A Re-Examined Life

Canberra girl’s mission to live a more natural, sustainable life.


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A bunch of really useful ways to use Manuka Honey

This week I am blessed with cold sores, and when I say cold soreS I do mean the plural.  Half of my bottom lip is covered in them.  Yep, it’s pretty gross, but I actually don’t mind having them all that much as I figure it is far better for the stuff that is coming out of them, to be coming out of me, than it is for it to be staying inside of me.

But today I am not writing today to tell you how gross I am, but to sing the praises of Manuka Honey.

(A side note, for any fellow Canberra’s who might not already know, Manuka honey is pronounced Man-oo-ka, not like the suburb Manuka. I find I have far more credibility when it comes encouraging people to use it now that I am pronouncing it correctly 🙂 ).

Manuka honey is made from the nectar of the Manuka flowers which are native to New Zealand.  All honey contains antibacterial compounds and you can read a detailed article about what makes honey antibacterial at WebMD , but basically Manuka honey contains an extra compound called methylglyoxal (it makes me feel smarter writing about this stuff) which is specific to the Manuka flower nectar, and provides a higher level of antibacterial power.

Not all Manuka honey is created equal as the levels of antibacterial compounds vary, and some honey is more medicinal than others.  Luckily, for those of us who dont know how to tell the difference, an index has been created to identify the level of medicinalness of the honey.  The rating is called UMF which stands for Unique Manuka Factor, and the higher the number the more medicinal it is.  It is thought that the honey needs to have an UMF rating of at least 10 to have be used therapeutically.

Here is a handy table I found on the Dr Josh Axe’s Website.  

So that leads me back to my cold sores.  I find Manuka honey amazing for treating my cold sores.

From my perspective, the main challenge with cold sores (well aside from the uncomfortableness of talking to  people as they either seem to stare right at them, or avoid looking at you completely), is how much they hurt and how long they to stick around.  Mine always hurt a lot and tend to stick around for 7 – 14 days.

I have been using Manuka honey 16+, and it gets rid of the pain the second it touches my skin.  It also significantly reduces the time amount of time they (they colds sores) spend living on your lips. If you manage to get some on at the time where the cold sore is just starting, (and those of you who get them will know exactly what I am talking about here, it’s that itchy burning feeling you get) it can really reduce the length of time it hangs around. I have even had one time where I applied the honey to the burning itchiness and the colds sore didn’t come to life.  But more commonly I find that they tend to be mostly cleared up in about 3 – 4 days which is an impressive improvement on the 7 – 14 days.

You can use Manuka Honey on any kind of skin issue, the only thing limiting you is managing the stickiness of the situation – it is honey, so it is sticky.

Here are some of the ways I use Manuka honey:

  • I use it on my son’s mosquito bites and it always stops them from itching and bothering him (I don’t use it on my own mosquito bites because I don’t get bitten by mosquitoes, lucky me!)
  • I use it when my poor feet get cracks in them  (which is quite often during summer), it stops them hurting and they heal much faster.
  • I use it on my 16 year olds eczema, (when is in a mood to allow honey on his skin, which is a lot less often since he became 16) and it heals a lot faster.
  • Last month I had a splinter which caused an infection on the side of my foot, it was red, swollen and quite hot.  I put Manuka honey on it and covered it with a bandaid, changed the dressing every day for 4 days and by the 5th day the infection had gone.

But you are not limited to using Manuka honey outside your body, there is evidence to suggest there are benefits for inside your body too.

Dr Josh Axe has his top 10 Manuka Honey benefits which include:

  • Digestive issues such as acid reflux
  • Acne & Eczema
  • Staph Infections
  • Burns, wounds and ulcers
  • Tooth Decay & Gingivitis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)  and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Sore Throats and Immunity
  • Allergies and Sinusitis
  • Beauty Treatment & Health Booster
  • Improves sleep

I’m sure there are more than a bunch of ways you can use Manuka honey and I just don’t know about them yet.  What do you use Manuka honey for?

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Make it From Scratch – Apple Oat Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

 

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When I made the decision to remove sugar from my diet last year, at no point did I ever consider giving up desserts or sweet foods.  I don’t have A sweet tooth, my whole mouth is full of them. For me, the main course is simply a formality to get to the real main event, and I have never understood why people want to order an entrée as this simply increases the amount of waiting time before eating dessert.

So when giving up sugar I immediately took to finding recipes for delicious sugar-free sweet things,  and I found plenty.  In fact there is one particular recipe that is hands down the tastiest dessert I have ever tried, but I’m going to keep you hanging and give you that recipe another time :).

At this point I should probably clarify my use of the word sugar. I haven’t actually given up sugar, I have given up refined sugar. Refined sugar is the sugar that is mostly used in processed foods and eating-out type establishments.

The list of sweeteners below are all highly processed:

  • Cane sugar – white sugar, raw and brown.
  • icing sugar,
  • maple flavoured syrup
  • honey (if it is not cold extracted)
  • brown rice syrup (also called rice malt syrup)
  • dextrose
  • molasses (this is actually the byproduct of refining sugar)
  • fructose (unless you are just eating it in a piece of fruit)
  • agave syrup
  • maltose
  • and of course high-fructose corn syrup
  • Splenda (this artificial sweetener/chemical has is actually a processed form of sugar)

Refined sugar is not your friend. There are so many reasons why refined sugar is not your friend, but today the main event of this blog is the desert recipe below (and I am as keen to get there as I would be if I was eating it), so I am going to keep this part brief.  But basically unrefined sugars, that is sugars the way nature made them, contain nutrients which enable our body to process them.  Refined sugars do not, and this means that in order for your body to process them it has to draw on the ones that are already in your body, and your body doesn’t keep some spare vitamins and minerals lying around the place just in case you eat some food that is missing some, and so it has to take them from other parts of your body that are actually using them, need them. If you do this to your body every day (and keep in mind that, maybe apart from fresh produce, the majority of foods you purchase from the supermarket will have some form of refined sugar in them), this will totally mess with the balance of your whole body, and unbalanced bodies have a hard time coping.  Coping-less bodies result in us feeling unwell.

In many cases refined sugars are so far refined they have become chemicals (high-fructose corn syrup and splenda are two examples), so your body doesn’t even know what to do with them.  There are many experts who believe that sugar is the greatest threat to human health.

Well on that happy note I’m going to leave that there today, but I will undoubtedly be talking a lot more about sugar.  If you want to read some now, here is a comprehensive  article from the Global Healing Centre Website on the impact of refined sugars on our health.

But luckily nature has provided us with plenty of sugar so we can make plenty of sweet food options that our body can deal with. (although we probably shouldn’t make plenty, just sometimes as even though natural sugars contain the nutrients to help us metabolise them, sugar is still sugar and moderation is a good idea.  If you eat too much you will probably end up wishing you hadn’t 🙂 ).

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So here is a list of the unrefined sugars I use.

  • Dates (did you know that you can make caramel from dates? And I’m not talking about a some kind of healthy caramel option that doesn’t really taste like caramel, I mean proper caramel. I’m think I’m going to dedicate an entire blog to caramel recipes made from dates)
  • Coconut sugar
  • Evaporated cane sugar
  • 100% pure maple syrup
  • Organic, cold-extracted honey

After making my fair share of refined-sugar-free sweet treats I realised that you can pretty much take any recipe and adapt the ingredients to be much healthier and to exclude refined sugar.

With substituting sweeteners the basic principles are:

  • Coconut sugar and evaporated cane sugar have 1:1 ratio with sugar
  • Honey is sweeter than sugar and has a stronger flavour so you want to use about 3/4 the amount of honey, so if the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar  you can substitute it with 3/4 cup of honey.  For baking you also want to reduce your other liquids by about 2 tablespoons for 3/4 cup of honey.
  • Maple syrup I use 1:1 ratio too, and for baking you will need to reduce your other liquids by about 3 tablespoons for every cup of maple syrup.

You can also substitute other ingredients to make things a bit healthier or to meet dietary requirements.

Below is the apple cake recipe I found on food.com

  • 1 Cup plain flour
  • 1⁄3 cup rolled oats
  • 1⁄3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons natural set low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1⁄3 cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 small eggs (or 1 jumbo one)
  • 500 g red apples, peeled cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • vegetable oil cooking spray

And here is what I ended up making

  • 1 Cup organic wholemeal spelt  flour
  • 1⁄3 cup organic rolled oats
  • 1⁄4 cup organic honey
  • 1 teaspoon organic cinnamon (yep I got me some organic cinnamon, it’s very good)
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 pinch Himalayan pink salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 1 small containers of organic apple and berry puree (Woolies sell these now)
  • 1 teaspoon of organic vanilla essence (this is homemade – I’ll pass that recipe on soon)
  • 2 small eggs (or 1 jumbo one) – organic
  • 500 g green apples, peeled cored and diced

To make the cake you combine all the dry ingredients into a bowl and then stir in the wet ingredients, folding in the apples at the end.  Bake at 180 degrees celsius for around 30 minutes.  Easy.

Here’s my little beauty.

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This cake is delicious, it tastes like apple crumble, and the original recipe actually has an crumble topping you can make, but if you read the title of this blog you already know I put cream cheese icing on mine.  This cream cheese icing is super simple, and I also reckon it is the tastiest around which is why I just had to put it on this cake.

Cream Cheese Icing recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tub of cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon + honey

You just mix the 2 ingredients together until you have yummy creamy icing.  Start out with the tablespoon of honey and then just keep tasting it till it’s just right, but be very careful not to “taste” the lot you could absolutely eat this icing on its own with a spoon. It is that good.

And here she is with icing (a slice may or may not have been eaten prematurely due to amazing smells produced whilst baking).

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I have also made this icing with just maple syrup, and also with maple syrup and cocoa.  All of them equally delicious.

I am always on the lookout for new refined-sugar recipes so post your favourites in the comments below  for me 🙂


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Keep it Clean 2015 – Make it from Scratch Fabric Spray

When I was born I missed out on the cleaning gene. That’s the gene that provides you with a natural instinct to clean. Both my sister and brother managed to get the gene, but not me.

People with this gene (or the natural-born cleaners as I like to call them) are those people who see something on the floor and are overcome with the compulsion to pick it up. They are the kind of people who come to your house and start organising the stuff on your kitchen bench.  I am not one of these people.

When I was younger (and my lack of cleaning ability was clear from a very young age) I didn’t even think about cleaning much at all, and could happily exist amongst a decent amount of messiness, but as I am getting older I am developing quite a dislike for mess and much prefer to be living amongst cleanliness and tidiness.  I figure this is probably due to living around natural-born cleaners for the last 30-something(ish) years. It’s finally rubbing off on me, the nature part of the whole nature vs nurture thing.

But up till now my cleaning style definitely leaves a lot to be desired. I’m a part-time, do-the-bare-minimum type of cleaner, yet I feel like I am forever cleaning, but I never have a clean house.

Every year on my Christmas break I follow a strict routine of serious house cleaning so I can start the year on a good note, but it doesn’t take long for the the messiness to creep back in once I am back at work.

It was my brother who first used the phrase “Clean 2015” when he was showing me around his previously-very-clean-but-now-minimalist-and-somehow-even-cleaner apartment.  I love a catch-phrase and I also like setting myself little challenges so I decided to give myself the catch-phrase and challenge of “keep it clean 2015” and try to maintain my clean house for the whole year.

There are plenty of natural-born cleaners writing blogs and I had come across them previously but always been a little afraid of them. The level of organised some of these ladies are at is astounding.  But I figured if I want to keep my house clean I need some help from the experts.  I found the help I was looking for in a concept called “speed cleaning.  There are stacks of books and blogs and information around on speed cleaning, and lots of different ways of going about it. But the general concept is that it is quicker to maintain a clean house than it is to clean a dirty house, and that by having a structured plan for your cleaning you will waste less time and get through it faster.

I read through what a few people are doing, but the one I liked best for me I found on the Living Well Spending Less website. Basically I now spend about 30 minutes each morning doing some serious cleaning, but because of the structured way of going about it, you get a lot done in 30 minutes.  (I now realise that I used to spend a lot my “cleaning” time aimlessly wandering from room to room putting things away, but not anymore, I am structured and organised and speedy).

Every single day, in addition to tidying in every room, I dust, I clean the toilet, bath and shower, and I clean the floors.  I know, it sounds crazy. But even crazier that that, is that every single day I have a clean house.  Yep, crazy!

And then the added bonus – because I am keeping the house clean during the week, it no longer takes me 3 hours to clean on a Saturday morning.  Awesome.  Seriously, speed cleaning has changed my life.

Me pre-speed-cleaning

Me speed cleaning.

My favourite part of my new cleaning routine (favourite part of cleaning? like I said – life. changed.) is that I end up with a fantastic smelling house with the help of my homemade fabric spray.  I love my house smelling nice and fragrancy, but I want some fragrance without any chemical fragrance.  So I started making a homemade fabric spray and I spray it everywhere. I spray it on beds, blinds, towels, couches, table-cloth, basically anything that has fabric on it, and the result is a house that smells fabulous.

Here is how I make this very simple fabric spray.

Homemade Fabric Spray Recipe

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Ingredients:

Spray bottle

Rubbing alcohol

essential oils

water

What to do:

Pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol into the bottom of the spray bottle, just enough to cover the bottom.  Then add around 40 drops of essential oil (see note below) and give it a good shake to mix the essential oils and alcohol together.

Then pour enough water to fill the spray bottle to about 3/4 full and give it another good shake.  You are done.

Give it a good shake each time you use it.  I use mine every day.

Note on essential oils.  You can make this with any combination of essential oils you like.  The first time I made this as a lavender spray (that is the picture above, I gave some as presents for Christmas),so I used 40 drops of lavender essential. The next time I made it with 20 drops of neroli combined with 20 drops of grapefruit, and at the moment i am using one which I combined  20 drops of geranium and 20 drops of orange.