Why Kombucha is making a come-back into Western Society?

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There has been a newly rising health trend in our Western society.

It is all about the ‘Kombucha’ craze, where crowds of personal health and fitness lovers are swearing by this fermented pro-biotic tea drink, and its claims to carry a multitude of life-changing benefits including; being anti-carcinogenic, high in antioxidants, electrolytes, phytonutrients, and beneficial bacteria. The drink is also said to have an alkalizing effect on the body.

Speaking from experience, the drink has made me feel far more energised, nourished and healthy, after each time I drink it.

Many cynics could argue that it is just another health-fad, and the benefits are simply over-exaggerated spewing from homeopathic marketers looking for a quick profit from naïve health-nuts.

However, from the information and personal experience I have gathered over the past month, I would argue that this is untrue.

I first heard about Kombucha from my social-networking activity, and observed that some of my friends had been drinking it. Out of curiosity, I looked up some articles on the matter, and also interviewed a good friend of mine over Skype, as he lives in Canada. His name is Sean, and he has recently invested in his own ‘Kombucha Starter Kit’, which is more cost-effective than buying a multitude of retail-sold bottles. He one day hopes to start up his own brand.

During our recent lengthy and highly insightful Skype conversation, he read a book about the subject to me, and this is what I learned;

-Kombucha is a fermented tea drink, made from the process of a tea infusion with sugar, yeast and a mother-culture of bacteria, or a ‘Scoby’ mat.

-The origins of the ‘elixir’ are unknown, and shrouded in mystery. It is claimed that warriors of ancient warriors replenished their bodies by drinking a fermented tea concoction, over 2,000 years ago.

– One ‘Scoby’ can keep producing batches of Kombucha for decades- perhaps even forever, on a weekly basis!
An elderly lady named Miss Lisovski, who lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, has made over 2860 batches since commencing her practice back in 1939.

-The by-product foam from the fermentation container can be used to make tasty sourdough, and other such baked goods.

-It is customary for Kombucha brewers to give a piece of their ‘Scoby’ to good friends and neighbours, so that they may continue the practice and improve their own lives, as well.

Again, this new trend carries credible benefits to all of our health and wellbeing, and isn’t a debased fad based on placebo. The trend did start up a little after the boom of personal health and fitness trends in the mid 90’s (such as healthier eating diets and yoga classes), and has been picking up momentum ever since.

There is the issue that people only pursue these interests, trends and hobbies just to look good to impress others, and this can be the overruling reason as to why they want to be healthy. However, there are still plenty of people who wish to take up these lifestyle choices to prolong their health for a far healthier, longer and happier life.

It’s safe to say that a health food that claims to be a ‘cure-all’ is non-existent. We all have different needs, but a healthy lifestyle supplemented by such foods has the potential of greatly enhancing our quality of life.

To conclude with a quote from my friend Sean on this matter:

‘’ My opinion on detox formulas and cure all is related to motivation. The public customer’s volitions (the motivation to eat health food products) will give them the most benefit from trying these products.’’

Meaning; people are inclined to follow these health trends, as to avoid sickness and waylay death. Both are inevitable to us all, however nutritional supplements, such as kombucha, is proving to be effective in reducing the severity and frequency of such mortal ailments.

I have drunk three bottles of the ‘Equinox Kombucha’ brand, sold from my local Health Food shop in the Carlisle market. It is a green-tea infusion with ginger, and it has a light soda-like texture, with a pleasingly refreshing taste and aroma.

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What’s better, Bi/Multi-lingual, or Monolingual?

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How knowing more than language changes your life, and how you can do it with ‘Dualingo.com’!

If you are bilingual or multilingual, that means that you know more than one or two languages. Monolingual means that you only know one language.

As I am a subscriber and keen watcher of the ‘Ted- Talks’ and ‘Ted-Ed’s’ webisodes on YouTube, I have been taught that knowing more than one language is highly beneficial in a multitude of ways.

First and foremost, being bi/multi-lingual makes travelling the world far easier and simpler, if you’re going to a country which most prominent language is not English- and you have at least some basic understanding of that country’s terminology and phrases.

Another benefit, shown by studies demonstrated by the ‘TED-Ed’ webisode ‘Benefits of a Bilingual Brain’ on YouTube also states that people who are bilingual have greater grey-matter density in their heads. The mental activity of a bilingual brain throughout the person’s life can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s and Dementia by as much as five years.

In more recent studies, past the 60’s, bilingual people proved to have faster reaction speeds, and as they were increasingly practiced with switching between two (or more) languages, triggers more activity, thus potentially strengthens, the ‘Dorsolateral Pre-frontal Cortex’, which plays a large part of our ‘Executive Function’. This means that bilingual people have an advantage of problem solving, switching between tasks, and filtering out irrelevant information. This can all lead to a more actively engaged, healthier and complex brain. You can learn more all about this, here.

‘Duolingual’ is a brilliant website for any of us to learn a new language.

It is a uniquely themed language-teaching site which utilises a variety of techniques to encourage learners. The layout and structure of the website is impeccably easy and simple to use, as well as being highly aesthetically pleasing.

The site isn’t just in English, either- so whatever your maiden language, you can read the site effortlessly.

All the learning tutorials are ‘Lesson’ based, starting with the basic terminology of basic understanding of your selected language to learn, and the complexity of the grammatical tests gradually increase with a variety of reading, writing, listening and even speaking (with the use of your computer’s microphone) exercises.

One of my good friends on Facebook recommended that I use the website to learn Dutch, as I have a Dutch friend visiting me in a couple of months- (this visitor speaks fluent English, but I wanted to return a courtesy by making the effort in learning some basics of the language) so I took her advice, and tried it out.

As there are ‘prize’ incentives and daily/weekly-set goals to work towards, this method of learning one out of a few dozen of languages at any one time is highly addictive. On my first day, I set the goal to gain ’30 xp’ (experience points) but have so far chalked up 140, from several ‘classes’.

It is completely free, and definitely worth you checking it out. It is great fun and invaluably beneficial! Check it out.

A Rowan Recipe; Busy Bee Banana Brownies

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As a British student on a measly-low budget, as well as being a Vegan, it is crucial that I know how to cook up wide variety of delicious, nutritious and affordable dishes to keep me nourished and happy through my time at university, and also the rest of my life!

It’s a common misconception that being a Vegan is costly and inconvenient, and this makes it highly difficult for a poor student to get by with this choice of lifestyle. Thankfully, this is far from the truth.

With a little enthusiasm for cooking, and resourceful shopping, it is highly achievable to have tasty and healthy treats, all made from the comfort of one’s own home! I’d like to share with you a recipe, which I made up a couple of days ago. I call it ‘Busy Bee Banana Brownies’, as I conjured up the recipe in a rather busy time in my life, and there are bananas involved. I made mine experimenting with gluten free flour (which is Rice flour, tapioca flor & potato starch mixed in), however you can easily replace that with normal flour.

This recipe includes mashed sweet potato, to increase the nutritional benefits and quality of the brownies, as well as enhancing the texture and flavour.

Even my banana and nut despising housemate commended these lovely brownies!

You will need:

*optional

Dry ingredients:

  • 250g Gluten-free flour mix
  • 40g of coconut flour
  • 50g banana chip flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • A handful of chopped brazil nuts, walnuts, dates and golden linseeds

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp. dairy free chocolate spread (or any suitable dairy-free chocolate)
  • 2 tsp dairy free alternative margarine spread (I used ‘Vitalite’)
  • 150ml Almond milk (or any other dairy alternative)
  • 2 ripe and mashed bananas
  • 1 mashed sweet potato

Method:

  • Sift all the flours into a mixing bowl, and then add in all the other dry ingredients. Stir well.
  • In a saucepan, melt the peanut butter and the chocolate with the margarine for a few minutes
  • Preheat the oven to gas-mark 6/200 degrees
  • Mix in the mashed banana, steamed potato and almond milk into the melted mixture
  • Make a well in the mixing bowl, and pour the wet mixture into the centre. With a wooden spoon, fold in the mixture into the dry ingredients, ensuring not to over mix!
  • Grease a baking dish with the margarine, and place the mixture evenly (using a wooden spoon and spatula) into the dish. The thickness should be between 1.5 and 2 inches.
  • Place the dish into the oven, and leave for half an hour, occasionally checking if they are done with a knife (the mixture will stick to the blade if it hasn’t cooked through).
  • Once baked, take out and leave to cool, and then cut into squares, and enjoy!

I made some extra chocolate peanut butter sauce to put on top, for an extra tasty treat.

An Interview with Kelcie Mahr

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Kelcie is a wonderful, intelligent and heart-warmingly friendly 24 year-old RYT-300 Yoga Instructor, who lives in Middletown, Delaware (U.S.A).

She owns her own social-network based business called ‘Core Love Yoga’. The range of customers which she caters for are highly extensive in age-range and ability, as she provides a rich variety of yoga forms.

These include; -child yoga, -family yoga, -chair yoga for seniors or individuals with injuries, -Vinyasa yoga, Ashtanga yoga, -Hatha yoga, -prenatal yoga, -beginners yoga, -Restorative yoga and -Iyengar yoga.

As she uses a variety of social networking sites to utilize to promote her business and hold sponsored social awareness initiatives, and also winning the attention of generous sponsors in doing so, she works both from home, and also at a local library/community centre where she holds many of her group classes.

As I have been a participant in a few of her on-line social initiatives and competitions over the last year, I have had the good fortune of starting a long-distance friendship with Kelcie.

I also won the privilege of having three free-of-charge Skype appointments (as she charges for them as part of her instructor business) just over a week ago, so I also took the opportunity to have a conversational interview with her, before she gave me a personal yoga class, which provided a wonderful insight.

Question A) –Tell me about yourself; what do you do? What are you most passionate about your vocation? How long have you been practising and teaching yoga?

I am a full time yoga instructor, home based in Delaware as well as on-line. I teach at several locations including different libraries on the Eastern Shore, as well as holding group classes throughout the Middletown and Seaford area.

I have always had a love of fitness. In fact, I had my first Barbie workout VHS tape at the age of 4, and my sister piqued my interest in yoga some years later, and my love for it grew from there.

I decided to pursue my career in yoga and became a Certified RYT-300 at the age of 21.’’

Question B) –What was the initial motivation and incentive to create your ‘Yoga Flow D.V.D?

‘’Some of the ladies in my Seaford evening class had suggested I make a DVD so they could practice along with me through the week when I am not teaching in the Seaford area.

I figured it would also be a great way to reach people that are new to yoga and not yet comfortable with the gym or a class setting. With my DVD, they can still learn and receive the benefits of yoga from their own home.

So far, about 400 have been sold, which has been a wonderful surprise! They haven’t been sold abroad yet; however copies have been bought in several states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Texas, and Washington. Each time I drive to the post office to send off another copy is always exciting!’’

Question C) – How easy and beneficial is it to get a multitude of on-line sponsors to collaborate and support your social awareness initiatives?

The best way to reach sponsors would be through Instagram. Since I began sharing pictures of my practice and showing my personality through my boho/hippie style of clothing and accessories, it has gotten more interest than I could have ever hoped for.

My following has now reached 18.1 K and hopefully will continue to grow each day as I have just began working with an amazing acro partner and we will be sharing our love of acro with our followers.

Many sponsors are also highly interested in supporting my campaigns to raise awareness for physical and/or neurological problems such as Autism, along with animal rights & drug addiction. Such issues hit close to home with me because I have watched such an epidemic from the rise of heroin addiction in my area.’’

Question D) –How long have you been practising the Vegan lifestyle?  Would you say that it coincides with Yoga?

‘’I’ve been Vegan for four years.
Through our practice of yoga and Veganism, it benefits your mind, body, soul in many ways. We come to terms that we were meant to live in harmony with all of life, to show compassion, mercy and love.

There are no nutrients that we need that we can’t receive directly from a plant. Our physical bodies are able to function much better without having to instil fear into others to kill.

When we show compassion, mercy and love our old bodies can be transformed to become light and whole. Our bodies are full of toxins. Practising yoga and eating a plant based diet will quickly help to eliminate these toxins whether it is doing a few moves such as folds, inversions, various twists or detoxing with your food intake, it will clean out toxins, lower stress hormones, increase circulation and send more oxygen to your cells.

Therefore, creating a happier, healthier you. Respect the health of your body, the earth and all living things.’’

Question E) – Who has been the most supportive in your career, so far?

“I would have to say by far my family has been the most encouraging and supportive motivators in my yoga career. I wouldn’t be the person I am today or where I am at in my journey without them.”

Question F) – Are you intending to pursue your yoga instructor career throughout your life?

’Yes, yoga is something that I am extremely passionate about. It is such a gratifying feeling to watch my students/clients gain flexibility and strength, build confidence, tune in to their inner selves and improve their overall health.

It is my dream to open my own yoga studio someday. I would love nothing more than to grow and evolve throughout the journeys of my own personal life with my practice as I one day hope to get married and have a family. I could then share my passion through prenatal as well as ‘Mommy and me’ classes.”

Kelcie Mahr is surely one of the most profound Yoga Instructors who has the talent to inspire us all to live healthier and happier lives. Check out her website, here.

Why is ‘Gravity Falls’ a must-see?

Good tidings, my fellow readers and writers!

This is my second attempt of blog-writing a cultural review, on something I have recently discovered and greatly enjoyed.

‘Gravity Falls’ is an American two-season cartoon series (‘Season’, if you’re in the states) about a pair of 12-year-old twins, Dipper & Mabel, who are sent to their Grunkle (Great-Uncle)’s home/tourist trap in Oregon, USA, which is also in ‘Roadkill Country’. At first, some may deem it’s just a silly and superficial children’s cartoon series being aired on the ‘Disney XD’ channel- but they would be greatly mistaken.

Alex Hirsch, the programme’s creator, has ingeniously formulated the scripting and plot in a very interesting way, as to attract the attention of a broader adult audience, as well. I won’t give the plot away at all; but the twin’s lives and frequent outlandish and crazy adventures evolve into a constantly ever-unfolding complex plot, that leads from a childish Summer holiday (”Vacation”) to an increasingly dangerous and sinister narrative, with plenty of subtly-placed refined humour for adults to appreciate. For example, there are pro-feminist jokes, and humour that reflects truths about our own global human society. There are also plenty of hilariously witty and weird jokes being said by the characters for all to laugh at as well. Hirsch also voices a handful of the programme’s characters

Since the first episode, 15.06.2012, the show has attracted a large body of fans– both young and… Slightly older generations. Being Disney’s first ever animated 22-minute serialised comedy, which is another bonus which has achieved many devout viewers.

At first, the characters seem very loveable and predictable in the first season, the narrative is kept fresh through an ever unpredictable course of plot twists and side-bending character development, which is sure to keep the audience guessing. The characters and some of their humorous circumstances have  also been inspired by real-life sentiments of the producers, and many of the voice-actors are already renowned by other works, such as Linda Cardellini & Jennifer Coolidge.

Give it a go- if you have ever been interested in cartoons in your life and looking for a reliable source of quick-fix, high-quality animated and scripted adventure that keeps you guessing and wanting more, then try it out! Unfortunately, Hirsch has made the decision that there will only be 2 seasons, as when interviewed, he claimed that he just wanted to make a story about a young pair of twins magical summer experience.  Here’s a link you may choose to use. The programme will only last 2 series, as Hirsch stated; ”…This is 100% my choice, and it[’]s something I decided on a very long time ago. I always designed Gravity Falls to be a finite series about one epic summer- a series with a beginning, middle, and end. There are so many shows that go on endlessly until they lose their original spark, or mysteries that are cancelled before they ever get a chance to payoff.”.

Here’s some more interesting facts from YouTube on the show- but only once you’ve caught up with the series, as there are spoilers contained. Enjoy the fun-filled madness!

To my Intrepid Friend; a shared insight in Carlisle

A Character Profile:

Dear fellow readers and writers!

This post is my first interview attempt, so I interviewed one of my dearest friends, who I’ve met in my second-to-last term of University. To avoid uncomfortable publicity, she doesn’t want to be named, so here I will just refer to her as ‘Z’.

We’re both on the same course at the University of Cumbria, which is ‘Wildlife Media’. Interestingly, as I am still but 20 years old and in my final year, she is a year older, and in her second term of first year! We’re also both from London, as well. She is a very ‘down to Earth’ character, who’s admirably perceptive, wise, insightful and knowledgeable. The type of lady you get to know if you want real conversations about the ‘deeper’ things about life, which are usually ignored in the average small-talk conversations that are far too common in everyday life! We have shared lengthy discussions about differing perspectives of spirituality (as we’re mutually inclined to delve into deep intellectual and intuitive subject matter about the divine/our places within existence, and so on).

Other than being keenly philosophical, Z also takes pleasure from practicing her skills at cooking,  art (with pencil and paint brush), outdoor photography and filmmaking, and solitary adventure walks. However, she has allowed me to accompany her on some ventures- and also with some other good friends. Interestingly, we share the more uncommon interest of exploring the world at night, under the stars, so to speak. Another interest, and I also value this as a very valid life-skill; is being a ‘Dreamer’.

When I asked her why she was interested in coming to Carlisle, her response was similar to my own and many other students on the course (when asked); which was the expansive and abundance of green space (as in the large parks, and rivers which are bountiful with nature which flow through the small city) and how accessible and convenient it is to find a nature hot-spot, either within or outside of the city.

Z has told me of the more interesting and unusual wildlife she has seen here, where in London she didn’t have as much of a chance of finding; Bullfinches, Kingfishers, deer, hedgehogs and even bats, (for her first time seeing them in England)!

Since her arrival to Carlisle, Z has already contributed something back to the city (other than her wonderful presence!), including; volunteering at the famous ‘Tullie House’ with a natural history exhibition preparation, partaking in the University’s Student Union’s ‘Greener Minds’ endeavor/group of ‘Grow your Own’ society, which is an initiative to encourage students to make use of the University’s allotment area to grow our own edible plants. It’s where we met, at the first meeting, interestingly!

My friend Z also appreciates Carlisle’s gift of allowing her to integrate into a smaller, more ”Closely knit” community, and bringing her within closer reach to the world of Mother Nature.

Thankfully to Carlisle’s reputation and prestige, Z rates it as a good place to be, if you’re also a Nature/Wildlife enthusiast, like us two! We can both mutually agree that any outing can turn into a wonderful quest through the very well-kept parks and riverside walks, transporting the adventurer into a place of natural wonder.

The Natural Wonders of Carlisle

In the North-West of England, the border-city of Carlisle is a vivid contrast of an artificial concrete labyrinth mixed with verdant wilderness. Here, traveller and local alike can easily observe the tangible combination of  human bustle and nature.

Positioned close to the Solway Firth, Pennines and the Lake District, Carlisle is a wildlife hot-spot for many manners of animals to dwell. Due to the Rivers Eden (the longest-flowing river in Cumbria) and Caldew which flow directly through the city (including the smaller river Petteril), any nature-enthusiast, at any time of the year, cannot venture through the minor city without encountering some form of exciting wildlife.

During this time of early winter, you may find the spectacular murmurations of Starlings taking flight at dusk, and even occasionally a Sparrow Hawk in attempt to catch its dinner. All year round, Red Squirrels can be found in Carlisle Cemetery, and Goosanders, Herons, Kingfishers, Wild Salmon, Trout and Otters residing in and by the Rivers Eden and Caldew. Sightings of Deer have also been reported to me by colleagues and local nature enthusiasts in the cemetery, and also the woodland pathways leading Westwards on the North bank of the Eden.

The World Owl Trust, partnered with a fantastic local volunteer group aliased as ‘Friends of Rickerby Park’ and Denton Wood craft, have recently been undertaking a profound initiative in encouraging the increase  the populations of Barn, Tawny and Little Owl by fencing of areas of the park as to be not be disrupted by human activity so the numbers of the Owl’s prey populations can increase- thus promoting the return and increase of the numbers of the Owls. Another Owl box will be placed in the neighbouring green area ‘Bitts Park’, and eighteen others to be placed with around the city with the City Council’s permission.

As a prospective Final-year Wildlife Media undergraduate student, it is always a simple endeavour to head out with some photography/filming kit and find someone exciting and interesting to capture on camera. It is the perfect training-ground for my early career as a Wildlife Media producer, as with just the right amount of enthusiasm, patience, sharp senses and knowledge in which to find the diverse availability if flora, fauna and fungi- there is a convenient and near-limitless potential of exciting media production.

For example, I am currently working on one of my final-year film projects, which is to highlight the presence of such a rich biodiversity in a city which is all too often judged as just another minor city which simply comprises of mostly industrial and residential areas, topped by an interesting historic Castle. The niche message of the short film is to contrast the paradox of exciting wildlife with the hard and artificial backdrop of the city.

 

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The Memorial Bridge, Leading to Rickerby Park on the far side. (8/10/14- photo taken by Rowan Cooper-Gritten)