Monday, 22 January 2018

On emotional abuse (long read)

This blog was supposed to be my place to talk about the good things in life. But lately, in between the good moments, I have been struggling with my emotions and anxieties and if I'm honest I really need to vent.

I have always suffered from social anxiety and I have always been very emotional. I don't want to go on about how it's been affecting my life lately. I want to talk about the underlying cause.

I want to talk about my relationship with my mum.  She had me at 21 as a university student; completely unprepared for starting a family. She never hid the fact that I was unwanted and she always rejected me; sometimes (I think) subconsciously and without realising that I could absorb those emotions even if I didn't understand them as a baby or toddler. She didn't want me so bad that  at one point she gave me away to her mum/ my gran, and it wasn't until my dad started protesting against other people raising his child that my parents got me back.

My mum always told me what a terrible obstacle I was to her life plans. How much she suffered because of me. And I spent my entire childhood and youth apologising for my existence; trying to earn her acceptance, her affection - but I was never good enough. I was literally the best student in my primary school, but my mum always said I could have done better. I was the quietest, most obedient child you could imagine, but my mum would always find faults in me, the most common ones being ''why don't you ever smile'' and ''stop being so shy''. It's true that I was extremely shy as a child. I still have social anxiety, but have by now learnt to live with it. Back in my early primary school days though I was paralysed by fear whenever my mum made me go to the shop or to the doctor's by myself. But the more I cried about it, the angrier my mum got.

She would always find ways to humiliate me, and disguise it as ''good advice'' or ''motivation''. I vividly remember a photo of me (not the one below) taken when I was 12 or 13. I was standing in our garden under a pear tree on a beautiful summer day, smiling and looking happy. I was wearing shorts. My mum refused to put that picture in the photo album, because ''my thighs looked too fat'' in it. It was the last time in my life I wore anything short. On a side note, I was never fat as a child. I was perfectly normal, as evidenced by many photos. But I always believed I was too fat - I must have been if mum said so. I became overweight as an adult in my mid 20's and I can't help but wonder if I'm just filling out the image of myself that my mum made me build in my head.

I remember so many similar stories throughout the first 19 years of my life... There was the time when my cousin, who's my age, stayed with us during the summer holidays. My mum would take her shopping, buy her stuff, take her places, always leaving me behind and making me feel like she wished my cousin was her daughter, not me. Then there was the day my mum, who at the time was my primary school teacher, humiliated me in front of the entire class and kicked me out of the room, because I was answering her questions before the other kids got a chance (that was me trying to prove to her that I was better than others and make her like me).

I was never allowed to be seen when my parents had guests round.
I was never allowed to play with my dolls, all of which my mum hung up on my bedroom wall and I was only allowed to look at them. The only permitted toys were books.
I was never allowed to speak unless I was spoken to.
I was never allowed to trust my feelings, e.g. when I was no longer hungry but had to finish my dinner, or when I was deeply hurt but wasn't allowed to cry.

The most painful side of it all was that whenever I showed any weakness, i.e. cried, she would dismiss and/or ridicule my feelings; tell me I'm all ''slimy'' and wash my face with cold water, and complain about having such a stupid, useless child.

All of this has left a giant mark on my personality. I have huge difficulties in making friends, or human interaction in general. I have no confidence and very little self esteem. I am not assertive; I need constant validation; I work hard not because I like it but because I need an excuse for my existence. I have this weird inner anger towards children, because I think deep inside I'm jealous that ''everyone loves kids'' while I was the only one who didn't deserve love. I have had difficulties in my relationships with men; it's a miracle that I have eventually found one who has enough love and patience to put up with my issues.

I have always wanted to see a psychologist. This is no joke; as a child I asked my mum several times if I could see one, but I was just told to stop being ridiculous. Finally at 34 I decided that enough is enough and I need to fix my head before I fall apart.

I recently started therapy and it wasn't until a few days ago that I realised that the way my mum treated me was emotional abuse. Whether she did it consciously or whether she had the best intentions I will never know, but it doesn't really matter - it doesn't change anything. There is no nice way to put it. I was emotionally abused by my mum and I now suffer the consequences of it. My mum doesn't know about my therapy and I have no intention of telling her - or ever confronting her about this. It wouldn't help either of us.

My therapist believes I can get better. I want to get better - for myself and for my relationship. I feel that this is my last chance.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

What I was grateful for in 2017

Instead of new year's resolutions I thought I'd much rather reflect on the wonderful things that happened in my life in 2017. I think good changes can and should be made any time we feel inspired to make them, not just on the 1st of January... But it never hurts to practice a little gratefulness and look back at the good things we've already been blessed with!


Our house still needs a lot of work done, but we are getting there! In 2017 we managed to repaint the entire hallway, which we didn't think we would be able to do on our own due to the height of our staircase. But we managed and the resulting bright white walls make the house look so much brighter and cleaner. We have also added to our furniture, making the house feel more homely, and started looking at kitchens and carpets.


2017 was my first full year of real gardening (as opposed to growing things on the window sill which I had done in the past). I grew a huge (considering my lack of experience and the smallish size of my garden) variety of vegetables, herbs and fruit; mostly with success. My garlic crop was particularly successful - I still have plenty to see me through until summer!


I got a nice payrise in 2017, and around the same time S got a new and better-paid job. This meant that we've been able to pay off some of our debts quicker and we are much closer to being debt free!


I've always had interest in photography, but it wasn't until Christmas 2017 that Santa brought me a brand new professional Canon camera, together with a set of different lenses and a book to help me understand all the features. It gives me so much joy and I'm so proud of some of the photos I've taken, even though half the time I still don't know what I'm doing!


In 2017 I finally got my blood pressure under control and have been feeling a lot better - no more headaches! In May I gave up all wheat products and reduced the amount of carbohydrates I eat - this has lead to some weight loss (not dramatic, but it wasn't the main goal), increased general wellbeing and discovery of many new, wonderful recipes, such as my favourite multigrain, flourless bread.


2017 was the best year for mushrooms I've had in the past decade. We ate the last of our frozen chantarelles on Christmas Eve, but we still have A LOT of frozen and dried birch boletes. In spring we had some wonderful wild garlic, and in late summer - wild raspberries, blackberries and a small amount of blueberries.

I can't wait to see what 2018 brings!

Monday, 27 November 2017

Winter wonderland

There's no running away from the fact that Christmas is just around the corner. We went to one of our local garden centres yesterday and I was amazed to discover that they transformed almost the entire space into this magical wonderland of Christmas decorations. It was beautiful! No tackiness there; everything was really tasteful and gorgeous. I just had to take some pictures. I ended up tot buying anything (it was all quite pricey!), but I certainly got inspired!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Homegrown & homemade garlic preserve

Fermentation is one of the healthiest ways of preserving vegetables; it turns them into a real probiotic powerhouse - especially precious if you've been taking antibiotics and your natural gut flora is depleted. Sauerkraut is a staple in my house, as are cucumbers in brine. I had never tried garlic preserved that way, but seeing as I had a bumper crop of garlic this year I absolutely had to try it!

Garlic preserved in salty brine tastes delicious and doesn't leave behind a stinky breath the way fresh raw garlic does. But most importantly, fermentation intensifies its healing properties, and eating just a couple of cloves a day will really boost your immune system.

Here is the recipe; all quantities are approximate and will depend on the amount of garlic you use.

Garlic cloves - peeled. I used 6 garlic heads to fill 2 small jars.
Dried herbs, about a teaspoon - I used basil and lovage, but any favourite herbs will work.
Whole mustard or coriander seeds, about a teaspoon.
Fresh rosemary, 1 sprig.

Water - enough to fill the jars you are using.
Salt - use 1 tbsp per 1 litre of water (adjust the amount of salt accordingly, e.g. if using 500ml of water, only use half a tablespoon of salt).

Jars and lids must be scrubbed clean and dipped in hot (boiling) water to kill any microbes.
Place the herbs and spices in the bottom of the jar(s). Add in the garlic - a tight squeeze is fine.
Boil the water with the salt. Pour boiling water into the jars, making sure the garlic is covered. 
Screw the lids on and turn the jars upside down, and leave them until they cool down completely, then turn them the right way up and store away in room temperature for at least a week. The warmer the environment, the quicker it will ferment, so if your house is cooler, 2 weeks is probably the minimum.

The garlic can be sliced and added to salads, used in cooking, or eaten on its own almost like a ''pill'' when you feel you need an immunity boost.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Roast cauliflower and garlic soup

This warming soup is perfect for lunches on chilly October days. Chillies or cayenne pepper can be added to enhance the warming effect!


1 medium cauliflower
1 medium carrot
1 large head of garlic
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 vegetable stock cube
Olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 stick of cinnamon
1tsp ground coriander
Salt & pepper to taste


Divide the cauliflower into florets and slice the carrot. Place both on a roasting tray, add a glug of olive oil and mix with your hands to cover the veg.
Cut off the top of the garlic head, add a bit of olive oil and wrap the garlic head in tinfoil. 
Place the cauli/carrot mix and the garlic in a 200°C oven and roast for 30 minutes.

In a soup pot, heat up a little oil and add the onion, fennel seeds, cinnamon stick and coriander. Fry on a medium heat until the onion has softened. Add the roasted cauliflower and carrot, cover with boiling water (around 5 cups), crumble in the stock cube and cook for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, squeeze the soft garlic flesh from their skins into the soup.

Remove the cinnamon stick and blend the soup with a hand blender. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a tablespoon of sour cream or a swirl of double cream.

Monday, 4 September 2017

I'm drowning in mushrooms!

They're everywhere. My freezer is packed full of sliced wild mushrooms. I have dried around 6kg (13 lbs) of mushrooms and they're now sitting in jars, ready for the pantry. I have a tub full of fried chanterelles in the fridge, waiting to become tonight's dinner. I also have a tub of creamy birch-bolete sauce in there, a massive amount left over from an even more massive amount we had for yesterday's lunch. AND I CAN'T STOP! I just can't walk away from an edible mushroom when I see it. It's an instinct, it gives me such an adrenaline kick! I know where to look, I know how quickly they grow back and I just can't stop myself from picking them. I absolutely love mushrooms, and this must have been the most prolific season yet, and it's only just started! 
I have stared giving them away since I'm running out of storage, but my hunter-gatherer instincts are making me pick more and more basketfuls of these little wonders. I wonder if there's a way I could sell them!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Mushroom season has begun!

Mushrooms - my absolute favourite thing to forage for - have finally appeared. At least the types I pick; I know there always are some mushrooms out there, but I don't pick anything I don't recognise. 

I already have two tubs full of sliced mushrooms in the freezer, and a third one about half full. And it's just the beginning!

My latest find is the beautiful large porcini mushroom pictured below - found it yesterday 5min from my house. S pointed out to me today that a certain gourmet online store sells them for £17 a piece!! Now that's a saving, I got it completely free :-)

I also stumbled upon a big patch of lovely chanterelles in the same spot a couple of days ago. I adore them - they make such wonderful sauce! They weighed in at 250g, I wonder how much that would have cost to buy!

I can't wait to go for a proper ''hunt'' to a large forest - maybe this weekend!




Birch boletes

Bay bolete