We need to talk! PERIOD

“Aunt Flo”

“Time of the month”

Maybe it is even THAT time of the month?

Perhaps you are just having some Lady time?  Why can’t we just say PERIOD?


Lessening the shame that surrounds menstruation is a worthy goal.  So much anxiety around women’s reproductive cycles lingers in the old wives’ tales about how menstruating women shouldn’t be social,  bake bread, or pickle vegetables.  OK, I will admit the need to withdraw by choice is a noted feature.

So what’s with all my sudden menstrual anarchy and what had this got to do with gut health?

Turns out, ALOT!  Surprise surprise.

I got this gut health thing, trust me, It has been an experimental learning curve which has moved me through my internals.  I have gone from pain to gain and now that the noise of digestive discomfort has become a whisper, other areas want the same attention.


Hormonal health is a whole other complex system but the connection is evident. The microbiome is now considered an endocrine organ, some consider it even more powerful than the other endocrine glands – inhibiting or supporting hormonal balance.  If you have a microbiome in balance you are more than half way to having great hormonal bliss.

Bonus features include gut health being in a favourable position so those sugar cravings can be pinpointed exactly to hormonal weak spots!




Here I am in my 40’s, straddling between menopause and my daughters puberty!  She is 8 and the intrigue has begun BUT keeping quiet about it adds to the taboo.  I will not greet my girl’s first period with silence.  Want her to be confident that a period is nothing to be ashamed of.

It’s biology…..if you’re someone who menstruates, then you are always, at every minute of every day, experiencing some part of that cycle. It is a bodily function that can temporarily affect you, just like an allergy might. If you start to think of your own period symptoms as a health issue we should be able to speak about’.

It has only taken me near 30 years of menstruating to fully know that every day I am part of a cycle.  Why was this information denied.  I am grateful to the wisdom I received from Mayella Almazon, to fully appreciate and harness this cycle as being swept along in a pattern that effects everything: your courage, your self-worth, your attractiveness to others and your energy levels. The idea that you can use the knowledge to plan your life accordingly………….  It is Life Changing!


Here is a little glimpse of her infinite wisdom.

My cycle is mine,

I am in control

I decide what is best to do when.

I organise any public workshops accordingly.

There is no more PMT.

No more unconscious mood swings ( I am aware of my mood changes let’s say!)

No more battling through the continuing wave of emotions.

There is just surrender with complete awareness of where I am at in my cycle.



Imagine a period that is predictable, cramp-free, and is sustainable for both your health and the environment.

Imagine a period that is treated as a source of information about the overall health and welfare of your body.

Imagine a period that is not taboo.


Now I am off to ‘Surf The Crimson Wave‘ !!!????!!!!


You can join myself and Mayella for a day retreat to discover the joys of Women’s Wellbeing starting with AUTUMN, the first of four seasonal workshops:  If you know someone who might benefit from this workshop focussing on hormonal well-being please share.

Further information and booking availble HERE.









All you need is……..

In the most generalised, sweeping statement of all time, I guess the notion of a holiday is to break from the norm and remove oneself from a situation you are possibly not so fulfilled in, an effort to escape the banal nature of life.

When you remove yourself from your most comfortable place of existence in the burning quest for new adventures, it can feel a little compromising.  Unless you decide to make this adventure ALL about what you love to do.

And so, thanks to the nudging me the right direction bacteria once again, I put everything to sleep in the fridge, stored the epic collection of things fermenting in the coolest room of the house, (just in case the Irish summer should surpass itself and actually offer some heat) and headed to Portugal to share the skills I have been mastering for some time now.  With an open offering to spread the love of fermented foods, the requests to host such a thing have lead me to the beautiful people, in beautiful places, doing beautiful things.  That’s my kinda holiday.


So how complicated is this fermenting malarky?


I have really come to understand that the most complicated aspect to fermentation is our own perception and the moment that we let ourselves relax into the magic of the microbes, a deep ancestral light bulb goes off and life makes a lot more sense!


I have had the pleasure of witnessing these light bulb moments, as people experience them for the first time, further added to by the subsequent giddiness that ensues as the idea ferments in their mind and their gut!


Fermentation is integral to life, fermentation is part of so much of what we already enjoy and fermentation connects to so many other bigger concepts of life from philosophy to geography, history to cultural evolution.  It is truly alive and part of natures’ mystery.


It was intentional that I left Ireland minus all my kitchen comforts with little to set me up in Portugal, relying on what I could find easily there.  By this I mean starter cultures as I wanted to show how easy it all this is harnessing natures free starter kit!

I will admit that in my hand luggage, I skimped on the clothes and packed my nutirbullet and some electric scales.  You may note that in nearly every photo I am wearing the same ensemble!

I will excuse these because:

  1. I have children to feed and I rely on the nutribullet to make smoothies which in turn allows me to hide an aisle of whole foods & superfoods in there….. without them actually realising they are ingesting something potentially healthy
  2. I was going to be teaching and scales just make life easy.


These two items of choice were a small luxury, the rest, as intended I picked it up the day I arrived thanks to the unnecessarily large selection of goods at ‘Casa China’.  (Disclaimer: I am not a fan of Mr.China or plastic, I appreciate that the quality is lacking, but it was all that was available and I was sure that with some exploration I would eventually find a reputable shop selling some delicious glassware from Italy or the like!)

The inventory:

1 manual juicer € 2.25

1 knife                 € 2.95

1 flip top bootle  € 2.95

1 2L jar                 € 2.85

1 sieve                   € 1.95

1 funnel                €2.00


TOTAL                      € 14.95


For the small total of €14.95, I was ready to make at least one bottle of ginger bug lemonade and one big jar of whatever ferment of the moment, preferrable seasonal with a quick turn around……so that will be copious amount of Salsa thank you!  Clearly the contents are an additional shop.   Lemons/sugar/ginger/water will be required for the ginger bug drinks and some tomatoes, pepper, onion, garlic and salt needed for the salsa.  This wish list was for personal consumption and not workshops per say, BUT lucky for us the journey would take us to delightful permaculture projects and organic farms with a summer abundance of lemons straight from the tree, tomatoes from the vine and whatever else we fancied, particularily beetroots, oh so many wonderful beetroots.  More on the workshops another time!


There was one last item which money could not quantify and that was our day trip to the waterfall in the mountains near Benefeita, to search for fermentation weights a.k.a. river rocks. If this is a reason to start fermenting, then I would say get your swimmers on!


As you can see, fermentation does not require much, no fancy equipment, no real specialised ingredients, just a little know how, lots of magic and patience.  Yes, unfortunately in a world of instant gratification, you have to wait for the magic part to happen BUT time makes wonders and the rewards are many.


Join me to discover just how easy all this can be….NEW DATES COMING SOON FOR SEPTEMBER 2017


****I will admit that I brought a small amount of milk kefir grains, because I was particularly in love with them at that moment.

It is common to fall in and out of favour with ferments from time to time and I see this as the body’s cue that it has had enough a particular profile of bacteria.  They actually ended up being the biggest pain, as raw, fresh milk is practically unheard of in Portugal.  It is pasteurised UHT all the way, I doubted that my clever little kefir friends would see this as food.

However, thanks to the wonderful people of the land I met along the way, I did manage to get some raw milk eventually.  It made some delicious, but strong milk kefir thanks to the soaring temperature of 40C, and it lead me to meeting some beautiful goatherders, who also allowed my children to do the milking.


In an ideal world, that how’s I would like it to be, so for this opportunity, I am grateful.


Moving in cycles and seasons.

The world doesn’t hang in the balance. It moves in circles, cycles and seasons and as the month completes once again, I am in full preparation mode for the arrival my monthly friend.

I am acutely aware of my cycle. In fact I plan my life and diary around it and make sure that I give my body what it needs both nutritionally and physically. This means harnessing energy when it is available and resting when it is most needed. I know when it is a good time to make a decision and when I should shut up and sleep on it.

I am more than happy to break the taboo on the topic because for too long menstruation has been, and continues to be, viewed as something dirty that must be hidden. In India, women are told to avoid cooking while on their periods, for they might contaminate the food.  In developing countries girls miss several days of school each month.  Closer to home, did you know that in addition to all toxic chemicals, commercial menstrual pads contain the plastic equivalent to 4 Plastic Supermarket Bags?


One Artist/Illustrator has given this topic great expression as you can see.  Maria Torres’ illustrations certainly point out that it is kinda ridiculous that we behave so awkwardly towards something that half of the Earth’s population has to go through every month.

Plus I would like to think that when it is time for me to take my menstrual pause, it doesn’t have to be one big hot flush.

However to matters most immenent! I have been a fish out of water, well out of my kitchen. I have been travelling in foreign lands enjoying the bounty on offer. Call it a holiday, call it an adventure, I happened to travel pre-menstrual (NOTE:I didn’t book the tickets) which made the budget flight even more uncomfortable than usual and the settling in, minus my reserved day of rest.


Lucky I had a few little empowering tricks which relieve discomfort and give some nutritional support.  BUT then came the holiday.  For the past month I have been pushing the boundaries of my usual dietary regime! From mindfully eating a sugar-free, wheat-free, fresh, vegetarian diet with a daily dose of fermented foods, this becomes a tall order when travelling.  My best efforts replaced the usual meals with living day to day on coffee (espressos to be precise), peaches, salad ensembles and tinned sardines, all washed down at the end of the day with some Portuguese wine!


Actually on the food front, it was not too bad. The produce in Portugal is great.  The odd unavoidable carb overload occurred BUT I am pleased to say some fermented foods featured in there.

BUT what is it about European countries, sunshine and espressos?


I am (was) a caffeine lightweight, but Jesus, I have just completed a months intensive training!  At least one, sometimes two, sharp hits of the black magic on a daily basis is going to take its toll AND this month I am in for it! Coffee is known to influence hormonal balance by causing more or less of a hormone to be secreted.

I know what my body is telling me!  The estrogen-to-progesterone balance is off.

Estrogen and progesterone are two of the key hormones that help regulate your menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels rise during the first half of the cycle, whereas progesterone levels rise (while estrogen levels slowly decline) during the second half of your cycle. An imbalance between estrogen and progesterone throughout this cycle, can contribute to emotional and physical PMS symptoms, menstrual cramps, bloating, acne, to name a few!

That translates to: The sugar cravings are on red alert, probably egged on by the potuguese custard tart tasting with aforementioned coffees and the obligatory peach a day….(not to mention those €3 bottles of wine per evening.)


I have had more sugar in the past month than in the last two years! I don’t know wether to ride it out and request that I get to sleep all of menstration day OR have a little PMS cry. I could say I need to feel fabulously again, instead of frumpy BUT I know is that this too shall pass.

The cycle will repeat all over again (without the holiday binge) and I have no need to feel like I will lose a week of every month of my life! I can roll with this and put my down time to some creative use.

So what’s really happening during your cycle?

Everything That Happens During Your Menstrual Cycle

You need to know what your body goes through during your period.

Posted by Cultura Colectiva + on Sunday, July 23, 2017

It is wonderfully empowering to use this knowledge to your advantage.  It can seem that just when you get on top of things, your cycle takes you down again and you feel like you are constantly starting over.  We are constantly moving forward and it is hugely beneficial to do so in harmony.

If you are feeling that things have gone a little out of sync after your summer adventures then perhaps you would like to join us for a day of indulging in the beauty of your female cycle.

The Cultured Club will be collaborating with Yo Soy Gaia and LA YOGA to bring you a day of moving through the seasons of your cycle.  You will learn aninsightful way to keep track of your menstral cycle  and what you can do to support your body, mind & soul through the inner beauty of being a woman.

Women Wellness through the Seasons: Autumn

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

10 AM – 4 PM

The Zen Room, HIllsborough BT26 6PQ

BOOKING IS Available NOW via this Link


Just like a flower, everything has it cycle.

A seed becomes a plant

That has a flower

It transforms into a fruit

The fruit drops.

There is another seed and the seed grows again.

The flower is the moment that we live!

Understanding it will allow you to enjoy the beauty of every stage.



Being Wild in the Woods


There is a certain amount of trust and intuition that allows one to literally pack up and head to a country you know little about, except for the Algarve of course, with sheer curiosity.  Perhaps it is more of perceiving it as something you have just yet to know.

And so it is, this summer, The Cultured Club embarks upon an exciting trip to Portugal to meet wonderful people, discover wild landscapes, learn of new wild foods and finally be guaranteed some summer sun.

Really, The bacteria make me do it!

I am beyond excited to detail a very special course at out first destination in the beautiful mountains of Central Portugal.

We will be joining Lynn in A vida Fausto, a paradise where she has consciously chosen to live off the grid and to build a healthy habitat. I can think of now better playground to explore the world of fermentation and the foraging potential of the local terroir.

The Cultured Club is offering a 5-day retreat solely focussed on this lost skill with the added deliciousness of foraging walks and an abundance of organic food  for a happy gut, commencing on July 2nd.

You are welcome to arrive at A Vida Fausto on the Sunday from 2pm onwards.  With a relaxed getting to know each other and settling into our new environment, we will offer an introductory talk on the various aspects of Fermentation and gut health, followed by a shared dinner under the canopy of trees.   A very unique sleeping experience in the middle of nature awaits you as the evening closes.


Over the subsequent next four days we will have a morning and afternoon workshop on the practice of Fermentation.

This will include:


  • Making probiotic drinks
  • Capturing our own wild yeasts and bacteria from the forest.
  • Making vinegars
  • Fermenting food with a variety of techniques
  • Making fermented condiments
  • Improvising with foraged ingredients
  • wasting less in kitchen
  • Ways to serve and implement into gut happy meals
  • Exploration and understanding of Gut health.
There are no musts – you decide for yourself how much group and how much alone time you want.
╰☆ The Location
A vida Fausto is located on the foothills of the Sierra de Estrela mountain range, near Coja in Arganil. Read and watch more about these stunning surroundings on her website: www.avidafausto.net/well-being
╰☆ Accommodation
Lynn has transformed small green houses into comfortable bedrooms, which are placed in cozy corners around her Birdhouse. They are equipped with a twin or double bed, cabinets for clothes and a little terrace with 2 chairs and a coffee table. These greenhouses are transparent and provide you with a unique 5 billion star sleeping experience close to nature.╰☆ Facilities
At A vida Fauto there is a vermicomposting flush toilet, which isn’t any different from the one you use at home. The hot shower, fuelled with wood can be used in the morning before breakfast or at the end of the day before dinner. There’s unlimited drinking water straight from the natural spring. The birdhouse provides electricity to charge phones and laptops. However the use of hair dryers and other high power equipment is not possible.
╰☆ The Package
We offer this retreat for the friendly Early Bird price of 449 euro per person if you pay before June 1st, 2017. After that the pakage price is 499 euro per person.
The package includes:
☯ 5 nights accommodation in a shared greenhouse room
☯ 15 organic plantpowered organic gut friendly meals prepared fresh and with love
☯ 8 focussed workshops on fermentation
☯ A foraging hike exploring wild edible plants and flowers of the area
☯ trip(s) to the waterfall when it is just to hot to do anything else
☯ Bedsheets and natural soap (due to the water going straight to the land, we use only 100% natural products
☯ Tea and fruitwater during the day and in addition beer and wine in the evening
☯ Electricity to charge phones/laptops
☯ Wifi around the Birdhouse. Cafes in the village provide free wifi too.
╰☆ How to get there
It’s a 3,5 hour drive from Lisbon and 2,5hrs from Porto. Rental cars in Portugal are very affordable, it’s a fun roadtrip and we encourage carsharing. There are also great, convenient and fast public bus services (with wifi) running from both cities to the busstop Catraia de Mouronho.╰☆ Booking & Reservation
To reserve your spot send an email with in the description “Wild in the Woods” and your full name to avidafaustso@gmail.com and by transferring 100 euro as a deposit after receiving bank details.If you think one of your friends may be interested in joining us, feel free to invite them to this page. For further question you can reach me on here info@www.new.theculturedclub.com

For practical questions about the accommodation, food and other things it’s best to reach out to Lynn (Loetje Loe on Facebook) directly via message or email avidafausto@gmail.com

Give your microbiome the holiday of a lifetime!

The Bacteria make me do it.

I frequently feel like I don’t play this game of life like one is supposed to.

I read the papers so infrequently simply because they cause a deep unease that I know little of the world, how it works and even less about how to change it.  Politics, economics, business strategy, the property market, investments, style trends, current affairs, what’s in, what’s out….all of it hurts my tiny mind!


This is not to say that I am introverted and without regard for the world I live in, it is more to suggest that it all seems to involve too much thought, a cerebral, cognitive, over analysed process.

I let go of all that thinking and I started to pay attention to the feeling, not the thought.  It has not always been apparent or logical, but that is the point, it has been intuitive and it has helped make sense of my world and my place in the larger picture.

I turned my attention to the invisible, to the microbes which live inside me.   You see I need them more than they need me and that takes care of a lot of the chaos the ego creates!  I am merely their host, and if I am not available for rent, well they will clearly take up residence somewhere else.  However a home without them is a barren place, missing the diversity of chitter chatter that keeps us alive.  Understanding this is key to inviting them in.

My life used to look a bit like this:

Young, ambitious, artificially blonde, still a dreamer, working in the arts, catching the wind.  I have always operated from great intention, but often without strategy or much guidance.  Intuitive thoughts and a chance meeting led to co-ordinating an epic show for the Opening Ceremony of The Special Olympics, Ireland.  A highlight from another life ago.

A spontaneous trip down under brought me to my ‘family’ on the other side of the world and a new perspective of life’s offerings.


A matter of timing co-ordinated the meeting of the man who is now my husband and the father of my children.

Today life looks a little different defined by motherhood, awakened by a new need to learn and, as it happens for most, a chance to reflect on ones own upbringing.

They say when you become a parent you meet yourself as a child.  You view your own parents with new regard and suddenly your own early years are in sharp focus.

My intuitive acceptance of my invisible friends has made complete sense of me.  My upbringing had me primed for them to move right in.

With great intentions and strategic logic, my father wished for me to inherit his pharmacy.  A kind thought, which would undoubtedly have lead to a financially comfortable but dissatisfied kinda life.  From the age of 13 I was in his ‘old school’ pharmacy at weekends and holidays. It was not a bright, shiny Boots experience, it was old, without much of the cosmetic additions and hinged on this desire to truly help people.  Half his pharmacy was a long line of chairs for people to sit and wait for his advice.  I was learning the ropes, dicphering the aliments and prescriptions solutions and translating the farmer’s speak as they requested worming doses or similar potions for their pigs.  My dad had a potion for it all and I continued to ponder on why the hell everyone was so sick.   I remember the long days, standing from 9-5 looking busy.  It was WORK.

I would hang by with mother of an evening, eager to help in the kitchen and continually impressed that everyday, day in and day out, she would have dinner on the table, an epic feast of wholesome portions.  She taught me the five mother sauces of cuisine amongst other things like the wonders of whipping egg whites, allowing me to free style sometimes with culinary experiments for the family.

“An extravagant cook” she used to say which I choose to interpret as a compliment.  I know she meant otherwise as I freestyled, but with a good Roux, what can go wrong?  

For me it meant I  had an imagination.

Jeez, it is the occasional gripe which raises its head in my marriage, that my love of cooking has to be exercised daily to feed the family!

Today my life looks like this.  A published author, launched into the fascinating and competitive world of the culinary arts guided by my intuition and a desire to make food as medicine.

Like I need the microbes, my children need me to set them up for their life ahead, offering them safe place to grow, learn and be nourished.  All of it instinctive, most of the time requiring vast amounts of perseverance and half of the time hard work.  That laundry pile brings out my dark shadow, there is actually nothing more dull than putting away the clothes!  The dreaming of those days of  independence, that fantasy BOOK TOUR, the chance of a chefs’ stage in a michelin star restaurant, to even flirting with the notion of opening my own establishment are currently all rudely grounded mid-thought by having to rush a five year old to the toilet. But like music to my ears, they say things like  ‘fermentation’ and joke about kimchi in funny accents. And they talk about probiotics & the good bugs, weighing up the food they eat as a good thing for the bugs or something they might have to ration.

I am proud.

“The bacteria make me do it”

The engaged process of creating fermented foods is my meditation, keeping me aligned.

They have made sense of my life and the decisions I make.

It is all a thought on the wind and when the logical mind is applied, fear could easily blanket the dreaming and halt any of these seemingly crazy decisions.

This summer we head to Portugal, en famille,  a notion from nowhere, but intuition.

I have a good feeling about this one, my gut tells me so.  The trip is peppered with retreats and workshops, allowing me to transport the bacteria, allowing them to spread their joy.  This allows us to engage with new people and experiences offering a diversity which keeps life sweet.

The Bacteria make me do it.

So here’s the facts:

  1. You have about 90 trillion bacteria in your microbiome. You only have 7 trillion cells – they outnumber you 13 to one!
  2. They have 75,000 genes to your 25,000. They make three times more messages – proteins, RNA and so on – and you cannot live without them.
  3. Your microbiome gets ill first, then you get ill. And, you cannot get better fully until it get´s better fully.
  4. It gets ill? It loses volume and diversity. A healthy microbiome can have 800 or more species of bacteria, including the one you picked up when, as a 1 year-old, you touched the neighbour´s dog and put your fingers in your mouth, or in my case, picking chewing gum off the road and eating it!
  5. But take drugs or antibiotics, or smoke, drink too much alcohol, eat too much sugar or processed foods, become overly stressed and some of the good guys  will die. The pathogens will come out to play.
  6. There are thought to be somewhere between 4,500,000 and 5 million different types of bacteria on this planet.  We are surrounded by them.

Around 4,000 have so far been identified by scientists.  These include the dangerous ones that cause illnesses such as Typhus and Cholera, certain E. coli strains, strains that produce the toxin Botulinum, varieties that infect NHS hospitals, SalmonellaListeria and other bacteria, amoeba variants and even yeasts like Candida.  They cause disease, infections like tonsillitis, thrush, and severe chest ailments whilst others like Helicobacter pylori are linked to stomach ulcers and even cancer.  They can invade our cuts and our wounds causing fever, even death.

Right now, you have them on your skin, in your eyes and ears.

There are more bacteria on your tongue than there are people living in the world.  For too long we have seen them as scary, horrible and clearly here to attack us.

Roughly 400 species of bacteria that live in your stomach and intestines have been identified.  Probably there are really more than double that number found there but scientists have yet to isolate them all.  Some of these bacteria (e.g. bifidobacteria and lactobacilli) are beneficial to us, others are harmful and some may be positively dangerous.  The trick is to try to make sure the activities of the beneficial bacteria are dominant. If you have too few of the beneficial bacteria, then the result is more bad guys, more circulating bad guys, more disease and sadly less intuition.

Now you can appreciate that the bacteria make me do this!  Together, we have a job to do.

See you when we get back…..if we get back, or maybe even see you Portugal!




The King of Kraut

Our food system desperately demands subversion. The more we sterilize our food to eliminate all theoretical risk, the more we diminish its nutritional quality.” Sandor Katz

Since the beginning of time, humans have been fermenting our food. Sauerkraut, chocolate, beer, cheese and it is because of this fermentation process these foods not only last longer BUT they are delicious.


In recent years Sandor Katz has become to fermentation what Elvis was to popular music and if you are in any way tickled by the magic of the microbes then listening to the vast knowledge this man carries with him is simply poetry!


The Cultured Club is delighted to host Sandor Katz on June 8th for his first visit to Belfast for an evening seminar covering all manner of things funky, fermented, cultured and beyond.   If you are already interested in your fermented foods, you will know how exciting this promises to be, as it is nearly impossible to read a blog post or journalists interpretation of fermentation without a quote from this man.  He is a fermentation expert whose obsession with funky foods has earned him the nickname “Sandorkraut” and the warmth of his personality, his generosity of spirit, and his deep ease animates the mysetries of this lost art.


If you are looking to brush up on a few of the basics, HERE is a wonderful introduction to the King of Kraut!  In fact, as I said, there are many articles including THIS ONE and a more committed read in THIS ONE.


But for a special little view into the life of Sandor Katz we can thank Ann Husaini and Emily Lobsenz for this wonderful short documentary of ‘ SandorKraut: A Pickle Maker ‘ as featured in the New York Times.


Tickets are on Sale NOW

We are grateful to The Dark Horse in Belfast who will host this evening.  For Game of Thrones fans, there is something about a door? No doubt a photo opportunity.







The Cultured Club is dedicated to reviving this lost tradition and bringing the control of our health into our own kitchens.
'Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food' is a hard philosophy to live by when we are so removed from the food we eat.

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