Top Twenty Healthiest Foods #4 Blueberries



Once upon a time you would only hear of blueberries on sentimental TV dramas, usually in the context of how much some freshly scrubbed all-American boy loved “Momma’s blueberry pie”. For years I didn’t know what a blueberry was and I had never tasted one until I was about forty. But that was before blueberries became a regular on the shelves of every supermarket all year round.

I’ve become used to them now and often have them on my morning cereal, even though I do find them very expensive  – and sometime a bit bland and squishy. To be quite honest, they’re not a blackberry, are they? But they are pleasant enough and they DO have lots of health benefits.

For instance, blueberries are known to improve circulation so their consumption can help with conditions such as varicose veins and chilblains.  They can improve night vision and help with a range of other eye problems, such as cataracts. Like cranberries, they have been found useful for protecting against the main bacteria which cause urinary tract infections. In the past they were also used to treat diarrhoea. Not only all that, but they are also high in antioxidants which help build the body’s defences against ill health, including heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.

Blueberries  were originally native to North America, but it is now becoming increasingly common to grow them in the U.K.. They can do well in U.K. gardens or containers, provided they are planted in fairly acidic soil. In fact, it’s a good idea to have a go at growing your own, since they remain very expensive in UK shops, presumably because they are delicate to pick and to store. They freeze very well, though, so buy plenty when they’re reduced!

In terms of recipes for blueberries, I don’t find them particularly exciting. Nevertheless, they are perfectly pleasant and are simple to enjoy in all these ways:

  1. Fresh by themselves or as a component of a fruit salad. Try a combination of pineapple, kiwi and blueberries.
  2. A handful scattered over breakfast cereal
  3. Lightly cooked with other berries to make a compote which can be served with yoghurt or ice cream
  4. On top of a cheesecake or pancakes either raw or lightly cooked.
  5. As an ingredient in smoothies.
  6. Stirred into a sponge-like cake mixture – in blueberry muffins, for instance

And if your blueberries are particularly tasteless, try livening them up with a squirt of lemon juice – works wonders.

If you have any other tasty recipe ideas for blueberries, please let us know by commenting below.

Here’s the list of Top Twenty healthiest Foods.

And here’s where you can read about some of the others:

Natural yoghurt           Carrots      Pineapple      Oily fish        Broccoli


“Get” is getting to me



What an annoying little word “get” is. It gets everywhere. Like there, for instance. It’s a small, ugly monosyllable which, seemingly, we would find very hard to eradicate from English, especially from spoken English. Alternatively, you could take the view that “get” is an extremely useful and versatile word which gets you out of a few situations where you otherwise wouldn’t know what word to use.

Give it a go. For instance, in all the following sentences “get” (or “getting”) has a different meaning. In each case can you think of one word which could replace it? Or do you sometimes need several words? Sometimes you will probably need to change the sentence construction if you don’t use “get” and in at least one case it’s hard to think of any replacement at all. Have a go then check the suggested answers.

  1. She’ll get him to do it.
  2. I’m going to get a new car.
  3. He’ll get it from the library.
  4. He’s getting tired.
  5. That dog gets everywhere!
  6. He can’t get the knot undone.
  7. I’ll get you for that!
  8. We need to get there before ten.
  9. They get the 8.30 train every morning.
  10. That film gets me every time.
  11. Don’t you get the joke?
  12. They don’t get what he means.
  13. Get started then!
  14. Did you get it all down on paper?
  15. All that alcohol will get her in the end.
  16. How did they get to her house?
  17. I need to get dinner.
  18. His moaning really gets me.
  19. I don’t know how he got that catch.
  20. Get writing!

You can see some suggestions here. You might think of better ones, of course.

What an amazing range of meanings for one little word! And then, if you follow “get” with a preposition, it has an even larger range of meanings. See whether you can  replace the “get” phrase (get + preposition) with one word in these sentences. As before, you’ll sometimes need to use several words and maybe change the structure of the sentence if you simply can’t think of one word that will do it.

21  He gets about, doesn’t he!

22  He gets it across

23  I’m sure she’ll get ahead.

24  You’re just trying to get round me!

25  They may get round to doing it.

26  It’s too high – I can’t get at it.

27  She keeps getting at him for some reason.

28  We just can’t get through to him.

29  I’ve tried ringing, but I can’t get through.

30  Let’s get down to business.

31  It’s a problem, but you’ll get round it.

32  We need to get away early.

33  What are they getting up to now?

34  I don’t want to but I can’t get out of it.

35  She gets off lightly every time.

36  Get with it, will you!

37  How did he get to be famous?

38  Don’t worry – you’ll get through it.

39  Get out of here!

40  All this arguing gets me down.

41  You won’t get away with it.

42  He gets up at seven every day.

43  They just don’t get on.

44 She’ll never get over it.

45  There’s a lot of work to get through.

46  Sorry – I didn’t get to do it.

47  They have just enough to get by on.

48  How are they getting on with the new project?

49  Get down and boogie!

50  He’s getting on a bit.

51  It gets me out of a difficult position.

52  You’re just trying to get in with him.

53  I just want to get it over with.

Suggestions for 21-53 can be found here.


And, finally, a few other “get” expressions:

54She’s been trying to get hold of him for two days.

55  I need to get rid of it.

56  Sooner or later they’ll get even with him

57  Can you come to our get-together?

58  That’s a strange get-up you’re wearing!

59  He’s lost his get-up-and-go.

60  I told her where to get off.

Possible replacements for 54-60 can be found here.

Generally speaking, using “get” will sound more casual and informal than an alternative word or phrase. Sometimes, though, the alternative sounds just strange or contrived. Which examples in particular?

Looking back through the huge list of meanings, it’s obvious that this little word has made itself almost indispensible. Try it and see: set yourself the challenge of going a whole day without saying “get”. Can you manage it? Would the English language be better without “get”? Let me know how you get on!

And have you thought of any more uses for “get” which I haven’t mentioned?

Making precious memories: Thomas Hardy’s poems



Thomas Hardy  has always tended to be better known for his novels than for his poems, but among the hundreds of poems he wrote on a wide range of subjects, there are some very memorable ones. This has always been one of my favourites:

The Self-Unseeing

Here is the ancient floor,

Footworn and hollowed and thin,

Here was the former door

Where the dead feet walked in.


She sat here in her chair,

Smiling into the fire;

He who played stood there,

Bowing it higher and higher.


Childlike, I danced in a dream;

Blessings emblazoned that day;

Everything glowed with a gleam;

Yet we were looking away!

Hardy here is describing a scene from his childhood: it’s a family occasion with his father playing his violin as the young Thomas dances and twirls and his mother looks on smiling. The last two lines are the most poignant since they carry the message that this family time was a very precious moment  but, sadly, they had not appreciated this at the time. Continue reading

The A-Z of Buying Presents



We’re now entering a major present-buying period for many people, but of course we buy presents for all kinds of people for many different reasons. This list may provide some helpful suggestions, whatever the occasion and whoever you’re buying for.

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I can’t believe we’re already in November. But a quick look through the window verifies that we are: the misty, murky greyness which blankets everything into damp anonymity and uncertainty is so typical of this month.

It always reminds me of a clever old poem I first encountered at school. When I was a teacher myself I often used it with classes, asking the kids to write their own version. When the weather was like this and the sun refused to break through, they were inspired to write some marvellous verse!

by Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

No sun–no moon!
No morn–no noon!
No dawn–no dusk–no proper time of day–
No sky–no earthly view–
No distance looking blue–

No road–no street–
No “t’other side the way”–
No end to any Row–
No indications where the Crescents go–

No top to any steeple–
No recognitions of familiar people–
No courtesies for showing ’em–
No knowing ’em!

No mail–no post–
No news from any foreign coast–
No park–no ring–no afternoon gentility–
No company–no nobility–

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

What can I do with all those apples?



You know autumn’s here when you hear someone moaning about all the apples they’ve got and don’t know what to do with! Really, though, this is nothing to complain about – far from it.

It’s been a few years since we had a couple of nice apple trees in the garden. We used to have loads of apples every autumn and, over time, I’d collected some lovely recipes which I looked forward to using each year. Sadly, both trees caught some nasty disease and died. We miss them! This autumn, though, I’ve been lucky enough to be given some apples by family and friends who do have trees and it’s been good to revive my favourite apple recipes and pass them on. With careful planning, your apple tree can give you pleasure all year round.

General information about apples

If you’re not sure whether they’re cooking or eating apples, try a sample when they’re ripe (i.e. the pips will be brown). If they’re cookers, they’ll taste very sharp and they also tend to have thicker peel. You could also try cooking one. A cooked eating apple doesn’t taste of much at all whereas a cooked cooking apple is delicious.

Divide your apples into blemished and unblemished ones. The blemished ones need to be used first, whereas those with no marks on them can last for months if you wrap them in newspaper and store them somewhere cool. Just make sure they’re not kept too cold, because frost will spoil them.

Blemished eating apples need to be eaten quite quickly and you don’t have many options except to cut out the bad bits and eat them. So if you’ve got a glut, pass them on to friends! Cooking apples, however, are a different matter and there are lots of wonderful things you can do with them. A simple idea is to peel and slice them, then put them into plastic bags for freezing. They’ll be great stewed for desserts or to put on breakfast cereal and they combine well with most other fruits. They’re also lovely when added to savoury dishes such as Normandy chicken, roast pork and curries. There are hundreds of lovely apple recipes to choose from. Here are my favourites, all tried and tested year after year.

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Seventeen Things I never knew about Ireland

Fuchsia grows wild in hedgerows

Fuchsia grows wild in hedgerows

I’d been wanting to go to Ireland for most of my life, it seemed and I finally got to spend a fortnight there this summer. What a wonderful place: full of history, charm, friendly people, good accommodation and wholesome food. Here are some of the things I found out:

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