Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – Chapter Four – The Dental Practice by Sally Cronin

This was the first novel that I wrote back in 2001 when I first moved to Spain to live. I had written short stories before and non-fiction health books, but felt the need to bring a little romance and humour into my writing.. the result was the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.

About the book

At 50 Imogen had been married for over 20 years, and was living in a big house, with money to spare. Suddenly she is traded-in for a younger model, a Fast-Tracker.

Devastated, she hides away and indulges in binge eating. But then, when hope is almost gone, she meets a new friend and makes a journey to her past that helps her move on to her future.

Last time Imogen shares her adventures in her first job at age fourteen in a souvenir kiosk along the seafront of her home town.

Chapter Four – The Dental Practice

Following a year at secretarial college, and having gained my passes in shorthand and typing, I entered the full-time job market.

My experience along the seafront had at least prepared me for working life. I was usually punctual and didn’t take liberties with my lunch hour. I had even had my first managerial position, you could say, as I had been left in charge of my kiosk during Betty’s days off and holidays. Unfortunately this had not prepared me for the interviews that I attended and I was sorely disappointed to discover that the only job that was open, to a newly qualified secretary, was that of the lowly office junior.

I had earned two and six an hour along the seafront and at sixteen worked a forty-hour week. This gave me five pounds a week, plus tips, which were divided between all the staff.

Because I was a student I did not pay tax and so I usually had at least seven pounds a week in my hand. I soon discovered that office juniors were lucky to get six pounds a week and that would be taxed. I horrified my mother by suggesting that I make the seafront my career instead, and she patiently pointed out that things would get better as I gained experience.

I wondered how I would ever gain that experience. I went for about five interviews that, frankly, put me off the idea of working in an office, for life. All the women who conducted the interviews seemed dried up and humourless. I was used to the informality of the seafront, and the thought of sitting at a desk staring, at a wall, typing-up dictation all day terrified me. But then I saw the advert in the local evening paper.

Monday to Friday 9.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
Seven pounds per week.

This was more like it! I rang the number and spoke to a very friendly girl who took some details and slotted me in for an interview the next day .

I sat in the waiting room with two or three nervous looking people whom I assumed were patients. There were three dentists in the practice, judging by the signs on the door, and I was to be interviewed by Mr. Forsythe-Brown. I felt as if I was about to have an extraction and wondered if I was doing the right thing.

I was ushered into the ground floor surgery and found myself sitting opposite a large, leather covered desk. On the other side was a man in his sixties. Hair slicked back, little half glasses perched on a large, beaky nose and hands crossed in front of him. His hands caught my attention immediately. They had a dry, scrubbed look with very white nails. He cleared his throat.

‘Miss Baxter. I am Mr. Forsythe-Brown the senior partner in this practice. You would be working solely for myself as my other partners have their own receptionists and dental nurses. Perhaps I can ask you some questions?’

The interview passed in a blur. Mr. Forsythe-Brown fired questions at me so rapidly that I only had time to tell the truth.

‘You are very young.’ He observed.

‘However, that means you may not have had time to learn shoddy habits, and I will have an opportunity to show you the correct manner of conducting yourself.’


‘You can start on Monday. You will be paid seven pounds per week and be provided with two white coats to be worn at all times.’

Sounded familiar: I hoped that there would be no unidentified, dried, stains on these overalls, as I thought that, this time, they were unlikely to be ketchup.

I found myself uttering my acceptance, and before I could change my mind, the pleasant girl, whose name was Sandra, was showing me out of the door.

‘Are you leaving the job?’ I asked, hoping to establish if there had been any unsavoury behaviour on the part of my new employer.

‘No, I’m his dental nurse but we are so busy that I cannot cope anymore with the reception duties and the paperwork so we needed someone else.’ She smiled.

‘Don’t worry. His bark is worse than his bite. I’ll fill you in on him on Monday when you start, but do be on time, he hates people turning up late for appointments.’

With that, I returned home with the joyful news that I was in gainful employment and would be starting Monday. My parents were relieved that yet another daughter was successfully launched into the big bad world, and I enjoyed my last three days of freedom.

Monday morning arrived far too soon. Although I had worked for three years, this was my first full time job. I arrived fifteen minutes early and found Sandra in the small office off the hall.

‘Oh good you’re early.’ She smiled and sat me down in front of the typewriter.

‘We have this month’s accounts to prepare. As we deal with the private patients, we bill them after their appointments. The other dentists in the practice deal with all the National Health patients and they pay at the time.’

So started my introduction, and I have to say that I didn’t see Mr. Forsythe-Brown, or FB as he became known, until the end of the day.

‘Miss Baxter, could you come into the surgery please.’ He called through on the intercom on the desk.

Nervously, I entered the inner sanctum and found FB at the sink ferociously scrubbing his hands. He turned and nodded for me to sit at the desk. After a few more minutes of concentrated washing and drying he came and sat down.

‘Miss Smith tells me you are doing well for your first day. Tomorrow you will begin to make appointments under her guidance. I want you to go through all the patient files and familiarise yourself with their names and treatments so that when they ring for an appointment you know who you are talking to.’

Oh my God! I knew that there were at least four hundred patients. I was never going to learn all their names, let alone their treatments.

‘I expect you to have done this within the next month, by which time you will no longer require Mrs. Smith’s attention and she can spend more time in the surgery with me doing the job she is supposed to be doing.’

He looked at me for some acknowledgement that I concurred with this ultimatum. What else could I do but nod and say ‘Yes Sir.’

That set the tone for the first three months of my employment. I was learning so much that the time went very quickly, and I took pride in the fact that I did learn all the patients names, and in addition I produced all the monthly accounts on time and scheduled patients’ appointments correctly. After three months, FB gave me a pay rise of another ten shillings a week, and I bought the whole family a take-away to celebrate.

Then disaster struck, or so it seemed at the time. I had very little contact with FB himself. Sandra was the bearer of messages, and instructions, and apart from the occasional greeting, or request for a patient file, my dealings with him were limited.

I was completing that month’s accounts when I heard a thud from the surgery. Immediately, the door opened and FB stuck his head out.

‘Get in here quick Miss Baxter’

I rushed in, and found Sandra lying on the floor, a patient in the chair and FB standing with an instrument in one hand and a piece of plastic tubing in the other. I of course ran over to Sandra and began to kneel down.

‘No, no,’ he shouted. ‘She’ll be alright, get over here and hold this tube in the patient’s mouth immediately.’

I was too shocked to do anything but obey. I really had not come close to blood before, but there was no time to be squeamish. I placed the hooked tube back in the patient’s mouth, and started sucking up the saliva and water that was pooled under his tongue. I could see that a back tooth was exposed, and FB set to with his instruments and proceeded to extract it. It was a lengthy process as the root was curved. I was fascinated, and tried to follow FB’s instructions as promptly as possible. The job was finished and the patient gratefully leaving the chair when we both remembered poor Sandra.

She had revived and was sitting with her head between her knees on the chair in the corner. I ushered the patient out of the door, made a follow up appointment, and carried on with my accounts.

Luckily, we had no more patients that day and Sandra went home to make an appointment with her doctor. In seventeen years of working as a dental nurse, she had never fainted at the sight of blood before.

The next morning, when I arrived for work FB called me straight into the surgery, where I found Sandra sitting white-faced at the desk.

‘Sit down Miss Baxter.’ FB invited.

Oh dear. What was coming now? Was it somehow my fault, had I made a mess up of things when I stepped into the breach yesterday? I waited nervously.

It was Sandra who spoke first.

‘Imogen, I have been married for twenty years and we unfortunately have not had any children. We had given up hope but it turns out that I’m three months pregnant and that’s why I fainted yesterday.’

Although she was white-faced, I could see that she was radiant too.

FB took over.

‘Miss Baxter. I don’t like change. Mrs Smith has been with me for seventeen years and I am used to her ways. She was the one who persuaded me to take on extra assistance, and I must say you have been most helpful.’

He paused, and I waited for the axe to fall.

‘Mrs. Smith can no longer work in the surgery and so she will take over your duties outside until she leaves to have her baby and you will take her place in the surgery as my dental nurse.’

I sat there in stunned silence.

The very next day, I found myself standing at the doorway of the surgery about to embark on a completely unexpected career move. FB was not an easy man to please. He was a perfectionist, and young as I was, he gave me no leeway. I had to learn, and learn fast, and it was exciting and nerve-wracking. But, by the time Sandra left, three months later, I loved it. In fact, we decided that, with some juggling of appointments, we could leave Wednesday afternoons free for my paperwork and FB could go and play golf. This way we did not have to take anybody else on to act as receptionist. It was hectic but we managed, as there were times when it was not necessary for me to be in attendance in the surgery and I could get on with the administration work.

* * *

I paused and looked over at Andrew.

‘Go on. Tell me about some of the highlights during those two years. It sounds fascinating.’

There he went again. Fascinating was not a word I had associated with myself for years.

‘Andrew. I don’t mean to question your judgement. I love talking about myself, but is it usual to spend so much time with an applicant?’

‘No, it isn’t.’ He studied his hands for a moment. ‘You remind me of my wife. She died three years ago, and although you look nothing like her, you have the same spark, and I suppose I am being purely selfish by wanting to know more about you.’

He smiled, and I could tell he was a little embarrassed.

‘I had left today clear for paperwork, so you are in fact doing me a favour, but if you need to be somewhere else, then please tell me and we will cut this short.’

It was a long time since a man had paid me so much attention, and had listened to every word I said. What girl in her right mind was going to pass that up?

‘I have all the time in the world.’ I assured him. ‘But please let me know if it starts to get boring.’

* * *

Right. Highlights of my job with FB.

One of the problems we had to overcome was the age difference. FB was a retired Army Colonel who had served in the desert in the Second World War. On retirement from the Army, at fifty, he had gone into private practice. He was fifty years older than I was.

It was the sixties, and FB found the whole scene far too much. He did not approve of either the dress of the day, or the behaviour of the young. He would not tolerate lateness or any evidence of nights on the town, and it was hard for a seventeen-year-old to be in such a controlled environment. The up-side was that I learnt a great deal about self-discipline and work ethics, which stayed with me for the rest of my life.

I had much to learn. In those days, although dentistry was not as sophisticated as today it was still complicated enough.

Our equipment was not exactly state-of-the-art, and some of it actually had done service in the desert. For example, at that time, in the sixties, we had frequent power cuts. This of course meant that the electric, high-speed drill was non-operational. So, out would come the ‘squeeze-box’. This powered a drill attached to a pulley. I would pump up and down on a pedal and this provided enough energy to operate the drill at a painfully slow speed. Painful enough just watching, so I can only imagine what it was like for the patient.

On one occasion we had no electricity for two days and I developed cramp in my calf muscles from too much pumping. If you have ever tried to rub your head in one direction and your stomach in the other then you can imagine what it was like to be pumping away with your leg while handing over instruments, operating the sucker, also pump operated, and mixing amalgam.

Our other piece of outdated machinery was our X-ray unit. Definitely at least ten years old, if not more. It was huge and resided in one corner of the surgery. It had a flexible arm with a large wedge shaped unit on the end. There was a nozzle attached to it and this was placed against the patient’s cheek, the button pushed and the picture taken. We used to leave the room during the procedure but I was never convinced that the machine wasn’t leaking radiation all over the place.

Another of my jobs was to develop the X-rays, and on one occasion this led to a bit of a ‘miracle’. The developing was done in a small broom cupboard at the top of the stairs. It contained two tall, narrow, tanks, one for developing and one for fixing, and I had to wear elbow length rubber gloves to handle the chemicals.

For processing, the X-rays were clipped into a metal holder which had four metal clips each side of the main central shaft. A sticker was put on this shaft showing which patient each X-ray belonged to. On this particular occasion, when I was in a hurry, I inadvertently opened the clip at the top of the holder and released all eight X-rays into the fixer tank. You have to remember that I was operating in very subdued lighting and I had to fish around in the tank with my gloved hand to find these slippery little bits of film.

At last, I got them all out and because they were now developed and fixed, I could switch the main light on. But, whose X-ray was which? I did my best, and put all eight films back in the holder to dry.

Nothing happened for about two weeks. I was doing the accounts while FB was taking impressions for some dentures when I got the call.

‘Miss Baxter, could you come in here a moment?’

I recognised that oily, smooth tone of voice. I had done something wrong.

I entered the surgery to find a lovely lady in her seventies in the chair. She smiled at me revealing her pink gums and nothing else.

I turned to FB who was holding an X-ray up to the window and examining it closely.

‘Miss Baxter, we appear to have a bit of a miracle on our hands. Perhaps you could shed some light on it?’

I had already learnt that FB could be quite sarcastic when the mood took him and he was in full flood now.

‘Mrs James as you are aware, requires new dentures. On her last visit, I took an X-ray – as she was experiencing some pain beneath the gum – and I suspected that a root might have been left behind during her extractions several years ago.’

He paused for effect.

‘Imagine my extreme surprise to discover, on removing Mrs. James X-ray from her notes, that she has grown a complete set of new teeth and indeed has a whole jaw of second teeth to follow.’

Oh dear!

‘From this X-ray I would determine Mrs. James to be about eight years old.’

Thankfully, the correct X-ray was located in one of our younger patient’s notes, but from then on, I always checked the X-rays in the notes before handing them over for the appointment.

It was generally interesting work, and although FB was a tough boss he was also fair. I now earned eleven pounds a week for the two roles I was performing, which was a lot of money for someone of my age. I had recently turned eighteen and life was good. There were still the odd times when I wished I was anywhere else but in that surgery, but looking back, even those times were amusing.

Like the time we were removing an upper molar from a rather large man. I would place my hands, laced across the top of a patient’s head during an upper extraction. This would hold the patient steady and apply pressure downwards when FB was pushing upwards. Not very elegant but it worked. In this case, I discovered that the patient was wearing a hairpiece. I had just placed my hands on his head when his hair started moving alarmingly around his scalp.

‘Miss Baxter, would you hold the patient’s head steady.’ He hissed at me, between clenched teeth.

As FB was so close to the patient, he couldn’t really shout at me.

‘I am trying to.’

Obviously I sounded a little stressed, and FB raised his eyes to my level and stopped what he was doing.

I lifted my hand, and pointed downwards at the offending article now perched precariously over the patients right eyebrow.

A look of irritation crossed FB’s face. We were half way through the extraction and there was no going back. He jerked his head at me to replace my hands on the man’s head, which I did with some trepidation. I found that, if I applied a great deal of pressure, I could just about hold the toupee in place and provide the leverage necessary for FB to complete the procedure.

Thankfully the tooth was extracted and the patient sent on his way a relieved man. This probably lasted until he caught sight of his reflection somewhere on his journey home which would have revealed a rather large gap at the back of his head and a lot of hair lying low over his eyebrows.

I believe that was the first time I ever heard FB laugh out loud. He waited, of course, until I had left the surgery. My hand was on the doorknob, just about to return to collect a file when I heard the peals of laughter from inside.

Unfortunately, FB’s wife, who had been ill for some time, died, and he decided, at the age of sixty-nine to retire to the country. He was very generous to me, giving me a lump sum and a very good reference. I felt that I would like to take dental nursing further, and considered training as a State Registered Nurse. The Queen Alexandra Nursing Service was advertising for recruits at the time and the uniform was very attractive.

* * *

Andrew looked down at the C.V.

‘I can’t see anything here about you becoming a nurse, what happened?’

‘That is a whole different story, which has nothing to so with my employment history.’ It was also one of the more embarrassing episodes of my life and one that I had chosen to forget until now.

‘It sounds intriguing! Come on, spill the beans.’ I was obviously not going to get away with keeping this to myself. But, I was enjoying myself for the first time in ages and even if I didn’t get a job out of this, my self esteem was getting a terrific boost.

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

Chapter five tomorrow with wayward hair pieces and shenanigans in the shoe department

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – October 4th – 10th 2020 – Streisand, Narcissism, Dog Sitting, Mending Fences, books, reviews and funnies

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

So here we are all again and how quickly time flies when you are enjoying yourself…I say that without a trace of sarcasm honestly… if it were not for the blog and for the daily visits from all of you I think I would have found the last 8 months very difficult.

Not that there are not things that need to be done! – I have not got anymore housework done that I do normally (which is not a great deal). There is the matter of the short story collection due out in November to finish, two novels, a large tapestry of an elephant and her baby, the summer clothes as yet unworn to be put away back in their winter quarters, and winter clothes to be ironed and put back on hangers. I will leave the sequin jacket and dancing shoes where they are as we won’t be doing any partying anytime soon…although a quick shuffle around the dining room is not out of the question to the right music.

I do have 35 books awaiting reading and reviewing and I am trying to do that in a timely fashion. I know that at the end of the month I will be heading off to Amazon again to buy another ten or twelve that have been recommended by others here or I have spotted on others’ blogs. One of the downsides of promoting authors and reading through their reviews to showcase but I am not complaining, just my TBR like most of yours.

I have also been doing some updated research on a number of health conditions and despite the Covid – 19 focus on getting a vaccine and treatments, there are still some interesting advances in other areas of medical research.. I will be putting together a new Health in the News in November.

The author spotlight ends tomorrow, but I went through my files and unearthed some author interviews from 2015 onwards for authors who are very much a part of my community and I will be repeating those on Sundays up to the end of the year. I have updated with their current books and reviews and I hope you will enjoy again after all this time.

I hope you have enjoyed the week as much as I have and my thanks as always to the contributors who take time and a great deal of thought to put together interesting and entertaining posts.. this week William Price King shares part three of the Barbra Streisand story and you can find William’s own posts and also very kindly a selection of Smorgasbord’s on his  Blog– IMPROVISATION William Price King on Tumblr

Also this week D.G. Kaye, Debby Gies shares her wisdom on narcissism in the family and some of the reasons behind this insidious and damaging mental issue. Also thanks to my guest Jane Sturgeon for her entertaining life changing moment…

And a special thank you to author Judith Barrow who has kindly set up a directory on her blog to share posts from Smorgasbord.. a huge honour thanks Judith Judith Barrow Blog

Thank you for supporting all of us and it is much appreciated.

Life and Music of Barbra Streisand Part Three -collaborations in the 1970s and 1980s

D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships -October 2020 -Envy, Jealousy, Bullying – A Path to Narcissism?

Life Changing Moments – Dog Sitting with a twist or two by Jane Sturgeon

Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story – Chapter Ten – Sleepovers with new friends

Shakespeare and Traditional Fencing Methods

20th Anniversary #Free Book and Some of my Very Odd Jobs – The Steak House Part Two by Sally Cronin

Pub landlady Cowes Isle of Wight


Poetry – In Remembrance – The War Poets – Edmund Blunden

-My parents arrive – Part One – Stetsons, Yellow Roses, Pappasito’s and Chi Chis

Western #Horror #Thriller – Guns of Perdition – The Armageddon Showdown Book 1 by Jessica Bakkers

Past Book Reviews – #IrishHistory Andrew Joyce, #Shortstories Mary Smith


The endocrine system and hormones Part One

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy – Oils, origins, uses and Safety – Part Two

Summer 2020- Pot Luck- Book Reviews by Vashti Quiroz-Vega


Share your Children’s book reviews – #PictureBooks with Jennie Fitzkee Part Two

Sam the Speedy Sloth by Matthew Ralph reviewed by Barbara Ann Mojica

#Fantasy D. Wallace Peach Reviews #YAFantasy Heather Kindt, #Contemporary Carol LaHines, #ShortStories Elizabeth Merry

#Poetry Geoff Le Pard, Reviews -#Dystopian Harmony Kent, #WWII Marina Osipova

#Poetry Frank Prem, Reviews #Crime Jane Risdon, #Thriller Gwen Plano

Smorgasbord Laughter Lines – Oct 6th 2020 – Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin

October 8th 2020 – Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Protests and Clean Plates

Host Sally Cronin – What do you mean I can’t park here?


Thanks again for dropping by and as always your feedback is much appreciated… Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – #Spain – Tales from the Garden Chapter Six – Trouble in Paradise – Part Two by Sally Cronin

It is over two years since I share the stories from Tales from The Garden that I wrote in tribute to our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid from 1999 to 2016.  We inherited a number of statues from the previous owners that were too big to take with them, and I also found some discarded around the garden. Perfect characters for stories, some of whom moved on with us to Ireland and appeared in Tales from the Irish Garden. I hope that you will enjoy.

Last week The queen has discovered that her husband of 400 years has been having an affair with one of her ladies-in -waiting.. the kingdom holds its collective breath as repercussions roll around the palace!

Chapter Six – Trouble in Paradise – Part Two

The dwarf was mortified and hung his head trying to hide his thoughts from his queen who he could see was dreadfully upset. He also knew that he had been in the forbidden part of the garden and should not have seen the two lovers in the first place. But he had lost his rabbit and knew that he often entered the patch of magic ivy to eat its luscious green shoots.

The queen waved him away before he saw the tears that filled her eyes…but as he turned to go she demanded that he tell no-one of what he had seen on pain of being expelled from the orchestra.

She knew that this was probably futile and over the next few hours it was clear that the story, or a version of it, was circulating amongst the fairy community and the rest of the garden inhabitants.

Life beneath the magnolia tree was usually peaceful and undisturbed and to be honest a little monotonous. This revelation about the highest family in the land was too good to keep a secret; even for those she trusted most to do so.

Her power as ruler of this invisible kingdom was in jeopardy, and if she was to maintain her status and dignity action needed to be taken. Not just to punish the king for his actions, which under fairy law meant instant banishment to the human world, but to the woman in his embrace.

The queen knew who she was. The lady-in-waiting that the king had unwisely danced twice with at the summer ball. As a member of the court and daughter of one of the royal counsellors, this floozy knew exactly what the consequences were for flirting with a married man and particularly with the king himself.

There was only one course of action and it had to be taken quickly. The queen called her trusted advisors together in the council chamber in a clearing beneath the magnolia tree. Apart from fairies she also sent out messengers to find the wisest creature in the entire garden.

Felis silvestris catus was descended from the royal cats of ancient Egypt and had wandered into this garden in Spain many years ago. He said little but when he did speak it was always profound and the words valuable.

The palace guard had led the king to an ante-chamber where he waited head in hands to discover his fate. He had tried to speak to his queen but had been held back by her soldiers and he knew that his life here in this world was at an end.

The discussions continued through the night and into the next day. Angry voices could be heard and also desperate pleading by the father of the lady-in-waiting, who was terrified of losing his daughter for good.

Eventually the doors to the council chamber were flung opened and the king was led through to face his fate.

White faced and visibly shaking the queen pronounced the sentence that would be carried out immediately. She faced the king and made him kneel at her feet. She looked down at his bowed head and sorrowfully delivered the judgement.

You will be banished to the human world to live in another garden far away. You will be turned to stone, in the form of a one-eyed pig. You will then live beneath a wide-limbed evergreen tree that is home to many pigeons.’

The king raised his head and stared at his wife in disbelief but she returned his look coldly.

‘In addition, you will be guarded by one of my most trusted ladies of the bed chamber, who will be transformed into a black dog so that she can live in comfort in the home of the humans. She will report back to me should you decide to use your own magic powers to change your form.’

The queen smiled grimly. ‘Do not imagine you will be able to put anything past the Lady Ellie as she is keen of mind as well as a rare beauty.’

The king ventured to speak and begrudgingly the queen indicated that he could stand and address the court one last time.

‘I am deeply sorry for my actions, but I truly love the Lady Oleander and would beg that you do not punish her for my unseemly actions.’ He looked at his wife with his hands held out towards her.

‘Her punishment has been carried out and you can no longer help her.’

The harsh words drew a sharp breath from the king.

‘She was found waiting for you in the secret garden beneath the clock and has been frozen in time where she will now wait for you forever.’

Many years passed and the fairy world slowly recovered from the loss of their carefree king and moved on with their lives in the heat and cold of the changing seasons within the garden.

Eventually the queen found love again with a dashing prince who was visiting from another fairy court many miles distant. As she basked in the new love, and after discussing the matter with her handsome young husband, she came to a decision.

Far, far away in the human world the one-eyed pig sat silently beneath the pigeon filled tree, becoming increasingly more decorated with their offerings. He was watched over daily by the Lady Ellie who herself had become a little bored with her restrictive life as a guard dog.

Then one day messengers arrived from the fairy kingdom having flown for three nights and three days. The swans had acted as protectors for the tiny robin who had been sent with a message for the Lady Ellie. Now as the misty early morning sunlight filled the garden, the red-breasted bird delivered the royal decree.

The king was to be released from his stone curse but could not return to the fairy kingdom. He would now have to live as a mortal man with a human lifespan. Since the queen was now happily in love again herself and had no wish for the king to remain alone, she would also release the Lady Oleander from her vigil beneath the clock.

The Lady Ellie cast the necessary spells and some days later a tall, good looking man was seen waiting patiently at a railway station with a suitcase at his feet. After all the years of living beneath the pigeons in the tree, it was a great relief to actually have two of them pecking away at crumbs at his feet instead.

Suddenly, he noticed a beautiful young woman with flowing blonde hair walking towards him along the platform. As he heard the sound of the steam engine travelling slowly into the station, the lovely vision stopped in front of him. She smiled and reached out a hand and he swept her into his arms and kissed her passionately.

A world away beneath the magnolia tree someone else was watching the scene. The queen opened her eyes and smiled. She could now live happily ever after. Even if it was just for a brief human lifespan, her old love would now be happy too with his Lady Oleander.

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015


I hope you have enjoyed this chapter from the Tales from the Garden and as always your comments are much appreciated. Thanks Sally

Other short story anthologies.

You can find out about all my books and read recent reviews: My books and reviews 2020

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Smorgasbord Health Column – Weekly Grocery Shopping List by #Nutrient – Part Three – Calcium to Manganese

Last week I posted  Part Two of this alternative shopping list by nutrient, as well as types of vitamins, water or fat soluble, and a basic list of essential nutrients the body needs to be healthy. At the end of the the posts, I will collate the foods into nutritional groups so that you can print off and refer to when doing your weekly shop.

I believe in eating, and eating all food groups, just moderating the amount that you eat based on your requirements. Your body knows how to process fresh food, raw and cooked from scratch. It is not designed to extract nutrients from manufactured foods which includes the majority that come in a packet, jar or can.

With that in mind here is part three of a shopping list that your body might write if it was capable. It does try to tell you that it is missing elements that it needs which is when you are sick.

Last year we ran a series on nutrients and the symptoms of deficiency.. and Carol Taylor provided very tasty recipes using ingredients to make sure you don’t lack certain vital vitamins and minerals. Cook from Scratch to avoid Nutritional Deficiency with Sally Cronin and Carol Taylor

Minerals the body needs and the foods you should add to your shopping list.

Calcium: The most abundant and essential mineral in the body. There are approximately two to three pounds mainly found in the teeth and bones. Apart from its role in the formation of teeth and bones it is also required for blood clotting, transmission of signals in nerve cells and muscle contractions. There is some indication that higher calcium intake protects against cardiovascular disease particularly in women. If you are at risk of kidney stones consult your doctor before taking in additional calcium supplements. This also applies if you are suffering from prostate cancer where there may be a link between increased levels of dietary calcium in dairy products and this form of cancer. It is thought it is thought that excess calcium causes lower levels of Vitamin D, which helps protect against prostate cancer.

The best dietary sources of calcium milk, cheese and butter, goats milk, sardines canned salmon with the bones, green leafy vegetables, spinach, watercress (more calcium than milk) tofu.

Chromium is an essential trace mineral that helps the body maintain normal blood sugar levels. A deficiency of the mineral can lead to diabetes and this is where the primary research into this mineral has been directed. It may help increase the healthy cholesterol in the blood (HDL) and is necessary for fatty acid and protein metabolism

Chromium first and foremost is a component of the ‘glucose tolerance factor’ which is required for maintaining a normal blood glucose balance. Chromium works with insulin to ease the absorption of blood glucose into the cells and it may also play a part in other activities that involve insulin such as the metabolism of fats and proteins. Find out more:

Best sources of chromium broccoli and other dark green leafy vegetables, romaine lettuce, onions, tomatoes, wholegrains, potatoes, oysters and other seafood, liver, cheese, chicken, turkey, beef and lamb also contain good amounts.

COPPER: Copper is an essential trace element needed to absorb and utilise Iron. It is needed to make ATP and is also to synthesise some hormones and blood cells. Collagen needs copper, as does the enzyme tyrosinase, which plays a role in the production of skin pigment. Too much copper in the diet can depress levels of zinc and effect wound healing.

Best sources are seafood like oysters, cashews and other nuts, cherries, cereals, potatoes, cherries, vegetables and most organ meats.

Iodine: Iodine is a trace mineral that is needed to make thyroid hormones that maintain metabolism in all the cells of the body. It is rare to be deficient in the western world but the key time to ensure that iodine levels are maintained is during pregnancy as deficiency of the mineral has been linked to miscarriages and premature births and congenital abnormalities. Children whose mothers were deficient in iodine can develop growth and mental issues and hearing loss. A moderate deficiency has also been linked to ADHD.

Best sources are in seafood, iodised salt and sea vegetables such as samphire. Also in fish such as cod, mackerel and haddock, eggs, live yoghurt and strawberries

Iron: The main function of iron is in haemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying component of blood. When someone is iron deficient they suffer extreme fatigue because they are being starved of oxygen. Iron is also part of myoglobin which helps muscle cells store oxygen and it is also essential for the formation of ATP.

Dietary iron is found in two forms, haem iron and non-haem iron. (Heme in US). Haem iron, which is the most absorbable, is found only in animal flesh as it is taken from the haemoglobin and myoglobin in animal tissue. Non-haem iron is found in plant foods.

Best food sources for haem iron are shellfish such as cockles and mussels, liver, meat, poultry and fish.  And for non-haem plant based sources whole grains and fortifed cereals, watercress, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, legumes, Sweet Potatoes tofu, pumpkin seeds, and tofu. Strawberries, tomatoes,watermelon, prunes and dried apricots.

Magnesium is essential mineral needed for bone, protein and fatty acid formation, forming new cells, activating the B vitamins, relaxing muscles, clotting blood and forming ATP the fuel the body runs on. The secretion and action of insulin also needs magnesium. It is needed to balance calcium in the body and too much can result in very low levels of calcium.

The best food sources are whole grains, beans, seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables, soybeans and fish.

Manganese is needed for healthy skin, bone and cartilage formation as well as glucose tolerance. Also forms part of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase, which helps prevent free radical damage.Only needed in small amounts but is essential for brain health (it may help prevent strokes), may prevent health issues associated with free radical damage such as heart disease and arthritis.

Best food sources are nuts, seeds, wholegrains, leafy green vegetables, tea and pineapple.

Next time more minerals we need to be healthy and Amino Acids and Essential Fatty Acids you should include in your shopping list- and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Thanks Sally.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty- two 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 my health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019-2020/






Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair – Reviews and a selection of FREE books by Sally Cronin

I know that your TBR piles are in danger of collapsing with all the books that you have bought over the year but, if you would like to add a few more to the list waiting to be read then I would like to offer you one a selection of my eBooks for FREE.

Would I love some more reviews, of course, but there are no strings attached with these books, if you can drop me a line to let me know you have enjoyed at some point then I am more than happy.

There are nine Kindle (mobi) and Epub for other devices books included in the offer   … all you have to do is email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and let me know which book and which version you need.

You can check the books out and their recent reviews: My books and reviews 2019/2020

And I of course could not let this opportunity pass without mentioning my latest collection that is now available to buy. I have received two early reviews that I would like to share with you.

About Life’s Rich Tapestry

Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, micro fiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.

Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word micro fiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.

This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.

Amazon £3.50:Amazon UK

And $4.53: Amazon US

Early Reviews for the book (I am over the moon).

Dec 12, 2019 D.G. Kaye rated it Five Stars – Follow D.G. Kaye: Goodreads

Sally Cronin certainly is a master at weaving with words. No matter how many or few, her words will paint a complete story and leave us with a satisfactory optimism or a tug at our heartstrings.

In this author’s newest release of tales to inspire, we’ll find a smorgasbord of forms of writing from various forms of poetry – Haiku, Etherees and Cinquain poetry to condensed micro fiction, where stories are wrapped up complete despite a minimal word count, to short stories on speculative fiction. A wonderful mixed bag of tales covering topics such as: random thoughts, seasons, aging, nature, holidays, fairies, romance, pets, to the human condition and life lessons.

Please head over to read the rest of the review: D.G. Kaye Reviews Life’s Rich Tapestry

Dec 07, 2019 Jacqui rated it Five Stars – Follow Jacqui Murray: Goodreads

In her latest excellent mixed-media book, Life’s Rich Tapestry (2019), Sally Cronin delivers a wide and varied collection of writing styles and themes, all with the goal of enriching the tapestry of the reader’s life. She covers nature, humanity, faeries, remembering, pets, and more in varied writing styles including Haiku, Tanka, Etheree, Cinquain, 99 word fiction, short stories, speculative fiction, and others.

Each style comes with its own challenges–as those who write in them know–but Cronin moves through them with equal ease and mastery. The challenges of writing micro fiction (like Haikus and 99 word fiction) require a story–be it fact or fiction–told quickly in bitesize chunks that no one can skip over or get bored with. Here are a few examples:

Please head over to read the rest of Jacqui’s review: Jacqui’s review for Life’s Rich Tapestry

Claire Fullerton 5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure December 15, 2019

We come to know a person’s mind through the words they speak; their personality through what they create, and their heart through what they write. Put this all together and you’ve been gifted a glimpse into an artist’s soul. This is how Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven in Words impressed me. Author Sally Cronin’s precious gem of a book is nothing short of fluid insight into all that it means to be human in a round-robin way as to address the entire sphere in bits and pieces that leave a lasting impression.

These are musings delivered artfully, the perfect melding of heart, mind, and soul. In sharing her personal views, the author invites us to examine our own impressions of the day-today by shining light on life’s rich nuance. There is something profound in these meditative pages, something joyous and real that takes nothing for granted by sheer virtue of the fact that Sally Cronin has called them by name. In addressing the natural world, celebrating pets, seasons of the year, and random thoughts, Cronin speaks to the reader conversationally in such a manner that told me I’d revisit the pages. Her flash fiction, speculative fiction, and short stories are vignettes to savor—all told, this book is a work of art at its finest.

All praise to author Sally Cronin, who has earned a constant and significant place in the blogging world by selflessly serving as the fulcrum of focus for so very many. That she has stepped forth by assembling and publishing this collection of letters has gifted us all with the awe-striking opportunity to see a writer’s career shine at its brightest. 

Thanks for dropping by and look forward to hearing from you with your choice of book and the version that you require…Kindle or Epub to sally.cronin@moyhill.com and Happy Christmas

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction – Storm Windows by Sally Cronin

After a brief break from the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills I am back in response to this week’s wonderful prompt.. “Storm Windows”.

She looked out through the slightly distorting storm windows that protected the house from the harsh winds that swept onto the coast from America. This part of Ireland was notorious for its harsh winters, but also its outstanding coastal views and warmhearted people. She had moved here to escape her past, and preferred the natural violence of the weather to that she had endured for many years. She sighed as she turned to face the man in the room. Another more dangerous storm had breached the defences and windows could not protect her. It was time to be brave.

©sally cronin 2010

If you would like to participate in this week’s challenge you have until November 19th: Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills

I hope that you have enjoyed this piece of Flash Fiction – thanks for dropping by.. Sally.


Smorgasbord Health Column – Major Organs and systems of the body – The Female Reproductive System Part One – Sally Cronin

I repeat this series in particular every year, in the hopes that those who are new to the blog will find it interesting and useful. I worked with couples who were planning on getting pregnant and it was important that both understood how each other’s reproductive systems worked. Also that the health of the father to be was as important as the mother’s. On more than one occasion the mother to be would be taking care of herself and getting fit, whilst the father to be was still going down the pub, smoking and eating takeaways..

As they say it takes two….

Also that it is a good idea to get both into shape at least six months before trying for a baby and if you know someone who is planning on getting pregnant you might pass this series along.

In recent weeks I have covered most of the major systems in the body and the female and male reproductive systems have a huge influence on our health from the moment we are born until we die.

These systems generally conform to a set pattern of development, however there are times when nature has its own agenda, resulting in changes that we are now embracing more fully.  I am going to begin with the female reproductive system, how it works and links to posts that I have written on related diseases such as breast cancer.

This series is not just for women or men specifically, but also their partners. Understanding how your own body works is important.. but it is also important for the men and women in our lives understand how our bodies work too. Very often in a relationship it is our partner who notices changes to our bodies or our behaviour that can indicate a health problem.

First I will look at the female reproductive system in a series of posts that give an overview of the system and also what can go wrong with it.

What is under the skin.

The-Female-Reproductive-System-WWe usually spot when something is out of place externally or when there are lumps and bumps that look dodgy. The problem is that most of us do not know when something is wrong with organs or systems that run automatically beneath our skin, until a problem occurs.   Women are well aware of monthly changes in our bodies which is a good indicator that there might be something wrong or that we might be pregnant. But what about when we stop having our periods and the physical indications are no longer there.

Whilst it is not my intention to lecture on anatomy, it is very useful if you have some idea of how a system is put together and the main organs involved.

The reproductive system and where it begins at conception.

In humans it takes male and female sex cells to make a baby. These sex cells are called gametes and the male is sperm and the female is the egg or ovum. These sex cells usually meet in the female reproductive system – although in this day and age they could also meet in a petri-dish in a fertility clinic.

Humans pass on certain characteristics of themselves onto the next generation such as hair or eye colour and in some unfortunate cases inherited diseases. Genes are the special carriers of these characteristics and a child can inherit from both its mother and father and also the ancestors of its parents going back many generations.

The two reproductive systems in males and females are very different, but both carry out the same task of producing, nurturing and transporting either the egg or the sperm. They also complement each other and evolution has ensured that the two reproductive systems work together pleasurably as well as effectively.

The female reproductive system

Zygote-WThe aim of the female reproductive system is to produce healthy eggs (ova), to facilitate sexual intercourse so that the egg can be fertilised (then called a zygote) and protect and nourish the resulting embryo and foetus until it is fully developed and then give birth.

The physical aspects

The female reproductive system is housed within the pelvis. Externally, the vulva (cover) is located between the legs and protects the entrance to the vagina and the other reproductive organs inside the pelvis.

There is a fleshy area just above the vagina called the mons pubis and two pairs of skin flaps called the labia (lips) surround the vaginal opening and contain the clitoris. Also, between the labia are the openings for the urethra (carrying urine from the bladder) and the vagina.

Internally, the vagina, uterus (womb), fallopian tubes and ovaries are protected by the pelvic girdle and are responsible for the production and fertilisation of the egg and the protection of the foetus as it develops to full term.

The vagina

The vagina is a tube approximately 8 to 12 centimetres long in an adult woman. It has muscular walls and can expand and contract as needed. Normally it is contracted but when expanded it can accommodate the head and body of a baby during the final stages of labour.

As with any of the body’s airways and passages the vagina has a lubricating mucus membrane as a lining. This protects it from bacterial infection and also keeps it moist and prepared for sexual activity. The vagina has three major roles; as an entrance and stimulator for the penis, to provide a safe birth canal and also a path for menstrual blood expelled from the uterus each month.

The opening to the vagina is partially covered with a thin sheet of tissue called the hymen, which has probably caused more problems for women than any other part of the reproductive system. Virginity or the lack of was judged on whether this tissue was intact on a girl’s wedding night and in royal circles it was essential that courtiers be present to testify to a blooded sheet as evidence of the bride’s virtue. In some cultures it is still considered critical that this evidence is produced despite the fact that in many cases the hymen has already been ruptured at some point in a girl’s normal activities or that the hymen has not been stretched or torn sufficiently to bleed. This resulted in some sleight of hand by bride’s and their female relatives who resorted to spotting sheets with chicken blood to avoid recriminations. Hence the voyeuristic behaviour by senior courtiers or family members in time gone past on the first night of the honeymoon.

The vagina joins to the womb at the thickly walled cervix (neck) which is extremely narrow outside of pregnancy but can expand sufficiently to allow the baby’s head to pass through it on its way out of the womb.

The uterus (womb)

Despite the fact that the womb is only about 7 centimetres long and 5 centimetres wide it contains some of the strongest muscles in the body. It can expand to hold sextuplets and contract sufficiently to send a baby out and into the birth canal during labour. This pear shaped organ is also vulnerable to infections; cancers and benign tumours called fibroids which are one of the leading causes of its removal (hysterectomy).

In the second stage of the menstrual cycle the womb recognises that the hormone levels indicate that there has been no fertilisation of the egg that has passed through the fallopian tube within the last two weeks. Blood and tissues from the inner lining of the womb detach and leave the body via the vagina. Usually this lasts three to five days and in the first few months after puberty it is likely to be irregular. As with the other areas within the reproductive system women can experience problems with this process. Many women suffer from irregular, heavy and painful periods throughout their teens and often up to their first pregnancy when in many cases the menstrual cycle can settle down. Some women suffer from menstrual problems right up to their menopause and there is usually a hormonal or dietary imbalance involved that requires correcting.

The fallopian tubes

At the upper corners of the womb are the fallopian tubes, which are the connection to the ovaries. The fallopian tubes are around 10 centimetres in length and look a little like a long piece of spaghetti with a narrow opening the size of a needle. At the ovary end, fronds wrap around the egg sacs waiting to catch eggs as they are released.

Tiny hairs then propel the egg back down the fallopian tube to the womb. Fallopian tubes can be damaged by infections or can become distorted preventing the passage of the eggs through the tube or allowing sperm to enter and fertilise them.

The ovaries

Structure-of-an-Ovary-WThe ovaries are two oval shaped organs situated either side of the womb. They produce, store and then release eggs into the fallopian tubes in a process called ovulation, which takes place once a month halfway through a woman’s reproductive cycle.

When a baby girl is born she has already got 400,000 eggs in her ovaries that will remain inactive until she reaches puberty. This is the time that hormones kick in for both boys and girls and the reproductive cycle is begun.

The eggs develop and mature inside follicles which are tiny fluid filled sacs in each ovary and midway through each cycle one egg is released into the fallopian tubes.

The pituitary gland located in the central part of the brain, releases hormones that in turn stimulate the ovaries to produce the female sex hormones including oestrogen. Breasts will develop and towards the end of this first stage of puberty the ovaries begin to release eggs monthly as part of the menstrual cycle.

There are a number of problems associated with the ovaries including ovarian cysts and more rarely ovarian cancer. There is also a hormonal condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (pcos) which is the result of too many male hormones being produced by the ovaries. This results in cysts forming on enlarged ovaries and usually becomes apparent in a girl’s teenage years.

Next time a look at the Endocrine system and the hormones that drive our reproductive system.  When they say it is all in the mind.. it is!

©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 my health books and fiction in ebooks you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

I hope you have found useful and your feedback is always welcome.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Health Column – What causes your Cravings – Part Four – Coal, Dirt and other strange stuff by Sally Cronin

Welcome to the series on a sensation that has been blamed for our consumption or over consumption of certain foods since we were old enough to make excuses! How often do we tell ourselves or others that ‘we crave’ chocolate, crisps, cheese, soda, fried food or even something non-food related… such as dirt or coal?

We tend to assume that our craving is a form of addiction that only one food or drink can satisfy, but in fact it is more likely that it is our body reacting to a lack of an essential nutrient absent from our regular diet. Or that we are under stress and that has resulted in a imbalance in our hormone production.

During this series, I am going to be looking at some of the causes of a craving, whether it is a need for an essential nutrient or is down to a habit that has formed or because we are stressed. I will also give you the food fix that will supply that nutrient or suggest some strategies to cope with an unreasonable expectation for a food by your body and your mind.

Last time  Salt : https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/smorgasbord-health-column-what-causes-your-cravings-part-three-salt-and-trace-minerals-by-sally-cronin/

What causes your Cravings – Part Four – Coal, Dirt and other strange stuff

This week a look at non-food cravings which tend to be very during pregnancy when the body is working for two. It usually indicates a lack of iron or minerals in the diet and whilst it is obvious that in pregnancy, a craving for coal or cardboard might be expected, it can also happen to all of us at some point in our lives. Usually after intense dieting over a prolonged period of time, or after an illness which has resulted in a depletion of the bodies stores.

Some cravings may be associated with a change in the way a person smells or tastes and may have no direct link to a specific nutrient, but generally there are two that should be considered. Especially if someone is a vegetarian or vegan. That would be iron and Vitamin B12.

The condition is called ‘Pica’ and whilst it many only be a temporary condition in pregnancy, for some it is a compulsive behaviour that is long term.

Also the foods that are craved are unlikely to contain the deficient nutrient, but the brain becomes confused when trying to point you in the right direction…For example there could be a combination of dehydration and iron and other mineral deficiencies if someone craves ice. Water depending on source, is rich in these minerals and your body is trying to solve two problems at the same time.

It is also not restricted to humans, as animals too will seek out substances to satisfy a nutrient need instinctively. Chewing the skirting board may not always be about boredom or mischief, it could be that a dog is missing trace minerals in their diet.

Sam started doing this at about six months old and having researched it I spoke to the vet who recommended a mineral supplement to add to his food during the growth phase. After about a week, he stopped chewing the skirting board.

I am not a fan of dry dog food especially cheap brands, but even in a natural food diet, it is still important to include foods that contain all the nutrients a dog needs, especially in the growth phase.

You might like to read this post on dog nutrition which will give you something to think about: https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/dog-food-ten-scary-truths/

Here is an extract from an article on animals eating soilhttps://remineralize.org/2017/05/craving-minerals-eating-rocks-why-do-animals-and-humans-eat-rock-dust/

Aside from wild monkeys, domestic animals are also known to involuntarily engage in geophagy during the consumption of grass and roots. Research in New Zealand found that sheep ingest more than 75 kg of soils, and dairy cows ingest more than 650 kg of soils in a year. The research contended that soil can be a large source of iodine and cobalt, the latter of which is used to make Vitamin B12[2]. Vitamin B12 is essential to the creation of red blood cells and DNA, as well as to the support of normal neurological function

Source: “Vitamin B12.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 11 Feb. 2016. Web.

And here is another piece that might shed some light on the human need for rocks, clay etc: Wikipedia

A mineral lick (also known as a salt lick) is a place where animals can go to lick essential mineral nutrients from a deposit of salts and other minerals. Mineral licks can be naturally occurring or artificial (such as blocks of salt that farmers place in pastures for livestock to lick). Natural licks are common, and they provide essential elements such as phosphorus and the biometals (sodium, calcium, iron, zinc, and trace elements) required in the springtime for bone, muscle and other growth in deer and other wildlife, such as moose, elephants, tapirs, cattle, woodchucks, domestic sheep, fox squirrels, mountain goats and porcupines. Such licks are especially important in ecosystems with poor general availability of nutrients. Harsh weather exposes salty mineral deposits that draw animals from miles away for a taste of needed nutrients. It is thought that certain fauna can detect calcium in salt licks

Here are the sources of Iron and Vitamin B12, two of the likely deficiencies that could cause a craving for non food items… and the trace minerals that your body is encouraging you to forage for!

Dietary iron is found in two forms, haem iron and non-haem iron. (Heme in US). Haem iron, which is the most absorbable, is found only in animal flesh as it is taken from the haemoglobin and myoglobin in animal tissue. Non-haem iron is found in plant foods.

Although there are iron rich plant foods they come with an additional element called phytates which bind to the iron and inhibit its absorption by the body. This means that vegetarians in particular need to consume Vitamin C rich foods at the same time as it disrupts the action of the phytates, releasing more iron into the body.

Iron (non-haem) rich plant food sources include whole grains and fortifed cereals, watercress, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, legumes, Sweet Potatoes tofu, pumpkin seeds, and tofu. Strawberries, tomatoes,watermelon, prunes and dried apricots.

Iron (Haem)rich protein sources include:

mussels Cockles, Mussels, Clams, Liver, Kidneys, Poultry, Halibut, Salmon, Haddock, Tuna, Canned sardines, Home cooked ham.

tunaPrunes and other dried fruit especially Apricots, Whole grain rice, Spinach, Nuts, Tofu, Beans, Pumpkin and Sunflower seeds, Wheat germ, Cocoa

seedsDrinking and eating high Vitamin C content foods at the same time may help your body absorb iron more efficiently especially if you are vegetarian or if you have a low animal protein diet.

Vitamin B12 – beef, offal like liver, eggs and dairy.. also mackerel, shellfish such as clams and crabs, fortified cereals and tofu, Marmite and cottage, feta and mozzarella cheese.

It is better to drink a cold glass of milk than to eat yoghurt as the fermentation process destroys most of the B12 as does boiling milk.

There are very few sources, if any of B12 in plants, although some people do believe that eating fermented Soya products, sea weeds and algae will provide the vitamin. However analysis of these products shows that whilst some of them do contain B12 it is in the form of B12 analogues which are unable to be absorbed by the human body.

On a personal note: In the last few months I have been eating less red meat and eating fish and poultry. However, despite not eating for years… I suddenly had an urge for Marmite!  I bought a jar last week and had on my breakfast toast… upping my daily intake of the Vitamin Bs, including B12 along with a host of other nutrients in this low calorie spread or drink.  And a much tastier than chewing on a lump of coal!

If you are eating a varied diet with foods from the list, you should be getting sufficient without supplementation. If you are over 50 you may find that you do need additional support in the form of a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. However, first make sure you are getting from the best possible source which is fresh food.

Go through the list of the other minerals you might be deficient in and make a note of any you may not be getting sufficient off based on the food groups that contain them.  And questions please ask.

Calcium – dairy, sardines, canned salmon, green leafy vegetables.

Chromium – Whole grains, potatoes, onions and tomatoes – liver, seafood, cheese, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb and pork

Copper – olives, nuts, beans, wholegrain cereals, dried fruits, meat, fish and poultry.

Iodine – cod, mackerel, haddock, eggs, live yoghurt, milk and strawberries.

Magnesium –dairy, seafood, apples, apricots, avocado, brown rice, spinach.

Manganese – beans, brown rice, spinach, tomatoes, walnuts, fresh fruit.

Phosphorus – poultry, whole grains.

Potassium – most fresh fruit and vegetables but in particular bananas, apricots, Brussel sprouts, kiwi, nectarines, potatoes.

Selenium – halibut, cod, salmon and tuna, mushrooms and Brazil Nuts.

Sodium – the best source of natural sodium is fish and shellfish, plainly cooked without batter.

Zinc seafood, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, egg yolks and tofu.

©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 my health books and fiction in ebooks you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for dropping in and please help spread the word by sharing..Sally.


Smorgasbord Health Column Rewind – Cook From Scratch with Sally and Carol – Carrots from Afghanistan

Carol is on her summer break and I am house and dog sitting for my sister, so we thought you wouldn’t mind having a reminder of some of the dishes that we put together this time last year. I supplied the ingredients and their nutritional benefits and Carol prepared delicious meals from scratch.

Carol Taylor is a wonderful cook and uses fresh ingredients that she either grows herself of buys a the market in Thailand where she lives.

First a look at the carrot’s origins and its health benefits.

The humble carrot is a vegetable most of us take for granted. Carrots have an ancient history originating in Afghanistan.  The Greeks and the Romans ate carrots and in fact, the Greeks called the carrot ‘Philtron’ and used it as an aphrodisiac.  Don’t all rush to the supermarket!

In Asia, the carrot was an established root crop and was then introduced to Europe in the 13th century.  It was the Middle Ages before the carrot became better known and doctors of the time prescribed carrots for numerous ills including snakebite!  In those days, the carrot was available in far more radiant colours including red, purple, black, yellow and white.  They were cultivated together and over time, it resulted in the orange vegetable we know today.

The Elizabethans on receiving the carrots from mainland Europe did some rather strange things with them.  Some ate the roots but others used the feathery foliage for decoration in hats (Ascot) and on their clothes.  I am sure like every fashion statement this may come and revisit us at some point.  The colonists took the carrot to America but they were not cultivated there until the last couple of centuries.

The Health benefits of carrots

Carrots eaten as a fresh, raw and unprocessed food is full of nutrients including Vitamin A (retinol), beta-carotene (turned into Vitamin A in the body), other carotenoids, B Vitamins, Vitamin C and minerals calcium and potassium.  Of all of the nutrients, Beta-Carotene and latterly Alpha Carotene are seen as the most important properties of the carrot.  As far as the eyes are concerned it is the Vitamin A and the Beta-carotene which are the most important nutrients. Vitamin A, helps your eyes adjust to light changes when you come in from outside and helps keep your eyes, skin and mucous membranes moist.

Vitamin A also prevents night blindness. If the vitamin A deficiency causing night blindness is not corrected, it can then lead to a condition called xerophthalmia, causing extremely dry eyes, possibly corneal ulcers and swollen eyelids. If left untreated, xerophthalmia can lead to blindness. In fact, vitamin A deficiency is one of the leading causes of blindness in developing countries. Vitamin A may possibly prevent cataracts from forming and may help prevent macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in the world.

Beta-carotene is one of about 500 compounds called carotenoids, which are present in most fruit and vegetables. The body changes beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which promotes a healthy immune system and healthy cell growth.  The body can only change so much beta-carotene into Vitamin A and any excess boosts the immune system and is a powerful antioxidant in its own right.  Antioxidants prevent free radical damage to cells, tissues and most importantly to the fat in our bloodstream that can lead to blocked arteries and heart disease.

Alpha carotene has often been overlooked in carrots but some interesting studies in Japan indicate that Alpha carotene might be even more powerful than Beta-carotene in the fight against cancer. As far as our general health is concerned, carrots play an important role in neutralising acid in the body.

Acidity and alkalinity in the body.

All acids have similar properties to each other because they all release hydrogen into solutions. Acidity is measure using the pH (potential of hydrogen) scales.   The scale runs from 0 to 14.  All acids have a pH measurement between 0 to below 7 on the scale.

Acids are present in all living organisms including the human body.  Acids in plants react differently than acids in protein rich foods such as animal products. All foods are burned in the body leaving an ash as a result, if the food contains a predominance of sulphur, phosphorus, chlorine then an acid ash is produced.

The body has developed different strategies to ensure that the balance between acid and alkali is optimum for each of its different organs and systemic functions.

A minor deviation from the optimum balance can have a devastating effect on the operating systems of the body and can lead to coma and death so the body has a number of buffer systems to maintain that balance. When the blood is too alkaline the heart contracts and ceases to beat and when too acidic it relaxes and ceases to beat.

Eating carrots and other vegetables and fruits that burn to an alkaline ash in the body help balance both the acidic ash foods we consume and some external stress triggers.

I am now handing over to Carol who is going to show you some terrific ways to prepare this humble but nutritionally packed vegetable.

All vegetables are versatile but I think the humble carrot which is cheap to buy, easy to grow and with so many health benefits and culinary uses that it deserves just a bit more than being called just a carrot.

Today I am going to show you a few recipes which I make using carrots so come with me and if you have any wonderful carrot recipes then please share with us in the comments we are always on the lookout for wonderful local recipes using carrots.

Sally and I hope that you are enjoying reading all her good sound advice about the healthy benefits of the carrot and having recipes in the post so that you can then incorporate carrots into your diet. We are trying to show that good healthy food needn’t be boring or bland but can be enjoyable to cook and eat.

Because food should be fun and enjoyable.

What better way to get one of your 5 a day than to add a piece of carrot to your smoothie.

I am getting a tad more adventurous and using all sorts of fruit and veggies in my smoothies.

Today I not only used a chunk of carrot but a slice of tomato and a slice of beetroot(not)pickled…lol…as well as the fruit and I think it is one of the best I have made.

I used a large chunk of watermelon, pineapple, yellow melon and dragon fruit. A slice of tomato, a slice of beetroot, a chunk of carrot and some crushed ice.
Then into the blender, blitz until smooth and viola a lovely healthy smoothie.

But play with and use whatever fruit you have which is in season…I might add a squeeze of lime or a little coconut milk it really depends how I feel and what I have..Even frozen fruits are great for smoothies.

I always find the smoothies are sweet enough for me from the natural fruit and vegetable sugars but some don’t and add a little sugar syrup with the fruit and vegetables.

And that is my tropical sunshine in a glass…. Isn’t it a beautiful colour?

Lovely new spring carrots just cooked in olive oil, glazed with honey and seasoned, delicious in their simplicity.

Photo by Thomas Gamstaetter on Unsplash


You need 1 kilo of baby carrots or new carrots
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp honey…I use fresh raw honey
Salt and pepper to season.

Heat your oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Tip the washed carrots into a roasting pan and toss with the oil and season with salt and pepper. If you have some fresh or frozen herbs then in they can go. Roast for 25/30 minutes then drizzle the vinegar and honey over the carrots, toss well and return to the oven for about 20 minutes.

Serve as a side dish.

Other ways to include carrots in your daily diet.

  • Grated carrots can be added to your coleslaw, or add a few sultanas to some grated carrots and drizzled with a oil dressing they make a nice accompaniment to a salad.
  • Washed pieces of carrot can be given to children to snack on…nice and healthy.
  • Carrot batons are lovely with batons of peppers and a nice home- made hummus or dip.
  • Carrots steamed gently and then pureed with a little juice from the steaming water and a tiny bit of butter mixed in and a little pepper and no salt as there is salt in the butter it makes a lovely puree for a baby..my son lived on buttered carrots as a baby and nothing else he loved them. He is now a fit healthy adult who loves and eats lots of vegetables. You can also steam a little cauliflower and broccoli to add to the carrots.
  • Pickling Jalapenos then add a few carrots they are lovely pickled with the jalapenos. Just slice a carrot thinly and add to the pickling vinegar when you are heating it, cook for 5 minutes then add your sliced jalapenos and put into sterilised jars. So easy to do and very nice.

On a cold winters day how about a nice warming bowl of carrot soup? I also add carrots to my pumpkin soup…it is such a versatile little vegetable.

Carrot Soup.

Ingredients: Serves 2

2 carrots washed and sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
Half onion chopped
1/2 cloves garlic chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger finely chopped or grated
The zest and juice of half an orange 500ml of fresh vegetable stock or chicken stock
Salt and black pepper to season.
Crème fresh and coriander, to garnish. I use Coconut milk and a sprinkle of chilli flakes…but that’s me I love my chilli.

To prepare…

Gently cook the onion in a saucepan with the olive oil until it has softened but not coloured, add the garlic, ginger and orange zest and cook for a minute or 2. Then add the carrots and pour in the stock.

Simmer until the carrots are very tender and using a hand blender blend until smooth.
Serve and garnish as above with crème fresh and coriander or coconut milk and some chilli flakes as I do

Well, we can’t have a post about carrots and not have a recipe for carrot cake…Can we???


  • 2 and ½ cups (310 gm) of all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 and ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp each of ground cloves, nutmeg and ground ginger (I have fresh ginger )in my garden so always finely chop or grate and add to the mix instead of ground ginger.
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup of coconut oil
  • 1 and 1/14 cups (250 gm) of light or dark brown sugar (I use raw coconut sugar)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 large carrots grated
  • 1 cup (8oz) of crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup (125 gm) chopped walnuts

To prepare

Pre heat the oven to 350F (175C) and grease a 9 x 13 oven proof dish.

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices all together in a large bowl. Set to one side.

Stir the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract together and then pour the wet ingredients onto the dry and stir or whisk until combined.

Fold in the carrots, pineapple and the walnuts. Spread the batter into the prepared dish and bake for 45-55 minutes and as ovens vary keep an eye out so it doesn’t overcook. If you find the edges are browning too quickly then lightly cover with foil.

When it is cooked a skewer or toothpick inserted into the cake centre will come out clean.

Allow to cool completely before adding topping.

For the topping you will need:

  • 8 ounces (224 gm) block of cream cheese softened.
  • ½ cup (115 gm) butter
  • 3 cups (360 gm) of icing sugar plus extra if required.
  • 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract.
  • Salt if required to taste.

To make topping using a hand held or stand mixer beat together the softened cream cheese and the icing sugar on low speed. Add in vanilla essence and beat on high for 2 minutes if you like your topping a little firmer then add more icing sugar but if you put the cake into the fridge the icing with set a little more.

This is a lovely moist cake made even better by the addition of the pineapple.

Cut into squares once cake is iced and ready.

That is all for now I hope you are enjoying this collaboration with Sally and myself as much as we are writing it and testing recipes. I have lots of other recipes with carrots but it would have ended up being like War and Peace so maybe we can incorporate some of the others in another post. There are plenty more exciting posts to come and if you try a recipe please let us know how it turned out as we love to hear from you.

Until next week stay safe, have fun and laugh a lot as laughter is the best medicine known to man and it has no side effects.

About Carol Taylor

Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.

I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.

Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology:  https://www.amazon.com/Phuket-Island-Writers-Anthology-Stories-ebook/dp/B00RU5IYNS

Connect to Carol

Blog: https://blondieaka.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheRealCarolT
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carol.taylor.1422

My thanks to Carol for these wonderful recipes and I hope you will join us again Please feel free to share thanks Sally

The other posts in the Food and Cookery Column can be found in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/carol-taylors-food-and-cookery-column-2018/