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

Day 79: Nottingham Post

Being grateful to have my kindness mission featured in the local newspaper:

What an exciting couple of days!

I’m absolutely thrilled to be featured in today’s newspaper, the Nottingham Post, about my acts of kindness.

Back in the summer, the Post kicked off a ‘Good Deeds’ campaign encouraging 1,000 readers to do an act of kindness and tell them about it. So, I wrote to them about my kindness acts around the city but I certainly didn’t expect to be featured like this! What a bonus!!

I was interviewed and photographed yesterday, and told it would be in today’s paper.

Yikes!

As I searched through the newspaper this morning, I got a bit of a shock to see such a big close up photo of me, revealing warts and all. But this isn’t about my vanity, it’s about spreading the kindness message throughout my county!

I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the result:

Nottingham Post full page

I have to admit I was a little nervous because my brain fog was quite bad yesterday and I stumbled over my sentences and struggled to find the right words. I hoped I’d come across coherently. And on the whole, I think I did-ish 🙂

I particularly love and am bowled over by the print version’s byline: “… a one-woman mission to make the world a brighter place.” How fantastic is that!

It’s also exciting to see the article in the News section of the online edition.

Notm Post online
As I’ve mentioned before, when I do my acts of kindness I think it’s really important to keep my intentions pure: I simply want to bring a smile to someone’s face. And I never expect anything in return.

One of the unexpected bonuses that continues to surprise me is the response from others. And I really appreciate that people take the time to write such kind comments. Thank you 🙂

My mission is to continue spread kindness and keep the ripple effect going…  even more so in light of the recent terror attacks in Paris. It’s easy to lose faith in humanity, but we all must continue to shine our light and continue to spread love and kindness.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful to have my kindness mission featured in the local newspaper.

Day 75: Meditating with Oprah and Deepak

Being grateful for Oprah and Deepak’s new 21 Day Meditation Experience:

Meditation has become a sacred part of my morning ritual: I begin each and every day with an Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra meditation, without fail!

I love love love their 21 Day Meditation Experiences, and highly recommend them to anyone interested in meditation. And I’m delighted a new one began earlier this month: Become What You Believe!

This 21 day journey is about:

“Together, we’ll take steps to tap into the power of belief – one of the most influential forces in life that leads you to the person you’re meant to be. You’ll learn how to:

  • discover your deepest beliefs and how they affect you
  • step into your highest potential by embracing your positive beliefs and dissolving the unconscious ones that are holding you back
  • connect to the innate power of your foundational beliefs to start directing the movement of your life.”

Oprah and Deepak share this beautiful gift with their growing worldwide community via a free online stream on their website or app, a few times a year.

Each guided meditation is around 20 minutes long and has a theme: for Day 11 it’s Living From Your Core. Oprah kicks off each day with a beautiful and inspiring introduction and Deepak follows by sharing more practical tips and wisdom.

Deepak then introduces the day’s centering thought: I cherish my true self in silence is today’s, and the sanskrit mantra Sampriya Hum, which means I am perfect contentment.

We are invited to silently repeat the mantra during the 10 minutes or so of unguided meditation time, accompanied by a gentle soundtrack.

BWYB Day 11

If you wish to go deeper, there’s an online journal with reflective questions, for example: “Take a moment to reflect on a time in meditation where you felt that love, self-worth, feeling secure, and feeling whole is possible, easy, and natural. Write down how this feels compared to your daily life outside of meditation.”

I’m deeply resonating with this experience. Our beliefs – conscious and unconscious – are constantly influencing our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. And it’s encouraging me to be aware of, to think about, and to challenge my beliefs.

I find these meditations such a beautiful, gentle and enriching way to start the day. And what’s extra special about joining the online streams is connecting with over a million like-minded souls around the world.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for Oprah and Deepak’s new 21 Meditation Experience.

Day 71: Yoga every damn day!

Being grateful, mindful and kind as I embark on 30 days of yoga:

I LOVE LOVE LOVE yoga.

This is my third post about one of my most treasured rituals, and why not, it deserves it: yoga is an integral part of my life, my wellbeing and my healing journey.

I find stretching my body with a yoga session wonderfully delicious, and even more so with all the bed rest I currently have to take. I also find it soothing and peaceful for my mind and soul, and it’s another opportunity to practice mindfulness.

Not being able to practice as much as I used to has been one of the frustrating things about having CFS. Due to the nature of the condition, my practice is quite sporadic as I sometimes simply don’t have the energy, or my neck is feeling too painful from when I sustained a severe whiplash injury a couple of years ago.

Over the last few months, I’ve been able to get back on the mat which has lifted my spirits no end. And recently, I’ve even managed to go to a couple of classes and would love to build up slowly to attending regularly. But all in good time.

In a good week, I’m managing to enjoy two very gentle sessions at home, alternating between my two favourite short practices on DVD. But lately I’ve been feeling a little bored with my practice as I know them off by heart.

I think it’s time to shake things up a little.

And I’m feeling optimistic that my body can handle a teeny bit more 😊.

And I’m loving the gorgeously inspiring Rachel Brathen’s mantra: “Yoga Every Damned Day”.

yoga every damn day

(And yes, I want the tee-shirt!)

Sooooo, I’ve decided to try and make November ’30 Days of Yoga’.

After some googling, I’ve found a lovely online teacher called Erin Motz who offers a free 30 day yoga challenge. It’s “30 days of yoga in 10-20 minute long online video sessions which we send you directly to your email inbox one day at a time.” Which sounds perfect for my limited energy levels.

I like that there’s a different focus for each day’s session; day 2 is for chest and shoulders, day 3 is for posture, day 4 is for abs, and so on.

I’ve signed up, I’ve pimped up my yoga mat, and I’m ready to go.

mu pimped up yoga mat

I am giving myself permission to skip a day or two if I need to – if my CFS symptoms are too intense, or if my neck is too sore. But I’m really hoping I can try and attempt each day’s session.

And if not, I will see if I can manage a sun salutation or even one little downward dog! And if not, I will at least be able to meditate.

No pressure, no worries, all is well.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for my yoga practice, being mindful as I roll out my mat every damn day this month, and being kind to my body by doing lots of yummy stretching.

Day 70: Mindfulness Summit

Being grateful for, and mindful during, the Mindfulness Summit:

For this whole month of October, I’ve felt hugely privileged to have joined over 250,000 people taking part in the Mindfulness Summit, designed to help us “learn how to live life with more peace, purpose and wisdom.”

There’s been a new online interview between the host, the very lovely Melli O’Brien, and a leading mindfulness expert every single day.

Those who have shared their insight and wisdom with use include Mark Williams, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Tami Simon, Dr Rick Hanson, Ruby Wax, Arianna Huffington, Vidyamala Burch and many many more.

There’s also been presentations and practice sessions, plus a bunch of free meditations to download and keep.

All for free.

I’m delighted that I’ve managed to watch most days, I think I’ve only missed three. And I’ve loved each and every one.

The Summit has given incredible insight into the science behind mindfulness and its clinically proven benefits, and a plethora of different mindfulness techniques on how to integrate mindfulness into everyday life and how to apply it to specific situations.

I’m looking forward to having a play with some of these techniques to see what works for me.

Here are some of my favourite learnings:

1. Mindfulness is a practice, it takes discipline and perseverance. Every day we begin again. ~ Joseph Goldstein
2. There are two wings of presence: seeing, recognising what’s happening, and allowing, asking yourself if you can be with this. ~ Tara Brach

3. Let your mind be your best friend ~ Shamash Alidima
4. ‘Surf the Urge’. When you have a craving, for example if you’re checking your phone every two minutes, tune into the physical sensation and ‘surf’ on it like a wave. Bring kindness to it and it will subside, the urge will go away. ~ Shamash Alidima
5. Catch thoughts before they take hold. Thoughts arise naturally and we don’t have to attach to them or feel bad for having them. ~ Lori Deschene
6. The Diffusion Technique: 1. Think of negative self-talk, such as “I’m not _______ enough.” 2. Concentrate on that thought for 10 seconds. 3. Put in front of that thought, “I”m having the thought that I’m not _______ enough.”. 4. Add to it “I notice that I am having the thought that I’m not _______ enough.” ~ Russ Harris
7. If you’re not focused on what you’re doing, you’ll do it poorly. ~ Dan Goleman
8. When meditating, there’s a difference between thinking about your breath, and feeling your breath. Aim for the latter. ~ Dr Judson Brewer
9. When you are experiencing discomfort, note if you are blocking it, by pulling away and distracting your mind, or if you are drowning in it, by leaning into it and feeling overwhelmed. Be a warrior with a soft and open heart. ~ Vidyamala Burch
10. You can’t change stress, but you can change your relationship to stress. ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

As I’ve mentioned many times before, mindfulness has become a huge part of my healing journey. And this series of interviews and presentations has highlighted how beneficial and enriching mindfulness is to my wellbeing. I can say with hand-on-heart, that practicing mindfulness will continue to be a part of my everyday life, ongoing.

And tonight, to close this incredible month, was a live guided meditation with Jon Kabatt-Zinn. It felt incredibly powerful to be meditating with thousands of others around the world at the same time.

I shall sleep very soundly tonight!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for, and mindful during, the Mindfulness Summit.

 

PS While the Mindfulness Summit has now finished, it’s available to purchase and 100% of profits generated from the project will be donated to mindfulness charities. Please click here for more info.

Day 69: Seaside Bliss

Being grateful, mindful and kind, while enjoying a day at the seaside:

Today was the ultimate Artist’s Date: I went to the seaside.

Since moving back in with my folks in the middle of England while I recover from CFS, the nearest coastline is sadly about 80 miles away.

And I desperately miss living by the sea, which I find so powerfully healing.

So on a good-health day not so long back, I booked myself onto a day trip to the seaside with a local coach firm.

However, due to my recent cold and CFS blip, I wasn’t really sure if I was up to going. But as the seaside towns are winding down for the winter, today was the last seaside trip the coach company was making until the spring, so I was really keen to go.

As I woke up this morning, my body craved more rest and begged me to stay in bed, but my heart skipped with joy at the thought of a day at the seaside.

Reluctant to cancel, I felt confident the healing power of being by the sea would lift my spirits and soothe my soul, and would offset the inevitable consequences of complete bed rest for the next few days.

So off I went.

As the full, chattering coach weaved its way through the countryside, I put down my book to gaze out the window. And my, how I was rewarded: blanketed in mist, my heart sang with joy at the splashes of glorious golds, flaming ambers and dazzling rubies of the stunning autumn scenery.

Arriving at the seaside just before noon, I headed straight for the beach so I could say hello to the sea. Then it was time for a spot of lunch, and of course there’s only one option when you’re at the seaside: fish, chips and mushy peas of course! My ‘regular’ sized portion beat me; convinced it was big enough for two, I was curious to see how big the ‘jumbo’ portion would be!

fish, chips and mushy peas

I wandered down the pier and spent a lovely half hour gazing out to the sea, soaking up her powerful healing energy.

beach and pier

Then it was time to whip my socks and shoes off and hit the beach. Walking barefoot in the sand is one of my all time favourite things to do, and it felt blissful getting sand and sea in-between my tootsies once again.

barefoot walking

This award-winning beach is incredibly wide and it took a while to reach the shore. I went for a quick paddle which was deliciously refreshing, with the sea temperature around 15 celsius/59 fahrenheit. I didn’t stay in long due to the sea foam: with a chocolate mousse texture  I got a little paranoid it was pollution I shouldn’t really be standing in. Urgh! (I’ve since discovered through a little research that it’s algal blooms and organic matter churned up by the surf, which isn’t usually harmful to humans, but I was taking no risks!)

I continued to walk along the beach and it was blissful having this long stretch of beach almost to myself, only passing by the occasional dog walker.

I decided to get creative and have some fun creating some artwork in the sand using my tootsies:

beach art
I was feeling quite tired and as I came upon some rocks, I decided to buy a herbal tea and come back and watch the waves for a little bit longer. Oh boy, finding a herbal tea in the many beachside huts was almost impossible. Ten stalls and 30 mins later, I rejoiced at finding a place offering lemon and ginger tea, and went back to sit on the rocks.

I tuned into my senses and fully appreciated the delights surrounding me: the sound of the crashing waves and squawking of the gulls; the sight of the muted watercolour tones, as the sand merged with the sea, and the sea with the sky; the smell and taste of the salty sea air; and the kiss of the gentle breeze on my skin. Pure bliss.

I was delighted to see two kite surfers glide into view. I was utterly mesmerised. I used to love watching the surfers when I lived in Australia, I find it so soothing and meditative. I was also transfixed by the icy blue eyes in the sky, gazing out of the clouds.

kite surfers and eyes in the sky

Then it was time to make my way back to the coach station for my return journey home. As we arrived back, I gave the coach driver one of my kindness cards with the message: “Thank you for being a good, considerate driver” to show him how much he is appreciated.

Kindness Cards

After my long but blissful day at the seaside, my spirits are lifted, my soul is soothed, and my body and energy levels are kaput!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful, mindful and kind, while enjoying a day at the seaside.

 

 

 

Day 66: Sunday Assembly

Being grateful I finally made it to a Sunday Assembly:

Today I took a giant step forward on my healing journey from CFS.

I went along to my first Sunday Assembly, a “secular congregation that celebrates life”.

The Public Charter of this global movement puts it perfectly:

“We are here for everyone who wants to:

  • Live Better. We aim to provide inspiring, thought-provoking and practical ideas that help people to live the lives they want to lead and be the people they want to be
  • Help Often. Assemblies are communities of action building lives of purpose, encouraging us all to help anyone who needs it to support each other
  • Wonder More. Hearing talks, singing as one, listening to readings and even playing games helps us to connect with each other and the awesome world we live in.”

I first heard about Sunday Assembly over 18 months ago from a friend who’d been to one in her home town, and I’ve been wanting to go ever since.

It sounded like a great place to meet like-minded people, to be inspired by interesting talks and discussions, and I was particularly looking forward to having a good ole sing song.

But as each monthly assembly came and went, I didn’t feel well enough to go. But today, it felt like the right time to give it a try.

Accompanied by a few fluttering butterflies in my tummy, I headed into town to see for myself what it was all about.

And I’m so happy I did.

I was greeted warmly at the door, and was made to feel very welcome by the organisers, which instantly put me at ease. I chatted to a few of the friendly regulars, and then it was time to begin.

The theme for today’s assembly was ‘death’. Not a theme I’d have chosen for my initiation into this community, but it was covered tastefully, with compassion and a big dose of humour.

We listened to a few readings, sang a couple of songs – Bridge Over Troubled Water and These Are Days of Our Lives – and took part in a couple of small group discussions about what we’d like our epitaph to be and another to remember our loved ones that are no longer with us and what we loved about them. We then wrote their names on post-its and stuck them on the wall to create a ‘tree of remembrance’.

And then my first Sunday Assembly was over.

And I am hooked.

I realise that feeling part of a community is essential to my wellbeing.  And while I have a wonderful online community which I love and cherish, it feels good to get out of the house and connect with like-minded people face-to-face.

I felt absolutely wiped out when I got home and have a feeling this may take a few days to recover from. But I climbed into bed feeling very happy and pretty proud of myself for going; it was another ‘stepping out of my comfort zone’ moment and another step forward in my recovery journey.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful I finally made it to a Sunday Assembly.

 

ps With currently over 68 local assemblies around the world, check here to find one near you.

Day 65: Baby moles

Being grateful for seeing two baby moles playing in the grass:

Oh my, my heart is bursting with joy.

Today, I stopped for a soul stroll in the beautiful Bramcote Hills Park to enjoy the autumn colours in full bloom.

I wandered over to an enclosed area which houses a fallen down tree and is a designated wildlife area.

As I was reading the plaque, I heard an excitable squealing noise.

I glanced down and saw the most precious sight: two baby moles playfully rolling around together in the long grass.

I know!

They were having so much fun.

Thankfully I already had my camera ready in my hand and managed to snap the little cuties in full play before they disappeared as fast as they’d arrived.

I feel so privileged as I realise how rare it is to see these nocturnal creatures. I can’t stop smiling and thinking about it: what a treat and precious moment to treasure.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for seeing two baby moles playing in the grass.

Day 63: Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!

Being grateful for a short but fun bounce on my mini trampoline:

Having been pretty much sedentary with CFS for a couple of years now, I’m conscious about the negative impact the lack of physical exercise is having on my body.

To be honest, I’ve never been an exercise-loving kind of girl. I wasn’t sporty at school and to think how much money I’ve wasted on gym memberships in my lifetime… I’d go hell for leather until either I got an injury, or my routine was interrupted and I’d find it hard to get started again.

When I lived in Australia, I enjoyed a couple of brisk daily walks along the beautiful coastal tracks, and riding my bike. I found being active in the great outdoors is much more suited to me than slogging it out in a gym. But it’s not always easy with the Great British weather!

Over the last few months, I’ve been managing to enjoy short walking meditations and some gentle yoga. While these feel amazingly beneficial, I know I need to do something to raise my heart rate.

So I’ve dragged my rebounder out of the garage, dusted it off, and am really enjoying the experience.

IMG_1241

NASA says rebounding is: “The most efficient and effective exercise yet devised by man.”  And the list of benefits include stimulating the lymph flow, strengthening the heart muscle, and is gentle on the bones and joints.

Keen rebounder Jason Vale, aka The Juicemaster, says: “The aim isn’t to bounce high or perform gymnastic tricks, it is to perform a series of small, controlled movements.” He has a Rebounding Workout DVD, which is way too energetic for me at the moment, but I’ll get there in time. There’s no rush.

On my good days, healthwise, I try to have a little jump up and down for a few minutes. I’m thankful I can choose the effort I want to put into it, from low-impact side-to-side bouncing, to gentle jogging, to full-on jumping up and down, star jump style ☆.

And WooHoooooo….. it is sooooooo much fun. I actually giggle my way through it. There’s something so playful and childlike about this form of exercise. It doesn’t really feel like exercise at all, bonus!

I’ve created a playlist called ‘Bounce’ which is full of happy, uplifting songs to both sing and bounce along to. I try to stay on the rebounder for two songs, which works out  between 6-8 mins. I’m hoping to slowly increase, but am mindful of my limitations and being gentle with myself.

There are obviously days and weeks, when I don’t feel well enough to go on my rebounder, but on the days that I do feel up to it, I make sure I enjoy every precious bouncy moment.

I also have to be careful as sometimes after a few minutes it aggravates a whiplash injury I sustained a couple years ago, so have to stop. But little by little is better than none at all!

And at the moment, I’m finding it the best way to not only raise my heart rate but to raise a big springy smile 🙂

So with this in mind, my happy today is to be grateful to have had a short but fun bounce on my rebounder.

Day 61: A 270mph selfie

Being grateful for saying YES to a high-speed selfie:

Today I was excited for my first Artist’s Date in the city in a while: brunch and the flicks.

After brunch and a little bit of shopping, I was already feeling a bit fatigued. Thankfully I had some time before my film started, so I decided to sit in the Market Square and enjoy the sunshine.

I choose a place as far away as possible from the big white tent set up at one end of the Square. It was ablaze with Virgin Media banners, and teeming with marketing folk.

As I was quietly basking in the midday sun, a couple of said Virgin Media folk approached me and asked if I wanted a ‘high-speed selfie’.

I automatically shook my head. Partly due to my introverted shyness and partly due to cynicism; surely it was just a marketing ploy to get my details and bombard me with marketing material for years to come.

They got chatting to two tram drivers behind me who were on a break, and described how they could go into a booth and have a high-speed wind blown at their faces while having their photos taken. The bus drivers were game and were led over to the tent.

Hmmmmmmm… I was intrigued.

My adventurous side awakened, my sense of fun sparked.

Why not? I thought to myself.

How often would I get this opportunity? Would I get to the end of the day and regret not doing it? Why not just go and see what it’s all about?

So I wandered over to the tent and after a quick chat with one of the Virgin folk, I decided to go for it.

And I’m so glad I did, it was so much fun.

I took a seat and the wind machine began, starting gently and then quickly reaching its full power of 270mph.

What a blast!

It literally took my breath away.

It reminded me of my skydiving experiences, without the gorgeous view or sexy instructor strapped to my back, of course 😉

After 30 seconds it was all over, and I waited for my photos to be emailed to me and printed off. I know they’re not the most flattering of pics to be revealing to the world, but I think they’re just hilarious and wanted to share them for that reason alone.

I knew today was going to be a tiring day, and it was made even more so by this little unexpected adventure. But I’m really proud of myself for venturing out of my comfort zone, and I’m very, very happy I said YES!!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for saying YES to a high-speed selfie.