Avoid the cost of a gluten-free diet

I often consult the Internet to find information about foods and their status as gluten-free or not. Today I came across the About.Com website information and was impressed.

I started with viewing the video: How to Limit Gluten-Free Food Costs. Okay – I probably know much of what it said there. I do read the labels, make my own gluten-free products where possible, buy fruit and vegetables, but sometimes I really want to ‘break-out’ without piling on the sugars and carbohydrates.

The hardest thing to find, in my opinion, is gluten-free, low sugar snacks. Parents of children who have celiac disease must be especially challenged. So I ventured into their page on coping with children who are gluten-intolerant. Lots of recommendations for recipes, including a book or two. One I decided to buy was: Gluten Free in Five Minutes. These are quick and easy recipes for muffins, cakes and breads that can be put together in five minutes.

My hope is that in buying it I will be able to whip up a treat for the times when others around me are about to sit down to something gluten-filled. Or those other times when my “won’t power” is under-charged.

Later I went onto the website Wheat-free.org and checked out a range of gluten-free foods including chocolate. I found out that in the Cadbury range Fry’s Turkish Delight (one of my favourites) is wheat and gluten-free. I worked out that if I cut a bar up into six pieces I would be eating less than 5g of sugar in each piece. The challenge for me would be not to eat all six on the same day!

Really interesting fact I found out is that if you are life-threatenly affected by gluten (celiac disease) even ingesting a crumb of gluten toast bread can make you sick. To quote Jane Anderson on About.Com: “In order to make that used toaster safe, you’d have to remove the wire racks … (and) get rid of all those left-over crumbs, especially those lodged in the spring mechanism that pops up the bread once it’s toasted. But you can’t take the toaster apart … However, you ( a celiac) can’t live with those crumbs … you’ll most likely get really sick if you ingest just one.” Never considered that! It’s the equivalent of what is called on labels “made on a production line where gluten products are produced.”

Food for thought, indeed!

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Kindle eBooks author.



How memory alters our points of view

I had an amazing experience a couple of days before I turned 65. I was able to revisit the place where I had my first real job. I was also able to get some perspective on the place, which felt so much smaller than it did when I was 18 and launching into adulthood.

Glenhope Swing Bridge

Above: It was cross the river on horseback or via
the swing bridge – now in total disrepair.

Most of us have experienced the total surprise of revisiting a childhood space and realising how small it is in comparison to the memory. I was, however, a little surprised to find that effect occurring from a memory first formed at 18 years of age. My point-of-eye-view now would be from pretty much the same height as the eyes in my 18 year-old face, yet was I still surprised at how small the area seemed now compared to when I spent that formative year teaching school-aged children.

Leaving home

Perhaps my belief in the enormity of the place came from the enormity of leaving home and taking on my first job. Perhaps such life-changing events bore themselves into minds hungry for new experiences. We want to find out about everything and the experiences are etched onto a very large blank canvas.

My change or perspective on my return last weekend started me thinking about our perceptions and how they probably change throughout our lives without us even noticing.

So someone who was adamantly opposed to something in their youth may go through incremental changes in their attitude as life exposes them to new ideas. Then 10, 20 or 30 years down the timeline they will be incensed if you suggest they once held a different point-of-view.

When we hold a belief or memory strongly it is often hard for us to peep around the corner at our younger selves. To call it ‘false memory’ is too negative a word; I would rather call it a ‘blended memory’ – a memory that has evolved from experience.

Some memories stuck

Many of the spaces I saw on my trip down Memory Lane confirmed my earlier recollections. I was able to relate incidents that occurred at certain places on tracks, and was delighted to find the old ‘tank stand’ was still in place and serviceable – that’s more than 45 years later and it was old then!

The old tank stand

Above: The multi-use water tank.

The tank stand obviously still captures the water supply for the current homestead. Back then it also provided cool food storage during the heat of summer when no fridge or freezer were available because there was no electricity all those years ago. The space under the water tank was also used to store home brew beer for the shearers. Back then the station ran sheep and cattle, so shearing was a big event.

Shearer’s appetites are bottomless

Cooking for the shearers was no mean feat. Shearing was scheduled for the late summer, when the heat in the high country is highest.  Shearers’ appetites were legendary. Not only were there huge quantities of food required – it all had to be cooked on a wood-fired range in the homestead.

Glenhope shearers 1966

Above: The shearing gang of 1966. Some
I clearly remember – most are forgotten!

Shearers were not invited into the homestead; they ate their three main meals on the veranda at a long table with benches for seating.  Each day three cooked meals were produced, plus scones or a cake served up for morning and afternoon tea. These were carried up to the shearing shed along with a billycan of black tea, powdered milk and sugar.  Shearers sweat a lot and use a huge amount of energy so they needed large quantities of food and drink. Then, after a hard day shearing, they often sampled the home brew rom under the tank stand!


Above: The single men’s quarters, where shearers
and musterers, slept is still occasionally occupied today.

When we visited last week the station had clearly changed considerably in how it is farmed. Only a few sheep were on the property; the breeding stock was exclusively beef. Some of the out-buildings were still there – most were gone, including the old schoolhouse where I struggled to keep the pot-belly going winter mornings with thick snow outside.

Bending memory

I have just published a short story on Amazon’s Kindle eBooks called Searing Heat. It is based on my memories but entirely fictional. I do not recall considering that my 18 year-old eyes might be taking in the events and the nuances of high country life in order to bend it into stories I could tell to others. Now, however, I can make the spaces fit exactly to my story!

By Heather Sylvawood, author of Real Estate Rollercoaster and Searing Heat.

What’s so bad about rain?

As I write this blog, outside the rain is falling. I can hear the water running off the roof, down the down pipes and into the tank, and I am happy.

I wasn’t always this happy when rain fell. That was before we had to rely on tank water for all our drinking, bathing, washing and cleaning needs. Living here in Golden Bay, I slowly realised what a blessing rain is and started rejoicing when the rain came. There is, however, a greater realisation that has grown on me about the value of tank water.

The value of rain in a tank


In our subdivision of modern homes, almost all built in the 21st Century, we have reduced the need for dealing with rain run-off via publicly owned waste-water discharge systems. Water that falls on house roofs is collected in privately owned water tanks.

Rain is not instantly directed into the waste water system. That reduces overloading of the system during the beginning a rain storm, when the land is too dry to absorb the deluge and the water runs instantly into the gutters. Once the tanks are full and must overflow into the waste water system, the land has become wet enough to absorb the water better. Tick one for tanks.

Water conservation

When city reservoirs are running dry our tanks might be low too. Knowing this we are forced to act conservatively when using water. We know if we use it we might lose it altogether. Living that close to the natural supply and demand makes us water conservationists. Tick two for tanks.

And that’s one of the reasons why I wonder how local government councillors can be so short-sighted. We hear dire warnings about lake and reservoir levels every summer, yet New Zealand local bodies continue to insist on “quality water”.  World Health Organisation standards are set as guidelines to manage public supplies throughout the world where the potential for pollution from bacteria and organisms is high. In New Zealand we have our own “quality water standards for public supply. The intent of the legislation and guidelines is to stop people getting sick from bacteria and organisms where there is a possibility of contamination.

‘Quality’ water is not ‘pure’

What the standards mean by “quality” is the water has been chemically sanitised. In my mind, chemically sanitised water is not pure. Our tank water (pure rain) passes through a charcoal filter for drinking water – no chemical residue or smell. We clean the tanks every few years to remove any sludge that might have built-up from roof debris. We do have the potential to have bacteria and organisms in our water system from bird activity, but the filter should take care of most of that risk.

Now if you live close to chemical manufacturers, coal or oil burning businesses or near a highway, I completely understand if you stop reading. You have my upmost sympathy, and if I lived in Northern Japan, I wouldn’t be collecting rain water either. However, most homes in New Zealand are built in areas where pollution is a low risk that simple filtration systems could take care of.

The benefits of capturing pure rain water

If the majority of homes were allowed to capture and use rain water:

  • The strain on public water management systems would be reduced.
  • Localised flooding could be lessened.
  • The demand for reservoir and lake water would be reduced.
  • Fish and bird life would not be put under stress in times of drought
  • Farmers could irrigate as required.
  • People could safely drink filtered water without risk of ingesting unwanted chemicals.

That’s tick three to nine for tanks. Come on New Zealand local government. Which part of ‘pure’ do you not understand?

Grow Your Own Drugs

Eeek! Not something you’d expect from a person who has never taken a recreational drug in her life, apart from alcohol. Today, though, I am making one great exception. I plan to promote a book by that name. I will not receive any royalties or drug money for the promotion – just satisfaction that I have pointed you in the direction of really good information.

Now having got your attention, I will confess. This book, by ethnobotanist James Wong, is a book about using plants for medicine.

Plants “are the basis of a large part of our (commercial) medicine, with up to 50% of the world’s top proprietary drugs being originally derived from natural sources,” points out James. Brought up in Malaysia watching his grandmother using plants in health concoctions, James sees plants as “warehouses of infinite possibility”. In Grow Your Own Drugs: Easy recipes for natural remedies, he takes us through a wide variety of natural medicinal uses for common-to-garden varieties.

Return to natural

When it’s put like that, the return to using natural remedies makes total sense. Instead of pharmaceutical companies making millions from putting a natural plant property into a pill, we can go out into our garden and pick a few leaves or flowers and brew a tea for what ails us. The issue is that the knowledge of plants and their properties has become so protected and so subject to testing behind the laboratory doors of pharmaceutical companies, we’ve forgotten what to use for what.

Grow Your Own Drugs” blends the knowledge of herbalists with up-to-date scientific facts, and provides a list of 100 Top Plants to grow. And if you can’t grow them all, you may be able to find the essential oils and dried herbs at health food shops. James is quite clear about the role of your GP in diagnosis of any illness or disease, and views the remedies and recipes in the book as complementary to conventional medicine in treating everyday ailments.

My joy at finding this Kindle eBook is that I have not only found a list of useful plants to go in the herb garden, I have also found a list of useful household products I will need to make the lotions and potions.

Looking through James’ Top 10, I find I need to add Echinacea to my list – a plant I knew nothing about, but which turns out to a very pretty daisy-like plant. A particularly interesting description of Echinacea I found on Patty’s Feel Good Teas page. (No I don’t hold shares! I just appreciated the research repeated here.)

I’m also keen to grow some ginger. This will be a windowsill or hothouse plant because it is used to growing in warmer climates than ours. But that will be part of the Herb Garden adventure.

What herbs will be planted in my garden?

In a previous post I shared a brief overview of what I had researched about medicinal herbs. In this post I am going to share my list.

I decided I had to go about creating a list of desirable herbs by starting from the common ailments that I might like to cure or lessen the effects of. So I started from a book I have had in my library for about 30 years, called: Common Plants as Natural Remedies, By Cynthia Wickham. In it are given some recipes for teas and concoctions suggested by Swiss homeopath, Dr Robert Quinche. Dr Quinche has a book still available on ABE Books website called: Herbs from the Garden to the Cooking Pot.

Cynthia’s book looks at really common plants like camomile (chamomile), Marigold (the taller one with long full leaves), yarrow (a remedy for severe colds) and great mullien (a woolly tall plant you often see along dry river beds). Some of the herbs mentioned in the teas she credits Dr Quinche with devising are a little out of the ordinary – my view – like ‘blessed thistle’. I know it exists because our local Health Food online supplier HealthPost advertises it. Apparently Blessed Thistle is a supplement you can take to support breastfeeding.

Shirley’s Wellness Cafe has a detailed description of the herb, but it looks far too close to Scotch Thistle for me to risk growing in the garden. The neighbours might complain! Come to think of it, I wonder if Scotch Thistle might do as a substitute? The answer is “NO” but it might be useful in treating ulcers and skin cancers. What wondrous routes one takes when researching a tea recipe.

Here is the recipe that contains the Herbs I want to top my list:


Above (left to right): Cowslip, Arnica and Bergamot

  • 25g cowslip flowers
  • 10g chamomile flowers
  • 5g arnica flowers
  • 5g marigold petals
  • 5g lavender
  • 1.5g bergamot
  • 5g peppermint leaves
  • 25g blessed thistle

According to Quinche: Make an infusion. For chronic headaches take half a cupful of tea every 2 hours. Put a cold compress of spirit of lavender on the forehead.

So here is the start of my list:

  • Cowslip
  • Chamomile (got the seeds)
  • Arnica
  • Marigold (got them growing
  • Lavender (got the seeds)
  • Bergamot
  • Peppermint (got it growing)
  • Blessed thistle (hmmm?)

In my hot little  mitt I have seeds for:

  • White sage
  • Evening primrose
  • Anise (one of those plants that will just have to go to seed)
  • St John’s Wort
  • Feverfew
  • Meadowsweet

Next I’ll share with you what all these plants are purported to do. Meanwhile I’m off to plant some tenderly loved seed.

By Heather Sylvawood, author of Real Estate Rollercoaster – what professionals forget to tell you about buying, building and selling real estate.