Herbs for Healing – Thyme

This winter’s spate of people suffering from the flu has definitely led to a surge in the purchasing of antibiotics. Primarily used to combat viruses and infections, antibiotics come in all shapes and sizes, but are generally prescribed by a doctor and bought at a pharmacy or hospital in the form of pills or pastilles.

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The use of antibiotics revolutionarized medicine in the 20th century, however what did people do before these started to be discovered and used? Before the onset of modern medicine, there were other, more natural means of affecting cures. In fact, many people still prefer to use these natural cures even today. I am of course talking about the beneficial and medicinal use of natural herbs and spices. These plants, which may have so many uses, both culinary and medicinal, are found in the wilderness and are, therefore, unlike modern medicine, free or very cheap to purchase from your local apothecary or health store.

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One of the most common local herbs which can be found around the Maltese countryside is Mediterranean thyme (Sagħtar). Being an indigenous plant, that is a plant which originates from the Maltese islands, not one which was imported. Thyme is generally to be found in rocky arid places, such as the garigue and the tops of valleys. Being a perennial evergreen herb, it can be found growing throughout the four seasons.

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Thyme has been historically used for a number of purposes throughout ancient times. The Egyptians used the oil extracted from this plant for embalming, the Greeks used it in incense form to lighten the spirits, and the Romans used it to purify their rooms and linens. Christians in the middle ages often burned thyme leaves during funerals and memorials.

Thyme can be used both fresh and dried. In Arab countries, it is very popular in culinary dishes, as well as to brew hot invigorating teas, since thyme retains its original flavor when dried better than many other herbs.

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Scientifically speaking, thyme is a natural antiseptic, since it contains ‘thymol’, which, when prepared as an essential oil contains a range of compounds normally used in mouthwashes and disinfectants. In fact, thyme was generally used to medicate bandages, before the modernisation of medicine. A tisane or tea brewed from thyme can be a gentle remedy for coughs, colds, arthritis and upset stomachs. It is a natural diuretic and appetite stimulant. Due to its antibacterial properties, it can also be used to help treat acne and fungal infections.

Thyme also contains Vitamin A and Vitamin C and can also help to boost one’s immunity system. A 2014 pharmaceutical study on thyme put forth an explanation of how this herb lowered blood pressure, and reduced the heart rate. Its fragrant perfume can also be beneficial in boosting one’s spirits, as well as refreshing the air – in fact thyme is used in a number of disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and washes. My favorite way of consuming thyme however, is by garnishing a nice plate of pasta with it, or using it when preparing fish or poultry in order to maximize its taste.

 

This article was written by me and published on the online magazine Living In Malta. To access the original article, please go here.

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Daily Rant – Keyboard Warriors

The internet brought about a real revolution, and not just when it comes to communication and the media, but when it comes to the development of what I call ‘keyboard warriors’. These wannabe ‘rebels for any cause’ hide behind a screen and usually either use a false photo or/and a false name, waiting for the least excuse or imagined provocation to launch out into an all-out war or criticism, be it against a government, a company, an individual, a public person, or anything else under the sun.

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Of course, I’m betting in real life, these persons would probably be totally different. Not just your average Joe, but your average PASSIVE Joe, hiding snide thoughts and repressed emotions behind a veneer of passive-aggressive behavior interspersed with moments of acute low self-esteem. 

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We used to call them internet trolls, but the difference between internet trolls and ‘keyboard warriors’ is that trolls are just there to have a laugh at someone’s expense while fermenting pointless argument and hatred, while keyboard warriors actually BELIEVE they are in the right about something, that everyone else is against them, and that they are smarter than anyone else who doesn’t have the same thoughts. They NEED to believe this, because it is the only thing which makes them ‘special’ in their own eyes, and elevates them from the mass of humanity they encounter everyday.. on the internet of course.

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Most KB are usually either boisterous ‘friendly’ people one finds squawking every morning in the kitchenette at the office, making more and more noise in order to be the center of attention, or else the bespectacled fuming guy in the corner, smirking crustily at everyone else while not saying one thing. So, either one extreme or the other. The opposite of a balanced healthy individual. 

After all, no balanced healthy individual would think riling and haranguing strangers each day was something to be proud of right?

Or he might just be a religious fanatic looking forward towards the end of the world and seeing it everywhere too. Forgot that one lol.

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Herbs – Fennel

If you love Maltese food, you’ve surely already sampled the famous ‘patata l-forn’, that is, Maltese baked potatoes. This dish, served as an accompaniment to a number of meat recipes, such as Maltese rabbit or baked poultry, has one particular ingredient without which it wouldn’t really have that wonderful taste we all know and love. That ingredient is fennel (bużbież).

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Fennel is an indigenous herb from the carrot family, which is very common in the Maltese islands. It flowers between the months of May and October and featured so much in the lives of the Mediterranean people, that they even used it in their legends and myths. It was for example, thanks to a stalk of fennel that, according to Greek mythology, the hero Prometheus was victorious in stealing a bit of fire from Mount Olympus and the Greek gods. The ancient Romans used fennel as an eye-wash to treat visual problems, as well as a mouth wash to sweeten the breath, while Russian folk healers used fennel to treat colic.

Fennel, which is most abundant during spring and summer in Malta, sports pretty yellow flowers and is a resplendent plant which can reach up to three meters in height. Both the leaves and the seeds of the plant can be used to garnish or flavor meat, fish or cheese, however the traditional tasty touch which is given to certain particular recipes, such as Maltese roast potatoes or pork, can only be derived from the seeds.

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Fennel is even used in certain cocktails or alcoholic drinks. It is, for example, one of the main ingredients in the fermentation of the notorious 19th century green Absinthe.

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Fennel seeds can act as a laxative and so aid digestion, as well as prevent flatulence and treat constipation. This herb contains iron and histidine, an amino acid which can be helpful in the treatment of anemia. Since fennel also contains high contents of fibre, it can also be helpful in maintaining optimal levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Fennel is also rich in potassium, which is vital for a number of important body processes and functions, such as reducing blood pressure, as well as increasing electrical conduction throughout the body, leading to an increase in brain function and cognitive abilities.

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According to a number of health and medical sources, fennel can also be used to treat hormonal related issues, such as the female menstrual cycle, which can be a sensitive and painful time. Since fennel is anti-spasmodic, it can be a remedy for uterine cramps. It can also regulate out of control menstrual cycles since it contains an essential hormonal substance called ‘emmenagogue’, which stimulates the blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus, and can therefore aid in re-starting irregular period flows.

Preparations made from fennel seeds are also known to be used in cleansing milks to treat oily skin as well as eczema. Leaves can be used fresh, or prepared in an infusion with oil or vinegar. The seeds may also be ground and drunk with boiling water, as well as chewed as a good breath freshener.

This article was written by me and published on LivingInMalta. To access the original version directly, please go here.

Re-reading Narnia – Misogynistic but Pleasant

It’s 2018 and I’m sick in bed. For a change. 2017 was characterized with health problems and currently, 2018 doesn’t look to be much different. On the bright side, this gives me more time to read (and watch K-dramas).

Being in the mood for Xmassy children’s books to end the year, at the end of 2017 I started re-reading the Narnia books. I hadn’t read them in years and having purchased a second hand quasi-new copy at a very good price, thought this the perfect opportunity to do so.

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If you have only watched the Narnia movies, you have missed a lot. In case you did not know this, there are a total of 7 Narnia books (and only 3 movies). Speaking of the movies, the first movie to come out, and the most famous of the Narnia books, is ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. Although most people believe this to be the first book in the Narnia series, it is actually the second, that is, in Narnian chronological order. Let me explain – the American published Narnia books number the series in order of publication. And in that case, yes the ‘Wardrobe’ book would be the first one. C.S Lewis himself however, preferred to look at the books chronologically, meaning that ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ is to be considered the first book, which is how UK publishing houses do it.

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I myself own a UK version of the box series (thank the Goddess), in which the books are numbered chronologically, which is how I prefer to read them. This means that the books should be read like this:

  1. The Magician’s Nephew
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Movie No. 1)
  3. Prince Caspian (Movie No. 2)
  4. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Movie No. 3)
  5. The Horse and his Boy
  6. The Silver Chair
  7. The Last Battle

While books 2, 3 and 4, which were made into movies, tackle the adventures of the Pevensie children in Narnia, the other books concern other main characters. The Pevensie children feature in these books sometimes as well, but they mostly do this as Kings and Queens of Narnia and they are not the main characters.

I love the books HOWEVER there are some things which bug the hell out of me. For example, no one can deny that almost every book treats the female gender as though it was made of glass. This mentality is not surprising since the author was writing these books in the 1950s, however reading sentences like ‘it is a sad day when women must go to war’ really irritates me. War is ALWAYS terrible, no matter who actually fights in it. Also, why are the boys always given swords and weapons, while the girls have to make do with bows and small daggers, or even face seriously scary foes with no weapons at all??

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As author Philip Pullman himself writes, these books are ‘monumentally disparaging of girls and women’. And what about the baddies who always seem to be powerful women who have gotten ‘above themselves’ defying the patriarchal institution of Aslan? I am of course talking about the White Witch and the Lady of the Green Kirtle. Prince Caspian’s wife, another powerful woman, is not even given a name in the series! The only ways she is referred to is as someone’s daughter or someone’s wife! Very disturbing to say the least!

That being said, another thing which irritates me is the whole Aslan – Jesus metaphor, but that’s just me and it is mostly portrayed in the last book… at least in my perspective since I tried to ignore it as much as possible till the end, and considered the whole thing as fantasy.

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Apart from that, re-reading the series was a blast, and I also discovered echoes of Neil Gaiman, which leads me to believe that the series must have inspired Gaiman to write and develop certain ideas, such as the star-woman concept in ‘Stardust’ for example.

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Solitude

When you’ve been bedridden for a long time, the sun only a memory, the fresh moving air of the big outside a far-off luxury, your state of mind inevitably changes. You start inventing small everyday rituals and tasks for yourself, not as a way to make time pass, though that’s a part of it, but as a way to keep your mind occupied and your life on a structured path. Being so cut off from everything and everyone also takes its toll. Now, I’m an introvert – I literally hate people, well most of them anyways. However this still gets to me. Ever since I’ve been in here, I started to loose time. To forget things said and done. I would think I’d told someone about a hospital appointment, when in reality I would have done nothing of the sort, and the conversation would have taken place only in my head. Similarly, I would forget physiotherapy appointments, thinking I’d changed dates.

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When you loose your notion of time, something transcendental takes place. It’s like you’re in a world of your own, with its own rules of time and space. Your bedroom becomes the universe, and anything extraneous is only a passing shadow. The mirror of a dream which was real, once upon a time, long long ago.

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Perceiving that one day, perhaps, all this will end and I will once again be part of the world outside is a far off glimmer. I know I am supposed to hope it will happen soon, but I cannot see it. I cannot imagine walking in the street, catching the bus, being in a roomful of people, many of them whom I’ve never ever met before. Strangers. I cannot fathom not feeling the humid warm recycled air of my house. Not being able to rest in bed whenever I feel pain, or tired, or just too depressed to even face the light coming from the balcony. 

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Falling into the soft embrace of tears each time any little inconsequential thing takes place, each time sadness disturbs the placid waters of my day to day life – I am not fit for normal human company. Will I ever be again? Will I ever go back to what I was? And even if I heal physically, will I be able to interact with strangers in a foreign environment, or worse with people who think they ‘know me’? 

Do I really want to?

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PERSONAL – December Ups and Downs

This has been one roller-coaster of a month. Plenty of highs and lows. So, in a nutshell:

During the first week of December, me and my boyfriend went to Sicily for a short 4-day break. You can read the first part of how that went here, but I’ve still got to continue writing about the rest of the trip. You might ask yourself – why is she taking this long to write about a mere 4-day long trip? The point is, I love travelling – I am simply enchanted by the plethora of emotions, new thoughts and ways of perceiving the world which open up whenever I set foot in a country different from my own, with ‘exotic’ mentalities, colors, history and trends, SO I actually don’t find it that easy to describe it all when I come back, because there is just SO MUCH TO SAY! In fact, if you look through my past posts, you’ll realize that I’ve never actually sat down and documented each and every one of the places I’ve traveled to – simply because there are so many of them. However I told myself I’d make an attempt with this 4-day Sicily trip just to see how it would go. Anyhow, there you have it, still to be continued. And don’t worry, it WILL be, all in its own good time.

Got sidetracked there. Sorry.

On our last day in Sicily, I woke up suffering from some serious back-pain. Sciatica to be precise. The pain extended down to my left leg and I could hardly walk. Needless to be said, the last day was the climax of our trip, as we had planned on going for a jeep-trip up Mount Etna… you think I flunked that? AS IF! I still went. Hopping and wincing and dragging my sorry carcass up the whole mountain. And boy, was I glad I did!

More of that in future posts relating to the actual holiday.

We came back on the 12th. Tuesday 13th was a local Public Holiday so I didn’t have to go to work, and spent the whole day in bed resting and hoping my back would get better. It didn’t. On Wednesday, I went to the doctors’ who gave me pills, painkillers, and the advice to get MORE rest. So, that was the second week of December – which I spent in bed sleeping off my pills.

Luckily for me, the pain retreated, and I was okeyish for the weekend. This was important since my birthday was on Saturday 17th, and I knew that my boyfriend had planned the whole weekend with events for me. That is what we do – I plan stuff for his birthday and he plans stuff for mine. We spent some days meeting friends and family, and I really enjoyed that. Kudos luv! Not to mention that one of the pressies I received is a nice voucher from Ryanair to be redeemed by November 2017! Yay!

On Monday I felt a bit better and so went back to work, taking a large cake with me for my colleagues in celebration of my birthday. The cake was in fact so large, that we are still eating from it (we are a small department). And today is the 27th! During the third week of December we also had our ‘official’ Xmas party at work. The food, I admit, wasn’t anything spectacular, HOWEVER I did make up for it with alcohol consumption… enough said. Unfortunately this also meant that I was too tipsy and suffering from a hangover to actually do my Yule ritual. Ah well, I’m sure the Gods didn’t mind all that much since I celebrated with libation anyways.

On the 24th I cooked and slaved the whole day to prepare an enormous family dinner. Family members came late, and I was quite angry about that, but it was ok in the end and the food was a huge success. We still have our fridge packed with delicious left-overs. On the 25th we ate an enormous Indian buffet, after which Aunt Flo came to visit, and actually floored me. I had to stay home and rest to cope with that, so I missed another family gathering in the evening.

I’m so so tired of eating… AND YES my weight has gone up again! Frankly after noticing the first 3 kilos, I stayed away altogether from the bathroom scales… they scare me.

January will come soon enough, and then it will be time to face the music all right!

 

The Female Orgasm

It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is much harder for a woman to reach orgasm than it is for a man.

It’s a fact – nearly all men climax without difficulty, and yet women seem to need more attention and more effort on the part of their partner to reach the pleasure peak of the so-called Big-O. So much so in fact, that until a few decades ago, doctors even believed that it was scientifically impossible for most women to reach this sexual climax at all. In certain cultures, those who actually did were sometimes even considered to be unnatural by their husbands or partners.

On the other hand, nowadays we get a totally opposite yet still wrong picture through porn and the media, which portray women orgasming vociferously and vigorously multiple times as a matter of course. Unfortunately, reality is quite different!

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Not all of us are automatically turned on every time we’re confronted by an excited male, nor is it so easy to reach sexual gratification just because someone squeezes our booty or jumps up and down on us a couple of times. Yes, women can reach orgasm too, but no, they do not reach this sexual target as automatically and easily as men do.

Why? Because apparently while men only seem to need a visual and physical stimulus for them to reach a certain state of excitement, women also need a mental and/or emotional stimulus.

There are two types of orgasms. These are vaginal orgasms and clitoral orgasms. Sigmund Freud, the father of psycho-analysis, used to believe that older women had vaginal orgasms, while younger and more immature women had clitoral orgasms. Experts no longer believe this. However, Freud was right in thinking that there were two kinds of orgasm. This was also maintained in a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2013, which showed how ultrasound tests revealed that the two kinds of orgasms – clitoral and vaginal – differ in blood flow and sensations produced.

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French gynaecologists Odile Buisson and Emmanuele A. Jannini tracked blood pressure and patterns as it flowed through the female body and organs, and they saw changes in blood flow during different types of stimulating contacts…

This article of mine was published on EVE.COM.MT – Please click here to read the rest! http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/11/29/the-female-orgasm-fact-vs-fiction/

Recipe for a Tasty Maltese Lunch!

FINALLY the weekend is over. I seriously never thought I’d say that. Usually people look forward to the weekend – however this time by Saturday afternoon, I was already looking forward to this particular weekend’s ending. Not gonna go into details – suffice it to say that it is true that bad things come in threes, except that, for me, this time they came in fours… lol

The most I can say for this weekend is that I watched a couple of good horror movies with my bf, and that I cooked some tasty food. So, instead of glossing and agonizing over the details of my unfortunate series of events, I’m going to focus on what I cooked for Sunday lunch.

This is a ‘torta tal-irkotta‘ in Maltese, that is, a Ricotta Pie. I just love ricotta, and hadn’t cooked such a pie in a while.

Here’s my own personal recipe:

Ingredients

1.5kgs fresh ricotta
dough (this can be either home-made or ready-made)
bacon
peas
2/3 eggs
grated cheese
garlic granules
margarine
salt

Method

As you can see, I’m going to omit the making of the pie-crust and just focus on the making of the pie itself.

1. Take the margarine and cook it in a small pan. When it’s done cook the bacon.

2. With the rest of the margarine, smear the borders and all crevices of a large round pie-pan. Open half the dough and place it to form the lower part of the pie-crust.

3. In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, cooked bacon, eggs, grated cheese, garlic and salt to taste. Make sure to mix them thoroughly.

4. Pour the mixture into the open pie-crust and place the other half on top making sure to cover all the mixture.

5. IMPORTANT – Use a fork to puncture the pie-crust in order for the mixture to breathe. This will prevent the dough from inflating due to the eggs.

6. Leave in an oven at medium to high temperature. It will take approximately an hour for the pie to bake to a lovely golden brown.

Enjoy!

Instagram has changed my Life!!

Around 10 weeks ago, I discovered that that most awesome and picturesque (pun intended) of websites – instagram! Better late than never huh?

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So, as of the beginning of November I’ve been having fun taking pics and posting them online. Not only that, Instagram has really made me appreciate the little things in life more, in that now, while in the hunt for possible photos, I see more of the beauty around me and acknowledge it. I was used to taking certain things for granted – for example, I live in a really beautiful country – an island paradise which most people who live in smog-choked cities can only dream of – and yes, I wasn’t appreciating it at all. I’ve been living here my whole life, which is why I was taking it for granted so much I suppose. Thanks to instagram, I am finding more joy and happiness every day, in that I am thankful and proud of where I live more.

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Another thing is that I am living more healthily thanks to instagram. Why? Because instagram has become a great way to keep track of my eating habits! In November I started taking photos of the food I was enjoying, and I realized that all this food consisted of heavy fatty pastry – it as too rich and this was of detriment both to my complexion and my weight. This is why  I started a new regime. Now I am focussing more on eating healthy natural foods like fruit, nuts and white meat. I also purchased a number of natural beauty products to enhance my skin. This does not mean that I’ve gone off pastry, etc, completely, but I’ve just decided to cut it out of my diet five days a week, and only enjoy it in moderate amounts on weekends. I have also cut all caffeine from my life, and am now drinking only herbal mixtures. Which is working like magic because I feel more healthy.

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And all this because of one website! THANK YOU INSTAGRAM!

By the way, if you want to, you can follow me and my adventures here – https://www.instagram.com/melimoonsong/

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Please do!

Why does a Penis get floppy during Sex?

Yesterday I was watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy with my bf (yes, I like Grey’s Anatomy – shoot me ;p), and one of the characters started dating an ex model, whom he liked a lot. This guy was known for being a bit of a Casanova, as well as for his sexual prowess, however when he came to do the deed with this girl – he flopped. Literally.

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The issue apparently was emotion-related. The guy was so used to having one-night stands and sport-sex, that when he tried doing it with someone whom he honestly cared about, he just couldn’t.

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And this got me thinking. Usually, most people tend to function better sexually when they do the act with someone they are in love with or at least feel SOMETHING about. That is the usual idea. On the other hand, this does not mean we never have good sex with people who are just random or whose main attraction is physical, and not emotional. I’m not saying that, however mostly we all agree that when there is emotional depth involved as well, the experience is better on many levels.

The guy in the series was aware of this… too much so in fact. He could take emotionless sexual intercourse, what he could not take was having feelings for someone else. The feelings coupled with the sexual attraction were just too much, and he was scared off. We might think of this situation as a fluke, but it really isn’t.

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Think about it – how many people do you know who are afraid of committing themselves emotionally? One night stands are easy. You meet someone in a bar, you hook up, you make out, you get sweaty and excited for a couple of hours, and then it’s over. The other person goes their own way, and you are free to continue your life as you usually do. Nothing has changed. You had an itch, and scratched it. That’s all.

When emotions are involved, it’s an entire kettle of fish. You know you could get hurt. You know that if that person rejects you, your disappointment will probably affect your self-esteem. You are investing time, moods, and feelings over someone who, no matter how you look at it, is a stranger, and are giving him/her power over you.

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That is what it actually boils down to. When you feel something for someone, you give them power over you. Sex is just sex. Feelings are something else.

Which is why, I guess, the guy from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ couldn’t get his dick up. Fear is a great lust deterrent. However without fear, without the threat of loosing something precious to us, without putting our heart and emotions on the line – would life be worth living?

I’m not saying that each time your partner’s penis is flaccid and can’t make it, that means he’s afraid of what he feels for you. He could be tired, sick, or plain not in the mood. However when you go out with someone new, and you are about to do it for the first time, if he can’t get it up… that’s something else.

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