Monday Meditation: Relax with these Raw Tiger Nut, Cacao & Coconut Treats

9D53B3F2-CD26-408F-8731-EA58B260A9E2When life is relatively calm, ie no family crises, and I find myself alone with no urgent tasks, I like to sit down and just let my mind wander where it will. I might close my eyes and just wait for my breathing to slow, or I watch the birds, or just take in my surroundings: the paintings, the family photos, the gentle flames of the woodburner.

When I am completely relaxed, I might get the urge to be creative. This can mean painting rocks, making cards, or even writing a letter – the old-fashioned way! But often, I like to bake or cook. It needs to be simple, quick, and not require that I keep several plates spinning at once, and definitely no interference.

Cooking on my own at leisure is a different experience from the pressure cooking of doing a meal with other bodies around and people requiring my attention or getting in my way. I like to be free to select whatever appeals, create something for my own pleasure and not have to be mindful of others’ pernickety tastes!

B2D4B8E0-1499-443E-962E-920F164433FEI rarely follow a recipe, or if I do, it’s more of a starting point that inspires a variation of the original, as with these no-added sugar energy balls. I fancied a little something with my cup of tea and didn’t really know what the result would be, but on looking in the cupboards I found some Tiger Nut Powder that needed using and remembered a recipe on The Tiger Nut Company Instagram page for Tiger Nut Macaroons by Eve Kalanik.

I used the general measurements, but made some substitutions: almond butter for the cashew, cacao nibs for the coconut chips and coconut water for the plain water in the original recipe. I also added some wild berry-flavoured supergreen powder.

These take literally seconds to make in the food processor and once in the fridge, by the time you’ve cleared up and put on the kettle, they are ready to eat.

It’s easy to make your own substitions so long as they’re like for like, but the texture or flavour will be different.

These easy raw treats are Vegan, Gluten-free and can be made Nut-free if you use Seed Butter. 

Please note: Tiger Nuts are Tubers, Not Nuts.

Ingredients

100g Tiger Nut Powder

45g Desiccated Coconut 

1 Tbsp Raw Cacao Nibs, for a bit of crunch

2 Tbsps Almond Butter 

A pinch of Pink Himalayan Salt

4g Vivolife ‘Thrive for Her’, Raw Green Superfood Powder, Wild Berry flavour

Approx. 4 Tbsps Coconut Water (or water or apple juice)

Pulse all ingredients except water for a few seconds. Add water and process for a couple of seconds to mix.

Scoop spoonfuls of the mix and roll into balls.

Makes about 10.

Place in the fridge to set.

Keep for days in an airtight container in the fridge and for a long time in the freezer if you can resist!

So much healthier and satisfying than a shop-bought biscuit or pastry to have with your afternoon cup of tea, and will give you a lift, making you more alert and energised without the inevitable slump afterwards.

The tea, by the way, is Pukka Herbs’ Licorice and Cinnamon. A perfect relaxing combination on your own or to share with a friend.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Monday Meditation: Making the Most of Autumn Leaves

29936192_UnknownIf it weren’t for the cold gusting winds, autumn would be my favourite season. We went for a walk in Lilleshall* again the other afternoon on a very blustery day, the wind so strong at times it almost blew us along. I didn’t take any photos because I’ve written often about Lilleshall and will be posting again soon (this picture is from a few weeks ago). The colours of the trees and the carpets of leaves were breathtaking and when the wind gusted, a shower of pale yellow silver birch leaves swirled about us, it was like walking through autumnal confetti. I just wanted to take it all in and not spend all my time framing shots with my camera. Sometimes I feel like I only have the experience secondhand through my photos afterwards rather than in the moment. This once, I wanted to take my time and drink it all up, really feel the wind in my hair, absorb the colours, take in the sounds of the trees, the ducks (all 13 of them) and the birds.

I’ve had a break from online activity recently and have not only been painting Christmas rocks, but also cards using various leaves as templates. It’s a relaxing, peaceful activity and takes no skill, just poster paint or thinned acrylic paint and a paintbrush. Children love to do leaf prints, many of the younger ones do them at school and I remember doing them with my young children.

IMG_4208One of the leaves I used is from the cherry tree I had planted for my dad and brother in our local cemetery – pictured here on a beautifully sunny autumn day a few weeks ago, I tried to catch the squirrel at the bottom of the tree but it ran off as I focused the camera.  I made cards from this leaf for upcoming family birthdays. It’s the top left in the photo below.

Here are some of my efforts:

30201488_UnknownWash and dry the leaves and flatten them between paper under a heavy object to smooth them out.

With fairly thin but not too runny paint, cover the front of the leaf, working the paint into all the veins.

Turn it over and gently position onto your paper or card, pressing down all over, especially the edges, trying not to smudge it.

Gently ease the leaf from the paper and if there are any gaps in the images, you can touch up with a thin brush.

I added some glitter glue to the holly ones when they were dried as I’m going to use them as Christmas cards. If you enlarge the picture below, you should be able to see the glitter.

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No two are ever the same, which makes them all individual and special to those who receive them.

My craft room is getting a little crowded what with all the rocks and cards, my collection of leaves and conkers, my paints and pens, but it is a quiet, calming and light space that overlooks the garden and is warmed by the sun. Virginia Woolf famously said that every woman should have ‘A room of one’s own’, I have waited years to have this space, but finally after all its many previous incarnations, I now have mine.

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PS The smoothie is Pomegranate Chia Pudding. Yum!

*Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep!

If you like country estates, you’ll love this!

Ducks Crossing! In Which We Take a Break from House Refurbishment

Copyright: Chris McGowan

How To Paint Christmas Card (or any) Rocks & Taking A Break

Just a quick post to let you know I’m taking a break to have some osteopathy and to rest my body before the Christmas planning starts in earnest. I’ve scheduled some posts, but forgive me if I don’t acknowledge your comments for a while.

This is what I’ve been doing recently:

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Each of these Christmas rocks will be going to friends, neighbours or family in place of a Christmas card. They are all signed on the back. You can’t really see from the photo, but they are all sparkly as I painted the backgrounds and certain details – like the snowman’s scarf and hat and the Christmas tree baubles – with glitter glue. The whole thing was then sealed to make them weatherproof – I shall put one on the doorstep of each of my neighbours when the time comes.

People ask where I get my stones from. My neighbour who has a huge garden and two allotments gives me some. Many of them are found on my walks, I acquired quite a few recently when I came a cross a private garden being landscaped and a couple of huge mounds of earth discarded by the fence. We also found a ripped bag of white cobbles at our local garden centre, they were the perfect size and they let us have them for less than half price.

A few tips for the best and long-lasting effect:

Wash and dry the stones. Some people lightly sand them with fine sand paper, but I don’t find it necessary and it’s time-consuming.

Prime the stones with a coat of acrylic paint, acrylic works best and keeps its colour, poster paints are dull and  faint.

Paint your design, enamel paints work well too, some people use nail varnish, good quality permanent markers work well for details, eg Sharpie and Posco.

Paint thin coats and let them dry well before using marker pens on top.

Use a small paintbrush to use glitter glue rather than trying to draw with the squeezy tubes as they splutter and splurt and you get too much in the wrong place.

Seal with a couple of coats of spray sealant (these are strong solvents, cover your face and spray outside or in a well-ventilated room) or use paint-on sealant like ModgePodge, I find the spray works best, the brush-on sealant can sometimes smudge your design or writing.

Children love painting rocks – my two youngest grandchildren aged 4 and almost 3 had a great time at the weekend.

Being creative and in the moment is good for you! It’s relaxing and helps you destress.

Have fun!

Here are some others I’ve done that are for gifts and hiding for the children:

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Back soon 😊

Monday Meditation: Mindfulness and Rock Painting

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Mindfulness and Rock Painting

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding a small painted rock by the canal with instructions to post a photo of it on Facebook and rehide it.* It made me smile when I was in a lot of pain. Since then, I’ve discovered painting and hiding rocks is quite the thing. At the end of the school summer holidays, I saw some young children leaving their out-of-school club holding small painted pebbles and looking very proud of their efforts. One little boy was so over-excited, he wanted to hide it straightaway and despite his grandma’s efforts to dissuade him, he couldn’t contain himself and just had to hide it there and then: he put it under the privet hedge of the house right next-door to the school. I loved his enthusiasm and it made me smile.

Soon after, my neighbour’s two young daughters came back from their holidays and told me about sitting on the beach painting stones. I said I’d like to have a go but couldn’t find any smooth stones as it’s all gravel around here. They brought some back from their next trip and we are going to have a joint rock painting session one rainy day in the half-term holiday.

29668112_UnknownSince then, I have really acquired the rock-painting bug! Every time my mum phones, she asks me what I’m doing and I reply, Guess! My first efforts were not much to write home about: I just tried out different media – acrylic v. poster paint, felt tips, matt or gloss varnish, glitter glue – just to see what worked and what didn’t.

I eventually learned that acrylic paint is best, poster tends to lose its intensity and can smudge if you put varnish on with a brush, but if you use a couple of coats of poster paint and a fine spray sealant, it can work well (be aware of solvent fumes and use in a well-ventilated area. I’m going to buy some paper face masks and spray outside!) Permanent markers work better than ordinary felt-tips which tend to bleed.

I soon discovered you can make it as simple or as complicated, as cheap or expensive as you like. I used 20 year old acrylic paints and varnish, 15+ years old paint brushes and a metal water pot I’ve had since I was at school! You don’t have to be an artist, there are many stones out there painted by very young children and not so young adults that have a few stripes or spots on or are sprinkled with glitter. What matters is the doing, the hiding and finding and giving people a smile. It’s a great activity to do with children, especially on rainy days or during winter months.

Painted rocks can make lovely gifts too, and even send a message: many people are painting Halloween stones at the moment but also ones with red poppies for Remembrance Day (see my poppy ones below), others like to write uplifting or humorous quotes on them. I’m thinking of giving the neighbours Christmas stones instead of cards.

The benefits of this activity are many: When I’m painting, I am totally focused. After some time, it comes as a surprise to me that I am no longer repeatedly turning over current family concerns, I haven’t looked at a screen or a clock and I am smiling. I am completely relaxed.  

I liked the goldfish above, and hid it on the girls’ front door step while they were out for the day. They have since rehidden it on a woodland walk. Remember Henry, the young boy next-door whose rabbits kept escaping?** I left my first effort on his rabbit hutch. He was so pleased to find it and then so disappointed when the next thing he found there was a bag of our homegrown tomatoes!

We have since found 2 stones and hidden 5 of mine (see below), one of which turned up on Facebook a couple of days ago. I can’t describe the joy and surprise of seeing it in a child’s hand with the message that they had rehidden it.

(This sculpture of the hares was made with a chainsaw).

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My second crop are a little more adventurous:

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I am particularly proud of the hedgehog and may have to keep him!

Any time I’m on my own, have time on my hands or feel a little overwhelmed, I hide away with my rocks and paints. I fear my supply will soon dry up and like any addict have taken to the (occasional) illicit purloining of rocks from neighbourhood driveways! I decided that couldn’t go on, it was a very slippery slope, so the other day, I traded baking apples from our tree for a few gorgeously smooth pebbles by our friend’s back door!

Here’s my latest batch:

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IMG_4101Why not have a go, leave them on benches, in parks or on woodland trails, in your or your grandchildren’s garden  – anywhere where people saunter or children play; tag them and write a message with instructions to rehide. I even left one in a bistro recently. Join or form a Facebook group so you can track them and other people can join in. Currently I belong to #shropshirerocks and #staffssmilestones . It’s a great way to make friends through a shared hobby, swapping tips and recommending brands of supplies.

It’s a wonderful way to switch off, get creative and relax. The result can also give someone a lift who is not having the best of times: the stone with the lopsided smile and mismatched blue eyes (above) went to a dear friend in hospital last week. She loved it and it made her smile. 

*Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine – Paint a Rock & Give a Smile to Someone Who Needs It!

**Ever Tried Wrangling Young Rabbits?

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Taking Time Out To Just Be

 I had a whole week’s ebreak. Rather greedily, I was hoping to make it longer: it takes a couple of days to get used to not checking for mail/posts etc. but then I really enjoy the liberation that comes from being unfettered by phone and iPad. However, I generally have to email a company about a product I need to return, or do some online banking or some such thing, and it’s impossible to avoid noticing there are a gazillion emails awaiting my attention, and that’s just the inbox I use for my blog!

But even just a week away from screens is enough to make me feel calmer, and it’s good to take time out to reassess and plan changes.

A week away from all the negative news works wonders, lifting the spirits and renewing a deep-seated faith in human kindness, friendship and compassion. And there is so much more energy and motivation to tackle things that have been ignored for too long: you know that growing mound of paperwork that needs attending to, but with which you vainly try to avoid eye contact? I attended to mine! It felt so much better to have that done and dusted and no longer have it in the back of my mind, gnawing away.

We spent a lovely day collecting our Bramley baking apples and cherry tomatoes, swapping them with our neighbours for eating apples, beetroot, advice on growing potatoes for Christmas. I say ‘we’ collected, I just pointed and tried to stop him falling off the ladder!

 

We had so many face-to-face conversations with neighbours and enjoyed catching up with old friends, recently returned to our street.

We – or rather, my husband, again, I just supervised! – did some work in the garden, dead-heading, pulling up the sweetpeas and collecting seeds for next year, planting potatoes and ordering a pear tree from our local nursery. Time outdoors is never wasted time, whether it be just sitting watching the birds, the ants, or children running about, or walking in the woods or park. I feel my shoulders relax and my mood lift; my breathing slows and I take time to really look and absorb what’s around me.

When indoors, I painted and crafted, made cards and wrapped presents. On sunny days, I went for walks, collected leaves, watched squirrels, took pictures (the squirrels were too fast so excuse the poor quality!)

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I did get one to sit still though:

 

This sculpture was carved from a tree trunk with a chainsaw! Such talent. There is another sculpture of two hares in a circle, but I’ll save that for a future post about my rock painting as I hid one there.

I met this friendly little chap. We communed for quite a while, he posed quite happily for photographs before eventually hopping off through the hedge.

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Such a lot of butterflies around this past week, too, of varying colours. I saw the one below on a walk near my house. It alighted on the lamp-post as I approached. My 2 year old grandson sent me some conkers he had collected. We planted 2 as well as the acorn. On another afternoon I sat in the garden and watched the various layers of clouds moving and changing shape, brightening and darkening by turns.

 

So much achieved in a few days away from that ever-hungry screen, that devours so much of our time and attention. Yet, I didn’t feel stressed or overworked. I highly recommend it.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Waiting for Inspiration to Strike – The Shower Beckons!

When I began this blog, it was to help people make healthy choices and improve their sense of wellbeing. I envisaged passing on nutritional information and writing about complementary therapies etc., but never imagined that I would be investing so much of myself and my life in this new project or that it would become so chock full of food photos and recipes!

It puts so much pressure on a person to produce something that’s worthy of a photograph and a post, you feel like you can no longer mindlessly throw together a bowl of muesli or a hummus sandwich without making it look beautiful: you feel so guilty if you don’t at least try to create some culinary art. Every evening my husband feels like he has to sit back out of shot and wait to eat until I have finished photographing the meal! (Have you seen the Instagram Husband tongue-in-cheek video about just that?)

Recently, I’ve been feeling like I’ve pretty much said all I have to say in terms of health and nutrition and that I’m just repeating myself. I’m sure you’re all getting as bored as I am of endless recipes for smoothies and raw treats, there are so many bloggers doing this who are much more creative and qualified than me.

The other day I was scheduling posts for another break for osteopathy next week and afterwards I realised I had used up all my draft posts. I had no ideas in the pipeline at all. This was at once anxiety-inducing and liberating. I even contemplated stopping blogging. Was that a sigh of relief at the back there?!

And then I commented on Brian Lageose’s very funny post 10 Things To Do While Waiting For An Inspirational Blog Idea, to which he responded with another gentle push in the direction of writing more anecdotes, more short stories.

I love writing and have always written in some form, but I have no confidence and also feel I have no original ideas. I tend to be reactive rather than creative, I respond to other people’s posts with some witty retort or family anecdote or a blast from the past, a light-hearted observation. I write fact not fiction. Even my poems are based in reality.

The posts I’ve published about my dad, my teacher, my children and so on, have gained a lot of attention and compliments and I would love to do more. My difficulty is that I can’t easily write posts that involve the younger members of the family or indeed older, still living members, it isn’t fair to them and parents don’t always want photos of their children splashed around the internet, with which I am in full agreement.

28062032_unknownSo, I did what I always do when feeling at a loss, I looked in the fridge (no.1 on Brian’s list) and found this amazing mango chia pudding; I looked in the raw chocolate cupboard (averting my eyes from the raw chocolate almonds* while also resisting a bar of Pitch Dark*) – and then I took a shower!

My inspiration always comes at the most inopportune moments, generally when I’m just dropping off to sleep, when I’m in the bathroom (!) and most often when I’m taking a shower! This last is the most frustrating because not only is there no access to pen and paper, let alone iPad, but I have to finish washing, conditioning, drying, dressing and styling before I can jot anything down, and of course I also have to dodge my husband’s frequent attempts at memory scrambling when he inevitably asks me where his phone/keys/wallet/spanner/glasses are (you would understand my lack of inspirational/inspired posts if you realised how often in a day this occurs, it really is nothing short of a miracle that I post anything at all – just now I had to break off to help him decide whether to paint the new wooden drain cover first or the new wooden garden edging! Honestly). Before I can get my fingers to a keyboard, the ideas are tumbling over themselves, the proof-reading has already begun and I want to shut myself in a darkened room to reassemble my brain cells.

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(I was going to caption this ‘Man with a Plan’ – he was making a drain cover – but my wit of a son came up with ‘Man with a Plank’ when I put it on Instagram!) 

The result of his afternoon’s work (just don’t tell him it’s not straight!)

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Today, while cleansing body and mind, it came to me. That elusive next anecdotal post. So now the pressure’s on to get it done and dusted before I take my leave for rest and recreation next week. I won’t give it a big build-up in case it’s rubbish, I’ll just slip it in between the recipes and hope it passes muster. Don’t be afraid to comment, I’ll already be lying down, I can take it, just be gentle, my back hurts.

(I’m going back to finish the Mango Chia Pudding now).

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Links to the posts mentioned earlier:

You Were So Much More Than Your Job: A Tribute to My Dad For Father’s Day

My Dad Walked Straight and Tall Like A Soldier

Hand in Hand: A Poem for Father’s Day

Inspiring Women: An Expression of Gratitude

Mother’s Day: A Tribute to My Children

Ode To Our Piano, a Faithful and Long-Suffering Friend

*The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

The Sunshine Blogger Award: Who, Me? My Response…

img_6613Many months ago, I was paying another visit to Adam at Weird Weekends, happily reading his latest weird post (he makes me laugh so much); I was minding my own business, when my eyes nearly popped out of my head: he only went and nominated me for The Sunshine Blogger Award! I’m not sure what the criteria are for being nominated, but I hope that I spread a little nourishing warmth with my vegan, gluten-free recipes and bring a little joy with my anecdotes. There’s nothing like a bit of sunshine to perk you up, give you strength (all that vitamin D) and bring a smile to your face.

It’s taken me so long, however, to respond to Adam that now I have received another nomination from Meena at Tingle-UR-Tastebuds and I hope she doesn’t mind that I am responding to both in one post – these award speeches really do take a lot of working on!

Thank you to both Adam and Meena, I am very happy you like my blog and that my posts don’t just disappear into the ether unread and unheeded. Please go visit their blogs, Adam makes everything he can turn his hand to: cheese, wine, hair-crafts, water-colours, and writes in a drily amusing style while Meena has a passion for cooking Indian recipes influenced by her mum and mother-in-law’s cooking and all the places she’s lived.

As in most things, you’re not just handed something on a plate when given a blogger award (see how I’m trying to make this relevant to my theme?), you have to sing for your supper, or in this case answer a few questions about yourself put forward by the nominee. I am sure Adam thought long and hard about these and I am already squirming in my seat at the prospect of people reading my responses. I would make a terrible celebrity, how do they cope with all those interviews asking increasingly intimate and often inane questions?

Here goes (my answers may or may not be the truth, the whole truth or completely made up!):

When was the first time you fell in love and was it “true” love?

Well, I won’t say what age I was because it might give a clue as to who his girlfriend was at the time, and I don’t want him or her to be embarrassed – you know what the tabloids are like – but, it was Paul McCartney. And of course it was true love!

What are you truly passionate about? 

Education. In all its senses.

What is one of your “guilty” pleasures?

I’m not sure I should own up to this, but once in about every 6 months or so, I just have to have a packet of crisps! Just a small one. I eat each crisp individually, slowly and savour the salty crispness. Nothing fancy. None of these weird flavour combinations. Just plain and salty.  I can’t ever take a handful and gobble them down. I enjoy each and every one. And then I get indigestion and don’t want any more for another 6 months until I have forgotten how they make me feel!

What is the thing that “bugs” or “bothers” you the most?

Everything! You’ll think twice about asking this question again! Injustice. Inequality. Poverty. Bullying.

1. People having the wool pulled over their eyes. Government bulldozing a policy through that no-one wants (eg fracking) regardless of the potential consequences and growing evidence of environmental damage and human sickness from those who already have it literally in their back yards. Phew! Glad I got that one off my chest.

2. Those cellophane ring seals on pots of humous that I can never break.

3. Drips of tea on the kitchen counter.

4. People letting their dogs bark outside endlessly first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Do they have a gene that allows them to desensitise to relentless barking and yapping?

I’ll stop now…

5. Oh, and for once and for all I have not had an industrial accident, nor a car accident nor PPI nor do I need loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, double glazing or a new driveway – oh, right, actually I do need a new driveway but not from someone knocking on my door with a spare few tons of tarmac round the corner!

Can I have a cup of tea now? I’m quite exhausted. See, you feel all flattered and fluttery when you see your name up in lights on someone else’s blog, but there are always consequences … I’ll have green please. Tea that is. With jasmine. Thank you. Oh, and I like it so it nearly takes the enamel off my teeth. (I was brought up in t’north, tha knows).

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Oh my goodness. Do I really have to answer this one? I can’t. I still shudder. So instead, I’ll tell you number two most embarrassing moment: out with friends in a local pub, mostly guys I’d grown up with and a couple of their girlfriends I think, whom I didn’t know well, get up to leave as a group, chatting away, I’m leading, talking to whoever was behind me, I stretch out my arm without looking to push open the door. And walk straight into the gents. All the guys I was with knew what was happening and didn’t say a word. They all thought it was hilarious. The gents door was right next to the exit door. I’m extremely short-sighted. Mortified.

Who do you admire? Why?

Anyone struggling against the odds. Anyone in public service. Anyone who can cut through it all and make sense without appealing to the lowest common denominator. Anyone who can make me laugh!

What one thing do you want to change?

I’d like to wake up one morning and find this whole US election/Brexit/Putin debacle was really a nightmare and that everyone had gone back to their kind, considerate and compassionate selves.

What is the strangest dream you have ever had?

I have weird dreams all the time, always very involved and vivid and involving either me packing but never being able to fit all my books in, lions in the house (!) or not being able to find my room on campus or classroom in school.

What is your favorite season and why?

Haha this changes with the seasons! If you ask me when it’s stifling hot (not that I remember the last time), I’d probably say Autumn because I love all the colours, the log fire and fairy lights; if you ask me in Autumn when I’m shivering because I refuse to have the heating on, I’d probably say Spring because I love seeing the bulbs coming up and and hearing the birds sing.

What is your most unique quality or trait?

I am terrible at making decisions and usually end up buying two of something because I can’t decide on a colour etc.

My nominees: these are people who either have great recipes, make me laugh or inspire me with their well-crafted original writing, sometimes all at the same time. I tried to choose people who didn’t already have a cabinet full of award nominations.

 Masala Vegan

Unmeasured Journeys

My Husband and I

Miss Sissinghurst

oh its only steven

Long Player Kitchen

Ask a Teenage Aspie

Our Green Nation

Paris Here and There

Questions:

What would you say to your 11 year old self?

What’s your favourite meal of the day?

Who would you like to play you in a film about your life?

What’s lurking under your bed?

What motivates you?

Who or what tries your patience?

What’s your favourite smoothie?

What’t your favourite poem?

Tell us a joke!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

How to Make Vegan Raw Chocolate Love Hearts & Mini Eggs

img_3122A bit late in the day, but better late than never, I hope! These were made with ingredients I won in a recent Raw Chocolate Company giveaway. We’re looking forward to having another go and substituting some of the ingredients, meanwhile these happily passed the taste test: husband and gardener friend (here to prune trees and replace broken flags) demolished them and gave them their seal of approval. (Gardener took some home for his wife!)

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My prize:

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We began with a basic recipe by Eighty20Nutrition but halved the amount, changed the nuts and greatly reduced the amount since they were chopped – we didn’t need as many as the whole pistachios in the original recipe – we also added vanilla. I would have used almond butter instead of tahini but didn’t have enough. Next time.

We also thought we might use Goldenberries next time, they are a bit tart and very fruity. You could also try dried sour cherries or cranberries (I like them infused with apple juice).

For those of you who like to spice it up, you could add a little chilli powder.

So here’s how we did it – all organic where possible, measurements very approximate, substitute like for like where you wish.

Vegan & Gluten-Free.

Ingredients

120g Cacao Butter*

About 50g Sweet Apricot Kernels,* finely chopped but not ground (you could use almonds or any other nuts)

 1/4 Cup Cacao Powder*

75g Dried Mulberries*, lightly broken up if using small moulds (reserve 1/4 Cup whole ones for the end)

150g Tahini or Almond Butter

1/4 Tsp Organic Vanilla Extract

3/4 (three-quarters) Tbsp Maple Syrup

 Method

Place the tub of cacao butter in hot water until it starts melting (you can also use cacao butter buttons). Slide it out and break up until you have the amount you need, in this case, half a tub.

Place a Pyrex bowl over a pan of hot, but not boiling, water and slowly melt the cacao butter.

When completely melted, add the remaining ingredients except the reserved mulberries, stirring until mixed in.

Blend until smooth with a stick blender.

Fold in the remaining mulberries and if setting flat in a tray some larger pieces of nuts – pistachios work well.

img_3126Spoon into silicone moulds or into a baking tray and refrigerate for a couple of hours until set. Cut into slices if set in a tray.

(The moulds are inexpensive, we found ours on Amazon).

Best eaten from the fridge as home-made chocolate melts quicker than commercial chocolate.

They also keep in the freezer.

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We made 15 hearts and 20 mini egg halves, which have gone into the freezer for Easter.

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See also further raw chocolate recipes in these posts:

 Food Matters’ ‘One Minute Slice’ Raw Chocolate Protein Bars

This Valentine’s Day Scrooge is Spreading the Love!

Fill Your Easter Basket with Home Made Vegan Raw Chocolate Eggs

Raw Treats – Recipes

*The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

This Valentine’s Day Scrooge is Spreading the Love!

It’s Valentine’s Day next week and it’s a day we usually avoid like the plague. I am a Valentine’s Day scrooge!

As an adult I see the prices of flowers inflate as the day approache; as a teenager I remember the anxiety of wondering if anyone would like me enough to send me a card and the agony of going to school to hear endless screeches and laughter at the often rude sometimes soppy cards my friends had received – often not just one but two or three – while I just mumbled that the post hadn’t arrived before I left for school.

But a post by Pioneering the Simple Life about Home-made Valentines past got me rethinking my stance. All our birthday, Christmas, anniversary, condolence, congratulations cards are home-made when possible, but we always give Valentine’s Day a miss.

However, love isn’t just the romantic kind. So, this year on St Valentine’s Day, why not spread some family love? It would be fun to ferret out the felt, the card, the glue and scissors and spend some time playing. It’s been a while.

So I did.

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I drew, cut out and glued foam hearts on sticks leftover from making children’s mobiles and arranged them in a glass jug. I made vanilla and almond raw chocolate hearts, stars and chunks.* (I’m calling it Vanutte! See my Raw Treats – Recipes).

Cards were also made to send to the other family members who wouldn’t be visiting. It was great fun and took my mind off aches and pains, worries and weather!

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You can use all sorts of everyday household materials – have a look at Pioneering the Simple Life and Scribbleartie for ideas. For the cards I used some felt I bought for a previous project some time ago, but you can use card, foil, shapes made from leftover wrapping paper, string and ribbon – I save everything for moments like this!

Give it a go, find your inner child – or just borrow a real one! – and get sticking and colouring and baking and making. Share your love with those close to you, whether family, partner, friend or someone who just needs to know they are not alone and forgotten.

Love isn’t just for Valentine’s Day! Make it personal any time of the year.

Everyone benefits.

In the words of Jason Mraz: ‘When you love someone, it all comes back to you.’

With lots of love,

Chris x

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*Basic recipe on the back of  The Raw Chocolate Company Raw Cacao Powder and Coconut Palm Sugar packs.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

It’s January: S.A.D.? Do What You Love!

I bought a new mug the other day. Well, actually, it’s a rather large cup that you need two hands to hold, one of those Friends-type ones that you can snuggle up with, full of hot chocolate*, in front of a cosy fire. It’s nothing special. It cost 99p in a local shop and is both dishwasher and microwave safe. It was what was written on the front that resonated.

I don’t usually like things with slogans, but this one says:

‘Do what you love!’

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Being January, with its cold and damp grey days, and being a little susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder, I have learned to try always to have a project on the go to absorb my attention and give my brain something else to contemplate other than when is the sun ever going to wake up and the garden turn green again?

In the past it’s been family history research: when I finished my own, I helped someone else. I try to catch up on letter-writing too. Real letters with real ink written on real paper! I love to use a fountain pen, and this year I have my precious old one sent to me by my primary school teacher, Evelyn (you can read about it here).

21f65416-e275-4687-a6cc-13eef10a45aaI’m currently on my second week of a juice plan, so that has occupied me somewhat – and made me get some much-needed early nights! – but I needed something creative too.

Every year, when we take down the Christmas cards, I put them away for recycling and reusing in November for next Christmas. But I always think I should do it now because November is always such a busy month with all the other preparations and my back really suffers so that I’m always in pain at Christmas.

img_2968This time, when I saw the mug, it was like a message from the universe! So, here I am, doing what I love, making Christmas cards in January! Oh, and drinking my favourite liquorice and cinnamon tea.

This is also the time of year when the professional cyclists dust off their lycra, don their new team strips and bring us some much needed sun from Downunder!

The Tour Down Under began this week in Adelaide, just what I needed: sun, culture and men in lycra – and leading the family Velogames league after Stage 1 and 2 (I don’t even cycle, they take it very seriously) <wicked laugh!>

So I may be a little preoccupied for a while … with the cards I mean 😉

Time for my next juice, cheers!

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What do *you* love to do during these winter months?

*Recipe for Spicy Raw Hot Chocolate with Hemp Milk (or nut milk).

Copyright: Chris McGowan