Monday Meditation: Appeals for Help for Homeless People in the Prolonged Icy Weather

295843B4-63EE-4573-BC5B-133F6C8D6401As I write, the latest fall of snow is melting. We had the littles here for the weekend and they had a lot of fun playing in it, as did their dad, a little too much as it turned out – if you enlarge this photo, you’ll see a hole in the right garage window!

Towards the end of the first prolonged period of snow when it had hung around for about 10 days, I braved the outdoors during a brief fine spell for a short walk. I had been cooped up in dry central heating for so long. How good it felt to fill my lungs with the sharp fresh air!

As I gingerly walked along the roadside, avoiding the sometimes slippery paths, I pondered about how we coped without central heating when we were young children, when there was often ice on the inside of the windows and a bath was a weekly affair to be dreaded and shivered over. I remembered about chapped red legs from wearing wellies to walk to school. Dead white fingers when I walked my young son to school and I couldn’t untie his shoes. And then I thought about all those having to work in these conditions, but most of all, people who were even now having to spend the nights outdoors in flimsy clothing. I chastised myself for complaining the other night about not being able to sleep when it was -10C . I had a thick duvet, two hot water bottles, woolly socks, central heating and a comfortable bed. How many didn’t have any kind of bed, or slept in damp rooms with ill-fitting windows and no heating?

I came home and went online to see if there was a charity for homeless people in my area – how did I not know that already? We support the local Foodbank, but as I thought, there was no dedicated charity for homeless people in our immediate area, although I found one for the nearest large town and made a donation. Nowhere near enough. It felt like conscience money.

719CAC7A-861A-4A48-8CAE-9F7A86FDE4F0This past weekend, the icy winds and another 3” of snow have returned and I read an appeal on Twitter from @StreetsKitchen in London (also StreetsKitchenOffical on Facebook) for warm socks and underwear to give to homeless men. I went on Amazon and ordered some to be delivered there. (They had recently also appealed for sleeping bags). A drop in an enormous ocean, I know, but many people have responded, so let’s hope a few more people will be supported during this freezing weather.

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Please click the link if you’d like to know more or can help in any way. They need food donations too. Or please think about donating warm clothing to your own local charity, or your time to hand out warm soup and drinks.

 

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Vegan Salted Chocolate Cashews – Going, Going …

FB963C8C-1363-40DC-A04A-3BC4D64FE136A quick post to tell all you raw chocolate lovers that my favourite Raw Chocolate Company has just brought out these raw chocolate smiles which they’ve called Vanoffee Salted Smoochies! All I can say is yum, yum, yum!! They are so smooth, lightly salted and still have a bite (often cashews go soft when used commercially).

If you like the idea, you have to hurry: these are a special edition, produced to gauge customer reaction and as of this afternoon only 20 bags left!

If enough of us give positive feedback and tell them how gorgeous they are (and the cashews ;-:) they may just bring them back permanently and in a swish new pouch to replace their basic temporary one. They really deserve some new clothes.

A note of caution, these are just as addictive as their Vanoffee Mulberries!

Raw Vanoffee Chocolate has a lightly malted flavour and is so smooth and ‘creamy’ on the tongue.

It was described by one of the Dragons on Dragon’s Den as the best chocolate he’d ever tasted.

All The Raw Chocolate Company products are Vegan, Organic, Gluten-free, Kosher and Sustainably Sourced. They use coconut blossom sugar, not refined sugar, and unlike with palm oil, no trees are felled. They are dairy-free, additive-free and unlike commercial dairy chocolate, raw chocolate contains lots of nutrients.

Full disclosure: Although my family has had a long association with the company and its founder, since before its inception, I always buy the products and am not requested or paid to review them. I buy them because I love them, it’s the only chocolate I eat.

This review is purely selfish: I want more Vanoffee Salted Smoochies!

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Ps There’s also New Vegan Chocky Cherries waiting to be tested. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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

 B4B53D6F-9C92-4C30-920B-75FB1D18287AMany of you know that I have a long-term back problem, but perhaps not how serious it is. The warmer weather helps and today we ventured out for a walk along the former railway line, now turned Sustrans bike track. Unfortunately, I was enjoying myself so much that I pushed my body too far and my back seized up by the side of the canal where I had wanted to look at the brightly-coloured barges. I was in a bit of a pickle and knew I couldn’t turn around and go back, nor could I see a bench to perch on while I worked out how get out of this predicament.

I was wondering how on earth I would make it back to the car when I looked up and saw on a ledge a small rock painted with the words: ‘Staffs Smilesstones, please share a pic on FB then rehide me’ with the name of the family who had put it there. It did indeed make me smile, it was such a surprise, sitting there at my eyeline, waiting for me to look up and smile.

This smile and its subsequent break into laughter helped me relax enough to make it to where I needed to go – a nearby pub where I waited while my husband walked back to fetch the car.

When I got back home, and after a few hours’ rest, I looked up Staffs Smilestones and they have a page on Facebook, full of photos of young children with painted stones and cute happy faces, finding and re-hiding the rocks all over Staffordshire for the pure joy of giving someone a smile. I joined their group and will be painting my own rocks very soon.

I am sitting here with a heat pad on my back, having taken some Arnica and smoothed on some Arnica cream, about to go to bed, but wanted to share this story with you.

Here’s a calming photo of a barge drifting along the canal for your Friday night meditation 💜 I love the reflections in the water.

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I’ll be writing a fuller post with lots of photos of our walk when I’m up to it. Oh, and we didn’t get lost!

This story was first shared on Terry’s blog

Copyright: Chris McGowan

BackPacks with School Supplies for Impoverished Children via Mary’s Meals

29401648_UnknownThis backpack filled with school supplies is all ready to be collected by our Abel & Cole driver and sent on to Mary’s Meals who will transport and distribute all the donations to impoverished schoolchildren in Malawi.

Mary’s Meals was started by two Scottish brothers during the Bosnian conflict when they collected food supplies for those affected. The initiative evolved into a non-profit charity that helps provide nourishing meals for children in areas of conflict, disaster zones and poverty.

Kitchens are built and equipped near schools using local resources where possible, while school staff and parents make and serve one nourishing meal a day to the children. This in turn enables them to attend school and receive an education while also being guaranteed one hot meal a day.

They are currently helping one and a quarter million children worldwide.

It costs £13.50 to feed a child one meal a day for a year.

Many children in this country support this charity, raising funds and awareness. One young blogger, Martha at Never Seconds , has taken the charity to heart after writing reviews of her school meals and has been recognised by Jamie Oliver amd others , receiving awards for her efforts in campaigning for healthy school meals for all children.

The backpacks don’t have to be new, they can be redundant or discarded, outgrown, and you can fill them with spare supplies. I have so many coloured pencils from generations of children who have drawn and coloured in our house that I am sending some along with some notebooks, drawing paper, erasers and a ruler.

Skirts, polo shirts, shorts, sandals and flip flops, a bar of soap, toothbrush and toothpaste and a small ball can be sent too, but not toys or sweets. 

It takes hardly any effort or money but means so much to the children who receive them. 

Copyright: Chris McGowan

When you are in a good mood and in pain

Having lived a life of intense pain through a series of injuries, it was refreshing to read such a positive post from Nikki on smiling through chronic pain and challenging the stereotype of misery by leading her life as positively and happily as possible, even though it often means people think she has experienced some miracle cure! I can identify with this. I remember many years ago having a visit from friends who hadn’t seen me for some time but knew of my physical difficulties. They were astounded to find me sitting at the table surrounded by course materials when they arrived, in the middle of writing an essay. I was excited to see them after all that time, I was smiley, sociable and happy despite being in appalling pain. They were very confused. It just didn’t compute. As Nikki points out, smiling and living positively is a way of coping with pain not evidence that you are cured or no longer need support. In my case, it is also a means of reassuring those around me, that they don’t need to worry or tiptoe around me. Furthermore,  I am not my disability, I have a personality and that personality chooses to be positive and greet you with a welcoming smile, despite what’s going on inside. Being in a good mood is contagious, pass it on! 😊
Please visit and comment on Nikki’s original post.

Brainless Blogger

I may be chronically ill but I am also me. And me_ Well I am not afraid to be goofy or weird.So be you!

Sometimes you are in pain and you are in a very good mood. And isn’t a contradiction. It is life with chronic pain. I have a migraine today and it isn’t a pleasant one but I am in a good mood for no particular reason. I have also rested, used ice, migraine balm and a few other things to maintain this level of pain. And I am currently writing this post listening to ABBA gently in the background, because it is in my Groovy playlist. And I am in a Groovy mood. Gently, because I am rather sound sensitive. And unfortunately head bobbing is something I cannot do. So sort of sucks that migraines are ‘difficult’ when you are in a good mood such as they limit you substantially. All the fun I could be having and certainly cannot. Not with this one.  But chilling to some good tunes will…

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Veganuary – results

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For anyone who read my post, Veganuary , or who participated by trying to go vegan for a month, I thought you might be interested in seeing this results graphic. This was their most successful sign-up yet since its inception in 2014 when a mere 3,300 signed up.

The statistics make interesting reading: the vast majority of participants were in the 18-44 age group which is encouraging, but probably not surprising. Veganism is the fastest growing social movement among young people at this time. They are also tech-savvy and more likely to have seen the campaign on social media.  However, I was most struck by the percentage of women who took part: 88%! I was expecting them to be in the majority, but not by quite such a margin.

Women have the greatest influence on the family diet and consequently their health, and in the education of their children, especially in their early, formative years, so this is also an encouraging statistic.

Another surprising but encouraging statistic is the large number of omnivores willing to try out a vegan lifestyle, I expected that the vast majority of participants would be vegetarians.

If you took part, well done! How did you get on? 

Don’t forget, all the recipes on this site are vegan (and gluten-free). If you need more information on Becoming Vegan, look under that category in the Menu. Here are some links:

Where Do I Get My Calcium On A Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get My Protein on a Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get Iron on a Vegan Diet?

Environmental Benefits of Adopting a Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

Where to Get Nutritional Advice for Young Vegans and Newbies

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

Health Revolution Giveaway Winner!

Just a short post to thank all who entered the giveaway and to announce that Lydia is the winner. Congratulations! Have a wander over to her blog and say ‘hi’.

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Just a reminder that Dale’s book is available on Amazon for £7.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited or £2.99 download.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

A Surprise Christmas Present

Today, I was minding my own business, helping my husband make up the Christmas Ocado order when the postman arrived. There were the usual cards and statements,  but also a small padded bag. I looked at the back and saw the name and address of my old friend and former primary school teacher, Evelyn. Many of you will have read my tribute to her earlier on in the year. She had emailed that she had sent me card and so I was expecting to see her writing any day soon, but not on a padded bag.

I opened it and out fell a hard object wrapped in bubblewrap. The envelope had originally come from a bead and crystal shop and I thought she had sent me a crystal for Christmas. I carefully unwrapped it and to my astonishment out fell a very old fountain pen and propelling pencil – do you remember those?!

I couldn’t speak. I sat there with my mouth wide open and nothing coming out. When it did it was ‘Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god’ on a loop (my apologies to anyone offended by this) accompanied by my husband’s ‘What, what, WHAT?! I imagine we looked like a couple of goldfish in a bowl.

img_2735I held in my hand the very fountain pen and pencil Evelyn had used to mark the class register, write reports and letters to our parents, the same white and gold pen I had coveted all these years. I was only thinking about it quite recently and wondering if she still had it. And here was the set, looking a little the worse for wear, sitting in the palm of my hand. I was in shock.

This means so much to me, I don’t have the words to explain.

I looked inside the bag for a note, but all I found was a Christmas card wishing us a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017 followed by the words ‘Over half a century now!’

Nothing about the pen and pencil. I desperately wanted to speak to her. I tried Skyping but there was no response. She is probably at her sister’s for Christmas and I will have to contain my excitement and inquisitiveness until the New Year!

I don’t quite know why I was so fascinated by this pen. I loved the gold pattern on it and I loved the black Indian ink Evelyn filled it with. I was 9 years old and this was my first experience of a fountain pen at close quarters. I was inspired by it. I loved her handwriting, big and loopy, very informal, arty and friendly. I would recognise it anywhere. To me, this pen set was symbolic of her youth and style, it was modern, unusual, fun. It is so slim and light. It also looked very posh to my impoverished eyes!

I have always loved using a fountain pen and I can’t wait to clean this one out and see if it still works. Wouldn’t that be something, after all these years?!

Needless to say, my husband had to finish off the shopping list all on his own, he didn’t get any sense out of me for the rest of the day!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Birthday Celebration!

Niki’s campaign to raise $250 to buy winter clothing for a teenage boy whose mum is struggling fits so well with my latest post The Gift of Kindness At Christmas that I had to reblog it. Please help her achieve her goal of giving this family a much-needed boost this Christmas. All donations however small are gratefully received. Just click on the photo in her post to be taken to the GoFundMe website and leave your special message for this family.
I know there are many many people struggling this Christmas and we often feel overwhelmed and helpless, but this is one family you can help in a very practical way. Thank you for reading.

The Richness of a Simple Life

In honor of my birthday this week, I’d like to invite you to help me celebrate it by contributing to the family I’m sponsoring for Christmas this year. I’m hosting a campaign that you can be part of! A family is in need of winter clothing for their son and I thought that would be a great way to teach my children about the importance of being thankful for what we have as well as giving back.

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