Day 44: Book heaven

Being grateful for my local library:

Hello, my name is Helen and I am a bookworm 😊

Ever since falling in love with reading at a young age, settling down with a good book has been one of my favourite pastimes. In fact, English Literature classes were my favourite times at school, and was my chosen subject for ‘A’ Level and undergraduate degree.

I find being able to completely escape into a different world simply magical.

And I especially adore it when I connect with a character or two – Precious Romatswe of The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, is one of my all time favourites. For me, one of the signs of a good book is missing the characters long after I’ve read the last page.

It was my current financial constraints which initially forced me to seek out my local library and I’m so happy it did! I’ve rediscovered what an amazing gift libraries are to the community, and have realised just how lucky we are to have such a wonderful free public service here in the UK.

My local library was built in 1886, and there’s something so soothing about this charming building. A world away from the hustle and bustle, it’s an oasis of calm. And there’s something so magical about stepping into this sacred space filled to the brim with stories and adventures.

I love slowly perusing the shelves in search of a new title. And as I grab a handful of potentials, I sit in one of the little chairs tucked away in the library’s nooks and crannys to read the first pages to see if I want to read on.

As well as loaning books, CDs and DVDs, libraries run book clubs, kids clubs, talks, and so many other community programmes giving us plenty of reasons to use them more.

And with our libraries under threat, I do so wish they were more appreciated and utilised more to help keep this wonderful service alive.

And of course, whenever I return books I can’t resist hiding a message on one of my Kindness Cards inside for the next borrower to find.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for my local library.

Day 43: Broccoli Soup

Being grateful for the best homemade soup EVER:

As the weather turns autumnal, my tummy is starting to crave soups.

Being a sunshine girl, I dread the summer drawing to a close. But one of the things I do look forward to in the colder months is delicious homemade soups.

I find there’s nothing quite like a steaming bowl of goodness to warm me up and lift my spirits; it’s the ultimate healthy comfort food.

A friend forwarded me Donna Hay’s recipe for Broccoli and Lemon Soup and after slightly adapting it to my tastes and preferences, it has become a firm favourite. My mum’s quite partial to it too.

I think adding the lemon at the end is a stroke of genius from Ms Hay, as it brightens up the flavours. And adding a swirl of yoghurt delivers a refreshing tang, completing the yummy factor.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for the best homemade broccoli soup EVER.


The Best Broccoli Soup EVER

broccoli soup trio

1 tbsp coconut oil or 50g butter
1 leek, rinsed and sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
1 head broccoli, chopped (including stalk)
1 Litre vegetable stock, or chicken broth
100g baby spinach leaves, washed
½ lemon, or to taste
2 tbsp coconut yoghurt, or to taste (optional – can use natural greek or natural yoghurt if preferred)
Handful almond slivers, lightly toasted in frying pan (optional)
Olive oil, to drizzle on top (optional)

1. Melt oil/butter in medium saucepan
2. Add garlic and leek and cook for around 5 mins, until leek is tender
3. Add broccoli and stock, bring to boil and cook for 8-10 mins, until broccoli is tender
4. Add spinach and let the soup cool for a little while
5. Use a hand blender or carefully blend in a blender until smooth (stop here if you wish to freeze)
6. Stir in lemon
7. Season to taste
8. Ladle into bowls and top with yoghurt and almonds, and drizzle olive oil
9. Eat and enjoy!

NB  Makes 4-5 portions. Can be frozen at Step 5, before adding lemon, yoghurt and almonds.

Day 42: Frangipani love

Being grateful for my new frangipani hair clip:

Frangipani is my all-time favourite flower.

I fell in love the moment I saw it during my first visit to Australia.

I adore its delicate simplicity, the freshness of its white petals flushed with yellow, and its sweet scent.

Fangipani season was one of my most favourite times of year when I lived in Sydney. I was so excited to see the buds on its gnarly branches starting to blossom around December time, heralding the beginning of summer.

frangipani in bloom

I was always in awe to see a tree in full bloom, and to witness my neighbourhood streets carpeted with freshen fallen blooms was such a treat.

On my walks, I used to collect a fistful to float in bowls of water at home and on my desk at work.

And I couldn’t resist popping one of two of them in my hair.

Recently, I was delighted to find a frangipani hair clip on eBay. I’ve been wearing it in my hair since it arrived, not really caring that I’m only wearing it around the house.

It never fails to make me smile when I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror: my happy flower.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for my new frangipani hair clip.

Day 41: Healing hugs

Being mindful when giving and receiving hugs with my family:

There’s nothing like the warm comforting embrace of a long, deep hug with a loved one.

And after being home alone for the last two weeks and following an emotional few days, I really needed a big hug.

Thankfully my family were due back from their summer holidays in the sunshine. As well as looking forward to seeing them, I was also looking forward to sharing some lovely hugs with them.

This morning, I popped round for a cuppa and chat with my sis who’d returned home late last night. And of course I wanted to sneak a few hugs in: making sure I enjoyed a few snuggly ones with my three-year-old nephew Thomas, who is becoming as good as his older brother at giving the bestest hugs ever!

(I always make sure I get a nephew hug or two whenever I see them; there’s no escaping Auntie Helen’s Mega Hugs!)

Then, early this afternoon, my folks returned from their two-week holiday. As their taxi pulled up, I ran out to welcome them home, and of course, to give my mum a big welcome home hug.

I’ve really been missing my daily love-hug with my mum and followed her around the house the rest of the day, trying to grab as many hugs as I could.

It’s funny thinking back to how I used to feel a little uncomfortable and embarrassed at anything longer than a quick embrace.

And I have a dear Sydney-based friend to thank for that.

She’s a fantastic hugger. She stopped me from breaking free after a nano second and helped me overcome my hugging awkwardness! She showed me how there’s something really special about long, deep hugs. I still miss her hugs.

I totally see how there’s so much scientific evidence on their many health benefits. A meaningful hug does wonders for my wellbeing. As well as feeling loved and protected, they make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

And there’s also incredible benefits for giving as well as receiving. Knowing that the person I’m hugging is also receiving the bountiful benefits a hug can bring, adds to the magical experience.

As I continue to make the most of daily love-hugs with my mum, I urge you to get hugging too.

Here’s my top tips for enjoying a nourishing and heartwarming hug:

1. Pick the person you’d like to share a hug with
2. For a heart-to-heart hug, put your head to your right as you look at the other person, and place your left arm over their right arm and your right arm under their left arm
3. Hug like you mean it and be mindful not to rush it. Aim for at least 20 seconds in order to release the ‘love drug’ hormone Oxytocin, which calms the nervous system and boosts positive emotions
4. Enjoy bathing in the afterglow of your love-hug

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful when giving and receiving hugs with my family.


Day 40: Getting crafty

Being mindful while making greeting cards:

I love making cards for friends and family.

It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to lose myself in the moment, creating handmade cards for people I love and care about.

Again, it’s sadly one of the activities I don’t feel up to doing very often because of my condition. But when I do feel up to it, I go for it and try to make enough to keep me going for a while.

I have a huge tub, full of delights to make my creations: coloured and textured card, patterned scrap paper, sparkly toppers, metallic charms, wooden shapes, stick-on gems, and so much more.

I have stencils, glue, sticky dots, coloured pens, stamps and ink galore.

And yet I still crave yet another visit to one of my favourite shops: Hobby Craft. Oh how I could spend a small fortune in there, as all the goodies displayed on the aisles tantalise my creative tastebuds.

To get into the card-making zone, I get everything out on the table and spend some time thinking about who I’m making the cards for, and working out what theme I’m going for this time.

Then I set to work, and can happily spend a couple of hours engrossed in my task.

I always feel a great sense of satisfaction and achievement once I’ve finished, and can’t wait to send the completed cards to friends and family.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful while making greeting cards.

Day 39: Splashing good fun

Being grateful for the joys of jumping in puddles:

After spending the last few days having to have complete rest due to recently overdoing it, I was going a bit stir crazy in the house and needed some fresh air.

With the Bank Holiday washout putting a dampener on most people’s holiday plans, I donned my fabulously colourful wellies on and headed out for a soul stroll.

One of the best things about walking in the rain is how Mother Nature comes alive. I love the flowers bursting with vibrant colour and the lush greens of the grass, the bushes, and the trees brought to life. I also love the wonderful earthy scent in the air, which even has its own name: petrichor. How brilliant.

But the best thing has got to be the puddles.

I rediscovered my inner child as I jumped in the puddles, giggling as I went along.

splashing good fun

It was so much fun, I felt so joyful and my spirits were instantly lifted.

What made it even funnier was that the puddles were alongside a busy road, and cars were passing me by as I jumped in and out with glee. But I didn’t care. In fact, I didn’t have a care in the world.

I returned back home with my spirits soaring, and my heart happy.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for the joys of jumping in puddles.

Day 37: Soul nourishing nature

Being mindful during a visit to Attenborough Nature Reserve:

Today I am so happy to have visited one of my favourite localish places for nature: Attenborough Nature Reserve.

An award-winning eco-friendly visitor attraction managed by the wildlife trust, it covers 165 hectares and offers 9 miles of trails: it’s a very special place.

It feeds and nourishes my soul whenever I visit.

I’d love to be a regular visitor, but as it’s a half hour drive and over an hour to walk around the shortest trail, I haven’t felt well enough to go for a long time.

But today was the day.

Feeling truly grateful and blessed, I strolled along the Tufted Duck Nature Trail soaking up all the gorgeousness that Mother Nature has to offer.

It was such a treat to see a gathering of the webbed-feet variety, including an army of frolicking ducks, and swans gliding on the water with their growing cygnets. And it was another treat to witness the magnitude of a few hundred geese flying overhead.

The webbed feet brigade

As I wandered along the peace-filled open pathways, I breathed in the fresh air and soaked up the peekaboo playing sun from behind the dark, threatening clouds.

I marvelled at the sparkling sunshine dancing on the water, and wild heather bowing in the breeze as the wind rustled through the trees.

Experiencing a change of scenery, I meandered through the magical forest with the sporadic sunshine dappling through the trees.

magical forest

As I paused on a little jetty at the waters’ edge, a pluto-esque puppy bounded towards me to say hello. Jumping up and almost knocking me into the water, the adorable pup left a giant footprint on my skirt and another one on my heart.

Along today’s soul stroll, I couldn’t help but leave a few of my Kindness Cards with messages for people to find: a couple on benches, a couple on the gate posts, and a couple in the cafe. Here’s hoping they brought a smile to other soul strollers.

kindness messages at attenborough

I completed my visit the way I’d started: with a tea inside the Nature House, winner of the Gold award for eco-tourism. As I nosed around the shop, I managed to limit myself to an eco pen, for today anyway!

As I headed back to the car, I took a parting pause for reflection, for love, for gratitude: “Bye Bye Attenborough Nature Reserve and all your glorious beauty. I hope to see you again soon.”

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful during a visit to Attenborough Nature Reserve.

Day 34: Nahko Bear

Being grateful to see Nahko and Medicine for the People:

I’m So Thankful.

Today I got to see my fave band play as they finally made their UK debut.

Nahko and Medicine for the People describe themselves as a musical collective with a mission “to be the motivation and inspiration for all that have become members of our Tribe.”

And they’ve been motivating and inspiring me ever since I first came across Nakho and MFTP at the Bali Spirit Festival over three years ago.

They blew me away.

It was one of the best live music performances I’ve ever seen. I immediately joined their Tribe and have been loving their music and their message ever since, waiting for a chance to see them again.

And today it finally came.

The last few days I’ve been coming down with a cold which has caused a flare up of CFS symptoms. For a time, I wondered if I’d feel well enough to go. I also knew that if I did go, I would spend days and days recovering.

But I was determined. I chose to accept the consequences. And boy was it worth pushing myself for.

I was already on Cloud Nahko Bear before the show. I was wandering looking for somewhere to eat and almost bumped into Nahko and Pato. Too shy to say anything, I saw them notice the pre-show meet up of UK Tribe members with signs propped up against the pub window. Nahko happily took a photo of them, and popped inside to say hello. I love how much they care about their fans, their Tribe.

I’d phoned the venue a few days ago to ask if there was somewhere I could watch the show a little out of the way of the main hub. They very kindly obliged by putting a stool for me at the front of the balcony and letting me into the venue early to take my place.

I had the best view in the house.

It was such a friendly, love-filled atmosphere as the UK Tribe members gathered ready for the show.

Nahko and MFTP didn’t disappoint. Seeing them live is an awe-inspiring, soul-empowering, light-filled experience.

Their music style is a mix of folk, rock, with some reggae-style vibes thrown in. Their lyrics are honest, heart-felt stories and strong spiritual messages of power and healing, with some truly inspiring affirmations:

“Each day that I wake, I will praise. Each day that I wake, I give thanks.”
“We are the ones… We’re a part of something special.”
“I believe in the good things coming”.
“Balance my chemistry, hydrate these cells. The body talks and meditation helps.”
“Now is all we have.”

Nahko Bear is a musical warrior of light. Seeing Nahko and Medicine for the People really is medicine for my soul.

I felt inspired to leave a few of my Kindness Cards (see Day 3) around the venue, spreading my own messages of love and kindness.

I’m so grateful I pushed myself to go, and it is so worth the aftermath of feeling like I’ve been hit by a bus as my CFS symptoms flare up big time.

But my spirit is still soaring. And that’s what counts.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful to see Nahko and Medicine for the People.

ps if anyone’s interested in checking them out, start here and here.