Thursday, February 28, 2013

Protective Style Lookbook || Easy Glamorous Style on Twists

By popular demand, this is a series showcasing various protective hair styles.  Protective styling does not have to be boring. :o)

Model: Ambrosia

Style description: Twists in side bun with side-swept bang.

Difficulty level: 2/5

Healthy Recipes || Two Different But Delicious Blueberry Smoothies

What is so great about blueberries? Well, they have a high content of antioxidants, which are known to stabilize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.  Free radicals have been associated with certain diseases.


This smoothie is a rich source of potassium (banana), antioxidants (blueberries, strawberries, and mango), protein (almond milk), and calcium (almond milk).

1/2 medium banana, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup frozen strawberries
1/4 cup chopped fresh mango
2 cups chilled unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk

In a blender, add the banana chunks, blueberries, strawberries, and mango. Blend until combined, about 30 seconds. Serve in chilled glasses with straws.


This smoothie is a rich source of antioxidants (blueberries), protein (yogurt), and calcium (yogurt).

1 cup blueberries
1 cup plain yogurt or 1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons honey (or agave nectar)
3/4 cup ice cube

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend at high speed until smooth. Serve! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Thai Peanut Noodles with Chicken

I have a few favorite dishes that I like to eat out at restaurants and figured, why not try to recreate them at home?  It may seem intimidating to make something you typically only order, but it's really satisfying to have at home, not to mention healthier, since you can control the ingredients.
Case in point here is Thai Peanut Noodles with Chicken.  I like this dish because it's colorful, full of veggies, like snap peas, radishes, red pepper and bok choy (chinese cabbage), and so flavorful.  I added in grilled chicken breast for extra protein.  Using a prepared rotisserie chicken is also good here, but then you're getting the dark (fattier) meat.

I steamed the snap peas for about two minutes, but tossed in the chopped radish, red pepper and bok choy in raw.  Doesn't get easier than that. 

I cheated a litte on the peanut sauce because I have some that I really like from the bottle (but it's not the healthiest so I use just a small amount), then add in natural peanut butter, chile sauce, lime, and sesame seeds. 

I used whole wheat spaghetti cooked according to package instructions.

Then assembled the whole thing.  I like this dish cold, but you can eat it warm too. 

What is your favorite restaurant dish to create at home?

* * * * * 

When The Satin Bonnet (or Scarf) Is Not Enough

You have heard it before ... "Make sure you sleep with a satin scarf or bonnet to protect your hair while you sleep."  Well, have you ever awaken in the morning with the scarf or bonnet on the other side of the bed or with the moisture sucked out of your hair in spite of wearing one?  If so, you are not alone.

So, just how can you protect your strands and retain moisture at night when the satin scarf or bonnet is not enough?  Here are a few ideas:

1. For added protection, sleep on a satin pillowcase.  If your scarf or bonnet happens to slip off at night, your satin pillowcase will become the next line of protection against dry, frizzy, snagged hair.  Even if your scarf or bonnet stays on at night, sleeping on a satin pillowcase on top of that can do wonders for retaining moisture in your hair at night.

2. Purchase a better quality satin scarf or adjustable bonnet.  Not all satin scarves and bonnets are created equal.  Some are constructed from very thin and poor quality fabrics and threads.  What is considered a good quality satin? Well, first let me explain that the word "satin" is used to describe the type of weave.  There are "satin" polyesters and "satin" silks, for example.  Among the polyesters, "charmeuse satin" (or, sometimes called "satin charmeuse") is a smoother, better quality weave for the hair.  Purchasing a "charmeuse satin" scarf or bonnet is a good investment.  Also, look for adjustable bonnets (as opposed to purely elastic ones) for better stay at night.

3. Better yet, get a silk scarf or silk adjustable bonnet.  If you can afford to do so, silk is a much better material for the hair than polyester.  When searching for silk scarves or bonnets, look for those that say "charmeuse satin" (or, sometimes called "satin charmeuse").  This type of weave is the most luxurious of all the weaves.  Again, look for adjustable bonnets (as opposed to purely elastic ones) for better stay at night.

4. If you suffer from dry hair, turn on the humidifier.  The humidifier can provide extra vapor in the air thus creating a moisturizing environment for your hair while you sleep.

Skin Care || Mederma vs. Vaseline for Scar Healing

If you have ever searched high and low for a cream that improves the appearance of scars, then you are probably familiar with Mederma, which is expensive.  Well, you will be happy (or upset after having spent that much money) to know that it is no more effective than petroleum jelly at scar healing.  More importantly, keeping the "wound moist and covered[1]" via petroleum jelly or another topical treatment will minimize scarring period.

So before you shell out that money for Mederma, turn to your good old Vaseline to minimize the appearance of scars.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Could the low testosterone problem be a mirage?

Low testosterone (a.k.a. “low T”) is caused by worn out glands no longer able to secrete enough T, right? At least this seems to be the most prevalent theory today, a theory that reminds me a lot of the “tired pancreas” theory () of diabetes. I should note that this low T problem, as it is currently presented, is one that affects almost exclusively men, particularly middle-aged men, not women. This is so even though T plays an important role in women’s health.

There are many studies that show associations between T levels and all kinds of diseases in men. But here is a problem with hormones: often several hormones vary together and in a highly correlated fashion. If you rely on statistics to reach conclusions, you must use techniques that allow you to rule out confounders; otherwise you may easily reach wrong conclusions. Examples are multivariate techniques that are sensitive to Simpson’s paradox and nonlinear algorithms; both of which are employed, by the way, by modern software tools such as WarpPLS (). Unfortunately, these are rarely, if ever, used in health-related studies.

Many low T cases may actually be caused by something other than tired T-secretion glands, perhaps a hormone (or set of hormones) that suppress T production; a T “antagonist”. What would be a good candidate? The figure below shows two graphs. It is from a study by Starks and colleagues, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2008 (). The study itself is not directly related to the main point that this post tries to make, but the figure is.

Look at the two graphs carefully. The one on the left is of blood cortisol levels. The one on the right is of blood testosterone levels. Ignore the variation within each graph. Just compare the two graphs and you will see one interesting thing – cortisol and testosterone levels are inversely related. This is a general pattern in connection with stress-induced cortisol elevations, repeating itself over and over again, whether the source of stress is mental (e.g., negative thoughts) or physical (e.g., intense exercise).

And the relationship between cortisol and testosterone is strong. Roughly speaking, an increase in cortisol levels, from about 20 to 40 μg/dl, appears to bring testosterone levels down from about 8 to 5 ηg/ml. A level of 8 ηg/ml (the same as 800 ηg/dl) is what is normally found in young men living in urban environments. A level of 5 ηg/ml is what is normally found in older men living in urban environments.

So, testosterone levels are practically brought down to almost half of what they were before by that variation in cortisol.

Chronic stress can easily bring your cortisol levels up to 40 μg/dl and keep them there. More serious pathological conditions, such as Cushing’s disease, can lead to sustained cortisol levels that are twice as high. There are many other things that can lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels. For instance, sustained calorie restriction raises cortisol levels, with a corresponding reduction in testosterone levels. As the authors of a study () of markers of semistarvation in healthy lean men note, grimly:

“…testosterone (T) approached castrate levels …”

The study highlights a few important phenomena that occur under stress conditions: (a) cortisol levels go up, and testosterone levels go down, in a highly correlated fashion (as mentioned earlier); and (b) it is very difficult to suppress cortisol levels without addressing the source of the stress. Even with testosterone administration, cortisol levels tend to be elevated.

Isn't possible that cortisol levels go up because testosterone levels go down - reverse causality? Possible, but unlikely. Evidence that testosterone administration may reduce cortisol levels, when it is found, tends to be rather weak or inconclusive. A good example is a study by Rubinow and colleagues (). Not only were their findings based on bivariate (or unadjusted) correlations, but also on a chance probability threshold that is twice the level usually employed in statistical analyses; the level usually employed is 5 percent.

Let us now briefly shift our attention to dieting. Dieting is the main source of calorie restriction in modern urban societies; an unnatural one, I should say, because it involves going hungry in the presence of food. Different people have different responses to dieting. Some responses are more extreme, others more mild. One main factor is how much body fat you want to lose (weight loss, as a main target, is a mistake); another is how low you expect body fat to get. Many men dream about six-pack abs, which usually require single-digit body fat percentages.

The type of transformation involving going from obese to lean is not “cost-free”, as your body doesn’t know that you are dieting. The body “sees” starvation, and responds accordingly.

Your body is a little bit like a computer. It does exactly what you “tell” it to do, but often not what you want it to do. In other words, it responds in relatively predictable ways to various diet and lifestyle changes, but not in the way that most of us want. This is what I call compensatory adaptation at work (). Our body often doesn’t respond in the way we expect either, because we don’t actually know how it adapts; this is especially true for long-term adaptations.

What initially feels like a burst of energy soon turns into something a bit more unpleasant. At first the unpleasantness takes the form of psychological phenomena, which were probably the “cheapest” for our bodies to employ in our evolutionary past. Feeling irritated is not as “expensive” a response as feeling physically weak, seriously distracted, nauseated etc. if you live in an environment where you don’t have the option of going to the grocery store to find fuel, and where there are many beings around that can easily kill you.

Soon the responses take the form of more nasty body sensations. Nearly all of those who go from obese to lean will experience some form of nasty response over time. The responses may be amplified by nutrient deficiencies. Obesity would have probably only been rarely, if ever, experienced by our Paleolithic ancestors. They would have never gotten obese in the first place. Going from obese to lean is as much a Neolithic novelty as becoming obese in the first place, although much less common.

And it seems that those who have a tendency toward mental disorders (e.g., generalized anxiety, manic-depression), even if at a subclinical level under non-dieting conditions, are the ones that suffer the most when calorie restriction is sustained over long periods of time. Most reports of serious starvation experiments (e.g., Roy Walford’s Biosphere 2 experiment) suggest the surfacing of mental disorders and even some cases of psychosis.

Emily Deans has a nice post () on starvation and mental health.

But you may ask: What if my low T problem is caused by aging; you just said that older males tend to have lower T? To which I would reply: Isn’t possible that the lower T levels normally associated with aging are in many cases a byproduct of higher stress hormone levels? Take a look at the figure below, from a study of age-related cortisol secretion by Zhao and colleagues ().

As you can see in the figure, cortisol levels tend to go up with age. And, interestingly, the range of variation seems very close to that in the earlier figure in this post, although I may be making a mistake in the conversion from nmol/l to ηg/ml. As cortisol levels go up, T levels should go down in response. There are outliers. Note the male outlier at the middle-bottom part, in his early seventies. He is represented by a filled circle, which refers to a disease-free male.

Dr. Arthur De Vany claims to have high T levels in his 70s. It is possible that he is like that outlier. If you check out De Vany’s writings, you’ll see his emphasis on leading a peaceful, stress-free, life (). If money, status, material things, health issues etc. are very important for you when you are young (most of us, a trend that seems to be increasing), chances are they are going to be a major source of stress as you age.

Think about individual property accumulation, as it is practiced in modern urban environments, and how unnatural and potentially stressful it is. Many people subconsciously view their property (e.g., a nice car, a bunch of shares in a publicly-traded company) as their extended phenotype. If that property is damaged or loses value, the subconscious mental state evoked is somewhat like that in response to a piece of their body being removed. This is potentially very stressful; a stress source that doesn’t go away easily. What we have here is very different from the types of stress that our Paleolithic ancestors faced.

So, what will happen if you take testosterone supplementation to solve your low T problem? If your problem is due to high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones (including some yet to be discovered), induced by stress, and your low T treatment is long-term, your body will adapt in a compensatory way. It will “sense” that T is now high, together with high levels of stress.

Whatever form long-term compensatory adaptation may take in this scenario, somehow the combination of high T and high stress doesn’t conjure up a very nice image. What comes to mind is a borderline insane person, possibly with good body composition, and with a lot of self-confidence – someone like the protagonist of the film American Psycho.

Again, will the high T levels, obtained through supplementation, suppress cortisol? It doesn’t seem to work that way, at least not in the long term. In fact, stress hormones seem to affect other hormones a lot more than other hormones affect them. The reason is probably that stress responses were very important in our evolutionary past, which would make any mechanism that could override them nonadaptive.

Today, stress hormones, while necessary for a number of metabolic processes (e.g., in intense exercise), often work against us. For example, serious conflict in our modern world is often solved via extensive writing (through legal avenues). Violence is regulated and/or institutionalized – e.g., military, law enforcement, some combat sports. Without these, society would break down, and many of us would join the afterlife sooner and more violently than we would like (see Pinker’s take on this topic: ).

Sir, the solution to your low T problem may actually be found elsewhere, namely in stress reduction. But careful, you run the risk of becoming a nice guy.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mushroom & Onion Sliders with Aioli Sauce

Every couple of weeks, I crave a juicy burger.  Usually, if ordering one at a restaurant, I can only get through about half, because it's so much food with the bun.  Sometimes I order the burger without the fun, and just eat it with a fork.  Do you do that too?

The other night, I made a sliders (just smaller burgers) and topped them with sautéed onions and mushrooms with a bit of aioli sauce.  We ate it with a side of spinach too.


To make the sliders, I used about one pound of lean grass fed beef and portioned them into 5 patties.  I seasoned them with a little low sodium soy sauce and cooked them in a grill pan on medium high for about 4-5 minutes per side until medium.  

Onions & Mushrooms

I cut the onions and mushrooms into small dice and chopped a few cloves of garlic.  Sautee the whole thing in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.


I used a giant bag of spinach and sautéed it in a pot with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and garlic.  The spinach wilts down so don't be worried it seeming like too much. 


I made aioli by just combining low-fat mayo with dijon mustard and garlic.  Since it was just for two people, I added about 1/8 cup each of the mayo and mustard and one garlic clove.  You typically add a little lemon juice, but I didn't have any.  

*I always use a very light hand when seasoning with salt.  I think it's better to salt your food at the table because you end up using less and tasting it more. 

* * * * 

...out of the office, but -

- need I say more?'s what the intelligent art critic Brian Sewell said in 2009:

"The two words 'graffiti' and 'art' should never be put together," said the art critic Brian Sewell. He added the council were "bonkers...The public doesn't know good from bad...For this city to be guided by the opinion of people who don't know anything about art is lunacy. It doesn't matter if they [the public] like it. It will result in a proliferation of entirely random decoration, for want of a better word...Any fool who can put paint on canvas or turn a cardboard box into a sculpture is lauded. Banksy should have been put down at birth. It's no good as art, drawing or painting. His work has no virtue. It's merely the sheer scale of his impudence that has given him so much publicity."

You can read more about Banksy and the tagging of the segregation wall in Palestine by clicking HERE.

Karst Country - infra-red timelapse from Glen Ryan on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

New Reactions List AND "Oldies, But Goodies"

Hey all!  I recently edited the reactions list below each post.  If you noticed, before I used to have a "next" box.  Now I have a "more posts like this" box.  This is so I get a better feel for what you all would like to see more of on this blog.  There will almost always be a post that one person does not like, but I am more interested in hearing about those that people do like.  Be sure to make use of the reactions list or the comments section to voice your opinions!

1. Underrated || Lanolin for Hair
2. Mixology || Slippery Elm Leave-In
3. Skin Care || Combatting Dry Skin This Winter
4. Healthy Recipes || My Very Berry Smoothie
5. Healthy Hair Feature || Shae (Natural)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hair Diary || From "Stunted" to Growth

For a long period of time (August 2010 through February 2012), my front hair was stunted.  It appeared as if it wasn't growing (though we all know hair is growing) or as if it had reached its terminal length. I just assumed that my years of relaxing had done a number on my follicles in that region.  After all, my front hair hardly ever grew past 6 inches while wearing a relaxer (except in my childhood years).

Note how my front hair did not retain length from February 2011 to February 2012.
(It actually had not retained length since August 2010, which is not pictured here.)
Note the length retention in February 2013 after cutting ~1-2 inches several months before to create bangs.

So, annoyed by my seemingly stunted growth, I decided to cut some bangs and forget about my growth in that region.  Then during my wash-n-go experiment a few weeks ago, as I was finger detangling in the shower, I noticed how far my bangs stretched.  No more "stunted", they had finally retained some length in the past year!  It made a lot of sense 1) considering Jc's article on "Trimming for Longer Hair" on The Natural Haven combined with me 2) practicing gentler detangling in that area. (I'm usually impatient by the time I get to the front of my hair for detangling.) So those two methods helped my bangs retain some length.  Do check out Jc's article for a thorough explanation of how trimming helps!  I think I might do another cut (about 1 inch) of the bangs.

Now for some random hair shots:

One week after flat iron.  Wore the straight hair for ~3 weeks.
Majority of the time, it was in jumbo twists and bunned.

February length check. ~3 weeks after flat iron.
For the
next ~3 weeks I will wear wash-n-gos using Cyntriarf's method again.

Mixology || Recipe for Possible Regrowth of Edges

Are you trying to re-grow your edges?  The following mixture proved effective in a study of alopecia areata.  Though the conclusion of that study does not automatically translate into regrowth of edges that suffered via other means (e.g., traction alopecia), it may not hurt to see if this mixture works for you.

DISCLAIMER: Essential oils are very potent. Please consult your doctor before using them, especially if you are pregnant, breast feeding, or have a medical condition. 

Ingredients (and portions from the journal):
3 mL of jojoba oil
20 mL of grapeseed oil
2 drops of thyme essential oil
3 drops of lavender essential oil
3 drops of rosemary essential oil
2 drops of cedarwood essential oil

Mix all the essential oils into your carrier oils (jojoba and grapeseed) and store in a container.  Use mixture to massage your edges for 2 minutes before going to bed.  Then wrap your edges with a warm towel to aid in the absorption of the oils. Do this nightly for several months.

Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

Hi there, Honey We’re Healthy readers!  I’m back with a little something I haven’t done before here on Megan’s blog - dessert!  

I’m a big believer in moderation when it comes to food and usually indulge in desserts on the weekends.  This luscious panna cotta manages to be both an indulgence and a healthy choice - does it get much better than that??

My husband compared the taste to an orange creamsicle and as soon as he said it, I said, “Yes!  That’s exactly what it tastes like!”  But a more sophisticated creamsicle.  A creamsicle for refined adults, darling.

Traditional panna cotta is made with heavy cream while this lighter version uses 2% milk and Greek yogurt.  The orange zest adds the perfect little punch of flavor and the threads of orange mingled with vanilla bean specks is really quite pretty.  I loved it topped with kiwi slices, blackberries, and raspberries for some added color and a nice dose of antioxidant goodness.

And just a quick note - this recipe is not hard to prepare but it does have to sit in the fridge for a good 8 hours to set.  So be sure to think ahead if you plan to make it!

Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

1 1-oz. package unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 c. 2% milk
1 tbsp. vanilla bean paste*
1/2 c. sugar
finely grated zest of one orange (I used a microplane to zest a blood orange)
2 c. plain 2% Greek yogurt
grapeseed oil
berries for topping

Pour 1/2 c. milk into a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top to soften.  Let sit without stirring for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1 c. of milk into a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add vanilla bean paste, 1/2 c. sugar, and orange zest and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to simmer.  Remove from the heat and add the gelatin mixture.  Whisk to fully dissolve gelatin.  Transfer to a large bowl and set aside about 10 minutes to cool, then whisk yogurt into mixture until smooth.

Drizzle a bit of grapeseed oil into each of six ramekins and spread on bottom and sides with fingers or a napkin.  Evenly divide yogurt mixture among the ramekins.  Cover and refrigerate until set, 8 hours or up to 2 days ahead of time.

When ready to serve, run a butter knife along the edge of the panna cotta, all the way around the inside of the ramekin.  Invert it onto a plate and give it a good shake or smack on top of a padded surface (I used an oven mitt!) and remove the ramekin.  Top with berries and serve.

*Vanilla extract can be substituted for the vanilla bean paste but you will lose the lovely little vanilla bean flecks in the panna cotta.  You can also substitute a whole vanilla bean - cut in half, scrape the seeds out, and add the seeds and pod to the milk mixture on the stove.  Remove the pod before whisking in the yogurt.

* * * * * 
Thank you for this post from contributing writer, Jennifer, of The Chronicles of Home.  You'll definitely want to check out her blog for more amazing recipes, beautiful home decor, and easy-to-follw DIY projects!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Soul" Food Mondays ... Er, A Day Late || Gratitude

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." ~ MELODY BEATTIE

Move throughout each day with gratitude.

Protective Style Lookbook || Three Crowns One Queen

By popular demand, this is a series showcasing various protective hair styles.  Protective styling does not have to be boring. :o)

Model: Laila

Style description: Three different head wrap looks. 

Difficulty level: 3/5

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

Last night's dinner was really good and so easy to throw together.  When you need a fast meal, I like to take advantage of grocery store items that help save time.  If you have a bag of frozen shrimp, shredded lettuce (or cabbage), pico, and tortillas, you've basically got shrimp tacos!

Frozen, tail off, peeled and deveined shrimp are always on sale and in our freezer because all you have to do is thaw and heat.  You can thaw them in the fridge, but I usually put them in a strainer and run cold water over them for a couple minutes, then dry with a kitchen towel. 

The store bought pico is super convenient, but I sometimes add a fresh squeeze of lime or more onion since ours tends to be heavy on the tomato.

I made a simple taco sauce with low fat sour cream, a touch of milk, some paprika, salt-free seasoning, and low sodium old bay.  

I grilled the shrimp in olive oil and garlic and seasoned with old bay.  The tortillas were heated in a dry skillet.

Finally, just assemble your tacos.  I layered the sauce, lettuce, pico, sliced avocado, and then the shrimp.

The bag of shrimp above made four tacos. 

* * * * * 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Quinoa Caprese Salad

Happy Monday everyone!  Hope you all had a great, refreshing weekend!  I've been utilizing the chalk wall in our kitchen to write out our weekly meal plan and I love it!  I think I resisted because it's hard to know on a certain day what you're going to want to eat, but I figure, get it all planned out and grocery shopped so you have something to eat and you can just switch the days around if you want.

Preparing weekend lunches is a favorite of mine.  It's really nice to enjoy a home-made meal if you're at the house to eat it:)  With all the weekend running around, sometimes eating while out is more convenient.  This Saturday, having completed the morning errands and getting home in time for lunch, I made a quinoa caprese salad with grilled chicken.  This is one of those easy-to-assemble meals that is packed with protein and flavor.

I start by grilling boneless, skinless chicken breasts in olive oil for a few minutes at the same time I boil the quinoa.  Quinoa cooks quickly, about 8 minutes.  I used 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of organic chicken broth to give it more flavor. 

Then, because the caprese ingredients are a favorite combo (tomato, basil, and mozzarella) I assembled them all together. 

Quinoa is a good source of fiber, magnesium, iron, calcium and fiber.  It has a slightly nutty flavor, but mainly takes on the flavors you cook it with.  It cooks quickly, in about 8 minutes.   Then I chopped the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls in half and tossed in the basil. 

I seasoned my salad with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt-free seasoning. 

A bright, refreshing (and filling) salad!

After lunch, I portioned the rest out into plastic containers for quick meals later on during the week.  

Have you tried quinoa- do you like it? 

* * * * * 

I finally completed all 12 weeks of the Live Fit challenge (yay!)  and will be bringing you the low down with my progress later this week- I need to get my body fat measured first:) 

* * * * * 

£5.45 BILLION 2-year budget announced for Arts and Public Health*

A short and sweet blog this week. Things have been exceptioanlly busy - but all good and productive. Next week, I should be able to report on the Dementia and Imagination research project that I know so many of you want to hear about. I’ll be heading off on a break to cooler northern climbs this week, so sorry no email response.

We want to remind anyone who’s interested in the networking session here at MMU on the 28th of Feb between 6 and 8PM - that we’ll be exploring where this arts and health journey came from, where we’re at now and where we think we might be going. It’s not directly part of the manifesto sessions, but is connected in that I want us to be thinking about how we explore this visually. How we plot our lineage (so to speak) and how we might make sense of where we are in the here and now. So - it will be an interactive session.

I was hoping to work with a graphic designer ‘live’ on the evening, somehow capturing what we say and plotting this field, but she’s out of the country! If anyone is comfortable capturing conversation and the salient points, please let me know. Although remember, I won’t be answering email this week.

OK - final thought on this. “What’s he on about - visualising the field?” Well, we’ve had frameworks, flowcharts and all manner of pseudoscientific illustration and the occasional positive-peak-flow-gibberish - but what about the The Great Bear (Patterson) - what about Acid House and Brass Bands (Deller)? What about the film-makers and animators? There are a few images and films peppered through the blog today - treat them as a stimulus and remember you’ll need to register at 

International Culture, Health & Wellbeing Conference
Bristol, June 24 – 26th
I’ve got my ticket for this event and I very much look forward to meeting up with those of you I know, those of you I’ve emailed but never met - and complete strangers!

The Early Bird registration for the conference ends on February 28th. The fee is £350 for three days - June 24th, 25th and 26th. This includes the full programme with a choice of workshops, breakout sessions, performances and visits, lunch and refreshments every day. The conference will inform international perspectives on:
  • Healthy and Creative Ageing
  • Global Health Inequalities and Culture
  • Culture and the Social Determinants of Wellbeing
Please click on the Thames Valley 616 (GJB254) Bristol LWL6B's for more details.

Community Libraries in the 21st Century
Arts Council England and LGA have published a report that looks into the different ways in which communities are involved in library service delivery. Research shows that in July 2012, 5% of public libraries had some element of community involvement, ranging from independent community libraries that own their own assets through to council-led and funded libraries whose paid professional staff are supported by volunteers. The findings indicate that this figure could rise to around 12% in the near future. From this national picture, guiding principles have been developed to assist local authorities who are considering reviewing the delivery of their library services to work with their communities. Follow this link for details. 

Funding To Support Poetry and Literature (UK)
So, with libraries in mind, the Clore Duffield Foundation has announced that round 5 of its Poetry and Literature Awards Fund is now open for applications. Through the Fund, schools, FE colleges, community groups, libraries and other arts/cultural organisations can apply for grants of between £1,000 and £10,000 to support participatory learning projects and programmes focused on literature, poetry and creative writing for under 19s.
The deadline for applications is the 1st May 2013. Read more by clicking on the splendid bonce of the poet-librarian below! 

Elephant Trust fund for visual arts projects
Deadline: 15 April 2013
The Elephant Trust offers grants to artists, and for new, innovative visual arts projects based in the UK. Its aim is to make it possible for artists and those presenting their work to undertake and complete projects when confronted by lack of funds. The Trust supports projects that develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the fine arts.

Priority is given to artists and small organisations and galleries who should submit well argued, imaginative proposals for making or producing new work or exhibitions. Arts Festivals are not supported. The Trust normally awards grants of up to £2,000, but larger grants may be considered. Read more by clicking on the happy elephant!

...and finally that £5.45 billion 2-year budget for local public health services...

*Whoops - did I say Arts and Public Health? Sorry, I meant Public Health. But wait, don't give up so soon. Read this. Digest it. Think about the new configuration of services. Who is your Public Health champion? How can you engage with strategic commissioning. Is the time right for re-imagining our relationships with Local Authority Arts Officers (where they've not been slashed) and Public Health?

A £5.45 billion two-year ring-fenced public health budget for local authorities has been announced by the Department of Health. From April 2013, public health budgets will be protected for the first time, with local authorities taking the lead for improving the health of their local communities. This aims to drive local efforts to improve health and wellbeing by tackling the wider determinants of poor health. It is claimed that funding is specifically targeted, for the first time, at those areas with the worst health outcomes. In 2013/14 the total budget for local public health services will be just under £2.7 billion. In 2014/15 the budget will be just under £2.8 billion. Every local authority will receive a real terms increase in funding.
For full details by clicking on the healthy food option.

Cut grass lies frail:
Brief is the breath
Mown stalks exhale.
Long, long the death...

An extract from the Philip Larkin poem, Cut Grass

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