We’ve had our first Airbnb review. It is in German, so thank you to Google Translate for the slightly-clunky-but-you-should-get-the-drift translation.
From the first moment, this beautiful old cottage with its natural herbal and vegetable garden on the hillside fascinated us, and we immediately felt so comfortable that we would have stayed much longer: the smell, the peace and the wonderful wide view The Tasman Lake with Kapiti Island, the sunsets … Tink is here to realize a self-catering space and makes this place already, together with Adam, to something very special! The spacious guest room is cozy and very stylish. You can stay there undisturbed on the beautiful terrace and enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine or join Adam and Tink, where you can cook in the large cozy living room not only delicious but also very interesting and inspiring conversations with them can lead. Tink’s knowledge about a healthy, organic diet also allows her to accompany her guests and spoils her with a healthy and delicious breakfast !! One of our most beautiful Air B’n B stays with wonderful hosts, highly recommended!!
And for those of you who speak German…
Vom ersten Moment an hat uns dieses wunderschöne alte Häuschen mit seinem naturbelassenem Kräuter-und Gemüsegarten am Berghang fasziniert, und wir fühlten uns sofort so wohl, dass wir noch viel länger hätten bleiben wollen: Der Duft, die Ruhe, der herrliche weite Ausblick auf die Tasman See mit Kapiti Island, die Sonnenuntergänge… Tink ist dabei, sich hier einen Selbstversorgertraum zu verwirklichen und macht diesen Ort schon jetzt,gemeinsam mit Adam, zu etwas ganz Besonderem! Der großzügige Gästetrakt ist urgemütlich und sehr stilvoll eingerichtet. Man kann sich dort ungestört auf der schönen Terrasse aufhalten und bei einem Glas Wein den Sonnenuntergang genießen oder aber man gesellt sich zu Adam und Tink, wo man in der großen gemütlichen Wohnküche nicht nur herrlich kochen kann, sondern auch sehr interessante und inspirierende Gespräche mit ihnen führen kann. Tinks Kenntnis rund um eine gesunde, biologische Ernährung lässt sie auch ihren Gästen zukommen und verwöhnt sie mit einem gesunden und sehr leckeren Frühstück!! Einer unserer schönsten Air B’n B Aufenthalte mit ganz wunderbaren Gastgebern, sehr empfehlenswert!!
I (Tink) have been a bit slack about posting here, having been (she says sighing) distracted by Facebook, but one of my resolutions for 2017 is to spend more time on this blog. With some regularity we have people tell us how much they love seeing what we’re doing at Peka Peka so my intention is to post here more often. Warts and all.
January 7 ~ We’ve just waved farewell to our second Airbnb guests and so far, opening our house on Peka Peka hill to strangers, has been a lovely experience. We put the room up on Airbnb the weekend before the Kaikoura earthquake and had been feeling a bit glum because of the total lack of response over the last couple of months. Then last week, in the middle of celebrating our first wedding anniversary with friends, we received two booking requests – the first, from a lovely young couple from Brussels who stayed with us for just one night on their way to the South Island and the second from a German mum and her 16 year old (NZ exchange student) daughter who stayed with us for three nights. Adam and I shared meals and good conversations with both sets of guests and while this might sound a little bit Hallmark, I honestly feel that my life is richer for both meetings. I’m well aware that we’ve only hosted four people and that luck might have a great deal to do with the people we’ve hosted, but so far so good.
I became aware of many of the lessons I learned from my father Clive after he died. In many ways, he provided an example of what not to do. As a workaholic surgeon, single figure handicap golfer and for most of my childhood also a more-than-part-time farmer, he’d nailed how to not sleep and how not to rest. How not to have a supportive, loving partnership. How not to eat well.
As I went to sleep one night in July 2014 (six months or so after three miscarriages), I noticed a tremor in my left thumb. I didn’t pay too much attention until I woke around 2am and noticed it was still twitching. Dad died of a particularly grim dementia called Lewy Body Dementia (patients experience the symptoms of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) and it occurred to me in those wee small hours, that a muscle twitch in the thumb or a finger is one of the early signs of Parkinson’s.
I’d previously been conscious (at least to some extent) that I wasn’t particularly well – I was really tired, had little energy and was often irritable. My twitching thumb and memories of Dad made me sit bolt upright in the middle of the night and realise ‘oh shit, I’m actually really unwell’. Of course I didn’t know I had any kind of neurological degenerative disease but from somewhere deep in my body a visceral awareness of a lack of well-being emerged.
Coincidentally, Adam had been researching nutrition and psoriasis for several months and he’d been sharing with me compelling evidence showing that nutrition can play a significant role in healing autoimmune conditions. As I lay there listening to my body, it occurred to me, that maybe Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are autoimmune diseases? My smartphone and Google confirmed that inflammation plays a causative role in both those diseases and there is increasing evidence for the hypotheses that both these conditions are autoimmune. Another Google search confirmed that people appear to be successfully using nutrition and other lifestyle factors to reverse the symptoms of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
As I lay there wide awake, I became aware of what felt like a message from Dad forming in the shimmering dark space of the room. “Do not follow in my footsteps” it said’ “you can heal yourself with food. Decide now, in this moment, to look after yourself.”
My road to recovery began with paying attention to my body and the wisdom of my elder. I listened when my body said “Oi, listen up kid, everything is not hunky dory in here, we need you to make some changes.” Our bodies are smart. They tell us when things are out of alignment. Recurrent colds, low energy, ongoing digestive troubles, achy joints, erratic menstrual cycles, mood swings. These are signals to ease off the accelerator a bit, even perhaps pull up, turn the engine off for a while and peer under the bonnet.
My healing began with listening and I heard my body telling me that my resources were severely depleted. Figuring out how to remedy that was the next step but there was no doubt in my mind that nourishing my body and mind was critical. However healing also began with learning from Dad and listening to the advice he gave (intuited or imagined) from beyond his grave. His DNA may live in me, but this does not condemn me to his disease. Epigenetics has much to say on this subject, but that’s a story for a future post.
In the meantime, I wholeheartedly encourage you to close your computer or put down your phone. Close your eyes, connect with your breathing and slowly sense into what your body is saying.
Precious Snowflake: a term used sarcastically by my husband’s family to describe a person who takes himself, or herself, too seriously.
This evening, four sets of neighbours are gathering at one house for dinner. We take it in turns to host and tonight the most senior of our hyper-local citizens are wining and dining us. And wine and dine us they will, as they used to own a very successful restaurant. There will be beautiful wine and mouth-wateringly good food. However I need to take my own simple food and sparkling water because I simply can’t ask them to cater for my dietary restrictions. Which to be honest, makes me feel like precious snowflake and part of me wants to make up an excuse and not go.
Years ago I worked at Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) when it was a project in development on the Wellington waterfront. As a member of the corporate sponsorship team, I was involved in organising a fancy pants dinner for sponsors on the eve of opening. I can still remember how grumpy the chef was and how judgy I was of someone’s wife who sent through a list of things she couldn’t eat. I would have called her a precious snowflake. If only I’d known then what was in store for me.
Two months ago, I ate bread with gluten for the first time in two years, by mistake. The following day, intentionally I tried goat’s milk – cow’s milk is clearly a no – go but I thought I’d try another kind of milk. Within a few hours I began to feel distinctly out of sorts, the following day I had a panic attack, muscular aches & pains and digestive upset followed. I was anxious, not sleeping well, it knocked my menstrual cycle off it’s regular course and two weeks later, when I thought I was safely out the other side, my lower back seized up from all the muscular tension.
I have no doubt that the cause of this autoimmune flare up was gluten and dairy (although it took me a week to figure out there was gluten in the bread) and as wickedly uncomfortable as the experience was, it was useful confirmation. I’d been feeling really good beforehand and the flare up happened at what was usually a hormonally very stable time of the month, so the culprits were obvious. I may well sound like someone who takes themselves too seriously to the eye-rolling waiter at a cafe, but I’m not kidding when I say I can’t have dairy and gluten. My body has been a strict, but very responsive and consistent teacher.
Two years ago, on a good day, I could just manage a gentle one kilometre walk. I was sleeping badly, waking up panicky in the early hours of the morning and not going back to sleep. My digestion was dodgy. I remember gingerly walking down the single flight of stairs at home, with one hand braced against the wall, wondering if I’d ever be able to bounce down them again without effort. My thinking was foggy and I couldn’t concentrate.
Today, I regularly sleep through the night. Often I wake around 3am but not with anxiety, and a short practice of breathing sends me back to sleep. I’m pooping everyday. Walking several kilometres a day and practicing yoga. My mind is increasingly clear, my body increasingly energised. My mojo is returning!
In anticipation of writing about my process of healing, last week I asked Adam (my husband) to write a few paragraphs on ‘then and now’. As he handed over his laptop he said “I’m a bit nervous about you reading this as it’s not very flattering … but you did ask?” Yes, I did ask. And no, it’s not very flattering. I read his words and feel very vulnerable. My inner critic cackles with glee and tells me I am indeed the most precious of precious snowflakes.
Two and a half years ago you were exhausted and everything was hard. Any unexpected thing was too much, dropping something, a wrong look or word were enough to tip you into meltdown. You had a hard time concentrating and focusing. You slept badly most nights, you were grumpy, stubborn and unpredictable. Your brain was foggy so processing information and making decisions was hard. Making choices to care for yourself, or allowing others to care for you, were challenging. You didn’t want to admit that you were sick, you desperately just wanted to get on with your life. You stayed awake at night researching what was wrong with you, worried that you were dying. You were seeing doctors every week, sometimes twice a week. You had panic attacks every time something unexpected happened. Days where you felt like ‘Tink’ were rare and it was crushing as they faded.
There hasn’t been any magical fix, but slowly over the last year you’ve become healthier. You sleep better, are more comfortable in your body and your emotions are more stable. You have taken ownership of your health. You pay attention to the effects rest, food, stress and practice have on your wellbeing. You do more of the things which make you feel good and less of the things which make you feel bad. You have energy reserves and are more resilient when things go wrong. You are able to focus, make decisions and get things done. Maybe best of all you laugh more.
I do indeed laugh more. I attribute so much of my healing to nutrition and to eating food I know is giving my body what it needs, not the food which I know sends it into an inflamed tail spin. Yet learning how to rest, for someone who has been responsible for taking care of others as long as she can remember, has almost been the hardest lesson of all.
Over the last few months, as I’ve shared my story of learning and healing with friends, they have encouraged me to write about it. About my experience of using food, rest, gentle exercise, contemplative practice and the support from family & friends, as medicine. Between the lines of this story is my growing understanding that Western medicine doesn’t have the answers I need.
And so I will continue, although not in this post, to share more of my recipe for healing and the new science which is emerging to validate (for those of us who require validation from the scientific community) the role of lifestyle factors in healing. In the meantime, I will go to dinner with neighbours and try to be a less apologetic precious snowflake. While continuing to be mindful of others and I am also learning to say “this is me, these are my choices and they keep me well.”
At the moment, by way of addressing an autoimmune condition, I’m on a very strict diet. Basically meat, vegetables and some fruit. No eggs, no dairy, no gluten, no grains, no alcohol, no spices, no sugar. However I am by nature a foodie and am constantly exploring ways of making a relatively small number of ingredients into something new and delicious.
I posted photos of this pie on my Facebook page recently and had a number of people ask me for the recipe. Smackerel in the title? Well apparently Winnie the Pooh was known to say “You’re just in time for a little smackerel of something.” This pie does very nicely as a little smackerel.
Purple Kumara & Pumpkin Pie (or just pumpkin pie)
2/3 cup of coconut flour
2 tbsp of tapioca flour
1/4 cup of desiccated coconut
1 tbsp of stevia (You can replace this with 6 dates if you prefer or a whole banana – the latter will make the base a little more cake like)
1/4 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of lemon zest (More if you like it really citrus-y)
1/2 cup of softened coconut oil
1 tbsp gelatin (I prefer Great Lakes as it is made from grass fed cattle. You can order through iherb.com)
400 grams of roasted purple kumara & pumpkin (Any kumara and pumpkin will do, I’ve used purple because it is available at the moment and gives the pie such a wonderful colour, however others will taste just as good.)
1/3 cup of softened coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1 dessertspoon of freshly grated ginger (More or less to taste.)
1 dessertspoon of freshly grated turmeric root (Not essential but lovely if you have it! For both its colour and anti-inflammatory health benefits.)
1 gelatin egg (Add only when all other ingredients are blended.)
Place all the ingredients for the base in a food processor and blend until it forms a dough. This will be more or less wet depending on whether you’ve added a banana. If for some reason it is too dry add another tablespoon or two of melted coconut oil.
Press into a25cm pie dish greased with coconut oil and bake at 170 degrees celsius for 13 minutes, then leave it to cool while you make the filling.
Put all the ingredients except the gelatin egg in the food processor and blend. If the mixture is too thick, add another squeeze of lemon juice &/or another couple of tablespoons of melted coconut oil. At this point, you make the gelatin egg* and add that as the last ingredient to the filling. Blend again then scoop out and spread evening on top of the cooled pie crust. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes and serve.
Adam (husband) keeps saying it would be delicious with icecream. He’s right. So for those of you eating dairy, go for it – something with cinnamon would be fabulous. For those not eating dairy but some sugar, coconut icecream would be delicious too.
*gelatin egg – 1 tbsp of gelatin whisked in a small bowl with 1tbsp of warm water first then add 2 tbsp of hot water, whisk again and add immediately to the filling)
*Thanks to Mickie and Angie at autoimmune-paleo.com for the basis of this recipe which I’ve amended as needed to suit my diet.
We’re growing Mountain Pawpaw (Vasconcellea pubescens) at Peka Peka and while the fruit are still little, the fragrance of the many tiny green flowers is glorious. We have our fingers crossed that these gems will ripen into 10-12cm fruit laden with papain (digestive enzymes) and tasting of pineapple and pawpaw.
Speaking of glorious fragrance, the mighty San Pedro is still flowering. While blooming for just a few days, they smell of feijoa and frangipani. One of my enduring memories of Peka Peka is being tucked up inside during a howling February southerly and the dissonance of San Pedro’s tropical fragrance pervading a cold house. I’d picked all the flowers as they don’t do well in the rain.
So, now I know why it pays to wait until figs are properly ripe. If you imagine the taste of dried fig but with more caramel and utterly succulent, then you’re getting close. I’m not doing it justice. D.H. Lawrence does an infinitely better job with this poem.
The proper way to eat a fig, in society,
Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,
And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower.
Then you throw away the skin
Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx,
After you have taken off the blossom, with your lips.
But the vulgar way
Is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.
A breakfast not so much of champions, but growers. At least we’re learning to grow.
The fig possibly could have been even MORE delicious if I’d left it on the tree for a few more days… But I just. Couldn’t. Wait. I rationalised my decision to pick it on the basis that the birds might get it (although fortunately, touch wood, they’ve shown no sign of getting at this particular tree) or that it might fall of the tree and get smushed. So, in all it’s luscious sweetness, we ate it.
Postscript. Lunch. A single ugly strawberry, foraged by Adam. First one we’ve managed to get before the birds (who are most definitely enjoying the strawberries), he says it tastes like his grandfathers strawberries in California.
Yesterday we found a baby Blackbird which had fallen out of it’s nest onto the driveway. Sadly there was no sign of a nest or parents anxiously waiting nearby. Poor little fella. We have no idea how old it is or if this is a male or female bird so for now we’ve called it Old Friend Bird (OFB), because that’s what we hope he or she turns out to be. A wise old bird in the garden that survived a bit of a rough start and evaded our resident feline family members Claude and Andre.
After initially seeming very frail, but without obvious injury, OFB is chirpily in residence in a box on the piano. OFB requires feeding every half an hour from dawn to dusk and it seems there is a routine emerging. As soon as l appear overhead, it clambers up from a seated position and starts frantically opening its little mouth. However before I’ve had a chance to give any food, it rolls over and poops. I clean things up, continue feeding, stop feeding when the hungry-mouth closes and wait half an hour. Repeat. Repeat again. Repeat some more. Watch this space.
Then tomorrow, we have five little guinea fowl (keets) arriving from the wonderful Adrienne at Ammara Lodge. We’ve chosen guinea fowl because apparently they’re excellent at dealing with pests like cattle ticks and fleas. I’m hoping they’re not loud… much of the information online says they are LOUD, but Adam visited Adrienne’s guineas and chased them (by invitation) around the paddock without loud and frantic squawking resulting. So I have my fingers crossed. Again, watch this space.
Four months ago, I moved my seventy two year old Mother into dementia care. Moving Diana out of her beloved home and into institutionalised care was challenging to say the least. In spite of liking the place – especially the nurse in charge of the dementia unit and Shadow the chocolate labrador who spends much of each day at reception – there was no way I could be certain I was doing the right thing. And in the weeks and days leading up to the move, I found myself increasingly anxious. This wasn’t helped by well intentioned family members venting at other family members about how I was doing the wrong thing, and saying that I was acting entirely in my self interest.
For the last several years, Mum has had 24/7 day care at home. When I brought her home from Ashburn Clinic, with a diagnosis of short term memory loss caused by alcohol dependance, she couldn’t drive and wasn’t safe to live by herself. Initially, I found her a full-time live in companion who had regular breaks. However as the memory loss edged its way into alcohol induced dementia, the role became too much for one person and two women shared the role, then three, then four, then five. Each of them looking after Mum for a week at a time, on a roster of care I managed.
I’ve been blessed by the women who have taken such good care of Mum, whenever there has been a gap, somehow through word of mouth, I’ve found women who I have liked and women who have grown to love Mum. Which is why I decided to have one of them with us during that first week Mum was in her ‘new home’ – not just to help Mum integrate but for me too. I needed someone I trusted to help make the transition easier.
After considerable thought, I’d decided against explaining to Mum exactly what was happening as it would only have made her highly anxious. And so the carer and I took Mum up on the last day of March, simply telling her that there were a few things we needed to fix around the house and that we were checking her into somewhere like a hotel for a little while. She has always loved staying in hotels. Lovely people, good food, music, a dog and a cat. As we walked through reception and walked down to the dementia unit, she graciously enjoyed a round of introductions. We settled into her room and I made my way back to the office, to tackle the predictable pile of paper work.
In all honesty, getting her there was all I could manage that day. As confident as I felt about the place – I’d spoken with people who had family in residence and heard them speak highly of the facility and its staff – it was still heartbreaking. So I retreated back to the family home for cups of tea and dark chocolate and hugs from Adam.
As the day went by, there was no word from the carer and I became increasingly apprehensive, although I didn’t want to presume the worst. However she eventually reappeared after dinner and I went out to greet her in the driveway – only to be met with tears and ‘I can’t talk to you right now’. She calmed down a little after eating (apparently the food there was so bad she couldn’t eat) but then went on to tell me what a dreadful place the dementia unit was and how I’d made the wrong decision. No-one had checked in on them during the day. Everyone was more demented. Mum was not safe.
I curled up in bed that night wondering what on earth I’d done. Wracking my brain, I tried to figure out how I could have got it so wrong and seriously contemplated the very real possibility that I would need to bring her home and start from scratch.
Wide awake in the dark quiet of the very early morning, more than anything I wanted not to be the only one who could make this decision. The feeling was so utterly visceral I wanted to leave my body and run away from the lone responsibility. At the same time, in equal measure, I wanted to have someone, a parent I guess, tuck me in under the blankets and say ‘Don’t worry, I’ll do this. I’ll make this decision.’ But I couldn’t. And there wasn’t. There was only me.
There was only me.
And in that moment of realising the only person who could do this was me, the only person who could keep me safe in the middle of this feeling of all consuming lack of safety was me, the only way through this was to be right in the middle of it, in the here and now without reflecting on the past or frantically thinking through a hundred different future scenarios, I found presence.
Or maybe it found me. It was still and silent, expansive and timeless.
I wish I could say this sensation of being utterly in the present stayed with me, but its nature seems inherently elusive. I definitely a have better idea of how to find it and somedays, I find myself passing through it unexpectedly or it gently creeps up on me. And while my intention is to deepen those practices that cultivate presence, at the moment, I find both peace and comfort in simply knowing it exists.
Next up…Presence, Part 2. How Mum found presence in her own dementia.