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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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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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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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The Pounamu Prophecy – birth of a book

Posted on : 06-09-2015 | By : Cindy | In : Book reviews, Event buzz, New Zealand, The Pounamu Prophecy

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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 countries several times, childbirth, motherhood, nutrition work and the plain fact that I am a very slow writer!

Writing a first novel is like setting yourself an assignment with no deadline, that likely no-one else is interested in. There is no weekly pay cheque, no emotional massage of ego, and no-one who is interested in listening to your struggles over character, perspective or plot. It wasn’t until I joined a writer’s group that the gestation of The Pounamu Prophecy started to pick up pace. A good writer’s group is a ‘god-send’ and I would never have finished this book without the encouragement and brutal honesty of my writer’s group. They do not let me get away with anything!

Everything about this book has been slow. The title, as I mentioned in a previous post, changed four times. The cover also took months of back and forth design options and a couple of mad dashes up to the point above Mission Bay in Auckland to get the perfect photo. Early one morning, after dropping my husband at the airport for a 6am flight, I had driven up to the point and taken some shots with my iPhone in the hope that they might work as a cover design. The publisher liked them and asked for a high res photo but I had already left Auckland. I desperately called my brother, asking him to take the picture at the same time and in the same place that I had stood. In between ward rounds, an exam and a four hour drive, he managed to do it and I am eternally grateful. In the end, the publisher miracuously found the same shot on Getty Images and that is what is on the cover.

The Pounamu Prophecy owes its existence to many people: the writing group, my brother, Rhiza Press for editing out all the cringe-worthy stuff, the other publishers who sent the most encouraging comments along with their answer of ‘No’, the elders at Ngati Whatua who graciously answered all my questions, my father-in-law who guided me in all things Maori, my husband and sister-in-law for the beautiful face on the cover, and my other sister-in-law for the title-inspiring gin and tonics on a balcony in Bangkok!

The Pounamu Prophecy comes out in October with an author talk/launch at Balmain Library, Sydney on 12 November. I hope and pray that those who read it will be encouraged, inspired and entertained.

Kia hora te marino, kia whakapapa pounamu te moana, kia tere te karohirohi. May the calm be widespread, may the surface of the ocean glisten like greenstone and may the shimmer of summer dance across your path forever.

What do dietitians really eat?

Posted on : 02-09-2012 | By : Cindy | In : Event buzz

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This week almost two thousand dietitians from around the world will converge on Darling Harbour in Sydney for the International Congress of Dietitians. The fascinating topic of healthy eating will be prodded and poked from all angles. There will be tweet-ups for the bloggers (#icd2012), cook-ups for the foodies and likely a few hiccups for those who linger too long at the social events.

Experts  in diabetes, gut problems, food intolerance and every other nutrition related issue will discuss and debate the latest research. A quick flick through the conference program reveals such interesting talks as “What helps people who lose weight keep it off for good”, “SPF on your plate – the new nutrition paradigm of complementary sun protection”, “Nutrigenomics”, “The low FODMAP diet”, “Will www make dietitians redundant?” and “Solutions to boost children’s calcium intake”.

But it’s the conference food that I am most interested in. What do you feed the healthy eating elite of the world? Will we see truck loads of carrots descending on Darling Harbour? I doubt it. Dietitians are not all super skinny exercise fanatics – although we do attract rather a few. This week I will be taking my camera as well as my notebook to let you in on one of the big secrets of the world – what do dietitians really eat?

Meanwhile as a special Father’s Day treat I have just made lemon meringue pie – not exactly healthy but at least it has eggs and lemons in it!

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