel. It has been a slow process, interrupted by moving...

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Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol?Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol? The short answer is yes - you can eat mussels if you have high cholesterol. Mussels are low in kilojoules, cholesterol and fat. The little fat they do have is mostly healthy unsaturated fat with plenty...

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Bran MuffinsBran Muffins These bran muffins (adapted from a recipe by Alison Holst) are super filling - a great snack when you are trying to control your weight. Enjoy these muffins with a cup of tea but don't expect to absorb...

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Beat the flu with Chicken Noodle Soup It’s Queen’s Birthday holiday today in New Zealand and thank goodness, the sun is shining. I’m sitting in a sunny room writing this post, sheltered from the icy wind blasting up from Antarctica....

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My nanna's recipe for homemade Rewena (Maori) bread Rewena Bread Step 1 1 c flour 1 tsp sugar 1 potato Peel and cut potato into small pieces. Place in pot with 1 cup water, lid on, and simmer to mashing consistency. Mash, cool and when luke...

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Silk from the Land of Han and cherishing beautiful words

Posted on : 18-05-2017 | By : Cindy | In : Uncategorized

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In my latest novel the main character, Leah, imports exquisite silk from the land of the Han. The Han dynasty spanned four hundred years from 206BC – 220AD and actively traded with the Roman empire along the so-called Silk Road. So on my recent visit to China I was excited to see the ancient Shu style of embossed silk (above) that most likely traveled along the Silk Road, and to visit the Three Gorges Museum to see artifacts from the time of the Han.

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This amazing rhinoceros shaped copper belt hook inlaid with jade caught my eye. Imagine how big you would have to be to wear such a solid thing at your waist! I can imagine it being carried by horse and camel across the treacherous mountains and vast deserts of the Silk Road, being traded for dates, pomegranates, spices or glass and finally ending up resting on the ample girth of a Roman general or senator.

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The language used in the museum displays was fascinating, displaying a fluidity in use of words that made me at times laugh and at other times sigh with delight. Some of the students in my writing workshops used language in the same loosely poetic way. I loved it!

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For centuries the Chinese have valued the written word. So much so that in Chengdu I found an ancient ‘burning tower’ from the Qing dynasty. The inscription read: ‘In ancient times, people cherished every word greatly and all papers with words or drawings shall be burnt in the tower together to show respect.’

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Finally, as we were about to board our flight I found, in the tiny snack shop, Sun Zi’s ‘The Art of War’ printed on silk pages and written in ancient Chinese with English translation! Although written 2500 years ago, it is still today studied throughout the world by both military and business students. My son will be reading it for the wisdom of strategy and leadership while I will be marveling at the ancient words, the beautiful Chinese characters and running my fingers over the silken pages.

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Creative Writing in Chengdu, China

Posted on : 13-05-2017 | By : Cindy | In : Event buzz, Spices, The Pounamu Prophecy, Travelling, Writing

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‘It’s not the child I need to interview, it’s the parents.’ The principal of Beanstalk International Bilingual School in Chengdu had just finished talking to the parents of a prospective student and was now showing me around the campus of the newly opened school, complete with state of the art four hundred metre running track, brand new fifty metre pool, spacious grounds and beautiful classrooms opening into a central garden.

The school follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum which is vastly different to the teaching style of the local Chinese schools. The parents he had just spoken to, wealthy business people, wanted their child to move from the rote learning style of the local school to the more creative teaching style that BIBS offers. Unique to this international school is that it does not require the student to have an international passport and so the majority of students here are local, wealthy Chinese.

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The students were a delight to work with and eager to try out the creative writing exercises I set them. Some of the younger ones struggled to compose a story in English but I could only admire their eagerness to try writing creatively in a foreign language. It was better than I could do!!

With the older group of 14-15 year old boys we discussed historical fiction and the stories they wrote were amazing. I caught the beauty of the Chinese language spilling over into their English stories – poetic, evocative, and with some of the boys, very witty.

So often during this trip to China I heard people lament that the rote learning style produced incredible results for fact learning subjects but it stifled creativity. In this school I saw creativity unleashed, enabling these Chinese students to re-discover the beauty and imagination of this ancient language and culture.

Thank-you to Hugo for inviting me to his school, to Michael the librarian who coordinated everything and all the teachers who introduced me to the delights of the spicy, mouth numbing Sichuan peppercorns and hotpot.

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Spanakopita

Posted on : 28-11-2016 | By : Cindy | In : Uncategorized

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‘Oh no, not the same salad again!’ complained my teenager the other day. ‘Can’t we have something different?’ Obviously he’s been far too spoilt with interesting meals during his childhood and so the past six months of the same old thing every week has taken its toll!!

For these past months my mind has been immersed in first century Samaria as I finished the first draft of my novel. Like running a race, the end is the hardest and I had no creativity left in my brain to expend on something as trivial as interesting dinners. Every week it’s been pretty much the same: Sunday – leftovers and salad, Monday – frozen fish and salad, Tuesday – chicken curry, Wednesday – steak and salad, Thursday – lentil vegetable soup, Friday – Thai takeaway, and then finally to Saturday where at last we had something interesting – Spanakopita.

 

spanakopita-2Every Saturday morning I head off early to the local market to stock up on homemade hummus, labneh, olives, and fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables. Even there I have a set route, racing around to gather what I need before my spin class. Then it’s home for a relaxed coffee and a bagel on the balcony before I finally enter the kitchen for the one meal a week that I actually enjoy spending a bit of time on.

I love pulling out the lush bunches of spinach, dill and mint – all that green makes a dietitian’s heart sing! And knowing that this is a guaranteed way to get my husband to eat spinach only adds to the enjoyment of making this dish. It is very easy: simply pan fry onion and garlic, add the chopped spinach and once wilted, add chopped herbs, eggs and feta. Then pile it into the filo pastry laced with extra virgin olive oil and bake. I serve it with that ‘same’ boring salad of the sweetest grape tomatoes, baby cucumber, avocado and capsicum dressed with plenty of balsamic vinegar. Delicious.

 

 

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1 large onion, finely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 bunches spinach, chopped

1 bunch mint, chopped

1 bunch dill, chopped

2 eggs, beaten

200g feta cheese, crumbled or chopped (I use Dodoni feta)

8 sheets filo pastry

Extra virgin olive oil

 

Gently fry onion and garlic in olive oil until clear. Add spinach and cook on medium heat until wilted. (Don’t over cook or you will lose that lovely green colour.)

Remove from heat and add eggs, mint, dill and feta.

Smear a large baking dish with olive oil. Lay over two sheets of filo. Smear with a little olive oil. Lay over two more sheets.

Pile spinach mixture into dish and top with two more sheets of filo, olive oil and a final two sheets. Smear top with a little olive oil.

Bake at 180C for 40 minutes.

 

Living long, living well in the Blue Zones

Posted on : 13-10-2016 | By : Cindy | In : Aging, Conferences, Event buzz, Insightful perception, Legumes, Uncategorized

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‘You don’t have to believe in God to live a long life but it’s a common feature of the Blue Zones,’ said Associate Professor Tim Crowe. I had never heard of Blue Zones so was really looking forward to the private briefing for nutrition communicators and dietitians at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney this week.

Yes, there was product to promote and yes, we were given a wonderful goodie bag of Be Natural’s new range of whole grain granola cereals and snack bars which my teenager will devour with delight! But the organisers did a great job of informing us through Tim Crowe’s fascinating talk and entertaining us with amazing food displays and even exercise bikes to power blenders to make our own smoothies!

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Blue Zones are pockets of the world where people live especially long and healthy lives. The phrase was coined over ten years ago when Dan Buettner, National Geographic and a group of longevity researchers highlighted these pockets on a map of the world with – you guessed it – blue circles.

What I love about the Blue Zone concept is that they all eat different foods. Some eat lots of tropical fruit, others sourdough bread, red wine and olive oil, and others tofu, turmeric and a bit of fish. There is no one super food or super diet. But there are a few features common to all.

They all eat lots of plant foods – stacks of vegetables as well as protein rich foods such as beans (fava, borlotti, cannellini etc ), chickpeas, lentils, tofu and nuts. In fact around 80% of their food is plant based.

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They do a lot of integrated activity which is a fancy way to say their daily routine involves plenty of movement – walking to get food or see friends, chasing goats up the hillside, gardening. None of the blue zone people do triathlons or go to the gym!

If you ask people in the Blue Zones, ‘Why do you get up in the morning?’ they will have an answer. And it’s not just ‘Because I have to go to work.’ They have a sense of purpose, of being necessary and needed. Imagine if we could give this gift to each of our teenagers and young adults.

Community plays a large role in each of the Blue Zone pockets. Connection and caring for others obviously helps keep you young. According to the Blue Zone philosophy ‘Happy Hour’ is not swilling back as much beer or wine as you can rather it is drinking, usually red wine, with friends or family. It is the social aspect that is so important.

And finally faith. People in each of the Blue Zone pockets have faith and a belief in the spiritual, mostly a belief in God. Research shows that when a person prays, there are positive changes in his or her brain’s activity and the chemicals or neurotransmitters produced. Perhaps this is partly why the Bible says repeatedly to ‘Pray at all times.’ Prayer, and faith it seems, is good for our health.

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So how ‘Blue Zone’ have you been today? Have you eaten some hummus, beans or nuts? Have you filled your bowl or piled your plate with veges? Have you walked to work, the school or the cafe? Or done some gardening? Have you talked to or at least smiled at someone today? Do you have a great reason to jump out of bed tomorrow? Have you stopped and inhaled the fragrance of a flower, gazed at the view or enjoyed the warmth of the sun? Have you said thank you or laughed so hard your belly ached?

If you want to learn more about this latest buzz word, listen to Tim Crowe here on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/thinkingnutrition/videos/1183135265108172/

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