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My Anxious Relationship with Money (Part two)

Since publishing part one, it’s made me feel very sad and this second post has had some re-writes after further thoughts. However, I feel this is even more powerful so here goes.

I know this present anxiety has been created by one old feeling and one fairly recent event. The feeling that your sense of worth is based on what you are paid, and the decision to venture out into self-employment.

Several years later:

My decision to leave the National Health Service at the end of 2011 (after ceasing Midwifery training- It wasn’t my strength) brought me a complete change of direction and some of the happiest working years. It also helped me to restore my mental health.

I started working in a school (encouraged by a friend, how I thank that friend, dear Linda) as a teaching assistant but my salary was halved overnight. However, the antidepressants were ditched soon after and never return. I would do it all over again, for the experience and the marvellous children and people I have had the pleasure of knowing and still do. It has been one of the best decisions of my life.

This brings me to an important point. When I first qualified as a nurse my career prospects were good and I was told I could become a nurse tutor with my ability. Sadly, my poor decisions meant that my first marriage effectively trashed this dream very quickly. I didn’t return to formal studies until the age of 40 and have spent the last 17 years climbing my way up to the summit of my earliest aspirations. My business English to Care (Medical English Tuition) was never planned but which I am very proud of and something that atones for all the years of what I see as my nursing career failure, in terms of promotions, prospects and a salary that matches a good position. On saying that I know I was a very good nurse but being a good nurse isn’t enough to ‘cut’ it in an NHS world.

Remember, as a child, I always wanted to be someone better, particularly because I had seen the tragic waste of my own Mother’s life. My friends know me as ‘busy.’ You can be as addicted to busy as I am. Busy means you can’t think or feel too much. It numbs the pain. You keep moving forward in the hope that one day you will feel worthy enough. But that day never comes and you just end writing blog posts pouring your heart out over money and success!

I may have been complicit in wasting money but I will die knowing that I have not wasted my life as my mother did. People who know me, know I have a packed CV from Nursing to Floristry, Adult Education tutor, Midwifery, TA, to English as a Second Language, a million interests and now trying to run a business. I can be a workaholic and everyone tells me to rest and slow down.

Going back to 2014, I had been earning my much reduced full-time TA wage for three years. A Saturday morning job and working as a PA (Personal Assistant) in my SEN role in the school holidays just about covered things, providing there were no emergencies. My husband had taken early retirement due to his predicted poor health. Personal savings in the joint bank account by then were virtually zero.

One winter’s day and things breaking in the house, I was praying for a miracle. Christmas was around the corner and I always feel for people at Christmas for those who financially struggle. The stress of providing and buying, the winter fuel bill and the annual car service. I was trying not to drown and was determined not to go down again with depression.

Yet, I had started to learn about the Law of Attraction. It seems pathetic that I hung on to such a small thing, and I still have the tiny piece of paper to this day. A fortune cookie in the shape of a Chinese meal, that was bought for us, told me that fortunes were changing that next April. I walked Bramble, our labrador, on a cold, grey afternoon on our estate and I held on to the belief that help was coming from somewhere and hopefully then from God.

A miracle:

And help did come most unbelievably. Due to my Midwifery training, I had been given a bursary and not a salary and so one day a letter appeared in February and my mouth dropped open. A cheque for returned NI contributions and a request to fill out a much longer tax return. By April money was pouring in as I had been taxed too much over five years. I doubled the mortgage payments and my husband’s credit card was being cleared. We were nearly there and soon we had done it. We owned our own home three years earlier than forecasted, something my parents had never achieved. Also, a close relative of my husband died and we received a modest inheritance but of huge significance.

The Realisation, the Guilt and the Shame:

You would think by now that this story would come to its conclusion with a happy ending but it hasn’t.

At the beginning of 2016 life was good and I had to face the truth. Despite those earlier scripts about money an awful realisation had to be faced. Having money was simply marvellous. The arguments stopped and the experiences began. A trip to Austria in the autumn to meet some people running an NGO we had helped with for several years (a donation was made- of course!!) and a trip to Belgium the following spring made memories. Our daughter graduated that summer and I had the choice of two new dresses and I bought both, unlike my Aunt’s and Uncle’s 50 wedding anniversary where everything was on a budget and partly from a charity shop.

However, I felt emotionally bankrupt and very anxious. It took largely someone’s else’s money for us to have money in the bank. All those years of work and what had we really to show for it. I started to feel envious of the people who I felt ‘had- it -all ’ because I realised how great it felt having cash. I was so scared we would eventually go back to nothing. I had to hang on to this precious resource. I tried to enjoy the pleasure of this new founded financial liberation but always a mental break was in place and having money did not stop me from being anxious about the subject. The old questions returned:

Can I afford this?

Can I justify this?

Do I need this?

Can I go without?

Do I deserve this and have I worked hard enough? (memories of dad)

Should it be spent on something more worthy?

Should I have this when people in the world have less?

Should it be given away?

Everything about this money was carefully considered. It had to last a long time until my NHS pension could be taken at age 60. A slide rule on spending and always stretched to the maximum efficiency. When it was gone, it would be hard to put it back in the bank account. My obsession with it continued. I felt greedy, needy, envious, jealous and I hated myself for it.

For goodness sake, Helen, you should go to Africa where people do have nothing. What have you got to complain about? You know nothing about hardship.”

Note: I quickly eliminated these feelings of envy as morally this was a one-way ticket to emotional bankruptcy. I had a choice over these feelings and truly celebrate my friend’s good fortunes and success. I realise though that anxiety is not as simple as a choice. You try to have a choice, but the anxiety is still there. That’s the difference.

I scolded myself for my wanting, my weakness and pathetic self-indulgence. I believed my cure was to get on a plane and go out to the shanty towns and mud huts and come back exorcised from my demons. But despite all this self-lecturing, the anxiety would not go away. The love, hate relationship continued.

My letter to money:

Then in June 2019, I had started some writing again and I came downstairs at around 04.20 in the morning and I wrote a letter to money addressing it as:

Dear Money,

My friend and my foe.

As the need for you got greater, the weight of you got heavier.” 

(reflections as a private stock market investor)

The remainder of the contents of this letter remains deeply personal and confidential but it brought a sense of realisation that I had to forgive myself and others. I poured my heart out to money and realised the rawness, the pain, the mistakes and the regrets. I knew I had to change this dysfunctional relationship and start again.

Mindset shift: 

Learning about business, I began to read about wealth acquisition and some basic reading told me that to attract the real wealth you had to go from a poverty mindset to one of seeing abundance. You attract what you think and if you think of lack, then lack is what you get. So, you have to frame your life by saying you have plenty and life is already rich to be on the same energy frequency to attract money into your life. 

In contrast, I do partly agree with Darren Hardy who is an expert in personal and business success. He argues the Law of Attraction is pretty much fairy dust. Yes, you can have positive thinking but all the wishing and vision boards don’t generate wealth unless there is ACTION, every day, rain and shine, consistent commitment and over many years. I believe in both the Law of Attraction, plus action. The problem for me is I don’t have so many years left. I do have a vision board. 

I learnt that wealth has to be created, through passive income streams, long-term investments, the compound effect of delayed gratification by putting a little aside each month for 40 years plus. and not touching it, and ideally investing in property. Trading hours for cash does not work in most cases. It’s termed being a wage slave. Making money while you sleep is the way to go.

On the flip side, there is hard evidence supporting the statement that money does not make you happy. This irritates me a little because it sure does make me feel happy. Personally, there is nothing more stressful and miserable than being skint and I do feel that the argument “money doesn’t make you happy” is all very well and good coming from people who probably have no idea what real financial hardship is. Nevertheless, this is what the research says and who am I to argue with the data?

I feel what should be said is that yes, money can’t buy you happiness or vitally health, (remember when I earned the most and was still miserable and depressed) provided that you have a balance between what counts in life, health and healthy relationships and being able to pay your way and live within your means. To achieve this, if you have a partner, then they must be financially aligned with you. If you can achieve this then in my humble opinion you can have both a psychologically and financially rich life and true abundance. This is my biggest heartache, especially when it’s joked that on my gravestone it’s going to be inscribed with my name and below it my legacy:

“We ain’t got the money.”

Business and Being Paid What You Are Worth.

When Covid struck in March 2020 I eventually took voluntary redundancy from the school at the end of that year, being ready to try and go it alone, and subsequently, our combined annual income plummeted to a new all-time low triggering massive anxiety. Despite being almost a student in business for over a year, I still hadn’t got the hang of it at all as far as being paid what I was worth. I was still trading hours for little, excusing myself that I needed experience in my new field of Medical English to be worth something. Asking someone to pay me for my time and sending that first bill out was a huge milestone for me. Now, it’s become easier, though I am still told I don’t charge anywhere near enough to have a successful business which is correct. I attract people who have little to pay or who want my services for free.

Considering all of this, the last year has been some of the happiest times I have ever known as I continue to grow both personally and professionally. See my former blog about keeping a journal for a year. I can get up every day and choose what I want to do which I am so grateful for. I am healthy and I still have my meaningful job as a PA, now one day a week which helps a lot. I have also learnt

Time is one of the most precious resources you have.

Money is a tool: no more, no less, to help you live the life you want.

And this is why I am so desperate to keep it, having worked continually since age 18. However, quite frankly people could rightly tell me to shut up whining and just go out and get a proper paying job again, instead of playing with one, PA role, being the exception of course.

Post writing this and sleeping on it, I am close to just going back to paid employment next year, if anyone will have me in my late fifties. I want to keep my PA job going though and English to Care is staying, all be it in a different form. I’ve been lucky to have this year but my husband knows the threshold, where if we dip below a certain point in savings, this is the trigger point for me going ‘ back-out-there. I am hanging on for as long as I can though. Norman Hill tells you to ‘burn the boats’ so there is no way back when it comes to business success (the boats are comfort, a paid job and bailing out, well that’s my interpretation anyway) but I am tempted to tow one back in and get in it, to financially stay afloat.

Conclusions and work in progress:

I am not saying here that all my thinking is correct but just an honest account as to how I feel and how my early years shaped my life and my attitudes towards money. Also, negatives habits of financial attitudes are hard to shift. I would like to come back in a year and let you know my progress. I want to change and have a better relationship with money. I still don’t have it yet but feel writing this may just help me turn the corner.

Thoughts and if you got this far, thanks for reading to the end. It’s been cathartic writing it along with surprising feelings of personal loss but this has been long overdue.

References:

Think and Grow Rich, Norman Hill

The Secret, Rhonda Byrne. (On the Law of Attraction)

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My Anxious Relationship with Money (part one)

Setting the scene:

Money: it’s a huge subject isn’t it. Never has society said so much about the subject of finance. It has changed people’s lives for better or worse (lottery wins, bankruptcy). It has changed some people who were content with their wealth into those who are envious and never satisfied. It has influenced individual thinking in the form of comparisons with others. Crimes are committed in the name of money and people squander their time and health in persuit of it (myself included).

The way we acquire money has changed over the centuries and wealth distribution has shifted from landed aristocracy to ordinary working people, especially Post Industrial Revolution. How we personally view our own wealth has changed too. Financial inequality remains as much as ever, though globally there are less people in abject poverty. The Church also has a lot to say about the subject of money and what we should be thinking and doing with it. What ever context we see money in, there is one undisputable fact. We all need it to survive.

Childhood scripts: The Early Years.

The way we view our own relationship with money starts when we are very young. Our values and how we grow up believing about finance stays with us and shapes not only our individual actions concerning it, but how financially prosperous we are likely to become. My earliest memories of money was that it was hard to earn and even harder to keep.

My father had a hard manual job, coming home with tar stained overalls having worked on the Highways for a very minimal wage. My mother largely didn’t work for personal and health reasons, though I was told later in life she was a good housekeeper and regularly put the few pennies left at the end of the week in a jar. I have copied this trait- mine is called the ‘treat pot’ as I squirrel pound coins away for small luxuries. What ever my father earned it came in and went out very quickly on bills. There was never enough. Mother bought me dresses I could grow into with several years wear in them. As I got taller, the school dress got shorter. (see above picture).

The rented house we lived in consisted of one paraffin heater in our living room. The front room was for ‘best’ and the stove lit for Christmas and special visitors. We had no bathroom, one outside toilet which scared me in the dark (I hated it) and a kitchen sink to wash in. I especially loathed the tin bath. My mother allowed me to bodily wash in the sink once a week, including hair on a Sunday night before school. This lasted until I left home in 1982, aged 18, when virtually everyone had bathrooms. The landlady finally got the builders in 1984. My Mother finally had her first major mental breakdown when the kitchen sink was taken out. It’s currently in our back garden as a pond and it’s steady reminder of these times and how being poor is simply horrible!

But I had another life as I lived in the school holidays in another world- the city of Oxford where my parents had friends. I called them Aunt and Uncle and my friends know the deep connection and love I have for them. Here I had central heating, a warm bedroom, a bathroom and I loved it. My Aunt and Uncle were buying their house and both worked. Fruit and vegetables were in generous supply from my Uncle’s garden and I was introduced to every conceivable piece of culture, educational aspirations and encouragement. This life felt like luxury.

I soon realised that in order to have this world as an adult, I needed to be different from my parents and to own my own house. I knew I had to work hard at school to get a good job but didn’t academically shine. Even at school it was me versus others in terms of wealth and the French school trip was for everybody else. We simply didn’t have the money for me to go and I never passed my French O-Level.

However, by aged 10 I had developed a deep drive towards “being someone better” and stood in the circle of my Girl Guiding Association determined to be the next Queen’s Guide, seeing another girl being presented with the award by Lady Somerleyton. At the age of 15, I was walking up the Guard of Honour being presented with this by the said person. I developed grit, determination and courage and went on to have a nursing career for 28 years, having passed my O-Levels, an AS and one A level by stealth and over three sittings.

It was not unusual for me to save my own pocket money and then make a huge decision as to what this precious resource was going to be spend on when I got to £10. Often it was never spent. Family scripts were, you never borrowed money, avoid debt at all costs and you never had goods on the “never-never.” The TV was as far as it got in terms of renting and cars were bought and paid for. Even now I don’t own the latest lease car. My present car is owned and is 19 years old, cared for and maintained, just like dad’s old Morris Minor.

Early Adult life and the Role of the Church:

By the age of 21, I had become an Evangelical Christian and was exposed to further scripts about money in the form of the Bible. This was where my conflict and anxiety really started which I’m still working on to resolve to this day. I quickly got the impression that to want money was a sin. We have all heard statements like (not literal quotes):

Money is the root of all evil.

Do not worry about money, the birds do not care and they are dressed in their finery.

Do not covet wealth.

Jesus says to give all your money away and follow him.

You can not worship both God and money.

So I began to feel quilty and to feel ashamed sub-consciously. I developed a deep sense of charity and I even think that this partly led me not to seek promotion at work, after all:

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

Humility, poverty and asking for nothing was the way to go. Wealth and a huge bank account, well that was only going to lead to greed, sin and going astray. With poor self-confidence and now knowing that your attract what you think, my first marriage was an absolute disaster with a man who earned zero and ended within three years at the age of 27. The spiritual complications were huge (as an evangelical Christian) and with totally fragile mental health wracked with guilt.

Consequently, in order to feel comfortable and appeasing my Christian life, over the years, I have given away hundreds of pounds to charity, hundreds of hours of work time free to worthwhile causes to people less fortunate them myself and it is little wonder I now spend my professional life working in Education. Education is the root to wealth (my mantra) and I want others to have the same opportunities as me. I also have a deep sense of justice and can not bear inequality and hardship.

Career and Family Life: Trading time for money

My second and present husband was rather different. He knew back then, what I have read now, that trading time for money is never going to make you wealthy (Hill) unless you have a fabulously well-paid job. We also knew that having a family and paying a mortgage meant wasn’t going to be cheap. Nursing was hardly the best paid as a staff nurse on the ground. He started reading about investment and we became private stock market investors with both our salaries. I went with this, as I could see this is something he felt he really wanted to do. He could see that an NHS life was going to lead to eventual burn-out but I struggled with it all, especially when the subject of borrowing money to invest came up in the conversations.

The arguments and the stress piled up. The risks of investments, the potential losses and the huge obsession of time it took, plus a stressful job and a young daughter, at that time, led me to mental collapse. I couldn’t get out of bed one day. Ironically the day I drove to the doctors for help we earned the highest salary ever paid into our account in a single month. We gave up the investment. I limped towards some kind of recovery and life went on, the fixation being we must pay the mortgage. How my husband dealt with this remains private.

To continue…

What happened next in part two?

Several years later

A miracle,

The realisation, the guilt and the shame.

My letter to money

Mindset shift.

Business: being paid what you are worth.

Conclusions and work in progress.

References:

Think and Grow Rich by Norman Hill.

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Our Personal and Professional Harvests

I have been following an extraordinary woman on Twitter by the name of Dr Nadia Chaudhri, a neuroscientist who is dying, in her forties, of stage four ovarian cancer. Her immense dignity and courage as she has been tweeting her thoughts about her illness and its terminal phrase have been exceptional and inspirational. She has now many thousands of followers.

What has been so evident is how many people have reflected upon their own lives through her postings. She has also been preparing her six-year-old son (with her husband) for her death in the most moving and creative ways imaginable.

One recent tweet announced she was now in a palliative care ward and preparing for the pain to end. I, like many, posted pictures of flowers, moons, and gardens in support and comfort. On my walks, I was searching for the appropriate photograph to post and my eyes settled on a field of corn, ripe for harvest. Hence, this blog was born. I thought about her final harvest of tremendous triumph and good. What a legacy she was leaving to her son, her family and her medical community. She is now raising money for financially struggling students for minority and underrepresented groups studying neuroscience. She has named this the Nadia Chandhri Wingspan Award.

See here her shuffle page as she walks up and down the palliative care ward. A Tsunami of donations and a flood of immense respect has been the result. Please consider your support to her.

https://advanceconcordia.ca/ui/shuffle32/p/e4c9af4c5a824eb99fd22d4e3153e17d…

(Note: I do hope this links works as I am still getting used to the widgets and layout of this updated site).

So linking this extraordinary achievement, I am using the analogy of the harvest to illustrate how every one of us has our own fields of corn and this blog attempts to discuss this briefly.

The days where a single career or field of work defines us are long gone. Forty years of working in the same job is no longer an accepted rule. Many of us now have multiple careers, where one skill set is woven into another, complementing each other, which results in a new crop.

Sometimes our fields lie fallow, as adversity, personal misfortune, redundancy, or wrong decisions result in a period of either decline or intended and enforced rest as we evaluate where we are.
Then, as fortunes change and new decisions are made our fields (lives) germinate again with new vigour as we have had the time to rest, reflect, reprioritise and move forward.

At the age of 48, my field, laboured upon for 28 years, was put to one side for pastures new. Planting in a new section of that field some 18 months earlier (midwifery training) left a crop that was a partial failure and I did not want to return to my main field (Nursing) as I had tolled that long enough and my health was suffering.

Ten years on, my new field of work (Education and now Medical English tuition) has been rewarding. However, many parts of this field still need to be tendered to grow and prosper. The fertiliser of a growth Mindset needs sprinkling liberally, but sometimes weeds (the fixed Mindset of doubts) still try to strangle the new growth. Ongoing work continues so that my crop can yield results both for individuals in healthcare and supporting others (peers) in education. I wish this to be my one final and lasting harvest of exceptional quality and sheaves of corn. I am committed to working hard through the rain, sun and storms to see this outcome.

But what about when other farmers stop us in our tracks? The close relationships, friends and sometimes colleagues that for whatever reason think we are ploughing the wrong field or who want to sabotage our efforts through fear for us, envy or because they don’t understand what we are trying to do. I expect you have come across such people. How do we manage them? Do they stop us or make us more determined to keep going?

Today, the news reported on a woman named Lily Ebert, aged 97 and who has just published a memoir as a Holocaust survivor, having met the family of the soldier who helped save her life. A shining example of a pensioner achieving something great at an advanced age.

Historically pensions helped provide people with financial means to rest and have a few years left to live their lives with some form of income. However, now retirement has been turned on its head. Pension pots are being used to create new businesses, hobbies and leisure, yet there is still an ageist culture. Questions like when are you going to retire? And a workforce where energy and drive are still associated with youth are commonplace. Retirement is a very personal thing. Here are two questions I would like you to consider:

Do we ever retire from life?

And if we don’t retire from life until we die then what kind of harvest do you want to leave behind?

Every field has relevance. There is no one size fits all of course. Do you want your field to be a colourful and rich (creative and artistic) staple and hardy (practical and reliable) full of warmth and sunshine (emphasis on family relationships), or have you yet to form some idea about what kind of field you want? My further questions are what tools do you need to plough your soil? Do they need to stay the same? Do you need to sharpen the new blades, or even replace them, as the old ones become rusty and worn with lacklustre, apathy and boredom?

The lady I mentioned will leave a harvest of such magnitude her field will never be forgotten, certainly not by me as I survey the corn each year from my window here on Earth. She has taught us all so much and I think many lives she has touched will never be the same again.

Your Thoughts?


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My Year of Keeping a Journal.

On July 27th 2020, I decided to write a journal for one year documenting how I was feeling, thinking, and what I was doing. The aim was a year of observation and to learn about any habits or triggers that made me feel sad, stressed or unwell. I decided to post this decision on a social media platform as an intention and to show my seriousness and pledge to myself. I then didn’t mention it and quietly got to work.


Several months later, I realised why this is usually not a good idea as these intentions are often uncompleted to the end because of our habits and inconsistencies.
However, in my case, I was determined that this would not be the case. So here I am one year later and two journals to prove that I stuck to my word; I have decided to write this blog to share my results and insights.


I initially called this journal my 365 Body Watch, tracking basic facts such as weight, food, mood, exercise and any health issues at any given time. It wasn’t to be any more than just a record that I could use to help me avoid the behaviours that made me feel unwell or depressed. Also, I wanted to chart the external influences that had a negative impact.


As I look back over these two notebooks, I recognise how early they changed in what was wrote from the structure and content. From simply recording basic facts, it became something a bit more reflective. Soon, I was writing an intention for the day, recording what I was reading and listening to and ending with at least one gratitude as I reflected upon the day. Only one day did I miss writing an entry due to a bereavement.


I knew that for this habit to be successful, I had to make it visible, and after something I usually do to become an activity I would remember. So, the book was placed right by my bedside locker and written in as soon as I was awake and the last thing I wrote when I got back into bed. I made it a quick activity too, not labour intensive and no more than five minutes.


When we get an idea to do something, we get a typical rush of excitement and motivation to go ahead with it. The reason why New Year’s Resolutions fail, as one example, is that the brain quickly tires of the idea, and we fall off the wagon. That’s why new gym memberships are often abandoned by February as the excitement of the activity fades and we fall back into old patterns of behaviour and inconsistencies.For something to stay put our why has to be greater than our willpower ( @Hardy, Clear). My ‘why’ was big enough to keep me committed to this task for one year.


As time went on, the compound effect of my actions took over, and one of the main reasons I have decided to share these results is to show how much two simple notebooks have had far-reaching consequences for my life and the new doors that have opened.

Here is my list of the positive impacts, new habits and surprises.
:

1) I had already started to walk back in 2019 but this now became a daily habit. At first 30 mins as a start, now up to two hours on one walk. I have met new lovely ladies to walk within my local area and completed my first solo walking trip this month to the Lincolnshire Wolds. I also do strength, balance and resistance training.
.
2) I have become more observant of people and my surroundings and have a deeper connection with nature due to my walking and reading nature books.

3) I am learning to bake cakes to reduce packaging, preservatives and less sugar. It’s also been fun and relaxing. It takes me away from too much sitting and screens. I now bake for friends, and the compound effect is that it helps make friendships more memorable. I even have a new garden sign called the Fennel Garden Tea Room.

4) I have looked at my anxiety-ridden relationship with money ( Maybe a separate blog to follow).

5) I am reading new books on subjects that would not have interested me, escape into fiction more and read almost daily, and am learning how to read better.

6) I have lost a little bit of weight. However, more importantly, have stabilised my weight and know what my food sins are and what pushes the weight up. However, I don’t punish myself for wanting a piece of chocolate or having a slice of cake with friends. Moderation and balance are everything. I also drink more water and my rosacea is much improved.

7) I listen to people more and new podcasts- Just One Thing by Dr Michael Mosley is a favourite.

8) I am aware of what triggers a ‘bad- day’ but out of every one of them, I learn something from it and am determined to create one new positive from them. As a result, I am developing more assertive skills.

9) My mental health has largely stayed strong despite lockdown’s, caring for an elderly father and trying to establish a successful tutoring business and normal pressures.

10) I have started a nature/walking journal called Wander, Wonder and Weather and have enjoyed taking photographs ( Nature Walks Here and There on Facebook.). I have started many new notebooks, including ones on church notes and my recipes.

11) I have reduced alcohol intake, usually do not drink at home anymore and only when I go out or socialise with friends.

12) I have sought professional help for severe tinnitus ( often caused by stress) and am learning to reduce it and live with it better.

13) I have started meditation again after my morning exercise- just for a couple of minutes. Read the science on this for yourself. It’s out there.

14) I have become interested in reading neuroscience, the effects of menopause on a woman’s health and take Omega 3 and Vit D, the latter in the winter months for bones, memory and immunity.

So there it is one year of journaling. I have carried on in a shorter format as I don’t want to leave multiple books behind and completing a five-year diary book I stopped using in 2020. I can see the benefits and you might want to try it too. I just hope I might have inspired you a little with your own physical and mental well-being. I honestly wasn’t expecting all of the 14 points I have mentioned.

Thanks for taking the time to read this if you got to the end. And good luck if you try this and get in touch with me if you want to.

Some of my recommended books read over the past year:

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. He has a daily video, via email. Seriously one of the best people out there for mentorship. He changes lives- your compound effect, both positive and negative is HUGE! I rarely miss him.

Atomic Habits, James Clear. Also, a must-read for anyone quitting bad habits and forming new ones. He has a newsletter I never miss reading on a Thursday.

Calm, Fearne Cotton.

The Midnight Library, Matt Haig. An excellent read about the different paths you could have taken in life, based on an fictional story but insights from real life.

Notes on a Nervous Planet, Matt Haig. Some excellent points about our digital age.

Meadowlands, John Lewis-Stempel Considered being one of the best nature writers.

The XX Brain: The Groundbreaking Science Empowering Women to Prevent Dementia. Dr Lisa Mosconi. Fascinating and an essential read for women over 50.

The Daily Stoic 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living Ryan Halliday. Stephen Hanselman.

How to Read a book. A Classical Guide to Intelligent Reading. Mortimer J. Alder, Charles Van Doren.

Wintering, The power or rest and retreat in difficult times, Katherine May. A beautiful and honest story about giving ourselves space when depressed and taking time to heal.

YouTube:
The Art of Improvement- one of the best channels out there on self-awareness and personal development.

Posted in cooking, Health, Health Promotion. Diet, nutrition

October Pumpkin

Yesterday, I decided to cook using Pumpkin – Pumpkin chips and roasted seeds.I had not roasted the flesh of the Pumpkin or the seeds before. This was not an easy cook. You need sharp knives to cut the flesh from the Pumpkin and mine were not, even with sharpening.  I tried peeling the skin away from the vegetables’ flesh but the potato peeler snapped. I was short on time too, so this tested my patience.

Finally, I managed to produce this ( see picture one ) for roasting, cutting the flesh away from the inside of the scooped out Pumpkin. I then used a combination of Rosemary , Sage and Thyme from the garden for the extra flavour garnish.

 Next I prepared the seeds. I had seen recipes for roasting seeds and the secret of success apparently is to wash them well, boil them in water for 10 mins and individually place them on a baking tray. This was the result of 40 mins of baking at 165 degrees C. The seeds should sound dry when you shake them, on the tray, with a crisp sound. 

Family tasting:

David and I enjoyed the chips very much but Kathryn ( Daughter) didn’t. The seeds were certainly crispy and looked nice roasted. The seeds tasted better with fruit today, than on their own. Markus ( Kathryn’s boyfriend) enjoyed the seeds, especially the sea-salt seasoning but Kathryn didn’t. My husband tried them and thought they were OK.

What could have been better?

The seeds had a nice crunch on the intial bite but were a bit chewy  and bitty thereafter. On holiday last week, we tried Pumpkin soup and just had uncooked seeds in this with Pumpkin oil and that was so delicious. The seeds worked well that time. Kathryn thought the chips were a bit too soft. I think I used slightly too much Olive Oil for the roasting and this resulted in a slightly soggy texture. Also with the chips, I sprinkled the herbs on top. It would have been better to have mixed these in more.

However, overall Pumpkin has a pleasant sweet flavour and I enjoyed it. I am glad that I experimented with this and my blog post was the motivating factor to see it through. The cutting was hard but then it showed that I just needed better knives. I don’t think I would roast the seeds again though.

I am writing this post as the children are coming around for Trick and Treat. The end of the month is a busy and colourful time. Tonight, my daughter made Pumpkin soup with the remaining flesh and this was great. You can do a lot with Pumpkin ( I have even seen a recipe for pancakes) and it’s an inexpensive vegetable to do multiple things with.

What have you tried out with a Pumpkin?

Posted in cooking, families, Health, Health Promotion. Diet, nutrition

October Soup

I wanted to try a new recipe for October using Tumeric spice and this is what I made.

This is not my own recipe and was taken from pinterest ( a site that is becoming a real firm favourite for ideas) which you can find here.  The resulting soup of Ginger,Tumeric and Carrot  was with without doubt one of the most tasty and delicious soups we have tasted in awhile.

Initially, I was hoping to use the vegetable of either parsnip or turnip which are currently  in season, at the moment, but as I wanted to try out Tumeric this recipe looked the most appealing. Tumeric is a much talked about spice. In the cooking and heath circles it is being described as something really quite powerful with numerous health-benefits, including its anticancer properties. You can read more about Tumeric here.

I used one and a half times of carrots, Ginger, orange juice and Tumeric on the recipe given as I wanted to make six portions. It certainly achieved that. Besides, I have a food taster to cook for too and she rang me to say how much she loved it.

Family tasting:

Everyone, as I have said, loved it. The orange tang made it for me. It had a soft and sweet texture to the mouth and it was all gone in one sitting. The roasted hazelnuts gave it an added crunch contrast. With my second bowl, I had quite a few nuts left over and I put the lot in. It was good.

What could have been improved upon?

My taster said:

” A bit more Ginger please.”

The rest of my family were happy just as it was and wants me to make it again.

Next time for the end of the month.

Looking at Pumpkin for Halloween weekend. I had no idea you could roast the seeds or make pancakes and chips with this.

Posted in cooking, Debate, Health, Health Promotion. Diet, Home, nutrition

Sausage, Apple and Cider Casserole.

I decided to use apples in a main savoury dish and this is my own recipe, after looking at some ideas on Pinterest. Apples are in abundance in September and whilst I bought my cookers from the supermarket, you will find these being sold from private growers along roadsides and garden corners. The price I saw was 0.50p a bag. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop to buy.

Why we should eat more apples?

The health benefits of apples here on Pinterest.
Ingredients:

This will make you two casseroles, so you could have a meal for two days.

12 Tesco finest pork and apple sausages.

One medium sized onion.

Two cooking apples.

1/2 of a butternut squash.( tip: I cut the butternut squash, scooped out the seeds and cut the flesh away from the very tough skin from the inside of the vegetable. Peeling the skin is hard work.)

Potatoes, ( I used six but amount can vary depending on how many potatoes you want in this recipe).

Two carrots,

Five large mushrooms,

Handful of frozen peas.

350 mls of cider divided into two casserole dishes.

Two tablespoons of fresh basil chopped.

1/2 teaspoon of mango chutney mixed into an instant gravy granules gravy.

Method:

Simply layer the potatoes and butternut squash covering the base of the casserole dish.

Add the diced mushrooms and carrots.

Fry the sausages for five minutes to give a brown appearance and lay on top of the vegetables.

Fry the onion in the oil used for the sausages and add on top of the sausages.

Place the uncooked sliced apple on top.

Add the cider and pour gravy into the casserole dishes.

Add the handful of peas.

Add chopped basil.

Cooking times:

I have an electric fan oven, so set an intial temp of 200C but then turned the oven down to 180C after about 30 mins. Cook until the vegetables are soft. For me this took about one and a half hours. For the last 15 mins, I left the casserole dish top off to reduce some gravy juice and to give the sausages a final brown.

Family tasting:

Everyone really enjoyed this and we have just finished it up today. For all the cooking I have done recently, either with recipes or without, this has been the most favourite dish to date with a good thumbs up from the family. Generally, it was considered that I had the right flavour combinations and the correct amount of cider. The pork and apples sausages’ flavour was enhanced and there was not one ingredient that overpowered the rest.

What could have been improved?

I would have liked to have added a Yorkshire pudding for a contrasting crunch.Black pudding has also been suggested.

Next month will look at starters and snacks. I want to use Tumeric, as this appears to be one of the most talked about spice at present and its anticancer properties is a hot topic in nutritional circles at the moment.

Please feel free to share your ideas here with apples or sausages.

Thanks for stopping by. See you again I hope next month.

Posted in cooking, Health, Health Promotion. Diet, nutrition

Blackberry Mousse: blog post 2.

Yesterday, I wrote briefly about a recipe I had adapted ( with a link ) for this blackberry mousse. This is the first dish of a new food series called Seasonal Foods, as I am on the quest to use foods that you would find in any one month of the year. Where ever possible, I am trying to look at cost and to discuss at least one ingredient, and its health benefits, to each dish. Today, we will be looking at blackberries and coconut sugar.

Firstly, coconut sugar is gaining ground in the popularity stakes as an alternative to white granulated sugar. Why is this? Well, it has a lower Glycemic Index- GI (35 compared to 68 for granulated sugar) and is considered healthier as a result. If you not sure what the GI index is all about, take a look at what Diabeties Uk has to say about it and why eating low GI foods are considered important in diabetic care and  part of weight control in one’s diet.

I bought my sugar from The Barn, here at Downham Market and these food blog posts are going to be linked to this shop, to help promote the business . Hopefully, my posts will be shared on their Facebook page very soon. The price of this sugar is £2.75 compared to an average price of £1.25. OK,  over double the cost but I did the maths and the 35 grams I used for this recipe cost 0.38p using the coconut sugar. This worked out at 0.13p a dish given I had made three. I think it was good value for money for the possible health advantages it may bring.

 Thee benefits of eating fresh fruit and vegetables are widely publicised.I decided to use fresh blackberries that were free from the hedgerows rather than frozen ones. Here is a little more information why blackberries are so beneficial for you. 

Family tasting:

The strong blackberry flavour was great but I would definitely recommend eating this in the time stated on the recipe ( see previous post) as this is not a firm mousse. It has a light, slightly fluid texture due to its low sugar content. It took me about 10 mins to make, as I wanted to make sure the egg was whisked well. It was simple to make though and tasted better, with more flavour, than anything we had bought from the supermarkets.

What I could do next time?

I would try lightly stewing the fruit first, reserving some juice for additional topping. The texture was also a slightly nutty one, due to the uncooked fruit. This did not detract from the dish but for a smoother taste I think I would try stewing the berries to see what difference this would make. I would still use uncooked blackberries for the decoration. As you can see by my picture, I used a teaspoon of Greek yoghurt as well, just to give some contrast for the eye.

Next time, I am going to cook a savoury dish. I haven’t finally decided what yet but it will involve either game or a vegetarian dish. The next post to watch out for, in this series, will be towards the end of September.

Thanks for stopping by and happy cooking. What ever you are making.

Posted in cooking, Health, Health Promotion. Diet, nutrition

Blackberry Mousse. Blog one of two.

http://thetoughcookie.com/2015/01/16/super-easy-fruit-mousse-takes-3-ingredients-5-minutes/

I am having great difficulties with my blog posting tonight, and having identified the problem ( and determined to show this link) I have decided to take the unusual step of having to do this in two parts.

I have made a blackberry mousse adapted from this recipe and this is the first post concerning my seasonal food series.This recipe,of which it will not let me shortcut with a suitable header title, is vital to the blog post but so is the finished result. This link is wipping out my photo of the dessert and my post, so I have no other way but to present it like this.

Please bear with me. Having had a whole night’s work completely zapped I am keen to make this work somehow. 

So please tune in to the next post which will show the finished result. I will be sharing with you the information I have discovered about coconut sugar, the financial cost, the benefits of blackberries and what the GI index means in relation to blood sugars.

The photo is nice too and so was the taste. Please come back soon. Thanks for your patience.

Posted in cooking, goals, Health Promotion. Diet, nutrition

Herbs in my Garden.

I love fresh herbs and have a raised bed in my little garden. This last week I used coriander, thyme and mint in my meals and harvested some garlic.  The flavours in the finished meals seem more distinct somehow.

Today, I am blackberry picking, to have a trial run with my blackberry mousse. I have enlisted a friend who is going to be my food taster, as well as my family, to help me improve any recipe and have decided on my savoury dish for later this month. She loves cooking and is very good at it. She will be an honest opinion that I will truly value.

For now, I just wanted to see how my tablet performs uploading a picture straight to this blog site, as this will be the camera I use to photograph the end results. 

Finally, with chatting about my blog, I have found a new customer for The Barn here at Downham Market ( see my previous two postings.) She would like to buy some of the locally made cake as well as some organic honey, the later is really delicious.

So progress all round and I am pleased. Can’t wait to see how the mousse turns out for tea….

Have a great eating weekend everyone.