What is a leap year?

What is a leap year?

The calendar reform and introduction of leap years

In the beginning, all calendars were lunar and guided by the monthly lunar cycle.  When Julius Caesar visited Egypt, he fell in love with Cleopatra and immersed himself in Egyptian culture and scientific teachings.

When he returned to Rome, he brought with him the desire to correct the then outdated Roman Calendar and replace it with a model that followed the path of the sun. In this calendar the Roman astronomers inserted leap years, but they occured on average every 3 years.

His new Roman calendar, also called the Julian Calendar was introduced in Rome on the 1st of January 45B.C. and for centuries this model stood its test of time. But during the Middle Ages, it became apparent that the Julian Calendar was no longer totally accurate.

In the early 13th century A.D. an English friar named Roger Bacon calculated that the solar year was actually 11 minutes longer than Julius Caesar’s astronomers had calculated. By 1267 this had amounted to around nine days. Bacon wrote to Pope Clement IV and asked that the church should correct the calendar. If this issue was left unfixed the months would shift to such an extent that the holy days of Easter and Christmas would fall into a completely different seasons.

Pope Clement IV was very interested and asked Bacon to send his findings to the Vatican.  Over the next year Bacon set off to compose his theories in a manuscript he called Opus Maius (Major Work). In this work he set out (amongst many other topics) to prove that the current way solstices and equinoxes were calculated had gone completely out of sync with the true seasons and a calendar reform was badly needed.

Sadly for Bacon Pope Clement IV died in 1268 before he could read or evaluate this important document. His successor Gregory X was less sympathetic and Bacon’s book became largely forgotten. But the friar did not rest and kept publishing his demands for calendar reform. In 1277 these calls  landed him in prison and his ‘dangerous teachings’ were deemed to be heretic and were largely suppressed by the Catholic church.

It took almost another 300 years before Roger Bacon’s demand finally got taken seriously. Around 1573 Pope Gregory XIII appointed a calendar commission to look into the lost days. By this point it had amounted to 11.5 days.

This commission was led by the mathematician Christopher Clavius who directed work on the commission, but the main author was a physician called Aloysius Lilius (sometimes referred to as Luigi Lilio) who comprehended the papal bull that Gregory would issue on 24 February 1582. Unfortunately Lilio would not see his work to fruition and passed away in 1576, leaving Clavius to credit his work and drive the commission to completion.

The final product – the still used Gregorian Calendar – has now the correct length of year which corresponds exactly with the solistices and equinoxes and the year stays in complete sync with the season. The leap year correction added a day to the shortest month of the year – February – so every 4 years now February counts for 29days instead of the customary 28.

The importance of resting

The importance of resting

    The best cure for the body is a quiet mind
Napoleon Bonaparte

Everybody would accept that after a long run you need to sit down and rest your leg muscles. But when it comes to the brain – the hardest working muscle in the body – we never consider resting. Our poor brains are always ‘on’. Remembering, learning, sorting, controlling all processes of the body. Even during the night, our brain is sorting through experiences of the last waking period, sorting and filing problems and memories away. That is why we often have such weird dreams.

 

 

 Lack of sleep  

With all these activities, it is no wonder that on average the brain consumes around a fifth of our daily calorie intake.

During sleep, the brain instructs the organs to get rid of toxins that have built up during the day.  However, a lack of sleep means that some toxins will remain trapped in the organs and over time this can cause harm. 

If you suffer from sleep deprivation for a few days or even weeks, the body is able to compensate. But if you consistently deprive yourself of well-needed sleep it can come to health problems. Think of the brain as it was a  big computer. Without rest, the brain gets clogged up and static, sometimes it is just time ‘to pull the plug’ and let the brain reset itself.

Here is an article of what happens if the brain does not get enough sleep

Your body clock is the deciding factor if you are a night owl or an early riser and how much sleep you need. In essence, it does not matter when you get up or go to sleep, as long as you keep to a steady rhythm. Everybody has their own personal sleep target. 

When you don’t get enough sleep your brain will find it harder to retain memory and handle information. In severe cases, the brain can even restrict the way the body functions. Over a long time this can lead to illness. Until not so long ago sleep torture was a common way to ‘break spies’ and enemies of the state.

But in most cases, a slight sleep deprivation will lead to crankiness, irrational emotional responses (like misinterpreting social situations) and lack of concentration.

Is rest and sleep the same?

No, there is a difference – rest means being idle, but not asleep. If you had a bad night, small periods of resting can help to compensate for some sleep deficit, but effectively rest and sleep are like apples and pears- you can’t substitute one with the other.

Sleep is vital to reset the body – like clean out toxins and build memory. Rest is also vital, but more complementary. Over time the right amount of rest can provide ample health benefits like helping with hypertension, relaxing muscle tension and increased creativity.

How did people rest in the past?

Only 100 years ago one of the most commonly prescribed ‘medicine’ was bed rest. We don’t hear of this prescription anymore,  but sometimes this is exactly what the patient would need. But with every employee being squeezed for more and more productivity, the world has become faster and faster and often it would be unthinkable that an employee just rests for a few days. But the increasing amount of ‘sick day’ shows that people still need this rest.

But why prescribe rest – that surely is what the holidays are for! But are we really resting in the few weeks of holiday or free time most of us have? And if you are free-lance – when do you rest then?

I would argue not many people really rest these days,  – at least not in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Usually, during our holidays we go on a  foreign trip with lots of added stress, or a staycation with kids off from school and don’t forget what are you doing in your downtime, holiday or not. Self-checkout at the supermarket, self-service in the restaurant, booking your flight online and wasting hours doing so, etc. This does not count as rest!  This is stress!

In earlier centuries a successful person was somebody who had ample time to ponder about life, art, and philosophy.  The poor had no such luxury as they had to work all day, often seven days per week. The only exception was Sunday prayer.

These days the trend almost seems to have reversed. Being busy has become a badge of honor. Just look at modern-day celebrities. They attend every event going, have perfect children and a perfect house. And of course, have highflying careers on top of all that, not to mention the work for charity, teach/partake in a course/TV show, run a marathon and the list goes on and on.

Social media promotes an ever-acute sense of permanently missing out. I am not anti-social media, it has its uses. But we must accept that we can’t be superhuman and have to make choices. Therefore we should put quality way above quantity. I know, easier said than done.

In 2016 the university of Durham, UK, did a survey about ‘resting’ – guess what the top 5 resting activities are – I list them here.

  • Reading (58 per cent)
  • Being in the natural environment (53.1 per cent)
  • Being on their own (52.1 per cent)
  • Listening to music (40.6 per cent)
  • Doing nothing in particular (40 per cent)

What all these resting activities show is that people crave occasionally solitude. We need to get away from the world around us. No interactions with others, no stress, no communication, not thinking about others’ problems, wants and needs – just being in and enjoying the moment, daydreaming and no care in the world. This is rest – without guilt!

The good news is that ‘resting’ can be learned. There is no use of spending days in bed without any conscious benefits – that is not resting, this is lazying around.  Resting only works when you are otherwise busy. The main objectives are to ease muscle tension and to lower your heart rate. Take a deep breath, exhale and think calming, pleasant thoughts and relax. 

How do you successfully ‘rest’?

People who have mastered the art form of ‘resting’  can do this in ‘micro resting breaks’. Here is an example. You are driving through town, it is a stressful morning, everybody is in a rush, beeping horns, etc. At the next red traffic lights, relax your hands holding the steering wheel.  Roll your shoulders back a few times and take a few really deep breaths and exhale long and hard.  Make sure you pay attention to relax all the muscles in your body and release all angry thoughts from your brain.

These are all little exercises, but over a day they can have a big impact –  as they get rid of rising tensions as it happens. So there is never a big build-up and you will stay in a good mood (at least most days!)

Whenever you have the chance to a 5minute ‘shut-down phase’ please take it! Sit still with your eyes closed and banish every thought. You can call it meditation, mindfulness or else.  There are now many apps available to guide you. But you could just close your eyes and simply have a rest.

Think Hercule Poirot before he solves another complex case – he rests and lets his mind unfold. With all these benefits I would not be surprised if employers finally see the light and offer resting booths for hard pushed employees – to offer small power windows to boost their health, happiness and ultimately their productivity with much less sick days!

Finding your core values

Finding your core values

       January is a great time to overhaul your Goal List and check that you are still on track with your overall goals. When you subscribe to the LTMW newsletter you automatically receive the LWTM Goal Planner as part of our complimentary welcome package.

I have often written about the value I see in goal setting, especially at the time of the New Moon. But today I want to delve a bit deeper into the first section of the goal planning stage. I want to talk about your core values. 

Why do core values matter?

The answer is simple. Your core values should underpin your life. So it is absolutely vital that you take a good look at what your core values are before you start making plans.

Bluntly speaking, there is hardly any point in putting a goal list together if your goals are not aligned with your core values.  Many people work their socks off, only to realize way down the line, that all the hard work and money they earned along the way do not give them happiness and a sense of fulfilment.

Money may be exciting in the short term, but when you look at the really rich, most of them don’t just work for money. Instead, their life has a bigger goal or higher aim attached. It could be to leave a legacy, start a charity or create a product that changes the world. Whatever it is, true happiness comes from the hard work being aligned with your core values.

That is the reason why you need to think really hard before you set out on your life journey. If you are not sure right now what your core values are or you may never have thought about this topic then I urge you to clear a few days of your busy schedule and have a really good ‘think’.

It is much better to wait a bit longer and put more emphasis on the ‘figuring it all out ‘ process until you are crystal clear what you actually want to achieve. Rather than going blindly in one direction and then turning around half-way through the journey or even worse, arriving at your goal and finding out that all that hard work has failed to make you happy and fulfilled.

I recently heard a talk from Dr. Demartini where he identifies 7 core value groups.

  • Physical – the way you look, health, diet
  • Financial – your investments, earnings, pension
  • Spiritual – could be a philosophy, religion or another belief system
  • Vocational – is your calling, career or volunteer work
  • Family – your parents, siblings and children and other family members including pets
  • Mental – the area of self-development, courses, schooling
  • Social – your friends, acquaintances, and social media

When putting a goal list together, you should try to think about all these values and include at least one of each category.

Values change over time

Teenagers and people in their early twenties usually value their social engagement with others. What your peer group or people on social media say ranks much higher than what their parents tell them. Vocation will also feature highly, think of job training, university, starting a career.

In early adulthood (20ies and30ies),  the physical side is very prominent. In this age group looking good, keeping slim and attracting a partner particularly matters.

At the end of the 20ies and throughout the 30ies many people start a family and this will become the priority.

When the children get older or leave home, mental values and self-development become more important. This is especially true for women who often sacrificed a career for bringing up their children. Now is the time when they think about another life phase that enables them to re-enter the labor market, starting a business or gear up for a career change.

People in their 50ies and 60ies are finding financial values attractive. Retirement is coming closer and saving for a pension and financial security after the working years will play on their mind. How would they cope if they suddenly got ill or lost their job?

Finally, as people grow old the philosophical/spiritual side becomes more prominent and there is often a strong bond with the family, especially if there are grandchildren.

 

This, of course, is all a very generalized view. I am not saying that only one area dominates a certain time in your life,  but it illustrates that core values change over time and that needs to be reflected in your life goal planner. That is why you should every year have a look that your core values are still aligned with what you set out a few years ago and if not change and adapt it.

So don’t hesitate and download the LWTM Goal Planner and have a look where your journey takes you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baking Christmas cookies

Baking Christmas cookies

Christmas is always a great time for baking and for get-togethers. So here are a few good recipes to get you into the mood.

Funky Christmas Cookies:

This is a very easy recipe and ideal for baking with children. First, make the dough and then get various cookie cutters and cut out the shapes you like. Finally decorate with tubes of edible writing gel, chocolate or other decorations. The more organic and well-sourced ingredients you can use, the better.

Ingredients: 120g butter, 120g plain flour, 60g semolina, 60g caster
sugar, 100g icing sugar.

1) Take a big bowl and put in the butter (leave outside for a few hours before use, so it is soft) and the flour. Then rub both together with your hands. If your hands get very messy and sticky, add some flour to your hands to make it less sticky.

2) Once the mixture resembles lots of little breadcrumbs, add the semolina and caster sugar. Then squash everything together until you have a firm ball of dough.

3) Set the oven to 150degrees/300F/or Gas Mark 2. Get out a baking tray to
place the cookies on.

4) Sprinkle some flour on a big wooden chopping board and then roll out the
dough with a rolling pin, make it quite thin, but not so thin that it breaks
easily.

5) Now use the cookie cutters to cut out various shapes and place them carefully on a baking tray. Once the tray is full put it in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Then take them out and leave them to cool. Whilst the first lot of cookies bakes, take the rest of the dough and repeat the step for another 4 to 5 times until there is no more dough left.

6) Add the icing sugar together with a tiny bit of water and mix together
until you have a gooey paste. Then add some natural colour and flavour (you can
find them in the baking section) and decorate your cookies.

Chewy Winter Chocolate Bites

These chocolate fudge pieces make a great Christmas present and you don’t
even have to bake them!

Ingredients: 200g/8oz plain chocolate, 50g/2oz butter, 1 tbsp cocoa
powder, 50ml double cream, 250g/9oz icing sugar, 8 glace cherries

1) Put the chocolate, butter and cocoa powder into a glass or ceramic bowl. Then take a saucepan and put some water in it and gently place a ceramic bowl over the saucepan, so that the water heats up the chocolate and melts it.

2) Stir everything together and pour the mixture into a plastic mixing bowl
and add the cream and beat in the icing sugar.

3) Chop the cherries into small pieces and fold them into the mixture.

4) Spoon the mixture into a shallow tin and smooth the top. Then chill the tin in the fridge until it is set. Once it is solid, cut it into small squares and put them into little muslin bags with ribbons. That makes a great Christmas gift.

Christmas Stollen

This is a German Christmas recipe and it is a sweet bread that contains
sultanas, nut, orange peel. This recipe makes roughly 30 portions.

Ingredients: 175g/6oz blanched almonds, 175g/6oz blanched sultanas,100g/4oz
currants, 100g/4oz finely dices glacee lemon peel, 100g/4oz finely dices glacee
orange peel, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar, grated rind of 1 unwaxed lemon, 3 tbsp of
rum, 500g/1lb 2oz plain flour, 20g/3/4 of oz dried yeast, 90g/3oz sugar,
125ml/half pint of lukewarm milk, 1 pinch of salt, 250g/9oz butter/ flour to
roll out the dough, 150g/5oz of melted butter, 100g/4 oz icing sugar to dust.

1) Grind half of the almonds and roughly chop the other half. Then combine
with sultanas, currants, glacee peel, vanilla sugar, lemon rind and rum. Cover
the mixture with cling film and leave overnight.

2) The next day put the flour into a large mixing bowl, make a dent in the
middle and add the yeast. Sprinkle some sugar over the yeast and then add the
lukewarm milk and dissolve the yeast This will take a little while.

3) Once the dough has risen add the marinated fruit mixture.

4) Sprinkle some flour on a board and spread the mixture to form a rectangle of roughly 40x 30cm/16x12in.
Brush it with water and place the stollen carefully on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise for a further 20min.

5) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/390 F/gas mark 6.  and bake the stollen in the center for around 40minutes.

6) Take the stollen out and check if it is well baked.Then brush it wih melted butter and dust it with icing sugar. Keep repeating this process until all the butter and icing sugar are gone. Wrap the stollen into an aluminum foil and leave at least for 3 weeks until it is ready for eating, because only then all the full flavours will develop.

Happy baking and eating!

Renewal pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs

Renewal pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs

The Waning Moon and New Moon in November/December is a good time for renewal pruning of any deciduous trees and shrubs. If the weather is too wet or cold, you can move this task to January or even February. But make sure you have pruned back your deciduous specimen by the beginning of March.

There are two ways to prune:

Method 1 – the slow pruning option:

Before you start to ‘butcher’ your plants, stand back and have a good look. Some may need a radical prune (see section below), but most plants just need to get ‘back into shape’ and a ‘soft prune’ will just do that.

Deciduous shrubs and trees respond particularly well to this method, but it can also be used for evergreens.

First cut out old branches and stems that are too crowded. You can prune them back right to the main stem. Following that prune the rest of the bush/tree into a reasonable shape. Depending how fast the plant grows, take off a quarter to a third of its length. This ‘modest’ pruning method will make sure that the bush rejuvenates over a few years. But whilst this rejuvenation happens, you will still look out on a decent plant in your garden. This way of pruning is also a sensible option for very slow growing specimens.

The other alternative is more radial.

Method 2 – radical pruning option

If you have inherited a totally overgrown or neglected garden, you may wish to prune all plants back to the ground and start from afresh. This method is advisable if a plant is fast growing (although be careful, the more you prune, the quicker the plant will grow back) and if a plant looks very old, tired or even ill. Sometimes a radical pruning session at New Moon is the best option to let a plant spring back into life again. I once had an old holly bush that, due to a burst pipe at a neighbour’s property it had been waterlogged for a while. As a consequence it had lost all its leaves and quite frankly looked dead. So I decided to give it a final go. At the next New Moon I pruned back all side shoots and also chopped a third off the top.

At first nothing happened. But as soon I decided to chop it down completely, a few light-green shoots appeared. Now it is back again to its full old glory and a real focal point in our garden.