A Word About Phone-Scamming the Elderly and De-stressing Me!

1069FBA1-3F3D-438F-B4F6-FBA06F8D5F13Just a quick post to say I’ll be away from my blog for a little while. I need some time out to straighten out the kinks in my body and spend some Me time. Real life is demanding more and more of my time and energy as my elderly mum needs more support.

An example: she was scammed on the phone on Monday afternoon. She gave her card details to someone who called her by name. She knew something was wrong but she became confused because he gave his first name as that of a cousin she had been worrying about. She was too embarrassed to tell me (it’s the second time it’s happened), and wanted to try to sort it out herself. Early next morning, she swallowed her pride and called me. She was really shaken up and could barely put a sentence together, she was so angry with herself.

 I literally spent the whole of yesterday on the phone or iPad sorting it out with her, the bank, the telephone company, keeping an eye on her bank account, moving the bulk of her money elsewhere, making her ex-directory and so on. My back is still screaming at me.

But so far, so good. I think she may have inadvertently prevented him from using her card: her sight isn’t good, especially in dim light, and I think she may have misread a number or two on the card.

B44F3FD6-CC3C-4B08-BCF6-5797D6A7131EThis was the closest I got to the welcome sun – through the kitchen window this morning – as today, I spent most of my time finding out about the cousin she has been worrying about, to try to put her mind at ease. At one point I had him talking on the iPad and her on my landline on speakerphone, trying to enable them to talk to each other while I interpreted: they are both 87 and very deaf, neither is tech-savvy, so you can imagine how that went!

So please warn your elderly relatives, or anyone actually, the lady at the bank said these people are very good at what they do and they can catch out the best of us.

B1A75EB8-482D-479D-B1D7-36ED53C16536I’m off to have some osteopathy, listen to some relaxation music, an audiobook, and enjoy some new juices that We Are Juice UK, have kindly sent me to try. It will also be a relief to take a break from the juicer! My husband is on mother-in-law watch for a couple of days while I get my breath back. I have scheduled some posts for the next few weeks.

This freezing weather will not be changing any time soon (we had snow again all day yesterday), so I will be hunkered down in bed with a couple of heated wheat-bags, two hot water bottles, woolly socks and a duvet I have to fight my way out of!

See you soon.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Happy Two Year Blog Anniversary!

imageI’ve just had a notification from WordPress saying it’s my 2 year anniversary today! I remember being so very nervous of putting myself into the blogosphere, never having even read a blog before. I barely used social media, having left Facebook a couple of years before and only recently joined Twitter, more to follow the news and a few sports people than to actually write anything insightful.

I had written a few recipes for The Raw Chocolate Company (for free) and my son suggested I start my own blog. It must have taken me 2 or 3 months to pluck up the courage and then to look into how to go about it. I had a few false starts with other companies, usually to do with incompatibility with iPads, before I tried WordPress. I floundered around trying to choose a theme – I had no idea what that meant – and eventually discovered the Blogging 101 course, which was very helpful and was where I met some of my first followers.

I soon found myself staring at a blank screen awaiting my first words of wisdom! I wrote what eventually became my Home page and my About Me pages, lost and rewrote them several times, eventually realising that what was supposed to be my first post was in fact several posts and resembled a novel. I was still writing in essay mode. It took a long time to find a more informal style for blogging – and I still haven’t mastered brevity!

imageFinally I wrote Pears But No More Parsnips: In Which I Confront My Parsnip Phobia! as a way of explaining the title of my blog and introducing my readers to juicing at the same time. I thought it was worth providing a link to this original post so that new followers can have an opportunity to read it and stop puzzling over my name 🙂

At the outset, I thought I would be answering questions about juicing and health. I thought my posts would be responses to requests from people seeking information about food- and health-related issues. I certainly wasn’t going to reveal anything personal. I didn’t even have a profile picture. In my blogging innocence, I never imagined I would have to come up with self-generated topics and send them off into what seemed like a vacuum, in the hope that someone would read them. I also never intended to write recipes! I didn’t want to write a food blog. It’s been hard marrying the two together and finding a balance. At times, I have felt that the balance has shifted too far over into food and away from health and wellbeing, hence the introduction of Monday Meditation, posts on mindfulness and creativity, kindness and gratitude, as well as the occasional post about struggles with my own health issues and about chronic pain, mental health and disability.

For a long time I had difficulty finding a balance between producing enough to keep people interested and not letting posting schedules take over my life. I feel more relaxed about my output now, but I do occasionally have a bit of a panic when my ideas/draft folder shows signs of haemorrhaging!

Thank you to everyone who has supported my endeavours, I never thought I would have a core of regular readers still cheering me on from the sidelines two years later. It has made a big difference to my life and I have ‘met’ so many people from such different places and walks of life. I am truly grateful. Namaste.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

British Humour At Its Best In The Face of Blind Ignorance

This is a health and wellness blog and I rarely venture into current affairs except to express compassion for the victims of terror attacks or homelessness etc.  However, I have to comment on this tweet posted by an American man to justify Americans carrying guns: he actually tweeted that England has a terror attack every hour! As some wag replied: We don’t even get a bus every hour! Now, instead of being trolled or inundated with expressions of outrage, the replies to his statement are actually hilarious and get funnier as the thread goes on. As well as feeling proud of my fellow Brits, I get a smug satisfaction in knowing that this guy’s feed will be clogged to the gunnels with these replies. Please read if you can, it will  make your day and make you proud to be one of the many who  don’t share his viewpoint.

My justification for posting this is that it will make you feel better knowing that there are people in the world with a sense of humour and humanity, and laughter is good for you.

Update:

The man in question has since deleted his tweet but here are a few screenshots of some of the replies to give you a flavour, the tea and terrier ones went on for quite some time.  Having later looked at his own feed, I wouldn’t recommend it, it’s really disgusting and not worth the negative energy.

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Everyday Distractions…

IMG_8230As I type, there is an industrial floor sander working in the next room so loud I feel I need to wear ear defenders, there’s a plumber working on the shower in the bathroom, the Tour de France is on the telly, we are looking at websites trying to find suitable furniture for the room that’s being sanded and hopefully have it all done and dusted before my elderly mum comes to stay next week! It’s her birthday – and several other family members’ – so presents need to be found, wrapped and posted, too. All in all, I’m a little distracted just now, have been for a few weeks to be honest, what with having the decorators in (same room), choosing plants for the garden (which the snails and slugs apparently thought were Christmas lunch and so promptly decimated and killed them), trying to get a date for the drive to be resurfaced (in 2 weeks’ time) and fit in a haircut (next Wednesday).

This is all by way of a long-winded explanation and apology for neglecting not only my blog at the moment but reading and commenting on others. I try to fit in a few when I get chance, but now that all the Tour de France stages are being televised from start to finish, the men in lycra are just too distracting!

In case you’re wondering, that’s Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas winning the yellow jersey the other day.  Unfortunately I don’t have him in our family Tour de France fantasy league, but I do have his teammate Chris Froome who took it over yesterday and I too am currently in the lead – my  very competitive, bike-mad son sent me a text last night to tell me to look behind me as he is catching up fast! (He likes riding up very steep hills for very many miles and even managed to fit in a ride up one of the climbs of that year’s Tour de France when on his honeymoon a few years ago!)

When all the madness has calmed down, I’ll post photos of the parquet floor we’re refurbishing, but if you want to follow the process in real time, take a look at my Instagram account (@pearsnotparsnips) to see the transformation.

I hope normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. I’ll be posting a new gluten-free bread recipe soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the holidays and some relaxing days in the sun, fill up on Vitamin D (but beware of the midday rays), some fresh air and exercise – and commiserations to those of you in the southern hemisphere!

PS The plumber can’t fit the new shower, turns out the previous installer had extended the wires and connected them with insulating tape which makes it very dangerous! So now we have to wait for an electrician to come and rewire it – in 11 days’ time, the cost now being three and a half times as much <sigh>.

Photo by Team Sky.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Waiting for Inspiration to Strike – The Shower Beckons!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Links to the posts mentioned earlier:

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

My Dad Walked Straight and Tall Like A Soldier

Hand in Hand: A Poem for Father’s Day

Inspiring Women: An Expression of Gratitude

Mother’s Day: A Tribute to My Children

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

*The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you truly passionate about? 

Education. In all its senses.

What is one of your “guilty” pleasures?

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

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

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

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

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

3. Drips of tea on the kitchen counter.

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

I’ll stop now…

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

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

What was your most embarrassing moment?

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

Who do you admire? Why?

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

What one thing do you want to change?

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

What is the strangest dream you have ever had?

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

What is your favorite season and why?

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

What is your most unique quality or trait?

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

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

 Masala Vegan

Unmeasured Journeys

My Husband and I

Miss Sissinghurst

oh its only steven

Long Player Kitchen

Ask a Teenage Aspie

Our Green Nation

Paris Here and There

Questions:

What would you say to your 11 year old self?

What’s your favourite meal of the day?

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

What’s lurking under your bed?

What motivates you?

Who or what tries your patience?

What’s your favourite smoothie?

What’t your favourite poem?

Tell us a joke!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

How to Make Vegan Raw Chocolate Love Hearts & Mini Eggs

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

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My prize:

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

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

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

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

Vegan & Gluten-Free.

Ingredients

120g Cacao Butter*

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

 1/4 Cup Cacao Powder*

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

150g Tahini or Almond Butter

1/4 Tsp Organic Vanilla Extract

3/4 (three-quarters) Tbsp Maple Syrup

 Method

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

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

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

Blend until smooth with a stick blender.

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

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

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

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

They also keep in the freezer.

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

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See also further raw chocolate recipes in these posts:

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

This Valentine’s Day Scrooge is Spreading the Love!

Fill Your Easter Basket with Home Made Vegan Raw Chocolate Eggs

Raw Treats – Recipes

*The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

In Case You Miss Me, I’m Recovering From All The Decluttering!

From today, I’m taking a break to have some osteopathy and rest my body after a hectic few weeks of Christmas, family visits and mass decluttering of cupboards and wardrobes, alongside all the normal family support and blog-writing.

I’ve done a 3 week juice plan and flooded my body with healthy nutrients to see me through the busy times, now I need to take some time to rest and give my back a chance to unknot and my mind some peace and tranquility.

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This is just one small cupboard that was still filled to the gunnels with my daughter’s school and university stuff – and the yellowing old French book on top? Mine from A Level French, a whole lifetime ago! It’s all gone now. The music books are having a new life with my daughter’s musical sons.

Dusty old classics and plays and poetry, from the 60s and 70s, all gone to the charity shop – and this scribble was inside the copy of Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Villette’, neither of my children are owning up!

It is quite daunting clearing out things you’ve loved or which belonged to people you love that have always just been there on shelves, in cupboards, on walls. But there comes a time when you just know it has to go!

I followed the advice in this post from Watching the Daisies, of placing a small bowl of salt in the rooms whch need decluttering –  it alters the chi or energy in the space, and, before you know it, things are magically winging their way out of your home to start another life elsewhere! It really worked!

I’ve scheduled some posts for while I’m away, but I won’t be able to respond to comments or questions until I return, so please forgive my silence.

Take good care of yourselves, be sure to replenish your energy stores once in a while.

A bientôt!

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

500 Up: It’s Giveaway Time!

Yesterday, I received a lovely surprise in the form of a notification from WordPress that I now have 500 followers! I only began blogging just over a year ago, not having much of a clue technically, but having completed the Blogging 101 course I had gained a little more know-how and a few blogging friends, many of whom are still with me and have provided much-needed support.

My (at the time) newly-retired husband is very grateful to you all for keeping me occupied and out of mischief!

To say thank you, we are having a small giveaway. 

imageMy friend, Dale Preece-Kelly, aka Organic Guinea Pig, published his first book ‘Health Revolution’ almost 2 years ago. I have a spare paperback copy to give away. You can read a fuller review of the book here but briefly, Dale lost everything, his marriage, his home, his job and almost his life following a motorbike accident. His lifestyle didn’t help: he smoked, drank was overweight and had a heart attack.

He managed to turn his life around through healthy eating, juicing, exercise and a positive attitude.

Dale tells his story in a chatty, light-hearted style, providing amusing anecdotes, recipes and advice in a non-dogmatic manner.

We had a visit from our smallest grandchildren at the weekend and we made Dale’s Sweet Potato Chocolate Orange Brownies, the recipe is in the review above and in the book.

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If you would like a chance to win this book, simply leave a comment on this post saying you would like your name to go into the hat. You don’t need to do anything else.

  1. The competition is open to all my Blog Followers. My husband will pick a name at random.

2. The competition runs from publication of this post until midnight GMT Saturday, 28th January, 2017.

Dale is a successful author, nutritional therapist, Life Coach and also runs a renowned and well-respected animal assisted therapy business, focusing on mental health issues.

Health Revolution’ and Dale’s new book ‘Unleashing The Healing Power of Animals ‘ are available on Amazon.

Copyright: Chris McGowan