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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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

Monday Meditation: Our Family Christmas, Festive Food & Veganuary Links

  We are still in the middle of family visits, but I wanted to say I hope you all had the Christmas break you wanted and to share some photos of our family Christmas, which is still going on a week later as my daughter’s family descended en masse to celebrate New Year with us.

Family is very important to me and I love this time of year when I get to see everyone in the one place, not all together nowadays as Mum needs the downstairs room that the children use, but in stages. Mum had lunch with our daughter on the 23rd (see Monday Meditation: Mothers and Daughters at Christmas), and with our son’s family before she went home on the 27th, which meant so much to her. Because she lives ‘up North’ and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren too far south to visit her, the only time she can see them is when everyone meets in the middle at our house, which is usually at Christmas. I have a lot to be grateful for, not least that everyone can and does travel quite a distance to spend time together when health and other commitments allow.

Here are a few shots from this week – my husband is holding some homegrown potatoes he’d just dug up for lunch, and a potato bag I had bought him in which to store them. I am holding a beautifully soft wrap from him, and Mum is approving the perfume of the gorgeous handwash given to her by her grand-daughter.

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My son won £20 on his lottery ticket! His son was very pleased to be given a small share of the winnings, he was very ill and it cheered him up. 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum and I received some beautiful flowers.

Christmas food:

We made a nut roast from a Vegetarian Society recipe for Christmas lunch, which was excellent. We couldn’t find any vegan gluten-free ‘sausage’ rolls – apparently they don’t exist – so we made our own from Jusrol vegan gluten-free pastry and Dees Wholefoods vegan, gluten-free sausages. The Waitrose own vegan, gluten-free Christmas pudding was excellent and my husband and mum couldn’t tell the difference. In fact, my husband said it was the best Christmas pud he’d tasted!

 

 

The soup is carrot and sweet potato before it was blended, ready for the family visit. I made some Christmas granola for gifts (it had goji berries, apple-infused cranberries and pumpkin seeds in it for the Christmas colours, and was finished off with a red ribbon) plus some mango chutney; my grandson made us some German cinnamon biscuits and my son made us raw chocolate truffles (mine have gone already, I forgot to photograph them! They were delicious peanut butter chocolate fudge with a little rum). The bottom left picture is of the truffles I was making for the teenagers about to invade this weekend. They had marzipan centres, one batch was covered in chopped almonds and Pitch Dark raw chocolate, melted with cacao butter, the other in Mint – from The Raw Chocolate Company. The stir-fry yesterday was a welcome change from so much rich food!

On New Year’s Eve, we played a killer game of Monopoly (no prisoners taken, I was the first into bankruptcy!), and watched Star Wars: Rogue One, the teenage boys hoovering up copious amounts of (non-vegan) pizza and snacks! Here are the beautiful presents they made at school, the pouch and the sunset scene were made from hand felted wool, the candle holders are ceramic:

 

 

I always look forward to their handmade gifts. The dog was the only one oblivious to the wind and rain!

This is currently the vegan fridge:

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…and this is the non-vegan fridge:

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…because The Boys are Back in Town!

Don’t forget Veganuary begins on Monday 1st January.

Over 100,000 people have signed up this year at Veganuary.com to commit to trying to be vegan for a month. There are many health and environmental benefits to changing to a more sustainable plantbased diet. See my posts below which explain the scheme and help you find the information you need to be a healthy vegan.

Have a lovely weekend and I wish you and your families a happy and healthy 2018.

Veganuary

Veganuary – results

Environmental Benefits of Adopting a Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

Where Do I Get My Protein on a Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get My Calcium On A Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get Iron on a Vegan Diet?

Where to Get Nutritional Advice for Young Vegans and Newbies

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Mango Chia Pudding or Sunshine in a Jar – no blender required (plus hidden smoothie recipe)

81E39081-4E5E-4799-9FDD-F06C804F0520(I apologise to those of you experiencing snow and freezing temperatures while reading this, I wrote this post only 3 weeks before and now there are 3″ of snow on the ground and more promised next day! I feel like I should be posting about a bowl of piping hot porridge!)

The previous day had been soul-sapping: it was one of those depressingly endless steel-grey November days with rain, biting chilly wind and a need for continuous artificial light; one of those days where you feel yourself slowly desiccating in the central heating. I find it hard to motivate myself on these days, no energy whatsoever, I just want to stay under the duvet or sit in front of the tv wrapped in a shawl with chocolate and licorice tea for company!

This particular day, however, was its polar opposite and I was up with the lark: endless blue skies and bright sunshine greeted me when I woke up. I had my early Morning Glory juice (see 7 Juice Recipes) and went for a walk. I love being out in the fresh air with the warmth of the sun on my face, I feel I am a completely different person and I can do anything I put my mind to. I am full of gratitude for my surroundings: for the proximity of parks, fields, woodland, the creatures that inhabit them, and I greet everyone I meet with a cheery smile.

45EE5A14-5195-457D-A60E-D9FDE8B83B40I passed a garden being landscaped and found some small smooth pebbles in the pile of earth that I could use for painting. I saw a couple of squirrels running rings around a tree and digging up hidden larders of acorns. I stood and admired a soaring buzzard before leaving a painted rock on a war grave in our nearby cemetery.

I came home invigorated and ready to be creative with my rocks. First, though, I made breakfast: Mango Chia Pudding, the bright orange fruit reflecting the weather and my mood.

Before I left for my walk, I had put some chia seeds to soak with some homemade Tiger Nut Milk in a jar, and removed some chopped mango from the freezer. It was just a matter of layering my chosen ingredients in the jar, quick and easy. It looks and tastes yum! A nutritious jar of autumn sunshine.

Recipe

(vegan, gluten-free, organic where possible)

In a jar, tall glass or glass dish, mix 1 Tbsp Chia Seeds in 4 Tbsps Tiger Nut Milk (or any other plant milk) and stir vigorously (I get my organic, peeled tiger nuts from The Tiger Nut Company)

Leave in the fridge until the seeds have swelled.

Layer cashew pieces, live coconut yogurt (or any other kind) and mango pieces, until the jar is full.

Add your favourite toppings. I used goji berries, raw dried mulberries, cacao nibs, raw chocolate covered mulberry chips* and more mango. You can use seeds, coconut, blueberries, grated raw chocolate.

Order up some sun and some birdsong, relax and enjoy.

30200944_UnknownI sat outside on this early November morning to eat my breakfast pudding and it could have been Spring. The hanging baskets were still showing off, if a little windswept, the nemesia was still in full delicate bloom and I had seen daisies growing in someone’s lawn on my walk. The robin was hopping about, busying himself collecting insects where my husband had edged the garden path. What a contrast to the day before. I felt so much better. (The picture here shows the nemesia and the smoothie I had the following morning: banana, mango, blueberries, romaine, walnuts, golden linseeds, chia seeds, coconut water, live soya yogurt. There, two recipes for the price of one!).

(PS We now have 6″ of snow, it’s magical, like a winter wonderland from the old black and white Christmas films).

*I buy mine from The Raw Chocolate Company

Three Cheers for Chias! What Are Chia Seeds & How Do I Use Them? Recipes included

Painted Christmas Card Rocks & Taking A Break

Monday Meditation: Mindfulness and Rock Painting

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Four Raw, Vegan, Gluten-free Yummy Christmas Treats

img_2880Some of these recipes are a couple of years old, so most of you won’t have seen them. These were a big hit when I first made them and I thought I would provide the links again so you can take a look and see if they’re worth trying. Containing no refined sugar, they are healthier alternatives to commercial Christmas treats and can make lovely gifts.

Christmas Truffles

These are a similar recipe to the raw Christmas pudding (see below) but have been adapted to make into small treats and present as gifts if you so wish. They have walnuts and dates in them. They are made in the food processor and then rolled in whatever topping you like.

*

This raw Christmas pudding is full of dried fruit and nuts, can be sweet or tangy, is very filling and satisfying – you only need a small serving – it will keep well in the fridge or freezer and is yummy with vanilla coconut yogurt or cashew cream.

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Spiced & Fruity Vegan Gluten-Free Christmas Pudding!

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Spicy Orange Fruit Balls are made with figs, apricots, coconut/almonds (can be nut-free) orange zest and cardamom, a real taste of Christmas and a hit with everyone who tried them, even the Tweens! Children like making them, too, with supervision. They make a lovely gift and a change from sweets or sugary commercial chocolate.

I’ve saved the best till last:

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GoGo Berry Fudge: So Decadent, It Should Be Illegal!

These are so chocolatey and luxurious, but they are raw and full of nutritional goodies. They make an excellent gift in a decorated tin or jar.

I devised this recipe for The Raw Chocolate Company

Unfortunately, they no longer sell the goldenberries, although they had a few raw chocolate-covered ones left at the time of writing (4/12/17), but you may be able to get them elsewhere. They are quite tart, but you can use other dried fruit, maybe try apple juice-infused dried cranberries or apricots? The fudge is sweetened with maple syrup.

Oh, and this recipe comes with a video by Belinda Carlisle’s GoGos to sing along to while you make them!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Indulgent No-Banana Cherry & Chocolate Smoothie

29935776_UnknownA different Monday Meditation this week. This is an indulge-yourself post. A spend-some-time-on-yourself post. A take-a-break-from-the-world post.

(Look out at the end of the post for a link to a FREE Moby download of relaxation music).

This is the smoothie I made on my  Much-Needed Day Off. I really needed some me time after a busy and stressful few weeks taking care of Mum’s affairs, so-to-speak (she isn’t really having affairs, I mean accounts, housing application, optician, etc.!)

Chocolatey and indulgent – bet that’s got your attention – a bit chilly for an autumn morning with Storm Brian currently battering at the windows, but if you warm up your insides first with some green or herbal tea, it’s worth it! Or save the recipe to celebrate the first day of Spring. Of course, if you’re in the southern hemisphere, you can just ignore that!

Full of nutritional goodies but still feels like a treat! Raw cacao is mood-enhancing and rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats. Go on, indulge yourself, you know you want to 😉

Ingredients

(Vegan, Gluten-free, Organic where possible, Can be Nutfree if you use a different plant milk)

1 heaped Cup Frozen Cherries

1 Cup Homemade Almond Milk*

1/3 Cup Raw Dried Mulberries**

1/4 Tsp Vanilla Extract

1 Tbsp Raw Cacao Powder**

2 Tbsps Live Plain Yogurt

Raw Chocolate Mulberry Chips to serve**

Blend all on high (except the Mulberry Chips) for 40 seconds.

Serve with Raw Chocolate Mulberry Chips or any other raw chocolate treat, eg grated chocolate, raw cacao nibs, raw chocolate covered raisins.

Play some relaxing music, sit back and enjoy.

*Nut & Seed Milks & Smoothie Recipes

**From The Raw Chocolate Company – they have some amazing healthy raw chocolate recipes on their website too.

Ps Here is the link to a FREE Moby download of ambient music on his website: it is 4 HOURS long, and can be used for relaxation, meditation, yoga or sleep. You can download it for free or pay to stream it. It is wonderfully relaxing and calming. Perfect start or end to the day.

Moby: Long Ambients1

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 Copyright: Chris McGowan

Cumin-Spiced Sweet Potato Crisps with Lemon Tahini Dip

29398480_UnknownOne afternoon, I was craving crisps, as I do every once in a while. Yes, I know, I’m supposed to be a juice nut and a health nut, but I’m human!  About twice a year I indulge, and then remember why I don’t eat them: they give me indigestion and I always want more!

Normally, though, I toast some sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds with some buckwheat and add tamari to make them salty*. That usually does the trick. It’s the salt and the crunch I’m craving not the actual potato bit.

This particular afternoon, I decided to make some sweet potato crisps. I’ve had sweet potato chips and wedges often, but never crisps. And in all the decades I’ve had a food processor, I’ve never used the slicing attachment – no, really – so I thought I’d give it a go. I couldn’t believe how quick it was and how thin they were. Honestly, all these years, we’ve sliced by hand and it took a split second to do one sweet potato, which produced more than enough crisps for one person.

The surprising thing is that they are so filling and satisfying, unlike commercial potato crisps which always leave me craving more. I actually didn’t require any dinner afterwards, but then, I probably ate a few too many!

Sweet potatoes contain tons of Vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene, essential for good eye health, are good sources of Vitamin C, B vitamins, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Potassium and dietary fibre.

Sweet Potato Crisps:

I melted a little coconut oil, rubbed it into the sweet potato slices, spread them on a baking tray, and sprinkled cumin, black pepper and pink Himalayan salt over them.

They went in the oven at about 190C (fan oven) for about 20 mins (turning a couple of times) until crisp – some were a bit charred, but my husband ate them, that’s how he has his toast! You have to keep your eye on them, I got distracted by the cycling on tv!

Lemon Tahni Dip:

This is very approximate because it’s a question of adding, tasting, adding a bit more!

So, about 3 heaped tbsps Tahini (sesame paste)

Juice of half a small Lemon

A little Water

Black Pepper

Pink Himalayan Salt to taste

Blend until it’s the required consistency, adding a little more of anything you think it needs. I use a small chopper/grinder for this rather than the big blender, it’s only a small amount and you waste a lot in the blender.

Serve in a pretty Chinese rice dish (optional!).

Enjoy!

*See Quick, Plain & Simple, Savoury Vegan Snacks (Gluten-Free Too!)

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Ginger & Lemon Bliss Balls with a Bite!

29398032_UnknownIt’s been some time since I posted a recipe for raw treats, even longer since we made energy balls, so when we were in the midst of an horrendous thunderstorm and planting had to stop for the day, the food processor was put through its paces and these are what we came up with.

Using lightly ground rather than finely ground Sweet Apricot Kernels and Sunflower Seeds, together with Raw Cacao Nibs, gives them a satisfying nutty bite rather than the fudge texture of most energy/bliss balls. Cacao nibs are dried pieces of raw cacao. If you can’t get Sweet Apricot Kernels, Almonds are a good substitute.

I’ve had a bar of The Raw Chocolate Company Ginger & Lemon raw chocolate for some time, waiting patiently for me to come up with a recipe. It contains tiny pieces of Fijian crystallised ginger which are really spicy! These were set aside when the chocolate was melted and used to decorate the treats.

These treats are packed with healthy ingredients including protein, iron, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, healthy oils, and raw chocolate is mood-enhancing, so go on spoil yourself!

As always, these are vegan and gluten-free and they can be made nut-free if you substitute with other seeds, though the taste and texture will be a little different.

(All ingredients used were organic where possible).

Ingredients for basic energy balls:

1 Cup Organic Raw Mulberries*

1/2 Cup Sweet Apricot Kernels (ground)*

1/2 Cup Sunflower Seeds (ground)

1/3 Cup chopped Medjool Dates

Juice & Zest of 1/2 Lemon (washed)

1/2 Tsp Ground Ginger

1 Tbsp Cacao Nibs*

Pinch of Pink Himalayan Salt

2 Tbsp Melted Cacao Butter*

Process all ingredients together until the mixture will stick together when pressed into a ball.

Make approximately 15/16 balls and place in tiny truffle cases.

****

Chocolate Dip:

1 x 44g The Raw Chocolate Company Ginger & Lemon Bar for melting + 1Tbsp Melted Cacao Butter 

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Break up the bar into squares and gently melt with the cacao butter in a bowl over a pan of hot, but not boiling, water, stirring until smooth. Set aside the pieces of ginger for decorating.

Dip the energy balls in the melted chocolate and cacao butter.

29397888_UnknownAllow the dipped energy balls to set a little before gently placing a small piece of crystallised ginger from the melted chocolate on top of each ball –  it is quite strong so if you prefer, use a raw mulberry instead.

It’s also been some time since we got jiggy in the kitchen! RecentlyI was sorting through old cd’s and rediscovered The Lemonheads, so here’s a video of them – not very good reproduction, but worth a revisit.

*The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Frozen Mango Chia Pudding – Breakfast or Dessert

28597984_UnknownIn my previous post How to Make Cashew Nut MilkI promised the recipe for this delicious and nutritious Frozen Mango Chia Pudding – which, despite the name, makes a wonderfully light breakfast too.

As I am a woman of my word, here it is!

But first, the science bit:

Mangoes are not only juicily refreshing and tasty, they contain loads of healthy nutrients too. Here are just a few of the benefits of eating mangoes regularly:

They contain antioxidants that have been shown to prevent certain cancers; they are a good source of Vitamins A, B6, C, K, Folate and Potassium, contain dietary fibre and are good for your skin, eyes and digestion.

They are one of my favourite fruits, they feel indulgent and I love the fragrance as well as the juicy flavour.

Mangoes can be a handful to peel and slice, the best way we have found is to slice off both ends thinly to provide a flat base, stand it on one end, slice the peel downwards while turning, then slice the flesh.

And always lick your fingers afterwards!

Ingredients

 Vegan, Organic, Gluten-Free (can be nutfree if you want to use tiger nut milk or soya milk and seed butter, but it will alter the flavour)

1/2 Mango, chopped and frozen

Small Glass Homemade Cashew Milk (see above for link to recipe)

1 Heaped Tbsp Chia Seeds*, soaked in the cashew milk for a few minutes, with the oats & goji berries

1 Heaped Tbsp Oats

2 Heaped Tbsps Goji Berries*

1 Tbsp Cashew Nut Butter or Almond Butter**

2 Tbsps Plain Live Yogurt

1 Tbsp Baobab Powder***

Blend everything in a high-speed blender until thick and smooth

Serve in a chilled glass dish, sprinkle with goji berries and a little desiccated coconut.

This breakfast/dessert contains protein, calcium, magnesium, b vitamins, healthy oils, complex carbohydrate for slow-releasing energy, probiotics for a healthy gut and dietary fibre.  

Go on, what are you waiting for?

Ps Look out for my Morning After The Night Before Wake-Up Smoothie, another breakfast/dessert, coming soon!

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*We buy ours from The Raw Chocolate Company

**We use Meridian Foods organic nut butters because they are free from palm oil and sugar.

*** Baobab Powder is high in Vitamin C & fibre, contains potassium, magnesium, calcium, thiamin, manganese and protein. We use Aduna

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Being Thankful During Difficult Times.

I have so many things to be thankful for. I know that and am grateful. For one thing, my family.

I had planned an amusing post about the Easter weekend visit from our littlest grandchildren, their first Easter with us. We had lots of fun and the weather co-operated long enough to have an egg hunt in the garden on the Sunday morning. (More later). Then, that evening something horrible happened – not to us, thankfully, but to our young neighbour. Three ambulances with flashing lights were there for two hours, but he was gone. He was 34 years old and leaves a wife and two young children, one so young he will never have any memory of this time or his dad, the other much older who will remember and miss him forever.

This sad event has affected me very badly. I can’t stop thinking about them and how they’re going to cope, and if they’ll even be able to stay in their home. Fortunately, they have a lot of close family around them, supporting them.

It took me most of the week to realise that the depth of my sadness and growing depression was not caused just by the shock but was mostly about the young children. It brought back memories of when my brother and father died suddenly and tragically, in separate events, and I had to process it all whilst still caring for my young children and trying to keep life as normal as possible for them, when it was anything but for me. I found it incredibly hard. This realisation brought on a bout of sobbing I never thought I’d experience again. Neither of them knew my brother (my son was just a toddler and my daughter not yet conceived), my daughter doesn’t remember my dad. (You can read about him in the Original Writing section of the menu).

During that following week, I heard of three others who had lost their lives – all this whilst also sending positive thoughts to three friends who are undergoing serious medical treatments, and fielding repetitive calls from my elderly mum.

I shelved my Easter post idea, I hadn’t the heart and it didn’t seem appropriate.

I’ve been in a bit of a slump.

I had no desire to post, no inspiration, no energy. I ate copious amounts of (raw) chocolate.

Help arrived in the form of my brother and sister-in-law. They are about to emigrate to the US and are doing their farewell tour. It was touch and go as to whether I could get through without any waterworks! I really am extremely happy, and indeed excited, for them as they are moving to be near two of their children and their three young grandchildren. My mum on the other hand is very unhappy and convinced she will never see them again. I spend a great deal of time trying to convince her otherwise.

We had a busy, lively and very chatty 3 days. Lots of eating, lots of talking – till 2 am – we even played a silly game of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? ( I won, not that it was a competition ;-)). My sister-in-law loved walking in the surrounding countryside, fulfilled her desire to have a ride in our Morris Minor and learned how to make a wholewheat loaf from scratch (no breadmaker involved!). My brother brought an ancient photo album of us when we were kids that I hadn’t seen in a long time, and which brought back lots of memories, a few tears and some laughter. Oh,  and we watched The Tour de Yorkshire cycling!

The tea towel was an attempt by my brother to hide his shiny pate whilst I took the photo, and the cardigan over my husband’s head was a hundredth attempt to see if the night-time screen on his iBooks page was working!! My sister-in-law is pretend-stabbing Heston Blumenthal’s Persian Christmas Pudding, which we had been saving for them since Christmas. They loved it. My husband is from Yorkshire and decided to don the new top our son (from Lancashire) gave him and go for a ride during the early stages of the race, no doubt imagining ‘if only…’ The Carrot, Apple & Spice Cakes with Cashew Frosting were a nice afternoon treat.

We ate homemade soup with homemade rolls; watermelon, curry and brown basmati rice with a green salad; pasta with tomato, veg and red lentil sauce, vegan parmesan cheeze (soaked almonds patted dry and ground with nutritional yeast and a pinch of dry mustard) and green salad, and a lovely fruit salad with vanilla CoYo coconut yogurt. We made a family-sized banana berry smoothie with tiger nut milk for breakfast (but no cacao, see Paul’s ‘Too Much Cacao’ Banana Baobab Smoothie!). The weather was just mild enough to enjoy it outside. The apple and cherry trees were in blossom, the forget-me-nots were making a show and the birds were very busy and very loud!

By the time they left, my physical energy was exhausted (in a good way), but my spiritual energy was restored. I felt like my old self again. Yes, my eyes had misted over when we had waved them off, but mostly I was happy and rejuvenated. We had FaceTimed all three of their children and spoken to their American grandchildren. We Skyped my son and chatted to my daughter on the phone. They were relaxed, amusing and chatty despite he taking time out from a busy working day and she being in the midst of invigilating exams – a tiring and stressful time of year – and it was wonderful to hear her so. They made arrangements to visit them too before their final departure.

So, now I feel up to posting some photos from Easter Sunday:

Raw chocolate crisp nests with homemade marzipan eggs were quickly separated and split up as Littlest Little liked the eggs and Elder Little liked the chocolate! Outside, it quickly became apparent that Littlest Little had a thing about silver eggs: he rejected them in favour of the red and gold ones, but his sister was happy to oblige!

They managed to find all the eggs and make it inside before the heavens opened – I wish I could post the picture of Littlest Little with more chocolate around his mouth than in it! The Easter bunny was extremely generous and had even handmade and wrapped all the silver eggs himself;-) It was a lovely, amusing time (oh, apart from the catastrophic flood from a burst radiator in the dining room just as dinner was about to be served! Our son was an absolute hero, stemming the tide for nearly 3 hours before a plumber arrived).

Thank you, family.

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Dad and Dave’s cherry tree currently in blossom

Rest in peace, Jamie.

Also published on Bernadette’s 52 Weeks of Thankfulness page over on Haddon Musings

Copyright: Chris McGowan