Smorgasbord Short Story – Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction – Many Hands by Sally Cronin


That time of the week when I participate in the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills This week in her post, Charli talks about how she and neighbours help out an elderly victim of last years floods and debris that wrecked her garden. She also how the accumulative efforts of the community sustain the The Vet centres and the recognition this year of the wives of veterans who fought in the Vietnam war.

Appropriately the prompt is ‘Many Hands’ and here is my piece of flash of 99 words, no more, no less.

Many Hands by Sally Cronin

Many hands reached out to rock the cradle that held the infant. The first baby to be born to the tribe since the long drought and famine years, when the earth and its people had become barren. Finally the rain came and washed the toxic dust away, bringing life to the land and hope to them all. With bellies filled, young and old toiled in the fields to lay in stores for the coming winter and to gather seeds for next year’s crop. By then other babies will have been born, ensuring the future of the village and mankind.

©Sally Cronin 2019

Image: Pixabay.com

If you would like to participate in this week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction here is the link: https://carrotranch.com/2019/06/13/june-13-flash-fiction-challeng

I have a number of short story collections and you can find my books and their reviews: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have enjoyed my story….thanks Sally.

 

Advertisements

Tales from the Irish Garden Serialisation – Winter: Chapter Four – The Flight to the New Land – Sally Cronin


Winter: Chapter Four – The Flight to the New Land

Back at the Palace it was pandemonium, with fairies flying around in a discordant symphony of gossamer wings. Finally, after a day of panic, Queen Filigree ordered her advisors to bring all the members of the court to the ballroom so that she could address them. She also summoned Jacamo the pigeon master, the Queen Bee from the royal hives and Sir Gregory’s chief butterfly messenger; all of whom were essential to the planning of this massive migration to the new land.

‘I want you all to sit down on the chairs provided and close your eyes for a few moments to compose yourselves.’ Queen Filigree looked around the ballroom to make sure all complied with her order. When all the fairies were sitting calmly, she took a deep breath herself, and then issued the following edict.

‘Unfortunately we cannot pack all that we have collected in the last 700 years, and we also cannot transport many of our stone guardians that have guarded our secrets so well.’ The queen heard one or two gasps and ran her eyes over the crowded chamber until she spotted several of her courtiers with their eyes open in dismay.

‘Fairy Nikisha, close your eyes this instant and pay attention.’ Immediately she saw the little blonde fairy’s eyes snap shut again.

Satisfied that she had everyone’s attention she continued. ‘Those guardians that we cannot carry by swan, will be transported north for safety to Prince Zachary’s palace, where one day he will be king. He lives in a safe haven that is protected land, and they will be welcomed there. I charge them with caring for my beloved son and his family for their lifetime.’

Those listening heard the break in their beloved queen’s voice, as she shared this news of their revered guardians. ‘It is with much sadness that I lose their loyalty and wisdom, but we will be taking with us the eagles, who have been our guardians since Roman times, and the Princess Lucinda who came to us from my mother’s kingdom in Anglo.’

Tears were in the queen’s eyes as she took a moment to calm herself. She knew that she had done the best she could for her beloved guardians, and she smiled wryly at the thought that she would even miss that wretched Stoned Band.

‘Now, all of you are to take one silk bag from the corner, and that will be sufficient for some clothes, toiletries, personal mementos, and a honey drink and blueberry muffin for the trip. The Swan Express will be supplying us with Canadian Geese to carry the passengers, and Swan Cobs for the household items such as furniture, linen and gold.’

Queen Filigree clapped her hands. ‘Now, open your eyes all of you, and has anyone got any questions?’

Immediately the Queen Bee lifted one of her furry feet and waved it in the air and began to buzz her question.

‘Your majesty, what about my subjects, and the stores of beeswax and honey, how are they to be transported?’

‘Thank you for asking Queen Bee. You and your hive will be transported in special honey baskets that will be provided by Swan Express. They will be strapped to their most experienced employees, and will leave in two days.’ Satisfied with the solution, the bee queen left to organise her minions.

The next three days passed in a much more orderly fashion, with treasures taken up from the roots of the magnolia, to waiting swans with capacious saddle bags that were filled to the brim. When they left fully loaded, they also carried a senior courtier, who would organise the unpacking and furnishing of the new palace on the Emerald Island.

With only a day to spare, Jacamo and the queen, released all the non-nesting pigeons into the warm spring air to make their own way. A message had already been sent to the Storyteller who had built a dovecote in the branches of the magnolia tree in preparation for their arrival, and within three days, they were all safely roosting and exploring their new surroundings.

On the last day, a line of Canadian Geese lined up on the grass, as a queue of nervous fairies, clasping silk bags with their treasured possessions, waited to fly up to take their seat along the bird’s broad back. Each was tied on with a thread of spider’s silk and a humming- bird moth moved between them checking they were strapped in and comfortable.

The last goose in the line was reserved for Queen Filigree and her two daughters, with considerably more bags of belongings than those flying in economy. But, as a queen it was important that she meet her new guardian, the Storyteller suitably attired.

With everything loaded, she turned for one last look at the garden that had been her home and kingdom for 700 years, following her arrival as a young bride to the handsome prince.

He was now long banished to the human world for his dishonourable behaviour. However, she had many happy memories of her life here, and she would so miss her guardians in the garden, now departed for her son’s palace. She looked up at the branches at the broad green leaves of the magnolia, and saw the tears that had formed on the tips dripping onto the ground. Her own eyes overflowed and she wiped them away with sorrow.

With a deep sigh she flew up to the broad back of the goose where her throne was tied down with spider silk, ready to receive her royal behind. A humming-bird moth brought her a glass of amber nectar, and a packet of honeycomb mixed with ginger in case she felt airsick during the flight. After thanking the flight attendant, the Queen checked that her two daughters were safely seated behind her, and waved her wand in the air to signal that the goose could take to the air.

The goose did a circuit of the now empty magic garden to check that no fairy had been left behind. With a final wave Queen Filigree said her farewell and settled down for the long flight to her new home.

Two days later, with the aid of a tail wind, the goose carrying Queen Filigree and her daughters, arrived in the garden of the Storyteller. As the now weary bird circled to land, the queen looked down at the greenest garden and woods that she had ever seen. She was used to her garden in Spain, remaining much of the year brown and arid, going months without rain. Even in the winter just past, with little snow, the grass had barely recovered and some of the bushes and shrubs had failed to come to life again in the spring.

This was a very good start, and hope flared in her heart again, as she saw lines of geese on the ground close to the magnolia tree that was to be her new kingdom. It seemed that all had arrived safely, as had the swans now pecking at corn and seed that had been strewn across the emerald grass for the hungry birds by the Storyteller.

He was standing waiting by a small strip of red carpet, dressed in his best suit and with a freshly shaved face. As the queen flew down from the back of the goose onto the carpet, the human shrank down in size and stepped out to meet her.

‘Your majesty,’ the smartly dressed man greeted her warmly. ‘It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to your new kingdom beneath the magnolia, where all your belongings are now safely installed. He waved his hand in the direction of the tree, as her excited subjects and courtiers spilled from the roots, rushing towards their queen in joy. She held out her arms and hugged each one with thanks for their safe delivery, and then turned to their new guardian.

‘Thank you Storyteller for your kind hospitality, and I hope that you will join us in a few days, once we are settled, for a banquet of celebration and in your honour.’ The old man smiled in delight and offered to show the palace chef his extensive kitchen garden, and also the herbs available in his neighbour Summer’s garden.

With the greeting ceremony over, Queen Filigree and her daughters were escorted into her new Palace where she found that her courtiers had been busy overnight preparing the chambers. She asked to see the Queen Bee to make sure that she was satisfied with her new quarters, as they were dependent on the honey for so many of their needs. Happily there was a satisfied and a productive hum coming from the roof of the palace, which had access to the garden and the wonderful array of flowers and greenery surrounding their beautiful new home.

After a simple supper prepared by Chef Marcelle, the queen wandered through the passages and caverns that had been another royal palace many moons ago. She admitted to herself that her predecessors had certainly had great taste, and she loved the throne room with its turquoise lacquered walls and drapes of the most vibrant pink. The throne was covered in a woven cloth that combined the two colours, and as she sat and rested her arms on the carved wood armrests, she gave a sigh of relief.

Her imagination had been running riot for the last few weeks, conjuring up every kind of disaster. She slipped from the throne room and down the corridor to her bedchamber, pushing open the door to find a warm glow coming from a roaring fire in a beautifully decorated granite fireplace. Lady Ellie came forward with one of the royal silk nightgowns over her arm, and gently led her over to the separate dressing room to remove her travel crumpled clothing. Before she placed the featherlight nightgown over her majesty’s head, Lady Ellie gently washed her body with a soft natural sea sponge dipped in warm water. Filled with minerals, not only was the dirt removed but the queen’s body was infused with nutrients to aid restful sleep.

Within moments of her head hitting the silk pillows, gentle snores could be heard and Lady Ellie quietly let herself out of the door and into the corridor. The palace was silent as the courtiers and servants slept soundly, content with their new home. All that could be heard was the gentle buzzing from the beehives in the roof and cooing of the messenger birds.

©Sally Cronin 2018

One of the reviews for Tales from the Irish Garden

Sally Cronin’s Tales From the Irish Garden (2018) is the delightful story of 900+ year old Queen Filgree, fairy royalty forced to move her entire family from the warmth of Spain to the strange green Isle of Ireland where she must hide in the magical invisible (almost) garden of the powerful Storyteller. The book’s twenty-one tales take us through her first year in sanctuary as she gets to know her new home, the powers of the magical garden, the good-hearted and spirited members of her new community, and the magical creatures that live with her. Each tale relays an event that affected the Queen’s household such as the bewitching of the Storyteller’s daughter, a royal visit from a neighboring Prince, the maturing of her two daughters, Jeremy the donkey, piglet races, her own marriage, and more. Each can stand-alone but as a whole, they build a dramatic timeline of events that change the Queen from a lonely exile to fulfilled wife. With each tale, I felt closer to the queen and came to admire her attitude and civility.

I’ve read several of Sally Cronin’s books (click to see my review of Sam). She is a skilled storyteller who knows exactly how much to reveal and when. This book is no exception. Despite being fantasy, the writing is down-to-earth and easy to follow, with exactly the right amount of world building so I understand the fantasy world without getting confused by its differences from our human one. The result is a story told in tales that is fast-moving and atmospheric with a strong sense of where and when. Read these lines. See if you don’t agree:

“Even her eagles looked at her sideways when she uttered this bit of nonsense. They hadn’t picked anything to pieces except their dinner for centuries; relying on their size and wingspan to intimidate.”

“…enticing the bull over to the barred gate, and offering him peppermints which he was addicted to.”

“The main course was poached quail’s eggs and stuffed courgette flowers, filled with minced nuts, mushrooms and goats cheese and fried in crispy batter. This was served with chips and Chef Marcelle’s renowned curry sauce, a favourite after a night of drinking amber nectar.”

“The Queen’s guard, consisting of twenty highly trained and athletic young fairies, were sent off in full ceremonial uniform to await the advance troops of the visiting royal party at the invisible gate at the far end of the magic garden.”

Since I have a blarney stone’s-worth of Irish in me, I paid particular attention to the setting, especially those pesky leprechauns. Though the story is fantasy, it is also about oh so human dreams of love, happiness, and eternal youth. In a few words: It is delightful. Fun. Happy. Whimsical. Highly recommended for anyone with a child within them who dreams that miracles can happen.

If you would like to browse my other ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Thank you for dropping in and I hope you enjoy the rest of the book.. Chapter five tomorrow.. Sally.

The previous chapters of Tales from the Irish Garden can be found here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation/

 

Smorgasbord Health Column – The Brain – Shopping list for the Brain and its support systems by Sally Cronin


It is two years since I posted this series on the major organs of the body and how they work and I am always looking for research updates to share with you. Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and other related conditions are rarely out of the headlines and it is probably everyone’s worst fear. There is a genetic link to some forms of dementia,but it is not as common as lifestyle related deterioration of the brain.  Even though we are living longer, dementia is not an automatic progression and understanding how this amazing organ works and what it requires to be health, is vital.

Part three: Lowering the risk of dementia

Before I share the foods that can contribute to brain health, I also wanted to offer some areas that you might make a note of if you are a carer of an elderly family member.

  1. As we age and get into our 80s in particular, there is usually a decrease in our exercise levels. It seems that this also coincides with a decrease in appetite that results in a reduction in the level of nutrients we are taking in.
  2. Most people over 80 are likely to have also lost a large number of teeth and although most will have dentures this will impact the ability to chew foods. This results in a reliance on soft foods and often excludes proteins such as beef, lamb, etc that contain higher amounts of vital B-vitamins and iron.
  3. Our taste buds too will become dulled and so food can be tasteless unless lots of salt or sugar are added. And it is easier to eat a dunked biscuit or a piece of cake than to eat a wholegrain sandwich made with salad and chicken. The entire digestive system will also be less effective and this means that any food consumed may not be processed in the gut as it should be, which naturally leads to malnutrition.
  4. I recommend making high nutritionally dense foods that are easy to eat but still provide essential vitamins and minerals.. Soups made with the stock made from chicken or beef bones.. 5 or 6 different vegetables such as carrots, spinach, celery, sweet potato, onions, mushrooms and broccoli and then blitzed and then diluted with some whole fat milk to make a rich and creamy soup. Served with an egg sandwich in soft wholegrain bread, butter. You get the idea.
  5. Apart from making sure that food is as nutritionally dense as possible, I also recommend a high quality vitamin and mineral supplement. This can be a problem because with a less efficient digestive system, large tablets will go right through without stopping to release their contents. Also they need to contain some specific nutrients such as Vitamin D.. B-Vitamins, particularly B12 as well as calcium and iron etc. There are some liquid options which are excellent and also some chewable soft jells which are more digestible.
  6. If your elderly relative begins to show signs of forgetfulness and confusion, do get them checked for a urinary tract infection. It is very common in the elderly and has the same symptoms. This has led to a great many misdiagnosis of dementia and should always be asked for. To counteract this.. place a hand sanitizer in the bathroom for use before going to the toilet as well as afterwards. Also a glass of cranberry juice with breakfast may help keep the urinary tract clear of bacteria.
  7. This leads me on to dehydration. This is extremely common amongst the elderly who are inactive, are in a warm environment and who rely on a cup of tea three times a day for their liquid intake. They usually also refuse additional liquid, particularly close to bedtime because of the effort of getting up in the night. Many of the symptoms of dementia are the same as dehydration. This can be a tough one but I suggest that as well as a juice with breakfast and a cup of tea, that you dilute a 500 ml bottle of water with some freshly pressed apple juice with a sports cap so it is easy to drink and put it by their chair. You can refill after lunch and make sure that they drink that before their final cup of tea after supper. That should prevent dehydration and also having to get up too much in the night.
  8. Do check the side effects listed for any medication that they are taking as some can result in confusion.
  9. Whenever you can encourage them to get up and move around the house or the garden, twice a day at the minimum. And if you can get them out in the fresh air, even in a wheelchair it will benefit them in many ways, including stimulation.

Some articles on the connection between food and dementia

One of the leading causes of most disease is inflammation in the body, and that includes the brain. Some spices help reduce inflammation and are well worth including in meals on a daily basis.. a small teaspoonful in main meals or as a tea which is how I prefer to ingest it.

Much Lower Rate of Alzheimer’s Disease in India

The rate of AD in India is about 4.4-fold less than that of the United States. While there are probably many factors that account for the difference, the fact that curcumin is consumed daily in curry spice from a very early age can’t be overlooked. Even though the daily amount of actual curcumin from turmeric is smaller in that case, the cumulative effect is considerable.

So in recent years, researchers have been looking at the effects of curcumin extracts – which have much higher levels of the compound than dietary turmeric – for treating AD.2,3
Curcumin Stops Brain-Harming Inflammation

The connection between inflammation and Alzheimer’s can’t be overstated. Neurons are especially susceptible to inflammation or other injury, and the release of inflammatory compounds in the body can be neurotoxic. This includes tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), interleukin-1-beta (IL-1β), free radicals, including nitric oxide (NO) and others. Curcumin has a great potential for a therapeutic role because it works through multiple inflammatory pathways: Curcumin for Health

Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. It alerts your body to a wound or injury, like when your ankle will start to throb and swell after a sprain, so your immune system can fix it. It’s not just external injuries that cause inflammation, however. Things like a lack of sleep, excessive stress, genetics, and—what might be worst of all—the wrong diet can all contribute to inflammation.

By “wrong diet,” we’re talking about the typical American diet which is full of inflammation-inducing foods. Think: fried foods, refined flours and sugars, hormone- and antibiotic-laden animal products, synthetic sweeteners, and artificial food additives. So if you’re constantly noshing on these items, your body will begin to transition into a state of chronic inflammation. Top anti-inflammatory foods: Eat This anti-inflammatory

Shopping list for the Brain and its support systems

The first key element to eating for brain health is to omit industrially processed foods that contain harmful toxins and additives that have zero nutritional benefit and effectively ’empty’ calories. They might supply sugar and trans fats and look appetizing on a plate, but the brain will not recognize them as anything it can process. Processed foods Vs. Industrially manufactured foods

If you eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, some moderate whole grains, nuts and seeds, good quality meats and cold water fish that have not been farmed, you are doing a great job.

For the brain to function efficiently it needs other systems in the body to be healthy.

The immune system is the barrier between the external world and all its contaminates and the brain. So your first line of defence is to keep that fed with the nutrients needed to produce all the various types of blood cells needed to repel opportunistic pathogens.

The digestive system needs to be in tip top condition so that food that is eaten is processed effectively so that the nutrients can be passed into the bloodstream and up to the brain.

The respiratory system needs to be maintained and giving up smoking and taking in clean fresh oxygen is essential… without that oxygen, carried by the blood, your brain with slowly die.

There are some key nutritional elements for brain health that will be supplied by the following list including B-Vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Essential Fatty Acids, Amino Acids, Magnesium, Iron, and Zinc.

You can find out how to incorporate foods high in specific nutrients in this series: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/cook-from-scratch-to-avoid-nutritional-deficiency-with-sally-cronin-and-carol-taylor/

Shopping List for the brain and your other major organs providing the basic nutritional requirement for the body.

Vegetables – carrots, red peppers, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, corn on the cob- any dark cabbage or Brussel sprouts, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, watercress, dark lettuce leaves, cucumbers, celery, avocados and potatoes. (any other fresh seasonal produce you enjoy) At least five or six portions a day – use a cupped handful as an estimated portion size.

Lower Fructose Fruit Bananas, kiwi, strawberries and any dark berries that are reasonably priced – try frozen. Enjoy all fruit in season at least three portions a day.

Hot lemon and water first thing in the morning will not only give you a Vitamin C hit, start your digestive process off but will also help with sugar cravings.

Wholegrains – brown rice- wholegrain bread – whole wheat pasta – weetabix – shredded wheat – porridge oats.Please do not buy sugar or chocolate covered cereals – more sugar than goodness. Carbohydrates are an important food group. However, as we get older and less active you really only need a large spoonful of rice or potatoes on a daily basis. if you suffer from a Candida overgrowth be aware that it may not be the yeast in bread that causes a problem but the sugar or its substitute.

Fish – Salmon fresh (sea caught not farmed) and better quality tinned Salmon. Cod – haddock (again frozen can be a good option) any white fish on offer – shellfish once a week such as mussels. Tinned sardines, Tuna and herrings – great for lighter meals. (any fish that is available fresh not from farmed sources)

Meat and poultry chicken or turkey – lamb, beef and pork. Do buy high quality, organic if it is reasonably priced but you will find that most supermarkets stock local meats and poultry and will state if they are from free range sources. The best source of nutrients is grass fed animals and this includes eggs and dairy.. Our requirement for Vitamin K2 is not met by grain fed animals.

Home cooked lean ham for sandwiches is very tasty but cheap sliced ham can contain too much additives. By an unsmoked ham joint from the butcher or supermarket as it will work out cheaper than buying sliced ham already prepared.  To remove excess salt bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour, drain and add fresh water to the pan and bring to the boil for the rest of the cooking time.

Venison is a high quality protein if  you enjoy it. Liver provides a wonderful array of nutrients served with onions and vegetables is delicious.

Tofu for vegetarians has become more accessible and can be used by non vegetarians once a week to provide the other benefits of soya it offers. Bacon once a week is fine but do bear in mind that most processed meats contain a lot of salt.

Nuts and seeds – to put on your cereal in the mornings or as snacks – check prices out in your health food shop as well as supermarket. Almonds, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts.

Dairy and Eggs– Milk, butter and cheese (better to have the real stuff than whipped margarine) – organic yoghurt. Free Range Eggs – have at least three or four a week.

Oils – Extra virgin Olive Oil (least processed) – great drizzled on vegetables with some seasoning and also eaten the Spanish way with balsamic vinegar on salads and also drizzled over toasted fresh bread. If you do not like the taste of Olive Oil then use Sunflower oil – do not use the light version of any oil as it has been processed heavily – use the good stuff. You can also use coconut oil for cooking and also for use on salads.

Herbs and Spices – Turmeric (curcumin) with black pepper for better absorption. Sage, Ginko Biloba (Chinese have used in the treatment of brain disorders for thousands of years), Ginger anti-inflammatory.

Honey and extras –You really do need to avoid sugars refined and in cakes, sweets and biscuits but honey is a sweetener that the body has been utilising since the first time we found a bee hive and a teaspoon in your porridge is okay. Try and find a local honey to you. Dark chocolate – over 70% a one or two squares per day particularly with a lovely cup of Americano coffee is a delicious way to get your antioxidants.

Sauces – If you buy your sauces in jars and packets they will have a great many more ingredients than you bargained for. One of the worst is sugar or its substitutes. The greatest cooking skill you can develop is to be able to make a wide variety of sauces from scratch. If you do this you will be not only using fresh produce with its nutritional punch but also taking hundreds of pounds of sugar out of your diet over a lifetime.

Fluids Green Tea and Black Tea with antioxidants and drink two to three cups a day. and other herbal teas, tap and mineral water. If you enjoy coffee then one or two cups a day of good quality ground or the more expensive brands of freeze dried instant coffee. Try hot water with sliced lemon first thing in the morning and get some Vitamin C.

Good quality alcohol in moderation and it is better to have one glass a day than binge at the weekend. Your liver can handle that far better.

Depending on the climate and altitude at which you live, you will need to experiment to find out how much fluid you need. If you have very low humidity you will need considerably more. Average is around the 2 litres per day of combined fluids.

I hope that this has given you some ideas of new foods that perhaps you can introduce to support your operating systems and major organs. This includes those that protect the brain and those that process and transtport the nutrients it needs.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health – 1998 – 2019

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Next week I shall be moving on to the heart and sharing some of the latest research.

Smorgasbord Health Column – Food Safety – Eggs are wonderfully nutritious but should be prepared carefully by Sally Cronin


I was watching a programme the other day where a chef was preparing Steak Tartare.. something that I have never been able to eat. I am not a fan of uncooked meat or raw eggs, even when I know they have been sourced from organic farms with a good reputation.

Additionally I don’t want to eat raw food that has been handled by human hands however many times they might have been washed beforehand.

I have watched several videos of chefs preparing steak tartare on Youtube and only one was wearing gloves during the preparation!

This is also why I rarely have salad when I am in a restaurant and ask for the garnish to be left off.. I have had a couple of bad experiences and now only eat cooked food outside of my own kitchen.  As summer allegedly warms up this month, more of us will be eating salads and they usually come with an egg.

Always wash your salad vegetables thoroughly and prepare yourself. The bags of salad have been through some human hands during processing and whilst most will wear gloves there is no guarantee. Also, any chopped salad will have lost over half its nutritional value and will lose more in the days that follow in the bag on the shelves of the supermarket.

Eggs are wonderfully nutritious but should be prepared carefully.

Food is wonderful. Nutritious food is essential for our health and well being but we must also have a healthy respect for food. Any living organism however nutritious can also become infected with bacteria and other pathogens that can be harmful to us.

In this post I am going to cover Salmonella Enteritidis, which is a common cause for gastric upsets in people of all ages. It is found in raw poultry, meats and some dairy, especially if not pasturised and sold as raw milk. It can also be caught by drinking contaminated water usually near to farming land.

The most common source of Salmonella is in eggs.

There has been a great deal of publicity over the last 30 years as to the level of infection in the eggs that we buy in our supermarkets or at our local corner shop. Recently it has been declared safe to eat runny boiled eggs but one of the problems is that you may not know where your eggs have originated.

For example it was recently reported that eggs imported from Poland were found to have high levels of salmonella, and eating them raw or with a runny yolk could put you at risk of infection.

U.K. reports more Salmonella cases linked to Polish eggs

In the USA in 2018 200 million eggs were recalled due to outbreaks of salmonella poisoning and this is just a reported case: USA Today

These eggs are not all from mass producing egg farms where birds are kept in appalling conditions. Salmonella is also found in organic free range eggs and even personal back-yard chickens.

Here are some numbers with regard to the eggs on sale in the UK

90% of eggs sold in the UK have the Red Lion quality mark but 10% of the eggs sold in the UK do not. Interestingly the British Lion Eggs quality mark site only states “The British Lion scheme has drastically reduced the presence of salmonella from UK eggs since its launch in 1998”.

It does not claim that eggs are salmonella free!

That 10% is likely to be from producers who have less than 50 laying hens and not liable to register their business.

To put this into perspective there are an estimated 36 million eggs consumed each day in the UK – that means that 10% or 3.5 million eggs are not registered and carry a Red Lion quality mark.

Here is the link to the regulation if you wish to read themhttps://www.gov.uk/guidance/eggs-trade-regulations

There are a few exceptions. The regulations do not apply in full to hen eggs sold directly to the consumer for their own use:

  • by the producer on their own farm
  • by the producer through door-to-door selling
  • by the producer in a local public market – Farm Markets

The other concern that I have, is that there are millions of eggs used in industrially produced foods that may or may not have come from regulated sources. Whilst they are cooked and not raw it still raises health concerns as far as I am concerned.

My philosophy is that all food should be treated with respect and that no living organism is completely germ or parasite free. We as humans are host to a number of parasitic infections and should accept that the food we consume is likely to be so too.

Err on the side of caution and do not take risks with any food that you consume. Buy eggs that have some guarantees attached. You will pay a bit extra for organic eggs which I buy but considering the nutritional value of a meal prepared for a family of four, it is one of the cheapest proteins you can buy. But, even with organic eggs it is not worth taking the risk nor is eating your own eggs from the chickens in your back garden.

Preparing Eggs Safely

Provided the egg is thoroughly cooked the bacteria will be killed, but if you use raw eggs or prefer your eggs under cooked you could be putting yourself at risk. The most likely to suffer from the resulting gastric enteritis are the elderly, babies and people who have an impaired immune system.

The symptoms associated with Salmonella poisoning and treatment are:

  • A fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea beginning 12 to 72 hours after eating the infected food.
  • The illness lasts between 4 and 7 days and the biggest danger in the elderly and babies is dehydration and loss of essential nutrients.
  • The other risk is that the infection may spread from the intestines into the bloodstream and of course then has access to the entire body.
  • It is essential that medical attention is sought if any stomach upset lasts for more than 24 hours in the elderly, babies or young children and 48 hours in a normally healthy adult.
  • It is very important that dehydration is prevented by increasing fluid levels – room temperature water, which is sipped, can often be kept down.
  • You can obtain solutions from a chemist that will help re-establish the electrolyte balance in the system and replace essential nutrients that have been lost.

How do eggs become infected?

Salmonella infects the ovaries of healthy hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed. Salmonella also lives in the intestines of other animals in the food chain and if food is not stored correctly or cooked thoroughly then it can be passed to humans.

Points to remember

  • If salmonella is present in an egg, if it is refrigerated it will prevent the salmonella from increasing in number.
  • Do not use cracked eggs.
  • Eat eggs as soon as they are cooked do not keep warm for longer than an hour or two at a time.
  • Always refrigerate leftovers.
  • Do not eat food at home or in restaurants that contain raw eggs such as ice cream or steak tartar.
  • Be aware that some dressings when you eat out in restaurants are made with raw egg such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar dressing.
  • All raw foods should be treated with care especially when storing in your fridge with other foods.
  • Always make sure that chicken and meat are wrapped carefully and cannot drip on to a shelf below.
  • Always clean any surfaces that have been used to prepare meats and poultry thoroughly after use with very hot water and a suitable anti-bacterial cleaning product.
  • Always cook meat, poultry, eggs to the right temperature and be aware that eating meat rare carries a risk.
  • Always wash your hands with hot water and soap after preparing raw meat, poultry or eggs.

I have read a number of articles from those who are advocates of having a raw egg every day and using them in food preparation. Most of the time if you are fit and healthy your body will deal with low levels of salmonella, but if you are very young, have a compromised immune system, are elderly or perhaps pregnant, I would still err on the side of caution and eat eggs and meats cooked.

And if you do cook your eggs… they are an amazingly rich source of nutrition.. so don’t stop eating them.. just make sure they are properly cooked!

Eggs are an excellent source of choline and selenium, and a good source of high-quality protein, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B12, phosphorus and riboflavin.

PROTEINWe are made of protein and very cell in our bodies and every function requires protein to survive, thrive and repair itself. It is involved in hormone manufacture, our soft tissue, bone strength, haemoglobin that combines with iron to carry oxygen around the body and the vitality and strength of our hair and nails.  The body needs food to obtain protein and so including foods such as eggs and other protein rich foods is essential.

N.B It is easy to think that as protein is good for us that we should eat as much as we like. In fact the body can only handle around 10 to 15% of our daily intake as protein on a regular basis as the body goes into overload. Kidney’s in particular are vulnerable. This particular refers to animal based proteins.

CHOLINE: One of the few substances that can penetrate the brain membranes, raising levels of acetylcholine a neurotransmitter that may improve focus and memory. Acetylcholine is also necessary for stimulating the contraction of all muscles including the facial muscles. This may help maintain a youthful appearance. Choline also seems to help with controlling cholesterol, keeping arteries clear.

SELENIUM: A very important trace mineral that activates an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which may help protect the body from cancer. It is vital for immune system function and may help prevent prostate cancer.

PHOSPHORUS: Essential for bone formation and production of red blood cells. Also needed for the production of ATP fuel for energy. Small amounts are involved in most of the chemical reactions throughout the body

VITAMIN B2: RIBOFLAVIN; Also essential for metabolising carbohydrates to produce ATP, and also fats, amino acids and proteins too. It is necessary to activate Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid. It works with enzymes in the liver to eliminate toxins.

VITAMIN B12: CYANOCOLBALAMIN; Essential for the efficient working of every cell in the body especially those with a rapid turnover rate and it prevents their degeneration. It works with B6 and Folic Acid to control Homocysteine levels in the blood. It is involved in the synthesis of DNA and the proper functioning of the Nervous system by maintaining myelin surrounding the nerves. It is involved in the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for resetting our biological clock’s rhythm when we change to a new time zone and aiding sleep patterns. It is used in the treatment of diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Anaemia, Low Blood Pressure, hearing disorders, asthma and allergies, infertility and cancer

VITAMIN D: CHOLECALCIFEROL; Essential for maintaining blood levels of calcium by increasing absorption from food and decreasing loss from urine. This maintains a balance preventing calcium from being removed from the stores in the bones. It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system and blood cell formation. It may protect against prostate cancer. It is needed for adequate levels of insulin and may protect the body from Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes.

VITAMIN E: TOCOPHEROL; As an antioxidant it protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble parts of the body such as LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage and blood vessels. It can be used topically for skin health and is involved in the reproductive system. It may help prevent circulatory problems that lead to heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease by preventing clots from forming. It improves the pulmonary function of the lungs and enhances the white blood cells ability to resist infection.

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you have found this useful… Sally.

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Weekly Round Up – Are you making the most of this watering hole? Guests, stories, health, humour and other stuff


Welcome to the round up of posts here on Smorgasbord that you might have missed this week.

Before we get to the posts, I wanted to summarise the ways that you can promote your blog and your books here on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine.

I wanted to create a watering hole for people to gather.. hence the magazine theme to the blog with columns from some very special contributors and guest posts that are informative, entertaining and thought provoking. It is also for me an opportunity to support authors, who like me are marketing their own books amongst the millions that are published each year.

The regular posts each month are:

The Cafe and Bookstore – new books and reviews (Free)

 The Music Column with William Price King

The Cookery and Food Column with Carol Taylor,

The Travel Column with D.G. Kaye,

Italian Cookery with Silvia Todesco,

Numerology with Annette Rochelle Aben

The Health Column with Sally Cronin

The Cafe and Bookstore has approximately 160 to 200 active authors at any one time. I have two opportunities to promote books. First with a New Book on the Shelves for new releases, and secondly with the twice weekly Cafe Author Updates where I share recent reviews.  I also post my own reviews for books that I have read once or twice a month.

If you are not currently an author in the Cafe.. then here is the information you need: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-free-author-promotion/

Posts for Your Archives is a series that has been running for the last three years to promote bloggers as well as authors. The aim is to showcase the blogger or author and encourage more traffic to their own blogs.

In the current series there is a twist. Instead of the blogger sending in four links to posts to share, I am browsing their archives and selecting four posts. The response has been amazing and there are currently 55 bloggers who have signed up. As you can imagine I am doing a lot of reading, and uncovering some gems from the years that deserve to be showcased again.

If you are interested on being added to the list you will find the details here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newseries-pot-luck-and-do-you-trust-me/

Guest Writers are slightly different to the posts from the archives, in as much as they contribute on a regular basis on a number of subjects including memoirs, short stories, health and poetry. If you are interested in a regular monthly slot then please contact me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

I would like to add a note here which is based on my experience over the last seven years of promoting books and blogging.

One of the key elements to any promotion is participation…I notice the difference in both the Cafe promotions and the Posts from the Archives if the person being promoted is active in both commenting and sharing.

For example – In the Posts from the Archives series, when the comments are responded to individually, the number of likes, comments and shares (importantly) increase over the four posts.

The same applies for the book promotions, and this is key, as it relates to sales of a book, as well as readers engaging on social media, following blogs and buying other books that the author has released. If a reader has taken the time to comment on a post then it is important that it is acknowledged individually. It does make a difference.

I also would like to admit that I don’t follow the usual rules about blogging. I will post several times a day, varied content, from contributors and guests plus the regular funnies and videos. I appreciate that if you sign up to be notified about posts, your email will be inundated.

Which is why I do this round up each week, so that you can pop in and read the posts that most interest you.

You can sign up to be notified weekly if you wish but my advice is:

Don’t Sign Up to be Notified…just remember to pop in on Sundays to catch up… that would be lovely.

Now on to the posts that you might have missed during the week.

Thomas the Rhymer

Another post from my archives from Paul Andruss… who shares the shenanigans of the royal court in the reign of Charles II…

Barbara Villiers (National Portrait Gallery)

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/smorgasbord-posts-from-my-archives-barbara-villiers-part-1-the-return-of-the-king-by-paul-andruss/

This month Debby Gies takes us to the island of Cuba in the Caribbean. And island that was blocked off to the outside world and has been through many challenging years. Find out about the history and the tourism to the island.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/03/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-the-travel-column-with-d-g-kaye-the-island-of-cuba/

Winter: Chapter Two – The Messengers of Peace and Desperation and the Storyteller

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/08/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation-winter-the-messengers-of-peace-and-desperation-and-the-storyteller-by-sally-cronin/

Winter: Chapter Three – A Place of Sanctuary

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation-chapter-three-winter-a-place-of-sanctuary-by-sally-cronin/

The second in the series on the brain and how we can reduce our risk of developing dementia, and it is never too late to begin.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/04/smorgasbord-health-column-top-to-toe-the-brain-the-brain-dementia-and-alzheimers-disease-by-sally-cronin/

My review for Swimming for Profit and Pleasure: The Port Naain Intelligencer by Jim Webster.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-book-reviews-swimming-for-profit-and-pleasure-the-port-naain-intelligencer-by-jim-webster/

My response to this week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills The prompt is about ‘making a big splash…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/08/smorgasbord-short-stories-carrot-ranch-flash-fiction-a-splashing-good-time-by-sally-cronin/

Joy Lennick with another of her entertaining stories (based on true events) of a date to the cinema with rather an unusual ending….

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/05/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-guest-writer-joy-lennick-a-date-in-the-forties/

This week Sherri Matthews shares holiday memories of picnics and windy beaches in the UK and taking the Cuppa to California…

The Wicker Picner Hamper (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-guest-writer-sherri-matthews-memoir-the-great-british-staycation-and-a-brew-up-california-style/

This week Susanne Swanson takes us on a tour of her first visit to Hawaii..

20141024_142112_burst01

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-hawaii-the-beginnings-by-susanne-swanson/

John Rieber shares a unique experience in a hotel in Africa… meet some giraffes.

GIRAFFE-MANOR

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/03/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-travel-an-amazing-giraffe-hotel-africas-most-incredible-safari-adventures-by-john-rieber/

Writing duo Helen and Lorri Carpenter offer guest spots and here is one by Lainee Cole talking about the wonderful combination of rescue dog and children helping each other.

Image source: HiDee Ekstrom

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/03/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-shelter-dogs-and-children-helping-each-other-guest-post-by-lainee-cole-hl-carpenter/

Marian Wood shares her reasons for blogging..and a guide for those who are just getting started..

So really why write a blog

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/04/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-what-is-the-point-of-writing-a-blog-why-do-i-do-it-by-marian-wood/

Enjoy the poetry of Frank Prem about a project he undertook in his garden…

Friends 1

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/04/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-poetry-trenchman-1-the-trench-mans-tools-by-frank-prem/

Carol Taylor is on a short break so I have been sharing some posts from her archives..this one is on a subject dear to her heart… conservation and how governments can make decisions that do not have their countries environmental interests in mind.

Great barrier Reef

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/05/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-waste-not-want-not-australia-plans-to-dump-one-million-tons-of-sludge-on-the-great-barrier-reef-by-carol-taylor/

Tasker Dunham takes us back to his earliest memories and wonders at what age you experienced yours.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/05/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-memoir-gram-motherem-how-early-are-our-earliest-memories-by-tasker-dunham/

Lorinda J. Taylor shares the experiences of her mother as a teacher in the 1930s and living in the dust bowl…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/05/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-teaching-in-the-dust-bowl-1930s-by-lorinda-taylor/

A poignant and fascinating post from Olga Nunez Miret about her uncle who researched the little known family history during the Second World War.. tragic and inspiring.

Placa

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-family-stories-my-cousin-joan-molet-and-his-efforts-to-not-allow-the-memories-to-disappear-by-olga-nunez-miret/

Jennie Fitzkee shares another story from her pre-school classroom where the focus is very much on the child…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-how-to-teach-a-child-to-become-a-superhero-by-jennie-fitzkee/

Fraggle Photography with some wonderful images from a vintage fair…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-fraggle-report-druridge-bay-vintage-rally-fraggle-photography/

Elizabeth Slaughter shares an influence in her life from childhood and a role model – Meet Rusty.

IMG_0152

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-rusty-triumphs-over-boogieman-by-elizabeth-slaughter/

Kim of By Hook or by Book with a tribute to teachers everywhere.

017FD240-262B-4202-8CCF-8F7642060B38

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/08/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-us-teacher-appreciation-week-2018-by-kim-of-by-hook-or-by-book/

Gibson Square… a London Cabbie gives us the low down on what is cab and what is not..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/08/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-what-is-a-cab-and-whats-not-by-gibson-square-the-cabbie-blog/

Susanne Swanson with a memory from her childhood when a little bribery went a long way…

DSC00207.JPG

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-seattle-a-shrimp-story-by-susanne-swanson/

Balroop Singh shines the light on the issue of domestic violence. However, enlightened and empowered we think our modern society is.. this is still a major problem and in some countries it is the norm.

Domestic Violence

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-can-women-escape-domestic-violence-an-emotional-approachby-balroop-singh/

 

New book on the shelves

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/04/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-psychological-thriller-hope-by-terry-tyler/

Author Update #Reviews

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/03/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-brigid-p-gallagher-james-j-cudney-diana-j-febry-and-ted-halstead/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-robbie-and-michael-cheadle-toni-pike-and-jan-sikes/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/04/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-guest-comedian-d-g-kaye-and-a-joke-from-sallys-archives-5/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-guest-comedian-d-g-kaye-and-a-joke-from-sallys-archives-6/

Thank you again for taking the time to drop by and I hope that in one way or another you will share your work here with everyone by being a guest, promoting your books or letting me share your archives. Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction – A Splashing Good Time by Sally Cronin


A fascinating post about rocks from the beach, writing conferences and ghosts… as well as a fabulous prompt for this week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills

The prompt is about ‘making a big splash… here is my story..

A Splashing Good Time by Sally Cronin

Her husband insisted she was incapable of learning to drive, refusing to pay for lessons as a waste of time and money. After seven years she found her own voice, and grateful there were no children to witness her failure, she left. With a new job, cottage and money to make her own way, she passed her driving test first time, and purchased a small car. One day torrential rain filled the drains, creating deep puddles each side of the road. She saw him walking along the pavement. Smiling, she swished passed him, creating a wonderfully drenching big splash.

©Sally Cronin 2019

Image: Pixabay.com

If you would like to participate in this week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction here is the link: https://carrotranch.com/2019/06/07/june-4-flash-fiction-challenge-2/

I have a number of short story collections and you can find my books and their reviews: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have enjoyed my story….thanks Sally.

Tales from the Irish Garden Serialisation – Winter: The Messengers of Peace and Desperation and The Storyteller by Sally Cronin


Winter: The Messengers of Peace and Desperation and The Storyteller

Queen Filigree did not send out Christmas cards; her festive wishes were carried on the winter winds that sweep across the continent, dropped off at other fairy realms with kisses of snow. However, the queen believes that the New Year has very much more importance for her subjects and those of the world, always sending out her special winged messengers of peace two days after Christmas. This year her beautiful birds would carry more than New Year greetings, as they would also carry a request for any information about a possible new site for the palace. Since they would be sent to the four corners of the world, somewhere, surely there would be a place for Queen Filigree and her court to live in safety.

The royal pigeons had been lovingly reared over centuries, and all have their own fairy powers. In addition, they have extra wings of magic feathers attached to their legs, enabling them to fly higher and faster than normal birds. They come in two colours, pure white and with black and white speckled feathers; all are bright eyed and clever.

After the over indulgence and exuberance of the Christmas feasts, it had been a pleasure for Queen Filigree to  remain quietly in her chambers within the palace beneath the magnolia tree.

She would sit in front of a roaring fire, composing her messages of peace and prosperity, to other fairy heads of state and their subjects. Her elegant handwriting was invisible to human eyes; so small in size that the messages were easily contained on a tiny piece of onion paper. This was then rolled into a silver cylinder, and taken by her chamberlain to the pigeon loft in the roof of the palace. Little had she known that this year her message would contain such desperate news and entreaties for assistance.

In the pigeon loft was an old hump-backed fairy called Jacamo, whose task would be to gently lift the most trusted of the pigeons from their nests, inserting the cylinders into spider’s thread silken pouches on their long legs. Usually there were twelve messages being sent to Queen Filigree’s royal relatives, and also to special humans who had done great service to the kingdom over its very long history. This year, Jacamo was surprised to be asked to prepare all fifty of the royal birds who were not nesting, to go on a special mission.

The queen walked up the winding staircase that led from the palace, through the roots of the magnolia tree, and out into the cold but sunny winter morning. Jacamo was there with the pigeons in wicker baskets awaiting the royal command to release their precious contents.

The queen loved her birds and decided that this year, with so much at stake; she would launch them into the sky herself. She opened each basket, gently picking up the pigeon within; kissing the top of its head, before raising her arms and throwing it into the air. The fifty birds circled their home for a few minutes; took their last look at their home and beloved queen, then flew away towards their individual destinations.

Five days later, Jacamo waited anxiously under the shelter of the magnolia, as wicked winter winds buffeted the branches and leaves above him. At his feet were forty-seven baskets containing the birds that had returned home safely, carrying responses to the New Year greetings sent by their queen, and the special request for sanctuary that had been included.

Three birds were late, and the pigeon master was very worried that they had been swept away by the violent storm raging across Europe and now right above his grey head.

Another day passed, and it was with a sad heart, the old fairy asked for an audience with Queen Filigree, to pass on the bad news that three of her winged messengers were lost. He found her sat on her throne, looking pale and exhausted. At her feet were the gossamer paper responses that had been returned by the forty-seven messenger birds. They expressed sorrow at the troubles that had beset the queen and her kingdom, but regretted that all of them were under similar pressure, and had no hope to offer.

After the storm had subsided and the winter sunshine had returned a day later, the queen decreed that every effort must be made to find her beloved birds as they were the last hope for their salvation. She consulted with her head guardian Sir Gregory, who was also her chief of communications. The shaggy lion had a network of messengers including a fleet of magic butterflies that could travel at the speed of light and communicate in many languages.

After a lengthy consultation with the guardian and her resident weather expert, a pixie named Vortex, it was determined that the birds in question, who had been headed to northern Europe, must have been blown off course towards The Emerald Island. This information was relayed to the waiting butterflies gently flexing their wings in the winter sunshine. Vortex reached over their colourful backs and sprinkled them with fairy dust, before despatching the fleet towards the previous home of the Winter Fairy.

Meanwhile, in a snowy garden on the eastern coast around this small jewel of an island, nature was coming to life again after being frozen for several years. The Winter Fairy’s grip on this magical place, circled by an ancient forest, had ended the moment he had left to conquer the southlands.

Now, with his exile to the arid wastes of far distant desert, the small shoots of spring pushed through the remaining snow and ice to reclaim their world. Trees in the garden rustled as the icicles dropped from their branches and soft velvet buds exploded overnight across their barren skeletons.

It was not only the land and hedgerows that stirred, as the house in the middle of the grassland also began to disrobe from ice and accumulated snow. The windows that had sparkled with crystallised patterns became clear, and water dripped from guttering long clogged with ice.

Inside the awakening mansion, the Storyteller slowly awoke from his slumber, and as his eyes opened, he took a moment to gather his scattered thoughts. The last thing he remembered was that vicious little Winter Fairy shouting at him, with a curse that would freeze him for all eternity, for not permitting him to set up his kingdom in his garden.

The Storyteller had laughed and walked away, but within hours, first his hands and then his feet became very cold and he could no longer stand. He had sat in his old rocking chair and tried to warm his hands on the dying fire in the grate. But the ice filled his veins until his brain had stopped working and he was left staring sightlessly into the future.

Now the warmth continued to flow through his body and after several hours of agonising pins and needles, the Storyteller could stand and move through his home. There was no dust or other indications of how long he had been in his frozen sleep, but as he looked out through his kitchen window, he could see that the land was bursting with the life of spring.

He would go and walk through his beloved gardens and vegetable patch later to check on its condition, but as his stomach rumbled, he realised he needed to check his larder for dried onions and mushrooms for some tasty soup for lunch.

©Sally Cronin 2018…

One of the reviews for Tales from the Irish Garden

Tales from the Irish Garden is a wonderful book. It has the magic of the Narnia Chronicles, the mystery of The Secret Garden and the delight of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland.

As I read this book I became completely immersed in the world of Fairy Queen Filigree and her court. I shared her anxiety as she searched for a new home where her people and bees could be safe and participated in her delight when the perfect spot is found on the faraway Emerald Island.

It is not an easy task to undertake such a big move but the fairies managed it admirably with the help of some of their friends. The Storyteller, a delightful elderly man, is a wonderful new character you will meet and get to know and he proves himself to be kind, thoughtful and understanding. In no time at all the fairies are settled into their new home, kitted out in clothing more suitable for the colder, damper weather and even aided in meeting new friends.

Of course, life is never straightforward and Queen Filigree and the fairies experience their ups and downs, losses, romances and worries as they adapt to their new environment. There are plenty of celebrations and happy moments to smooth the way and it all makes for a very entertaining read.

The illustrations in this book are deserve a mention as they are amazing. They are the creations of talented illustrator Donata Zawadzka.

Robbie created a beautiful fondant Queen Filigree to accompany her review on her blog.

If you would like to browse my other ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Thank you for dropping in and I hope you enjoy the rest of the book.. Chapter Three tomorrow.. Sally.

The previous chapters of Tales from the Irish Garden can be found here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation/

Smorgasbord Health Column – Top to Toe – The Brain – The Brain – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease by Sally Cronin


It is two years since I posted this series on the major organs of the body and how they work and I am always looking for research updates to share with you. Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and other related conditions are rarely out of the headlines and it is probably everyone’s worst fear. There is a genetic link to some forms of dementia,but it is not as common as lifestyle related deterioration of the brain.  Even though we are living longer, dementia is not an automatic progression and understanding how this amazing organ works and what it requires to be health, is vital.

Part Two: Development of the brain from conception through life

The Brain – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Some links to the latest research on dementia..

Magnetic stimulation of the brain improves working memory, offering a new potential avenue of therapy for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to new research from the Duke University School of Medicine: : Science Daily

In a records review of 290 people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, scientists at Johns Hopkins say they have identified an average level of biological and anatomical brain changes linked to Alzheimer’s disease that occur three to 10 years — some even more than 30 years — before the disease’s first recognizable symptoms appear. Science Daily

High blood levels of primary fatty acid amides (PFAMS), a class of fatty molecules involved in sleep and movement control, are associated with increased accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, a study finds. Researchers believe that this class of fatty molecules may represent a new blood biomarker that can help physicians diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier. Alzheimer’s News Today

Dementia is actually a collective name for progressive degenerative brain diseases, which affect our memory, thought, behaviour and emotions. It is not a normal result of ageing and it does not seem to have any specific social, economic, ethnic or geographical links. It can effect different people in different ways, which makes it difficult sometimes to diagnose and to treat

Certain dementia, such as vascular dementia, where plaque is blocking the blood vessels in the brain are linked to lifestyle related causes such as heavy alcohol consumption. Most dementia is likely to have an element of environmental, diet or lifestyle involved in its development.

There is no known cure, but there are ways that we can modify our lifestyle to reduce our risks of brain degeneration and to slow down any process that has already begun.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for around 60% of all cases. The disease is degenerative over a period of years and destroys brain cells and nerve cells causing a disruption to the transmitters, which carry messages in the brain, particularly those that are responsible for our memories.

As the disease progresses, the brain shrinks and gaps develop in the temporal lobe and hippocampus. These areas are responsible for storing and retrieving new information. The damage results in a reduction in a person’s ability to remember events that happened in the short term, to speak, think and to make decisions. All this is both frightening and confusing, as a person will be aware of these lapses in the early stages of the condition.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s

In the beginning, there may be infrequent lapses in memory, forgetting where keys have been left or perhaps failing to switch off electric cookers or other equipment. A person will start to forget the names of everyday objects or people that they are usually very familiar with. They can also suffer from mood swings and panic attacks.

As the disease progresses these symptoms worsen and there is an element of confusion over completing every day tasks such as shopping, cooking and more dangerously driving.
The changes in personality are often attributable to fear and the awareness that something is very wrong. In the earlier stages people tend to try and hide the symptoms. This happens because, much of the time, they will be aware that there is a problem and will not want to accept that this could be as serious a condition as dementia.

In the advanced stages it is not only extremely stressful for the person concerned but also very distressing for their immediate family. We have experience of the problem with a close family friend who was in his 80’s and was looking after his wife who had Alzheimer’s for two years before she went into a home. At that point he was no longer able to cope. She was in danger of hurting herself as she was wandering off in the middle of the night, falling over and hurting herself as well as becoming terrified and disorientated. My own mother in the last two years of her life became increasingly confused but she was nearly 95 when she died. She had family and remained in her own home but for future millions who perhaps have not surviving family it will be a challenge for them and the care services.

What are the risk factors?

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of dementia, but there are several probable links that have been the subject of research in recent years.

There is some evidence of a genetic link to the disease, but that is not proven. Lifestyle most definitely will have played a contributory role as exposure to toxins from smoking, excessive alcohol consumption or work environment will cause damage to the body as a whole and certainly to the brain. There is obviously natural age related degeneration of the entire body and its systems to take into account and any previous head trauma may be part of the problem. There are links to chemical contamination including poisoning from mercury – which can be found in some of the fish that we eat – and also from aluminum, which is most commonly linked to the metal in some of our cooking utensils.

Some recent statistics suggest that at least 10% of those over 65 and 50% of those over 85 years old will be suffering from varying degrees of dementia. We unfortunately have no control over natural ageing, or our genetic background, which means that we should be looking at ways to prevent or minimise the risk of us developing the disease from a much earlier age than our 60’s.

What preventative measures can we take – starting today?

  1. The key factors to reducing your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in particular are very simple and effective.
  2. Your brain is a major organ of the body that requires nutrients to function efficiently and to repair and protect itself. There are specific foods that provide those nutrients and including them in your diet on a very regular basis will be effective.
  3. You need to keep your heart and arterial system clear of oxidised LDL cholesterol and working efficiently to enable vital nutrients and oxygen to reach the brain. However, cholesterol is essential for the body and is involved in many processes including the production of hormones and therefore brain function. Reducing total cholesterol can therefore impact your brain health. Healthy fats are essential in various forms.
  4. You must work the brain as you would any muscle in your body. Stimulating activities strengthen brain cells and the connections between them and may even create new nerve cells.
  5. We all need people around us and it is even better if we involve ourselves in activity that requires mental and physical co-ordination.
  6. Physical exercise maintains healthy blood flow to all our organs including the brain where it will prolong the health of existing brain cells by preventing any further damage.

The one way to deal with an overwhelming fear is to face it and take control of it. For me that has meant a radical change in lifestyle. At one time I smoked over 40 cigarettes a day and drank more than was good for me. My diet was atrocious and I was morbidly obese. I was certainly in a high-risk category for declining brain health, if I had lived long enough to develop the disease.

That is not to say that you have to totally abstain from everything that gives you pleasure. We only have one life and whilst I am totally anti smoking these days, I do believe that we should balance our lifestyle with our pleasures factored in. You will often find me quoting my 80/20 rule. If you follow a healthy lifestyle 80% of the time and the other 20% indulge yourself a little then you will be on the right track.

Reduce the Risk

  • Good Nutrition and hydration.
  • Low levels of plaque in our arteries so that oxygen can get to the brain
  • Exercise your brain as well as your body
  • Social interaction

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Next week the shopping list for optimum brain health, and it is never too late to start.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Weekly Round Up.. Gems from your Archives, Universal Energy and All That Jazz


Welcome to the round up of posts here on Smorgasbord that you might have missed…

The week has been unremarkable here except for the fact that it is June and it has not stopped raining for a week, with at least another week to go… and the heating is still on twice a day. This has not helped the work in the back garden which requires a couple of days of dry weather to put down gravel and then cement…

I am officially banning all singing and dancing for the rest of the summer… see what happens when this dance academy puts on a show and perform ‘Singing in the Rain’  I rest my case!. Thanks Lucinda Armstrong

There is nothing more to say… except let’s get on with the week’s posts..thank you for dropping in and also a huge thanks to those who have contributed this week.

A reminder of the new Sunday Interview series beginning at the end of June…I am already receiving some terrific pieces about our senses…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/23/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-new-sunday-interview-series-human-in-every-sense-of-the-word-starting-sunday-june-30th-2019/

This week William Price King introduces us to a contemporary artist.. Hiromi Uehara Jazz Composer and Pianist.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/28/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-the-music-column-with-william-price-king-hiromi-uehara-jazz-composer-and-pianist/

Two more posts from Paul Andruss...and the first is about a drink with an ancient history.. Mead. Poetic Mead

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/01/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-poetic-mead-by-paul-andruss/

Coffee a Noxious Concoction.. for coffee lovers everywhere..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/smorgasbord-posts-from-my-archives-smorgasbord-writer-in-residence-coffee-a-noxious-concoction-by-paul-andruss/

This weekend I begin the serialisation of Tales from the Irish Garden... and in the first post a reminder of how the story left off in the previous book.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/01/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation-previously-in-the-magic-garden-by-sally-cronin/

Chapter One..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation-winter-christmas-under-the-magnolia-tree-by-sally-cronin/

Annette Rochelle Aben takes us through the universal energy we can expect in June….

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-numerology-your-universal-energy-for-june-2019-by-annette-rochelle-aben/

Sherri Matthews joins us for a series of four memoir posts. In her first post.. a little nostalgia about her first meal out with her Dad.

We didn't eat out as kids, but we did enjoy family gatherings, such as this tea party for a cousin. Me on the right. Always the kid with chocolate on my face. Nothing's changed... (c) Sherri Matthews

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-guest-writer-sherri-matthews-memoir-times-past-challenge-chinese-spoons-and-eating-out/

This week the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills  prompt was strawberries and mint… here is my story – The Devilish Mojito…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/01/smorgasbord-short-stories-the-carrot-ranch-flash-fiction-challenge-strawberries-and-mint-the-devilish-mojito-by-sally-cronin-by-sally-cronin/

Welcome to the series  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newseries-pot-luck-and-do-you-trust-me/

Robbie Cheadle writes for both children and adults, but clearly children’s books are very dear to her heart… here is a post that demonstrates that. The Life of Roald Dahl.

Roald Dahl

Photograph from The Official Roald Dahl Website

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/27/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-kidsbooks-the-life-of-roald-dahl-by-robbie-cheadle/

Jacquie Biggar with a recipe that brings back memories..also a link to a festive cookbook that looks great.

uw4qrkc5riokbnqmeyhpw.jpg

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/27/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potlucksunday-recipes-baking-up-memories-by-jacquie-biggar/

Financial expert Sharon Marchisello explains the need to identify your tolerance risk when investing.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-finance-investment-know-your-tolerance-for-risk-by-sharon-marchisello/

Diana Wallace Peach treats us to a wonderful short story.. The Optometrist and the Dragon

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-the-optometrist-and-the-dragon-writephoto-by-d-wallace-peach/

Carol Taylor is on a short break so I took the opportunity to delve into her archives to find some gems to share with you.. in this post a secret garden…

Koh Samui The Secret Garden

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-travel-thailandkoh-samuia-secret-garden-by-carol-taylor/

This is the final post from Beetley Pete also known as Pete Johnson who blogs from Norfolk…I could not leave the archives without sharing a post about Ollie.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-dogs-ollie-and-his-guests-by-beetley-pete/

An inspiring poem from Miriam Hurdle – The Sun Welcomes Me…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-poetry-the-sun-welcomes-me-by-miriam-hurdle/

Pre-school teacher of over 30 years, Jennie Fitzkee, has been a welcome guest here many times but this time, Jennie has let me loose in her archives… this will be fun. She is always coming up with creative ways to engage the children.. and here is just one. The Stop Game”, From Dinosaurs to Poetry

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-the-stop-game-from-dinosaurs-to-poetry-by-jennie-fitzkee/

Olga Nunez Miret gives us a guided tour through her hometown of Barcelona

It was cloudy in the morning but it improved

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-la-merce-in-barcelona-and-a-few-visits-hospital-de-sant-pau-and-palacete-albeniz-by-olga-nunez-miret/

A new participant to the series with some lovely photographs of wetland wildlife and a cute grandson.. Fraggle Photography.

runaways

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-the-wetlands-report-part-1-fraggle-photography/

Another new participant.. Elizabeth Slaughter with a memory that could have ended very differently.

1948-50s 376

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-timber-r-r-r-r-by-elizabeth-slaughter/

Kim of By Hook or By Book is a book reviewer and here is an example.

0EEAB210-B401-4332-AEC4-99F635268E87

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/01/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-ya-scream-all-night-by-derek-milman-reviewed-by-kim-of-by-hook-or-by-book

Gibson Square (pen name) writes The Cabbie Blog and over the next four weeks I will be sharing trivia and little known facts about London.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/01/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-london-trivia-gibson-square-the-cabbie-blog/

Susanne Swanson shares her trip to Hawaii.. with some lovely photographs.

20141024_142112_burst01

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-hawaii-the-beginnings-by-susanne-swanson/

Balroop Singh shares the therapeutic benefits of music…. I won’t argue with that… cannot imagine my life without it.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-have-you-felt-the-emotional-and-therapeutic-appeal-of-music-by-balroop-singh/

New Book on the Shelves

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/28/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-historicalirishfiction-mahoney-by-andrew-joyce/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-death-in-shangri-la-a-dotan-naor-thriller-by-yigal-zur/

Author Update: Reviews

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/27/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-chuck-jackson-karen-ingalls-and-allan-hudson/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-s-a-harris-geoff-le-pard-john-w-howell-and-gwen-plano/

The second post in the series on the brain.. and how it develops from conception through life.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/smorgasbord-health-column-top-to-toe-the-brain-how-the-brain-develops-from-conception-through-life-by-sally-cronin/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/28/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-how-to-deal-with-clowns-and-chocolate-and-a-joke-or-two-from-the-archives/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-guest-comedian-d-g-kaye-and-some-jokes-from-sallys-archives-guest-comedian-d-g-kaye-and-some-jokes-from-sallys-archives/

Thank you so much for dropping in today and for all the support… I am just off to do my shopping…Sally

Smorgasbord Health Column – Top to Toe – The Brain – How the brain develops from conception through life by Sally Cronin


It is two years since I posted this series on the major organs of the body and how they work and I am always looking for research updates to share with you. Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and other related conditions are rarely out of the headlines and it is probably everyone’s worst fear. There is a genetic link to some forms of dementia,but it is not as common as lifestyle related deterioration of the brain.  Even though we are living longer, dementia is not an automatic progression and understanding how this amazing organ works and what it requires to be health, is vital.

Part One: Brain – Introduction and Anatomy

How the brain develops from conception through life

How the brain develops.

We are hard wired and from the moment of conception there will be enforced changes to the structure and function of our brains. Whilst the process of development is beyond our control, there is still a powerful external influence on how well that programming is carried out. Before birth the health, nutrition, environment and lifestyle choices of the mother can impact both the rate of brain development and the health of the brain cells. After birth during the formative years up to age 15, environment, nutrition and stimulation of those brain cells is critical and if they do not receive sufficient amounts of all of these there is a chance that irreversible damage will occur.

The development of the brain does not follow a straight upward line it comes in waves with certain parts of the brain achieving full function at different times. There is however a sequence that every brain will follow.

Egg surrounded by SpermAt conception the sperm and the egg form a single cell combining to form the genetic blueprint. Over 60% of our genes are committed to forming our brain which is after all the control centre for all our other functions. Around three to four weeks into development a thin layer of cells form in the embryo, which then fold and fuse to form a liquid filled tube. This minute start is vital as it is the first stage in the development of the brain and spinal cord. This is followed by the production of nerve cells called neurons.

Embryo 54 daysA miracle occurs as cells in the neural tube accelerate at an amazing rate reaching around 15million neurons an hour. This rate of growth continues for the first six months of a foetus’s development.

At around 14 weeks with millions of cells in place a change occurs as they begin to migrate to specific parts of the neural network and the inbuilt GPS usually sends them to the correct address. Some do however get lost or damaged in transit and die off.

Rarely however, some do reach the wrong destination and form incorrect connections and this coding error can lead to certain disorders such as autism or epilepsy, slower physical and mental development and in some cases more severe mental health issues.

At 20 weeks about half the existing cells are shed and those that remain are organised into compartments within the brain that govern virtually every automatic function in our bodies and also our senses and skills.

At birth we have around 100 billion brain cells and we begin the next stage in our development. Most of the connections between the neurons are barely formed and will need to be strengthened by the time we reach the age of three.

A baby has most of the senses working at birth such as sight, smell, hearing and the ability to respond to touch. Immediately with that first breath the brain kicks into overdrive and forms trillions of connections and pathways enabling learning.

As with the early development of the brain, it is vital that the environment, nutrition and stimulation are available to enable the brain to process and learn from experience.
These experiences trigger the electrical activity necessary to enable the brain to develop connections and grow. These connections are called synapses. The connections are formed by each neuron putting out a long tentacle like fibre called an axon. The neuron uses the axon to send messages to other neurons. The messages are sent as electrical signals and picked up by thousands of short, hair like fibres called dendrites (also produced by the neurons). Each neuron is able to connect up with thousands of other neurons.

It is then that ‘practice makes perfect’ comes into play as repeated experiences, sights, smells or movements form well-worn paths within the brain that we remember for a lifetime. By age two our brains have developed trillions of these pathways and although they continue to form throughout our lifetime they have reached their highest density.

Our higher functioning ability is usually operational by age three and we begin to think for ourselves, use language effectively and have developed personality traits.

After three years old we continue to absorb knowledge and experience like a sponge and the constant practice etches the functions into the brain. If that absorption ceases for some reason and we stop practicing certain functions, we can lose them completely as the brain discards little used pathways in favour of more travelled routes.

This pruning process and strengthening of the connections in the brain is most active in the teen years. The prefrontal cortex is the last to mature and it involves the control of impulses and decision-making. Anyone who has had children going through this phase will have a clear understanding of the ‘challenges’ that arise during this phase! This powerful surge in the brain is accompanied by the added influx of hormones which results in a chemical and electrical ‘perfect storm’.

There is a strong element of voluntary change at this stage of the development of the brain. It is around this age that we start making choices about what we eat, the amount of exercise we take, to take up smoking or drinking alcohol and to stop formal education. All these elements will affect the few years left of brain development we have left and therefore our mental capacity.

The brain continues to defrag the mainframe and the strongest connections survive. By our early 20s our brain development is matured into a powerful and functioning organ with approximately 500 trillion pathways.

At around 30 years old the physical changes will wind down in the brain and this is where even more of a voluntary contribution to growth, experience and maintenance is required to keep the pathways clear of debris such as plaque so that they continue to function efficiently.

This phase lasts for the next 35 or 40 years. The brain cells are active and we contribute to their health by diet, stimulation and avoiding lifestyle choices that kill them off. Such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not taking exercise, eating a diet rich in components that block our arteries and blood flow to the brain……you get the idea.

After 65 years old there is a natural dying off of cells in certain parts of the brain. This does not mean that you will lose all your mental capacity, but little things will begin to make an impact on your daily functioning. For example brain cells lost from the Hippocampus where we process memories will result in forgetfulness.

You are NOT destined to develop full blown dementia and you can make sure that you support your brain function by eating a healthy balanced diet, getting plenty of oxygen and regular exercise, reducing stress and interacting with others and events to stimulate the pathways to remain open. More so than at any other time in the lifespan of your brain, the voluntary choices and changes you make to your way of life will bring huge benefits.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Next time a more detailed look at dementia and recent research and how we can take preventative action at any age to minimise the decline in brain function.