Day 23: Booja Booja

Being grateful for making raw vegan ice-cream:

A few weeks ago I lost my heart to Booja Booja.

Booja BoojaA dear friend introduced me to their Hunky Punky Chocolate Ice Cream Alternative. My taste buds jumped for joy as I tucked into this heavenly bowl containing only four ingredients: water, agave syrup, cashews and cacao.

I’m not kidding when I say it tastes like a high quality Belgian chocolate ice-cream. Creamy deliciousness in every spoonful.

In fact, I would go as far to say this is one of the best ice-creams I have ever tasted: healthy or non-healthy. And I don’t usually go for chocolate ice-cream either!

I couldn’t wait to visit my local health food store and was over-the-moon to see they stocked it. But alas it’s a tad too pricey for my present budget.

So I had the great idea to try and make my own.

After lots of trawling online, I finally found a recipe that was right up my street. Most recipes use bananas as the base, my least favourite food in the whole wide world (the only exception I make is for  Banana Bread, toasted with butter please. A staple treat for me when I lived in Sydney). Thankfully I found an alternative that uses cashews and coconut milk.

It’s so simple to make: pop some soaked cashews, coconut milk, vanilla essence and rice malt syrup (my choice of sweetener) into a blender and blend away.

But then comes the tricky part.

Pour into a shallow dish, cover well and freeze. Every 30 minutes, take out of the freezer and whisk with a small whisk or mix with a fork. For six hours. That’s twelve times. Twelve times! Then leave for a further eight hours and it’s ready to eat.

And you know what, it tastes mind-glowingly delicious.

I am so impressed with myself that I’ve actually made ice cream. By hand.

Even my mum is impressed. We sampled it this afternoon – although it hadn’t had its full proper freezing time, I mean who can wait overnight, seriously!

I added a scoop to my previously made Chocolate Cup Cakes (dairy, sugar and wheat-free too) and the ultimate afternoon snack was born.

Although, it’s pretty labour intensive and pretty expensive to make, there is a huge satisfaction of knowing I’ve made this bowl of deliciousness all by myself.

Booja Booja who?!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for making raw vegan ice-cream.

Day 22: Child’s play

Being mindful while playing with my nephews:

Today we have my two young nephews here. Ages three and six. All day long.

While I absolutely love playing with the little munchkins, I’m usually wiped out after half an hour or so and have to go and rest. So I try to make every second I spend with them count.

The eldest Callum is really into doing mazes at the moment. I’d printed a few off for him so we could sit together and have some quiet, creative time.

Of course, little Thomas wanted to get in on the action and climbed onto my lap. And while Callum got stuck into helping the dragon find his egg, Thomas scribbled on a dot-to-dot.

It was a precious half hour spent.

I always try to make sure I am fully present when I am with them. That I am Mindful Auntie Helen instead of Distracted Auntie Helen. I listen to what they have to say and I devote my whole attention to them and what they want to do.

I truly think one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your full attention, adults and children alike. Especially when we live in a society that is very much attached to our smart phones and bombarded with distractions from every direction.

I sense that the boys appreciate it too. So much so, that later in the day Callum excitedly burst into my room to tell me what they’d just got up to in the park, and Thomas declared me his best friend when his mummy came to collect him.

Heart melt moments.

My nephews are also my inspiring teachers. They live and play wholeheartedly in the present moment.

Like when Thomas hears music, he leaps up to dance around with unabashed freedom. Or a minute after crying uncontrollably, he is playing happily, all previous upset forgotten.

And like when Callum wants me to play with him, he means now, not “in a bit”.  Or when he plays his computer games, he completely disappears into that moment.

Unlike adults, children don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future, and this is one of the biggest lessons I am learning on my recovery journey.

It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes about living in the present moment:

“What day is it?”, asked Winnie the Pooh
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet
“My favourite day,” said Pooh.
― A.A. Milne

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful while playing with my nephews.

Day 17: My mum

Being grateful for my lovely mum:

My mum is such a superstar.

She is one of the most caring, thoughtful and all round loveliest people I know.

And she’s my mum. I know, what a lucky girl I am.

She’s always been there for me and we’ve always been close.

And I’ve come to appreciate her even more since I’ve been living back in the family home due to the ME/CFS.

I’ve found it incredibly hard giving up my independence and having to rely on mum to look after me. But she has made this transition much easier thanks to her kind, graceful nature.

And I appreciate that it can’t always be easy for her.

On bedrest days like today, she pops in to check on me, brings me cups of tea, and kindly prepares my meals. She has never once complained or made me feel like it’s too much.

I’m so grateful that she takes the time to understand my symptoms and triggers, and how she steps in to look after me when I’m not feeling well enough to look after myself.

She listens to me when I tell her how I’m feeling. She hugs me when I’m feeling down. She shields me from visitors when I’m too exhausted to be social.

She even helps me when I have to do something requiring some thought and my brain is too foggy.

She supports me no matter what, without judgement.

I tell her as often as possible how much I love her, how amazing she is and how grateful I am. And I do my best to help out whenever I am feeling well enough.

I hope she knows that I think she is simply the best. Because she is.

She’s my mum, my confidant, my best friend.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for my lovely mum.

Day 14: Nana milkshake song+dance

Being grateful for funtime playtime with my nephew Thomas:

Two days a week, my three-year-old nephew Thomas is with us while my sister goes to work.

He’s our little ray of sunshine.

And as much as I would LOVE to be his full-on full-time playmate, sadly CFS has other ideas: I’m usually wiped out after only half an hour and have to head upstairs for some bedrest.

Recently, I’ve started making him healthy banana milkshakes, with two ingredients: frozen banana and whole milk. Nothing else.

And I’ve found that getting him involved in the making of it usually increases the odds of him drinking it.

Today, he very carefullly held the blender jug while I put the frozen banana in and then added the milk: great team work.

Thomas is quite a sensitive soul around noise and usually runs away and hides when I switch the blender on. But today, he wanted to press the button. And so he did. A few times in fact.

As the blender roared into action, I started singing ‘Banana Milkshake’ to distract him from the noise. He joined in the singing and started dancing around; I joined in the dancing.

And thus, our Banana Milkshake, or rather our ‘Nana Milkshake’ song and dance was born. (Lyrics by Auntie Helen, choreography by nephew Thomas)

We had so much fun singing and dancing our way around the house. A joy-filled precious moment to treasure, that’s for sure.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for fun playtime with my nephew Thomas.

Day 12: Back on the mat

Being grateful for my first yoga class in two years:

I am so excited. I’ve just attended my first yoga class in two years. Yay!

And it felt sooooooo good.

Sadly, I haven’t felt well enough since chronic fatigue set in. My beloved practice has been one of the biggest activities I’ve missed. I used to practice yoga most days either at home or at the fantastic yoga studio I was a member of in Sydney. It had the most incredible teachers and I used to go to three 90 minute yoga classes a week.

Over the last few months I’ve been slowly easing myself back into yoga by following a couple of gentle 20 minute DVD sessions at home.

While I enjoy home practice, I do like combining it with classes.  It’s not a surprise that I find that teachers challenge me more than I’m prepared to challenge myself at home. I also appreciate the variety of asanas – poses – even those I’m not particularly fond of and tend to avoid at home. Teachers have told me it’s the ones we resist are the ones we need to focus on!! Hmmmm…

Recently I’ve been feeling ready to step up my practice by trying out a yoga class. After some searching, I’m grateful to have found one one really close to home. Like 5 mins away close. The only downside is that it’s in the evening, when my energy is usually waning, but I was keen to give it a try.

As the time for me to leave grew nearer, my trepidation increased: Would I find the venue ok? Would I manage the whole class? What if it was all too much? What if I felt unwell? What would teacher Hannah be like? What would the other yogini’s be like?

Ok, Helen, breathe deeply with me now….

Finally it was time to go.

Of course, I found the venue ok, the other yogini’s were lovely, and teacher Hannah was friendly and kind.

Happily I rolled out my mat and I felt I’d come home.

Starting in savasana  – corpse pose – Hannah gently led us into mindful breathing and introduced this week’s theme, Satya, the commitment to Truthfulness.

Gently guiding us through an hour long class, she threw in a couple of the more challenging poses for good measure and to a few giggles. Just as I felt myself starting to flag and was preparing to rest in balasana – child’s pose – the class began to wind down and we were back in savasana. Sigh.

I left feeling stretched, calm, and happy in my mind, body and soul.

I am really also proud of myself for going as it was a big step in my recovery journey.

Roll on next Tuesday.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for my first yoga class in two years.

Day 7: A heavenly soak

Being grateful for my Epsom salt baths:

I never used to be a bath girl. It’s always been showers all the way.

That is until I tried an Epsom salt bath about 18 months ago.

And I haven’t looked back.

Now I love nothing more than a long soak in a hot bath: it’s absolute bliss.

They’ve become an essential part of my recovery tool kit and I take 3-4 baths a week, sometimes more if I feel I need to.

Made from a naturally occurring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate, the health benefits of adding a  couple of cups of Epsom salts are too numerous to mention here, but my favourites are: helping to ease stress and relax the body, relieving sore muscles, and eliminating toxins from the body.

For me, they help soothe my body, mind and spirit. I find it one of THE best ways to relax.

I usually take myself off for a long yummy soak after dinner. I even find myself craving one if I’ve had a busy or stressful day, or am feeling extra fatigued.

From the moment I turn on the taps, my worries start to evaporate, and it’s guaranteed I let out a blissful sigh as soon as I sink into the hot steamy bath of goodness.

My recipe for creating the ultimate relaxing bath experience:
1. lock the bathroom door so I’m not disturbed
2. add 2 cups of Epsom salts to a running bath
3. add a tbsp of Coconut Oil to soften the skin
4. add 15-20 drops of Lavender Essential Oil or my own relaxing oil blend
5. light a few candles & pop on some gentle, relaxing music
6. lie back, enjoy and soak for at least 20 mins, maximum 40 mins

I’ve come to love my baths so much, I can’t imagine living anywhere that doesn’t have a bath. It’s one of the things I miss when I’m away.

So with that in mind, my happy today is being grateful for my yummy Epsom salt bath.