Being grateful for the opportunity to explore lovely Chester

When I heard I had to go to Chester for an early Monday morning legal/medico assessment, I wasn’t relishing the idea of a journey consisting of either 4 trains or a 2+ hour solo drive through Monday morning rush hour.

So I was really happy when my folks said they’ll join me and suggested we stay overnight stay to make it into a little getaway.

I have so many happys from these two days, I thought I’d write them in a gratitude list:

1. I am grateful for a positive and encouraging legal/medico assessment

2. I am grateful for my mum and dad coming with me as it was nice to have the support and spend time with them away from the normal daily routine of home

3. I am grateful for dad doing all the driving so I could conserve my energy on the way there, and rest and recharge on the way back

4. I am grateful to the hotel for moving me to a quieter room without any fuss

5. I am grateful for doing a forward roll on my deliciously comfy and humongous king-sized bed (even though it made me feel really dizzy and made my neck a little sore!)

6. I am grateful for the messages of support from dear friends and a thoughtful card from a cherished soul sister

7. I am grateful for getting a little taste of lovely Chester. As well as having to rest lots, we were able to: walk on part of the 2000 year old wall which surrounds the city boundaries; witness the jaw dropping beauty of the cathedral and ornate prettiness of the 1897 Eastgate clock; meander along the cobbled lanes seeing gorgeous Tudor buildings at every turn; stroll through the Roman Gardens and Amphitheatre; see the beauty of the raindrops on lusciously green leaves; and be by the water as we walked alongside the canal and river.

Chester

8. I am grateful for yummy, healthy meals in fab restaurants with exceptionally friendly service

9. I am grateful for finding the only cafe open after a burst water pipe stopped all running water in the city centre on Monday morning

10. I am grateful for the kindness of a fellow driver signalling that one of our tyres was near flat on the 2hr drive home

And all this is worth feeling like this…

on empty Bitmoji

… for a few days. Now it’s time to rest, recuperate and recharge.

☆♡☆

Lola

Being grateful for making a new furry friend:

On a day where I’d expected to be feeling a little sad as some plans had fallen through, a little four-legged Westie appeared and turned my day around.

Lola is my Auntie and Uncle’s 2 year old fur baby, and they all paid us a surprise visit as they are currently holidaying in the nearby Derbyshire Dales.

I met Lola when she was only a few months old and she was an energetic, excitable ball of white fluff, bolting and bounding around our living room, non-stop.

She was craaaaazy!

Unfortunately, I find excessive noise and fast movement a challenge, due to the nature of the CFS, and so sadly had to spend most of that day hiding away in my bedroom.

For this visit, we were promised that Lola had calmed down and as it was a warm summer’s day this time, she would enjoy having the freedom of the garden.

When she first arrived, she manically darted around, exuberantly exploring the wonders of the garden and I thought her boundless energy would be too much for me again.

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But thankfully she calmed down after a while and we soon became firm friends.

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We played catch and fetch, although Lola hasn’t quite yet mastered the part about bringing the ball back – or maybe she has and is proving she’s nobody’s fool!

And as our friendship grew, she began teasing me by not letting me get to the ball or her new squeaking monkey ring toy. She gleefully even made me chase her around the garden a few times. And of course, that finished me off!

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When I needed to go upstairs regularly for rest breaks, she sat poised, waiting for me to return so we could play all over again. Not long after lunch, I was too wiped out for the rest of the visit, but she insisted on one last run around the garden before they set back off the beautiful Dales.

I think it’s fair to say we both had a good day and I’m already looking forward to our next play date…

☆♡☆

Hello summer, is that you?

Being mindful on the first day of summer:

Hooray for the long-awaited first day of summer, meteorologically speaking that is.

However, in typical English weather defiance, we have been promised a day that is “dull with grey skies and drizzle, some early heavy rain“.

Quite.

And incidentally, it’s the same temperature as it was over Christmas, 12-13 Celsius!

I am now slightly regretting putting my winter coat, scarf, hat and gloves, along with my warmer clothes up in the loft as I recently switched my limited wardrobe space from winter to summer attire!

But as we all know, we are only blessed with such rain to ensure our glorious nature is kept lusciously green and blossoming with life: the English countryside wouldn’t be as beautiful as it is without our very generous rainfall allowance.

And so I appreciate how the flowers, trees and plants will all be thankful for this wet day.

One of the best things about these kind of gusty days, is watching our neighbour’s magnificent sycamore tree from my bed.

I attempted to capture it on video and of course the tree became a little camera-shy, but here goes: please click here. (Ummm… I’m not really sure if this is going to work as it’s the first video I’ve ever tried to upload to YouTube and it’s very confusing for my brain-fogged mind!! So fingers crossed it works.)

It reminds me of a symphony with its branches the orchestra and the wind its conductor. I feel honoured to have a front row seat to its performances and am mesmerised by nature’s sweet music rising and falling, full of emotion and drama, as it reaches its crescendo.

I think this poem by Charles Ghigna sums it up perfectly:

A Symphony of Trees

Trees make such exciting sounds.
They whisper, when we’re near.
Whenever we pass by the trees,
This is what we hear:

We hear their branches sway and creak.
We hear the wind howl higher.
We hear a symphony of trees,
Of nature’s great, green choir.

We hear the squirrels scampering.
We hear the blue jays sing.
We hear the robin and the dove,
All sounds the trees can bring.

But one thing that we never hear
When we pass through the park;
We hear the trees’ sweet symphonies,
But we never hear their bark!

It really is a beautiful sight to behold.

☆♡☆

My meditation buddy

Being mindful while I meditate with my 4 yr old nephew:

My heart is overflowing.

I’ve just meditated with my four year old nephew. The lovely adorable chatterbox he is, I honestly didn’t think he could sit still and be quiet for more than 30 seconds.

But he did.

And it was a heart melty moment.

We’d been on a soul stroll and had had fun fussing Molly – a neighbour’s friendly dog – and Thomas fed her biscuits.

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Then we blew on a dandelion (or two or three!) and wished for everyone to be happy.

Thomas makes a wish

It was then time to find Stick Man. We found him lying beside the brook and carefully ventured down the bank to put him back into the water so he could find his way home back to his family.

Thomas with Stick Man

Mission accomplished, we headed through the woodland area to listen to the birds – and we spotted a robin, Auntie Helen’s favourite. We looked at all the pretty flowers and really loved this stunning waterfall of blooms.

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When we got back home, Thomas asked if we could make a Banana Milkshake, which involves our special ‘Nana Milkshake song and dance. As I was exhausted I needed a lie down first, but Thomas insisted on coming upstairs with me saying he’d lay down with me.

And that’s when I had the idea to try a short, but fun meditation with him.

We sat on my bed legs crossed, with our hands on our knees – and Thomas gently entwined his fingers with mine. On the amazing Insight Timer app, I put on the gorgeous ‘Smiling Meditation’ by Andrew Johnson, who has the most deliciously deep voice and Scottish accent.

The meditation is 5 minutes long and is simply: breathe in, breathe out and smile.

I kept peeking at Thomas and he was doing it so beautifully, I just had to sneak a couple of photos and he caught me in the act!

heart melty smile

At the end of the meditation we are asked to “wiggle our fingers and toes” and Thomas did just that.

We finished with ‘namaste’ and a deeply felt hug.

My heart overflowing, I know I will cherish this precious moment for, as Thomas would say, “a long, long, long, long time”.

☆♡☆

#MillionsMissing

Being grateful for ME/CFS awareness raising organisations:

As someone who’s lived with ME/CFS for 3.5 yrs+ and desperately wants to get back to full health and live a normal life again, I’m so thankful there are groups raising awareness for ME/CFS.

#milllionsmissing (by ME Action) held a powerful global virtual protest today. Sufferers who are too ill to protest in person, sent a pair of their shoes to global locations including London, Washington and Melbourne.

If I’d have known, I would’ve sent a pair of my shoes too.

The empty shoes represent the millions of ME/CFS sufferers missing from their careers, social lives and families due to the debilitating symptoms of the condition.

The message had such a powerful effect on me it made me cry.

I hadn’t really thought of my condition in this way before.

But heartbreakingly, it’s true.

I am missing from my career, I am missing from my social life, I am missing from family get-togethers, I am missing from so many aspects of my life that bring me joy, like travelling, hiking, going to yoga classes, and so much more.

I try not to dwell on it, as it only brings me down and once I start on this downward spiral it’s incredibly hard to pull myself back up.

For my own mental wellbeing, I wholeheartedly believe that I need to keep focusing on the positives and finding the happy in the everyday little things – heck, it’s why I started this blog!

It’s what gets me through and it’s what gives me hope.

The #milllionsmissing campaign also represents how millions of doctors are missing out on proper training to diagnose and help patients manage this illness. And again in my personal experience, this is painfully and shockingly true.

I was led to a petition to Increase Funding For ME/CFS So We Can Find a Cure. Created by Mary Gelpi. I can safely say that she speaks for those who live with this life-upside-down-turning condition.

I’ll hand over to the lovely Mary to explain:

“I am only 31, and yet, simple tasks like taking a bath completely exhaust me. This is because I am one of millions of people worldwide who suffer from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), a complex, multisystemic disease that causes disabling symptoms like chronic pain, cognitive issues, and specifically severe weakness and crippling fatigue. Think of being hungover with the flu and running a marathon. Often that’s what walking feels like. Many days I am too weak to do anything but walk to the bathroom and back to my bed. Before I became sick, I was able to travel in college, fall in love, enjoy SEC football and graduate. Now, just a trip to the grocery store can land me in bed for days. I’ve lost my independence and take 25 pills a day just to manage the pain and symptoms of the illness. I have lost my life as I knew it.

Those of us in the ME/CFS community are used to health agencies not taking us seriously. There are no FDA approved treatments or cures for the disease on the horizon, which is the result of a lack of funding for research. In the 2016 federal budget, the NIH allocated $6 million toward researching ME/CFS. More than double that amount was spent on male-pattern baldness. We can do better. Please stand with me and the millions suffering with this life-sucking disease in demanding that the NIH drastically increase the allocated funding for ME/CFS research. The burden of this disease is huge, on families and the economy. It costs our country billions every year in lost productivity because more than half of us are forced to leave our jobs, too sick to work.  

For now, so many sick people have no where to turn. There are only a handful of specialists in the country who truly understand and know how to manage the disease, but most don’t have the money to travel so far just to see a doctor. Many patients are home-bound or house-bound. Some are confined to dark rooms, unable to tolerate sound, talking, or bright lights. We aren’t “living”, we are just hanging on. I started this petition because people suffering from ME/CFS just want our lives back, and that will only happen with an effective treatment and eventual cure. With your signature, we can hold the NIH and congress accountable for taking our illness seriously and honoring our request to increase the NIH research budget to $100 million for ME/CFS funding.  #WeCanDoBetter Let’s do it now.”

While Mary speaks from the US, the same is true for the UK and other countries around the world. And increasing the funding for ME/CFS in any country will have a global impact.

Please help us by taking a moment to sign this petition. Please click here. Thank you so much.

And check out Mary’s fantastic blog here.

☆♡☆

 

Today is the perfect day to be happy

Being mindful by finding my happy in the everyday little things:

After a dark-cloud-in-my-head kind of weekend, I took myself out for an Artist’s Date for a change of scenery and to bring a little sunshine to my spirits.

I vowed to be as mindful as I possibly could, focusing on the happy in every precious moment.

And it worked.

Here are just 10 of the happy moments that brought some sunshine to my morning:

1. I started by listening to and watching this beautiful little bird singing its heart out as I waited for my bus.

bus stop birdsong

2. I gazed out the bus window at the passing greenery which has awoken from its winter slumber and has gloriously sprung to life. The luscious trees, blooming spring flowers and piercing blue sky lit up my journey into the city.

3. I mindfully ate my brunch, savouring every mouthful of my Eggs Royale and decaf soy flat white.

4. I slowly perused the shelves of our city’s main library looking for new fiction to borrow, feeling thankful for this utterly brilliant free service.

5. I happily distributed a handful of my Kindness Cards with a positive message written on the back around the city for people to discover.

positive messages

6. I embraced my inner child by buying a pair of fun sunnies to make me smile every time I wear them.

Green heart sunnies

7. I used some of my unspent birthday money to buy a bright, happy vest top with the slogan: today is the perfect day to be happy (so let’s be happy).

Perfect day to be happy vest

8. I treated myself to a little bunch of orange gerberas to brighten up my bedroom.

bright happy gerberas

9. I took advantage of my new status as a Waitrose Card Holder and sipped on a free cuppa herbal tea and took home a free newspaper (why did I not know about this sooner?).

10. I accepted that I needed to crash out on my bed for the rest of the day, as I arrived home wiped out but very happy.

fuel tank empty Bitmoji

☆♡☆

More days of happy: Heavenly head massage

Being mindful by completely surrendering to a yummy head massage:

I’ve been looking forward to my hair appointment for weeks and weeks.

Not only because my hair desperately needed it, as I only get to go every six months or so due to budget and health restrictions.

Not only because I look forward to catching up with my lovely hairdresser who I’ve been going to now, whenever I’m back in my home city, for around 17 years.

But also because I get to bliss out to the heavenly scalp massage I receive when I’m having my hair shampooed.

Ahh, such bliss.

Studies have shown that head massages can increase endorphins and serotonin in your body and relieve stress and anxiety.

And I can totally see why.

It feels soooooo incredible amazing, dreamily relaxing, and it makes me tingle from head to toe.

I could seriously lie there all day long.

As well as being a blissful experience, there are a plethora of benefits for your hair: enhancing blood circulation to flow more easily to the roots; adding natural shine and luster to hair; strengthening the roots to help hair growth, and so many more.

I’ve tried giving myself a head massage, but it’s not anywhere close. And I’ve tried Indian Head Massages too, and while these are also lovely, it’s not quite the same as the salon experience.

While I try to live in the present moment as much as possible, I’m already looking forward to my next appointment in six months time….

☆♡☆

More days of happy: Theatre treat

Being grateful to have seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s at the theatre:

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is my all time favourite film. I’ve watched it so many times I know chunks of lines off-by-heart; I love everything about it. (I’ve even had the obligatory photo taken standing outside Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue when I visited New York, minus the pearls though, I know, I know!)

I’m a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn and her performance as Holly Golightly is simply scrumptious.

So I was extremely excited to open my birthday pressie from my lovely mum back in March to find tickets to the travelling West End production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s when it visits our city.

I find going to the theatre such a treat. Even though I’m a huge film buff, there’s something extra special about seeing a story performed live. And once my health and budget allow, it’s my intention to go as often as possible.

So it makes mum’s pressie extra special and extra thoughtful and I’ve been eagerly anticipating our matinée outing ever since.

And it didn’t disappoint.

We had some of the best seats in the house, second row of the dress circle, in this gorgeous 150 year old theatre.

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Based on Truman Capote’s novella rather than the film, it was brilliant.

I was particularly impressed with Emily Atack who played Holly Golightly, in her theatre début. She successfully captured Audrey Hepburn’s spirit and charm, and has the sweetest singing voice which made me cry, especially when she sang the enchanting Moonriver, twice, hooray!

To make the day extra special, mum had booked us a pre-theatre lunch at one of my old favourite eateries. I used to go there on special occasions and the last time was around 15 years ago! Thankfully it lived up to all my fond memories and exceeding my expectations.

We both enjoyed hake on a bed of crushed potatoes topped with samphire and with a white wine sauce. And dessert was to die for: Chocolate Pave – with a chocolately biscuit base, thick chocolate mouse and topped with chocolate ganache, marshmallow, vanilla ice cream, dollops of salted caramel sauce (which I’d have happily poured directly into my mouth!) and a sprinkling of chocolate powder.

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We had a post-theatre cuppa with one of my oldest friends who was in town on a flying visit. By this time, my energy was really depleted and I was feeling extra sensitive to crowds and noise, not great when you’re in the city centre at 5pm on a Saturday!  So we opted for a quiet cuppa in her nearby hotel bar and it was the perfect setting.

While enjoying our catch up, we spied a group of men getting attention and I realised it was a few of my footballing heroes from the late 1980s having a reunion. Of course, I didn’t have the guts (or the energy) to go over and say hello, but it topped the day off rather nicely.

All in all, it was a brilliant day filled with brilliant things. And is well worth feeling like I’ve gone 12 rounds with Carl Froch and now need complete rest over the next few days to recover and recharge.

Thank you mum for my truly wonderful birthday treat – it’s been a truly magical day to remember.

☆♡☆

More days of happy: ME/CFS Awareness Day

Feeling grateful for helping to spread awareness of ME/CFS:

On the day that celebrates the birth of Florence Nightingale 196 years ago, it’s also ME/CFS Awareness Day.

The founder of modern nursing was said to have suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis) and the condition, which affects over 250,000 in the UK and around a million in the US, is still so misunderstood and difficult to understand nearly 200 years on.

Having lived with this condition for over three years now, I’m still fumbling my way around the causes and working out what’s best for my own personal recovery journey.

It’s a very long, winding and bumpy road, but feel I’m slowly improving day-by-day, step-by-step, and I’m absolutely confident I’ll get there – however long it takes.

While I’m still trying to get my head around how to describe my own personal experiences of this debilitating condition, here’s a few of my favourite clips and articles which are helping to spread awareness during ME/CFS Awareness Week:

1. Action for ME have released a 3 minute awareness raising video which talks about what ME is, the challenges people with ME face, and the science behind the illness. Watch it here:

2. The Huffington Post wrote a great feature last year on the ’10 important things people with ME want you to know’. Read about it here.

3. The much-loved actress Martine McCutcheon appeared on a daytime telly show to talk about her experiences with ME and explains it brilliantly. Watch it here.

4. The Guardian asks if CFS is finally being taken seriously. Read about it here.

☆♡☆

More days of happy: Burger bonanza

Being mindful while I make some delicious and nutritious burgers:

Having fallen well and truly off the healthy eating wagon a few weeks ago, it’s time to get back to eating foods that feel good for my body: this means avoiding wheat, (cow) dairy and sugar.

I know that these three food groups aggravate my CFS symptoms, so it makes sense to keep away from them for a while.

I needed to replenish my freezer stash of healthy choices, so I can be prepared and avoid temptation – which is most dangerous when I’m feeling really wiped out and have no energy to get creative in the kitchen.

I’ve discovered a few fantastic recipes for healthy burgers, and they go really well with salads and stir-frys. And over the last few days, I’ve been using my limited energy to make these three lovelies…

Green Burgers
by Healthy Chef, Teresa Cutter

Green Burger with salad
My absolute favourites are Green Burgers (thank you Teresa Cutter!). Packed with green goodies, pistachios, peas, coriander, spinach and green onions, along with chick peas and some yummy flavourings – these are one of the most tastiest things I’ve ever made. Honest!

Ingredients
Green Burgers ingredients100g pistachio nuts, de-shelled
225g cooked chickpeas or 1 x 400 g tin chickpeas, well-drained
100g (1 cup) green peas, fresh or frozen
2 bunches coriander, chopped
50g baby spinach leaves
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp tahini
generous grind of black pepper
2 tbsp tamari soy sauce

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to fan 180°C/Gas mark 4.
2. Grind the pistachio nuts coarsely for 10 seconds in your food processor.

de-shelling pistachios(As I couldn’t find pre-de-shelled pistachios, I mindfully de-shelled an entire 150g bag, and ate only a couple along the way!)

3. Add the drained chickpeas,  green peas, coriander, spinach, spring onions and pulse again until combined.
4. Add the tahini, pepper and tamari.
5. Pulse again until combined. You should have an awesome green vegetable mix that comes together when pressed.
Green Burger mixture
6. Form into 10 burgers (I scoop the ingredients into a 1/4 cup, turn and tap to release, and then gently flatten).
7. Coat with pumpkin and sesame seeds for garnish if you like for presentation.
Green Burgers8. Drizzle or brush tops with a little olive oil and bake in oven for 20 minutes until heated through and golden.
9. Serve with salad or stir fry veggies.

Feta and Black Bean Burgers
Adapted from Helmsley+Helmsley. The Art of Eating Well

Feta & Black Bean Burger
Next it was time to make some Feta and Black Bean Burgers. The sun-dried tomatoes make these extra yummy and the chilli gives them a nice little kick, or a big kick if you’re feeling spicy!

Ingredients:
Feta and Black Bean Burgers ingredients
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 tins of black beans (drained weight 500 g) or 500g home cooked beans (dried weight 200g, activated overnight)
25g spelt flour*
25g almond meal
1 tsp dried thyme
150g sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp tomato purée
a handful of fresh parsley
1 tbsp red chillies
100g feta (made from sheep/goat’s milk if avoiding dairy), chopped
sea salt

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.
2. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and fry the onion until softened but not coloured.
3. Stir in the garlic and cook for a few minutes before adding the drained cooked beans.
4. Mash the beans roughly with the back of a wooden spoon so that their excess moisture evaporates in the heat of the pan.
5. Transfer the bean mix to a bowl then stir in the flour and ground almonds and mix well to combine everything together.
6. Gently fold in the rest of the ingredients and check for seasoning, adding a little salt, if needed, or more chillies, if you like.
Feta and Black Bean Burger ixture7. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, form the mixture into 12 burgers (I scoop the ingredients into a 1/4 cup, turn and tap to release, and then gently flatten).
Feta and Black Bean Burgers8. Bake the burgers in the oven for about 40-50 minutes until crisp on the outside and golden brown, turning them over halfway through the cooking time.
9. Serve with salad or stir-fried veggies.
* I find they turn out a little dry, so will omit the flour next time or add something more saucy! Let me know if you have any ideas…

Lentil and Walnut Burgers
Adapted from Whole Foods Market

Lentil and Walnut Burgers
And finally, I made these earthy Lentil and Walnut Burgers. These are a little more filling as they contain brown rice and they have a nice crunch thanks to the walnuts.

Ingredients:
Lentil and Walnut Burgers ingredients1 tbsp coconut oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 cup button mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4-1/2 tsp dried chilli, to taste
2 cups cooked brown rice (I use basmati), divide into two separate cups
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils, or 1 (15oz) can lentils, rinsed and drained
1 egg
1 bunch coriander (or as per original recipe, parsley), finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.
2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
3. Add onion and cook until soft.
4. Add carrot, mushrooms, , thyme, dried chilli and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.
6. In a food processor, purée 1 cup rice, lentils and egg until smooth.
7. Transfer to bowl with vegetables, add walnuts, coriander and remaining 1 cup rice and stir to combine.
8. Season with salt and pepper.
Lentil and Walnut Burger mixture
9. When the mixture has cooled enough to handle, form into 12-16 burgers (I scoop the ingredients into a 1/4 cup, turn and tap to release, and then gently flatten).
Lentil and Walnut Burgers10. Bake the burgers in the oven for about 40-50 minutes until crisp on the outside and golden brown, turning them over halfway through the cooking time.
NB: I find they turn out a little dry and crumbly, so will chop up the veggies more finely next time, and maybe add a little passata! Let me know if you have any ideas…

So there we have it, my freezer is now nicely stocked with a yummy choice of healthy burgers to enjoy over the next few weeks.

☆♡☆