Gaining Confidence

It has taken a while, quite a while when I come to think of it. My self confidence had taken several hits over the past few years but generally I refuse to be beaten by things and in a moment of loss and grief I decided something. That I was going to make it better again.

Although I am only recent on this road I am at last making headway and gaining confidence once again. I see glimpses of my old self that are returning at last.

I mentioned in a previous post about the recent loss of my brother and that at his funeral I shared some of my poetry in front of the assembled throng. It was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. It was also a first for me and was well received. It got me thinking, was it just a one off or would I feel able to get up and do something like that again.

I was also facing another personal hurdle recently. Giving evidence in a court trial for criminal damage against my property caused by someone who has harassed and abused me for the past two and a half years. In the weeks leading up to the trial, I suffered more threats and did not know if I felt strong enough to deal with it, but knew that I had to if I was to get any justice at all. It was time for things to change, for the better.

So once again I stepped out of my comfort zone. I attended the trial, gave my evidence and came out of the court having helped convict the person who caused the damage. It gave me a huge boost to know that I had succeeded after being bullied and feeling daunted for so long.

Getting back to the poetry. At the funeral I was told by several people that I should write more and share it with people. Soon after that I was invited to a spoken word poetry reading at a local venue. I thought that I would go along and see how it worked. It happens every month and you turn up and share your words with other poets it’s like an open mic night.

I took my sister, she is used to performing since she is a professional musician. I went with a few poems tucked in my bag just in case I had the urge to join in. We sat and listened and what struck me, is that poetry affects people in so many different ways. Some was bawdy, some of the language strong, some I didn’t understand at all and others performed in song.

Since we arrived rather late in the evening I was one of the last to read. Many of the others had left by then and my nerves were trying to get the better of me. I was shaking like a leaf, the symptoms of my health letting me down again and wracked with pain. But I was determined not to back down. I had decided I was going to do this, so I owed it to myself to follow it through.

I had not practiced or rehearsed beforehand. But read out two of my poems, The Vivid Sky and Wild Horses to applause from the remaining people. At the end of the evening a few people came and asked me if I had done this before. There was one person who said he wished there were more, that they were longer as he hadn’t wanted them to stop. He said he’d enjoyed them and asked about my writing. We talked for a few minutes. I had also enjoyed his poems earlier in the evening. I was invited back next month and decided that I would return. I would also take the time to improve my presentation to make my voice clearer, there is some work to do for my own peace of mind.

It gave me a real sense of achievement to realise that at last I am slowly gaining confidence again to do things that I may not have considered before. Pushing my boundaries again. Something I have battled with in the past was getting people to listen, feeling that I could not hold their attention for long enough to make my point.

In the past week alone, having achieved these two separate things I have now realised that if I can stand up in front of a room full of strangers then I will become a better public speaker in time and this will expand my capabilities.

Who knows where that will lead me?

One of my bosses once said to me that I could do anything that I wanted. At the time I did not believe in myself to imagine that it were true. Thankfully I have someone else in my life who believed in me even when I did not and over the years I have been encouraged to try new things. Occasionally I follow my instincts and go and do the new things and am amazed when it works out. But to know that it’s there all along is a wonderful feeling.

The Daily Post – Gingerly

Creative Abandon

The Daily Post – Messy

Like many creative people my house can get pretty messy when I am busy making or doing a project. The key to this is to return to some order again once I am done. Admittedly sometimes this can take longer than I planned.

Yesterday I took over the kitchen as is often the case this time of year and made Winter Syrup. This will form the basis for some of my handmade Christmas gifts for friends and family.

As you will see in almost every hedgerow that you pass this time of the year in the Uk there is a plentiful supply of Rosehips just waiting to be utilised. After the first frost has softened them is the best time to use them. I love foraging for fruit and berries.

For the past three years I have made a Winter Syrup of varying ingredients. It is usually because I haven’t kept the recipe in one place and I strive to improve it each year. All have been based on a Rosehip recipe and are my first resort when sore throats hit since these wonderful fruits are packed with Vitamin C.

The first I made was the best since it was Elderberry and Rosehip and was what my brother who was a chef, described as “a little bottle of Christmas”. It was lovely with cake, ice cream and in sparkling cocktails. I resolve to make this version next year and not miss out on elderberries as I did this year I was just in the wrong place when the fruit was available. But for now, here’s the recipe for this year’s if you want to make some of your own.

1kg of Ripe Rosehips with stalks and ends removed.

2 litres water

1 Lemon with peel on, halved.

2 inches of Fresh Ginger root, sliced.

1 teaspoon Ground Mixed Spice.

2 tsp Ground Turmeric.

2 tsp Ground Cinnamon.

1 tsp Cloves.

Honey.

Mix all ingredients in a large pan, with 1 litre water lightly mash the Rosehips to break up the fruit and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Use a Muslin cloth in a colander and a bowl to separate the fruit from the liquid, leave to stand to drain as much liquid as possible out. Because Rosehips have fine hairs within them which can irritate the throat you have to separate the fruit from the liquid.

Return the liquid to a clean pan and add another 1 Ltr water and 1kg Sugar. I used both Demerara and white sugar since it was what I had to hand. Add 2 tbsp honey.

Bring the liquid to boil until all sugar has melted then simmer until it has reduced to half its volume.

Bottle it into sterilised glass bottles. I got 8 small bottles from this recipe.

It makes a wonderful sore throat remedy. You will notice that there is a slight sediment in the bottles, this is due to the use of dried spices. Shake before use and once opened store in the refrigerator.

Two Moments in the Rain.

via Daily Prompt: Rivulet

pexels-photo-459451.jpegThe Rain comes down sideways in Scotland drenching you to your soul, cleansing your mind of everything that needs to be gone, but getting into every crevice and stays there. Much like Scotland itself does. It gets in your head, unforgettable followed by the emotions of other seasons all brought to you, often in one day. The dampness carried around with you in your bones, never quite letting it go.  But you love it for what it does to you. The hours you could spend watching rivulets of rain pouring down a window in quiet contemplation.

The rain in Australia is somehow different. Yes, it will also soak you to the skin, but the warmth that follows it will brighten the day, drying out the very core of your being, bringing a different kind of happiness, as the steam rises from your clothes along with your worries, lifting your spirits and making you think of better things, a temporary blast of freshness which the world around you sings it’s Thank you. Scents and sounds of the forest thankful for the blessing of an impromptu shower. Droplets of rain disappearing in the heat.

Uncle John’s House

 

This is the house that ignited my passion for houses. The one on the left. I am not sure how old I was when I first saw it, but we had been invited to it and my Auntie Julie was very proud of her husband, who had designed it and their best friend and neighbour who had built it and the house next door, the one with the white gates. The house next door was slightly different. I know that I was a child and at that very point, I wanted to be an architect like my uncle, despite not knowing much about the work, other than you got to design great places for people to live and have fun in. SO that was it really, thus my love affair with houses was born in an instant.

We used to go to family get togethers’ there and I do not know what inspired me to turn down the road for a look when I was out in the car the other day.
I hadn’t seen it for some time, it seemed such a huge house when I was a child growing up. In fact it was a detached three bedroom home when he built it, with the benefits of an open plan lounge/diner leading out to the garden. So different to our semi-detached post war house, but it still looks great today.

It is what inspired me to design my house, in the hope that I could entice him into doing the architectural drawings for it, before he retired, but I’m too late.

 

Food Glorious Food! Or not as the case may be…

Breakfast

As this blog continues and I set up each category, you will notice that I want to cover many subjects.

One of the first will be Food Glorious Food, I have to admit that I love food The inspiration of colour and palette can brighten the dullest day, lift your mood and create endless possibilities, if you get it right.  Get it wrong however and it’s a whole different ball game.

Food Intolerances

I do love to cook, now I don’t claim to be a great cook, but I do have my favourites which are welcomed when we have dinner guests. I enjoy cooking and experimenting with food, I think that I get that from my Mum, who served me nettle soup when I was six. Green soup to a child captured the imagination.

Over the years, I have had a love hate relationship with it. There have been foods which I used to eat, which suddenly I could not anymore and whilst I attempted to find the things that I could, it was at times a rocky road. Now I find that I look at the ingredients in everything I buy, do not have many processed foods and stay away from take-away and fast foods wherever possible.

I try to live healthily and make sure that I cook every day, using fresh foods wherever I can, to keep me and the family healthy. This is borne more from necessity than following a fad.
There are foods which I miss, but I have learned that the side effects of eating something which does not agree with you, far outweigh the joy of that naughty treat. But life is easier once you know what to avoid.

As a child, I remember that I did not have the food allergies or intolerances which I do now, but there was something which set me off with a headache even back then. Strawberry flavoured anything and Pear drops. It is probably one of the E numbers in them, a flavouring of some kind, but it was guaranteed to make me ill, they also have them in those tinned travel sweets and to this day I avoid both. There was also about 18 months after I was knocked down when I was a teenager when I could not consume anything with caffeine in. Right at the time when Chocolate, Coca Cola and Coffee are the staples of most teenagers and young women as they get through teenage life and their studies, I could not have it. It brought on an instant migraine. Other than those things, I don’t remember there being any allergies although I wasn’t keen on Liver,but could happily eat Kidneys, which seemed strange to me even then.

Fifteen years ago, I was put on a medication by my GP. It was supposed to help the Endometriosis which I had been suffering with for many years at that point. Although there was un upside to it, it seemed to alleviate the symptoms of the condition for a short time, in the months that I took it, it caused havoc in the side effects department and I suddenly found myself with other issues. My eyesight went from “perfect” 20/20 vision at eye tests to me needing a prescription for glasses and I became Lactose Intolerant. For me, two things which caused me great distress. 6 months later and I would need another prescription for glasses even stronger than the first and so it went on. But the food issue was huge for me. I had been able to eat almost anything for the whole of my life and suddenly, I couldn’t keep food down. I had no idea what the cause of it was so as the doctor prescribed antibiotics first and then sent me for colonoscopies to get to the bottom of the problem, to see if it was bacterial. Following a clear diagnosis that it was not and with him not being able to offer any other advice, I decided to try something novel and try the elimination diet. I did this for a couple of months and found that as I tried to reintroduce anything dairy related, it set me off once again. At the time, there was very little in the “Free From” aisle of the supermarket as it didn’t exist. and I ate a lot differently to now. Previously I used to eat dairy products regularly, having had problems with my teeth as a youngster and always suffered with weak nails, I was convinced that I needed to up my calcium intake to compensate for it. So at the time I regularly ate Ambrosia Creamed Rice, Camembert and Cheese in general, Philadelphia and Bio-Yoghurts. I included them in my food preparation and thoroughly enjoyed cooking. Back then I really struggled to find food products which did not contain lactose, to my absolute dismay, even in Ready Salted Crisps most brands added it to the ingredients. Who knows why? But it forced me to think about the food that I consumed much more carefully and check the ingredients thoroughly.

I think that eating Bio yoghurt, first thing in the morning, when you have nothing else in your system, definitely does not help. If you think about it, they contain friendly bacteria which gets to work on what is in your stomach. However if there is nothing there, what is it going to work on. So not the best plan having digested everything you had eaten the night before. When you think of it, it makes sense, but how may of us do actually do think about that?

I also found that every time I tried to introduce Pork back into my diet, it disagreed with me, I loved sausages, I didn’t eat them often, but a good breakfast on a lazy weekend was a bit of a treat and suddenly I couldn’t eat it anymore. Gone were the Bacon sandwiches and Spaghetti Carbonara, which were other regular favourites in my kitchen.

I thought back then that writing a dairy free cookbook might be a great idea since there was no such thing readily available and not everyone had the internet as a resource. However I did not have much confidence in my own culinary skills and had no idea as to how go about creating it. Now of course it is so much easier to find good dairy free ingredients and recipes to feed the family and many such books now exist. Unfortunately it has become something all too familiar within so many families the need to cut out foods which were once the norm, as allergies and intolerances grow common, I may still write one, after all, one more surely can’t be a bad thing.

I also found out that I am highly allergic to Oysters, now that was an odd one. I had never had them before, although I regularly ate Chinese food with an oyster sauce and never made the connection that it was that which made me ill. We went to Paris for a ten day holiday over Christmas and New Year and I hired a car to explore, it was supposed to be terribly romantic and we had saved to go and enjoy ourselves. The Eiffel tower was going to be just wonderful. The first meal on our first evening was a seafood platter with Oysters. Afterwards I was so ill that I could not leave the room for a week, my body went into shut down, it totally poisoned my system and I spent a week in a hallucinating, violently ill. There was no doctor available, it was not a grand hotel and the local doctor was away for Christmas and no-one would attempt to move me. So there I stayed delirious in the hotel room, watching “Finding Nemo” in French on a loop and watching the Eiffel Tower twinkling the year in the distance every evening. My partner was very worried about me and spent most of the time by my side, or pacing the hotel like a tiger in case I took a turn for the worse. I did not eat at all for several days, consumed only water it was not the holiday either of us had planned. I was so delirious over that time that when Finding Nemo was on TV some years later, I suggested that we watched it since I had not seen it. He looked at me in utter disbelief, that I had absolutely no recollection of it. Thinking back, despite the twinkling year on the tower, I cannot recall what year it was. I remember that we had to dig the car out from the snow before heading back home but must have blocked as much of the experience as possible from my mind.

Dining out became such an issue so many years ago, that my first task on any holiday or visit to a restaurant is to ask the chef for the dairy free options on their menu. I quickly learned that despite the phrase Non- Laiterie being used in France, the chefs in most establishments claimed not to understand me. They did not want to defer from their usual route and would not prepare anything without dairy produce. I resorted to a list of “Non’s” Beurre, Oeufs, Fromage, Lait, Yaourt, which I handed to the waiter or Maitre d’ on arrival and ensured that they passed it to the chef who prepared my meal. One such time was particularly difficult where we stayed at a beautiful chateau.  Although I had a lengthy discussion with the Management and the chef he felt that he knew best and since he always cooked everything in butter, he would continue to do so. I spent a wonderful weekend there on a Dinner, Bed and Breakfast package being unable to finish a meal that he had cooked and breathed a sigh of relief when the breakfast chef came on duty, so for that holiday, on his day off breakfast in the hotel was the only meal I could safely enjoy when the chef who covered him actually listened. After that, we have not returned there, for the sole reason that it is important that your chef listens and understands. Immodium and Antacids have become my travelling friend in case of emergency, but not one wants their holiday ruined or to be reliant upon them. As I pointed out, if it had been a nut allergy that I suffered, where you can go into anaphylactic shock would he have served nuts?

 

The Practice of Gratitude and How it can turn your day around.

This is How a little Gratitude can change your whole day.

Yesterday was a very grey day, and a Bank Holiday Monday. It threatened to take over the whole day smothering it with Grey when I awoke with the familiar feeling that I was tired, so tired that things ached. I did not want to crawl out of bed, but there was simply no more sleep to be had. My sister was arriving for a visit in the afternoon, she felt the same, we were both lethargic for differing reasons. We have been consciously trying to spend more time with each other lately and I hope that it is doing us both some good.
Foolishly yesterday morning I downloaded an update for my iphone and promptly thought no more of it. Now my use of the phone is limited, but I like to make use of it for photos’ social media and texts, as well as the occasional phone call of course. I merrily went on my way.

When Susie, my sister arrived we sat and spoke about all sorts of things, but mainly projects in the pipeline and what we wanted to do. I spoke about some of my own projects I want to work on some of which she has agreed to assist me with. Susie is a musician and now has new found freedom with the recent purchase of her first car. So she is widening her working area. Attending gigs further out and new experiences are opening up for her, in fact she’s consciously seeking them out, she is now following her own dream. We started to spend more time with each other so that I could help her gain more confidence out in the car, for when she hits the road for gigs up and down the country. It gives me the ideal opportunity to spend time with my younger sibling without other distractions. Some Quality Time at last. I am showing her the local countryside where we have lived for all of her life and she is seeing things with new eyes. All of these wonderful places, right here on her doorstep, but needing to get there by car, they have been limited to her up until now.

So as I try to think of interesting places to show her we jump in her car and head off.
I had a plan to show her somewhere different yesterday, but we sat indoors for most of the day, her singing and playing the guitar, talking about some of the gigs she is about to do, and the dog singing right back to her. She seemed a little surprised that he was joining in, but they soon settled into their song together.

My beloved disappeared off to see a sick friend who had just returned from hospital and we agreed to stay until he returned. He was later than anticipated and quite shaken when he came back, shocked at his friends condition. He wanted to be on his own with the dog for a walk.

 

So we the girls jumped in the car for a short trip out. Heading over to a local area along the river, there used to be a pub there, but it is now closed and the caravan park which borders the river has ducks. We parked up and walked through, looking at the pretty caravans and headed for the river, walking along the towpath we spotted a lot of floating markers which are washed up and decaying rather spectacularly. I wanted to take some photos of them and some of Susie, out in the open air, we had been talking about locations where she could get some new promo ones and although studio shots are great, if she thought about other places as backdrops as well she might get some interesting photos.

It was very windy, we were getting blown about in the wind and it wasn’t very warm, at least we had coats. But we began larking about, taking photos of each other and giggling, a return to kids again. There is a large gap in our ages and you could probably count on your hands the amount of times we have actually behaved like kids together, but we love each other and are alike in a lot of ways once everyone else is removed from the equation. We were just being ourselves, totally natural. Embracing our inner child and each other, with barely any make up and not in our posh clothes looking very windswept. We had fun, thoroughly enjoyed it. I am already making plans for the next time we go out.

Unfortunately the camera on my phone kept freaking out and doing strange things and I had to shut it off to do anything after that. It turns out the new update had messed with my mojo and changed all my images from jpeg to aae files, which my normal PC simply cannot cope with, so I had to fiddle with them to even see them on the laptop when we got home. Thanks for nothing, Apple, it worked just fine before that.

 

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I loved that couple of hours with my sister though, we came home and ate dinner all together and talked some more and the fresh air had put some colour in our cheeks and smiles on our faces. Promoting our own Health and Wellness and enjoying the Nature around us.

We enjoyed ourselves, no expectations to live up to, just being sisters. For this time I am able to spend with my sister, I am grateful. We often say that we would like to spend more time together just us girls, but it took so long to happen, due to our different schedules and now we are enjoying these opportunities.

When you start to think about the small things for which you are grateful, let alone the big things, you start to look at your life and the things around you in a much more positive light. I was encouraged to look at being grateful for small things, by a lovely lady who has been an inspiration to me many times during the past year. Kristin Granger over at www.gratitudeinall.com She posts inspiring quotes via her face book page and reminding me to look for something good in the day she also encouraged me when I told her that I wanted to write and gave me a few pointers on how to start with my blogging.

Despite a windy day, there is sunshine out there within those clouds and you only need look for it. I am Grateful for being able to see, both the wonderful things around me and my lovely sister.

 

Photography, Catching a Moment and Steam #1

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Some of you may already know, that I am an amateur photographer whenever I get to feeling creative it is one of the first things that I turn to.  It reminds me that there are some great things out there in this world, we just have to open our eyes to them.  With a keen eye, I love to get out and about in the elements and get photographing the things that inspire me.  I love spending time in Nature, Looking at wonderful Architecture or just catching the spirit of a passing moment whenever I can and enjoying the surrounding countryside and it’s beauty.

As Spring has finally sprung, I have been out and about on my walks with the Dog, snapping away and making the most of the wonderful light and sunshine.  Previously I have used all sorts of cameras’ my favoured Nikon D50, which is quite old now but more often than not, these days like it seems with most people, we resort to the mobile phone. Thankfully I have upgraded that to the 21st Century in the past few months and am enjoying what my Iphone has to offer for impromptu photos.

Many of these are posted on Instagram, so why pop along for a look if you have a moment. AloeEverybody – Instagram and from time to time, I’ll be sharing some on here too.  Meanwhile, reminding me of Winter, which is so soon forgotten now that the warmer weather has arrived.  Here’s something I took on a Steam Train Ride at Christmas in the Scottish Highlands, I was reminded of this trip when Peter Keith posted on Facebook a drone film of The Flying Scotsman Steam Train crossing the Forth Bridge at the beginning of this month.  It was an iconic moment absolutely beautiful, along with a different view of the stunning scenery in one of my favourite parts of the world an experience which is firmly on my wishlist.

There will be others posted later in the collection tagged under Steam.

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