Tag Archives: herbs

Sleep, Rest and Recoup


Tips for a restful night’s sleep

If you’re reading this, logic tells me that you are concerned about lack of sleep.  First of all, it’s important to say that  while 8 hours is the accepted norm for a good night’s sleep, you needn’t necessarily feel bad because you routinely sleep for less than this.  Some people actually only need 4 hours (Margaret Thatcher being a famous example), while others are out for the count for a full 12 (just about every teenager on the planet).  

However, sleep deprivation, when your body is telling you that you need more rest (!),  can be both debilitating and depressing and no one really wants to resort to potentially addictive chemicals to solve the problem. There are so many possible causes, cures and herbal remedies that I thought it might be helpful to put together a whole list of them.  I hope you’ll find something here to help. 

Herbal Help

Lavender has been known for centuries to induce relaxation and can be used in a number of ways: a couple of drops of essential oil sprinkled on the corner of your pillow will help, as will  lavender oil in a cold diffuser placed in the lavender-1bedroom.

A warm bath, at the optimum time of two hours before bed, helps to regulate body temperature to an ideal level and is particularly helpful when combined with lavender products like bubble bath and body lotion.

Herbal teas can also prove useful – chamomile and valerian (which is often combined with hops) are both well-known for aiding relaxation and sleep.  While both will help with insomnia, I’ve read recently that valerian, especially when combined with ‘chaste tree’ may help with sleep maintenance. 

Extra help and accepted wisdom

Even 20 minutes of gentle exercise during the day can help to stop stress hormones from interfering with sleep.

Try to avoid heavy meals just before bed – a minimum two hour gap between meal and bed is a good idea.

art-deco-girl-11Avoid caffeine drinks like regular tea, coffee and cola in the evening.

Is your actual bed ‘up to muster’?  The lifespan of a bed depends largely upon quality but as a rule of thumb, if your bed is ten to twelve years old you should probably replace it.  (Here’s a tip: If you suffer from backache, it may just be your bed)!

Equally, do you need new pillows?  There are a huge variety of pillows out there – foam, feather, down – and it may just be that a change of pillow would help you get a restful night’s sleep.

Try to avoid sheets with a high synthetic content.  Sheets with a high cotton content allow your skin to breathe, which in turn makes the bed feel more comfortable.  (I tend to buy sheets with a maximum cotton / minimum polyester content, simply because I’ve found some pure cotton sheets can be an absolute swine to launder).


Try to ensure that your bedroom is furnished fairly simply and is clutter free.  Psychologically, a clutter free bedroom makes for a calmer and more relaxing atmosphere.

Look at using colours for walls, carpets and soft furnishings that you personally find relaxing.  Traditionally shades of blue and green evoke feelings of calm and relaxation in many people but you may have something else in mind.  (For example, I always seem to opt for gentle creams). 

Try not to watch TV or work in bed.  Your bedroom should become associated in your mind with your own haven of peace and utter relaxation.

off-to-bed1The best temperature for a relaxed sleep is surprisingly cool, i.e. 68 degrees.  Fit individual thermostats to radiators if you can so that you can keep your bedroom at this temperature (and save money)!

It goes without saying that minimising noise and light will also help – it’s strange but true that even though you are asleep you will become aware of increasing light levels in a room where the curtains / blinds allow the morning light to percolate through.

If you live in a quiet area and it is safe to do so, leaving a ‘top light’ /small window slightly ajar to let in some fresh air is a good idea.  Good sleep doesn’t happen easily in a stuffy, ‘sealed’ room with stale air.

Less obvious but worth mentioning anyway:

Airing the room each day, allowing a fresh supply of oxygen to flow through your room will keep it smelling sweet and welcoming.

Toss back the covers each morning to allow cool air to permeate the bed covers.  Even half an hour of this while you shower will keep the bed smelling fresh (not to mention keeping any mites at bay)!

Make the bed each day – an un-made bed doesn’t exactly call you to its gentle embrace, now does it?

Change the bed sheets each week (hopefully you knew that one already)!


I really, really hope something here will be of help.  Let me know how you get on and…

Remember if this is an on-going problem and you feel at all concerned you should still talk to your doctor.



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Filed under Beauty, General Health, General house tips, General tips, Herbal alternatives

Turkey Roasting Times

Hey, I'm ready! The safest way to cook turkey and stuffing is to cook them separately as a stuffed bird may not cook as evenlyCook the stuffing in a separate little casserole dish therefore. 

If you’re going to ignore me (!) and stuff the bird anyway, you’ll need to calculate cooking times by weighing your bird after it’s stuffed – you might well have to use bathroom scales in order to do this.  There is a cooking chart below but as an example, for an 8 – 12 pound bird allow 20 minutes per pound (40 minutes per kg) at 170C (325F), gas mark 3. 

Remember that if you are usng a fan oven, cooking temperatures are generally lower (usually 20C lower than in the conventional oven…consult your manufacturer’s manual).  

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, the way to test whether the bird is cooked is to pop a knife into the area between the turkey body and leg (drumstick).  If the juices coming out look clear and not pink or bloody then the bird is done.  

If it isn’t ready yet, return it to the oven for 20 minutes and test again.

A good meat thermomter will show when the meat is cooked.  Latest guidlines state that the minimum safe temperature is 165F. Check the temperature by placing the thermometer probe in the thickest part of the inner thigh.

The folowing chart is for a whole turkey cooked at 325F / 170C. In all cases the temperature of the meat (if you have a meat thermometer) will be 160 – 170 degrees.

4 – 8 lbs……….325F / 170 C ………2 – 3 hours

8 – 12 lbs……..325F / 170C ……….3 – 4 hours

12 – 16 lbs…….325F / 170C ………4 – 5 hours

16 – 20 lbs…….325F / 170C ………5 – 6  hours

20 – 24 lbs …… 325F / 170C ……..6 – 7 hours

There are some great recipes available for cooking the turkey.  If you don’t have one don’t be scared by the whole prospect of doing one just because it’s The Big Day. 

For the novice cook – remove the bag of giblets from the body cavity (these make wonderful stock but now may not be the time to be telling you that)!  Now just think of the turkey as a large chicken that you have to roast.   Maybe loosely pop some pieces of raw onion,  and herbs (say, thyme) in the body cavity, rub the outside of the body with butter, season with salt, pepper and perhaps a further sprinkling of herbs and then put the bird in the roasting tin (I tend to roast my birds on a base of root vegetables – onions, carrots etc).  Cover loosely with foil to stop the breast burning.  Cook for the required time (chart above), removing the foil for the last 20 minutes to allow the bird to brown. 

All roast meat benefits from ‘resting’ for a period after being taken from the oven.  This allows some of its juices to be re-absorbed back into the meat. Turkey is no exception. If you can manage to tip the bird to drain any juices from the body cavity into the roasting tin then do so (enlist someone’s help if you can).  Put the bird on a warm plate, cover loosely with foil and let it sit while you finish off things like the roast potatoes and gravy.  You can leave it like this for 30-60 minutes.  

There are some helpful notes here and charts here

Happy Christmas!


Filed under Christmas Countdown, Cookery, What's Cooking?

Light hair rinse

Veronica LakeLight brown and blonde hair responds well to a rinse made from chamomile flowers, giving natural highlights and leaving the hair silky soft.

Chamomile tea is now readily available in grocery stores and a strong infusion made in a jug will work well. 

For purists, the old fashioned recipe for chamomile rinse is as follows:

Take 2 – 4 tablespoons of chamomile flowers and add to a pint of boiling water.  Allow to steep for 20 minutes to 3 hours.  When cool, strain and use as a final rinse on clean hair. 

In either case, if you can place a bowl under your hair to catch the excess you can rinse again and again, intensifying the results.

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Filed under Beauty, Herbal alternatives

Herbs for the windowsill

If you don’t have the room, or time, to maintain a full herb garden, it’s worth growing a few herbs on a sunny windowsill inside.  Fresh herbs have an entirely different flavour to the dried varieties, so much so that once you’ve used fresh, you will probably never want to use the dried versions again.  A herb that I use regularly is thyme.  A culinary plant native to Southern Europe, thyme is widely used in European, particularly French cuisine – on poultry, fish, meat, vegetables, stuffings and in sauces.

Growing from seed could take up to a year.  If that is too long to wait, buy a small plant from a garden centre and start by planting in a 6″ clay pot.  Put plenty of crocks** in the bottom of the pot and use a light potting compost.  (Thyme grows naturally on dry, sunny hillsides so you’re aiming to mimic those conditions).

There are several varieties, from plants like broad-leaved thyme that grows just 6″ high, to common thyme, reaching 15 inches.  My favourite is probably Lemon Thyme.  It has a delicious flavour and the plant, if left to its own devices, will form a mound of bright green foliage about 12″ high.

To care for your plant: Water sparingly, trim lightly and regularly to keep compact (obviously not a problem if you’re using it in cooking)!

**pieces of old broken pots

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Filed under Gardening, What's Cooking?