Author Archives: Starr

About Starr

I am a Mum, Wife, Daughter, Sister and Aunt; I cook, clean, garden, write, dream, imagine, create, and care.

How to make real vanilla extract

Vanilla Extract (Recipe)

I never realised that Vanilla Extract was a simple herbal tincture/extract until I visited this site a couple of years ago. How to make real vanilla extract in time for the holidays | Chef and Steward.

Here’s the instructions for Real Vanilla Extract

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 6 Vanilla beans
  • About 1 cup Alcohol  (like vodka or brandy but you may substitute this with Rum as they do at Chef and Steward, but I think the taste is too strong),
  • A sterilized airtight jar (about 500ml size)

Method:

Split the Vanilla bean lengthwise down the centre with a sharp knife leaving about 1cm still joined.

Pour the alcohol into the jar and add the split vanilla beans, making sure to fully immerse them and then seal the jar tightly.6 Vanilla Beans

Grab a label or a piece of sticky tape and label the jar (include the date of production).

(And don’t think you will remember the day you did this because you won’t)

Place the jar in a dark place for about two months, shaking the bottle several times a week. (Be sure to shake it at least once per week)

The extract will probably smell like vanilla within a few days and you can use it in two weeks if you really need too.

You don’t need to remove the vanilla beans and if you like you can make a vanilla paste by placing the vanilla beans in a blender with a little of the infused alcohol until the paste is a consistency you like

Vanilla beans need to be cured proper...

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera plant

Image via Wikipedia

Aloe Vera is a common garden plant with almost miraculous healing properties. DNA testing suggests it probably originated in Sudan and Yemen and records indicate the aloe was used in that area in medicinal preparations for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians called it the ‘plant of immortality’, legend has it that Queen Nefertiti, and Cleopatra relied on Aloe Vera to maintain their youth by drinking and bathing in the juice. Alexander the Great used large amounts of it to heal his soldiers.

The plant was introduced into Europe and China in the 1700’s and has since established itself in every dry arid region in the world. Today it grows wild in the Arab Peninsula, Africa, Australia, US and Asia. In other parts, it requires special care and attention during the winter but still grow well.

Most of us are aware that Aloe Vera is regarded as the best treatment for burns and sunburn. Cut the leaves from the plant, remove the green outer skin to reveal a clear inner gel, which is then applied directly to the burn. For large burns, blend the flesh to produce a smooth gel that is easier to apply.

Researchers at the University of Texas say that Aloe penetrates seven layers of tissue and reaches the deepest parts of the body. They also report that when used externally it absorbs into the skin four times faster than water.

Externally, the gel is good for all skin problems, is safe to use on babies and pregnant mothers, and makes a great nappy rash treatment. Internally, herbalists recommend taking an infusion or juice daily as a general tonic and immunity booster.

To make an infusion, cut 1 or 2 large leaves and allow to stand until the yellow sap to drains. Cut the leaves into 2cm chunks and place the pieces into 500ml jars, filling the jars about one third. Fill the jars with cold water and put them in the refrigerator. Leave too steep for about eight hours. Take ½ glass first thing in the morning, before meals and at bedtime or anytime you feel thirsty. After draining the infusion from a jar, refill the jar with water. Discard after 10-12 days or if fermented.

To prepare a 100% juice you need to stabilise it with vitamin C. Pick large leaves, remove the skin, rinse the yellow sap off with water and place the gel in a blender on low speed. For 3 cups of gel, add 1 teaspoon of vitamin C powder. Store the gel in the refrigerator. Take 2-5 tablespoons daily, mixed with water or fruit juice. The pure juice is the most effective way to obtain the medicinal benefits of aloe.

Looking back…

Ten years ago, our life was very different. We lived in the city, owned a new home in a busy suburb and sent our children to a private school. We had short-term goals, long-term plans, and a list of stuff we planned to purchase over the next few years. We were busy, stressed and burnt out.

Thinking about it now, it feels like I am looking back on someone else’s life. It’s so different to the life we live now that I would have trouble convincing you that we are even the same family.

However, it’s more than just the things we do or where we live. Sure, we live in a small country town and the kids go to a public school, our goals are different and there is no long-term plan and no list of stuff, but it’s more than that.

We are different because we think differently; we believe different things and we’ve changed the rules that guide our lives. My family may not agree, but as the mother, I am in a position to see these changes and direct the change toward a positive outcome if necessary.

Fortunately, it wasn’t necessary.

Even from this unique position, I know the biggest changes happened without me even noticing. I didn’t notice because I was too busy. Even after moving away from the city, we were able to maintain the busyness and the stress for quite some time.

Today, I see a family that has a better understanding of what’s important in life and we are satisfied with a simpler approach. We are more relaxed and less stressed. The funny thing is that life did this to us; it was never a choice that we made willingly. Even in the beginning, it wasn’t a choice to move to the country, it was a reaction to a situation.

To be honest, life dragged us in to the future, sometimes we kicked and screamed, often we resisted and we refused to go calmly. But the point is, we are exactly where we’re meant to be.

Life isn’t perfect but it is so much better than it was 10 years ago.

Comfrey

Comfrey has been used and trusted as both a food plant and a medicinal plant for over 2000 years. In the late 1970’s, Comfrey fell into disrepute and was listed as a dangerous poison in 1984. These days, Comfrey is mainly used in organic farming as a fertilizer and soil improver.

The truth about comfrey and its history is quite interesting and no plant has ever suffered the same treatment by authorities. The Australian poison listing followed an overseas study on baby rats. The rats were injected with pyrrolidine alkaloids, a chemical found in Comfrey. The report stated that the rats eventually developed liver failure or died.

Over the years, the truth about the study has been revealed, or at least part of the truth, but the listing has never been removed. In the original study, the alkaloid was injected into 28 baby rats every day for 600 days and at the end of the study, one rat had developed one liver tumour. A human would need to ingest 19,888 leaves for 16 years to obtain a comparative dose or consume 5 to 6 leaves everyday for 150 years. No human has ever developed liver tumours from consuming Comfrey.

Most of the original study was never released and the reasons behind the campaign to ban comfrey may never be known, but the fear remains, and its use in society is limited. Recent studies have discovered many benefits of using comfrey, both internally and externally, with no side effects.

Comfrey is high in Allantoin, an important ingredient in commercial skin treatments, moisturisers and anti aging preparations. All skin conditions, including bruises, boils, cuts, grazed, insect bites, varicose veins and muscle pain will benefit from applications of comfrey. Poultices and ointments are said to halve the healing time when applied to broken bones, tendon damage and bad backs.

Decoctions and infused oils, made from the leaves and roots, are the basis for many external preparations. Make a strong tea and apply it as a simple wash or add it to your bath water.

The listed benefits for internal use are extensive, but if you choose to take it internally, you should investigate comfrey for yourself.

To grow comfrey,   take a root cutting anytime of the year and plant it about 5cm beneath the soil surface. The plant likes moist compost rich soil and loves cow manure tossed around the surface. In dry period, make sure your comfrey gets plenty of water, as they hate to dry out.

Organic gardeners can use the leaves in the compost or make a nutrient rich tea to apply as a liquid fertiliser. The leaves are safe to feed to livestock and are an excellent green feed for poultry.

Although it is against the law to sell comfrey preparations for medicinal internal use, they have not banned growing the plant. Comfrey makes my list as a ‘must grow plant’ in your garden, I recommend planting comfrey and learning to make your own creams, ointments and poultices.

I will post links to research data shortly.

Hello world!

I guess the phrase Hello World! is as good as any for the first post on a blog site and at the moment I can’t think of anything better.

This blog has been created as an outlet for my writing, a way to share the research and as an accessory to other articles I write. Some of my articles are published in a local newspaper but there is never enough space within the word limits set by my editor to say all I need to say or want to say.

People who read the paper often ask questions about something I have written or request more information, so this blog will help to share this information easily and provide updates when I need to. Hopefully, I will gather some feedback and learn what others are doing to change their lives.

This blog will also allow readers to follow the links and continue to research the topics themselves if they want too or simply check the details of something I have said.

However, this is not about what I have already written nor is it limited to discussions related to the published articles. It’s about the need to share and to encourage others to learn new skills and simplify their lives.

I believe our creative ability sets us apart from other species, not our intelligence nor our nifty thumbs. This creative ability enables us to see beauty, be grateful for the simple things in life and it allows us to discover solutions to problems.

I also believe the secret to happiness is found in simple pleasures. However, were not taught these things and often we are so caught in the frantic energy of life that we forget what happiness even feels like.

So that’s what Creating Avalon is about, discovering happiness, rediscovering our creative energy and developing creative abilities so we can lead a simple more fulfilling life.

Creating Avalon almost became Finding Eden and either name would have suited the theme perfectly, but Avalon was a society while Eden was a garden. Either myth or story could lead us down a similar path but perhaps Avalon invokes the ideas of family, friendship and society more fully and allows me to expand on my image of Avalon.

If you found your way here, Welcome, enjoy the journey and let me know what you are doing on your own journey toward a simple life.