Monday Meditation: Family Matters

 7B409BAD-D2AA-4704-857F-413F20F7CC1FA very quick post today to explain and apologise.

We are currently in the throes of trying to move my mum into sheltered accommodation just around the corner from us. It is taking up all our time and energy. Mum is finding it all overwhelming, she doesn’t want to move but knows she has to if we’re to be able to take care of her needs. It is causing her a lot of stress.

She is calling us every day several times a day with the same concerns and not retaining any reassurances I give her. She can’t keep hold of the relevant dates when things are happening.

She is insisting on sorting out all her belongings immediately – even though we haven’t even seen the property she’s been offered yet – and spending sleepless nights trying to decide which furniture to take etc. when she doesn’t know the size of the rooms.

In the 10 days or so since she found out she’d been offered a home, she has injured her back, her kitchen light went and we had  on Good Friday, and then on Easter Monday, she found a key in a drawer, tried it in the back door and got it stuck, so we had to pay a locksmith £70 to spray WD40 on it to free it! She then twisted her knee.

She keeps promising me she won’t do any more, but then phones me up to ask if so-and-so in the family would like such-and-such that she’s just found in a cupboard or wardrobe! Later, she will forget that she has given something to someone and worry she can’t find it.

As I write, my husband has gone to pick her up and also meet two estate agents who are coming to value her current home. He will then bring her here, and we will take her to look at the new home on Friday. It is very nerve-racking. The authorities will also be approving her at the same time and if they don’t think she can live independently, they will rescind the offer and then I don’t know what we will do.

So, I apologise for not being able to read everyone’s posts or comment as frequently as I’d like. There may be a hiatus in my own posts as well, at this point I don’t have any more scheduled. I am exhausted and worried about how all this is going to play out. Even if we manage the whole move, our lives will no longer be our own. Mum will have more security and hopefully be able to live independently for longer, and she will see more of the family. But we will be on call 24/7 and I’m not sure we’re up to the task.

It’s a huge emotional, as well as physical, responsibility. I worry that it will all be too much for her to cope with, leaving everything and everybody she knows at almost 88 years old, and if she is dreadfully unhappy in the new place, that will be on me, as I’m the one who has instigated it all.

By the time you read this, she will have seen her new home. It will be much smaller than her present home. She is not a joiner, and is worried ‘they’ will try and tell her what to do or make her join in activities or classes or ventures she doesn’t want to do. She likes to keep herself to herself.

I am normally a postitive person, but the weight of this is extremely heavy. What if she hates it and doesn’t want to move… What if she moves and hates it…

I know, I know, what if it all goes well and she is happy here…

Positive thoughts would be welcome 🙏🏻

Update: Mum saw the bungalow and felt better about the move, we even chose paint colours for all the rooms. Then last night (Saturday), she had a TIA (mini stroke) and has since been in hospital.  We are hoping she will be discharged tomorrow (Monday). The Earth is spinning just a little too fast at the moment.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Monday Meditation: St Luke’s Village Church, Hodnet

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St Luke’s Church is next door to the beautiful Hodnet Hall Gardens, sitting just beside the entrance. This small, intimate church was open for visitors when we were at the gardens in the summer and is well worth a look if you like historic buildings and richly-coloured stained glass windows.

This Grade 1 listed building is Norman in origin and listed in the Doomesday Book. Much of the original Norman nave still exists. It has the only octagonal tower in Shropshire, with octagonal wooden clocks on each side. I had never seen a tower like it. I warmed to this unusual church instantly before venturing inside the porch, its open door inviting us in.

The stained glass windows were beautiful. One is in memory of Mary Heber, an ancestor of the current family in residence, and the other tells the story of The Holy Grail.  It was really difficult to find the right angle to do justice to the vivid colours and images, the sun was streaming through windows and washing out some of the colour. We were the only ones there and took our time, not feeling in anyway rushed by person or event.

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The aisles and chapels are tiled in various colours and intricate patterns. They are in wonderful condition. I spent a lot of time just sitting, contemplating, taking everything in, all the magnificent beauty and craftmanship.

 

 

IMG_3995The families who have owned the Hall have been – and still are – long-time patrons of this church, supporting its upkeep. Many of them are buried there or memorialised within the church. There are some very elaborate marble memorials on the walls and in the family chapel. Unfortunately, my camera battery died and I didn’t realise it had given up on the marble sarcophagus in the family chapel.

I’ve never seen pews like these before, they were all across the front of the congregation, no doubt there for the great and the good! I found them incredibly uncomfortable, forcing me to sit up rather than lean into them.

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I don’t know exactly what it was about this church, but it had a very welcoming feel to it. It’s quite small which makes it more intimate, less intimidating, for all its imposing stone and sense of history. There was a sense of continuity through the family names that you get in small villages, and lots of notices addressed to visitors and parishioners inviting them to look around, providing information and histories, a visitors’ book, but also framed photographs of the current incumbents and articles about local people and activities.

A lovely touch was the invitation to request a prayer for, or thoughts be sent to, someone who needed it, whatever the circumstances, no names necessary, and there were candles and matches if you also wanted to light one on their behalf. No charge. I requested a mention for our dear friend, Terry at Spearfruit.

(Please Note: I wrote this post some time before Terry passed away and I hope it doesn’t cause distress to anyone close to him. He was very much on my mind at the time of our visit).

One project I particularly warmed to was some research conducted by the local Scouts group into the names on the War Memorial in the church yard. This research was left out for all to see and filled in the details behind the names, turning them into real people not just ciphers. The project was at the back of the church for anyone to leaf through, with an invitation to contact the authors if any information is incorrect or if the reader had more up to date details to include.

There was a small piano alongside the ancient organ, and really old prayer books, Bibles, registers in full view, not locked away or removed for fear of vandalism, as in many churches these days. This added to the welcoming atmosphere of this beautiful church.

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I was reluctant to leave, but we had been out all afternoon and now it was approaching evening and the gardens where we had parked the car would soon be closing. If you click on the link in my first paragraph, you can read about this magnificent estate, one of the most stunning and unspoiled places I’ve visited.

A final look up towards the church from the entrance to the Hall:

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

 

Monday Meditation: Vegan Gluten-Free Mango & Raisin Crumble

F285BFFB-8C3A-4FB1-8B4F-3B9714EEC31BAn unusual topic for a Monday Meditation, but if left to my own devices, I find baking a very meditative occupation.

I don’t particularly enjoy the hustle and bustle of a crowded busy kitchen, needing to produce several different items in record time! I do however enjoy creating recipes using just what I find in my cupboards or fridge/freezer, often using up small amounts of this and that, so as not to let them go to waste.

I can let go. I can relax. I can enjoy the sun streaming through the kitchen window even on freezing cold snow days, as this one was. I can play my favourite music and sing along at the top of my voice or enjoy the quiet and let my mind wander where it will, with no demands made of it. I can be as creative as I like and no-one is going to pull a face or disapprove. I like experimenting and rarely make the same thing twice with exactly the same ingredients. I’m not one for following recipes, even my own!

I’ve been asked for recipes for the baking I did during our week of snowdays, so I’m gradually working my way through them (see Our Snow Days Became Baking Days – Is The Gym Open Yet?)I made only sketchy notes or sometimes asked my husband to write things down and his notes are usually only compehensible by himself alone! So I’ll do my best, but all quantities are approximate.

I love mangoes. The fragrance, the juiciness, the soft flesh. They are high in vitamins A and C, and also contain some B6, iron, calcium and magnesium. Great on their own, in smoothies or ice-cream.

However, I find mangoes as frustrating as avocados. You wait forever for them to ripen and just when you think it will be perfect, it’s gone. They are best kept out of the fridge to allow the ripening process to continue, which I did, but this one was defying all the laws. It appeared to be ripe on one side, unripe on the other and developing a black spot on the end. I decided to peel it and see.

It was too unripe to use straightaway and I didn’t want to waste it. I had never heard of mango being cooked before but I decided I had nothing to lose, so I chopped it up onto a pan, added a little apple juice and some raisins – I may have used a little maple syrup too – put on the lid and cooked it on a low heat.

I didn’t want to use it immediately and so I put it in the freezer – and forgot about it! I found it on a snow day and decided to try and make a fruit crumble with it.

86B02C47-8A7C-4C21-AEE2-2FB40AE6A223I let it thaw for a couple of hours – it doesn’t look very appetising, but it tasted good. I then devised the crumble topping.

Here’s what I came up with:

2oz Tiger Nut Powder*

4oz Self-Raising Gluten-free Flour

2oz Poridge Oats (I left them whole as they were quite small, but you could grind them to a flour if preferred)

2oz Vegan Spread (I used Pure)

2oz Coconut Sugar**

Method

7394C255-4B0D-49A2-9249-9C594B5DDD8DMix together the flours, sugar & oats, rub in the spread with the fingertips until it resemble thick breadcrumbs.

Place the mango and rasin mixture in an oven dish and top with the crumble.

Place in a medium hot oven and cook until golden and bubbly.

9D4DC69F-4FDA-467C-A5E2-65F1ED6E4392We had it first with coconut yogurt and then next morning, having got up late, we had it with homemade custard while we sat huddled in front of the woodburner!

Homemade custard:

This was made using cornflour, a little coconut sugar and a drop of vanilla extract, which was mixed to a paste with a little almond milk, then I poured in some warmed almond milk, stirred and returned it to the pan and heated, stirring until it thickened.

I used some leftover crumble mix to make scones, see next time!

Vegan, Gluten-Free Plum Crumble – Nice, But Not Too Naughty!

‘What Do You Eat If You Can’t Have Anything Naughty?’ – What Vegans Eat

*The Tiger Nut Company

*The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: My 10,000 Steps (and very sore feet).

A very personal post this week. I hope you’ll bear with me, I am writing this the night before posting in place of the scheduled one. Typos may happen as I’m pretty tired and sore because yesterday (Saturday), this happened:

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This is the first time I have ever reached this goal and this is how I felt when I saw the stats:

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To put it into context: I’ve had a severe back injury that goes back (sorry) to when I was 20, and has been exacerbated by numerous other injuries, surgery, medications and treatments. I have spent months in a plaster cast, weeks in traction, years wearing a steel reinforced corset, and spent most of my adult life lying flat on my back rattling with pills that didn’t work, unable to have anyone touch me due to intractable pain.

I’ve missed countless family events.  I have gone to bed in my trainers because there was no-one around to unfasten them for me. I have frequently slept in my clothes because either I couldn’t move or the pain was too severe to have someone help me. There are times I can’t even clean my teeth because raising my arm is too painful. I didn’t have a bath, shower or hair wash for 5 years – I eventually had my son shave my head, very liberating! I can’t travel to see my mum. I can’t hold a book. There are still days when I can’t get out of bed. But just occasionally, with a lot of hard work over a long period of time, with fingers crossed and all the planets in alignment, I manage to go for a walk. Usually they are short. Once in a blue moon and usually in warm summer weather, they become longer.

Saturday was one of these days.

To cut a long story short, my husband needed me to go with him to take a parcel that was being returned and the address needed to be scanned, but he doesn’t have a smartphone and wanted to use mine. He has a (justified) reputation for losing or breaking electronic devices and I didn’t trust him with mine!

Had I known how far we would be going, and end up going via a circuitous route along the canal, I would have gone by car. I wasn’t feeling the best, but knew I should try and have a walk. In the event, I was distracted by swans and ducks – flying overhead and sitting on the water –  crocuses, snowdrops and canal architecture, smallholdings with geese, old buildings, and my husband pointing out where various people lived and so on.

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By the time we arrived home, I had done 7,000 steps. SEVEN THOUSAND STEPS!! In winter when it’s impossible to leave the house, I struggle to make a few hundred; previously when I did go out, I was delirious if I made 1500. Lately, with hard work, I’ve been managing 3-4,000, that’s how momentous this is. I couldn’t believe it and knew immediately there would be payback. I could feel myself stiffening up as soon as I sat down.

It had threatened rain, so it had been damp, which didn’t help. The next time I stood up, I couldn’t straighten my legs, and my feet and ankles felt like they would break with the pressure. My back was not happy at all. I knew I had to keep moving, hard as it might be. So, even though my husband kept offering to fetch things for me, I doggedly shuffled about trying to keep the bodyparts mobile. I felt like I was in my nineties! Injections of WD40 would have been appreciated.

Later, as my husband made dinner, it became a lovely evening with a peach-toned sky and I decided I had to try to walk around the block or I would never get out of bed in the morning. I was rewarded by the most beautiful song from an overhanging tree as I rounded the corner. A robin was in full voice right above my head and I had my own private concert. I was glad I made the effort.

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Can you see him? I wish you could hear him, but my blog won’t support video. I took this still from the video I took with my phone camera.

His song lifted my spirits and I walked the rest of the way with a smile and a metaphorical if not literal spring in my step.

By late evening, my husband and I compared notes, we had both done just over 9,000 steps! I couldn’t believe it. My competitive genes kicked in and I knew, if I tried really hard, I could manage the final 1,000 before bed, just walking around the house. I knew I would be sorry next day, but I didn’t care: I also knew that my sense of achievement (and the fact I beat my very fit husband!) would be worth all the pain and discomfort.

I had a long and very hot shower, smothered myself in arnica gel and set about my task. Eventually, I looked at my stats and it said 9,951! So close. I shuffled and counted. I was sure I had made it. I checked again. 9,951. What was going on? Again I counted. Still 9,951. I knew I had made it but I needed the visual evidence! I walked around and around the kitchen as I waited for the kettle to heat up for a couple of hot water bottles, I was going to need them! I was dead on my feet, they would ever forgive me for abusing them this way.

Finally, finally, the stats changed. 10,360! That was so cruel. I could have been in bed 360 steps ago! But I was ecstatic. And so proud. I have been trying for years to improve my walking and kept being kicked back to the starting point. This was incredible. I was so happy.

All I needed now was a good night’s rest and to take things easy next day, try to keep moving but not push myself. So, what happened? A dog barked all night. The temperature had risen and I was overheated with the shower and hot water bottles. I was over-stimulated by the exercise and my mind wouldn’t stop recalling my efforts and everything I’d seen that day. I was so stiff, I found it hard to change position. By the time I felt like I had just managed to drop off, a blackbird was singing his heart out and it was still pitch dark!

It took me an hour and a half to get up this morning. Another long hot shower. More arnica gel. My feet didn’t want to touch the ground. I felt like I’d been in the ring with Ali. My husband went on a 50 mile bike ride and I could barely lift a cup of tea!

And yet, I was smiling. I couldn’t wait to show my also very fit cycling son and my kick-boxing daughter what I had achieved. They wouldn’t believe it. I still had trouble believing it. I keep having to look back at the stats.

I may never manage it again. But if I don’t, I will always have this feeling. I will always remember this euphoria. I will always be grateful for the chance to prove that despite all the ‘can’ts’, this time I could.

Ps Plus the added bonus of beating my husband!

PPs I could never have done this before I started juicing and became vegan. There has been a marked improvement in my overall health in the last 4-5 years. I think there has been a reduction in the inflammation throughout my body, plus the added nutrients feeding my muscles, nerves and so on.

Thank you for reading. I just had to tell someone!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Cleaning Up the Neighbourhood

Last week, in my post Monday Meditation: My Walk Around the *Neigh*bourhood, I wrote about my walk up to the horses’ field and shared some happy memories of times past: spending time with them, taking treats and sharing precious moments. I wanted to keep the tone of that post positive, so I didn’t go into detail about the less pleasant aspect of the walk. This week, I shall elaborate on what made me so frustrated and angry.

This is what greeted me when I arrived at the field:

I was aghast at how much rubbish there was, just around the gate. I began to look up and down the grass verge along the busy road, and in the hedges.

So many plastic bottles, drinks cans, crisp packets and wrappers, whisky bottles, takeaway cartons. There was even a carrier bag full of takeaway cartons thrown into the hedge. My thought was: the clue is in the name, it’s called ‘takeaway’, ie you take it away! Some of it could have been blown there after a refuse collection: bits of cardboard, crips packets etc, but it was obvious much of it had either been thrown from passing cars or dropped by people congregating or walking past. (There is a waste bin a few yards away).

As I looked, I wished I had brought a bag with me, but then realised one bag wasn’t going to do it anyway and I couldn’t have picked up all the litter and carried it by myself.

I walked home, slowly, subdued, pondering on why people would have so little regard for their environment, and the amount of damage to wildlife.

39DF2B78-A987-4713-BBEC-A8B5823CDBC5This field and verge is the first thing you see when entering our small country town, and it doesn’t exactly make you want to stop and support local businesses or visit local tourist attractions. Our town has a long history and still has some Tudor buildings, a canal, a lake, lots of Blue Plaques detailing where famous people lived or visited, old pubs and so on.

B22E4613-CE66-44EB-9FF8-0DA7489D089DIt used to be on the route taken by the Royal Court on its way north, and provided fish for royal banquets. Charles Dickens stayed here, it’s rumoured he got his inspiration for Miss Haversham during that visit. Princess (later Queen) Victoria stayed at a local inn which was later renamed in her honour. We still have cobblestones, an annual carnival, Old Tyme Market, a nocturnal bike race.

On my way home, I began to notice all the litter under the hedgerows, and flattened cans and bottles in the gutter at the roadside. There was even a plastic wheel hub on the pavement.

This is a rural area, not an inner city. I couldn’t understand it. I realised as I walked, eyes down, how much litter we walk past every day, we have become innured to it. We live in an area surrounded by several schools, and a lot of the rubbish is from the school kids on their way home. Other things, takeaway cartons, beer cans, for instance, is what is discarded on the way home from a night out at the weekend. Some is discarded by parents parked outside schools waiting for their children, or dropped by the children getting into the cars: hairbands, hairslides, bits of paper, sweet wrappers, cigarette ends.

I told my husband when I got home, hoping but not daring to ask that he would say what he did: I’ll help you.

Next day, in cold but fine weather, we set off with large recycled charity bin-bags (the ones that regularly get pushed through our letterbox and collect in the cupboard of our utility room), disposable gloves and two grab sticks.

This was our haul:

We gathered all this from about a hundred and fifty yard stretch by the field and then another 2 bags on the way home, including the wheel hub that was still lying on the path. It was pretty hair-raising at times with traffic hurtling past as they came off the by-pass onto the residential area.

It took about 2 hours and at one point the first bag split, but some gardeners working on a new housing development nearby let us empty it into their skip. They told us, if we needed to do it again another day, just to go around the corner and use the builders’ skip. They appreciated what we were doing.

Just as we neared home and were pretty tired, a local authority highway maintenance truck driver nodded to me and gave me the thumbs up, which made me smile. I found myself humming Lonnie Donnegan’s ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’ as we headed for home! (See video link below*)

It had been an exhausting – and cold! – couple of hours’ work, I hurt all over and wanted a hot shower, but I felt so much better about this day’s walk than the previous one, I was no longer angry.

I felt proud that I had actually been able to do something for the community.  We must have walked and driven past all this litter so many times, I don’t why it had such an effect on me this time, but I’m glad I noticed and that I was able – with my husband’s help – to take some action, and not just send off an irate email to the Refuse Department of the Local Authority!

We became even more determined to ditch as much plastic as we could from our regular shopping. I regularly support campaigns and sign petitions calling for a ban on single-use plastic items: straws, bottles, takeaway cutlery etc. but I realise, that’s not enough.

Sitting at a keyboard is easy, actions are what count.

Related posts:

Let’s Ditch the Plastic

Earth Day: Microbeads – What Are They Good For…?

* A fun video: My Old Man’s A Dustman by Lonnie Donnegan

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: My Walk Around the *Neigh*bourhood

A9782E54-B393-4A09-B173-2A2C704B7C59As I write, it’s midday on Sunday, the sky is a clear blue as far as the eye can see and the sun is bringing out the crocuses and daffodils in the front garden. A perfect time to go for a walk. Except it’s 2 degrees C out there with an icy wind. My crazy husband is out on a bike ride with the club, but I’m waiting a couple of hours for those predicted extra couple of degrees! So, I’ve put on the Prime Chill album, made a cup of 3 Mint tea and thought I would show you some pictures of last week’s walk on a similar day, when I went up to what used to be the horses’ field.

Not that long ago, I used to go regularly to see the permanent residents of this field, Dolly and Annie, two working carriage horses. Dolly was a black heavy, plodding mare who was so quiet and friendly. Annie was a tall chestnut and very temperamental. She was a bully and any other temporary residents were given short shrift, including the foals, often receiving a nip or a kick to let them know their place in the scheme of things. She was quite haughty, looking and behaving more like a thoroughbred. She would always push herself forward for any treats and I often had to distract her so that I could sneak some apple or carrot to Dolly or the foals. But they both allowed me to befriend them and would make their way over from the far corner of the field as soon as I approached, Dolly plodding over in her slow, lumbering fashion, Annie skittish and tossing her tail.

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I was privileged to witness one of Dolly’s foals being born, a really ugly little thing with a huge head, but he was so friendly and funny. Annie had a much more elegant-looking long-legged foal not long after and some months later, on a beautiful summer evening, I stood and watched as first Dolly’s foal started racing around the perimeter of the field, then Annie’s foal joined in. Annie was not impressed and tried to put a stop to it, but then Dolly got the itch and began charging around after the excited foals, pounding the ground with her heavy feet, and before long, Annie had to join in the fun. I’ve never witnessed anything like it. Four horses careering around the field at full gallop, round and round, uninhibited, kicking up their legs every so often with the sheer freedom and fun of it all. Oh, to move with such joyful abandon in the fresh summer air under an endlessly clear sky!

 

Now, sadly, the field lies abandoned. The local authority wants to build a supermarket, petrol station and housing, by a busy roundabout in a residential area at the entrance to the town. Of course there has been a huge outcry and everything has been up in the air for a few years.

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This gnarly old tree used to be the only shade for up to 6 horses, next to a pond that gradually shrank over the years. Now the tree has apparently been struck by lightning, cleaved in two. It wasn’t an ideal situation for the horses: in summer it was completely overgrown with tall thistles and nettles, in Spring and Autumn, it was a boggy quagmire around the perimeter with all the rain. But it was a large space, with a right of way for walkers, who would bring treats as they passed through. I loved taking my young grandchildren there: they, too, saw the baby foal within minutes of its birth. It was a special time. We were on a nature walk at the time, I had given them a list of things to look out for. We had spotted guard-dog geese, a pair of swans with their cygnets, collected feathers, but this was truly a gem.

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Annie’s foal with my grandson

On my most recent walk, I spotted these gates further up the road on the opposite side to the field:

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I don’t know how many hundreds of times we have driven past, or the dozens of times I’ve walked past, but I have never noticed them before. I was always looking over the road for the horses. They are beautiful iron gates with metal flower ornamentation.

When I arrived home, a little sad and angry at what I had found by the field (see next Monday), I came through our gate and smiled. I saw the first real signs of Spring:

 

The daffodil had been proudly standing in bud since early January, the only one to be in such a hurry, and I thought it would be sure to get caught by the frosts, but has withstood everything the elements have thrown at it: frost, hail, rain, snow and icy winds, and now it was fully open. And there, too, was the first forsythia flower, a sign I always look for tell me that Spring is really very close.

And now the outdoors calls again, the sun couldn’t be brighter: it’s bouncing off windows and cars. Incredibly, we are forecast snow on Tuesday! Have a wonderful week, we are confined to barracks having the parquet flooring in the hallway refurbished, pictures soon.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

 

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

Monday Meditation: Reliant Robins*

On a bitterly cold Saturday in February, we decided that some very old, ugly shrubs had to come out. They grew along the garden wall in front of our lounge and for half of the year they were bare, uninteresting twigs and for the other half, they grew uncontrollably and needed constant pruning. They didn’t even flower! They did however screen us from passing foot traffic. But they also screened us from what little light there was, since that side of the house had no sun. They were so unattractive, I always carefully excluded them when taking photos of the garden.

The weather hadn’t been conducive to gardening, constantly wet, windy and close to freezing temperatures. This Saturday was fine, if still icy cold, but at least the wind had dropped. My husband decided this was the day. As I could not be of any practical support, and I was somewhat apprehensive, I left him to it and went for a cup of tea and a chat with my neighbour!

The left photo is how things were, and when I came home, this was what I found, quite some transformation and not a little devastation!

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It was quite a shock. The wall is old, cracked and missing a couple of stones on the top. It had been covered in ivy. What had we done? I thought with horror about the birds: the sparrows, blue tits, great tits, blackbirds and wrens loved those shrubs. I felt terrible.

And then, this happened:

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There are two robins in the bottom photo. I had to take it quickly through the window before they split up, so it’s not very clear. One is in front of the stumpy shrub.

We have had a pair nesting behind the shed or in the ivy that covers its roof for many years; I don’t know if they are always the same ones, but it is early to see them together like this; it’s usually late spring, early summer when they are so busy. They are almost part of the family, they are so tame.

They sing so beautifully from the trees in the back garden, I often stand below the apple or hawthorn trees watching and listening to their melodious conversations. The two of them fly about collecting nesting materials or food, not caring about us sitting and chatting with cups of tea or when my husband is repairing bikes. one will often come and sit on bike or on his shoulder as he works. This day, they were following him around the garden, and to the compost heap at the back, helping themselves to insects and worms or just simply observing.

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Frustratingly I missed the perfect photo opportunity, one I’ve been waiting for a long time to catch: I was talking to my mum on the phone whilst standing in front of the window looking at the bare stumps. Both robins appeared and sat on the wall facing each other. One sat with his head back and, opening his beak wide, started trilling with all his might to his partner. It was a beautiful, wonderful sight and I was frantically gesturing to my husband to fetch my camera, whilst trying to remove my iPhone from my back pocket and diplomatically end the landline call with Mum. None of those things happened in time!

They have been busy ever since. They seem to appreciate our efforts and there are many more shrubs along the other wall and in the back garden for the rest of the bird population. A friend is helping us choose new bird-friendly evergreen shrubs that flower to replace the old ones, so it won’t be long before we have a more attractive perimeter. And it is so much lighter in the lounge, even if we do feel a bit like we’re in a zoo when all the schoolchildren file past!

Meanwhile, we have the robins, my favourite birds, to entertain us: they always make me smile when they appear, so friendly, so sociable amd unafraid, and I am carrying my camera everywhere in case that photo opportunity ever arises again.

*Some of you will recognise this title as a pun on the old three-wheeler Reliant Robin cars, my brother-in-law had one as his first car, it used to give me the heebee-jeebies going round corners!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Two Year Old Frank’s Berry Good Smoothie – Made With Love & Smiles

011DD6C8-E951-4474-BE0D-59A3DD11B990Two year old Frank watching his Berry Good Smoothie blending in the  Froothie Optimum, he has his own special ear defenders just for creating smoothies 😊 As soon a I mention making a smoothie he’s there like a shot, dragging the kitchen stool up to the counter, washing his hands and ready for action. Just like his dad at the same age, though he likes to make chilli-with-everything these days!

When cooking with Frank, I am always glad to have the opportunity of this time together, one on one: yes, it’s messy and yes, he can get a bit over-enthusiastic – I think we got about a third of a tub of baobab powder in there! – but I love watching him taking it all in, soaking up whatever I tell him and storing it away. I love his enthusiasm. I know that at some point in the future he will use it all and hopefully remember some of these times together.

He (and his older sister) have been cooking since they were literally babes in arms. They have always been willing to taste anything, and although they still go through the picky two-year-old stage, the fact that they have always been encouraged to be present in the kitchen and help with preparation means that they are familiar with cooking from scratch, using a wide variety of fresh foods.

They are already creating their own recipes: Frank’s four-year-old sister decided to try banana on her pizza and Frank likes the idea of dipping carrot sticks in strawberry spread! He loves homemade chips with balsamic vinegar and juices that contain ginger and turmeric. Olives and almonds are also favourites. The fact that actual vegetables are not allowed on his plate at the moment is irrelevant (except cucumber and raw carrot), he gets everything he needs in other forms* and is slowly acquiring the knowledge and skills to transform them into healthy meals when he does eventually give them house room. I have seen a photograph of Emily standing on a stool at the counter rolling pizza dough and chopping vegetables, and Frank sitting on the counter chopping cucumber! Children love to be involved in the kitchen and will be all the healthier – and self-sufficient – for it. Emily recently sliced a mushroom so thinly and precisely, with perfect control of the knife, just by copying her dad.

This is Frank’s smoothie recipe:

Large handful of frozen cherries, large handful frozen mixed berries, more than we wished for baobab powder, about 3 tablespoons oats plus what he spilled 😉 most of a medjool date minus a bite for tasting, a banana, a carefully tilted amount of cashews from the jar (with ‘help’ from Grandad), 2 tablespoons soya yogurt and a lot of coconut milk! It made enough for 3 of us and he had seconds and thirds, he said it was ‘berry good!’ Unfortunately, he doesn’t do washing up, our dishwasher is defunct (and so is my husband after a weekend without it!).

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*Frank doesn’t eat vegetables – apart from raw carrot and cucumber – but he will have juices and smoothies, even green ones, so seeing him have so much fun in the kitchen leads us to hope that one day he will be as much of a foodie as his dad and grandma.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: The End? Absolutely Not!

CA6CD8E5-4285-419D-B9C2-01DAECA3E688I lost a dear friend last week, she had just turned 103 and I have been thinking about The End a lot.* Until relatively recently, we used to share a daily short walk, which inevitably reached its halfway point at the cemetery where her husband’s memorial stone stands and my dad’s tree lives. She, too, has now left her physical form, but whenever I go on that walk, I shall be thinking of her when I visit her husband and my dad’s tree. I am continuing our walks, I will visit her, too, when she joins her husband, and have a chat. I will tell her about the latest exploits of my grandsons, about whom she always inquired. There is no ending yet.

Her house is being sorted, her clothes given away, but her possessions will have a new life with others and so too will the house. It will be renovated and look spanking new again, ready to enter its new era. And it will contain all the memories created there by her and her family, who have occupied it for over half a century. There is no ending here.

I visited Barbara on her birthday a few days before she died. She was half-sitting in bed. She hadn’t seen me for quite a while as she had a fall on the stairs in the autumn and then developed a chest infection. Her sight had deteriorated and I was wearing a different coat, with a black scarf around my neck. She hardly knew me. I helped her open the card I had written for her, in which I had mentioned my grandsons in case I didn’t get to talk to her that day. Things began to come clearer at the mention of the boys’ names and now she knew who I was. I sat with her while her daughter had a break to make some calls. She looked tiny and frail. She was not happy. I asked her what the ETA was on her being up and about again. She grimaced and looked towards her daughter and her carer, whispering that they wouldn’t let her attempt to walk up and down the hall with her walker. She said, ‘You don’t get better lying in bed!’

She was right of course. She had such spirit, such determination. Her daughter told me after her mum had slipped away in her sleep that she knew her mum had somehow got herself out of bed a few nights before and she had found her in the hall by the radiator because she was cold. She had got there without her walker.

Three days before Barbara died, this heron came to visit on her roof.

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A few years ago, in her 90s, Barbara broke her hip. The authorities wanted her to stay in hospital and then go to a care home. She was having none of it. She insisted they send her home. We all feared the worst, that she would never manage and would injure herself or catch an infection. We should have known better. Up to that point, she was still weeding her own garden, going to the shops, to church and to the hairdresser, she was a member of the Townswomen’s Guild and held a coffee morning every Thursday. There was to be no ending because of a pesky broken hip!

Every winter she developed a chest infection and we all shook our heads and thought she was unlikely to survive the winter. Barbara had other ideas.

5A2D5BF6-5273-4FC7-9254-99C3D1D17ADFThe day before she left us, I had decided to make some cards. Barbara and I had established a tradition of sending each other notecards when one or other of us – often both – were confined to barracks – in my case when my back had given up the ghost. I had run out of cards with the one I sent just before Christmas. This time I chose a picture that was an image of a garden, as she loved hers. I had no idea I would be sending it as a sympathy card next day. I happened to take the photo to write about the smoothie I was having at the time. I had no idea it would be featuring in her eulogy. I finished the card, and sent it on its way to convey my thoughts and some memories to her family. No ending here either. Barbara’s daughter has found all the cards I sent to her mum and is going to let me have them. I will be able to relive the memories I shared with her, of my family as they grew, and smile at her own quips in response.

I am sad for her daughters and son, I am sad that I will no longer look over at her windows when I get up to check her curtains are open, or see her with her carer slowly taking her afternoon stroll, stopping to chat to the schoolchildren as they hurtled past. But I know she was not happy at being confined to bed. She was rapidly losing her strength (she wasn’t eating), and was adamant she didn’t want to go into the local Cottage Care Home. She was relieved to have her daughter back staying with her, from her home on the Continent, and she was ready to go.

But there is no End here. So many people looked out for her. She was loved by all her neighbours, a few of whom had known her for several decades, us included. Her death has brought us all together, we are all talking about her as we pass in the street. Some of us are used to seeing each other in passing and saying ‘good morning’ or commenting on the weather, but haven’t really got to know each other. Barbara has brought this small community even closer by our common bond of friendship with this tiny, frail-looking woman who was as strong as steel and insisted we all – young and not so young – call her by her first name.

The rain has stopped and the wind has dropped, I’m off to put on my coat and boots. I will wave to Barbara’s daughter and if I have the chance, I’ll invite her over for a cup of tea and a change of scenery. She looks so tired. Having only exchanged a few remarks when she has thanked me for writing to her mum, we are getting to know each other a bit more. There is no ending here.

Au revoir, Barbara. You continue to be an inspiration and I am grateful you came into my life. Thank you for all the walks and the memories.

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Inspired by a post called Conversation With The End by Cathi at Over The Hill On The Yellow Brick Road

Copyright: Chris McGowan