Back in the groove!

I’ve had a block about getting down to writing – anything!.

I have been doing, but not commenting on the doing, whether that be chocolates, herbal related things, making, dyeing…etc.

I think I’ve been overdoing things – just a tad 🙂

I discovered FutureLearn, a free online course programme that gives you tasters of multitudes of different courses – so far I’ve done a course on Orion, which covered the birth and death of stars, a course on moons of our solar system, I’m on 2 currently – one on medical humanities, another on the anatomy of the human abdomen. See their courses they have on offer;

This is addition to (still) moving kitchens, doing an online art course (Lifebook 2015), Emmett technique course,  and beginners beekeeping.

I’ve textile courses (for the workshops and classes check them out – Big cat textiles in the offing, a dissection 3 day course, another Futurelearn one on Hadrian’s wall, reflexology workshops I’m taking part in, and the teaching that I do for Scottish massage schools. And the clients, and the animals,….

So, okay, I’ve not been doing much facebook until recently, and I’ve not been blogging, but I think I’m keeping the balls in the air pretty well overall considering, well, considering I’m obviously a bit insane at the best of times! 😉

So on that note, I better get back to talking about things. I have a list ( when do I not – I live off of lists!) of things I want to mention and talk about, but I’m going to start small as I’m out of practice and some things I want to really look into (cocoa beans, herbs, additives etc).

Today’s ramble is about music. I’ve discovered, or rather, re discovered something weird about myself.  Someone once told me that they thought I have auditory dyslexia. Basically, this is another label to describe what I thought was normal, but not quite so much…. I have trouble hearing things – not on a decibel or frequency thing, but words get jumbled in my head, and as a result I constantly mishear things. Also called ‘Clumsy dyslexia’, and oh boy, do I tick that box – I’m an accident waiting to happen most of the time!

It physically and mentally tires me out when I have to listen to words. I cannot abide one noise over another – it almost puts me in a frenzy, almost a panic. What this means in practice is that when I’m making in the kitchen, I do like music, but no words.  Perhaps this is one reason I’m drawn to classical music these days.

The other thing  I like listening to is music in a language I don’t know, as I know I don’t understand the words, so there’s no point trying to make the effort. I can switch that part of my brain off and focus on the making. I listen to the same piece over and over. Every time I make anything in the kitchen, I play it, as it helps put me ‘in the zone’.

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I reckon it’s cross between an active meditation, and a Pavlovian response. 🙂

I’m not going to give this up, or Bach, or Spanish guitar, or cello pieces, but I think I’d like some more foreign, or world, or classical music.

By the way, bit of a NB here; I don’t do downloads as I’m not very tech savvy, and bizarre as it sounds, I know when to top up temperers, and how long to do things by where I am on a CD. I don’t want to fiddle with electronics with hands covered in chocolate. I like my CD player. I don’t like wearing headphones or ear pieces as I want to hear the tones and sounds of the machines and what I’m doing. I know if things are working right by their sounds, and the surrounding noises while I’m working put me in context.  I’m real, I exist in the real world. I want to be part of that, not shut off from it. So  the music I play should be CD-able, and not exist just in download format – either that or I need a teenage intern to make up play lists for me! 🙂

Have you any thoughts?

What works for you that you like, preferably instrumental or foreign language please… All suggestions welcome.

Raw Chocolate course with Amy Levin

Whew! just back from a great but intensive weekend in London.

I follow ‘Oosha’ (‎) and had seen that they run courses as well as post good things about raw chocolate, so it was a no-brainer for me, I had to go.


Going was the hard part. I’m reluctant to say ‘never’ ; as in “I’ll never do this again”- but I’ll have to (a) think long and hard, or (b)be desperate, or (c) have given enough time for me to forget the experience of going down via the night coach. The night coach has the appearance of being great value for money compared to the £250 quoted for the sleeper train, and when I heard it had actual beds not just recliners I thought “that’s the biz!” Hmm.

Several points to bear in mind – brush your teeth before you get on, – don’t go for a bottom bunk if you’re the slightest bit claustrophobic, go for a single bed side, not the double as you’re stuck there (unless on you’re on VERY good friends with the person on the aisle side), practise a very low limbo so you can get out from under the hammock above and above all leave something trailing that you can recognise by feel if you leave your coffin, sorry, bed, to go to the toilet, as you could get cosy getting back into a wrong bunk….

Let’s put it this way, after the course (finishing around 3.30-4) and realising I had 7 hrs to kill before bracing myself for the return trip on the night coach, it didn’t take  much persuasion after HH provided the information that there was a regular train leaving around 6pm from King’s Cross, to find myself reduced in cash but in a happier frame of mind and body and settled in a train carriage by 6.15!

Anyway, back to raw chocolate. I’ve had a couple of requests for them and after having tasted some wonderful spiced raw chocolate fudge that Alison Mountain had provided on the fabby textile courses over at Hat in the Cat and their Big Cat textile centre (  -go check them out if you’re at all creative, they host paper making, book making, dyeing, sewing, felting, painting etc classes with teachers that are excellent, from all over the world) I really wanted to try my hand at raw chocs. My attempts from books have been tasty but not entirely successful as I couldn’t get the textures and temper right for them.

Amy Levin of Oosha quickly sorted some of my issues out. Use powdered sweeteners such as xylitol, not the big crystal grains I’d used, or indeed the liquid sweeteners like Yacon syrup (doh! – fats and water don’t mix!) Use a Vitamix blender to do the powdering of ingredients prior to making the choc. Make choc in said Vitamix, temper in said Vitamix, note a theme here, guess what I’ll be getting soon 🙂   

We used silicon moulds mainly but Amy showed the class the polycarbonate ones that I’m used to using.


Natural colours are used such as beetroot powder for reds and pinks, spirulina for green and Turmeric for yellow.


While I’m used to using essential oils, we also used Medicine flower essences and extracts ( which were strong, fresh and zingy, and apart from the usual fruit flavours had coffee, caramel, butterscotch and other moreish flavours.

Textures were added with nuts – preferably soaked then dehydrated, this makes them more digestible and changes their consistency, dried fruits ( some of which can be soaked in alcohol then dehydrated – hmm, food for thought there!), buckwheat, all sorts really.

The finished chocolates had the snap of tempered chocolate on the outside which was great as I’d not got that before on my own. I’m still adjusting to raw chocolate as opposed to my usual ones, so I find the coconut oil that is often present leaves a different, lingering after feel in the mouth, though I could see that it was still be easy to infuse flower/ spice/ plant flavours in the coconut that would carry into the finished filled chocolate.

While there wasn’t as much hands on as I would like; this was understandable due to the expensive nature of the blender, and there was a wealth of information, a good handout backed up with the e book by email when I got back from the course and the invitation to join the facegroup page of people who have done the course this time and previously – which helps in troubleshooting and sharing information. All in all a good time was had – with the added bonus of taking chocs away for later!


There is a nice wee park around the corner to walk in during lunch break; lunch was a wonderfully tasty raw salad with buckwheat crackers. The park hosted a windmill!

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