Merry Christmas!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

And at this most magical time, I would like to say thank you.

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Thank you for all your support this year, it means so much to me. I’m especially grateful to everyone who subscribes, letting me pop up in your inboxes every now and again.

Thank you for your comments. Reading your kind words always puts a huge smile on my face, boosts my spirits, and inspires me to keep going especially when my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms have flared up and I’m feeling really rubbish.

And last but definitely not least, a HUGE thank you to to everyone who’s joined in with my Kindness Advent Calendar this year and has been spreading a little more kindness throughout December.  You really are AMAZING and I’m so excited that together we are making the world a kinder place.

Wishing you all a wonderfully magical Christmas and a brand new year filled with all that you wish for, and so much more.

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Festive love+hugs, Helen Xxx

 

Hello again!

Being grateful to be back!

Hello lovely. It’s been a long time since I last wrote a blog post. Well, it’s been almost three months, but it feels a lot longer.

After my one year blog-aversary post, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and thought I’d take a break for a week or two. But then I had a big CFS relapse, which turned out to be the biggest crash I’ve had in a long time.

On top of feeling utterly wiped out and physically like I was back at square one, I was feeling disheartened, frustrated and deeply worried that I wasn’t making any progress in my recovery.

So I took the time I needed to rest, recuperate and recharge. And I took the time to sit with my more unhelpful feelings and gently work through them, trusting that when the time was right I would feel brighter and more positive again.

And I’m getting there. Slowly but surely. Turtle Power Style 🐢

Even though I’ve still been writing in my daily gratitude journal, I’ve recently found myself thinking how I’d like to write a blog post about something that’s made me happy that day. But I couldn’t because I hadn’t written that first post back yet.

I’ve been apprehensive about writing this first post because I felt it had to be something special, really special.

So I put it off for a day, and then another, and then another. And here we are.

Isn’t it crazy the amount of pressure we can put on ourselves sometimes?

But today, about half an hour ago, I suddenly realised that my first post in 3 months doesn’t have to be anything special at all. It can be just like all the others: just a little blog post about a little something that’s made me happy today.

And actually, I think that’s pretty special enough.

So here I am, just me, continuing to write about the everyday little things that make me happy. And today I’m happy that I’ve realised this!

Phew, what a relief.

And hooray! I’ve just taken that oh so difficult first step, which is always the hardest isn’t it. And it feels good. It feels really good 😊

☆♡☆

Happy Blog-aversary

Being grateful for one year of maketodayhappy.co.uk:

[WARNING: this extra long blog post contains a LOT of gushing 🙂 ]

Yay! It’s one year today that I posted my first blog post on maketodayhappy.

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I started my life as a blogger sometime last July and have been meaning to check the exact date for a few weeks now. And this morning I woke up with a strong urge to investigate and discovered it was today!

Hooray!! Love how that happens.

I’m sooooooo thankful I decided to write this blog – it has seriously done me the world of good in so many ways.

I set out to see if I could stop my gradual slide into the deep dark cess pit of self-pity and depression as I was plunging further into the complicated and misunderstood world of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

And I knew I had to find my happy again.

And fast!

I thought it might be quite a challenging task when I spend most days lying in bed too fatigued to move, too brain fogged to think straight, and too fed up to care!

But I had to try, and I’m so glad I did.

Rather than write about the negative issues my health condition brings, I wanted my blog to be a happy positive place to be – for me and for anyone visiting. So I vowed to focus on finding the happy in the everyday little things, through mindfulness, gratitude and kindness.

And to kick it off, I embarked on my 100 Days of Happy project.

I soon realised there are so many things to be happy about:

☆ Watching the wind rustle through the grand sycamore tree outside my bedroom window, listening to the birds sing their happy tunes, witnessing a magnificent sunrise or sunset. How can you not be happy when you focus on the magnificence of Mother Nature?

☆ Enjoying every single moment I get to spend with my young nephews, even though spending more than half an hour at a time with either – or both of them – wipes me out. To be able to share in their joy and wonder of life, to play mindfully with them, getting lost in their world. I’ve discovered how children are such wonderful teachers of how to live in the present moment.

☆ Focusing on all the little things that I can do rather than the things I cannot. Instead of being grumpy that I can no longer go on a weekend hike, I’m grateful that I can take short soul strolls around my neighbourhood, make friends with local dogs, admire the flowers and the scentalicious rose garden, listen to the babbling brook.

☆ I’m grateful to have found my tribe on Happier. Making like-minded friends from all around the world who always brighten my day, provide unlimited support, and inspire me to keep looking for the happy.

☆ And I’m deeply grateful for the love and support of my family and friends who have continued to be there for me, even if my condition isn’t always easy to understand – which I know can be crazily difficult and I don’t always understand it myself! My mum has been such a superstar, she is my rock and my heart is so full of gratitude for her unwavering love, care and support.

I’m so thankful that I have so much to be grateful for!

I’ve discovered how life-changing it can be to open your eyes to everything we have to be grateful for, even with a debilitating chronic health condition.

In my experience over this past year, I’ve discovered that being mindful and being grateful go hand-in-hand, they are such a powerful duo in our quest for happiness.

And kindness makes it a powerful trio.

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When I decided to start carrying out small acts of kindness, I had no idea what a huge part of my recovery journey it would become:

♡ I love hiding kindness cards around my community for people to come across. I love putting together little goody bags, hoping they bring joy to the recipients. And I love sharing inspirational kindness stories and quotes on my Facebook page ‘spreading little kindness’.

♡ I never imagined how doing one small act of kindness could have such a positive impact on another human being. While doing most of them anonymously, it’s always such a treat to hear from people who’ve found one of my Kindness Cards or Kindness Goody Bags; it really warms my heart and inspires me to keep going (for one emotional example, check out the comment in this blog post).

♡ I never imagined how passionate I would become about spreading kindness, how it has become my mission, and how the local newspaper and radio station would pick up on this mission.

♡ And I never imagined how much of a positive effect doing acts of kindness would have on me. My intention has always been to try and make other people smile, and I honestly didn’t expect to feel as happy as I do when I’m planning and carrying out kindness acts. It’s an unexpected bonus and the old adage that the giver benefits as much as the receiver is very much true in my case.

A lovely friend wisely noted that I’m healing through kindness. And I couldn’t agree more.

And to dear lovely YOU. Thank you so much for visiting and reading my blog. And extra big thanks for your comments, likes and shares. Whether this is your first visit or you’ve come along on this journey with me, I deeply appreciate you.

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It’s always lovely to see you and knowing you’re out there helps to keep me going, especially on the darker days; it’s not all sunshine and sparkles, but it’s all part of life and for that I have learnt to be grateful.

So, here I am, one year on.

I’m truly more mindful, more grateful and more passionate about kindness. I’m not sure what lies ahead, but for now I think I’ll keep on making today happy.

Much love to you,
A happier Helen Xxx

ps I hope you enjoy reading about my journey to make today happy, and if you’ve been inspired in any way to make your today happy too, I’d love to hear from you (in the comments below).

 

The Poetry Takeaway

Being grateful for the gift of a poem:

To celebrate our connection with the Romantic poet Lord Byron – who’s buried in his family’s vault in our Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene – our town is hosting the Byron Busk mini festival.

With art, music and of course, poetry, I was feeling well enough to check it out and took a gentle walk down into my town centre.

I was looking forward to seeking out The Poetry Takeaway, described as a place where: “The poet chefs will write, perform and personalise a poem for you to wrap and take away for free.”

How fabulous.

After weaving through our town’s Friday market, I found ‘the world’s first purpose-built mobile poetry emporium’ already in full creative flow.

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During the short wait, I chatted with Michael Bolger, the creative brainpower behind The Poetry Takeaway. He described how the burger-turned-poetry van travels all around the country, its talented poets and performers gifting poetry at festivals and private functions.

I was soon paired with the effervescent Michelle Madsen. I didn’t know this at the time – only discovering her impressive credentials on her website afterwards – that Michelle has been performing her poetry around the UK and the world for almost a decade. She’s founder and host of London’s Hammer and Tongue which is part of the UK’s slam poetry network. Oh and she’s also published a selection of her poems in a book. I was in very safe hands 🙂

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I decided to ask her to write a poem for my lovely mum, who was at that very moment at the hospital bedside of her younger sister, who passed away only a few hours later.

I wanted it to be a gift for my mum, to bring her some comfort during this sad time, and to remind her how much she is loved and appreciated.

I was expecting to be asked a little about my mum, but not the in-depth questions about her life, loves and passions. Covering all things like her favourite colours, season, flowers, her sense of style, what makes her laugh, her music of choice, her ideal day out, and oodles more.

I have to confess the questions I most enjoyed were those that were deliciously thought-provoking on how to describe her laugh, what season she most resembles, her outlook on life, her presence.

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our 15-20 minutes chat, it was really wonderful to think about my mum in this way.

But I have to admit I was pretty wiped out afterwards! My CFS induced brain fog protested after so much hard thinking!!

As Michelle set to work, I was asked to return in 30 minutes so I nipped into our library. I wanted to spread a little kindness and also find a quiet corner so I could meditate and recharge a little energy.

Eager to hear the poem, I couldn’t wait to return to the creative hub.

And it definitely didn’t disappoint.

As Michelle performed her poem to me – which I really wish I’d recorded as it sounded sooooo much better when she read it out loud – I rollercoastered through emotions of delight, tears, joy, laughter, surprise, happiness and “oh no, mum’s going to kill me for telling you that” fear!

Seriously though, I absolutely love it.

This truly is the perfect poem for my lovely mum and demonstrates just how well Michelle had taken the time and the effort to get to know her through me.

And I couldn’t resist giving her a big hug as she finished.

Here’s the poem:

Happy Chrisday!

Chris, let’s make this YOUR day (as they all should be!)
And with garlands of lilacs and pinks around your neck
We’ll day trip to Whitby! And maybe Tahiti!
And write in pearls in the sand, YOU ARE LOVED!

That your kindness is spread as thick as strawberry jam
sandwiched between two freshly baked sponge cakes
Their round vanilla scent tickling bellies,
sustaining even those that can’t bite into their sweet riches

BUT FIRST! Our outfits must impress
To Debenhams – Nottingham’s magnetic fashion superstore
And from racks of lovingly stitched cotton and floaty lines
you’ll be dressed fresh as the summer breeze that you are.

Home-maker, lady magician of the kitchen,
Crafting joy from ordinary things, laughing out Mama Mia hits
Smile bigger than Ronan Keating’s bank balance
as you hide clothes pegs under fern leaves

Hucknall’s queen of generosity
Let’s make every day one for you
Best friend, best mum, best you

When I gave mum the poem,  it brought tears to her eyes too. She really loves it and continues to thank me for this beautifully unique gift of words.

Thank you so much to Michael, Michelle and all at The Poetry Takeaway – you gave us the gift of a smile during such a sad time, and for that I am eternally grateful.

☆♡☆

Now, this is not intended to spoil this lovely tribute, but I feel inspired to write a little ditty of my own (apologies if anyone from the poetry world is reading this… you might want to look away now!).

Ok, here goes…

My Ode to The Poetry Takeaway

Oh Poetry Takeaway in a lovely van
created by one very clever man
My poet was the lovely Michelle
and I instantly gelled with this effervescent belle

I wanted a poem to cheer up my mum
unlike chocolates or flowers, this gift she could hum
To make her smile whenever she felt blue
a gift that says: ”Mum, I really love you”

Michelle asked me questions about my mum
all kinds of things that made my brain go numb
Mum’s life, loves and passions, her ideal day out
she got to know her well, of that there’s no doubt

The finished poem Michelle performed out loud
I enjoyed it so much, I really was wowed
My mum loved it too, it bought tears to her eyes
this gift from The Poetry Takeaway, the perfect surprise

☆♡☆

More days of happy: Garden bliss

Being grateful for sitting out in the garden:

I am an outdoor living kinda girl.

During the warmer months, I can happily spend all day outside.

When I lived in Sydney I spent most of my days in the great outdoors. In fact, even when I was home I’d be enjoying the luxury of my outdoor sofa on the verandah whenever I could.

Not surprisingly, I find the colder winter months difficult.

Especially at the moment, what with living back in the somewhat cooler English climate, and living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which means I have to spend most of my days resting.

And as much as I love my bedroom, my sanctuary, I long to be outside.

Ever since spring officially arrived a few weeks ago, I’ve been eagerly awaiting a warm sunny day to appear so I can take my resting back into the garden.

And today, it’s finally here.

Yipppeeeeeeee!

My folks’ garden is the perfect little sun trap, surrounded by soothing nature and free from the cool wind, which today is blowing in from the east.

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I’ve set myself up on the sun lounger and my heart is feeling so happy at being able to gaze up at the brilliant-blue cloudless sky, to breathe in the cleansing fresh air, to watch the dancing butterflies and the bumbling bees happily exploring the garden, to listen to the melodic birdsong in surround sound, and to feel the comforting warmth of the spring sunshine on my grateful face.

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Long live spring 🙂

More days of happy: Birthday Princess 👸🏼

Being grateful for celebrating another birthday:

I love birthdays. I really do love them.

I know some people prefer to hide under the duvet when it’s their turn to become one year older, but I am a self-proclaimed Birthday Princess 👸🏼 and think it’s a day to celebrate and to feel special.

Birthdays are the perfect opportunity to celebrate being who we are. After all, the whole idea of them is to acknowledge the day we were born.

Our lives are definitely worth celebrating. But how often do we really truly celebrate?

Not enough in my book.

There is only one of each of us. And they’ll only ever be one of us. How amazing is that! I think that’s something worth celebrating for starters.

I actually believe we’re all worth celebrating every single day of the year, but let’s start slowly and surely…

Birthdays are our very own special day and we can choose to celebrate them however we like.

Whether it’s a party or an intimate dinner, a pampering spa day or a shop til you drop day, a day trip out or a quiet day in with our nearest and dearest, it’s different for everyone, but that’s what it’s all about isn’t it.

Some of my most memorable birthdays have involved travelling, something I really love to do. I’ve turned a year older in incredible places like New York, Sydney and Bali.

But I also treasure birthdays spent with my family, or a close friend or two. One of my most treasured was going for a walk with my family in an historic country park and it started snowing: it was magical.

However we choose to celebrate, acknowledge and appreciate our special day, it’s important not to feel selfish or guilty.

Which is very useful when it comes to me indulging my sweet tooth.

It’s also important for me to be grateful for the gift of another year. I make sure I take the time to reflect on the past year; feeling grateful for everything that was, and learning from the challenges I’ve faced. And I also spend time thinking about how I’d like my new year ahead to be: my hopes, dreams, wishes and intentions.

So every year on the 29th of March, I try my best to have a joy-filled birthday; a day where I can have my cake, and eat it too!

☆♡☆

 

More days of happy: Spa heaven

Being grateful to bathe in Britain’s only natural thermal springs:

My ultimate unwind and relax activity is going to a spa.

I’ve loved them ever since I visited an upmarket health spa in my twenties: walking around in robes and slippers, lounging on huge comfy sofas reading an unputdownable book, flitting between steam rooms and saunas, and of course sinking into a hot bubbling jacuzzi.

I was hooked.

And living in spa-friendly Germany for a couple of years sealed the deal. The spas are much more accessible and very, very eye-opening if you know what I mean, but that’s another story!

So when I knew I was going to the beautiful spa town on Bath, I was excited to finally be able to visit the infamous Roman Baths. And when I discovered I could actually experience the natural hot springs for myself, I knew this was a not-to-be-missed opportunity.

After a fascinating tour of the Roman Baths, I headed to the Thermal Bath Spa for my two hour session – a very welcome early birthday gift from my folks. I received a towel and a robe, and a pair of slippers which I get to keep, woohoo!

After changing, I headed straight up to the rooftop pool.

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As I descended the steps into the natural heated (33.5°C/92°F) silky water, enjoying the gorgeous contrast from the crisp March air, I breathed a heavenly sigh of relief: you know, the one you make when sinking into a hot bath.

Oh my, such bliss.

As I relaxed by the edge of the pool, I couldn’t help but marvel that I was lying in water that had fallen as rain around 10,000 years ago and sank to a depth of around 2km before rising back up.

And how incredible that I was here enjoying the same natural thermal waters that the Celts and Romans did over 2,000 years ago.

The water is well known for its health and healing properties, and as I let my body absorb the 42+ different minerals and trace elements, I imagined how over one million litres of this mineral magic flows from the springs every single day.

After a while, I spotted bubbling over the other side of the pool and headed over to enjoy the jacuzzi-like experience. I even found an underwater seat to relax onto and enjoy the bliss.

I’d found my happy place.

Gazing out over the honey-toned stone of Bath, the chimneyed rooftops, church spires and tower of the Abbey, to the surrounding tree-lined hills, I felt completely at ease and blissfully happy.

What could be better than this?

After a while, I headed down to the Aroma Steam Rooms, four circular glass pods each offering a different aromatic scent: sandalwood, lemongrass and ginger, lotus flower and mint. I followed this with a very quick splash from a very cold shower and it was back up to the rooftop.

I alternated between the rooftop pool and steam rooms for my two hour visit, and left feeling dreamily relaxed; floating on cloud nine for the rest of the day.

Day 91: My bedroom, my sanctuary

Being grateful for making my bedroom my sanctuary:

I spend a LOT of time in my bedroom. Well actually, I spend most of my time in my bedroom. Some days, I only leave it to go downstairs for dinner and some days when my CFS is particularly bad, I don’t leave it at all (except for the necessary bathroom visits of course!).

I’ve spent most of the weekend in here after overdoing it on my mum’s birthday (which was worth it to be able to make her day so special), and in fact, I’ve spent most of the last six weeks in here, following my big relapse and then my festive tonsillitis and heavy cold.

I’m back in my old childhood bedroom while I’m living back with my parents as I recover from CFS. But it’s changed a lot since then – new additions include fitted wardrobes, lilac walls and carpet, and a yummy double bed.

I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to transform it into my own little sanctuary.

I find it calming, peaceful and safe; like a comforting embrace, and full of beautiful positive energy, with things to lift my spirits and fill my heart.

I am such an outdoor girl and when I lived in Sydney, if I was resting at home I’d usually be on the outdoor sofa on my verandah . So I find being cooped up really tough, but it is what it is and as long as I can get out for a gentle soul stroll or artist’s date now and again, I can manage. And knowing that this too shall pass.

I love my sacred spiritual space I’ve created: my altar. With my beautiful Buddha, oodles of candles, my precious singing bowl and chimes, spiritual carvings from my travels in India and Peru, and other bits and bobs that feed my soul.

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I love my window as it’s the place that holds my gaze the most. I love to look out at the ever-changing sky, especially to witness the majestic sunrises at certain times of the year, to watch the life-cycle of my magnificent trees as they change through the seasons, and to try and spot the birds who are singing their tuneful birdsong.

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On my windowsill of inspiration, I’ve placed my Love Notes by Kris Carr and Doreen Virtue’s Angel Cards, treasured greeting cards from kind, thoughtful friends, my fave cartoon to remind me that ‘Every single day you make a choice’, and of course some flowers.

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Bright, colourful flowers make me so happy, and wherever I live, I always try to have fresh flowers around. Here I have a couple of giant orange faux gerbras, but I also try to have fresh flowers in my room. Today, it’s a bright burst of colourful roses.

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Dotted around my room, I’ve put up photos of sunrises and sunsets I’ve taken around the world, a huge beautiful close up of a Buddha face that makes me feel instantly calm and at peace, and various others that make me smile, including artwork by my young nephews.

I’ve also stuck up some of my favourite affirmations to help inspire and motivate me. They remind me that everything is ok, to live in the moment, ride the waves of my life, and let my light shine. I occasionally replace some of the affirmations with those that are more relevant to what I need to hear at this moment in time.

Looking around my bedroom as I write, I’m so very grateful for every little detail. Each one tells a story, contains treasured memories, or inspires or motivates me. All make me happy.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for making my bedroom my sanctuary.

Day 89: New Year’s ritual

Being mindful while preparing and carrying out my New Year’s ritual:

I love my New Year’s ritual.

After having given up on New Year’s resolutions a long time ago, once i realised I was just setting myself up to fail, a dear friend introduced me to the idea of this New Year’s ritual.

And it immediately became my favourite way to spend my New Year’s Eves.

Sometimes I do the ritual with a trusted friend or two. And sometimes I do it alone. Either is absolutely fine.

Between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, I grab my notebook and pen, and head to my happy place for a couple of hours.

First I write down a kind of ‘year in review’. Month-by-month, I note any events and occasions, places I’ve been, peopled I’ve seen, lessons I’ve learnt and things I’ve accomplished, struggles I’ve had, and anything else that comes to mind that I feel is important.

Then I write down:

  1. All the things I’m grateful for in 2015 and why. I find this the easy part and thankfully the list is usually long as there’s so much to be grateful for.
  2. All the things I’m happy to let go of, particularly the behaviour, habits and beliefs I’d like to leave behind. This takes more thinking time and much more delving. Usually I like to think about this over a few days and write them down as they come to me.
  3. All the things I’d like to manifest, build on, and create in the new year ahead and how I want to live my life. I make sure these are clear, doable and can be turned into an affirmation starting with ‘I am’. Again this takes a little more time. I try not to go crazy with these as it can become too overwhelming. But as I revisit them on a monthly basis, I tend to adjust or add to if need be.
  4. I also like to think of a main intention for the year and will keep this up on my wall where I can see it every day. Again, I write it as an affirmation. For 2016 my main intention is: I am living from my heart♡

As the sun begins to go down on the last day of the year, I light a candle, burn some essential oil, and put on the soothing sounds of Deva Premal. (When I’m living by the beach, I head down to the shore and shout them into the sea!).

I then read my long list of gratitude out loud, genuinely thanking everything on my list from the bottom of my heart.

Then as the sun is setting, I write each ‘letting go’ on it’s own little piece of paper and burn each one as I speak it aloud. If that’s not possible, I tear each up into tiny pieces.

It feels fantastic to let them go like this, to watch them dissolve into the fire: it’s very gratifying, cathartic and cleansing.

I then meditate for a while.

As the sun comes up on the first day of the new year, again being mindful of speaking from my heart, I read out my list of intentions in the present tense as though they are already happening, already in motion. For example: I am living from my heart ♥︎

And that’s it!

I find this ritual so powerful, that I like to revisit my intentions and repeat this part of the ritual every New Moon. It’s like a check-in to see where I’m at, and to help keep me focused on manifesting the good stuff. Sometimes I find that my intentions have changed throughout the year. And that’s ok.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful while preparing and carrying out my New Year’s ritual. And I wish everyone a very wonderful and magical 2016.

Day 86: Carrot and squash soup

Being grateful for warming winter soups:

One of my favourite things about winter – and there’s not too many things on the list, to be honest – is a bowl of hot comforting soup.

It really is happiness in a bowl.

And I love how easy they are to make. And how little energy goes into making one. And how you can make a few portions to freeze and enjoy over the coming weeks. Result!

As my energy levels are still so very low at the mo, a soup was the perfect thing to make today.

As I peered into the fridge, I spotted a lonely looking butternut squash and big bag of juicy carrots just waiting to be used. So I decided to freestyle and make something up, which is another reason why I love making soups – you can play with the ingredients and it’s hard to go wrong really.

I roasted the squash and carrots in coconut oil, with a sprinkling of dried chillies, garlic, salt and pepper. Once cooked, I popped them into the blender along with some stock and fresh coriander. And after a minute or two, I was rewarded a thick, tasty soup.

How easy is that!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for warming winter soups.

Carrot and Squash Soup with a kick

1 butternut squash
6 carrots
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp dried chillies
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 litre stock (I used half chicken, half vegetable)
big handful of fresh coriander (I used 15-20g)
salt and pepper

1. Cut squash in half (with the skin still on) and chop the carrots into chucks and rub with coconut oil
2. Put onto baking tray and sprinkle with chillies, garlic, salt and pepper
3. Roast in oven at Gas Mark 4 for 90 mins, or until cooked
4. When cooled a little, scoop out the cooked squash and put into blender along with the carrots and coriander
5. Add half the stock and blend until nice and smooth
6. Slowly add more stock until you have the desired consistency, I prefer my soups on the thicker side so used 1 litre, you may want to add more if you prefer
7. Pour into a bowl and enjoy

NB This made 5 portions and I popped the rest in the freezer to enjoy over the next few weeks