dear diary ~ well-being gets underway

No photos today as yesterday we had a trip up to see my mum – she lives in North Yorkshire 90 miles away and a day visit is rather exhausting and a bit hard on my back. She looks increasingly frail everytime we see her now but she seems more content in herself and has finally accepted she can do very little though she still talks about ‘when she gets better’ she will take us to x, y and z.

Its sad isn’t it as in reality she will never get any better. Which again leads me to think deeply about our own health and how to live the longest life and avoid chronic illness and mobility issues.

When I had thyroid cancer in 2008 I did a lot of research at that time to find anything helpful to recover my health. I say had cancer but the truth is I live everyday not knowing if I have any remaining rougue thyroid cells in my body – after two lots of radio active iodine treatment (not to be recommended as you become radioactive yourself!) there should be none but if there are there is no way for the doctors to know if they are cancerous unless they begin to grow and it can be picked up on the blood tests. With thyroid cancer patients the dose of medication (Levothyroxine) is always kept slightly higher than need be so that any lurking cancer is supressed.

At the time I came across a list termed The Heirarchy of Healing – a list of actions you can take that will improve any health condition starting at the top with the one that will have the most effect – although I saved the list I no longer have the link of where I found it.

Surprisingly, it is not food or exercise that is at the top of the heirarchy list but Meditation, Visualisation, Relaxation, Releasing emotions and of course Sleep that preceed these. I remember my own oncologist was a big supporter of this and would refer us on to a lady that did a meditation class every month for cancer patients.

Breathing correctly and deeply is part of this process.

One of the suggestions by many of the experts involved in healthcare that I have been listening to is practising some simple breathwork and one in particular I began whilst at the cottage (with all the new neighbour problems up there I needed a few relaxation techniques to control my blood pressure!).

The 4,7,8 breathing was developed by Dr Andrew Weil. For anyone interested in this technique just Google it or this is the link to his video

It is a simple technique, that only takes a few minutes, to be done twice a day (more if you are feeling quite stressed). I do it first thing in the morning and last thing at night and again mid afternoon. It does as it says on the tin – it calms the mind especially at night before sleep.

This is the logic behind it – ‘The sympathetic nervous system controls your body’s stress response. The parasympathetic nervous system controls your body’s rest and relaxation response. When you activate one of these, you suppress the other. This is why deep breathing is so effective at causing the relaxation response’.  Also ‘when you breathe through the nose a molecule called nitric oxide, is produced. Nitric oxide is a very important participant in the body’s defence against oxidative stress (free radicals). In addition it helps opens the airways so you get a higher concentration of oxygen into the tissues and the brain.

I have been practising this technique now for over three weeks and I can’t recommend it enough and is well worth having a go – it can be done anywhere even whilst making a cup of tea.

But has it made a difference to me?

Recently with all the anxiety I feel over our new ‘cottage’ neighbour, my mum’s declining health and the impending birth of our 4th grandchild (it has not been an easy pregnancy) I have gone to bed and been aware of a pounding heartbeat in my ears when I lay my head on the pillow. Those unwanted thoughts come crashing in to my mind as I am trying to go to sleep – doing the breathing technique for a few cycles eventually calms everything down again and surprisingly, I have gone on to sleep quite well.

In fact it has been a gradual realisation that over the last couple of weeks I have noticed I have slept better and have had many more nights where I have slept through the night uninterupted which is a big plus for me. Of course that might be from being thoroughly exhausted since arriving home and looking after Master Freddie, doing a lot more gardening than I should and the trip to see mum but I have frequently had exhausting situations before and gone to bed feeling really tired yet my sleep has been irratic and interupted and I have often laid awake for ages with unwanted thoughts whirling around.

So I would say this is one benefit I will be continuing with and I will see if my sleep patterns continue to improve.

So today is recovery day – there is washing to do, seeds to water and soup to make. It is now more than a week since we went shopping (we went on 3rd May) but I think with a bit of creativity I can stretch it further although I have a feeling come the weekend we might need some fresh food and there is no way I would want to shop on a Saturday or Sunday – if at all possible I will aim for next Monday and just pick up some milk and whatever fresh veg we need from the local village Co-op.

Have a good day everyone.

May contentment ~ the state of well-being

I chose the word CONTENTMENT at the beginning of this year to focus my mind and I now realise that I haven’t actually talked much about the progress I have made (or not!).

The dictionary states that contentment is a state of happiness and satisfaction – a peaceful ease of mind or an absence of worry encompassing pleasure, comfort, gratification, gratitude, fulfilment and of course well-being.

Slowly I am learning to embrace contentment in many areas of my life. Due to the recent change in financial circumstances for all of us; price increases in food, energy and living costs, we like many people have had to drastically cut back to survive on our pension – so we are steadily getting used to buying less and doing without or making do for longer – in short being content with what we have and being more mindful of avoiding waste.

I quickly found last year when my chosen focus word was improvement that any small improvement I made in my life, whether that was completing a task that had lingered on the list for months or making some small change to the way I did something, the result was always one of satisfaction as you get when you tick of a job on your to do list – so taking this a step further this year I am purposely looking at what other improvements and changes I can make that will bring me a good deal of satisfaction and contentment.

DH will be 70 in a few days time and I will be close on his heels being the grand age of 69 come July. We are not planning a big event or celebration for either birthday – in fact I think we would prefer a long weekend away somewhere if funds will stretch to this. This sudden realisation that we will be entering a new decade in our lives has made me take stock.

This is the time of life when we can notice some of the more major and serious illnesses creeping up on us and also suffer with a loss of mobility, flexibility and vitality. I have seen it often looking after elderly relatives and friends so time is of the essence to try and halt or slow down the progression of age related problems. More than anything I want to feel that peaceful ease of mind that I am doing all I can to keep myself fit and healthy going forward.

As our well-being is a large part of the state of contentment I have been quite focused on this recently, reading books and listening to podcasts and videos from leading health and well-being experts. To begin the changes both DH and I need to develop better habits of course and any change can be difficult so I thought it a good idea to examine some of the suggestions and claims to better health for myself by making small but significant changes each week and then looking at what works.

The plan is to improve the three main areas that make up my well being – diet, exercise and sleep and relaxation and then review the results each week.

I am not sure at this point if everything I decide to try will work for me – somethings might be just too challenging but I will be recording my progress here on my blog for anyone that is interested and making a note of what really has the biggest effect for me (and hopefully for the smallest of changes) – and if I manage to completely rid myself of one or two health problems in the meantime….. all the better.

My first change starts tomorrow.

Have a good day everyone – the sun is shining here – I will be pottering in the garden no doubt after another exhausting day yesterday with Master Freddie. x

feasting ~ the Coronation celebration

Did your Coronation day go well?

Our Saturday morning began much like any other but an hour earlier than usual as we had to prepare for little Freddie coming at 9am. Once he steps over our threshold it is full on as he whizzes around from one game to another….and we try to keep up. Never having had a boy of my own I am not used to playing at diggers and Paw Patrol and I feel much more at home when he turns his attentions to the Sindy kitchen cafe that we still have from the 80’s that my two girls played with.

Being an important day, like Christmas and Easter day, I refrained from doing any washing – not that I haven’t still got a few loads to do from our Scotland visit but I do like to keep some days sacred. It doesn’t bother me that other people do theirs but I do like to keep the weekend free of those kind of chores if I can – it makes it more special like a Sunday dinner.

As we played the Peppa Pig Monolpoly game for the umpteenth time this year (it is a big favourite and well worth the £8 I paid at Christmas to amuse all the grandchildren) we had the TV on to try and see some of the Coronation – what a shame about the rain – it was dry outside here. I love the whole pageantry and spectacle and enjoyed the bits I saw – it was so British and for some a once in a life time event – it is what we do well – I would have been terrified myself on show with the whole world looking on. I am sure Charles will be good king – I hope he gets chance to continue with his favourite pastimes of gardening and painting now his role will be much more demanding. Kate as always looked so natural and poised as if she had been born into the role.

I did manage at last to get the seeds sown the day before – now fingers crossed they germinate quickly. I have trays of cosmos and zinnias in different varieties and also calendula and petunia and I started off the courgettes and basil. I never have much luck with the basil but you never know.

Just before lunch the sun came out and Freddie and I went into the garden – whilst I checked and watered the seed trays he watered the outdoor tubs with a little watering can (not that they needed water but he does like to be helpful). The garden is looking much more passable now but there is still more than a few afternoon’s work to be done – but that will be another time.

After lunch and the Royal Family had made their appearance on the balcony we had a walk to the village and that is when it did rain here and we had to shelter in the local Co-op with our ice-creams until the worst had passed.

Once home DH entertained Freddie whilst I made the filling for the individual quiche bases I had baked blind the day before and popped them in the oven. I sprinkled the top with a little parmesan cheese and added half a cherry tomato for colour. (Neither were in the recipe)

We then decorated the tray bake sponge cake I had also baked previously. I can’t think of any child that doesn’t like to bake and decorate and Freddie did his half with chocolate and sprinkles and much serious concentration whilst I spread the cherry curd on the top of mine and then coated this with coconut. The cherry curd is quite tart which I prefer to using jam and goes so well with the sweetness of the coconut.

I had decided against making a trifle or any scones in the end and instead made a simple fresh fruit salad – well DH did all the chopping – both green and black grapes, oranges, apple and strawberries.

Meanwhile, Freddie helped me lay the table and we went out to gather a few fresh flowers from the garden for the little jug – he chose forget me nots, wallflower, grape hyacinths and some dandelions and then arranged them to his satisfaction! All I did was cut some of the long stalks down.

He carried all the dishes of salads to the table and then suddenly remembered that when we had the Easter family tea he had made little place cards with his cousins Little L and Sweetie and wanted to make some more – there was no time to make new ones but luckily I had kept the ones they had made at Easter so he was happy to use those. So we had an Easter Coronation table but Freddie was happy with that!!

Finally, mummy and daddy arrived and we all sat down to tea and admired his handiwork. We all agreed the individual Coronation quiches were delicious, I served them with shredded little gem lettuce, homemade coleslaw, beetroot, cherry tomatoes and new potatoes topped with butter. I will definitely be making the recipe again – as you know I substituted watercress in place of the spinach and added a few chopped spring onions. The tarragon flavour certainly came through and wasn’t overpowering -I didn’t have fresh which might have been better so I was careful not to go overboard with the dried.

After mummy and daddy and a very tired little Freddie had gone home we just collapsed on the sofa and watched a few of the highlights of the procession that we had missed. I did wonder if behind the palace facade last night when the media presence had all packed up and gone if the Royals were all having a really good knees up and letting their hair down.

Today we will be recovering and if the weather holds going for a walk.

dear diary ~ pantry, preparations and pottering

The weather seems to have taken a turn for the worse again and it has reverted back to cold, wet and windy. The garden doesn’t seem to know if it is coming or going and it will delay any chance of putting some bedding plants in.

Yesterday as we walked back from the dentist to the car we went past the Range and I couldn’t help but notice the bedding plants on sale outside were in a very poor state and some barely alive. It was the same on Wednesday in Sainsbury’s…. rack after rack in a sorry state – why are these places buying in plants just to let them dry out and die on the display trolleys? We will be paying for this loss of profits on our groceries or other products no doubt but how sad to have paid someone to set the seeds and tend the plants then transport them at huge costs (I am thinking C02 emmissions here) and then through lack of attention and watering let them shrivel and die.

I did go outside in the afternoon to start on sowing the seeds but somehow got diverted (story of my life) and ended up moving some pots around and clearing up the corner by the viburnum to create a more pleasing arrangement as DH says. We had missed the brown bin collection for the garden waste whilst we were away and it is full to the brim (and so is our compost bin) so DH took the additional 5 bags of garden waste I had generated from prunings and weeding down to the local tip and dropped in our four postal voting forms at the polling station as it was too late to post them when we got home. Later he helped me put the bunting up across the open porch that runs along the front of the garage and front door and together with my 2 small flags this will be my contribution to the pageantry tomorrow.

Today we should have had the pleasure of little Freddie but it has been decided that Saturday would be a better day for mum and dad to have some time for themselves. We are all feeling the mix of anxiety and excitement now as the due date for the new baby is only a couple of weeks away. Of course Freddie has no real understanding of what is about to happen and I hope that whether a little baby brother or sister he will be just as excited when they arrive.

So I have made alternative plans for today and will concentrate on catching up with the ironing and some paperwork. I have also to contact a few friends and arrange a day and time for meeting up with each of them.

This morning I busied myself pottering in the pantry again – refilling jars and containers and generally tidying up and wiping down the shelves and worktop. There is nothing to organise or reorganise much in here as everything has a place and is just where I want it and this way – even DH can find his way round or put the shopping away.

It is the smallest room in the house but the most important – the phrase ‘my heart sings‘ everytime I go in here is quite relevant to how I feel when I have a well stocked pantry and especially one full of bargains.

All the dry ingredients are in air tight jars and I stick the best before date underneath the lid to remind me of when an item needs to be used by. Most dry goods are OK even if they exceed this but can often result in a stale taste.

We have a couple of shelves of the usual standbys – tins and jars and packets – baked beans, mushroom soup in case we don’t get to make our own, prunes in case I run out of fresh fruit for breakfast and evap milk and ready made custard just in case we have an unexpected pudding!

And of course a few little treats…

I wonder who the Jelly Tots are waiting for? – I shall need to remove these from sight before little Freddie’s arrival – one or two at a time his mum won’t mind but not a whole tube.

I find it quite funny that all my grandchildren love to go in my pantry; it fascinates them like going into a toy shop and quite often it is just to have a look rather than to find anything to eat. They love to see all the jars lined up like in an old fashioned sweet shop. I expect most houses these days, like theirs, don’t have a walk in pantry – I grew up in houses with a pantry (when my dad built their last house it was the main thing my mum wanted).

One of my grannies had a large understairs cupboard in the kitchen, with no window in there it was rather dark and a bit foreboding to me as a little girl. The other granny used the cellar head of their terraced house and it was where grandad attempted his only DIY of a lifetime and put up a shelf for her – it sloped so much all the tins and jars would slide down to one end causing the fixing to give way – but ever resourceful grandad propped it back up with the broom handle. And there it remained for as long as I could remember. Eventually the weight caused it to drop off the wall altogether but luckily my dad was there to save the day and stepped in to fix it…..but grandad never attempted any other jobs again and gran wouldn’t have let him!

I thought I would make the quiche base today for Saturday. I am perhaps one of many bloggers making the Coronation Quiche or at least a version of – although I do like spinach I will be substituting the spinach with watercress – only because I have some that will need using and I don’t have any spinach – and for your information…. I love broad beans and they will be going in the quiche! The lard most definitely won’t be though.

I shall bake too – I don’t think it will be fondant fancies….they do look rather pretty but far too sweet for me with all that icing (I often notice how they cover everything in the bakers in Scotland with pink or white icing). Instead I might make a plain sponge tray bake and top with a layer of the cherry curd I bought in Booths sprinkled with coconut and cut into dainty squares. I shall make fresh fruit scones too and maybe indulge in a trifle.

The house feels like it needs a good clean again but it will only get a quick flick around with the duster and when DH is out of ear shot I will get the hoover going. Ever since I met him and that is well over 40 years ago he has always had an aversion to the sound of the hoover (well who hasn’t? a machine that is used constantly with enough decibels to bring on later life tinnitus – we must be mad, but there is little alternative in the modern world – who would prefer to go outside and beat carpets over the washing line!). So I try to work around this and where possible hoover when he is out or outside – this is increasingly more difficult now we are both at home together more but I know he would be just as considerate towards me. As it is raining today I shall have to entice him into the kitchen and close the door or search out the ear defenders.

Oh….I have just noticed the sun coming out – could the forecast for more rain be wrong again – I might just have to abandon the plans and go in the garden!!

Have a great day x

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