Sunday, 29 November 2015

Looking for joy :: Hygge

Hygge a Danish word pronounced (Hoo-gaa) cannot really be translated into one singular concept, it is a way of life; being kind to oneself, spending time with others and  slowing down and appreciating the little things.

The Danes are experts in introducing warmth into their surroundings not only from fire light and candles but also the use of natural materials such as wool and wood. Accents such as red, cream and silver finish the look quite admirably:

Good ol' Swedish christmas. How I love this! #swedishchristmas:  

This article explains in greater detail the whole concept of Hygge and  if you watch this video you will also see that hygge can be provided in the most unusual places and circumstances!  Just think what could happen if some of these tactics were employed worldwide :-)

I first came across hygge when I led the Shalom prayer meeting a few weeks ago. In addition to the talk I laid a table with our glass martinmas lantern, a tray of soul cakes and a church candle.  We were a small group that night and my friend Sallie suggested that we all draw near and she shared the concept of hygge ~ the gathering together almost in a huddle, around a source of light, a time to share and encourage.

I was truly struggling to find joy yesterday.  The past two weeks had caught up with me and I was not only struggling with my own health problems but exhausted as well.  I gathered my spirits and transformed what little energy I had into a mini baking session for the family and that whole concept of nourishment for the body as well as the soul has remained with me this weekend.  Looking for and experiencing hygge gave me the peace I needed and it is to this end that I share some pictures from our weekend:

 Best ever gluten free cheese scones!

 Red pepper, tomato,carrot and basil soup.

 Cheese and sweetcorn fritters for today's lunch served with a very tasty leek and potato soup courtesy of Benedict.

 Cosy, cluttered and convivial!
Benedict working on "scratch" computer programming; Pip and Dave working on a Christmas jigsaw. 

Hope you had a good weekend and Advent Blessings to you xx  

Friday, 27 November 2015

Looking for joy :: Thankful

Dave was finally given the go ahead to start steroid treatment!  He has had eight doses in the last 36 hours and we have already noticed some improvements, he has managed to be downstairs twice today :-)

It is the weekend, so no school run for two whole days!!!  Totally relieved as
 I am totally exhausted.

A friend dropped off a casserole this morning and took with her a basket of ironing.  She has also kindly offered to sort out Pip's star costume for the school nativity play. 

I even managed our usual Thanksgiving meal as we remember and are thankful for friends both near and far:

Chicken and mushroom casserole, garlic carrots, cauliflower and potato mash with braised red cabbage.

 Pumpkin pie with dairy free vanilla ice cream.


So thankful for all your prayers and loving thoughts from afar, they have for sure held me together this week :-)  I even received some words of encouragement in the mail:

 "Wisdom for each day, Billy Graham" and ... 

 ... this card from my dear friend Jacqui  The parcel arrived at just the right time as I was beginning to despair with the petty bureaucracy within the NHS.  I even managed to chat with her on the phone and as usual the line was crystal clear :-)

 This welcome angel is pouring blessings down upon our home and is a much treasured card from my long standing friend Rondie, her hubby Carl and Son Jamie.  She is the one friend from my youth and she has supported me through thick and thin.  We were even pregnant at the same time with our big kids and so there is a fair bit of history between us :-)  She tells me that, she checks her email each morning and then pops on here to see what we have been up to!  

Extremely thankful that we held on to Benedict's spare insulin pump because yes, you guessed it the other one is currently waiting to be collected by courier this evening!  We telephoned to report a problem with the pump and a message was dispatched to the courier.  There was a six hour window and he is travelling from Birmingham which is not the greatest journey on a Friday evening :-(

So very thankful that the diabetes nurse answered her phone this afternoon and that she was able to email me all the relevant info regarding basal rates, insulin ratios and other info in order to programme the back up pump and then the new one.  So another crisis averted and please can I have just a little bit of boringly normal for a change?

Last but not least the biggest thanks go to my mum and dad for being there at the end of the phone on an almost daily basis.  Their love and prayers have sustained me through some very difficult moments and I am truly grateful xx

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Looking for joy :: A trip out

Dealing with virtual immobility presents many challenges not only around the home but outside too, one has to start thinking about wheelchair accessible places including parking and toilet facilities.  It is the little things that we so often take for granted that are often the most problematic, the daily struggle of washing, dressing and moving around that take twice as long.  In order for Dave to be out of the house for 8:30 last Friday morning he had to be out of bed by 6:00 am at the latest.  Those tasks that previously took him half an hour when he was fully fit now take two hours.  So it was with great joy that we managed a lunch time treat at Barton Grange.  We both had a nut roast with cranberry stuffing and all the trimmings, can't you tell it is the holiday season and it isn't even Advent!

 As always the Barton Grange chefs make amazing food.  Next time I'm there I will try to remember to photograph their patisserie section it is mouthwatering!

Twenty seven years ago we said "I will ... in sickness and in health" and for most of that time we have been dogged by serious health issues, first me and now him.  Despite it all, I wouldn't have it any other way.  


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Looking for joy :: Comfort

The Challenges:

Dave still awaiting test results which will indicate the go ahead for steroid treatment.  The NHS wheels are running slowly and the relapse clock is ticking.

Pip crying and not wanting to go to school.

Benedict having a major grumble about pot washing and home school work.

My dealing with acute pain in my hip made worse on driving and general moving around.

The constant up and down stairs with drinks, meals, snacks and other needed items.

The Successes:

Benedict actually completed some school work, cue the hallelujah chorus!!  Design and Technology, English Literature and History were ticked off the list today :-)

I managed to take Pip to her swimming lesson and we even had time to have a drink and a snack in the tea rooms.

Benedict kept a watch on the tea and organised some extra frozen veggies as part of the meal.

I picked up the camera and recorded one good thing  during the day:

 Raw cacao hot chocolate, sweetened with coconut sugar and topped with mini marshmallows.


Monday, 23 November 2015

Looking for joy :: Hope

Still feeling numb with it all but we are slowly finding our new (hopefully temporary) normal.  As ever I run on practical mode and have worked out ways of making life easier, such as shutting down the back part of the downstairs so we now have the caravan table and dining chairs in the front room/schoolroom/playroom.  During the daytime we keep Dave company upstairs and then we gather downstairs for tea, after which it is back upstairs again!  It has been interesting to see Benedict settling earlier of an evening, I guess it is something I have always known, that he relies on the reassuring presence of a parent to help him settle at night :-)

Today Pip and I made our way over to our fortnightly "Little Flowers Group."  I am so blessed to know three lovely gals who exhibit such loving kindness and Pip loves spending time with her friends, it is a precious time. We are still studying St Monica and our memory verse is:

"For you are my hope, O Lord, my trust since my youth."

Psalm 71 v 5

The flower represented for hope is the ivy and it is a reminder to us that we need to cling to the Lord.  God is good!  He is using the lessons in the meetings to remind me that He truly is near and that we are not alone.  Such comfort, when little else makes sense right now.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Can A Girl Change Her Mind?!

It was my mum's comment yesterday, "what about your friends how will they know what is going on?"  It got me thinking and made me realise that writing and sharing here no matter how difficult is a way of continuing to look outward.  Who knows maybe someone else going through a similar struggle might feel less alone?

 Our Martinmas lantern, trying to hold onto the inner light x

Friday, 20 November 2015

Saying Goodbye

I haven't been here much this past year and several times I have debated whether to shut down the blog, but a spark has always remained I have managed to keep going, but not anymore.  Dave has had a massive MS relapse and in addition to attempting to provide an education for Benedict, supporting Pip through the daily woes of school and now the school run at either end of the day, providing meals, dealing with housework, working 16 hours a week to keep the Government happy and living with chronic pain, I am now involved in care tasks for Dave.

  We are currently awaiting input from occupational therapy, neuro physio therapists, a brain scan, possible steroid treatment and a referral to another MS specialist for assessment regarding disease modifying drugs. I struggle through most days and no longer want the added burden of sharing our life on line.

Thank you the stalwarts who have faithfully encouraged us from afar over the years, some of you have even become friends :-)  I will pop by and visit you when I can!

This blog will be left up in cyber space for a week and then I will set it to private.  I am hoping to have the content here transferred to "blurb" or something similar so that Benedict and Pip have a record of part of their childhood.

God Bless

San xx

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Birth -Days

Although she is at one end of the globe and I am at the other, my dear friend Sue and I not only share a love for the faith but a baby born on the same day albeit ten years apart!

Twenty six years ago today I gave birth to this "I'm forging my own path" gal!  She never ceases to surprise us with her varied interests and love for learning.  It was Sara, who patiently taught and encouraged me to knit socks on double pointed needles, up until that time I had been quite content knitting on two!   This was the same gal who struggled to master knitting at the age of 13 and so taught herself to crochet instead, so much easier when you are left handed :-)  Soon after she rocked that challenge of the two sticks and has gone on to design her own knitting projects in the form of a tube skirt, free form round cushions on her honeymoon camping trip and a jumper for Pip complete with a monogram motif.  

Sara meandered many paths in young adulthood from pottery and art, to youth ministry and class room assistant, finally settling on the more permanent and well suited path of horticulture and garden design.  She always challenges me to think the best of others and " not to sweat the small stuff."  She also has a very generous heart and instead of selfishly sharing her birthday solely with her beloved husband, they welcomed her baby brother along for the ride and he had an ace day in Manchester, visiting the Lego and Disney stores amongst other things.

Dave, Pip and I did our usual trip for the little flowers meet and on the way home we popped into Barton Grange to buy a last minute present for Sara!  I forgot to take any pictures of the goodies but we bought a wooden painted folk fairy to hang on the door, a cute fox hand sewn ornament and an irresistible snowman Christmas jumper!  Apparently, Tom had to dissuade Sara form buying one in Manchester, just in case she was given one as a present!!  Little did he know :-)


Whilst I have shared the joy of remembering times past and a big hug from my littlest big girl, my dear friend Sue shares a completely different story.  Thomas would have been sixteen years old today.  He was born on the 9th of November 1999 and died a day later.  His projected short lifespan was not unknown, as Sue  discovered that he had a diaphragmatic hernia at her eighteen week ultrasound.  Medical science has moved on in the intervening years and  nowadays surgery can be done to repair the opening.  Sadly this was not the case for Thomas and yet despite the prognosis, Sue and her husband Andy went ahead with the pregnancy.  In a world where the life of the unborn is at risk and so many babies are aborted, they chose life for Thomas and in so doing he was born into the loving arms of a mother, father and the wider family.

In addition to the family visit to the graveside and a picnic on his birthday, over the years many teddy bears were bought at Christmas, Easter and Birthdays as a way of honouring his short life and presence in the family.  Needless to say, the family have amassed many teddies over the years and so it was earlier in the years that Sue had the wonderful generous idea of sending a "Thomas Bear" to various friends and family members throughout the world.

  And so it was early on in May, a welcomed furry friend appeared during a very poorly time in the family.  I had hoped to blog about our visitor, but my time here in cyber space has been very remiss and I missed the opportunity.  I knew however that one day I would write about him and Thomas and so without further ado let me introduce you to:

 Aquinas Bear.

I cannot remember the name of the tree but Andy cuts and engraves the name of Thomas, his birth details and the words "with love" followed by a heart.  The heart of that family is their love for God and that love is then multiplied many times over in the people they meet in real life as well as online. 

Dear Sue, thank you for sharing Thomas with us and for your love, friendship and prayers across the miles.  May you experience God's presence in a very special way today as you celebrate Thomas' birth in your family.  Mother Mary, comfort the family with your loving presence, most especially during those moments of sorrow at a life not lived.  In Jesus, name.  Amen x 


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Samhein, Saints and Soul Cakes

Samhein in the Celtic tradition celebrated the turning of the year.  The harvest had been gathered in and the earth rests for the duration of winter until the rebirth of spring.  The shortening of the days and the almost disappearance of the sun, led to an air of mystery.  The camp fire became the focus, tales were told and in the thin veil between dusk and darkness it was believed that the souls of those past would once more walk the earth.

The Christian church when preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ used the old religious festivals which had been an anchor point for many hundreds of years and re-established them according to the faith.  I know this is a moot point for many but I believe we can all learn from each other and nothing ever remains static.  Samhein became All Hallows' Eve where we honour the Saints in heaven and in the following day, the feast of All Souls we remember those gone before us.  In the catholic tradition November is a month designated to prayer for the Holy Souls.

The book of Revelation tells us we are fighting principalities from the spirit world and so it is hardly surprising that the real intention of the feast has been perpetrated by ghouls, demons and all manner of monsters!  All is not lost however and we know the ending turns out right as John's revelation tells us so!  On a practical level many churches in recent years have reclaimed the feast and named it "The night of light."  We as a family after having spent many years sitting in darkness and not opening our doors to kids with menace, decided to adopt our own spin and so we carve a cross on the pumpkin and hand out "soul cakes" to the unsuspecting few:

" A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake,
One for Peter, two for Paul and three for Him who made us all,
If you haven't got a penny a halfpenny will do,
If you haven't got a halfpenny then God Bless you!"

The saints were ordinary folk like you and me, persevering in their faith and trying to do all for love of God and others.  They went the extra mile however and some were martyred for their faith.  The Church acknowledges and sanctifies these holy men and women but for everyone recognised many more will walk the earth unnoticed.  Each and everyone of us is called to be a saint right where we are in the midst of our daily living.  When I find myself discouraged or overwhelmed I am reminded of that phrase, "Bloom where you are planted."

At the end of our days it is not the successes or acquisitions that count but our walk with Jesus.  Have we loved Him as much as we could?  Did we recognise His presence in others?  And did we speak out when others spoke out against Him and His teachings?  It is easy to casually share Jesus with others in conversation, much harder to put our heads above the parapet and challenge the perceived wisdom of the day.  When we do this we lay ourselves open to ridicule and we might even wonder was it really worth it?  However Jesus in Luke's gospel reminds us:

" I tell you if anyone openly declares himself for Me in the presence of human beings, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of Angels."  (Luke 12 v 8)

So if you are struggling with speaking out and sharing what God has laid on your heart; take comfort in these words and continue to respond to those heavenly nudges.

It is not for nothing that the theme of light is prevalent during these days of darkness.  One little known feast celebrated in some European countries and in many Waldorf Steiner schools throughout the world is the feast of Martinmas on the 11th November.  St Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier who as the story goes shared his cloak with a beggar and in his dreams that night, the beggar was revealed as Christ himself.  The feast reminds us to not only share with others in need but to be The Christ Light in the darkness of this world,

"I go out with my lantern,
My lantern goes out with me,
Above the stars are shining bright,
Down here on earth shine we."

It can be difficult however to let the light of Christ shine in us if we are hanging on to burdens, negative thought patterns and a critical and judgmental attitude.  Let Jesus take your burden from your shoulders; write down one thing that is troubling your spirit and hand it over to Him who understands you through and through.

Soul Cake Recipe

175 grams butter
80 grams caster sugar
3 eggs
450 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
100 grams currants
2 teaspoons baking powder
milk to mix
Mix all the ingredients together to form a thick cake batter.
Place in muffin cases and bake at 160c for 10-15 minutes.
Soul cakes are traditionally left plain but we decorated ours with icing sugar and sprinkles.  You can also make them gluten free by substituting regular flour for gluten free flour.
If you want to know how to make a simple Martinmas  lantern then check out this blog post from last year.  We used a combination of white and coloured tissue paper, PVA glue, black sugar paper and sticky stars.  The glass lantern has remained on our kitchen window sill throughout the year and is once being pressed into action as the days continue to shorten.