Why do we spend so much on health care?

We kept being told that health care is getting too expensive and that there is only so much money to go around. Slowly we come to accept that more often we will be required to contribute privately to make sure our health needs are met. But is this really the case?


Take a look at this graph showing relative expenditure for nine countries, including New Zealand. It does raise some questions about the political “lines” we are being fed about what is “affordable” health care. If a country has a high taxation level (combined GST or user-pays taxation plus income tax), like New Zealand, why is it unable to provide free health care? Why does a so-called wealthy country like the US spend so much more public expenditure than other countries per person? And why is the US private health expenditure out-weigh public health expenditure?

Perhaps some of the answers are provided in the following video from Upworthy:

His First 4 Sentences Are Interesting. The 5th Blew My Mind. And Made Me A Little Sick

Doesn’t anyone believe that good health is a human right? Or is that right overruled by the belief that private business has the ultimate right to extract a profit from any field of endeavour?

A good thing to ponder given the Western World’s pre-occupation with “Peace on earth and good will toward mankind”.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon author

The Secret Behind World Peace

When we arrive at this time of year, if you profess Christianity, we start singing songs in praise of peace. What we never quite realise is that Global Peace is within our own hands, or more accurately, within our own minds.

Rhonda Byrne, the writer and motivator behind the film “The Secret”, understands this totally. In a recent Secret Daily Teaching she said:

Change in a country begins with one person. Each country reflects the inner peace or turmoil of its mass population, and so as one person changes they affect the rest of the population. One person has the power within them to bring massive change to their country through immense love and peace within themselves. But we cannot bring about peace and well-being to our country unless we have conquered that in our own life. Do you see? You cannot give what you do not have.

Each person’s job is to bring utter harmony into their own life, and then they will become the greatest human gift for their country and the world.

Inner Peace is the first challenge

Developing inner peace is the basis of many religions including Christianity, yet we rarely see this understanding enacted by the more fanatical believers. Often it seems their reason for being is to convince non-believers of the error of their ways and force them into believing the believer’s own particular brand of religion/creed. This is so far from the true meaning of peace and its application.

It took me a long time to understand the essence of peace, and I found out you need some humility along the way. Putting it into practice constantly is even more difficult to learn. It takes constant commitment every waking minute. When your ego shouts: “That’s not fair!” peace is fading from your heart. When your ego shouts: “You’re getting more than me” peace is coiled into a corner. When your ego shouts: “You’re wrong” peace just left the building.

There are many great books and DVDs around that will help you on your way to understanding what real Peace is all about. Here are a few I have used as tools on my journey:

The Secret DVD and Book By Rhonda Byrne

The Law of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks

One DVD and film featuring many great avatars and teachers

The Living Matrix movie and DVD

Eckhart Tolle’s book: A New Earth

The Voice – Director David Sereda

So during this festive season and into the New Year, I would like to wish one wish, and that is YOU are the one person it takes to tip the balance toward world peace through you own inner peace. I’m working on it but I’ve got a long way to go.

Heather Sylvawood, creator of the Facebook page WriteGear

A Merry Krall Christmas

As we come close to the Jolly ol’ season, I’d like to wish WriteGear and Sylvawood Under the Stars followers and readers the best of the season and a great New Year.

For those of you experiencing a white Christmas – enjoy!

For those in the Southern Hemisphere (except perhaps for Wellington) slap on the sunscreen.

Clean and green may be an illusion

Christmas is a perfect example of how our commitment to recycling is only skin deep when we come under pressure. And Christmas is a time of pressure: pressure to spend, pressure to impress, pressure to show affluence.

We only have to look at our rubbish bin on Boxing Day to realise how much we have thrown away in 24 hours. What could be recycled instead of chucked? What could have been recycled from last year? What do these gifts we give actually say about our belief in and commitment to recycling.

Every time we give a gift that requires batteries we are buying into the throw-away culture. When we buy an electric appliance to replace a hand-operated one we are increasing our use of power, adding to trash when it eventually breaks down (because modern appliances can rarely be repaired), and often using more water if we need to clean them.

For many, Christmas is a time of excess not environmental care. So I have to applaud my friend who announced on Facebook: “We’re not sending Christmas cards this year. The money has gone to Oxfam, and I know you’ll all be happy to know you’ve helped donate lots of trees, among other things.”

One challenge I feel every year is whether to wrap presents. The cheap printed paper we use is only able to manage one use – sometimes not even holding together long enough for the present to reach the recipient. And once the present is unwrapped, we don’t fold the mountain of paper to use next year. I often wonder if gifts would be better presented in supermarket bags? At least they would be more likely to be recycled.

So what New Year’s resolutions about recycling are you making?

Heather Sylvawood, author and blogger.

Bergamot and Yarrow tea anyone?

It is always risky to recommend a food to others if you don’t research it thoroughly, and it is even riskier these days when so many are discovering they have fallen foul of an allergy or food intolerance.

Take, for instance: herbal teas. What innocuous little things are herbal teas? Lots of big names in the tea market sell herbs blended with common teas, or mixed herbs on their own – which are generally referred to as Tisanes.

Warning about Yarrow


In a recent blog post I shared my experiment with using Yarrow as a tea. And then, investigating other herbs today, I chanced upon a Wikipedia article on the effects of Herbal Teas. For instance: if you rushed out and gathered Yarrow and made tea after reading my blog post you might well have had an allergic reaction. Unfortunately I don’t know what allergic reaction. The article doesn’t state it. But then again people also have allergic reactions to pharmaceuticals that have gone through years of testing.

When the pharmaceutical industry was first starting it used herbs as the basis of all medicines. Herbs WERE medicine; they were simply popular cures dressed up with fancy labels or containers. Later, when scientists were able to identify and extract the active ingredient that cured, the industry developed synthetic substances that mimicked the effect of these herbs. It was about then that the pharmaceutical scientists unhooked their hands from the herbalists.

Now western medicine does not trust anything that hints of herb and generally labels it as quackery. But those same scientists still go back to analysing herbs/plants for the active ingredients that appear to fix the human body.

Bergamot and cholesterol

Take Bergamot for instance: I recently chanced on a report of a double-blind test of the fruit. Testing led by the University Magna Graecia in southern Italy and published in the International Journal of Cardiology, showed that the fruit could significantly help people reduce their cholesterol without taking drugs. What better way to prolong heart life than to eat an orange a day?

So I looked up what was available in the bergamot market and came across the BergaMet Mega website,  which was offering capsules with this amazing juice dried out. The website, bless them, actually tells you the ingredients: “Each bottle contains 60 tablets which each contain 650mg of pure juice Bergamot dehydrated (entitled to 35% in composition of polyphenols) and 50 mg of ascorbic acid”. Of course, like any herbal (dare I say) medicine, there are a lot of get-out clauses and warnings.

I wonder if these warnings would be in such large print if a big pharmaceutical company had created a potion that mimicked the active ingredients in bergamot? Perhaps they have? Perhaps they’re called Statins?

So I trotted out to the fields, and,  indeed got sopping wet and muddy. The challenging part of picking citrus in the rain is that every time you pull down the fruit, you are tipping all the leaves down towards yourself, dumping all their little troughs of collected water right onto  your head.

As for me? I’m off to plant and carefully tend a Bergamot orange, if I can find one in New Zealand.

Heather Sylvawood, author of Searing Heat, a high country tale.

PS: Bergamot is thought to be a hybrid of sour orange and citron or lemon. The tress have been grown in the Mediterranean for several centuries. The tree is small to medium at maturity and thorn-less. The fruit is mostly round, with a little bit of a neck and a nipple, and they’re juicy.

Here’s to Our Rubbish Artists

They are a certain breed, these rubbish artists. They can look at our discards and think: “I could make a xxxx out of that.” More than that, they actually get off butt and do so.

It takes a lot of imagination to see something and imagine it in another life form. For instance, I often admire the creativity of furniture recyclers who spot and old item and with a swift flick of a brush, a swatch of fabric, or bang with a tack hammer recycle stuff into the oh-so-chic items that feature in Home Beautiful.


I don’t do that. Instead along the way towards the conversion (usually very close to the start) I run out of confidence; I’m too scared to take up hammer and paint in case the end product doesn’t meet the perfect image in my mind.

Rubbish artists aren’t like that. They see in their mind a new objet d’art and experiment until they achieve it. One such artist has made Golden Bay her home – sculptor, fitter and machinist Georgina West of Georgeous Designs. She’s also on Facebook if you want to ‘like’ her.


Above: From large garden flowers to small, and from birds to fish, Georgina creates them all from old tin cans and discarded materials, including wire from the back of microwaves.

From these most unpromising materials Georgina’s imagination creates these amazing, whimsical, decorative designs. They’re set to replace the wall butterfly, I’m sure.

So here’s to our rubbish artists whose creativity is helping to deal with our waste – true recyclers.

Would Ellen lie about her toothbrush?

Okay … Ellen DeGeneres looks a million dollars thanks to a secret that is now OUT. But what does her toothbrush look like? Does she use an electric toothbrush?

In case you didn’t recognise this ageless beauty –
it’s Ellen DeGeneres

This evening I watched a television advert for an electric toothbrush. It involved a turned-on electric tooth passing through some substance that was supposed to look like bacteria and alongside it (on the left) a common-to-garden you-move-it toothbrush passing lightly over a similar substance and not moving anything.

I wonder what these TV commercial makers think when they create these adverts? Do they think we are so gullible? The fact was that the common-to-garden toothbrush was not being moved by the normal scrubber on the end of the brush handle. And while I probably cannot move my toothbrush at the speed the electric toothbrush vibrates, I certainly do rotate it at some speed, as I’m sure most of you do when the battery of your electric toothbrush runs out.

Toothbrushes must be big business and the advent of the electric toothbrush indicates how big a market is available around toothbrushes. Low cost toothbrushes need to wear out in order for us to be running to the supermarket every few weeks and replacing them. And even electric toothbrush owners will be replacing heads and batteries. When a few billion people are doing this every week you get a picture of how big the market is.

I would like to warn you, and Ellen DeGeneres, that a simple hand-held toothbrush still works as long as you do rotate it and don’t forget to use your arm and hand muscles. It won’t work if you hold it against your teeth and don’t move it. I’m sure you realised this, HOWEVER, you are about to learn the shocking truth kept secret by Yours Truly for many months …


I trim my toothbrush bristles when they get a bit worn and straggly. And by doing so I DOUBLE the life of my toothbrushes. Yes a simple life-giving act like that and I extend their life by weeks. So Ellen, if you’re reading this, the next time the batteries run out, stow the electric toothbrush in the vanity drawer and get out the scissors to trim the old faithful.

I promise I won’t embarrass you with any exposé, your secret’s safe with me.

Heather Sylvawood, author of the Marigold Brightbutton Adventures.

Totally Natural Cures, Like Grandma’s, Shared

I just love this website: Wendyl’s Green Goddess. It is full of recipes for green products for whatever ails you or your animals. New Zealander Wendyl and her family have created and tested many recipes and developed all the products that are advertised on her website, but what I love is that she doesn’t keep her recipes to herself – she shares them so you know exactly what’s in it.

Recipes are created from easily obtainable ingredients like baking soda, borax, soda ash, oxygen bleach and double strength white vinegar, which means you can make your own, or if time is a challenge, buy directly from the Green Goddess website knowing that what you are buying really is ‘green’.


I took especial note of this recent recipe to keep your cat flea-free:

100 g Brewer’s Yeast
30 g garlic powder
(not garlic salt!)
1 Tbs bran
1 Tbs wheatgerm

Whizz together in a food processor and feed 1 tsp per day per cat. I (Wendyl) just throw about half a cup in with a box of biscuits and give it a good shake up.

I plan to try it on our little hunter, Beau. He’s a bit of a fussy eater but loves gravy so it won’t be hard to mix it into his food. I’ll let you know how we go.

– Heather Sylvawood, author of the Amazon Kindle Marigold Brightbutton series. The titles in the series have been written for adults to read to children. 

Weed or herb? Yarrow makes a great tea

I have noticed that I am slow at taking up the opportunities that nature offers me in natural herbs. I think about what would be a good cure for something when the herb is no longer blooming or available. Yarrow is a perfect example.

Yarrow makes a good tea for you if you have a bad cold, according to Cynthia Wickham, author of Common Plants as Natural Remedies. Her directions are: “Take 30g dried herb to 600ml of boiling water, drunk warm in wineglassful doses”.


Luckily I do not have a severe cold, but I decided to try Yarrow herbal tea to see what it tastes like.

First, I’m pretty naff at translating measurements so I got the proportions wrong, and I was working with fresh Yarrow, so you’ll need to take my recipe and adjust it to suit.

  • 15g fresh Yarrow flower heads
  • 500 mls boiling water

YarrowTea72dpiInfuse in a teapot for 5 minutes and strain into a cup. The flavour is not strong, but very pleasant. It is slightly coloured.

Now if you are using dried flowers you would probably only need a teaspoon or so to get the same effect because the dried flowers condense down into a smaller amount.

Here’s what the tea looked like in the mug. And as I said, it did taste rather pleasant and I’m still here several hours later.



Gathering and drying

Right now in roadsides and fields Yarrow is blooming in New Zealand. In the northern hemisphere the seasons are different, so gathering the flowers will be about six months away. What I suggest is that you add a reminder to check for Yarrow about this time next year for Southern hemisphere residents and in six months for Northern hemisphere residents.

Dry the herb in a hot cupboard where your water heating cylinder is, or place on a rack over the wood burner. Don’t dry out too quickly or too near a steamy environment. Cover to keep the flowers from being contaminated by flies. Store in glass jars (preferably) but away from light. And label the contents.