Kindness and a Cornish Pasty…

Do you ever have a week when all the positive vibes and thinking deserts you? When you ‘sweat the small stuff’ even though you know it’s not helping anything at all, and what you are bothered about today won’t even matter in years to come.

I’m working on a book for a friend at the moment – it’s a book about being true to yourself, following a positive path and changing the way we look at things. It’s going to be a great book and I’ve already learned a lot from working on it. Every time I re-read a chapter I think ‘wow’ that’s good advice! So why do I falter some days? Just as I get my head into gear I hear some sad news or another depressing health statistic and feel my shoulders slump and the old negative questions start to re-surface.

I went to a lovely wedding at the weekend and saw my goddaughter re-affirm her wedding vows. It was such a happy day and we connected again with a lot of old friends. One of the friends said in passing that she wished that she handled life as I did – she thought nothing ever really fazed me and had never seen me look as though I couldn’t cope. It is interesting how others see us. My friend had no idea that I have had dark days; days when just getting out of bed is a struggle. I admit that I always try and put on a brave face – it’s just the way I am, and I guess putting up a front is a coping mechanism for me, but just like the swan, it doesn’t stop me paddling my feet like crazy underneath the water!

Sometimes no matter how hard we try to be positive life just sucks. Sometimes we just need to admit that to ourselves. Sometimes we do need to give in, even if for just a short time. We  feel sad for people that are struggling. Today my dad told me about a friend of a friend who is undergoing chemotherapy for the third time and may not recover. She was just concerned that her family would have Christmas presents, worrying about her loved one’s more than herself. My heart went out to her and everyone is similar situations. In fact I wept for her. It just isn’t fair.

What do we do when we have a bad day; when we want a bit of comfort and cheer? Alcohol is bad for us, sugar is bad for us too now. Of course we want to stick to a healthy lifestyle most of the time but there are times when only a good glass of wine or a chunk of rich chocolate cake will do. It will not harm us now and again. and even if it does I am willing to risk it!

We have a house move looming and the form filling is more than tedious. Demands come from all quarters. Money goes flying out of the door as everyone takes their share for services rendered. One thing is for sure – I NOT MOVING AGAIN! ( At least not until the next perfect house comes along). As I looked at my poor husband making yet another call to sort out an irritating demand, his hair standing on end, I collapsed into laughter. We had let ourselves get dragged into the mire of pointless stress. We needed to lighten up as really everything will be sorted. We are lucky to be in the minority of the human race. We have a roof over our head and are looking for a bigger one. We have a choice. We should be thanking our lucky stars!

I’m thinking of kindness too, today and how being kind really makes a difference to someone’s day and I know a small act of kindness can really help make a difference when the skies are grey. We never know what anyone may be going through when we rush past them lost in our own world. I want to remind myself to take time out of a busy day and check on my friend who’s feeling low. A good point to remember too, is that people don’t always want to be given answers or explanations as to why they are feeling as they do; they probably know why already. We don’t always need someone to come up with reasons and platitudes; we just want someone to be sympathetic and say they understand. That’s ALL we need sometimes.

A Sympathetic Voice

Lately it has come to mind

It is most important to be kind,

To take a moment, and make a choice

To comfort with a sympathetic voice.

In this complex world we keep afloat,

Care for ourselves without rocking the boat.

Weigh up the politics, try and do what is right,

Find something we believe in and follow the light.

Too many times on a solitary track

Have we passed on by, and not looked back

Not knowing the difference we could have made

To the person standing alone and afraid?

After frantic years of business deals

With arrogant managers clicking their heels,

Would anyone look back and say

‘I’m glad I acted mean today?’

  Lyn Halvorsen (C)

 

Actually, I have decided not to open the wine. I need comfort food. I am going back to my roots and I am going to cook a Cornish pasty. And probably eat in in one fell swoop. So there.

Maybe you need to be Cornish to appreciate the comfort in this but in case you are interested, the recipe is below.

For the pastry:      

250 g chilled butter

500 g plain flour

1 beaten egg.

For the Filling

350 g steak, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 small potatoes, diced

175 g  swede peeled and chop

salt, pepper and chopped parsley

Method.

Rub the butter into the flour with a pinch of salt until it is like breadcrumbs. Blend in 6 tbsp cold water, or enough to make a firm dough. Cut into four and chill.

Heat the oven to 200 c/gas 7 180 fan.

Roll out the pastry into rounds ( I cut a circle around a medium size plate) Firmly pack a quarter of the filling on each round. Brush the edges with beaten egg and draw up both sides and crimp to seal.

Lift onto a non-stick baking tray and glaze with remaining egg.

Bake for ten mins then lower temp to 180c or 160 fan. Cook for a further 45 mins. Check regularly as ovens vary. Great served warm.

Blessings to you.

 pasty

Lest we Forget and The Importance of Small Things

It’s been quite a week.

We all woke up yesterday to an era of change. Again.

This year has been interesting. Have we missed obvious signs pointing to an overall desperate need for change? A lot of us were shocked or surprised by the Brexit result and the American presidential election results, but perhaps we assumed too much. Perhaps we didn’t see the  signs of unrest and dissatisfaction that were simmering away under the surface. And although some of us wanted things to stay the same, history has a way of showing us that this rarely happens; there will always be a new leader with new ideas waiting in the wings, bringing change, sometimes with far reaching consequences.

So much has been spoken. So much vitriol. There has been so much mud slinging and media manipulation. Wherever we live, is easy to feel real despair about the choices that are made in our own countries. The interesting thing is, as human beings we all passionately believe it what WE feel to be right, and cannot always understand other points of view. Of course, it is a good thing that we challenge each other. There have to be opposing views and discussions otherwise we wouldn’t have any hope at all of a fair society. But what do we do when we feel real despair about things over which we have no control? And what do we do when we are frightened about what could lay ahead ?

Maybe we should look to the past and ask ourselves what we have learnt, if anything. We need to question things of course. We want to be well informed and up to date with current events, but maybe now we are bombarded with too much information and too much negativity. And how much of the news we are fed is really unbiased? Are we manipulated and led in the wrong direction? I’m talking in riddles here I think, but I don’t want to make this a political rant, that is not what my blog is about and my aim has always been to steer away from politics. It’s more a case of talking about how we deal with where we are now. How do we do that? How do we face a changing world?

Actually, is the world really changing?

No. The people who run the world are changing, but the world still turns in exactly the same way as it always has; the seasons come and go, the moon waxes and wanes; the sun rises and the sun sets. We may not think we can change the way things are done, but we can make a difference if we all look towards a positive future, even if we can’t always see a clear path ahead. And every small act counts. Good things start in your own back yard. We can act kindly to our neighbour, nurture our families and ourselves, and aim to create an eco friendly world.

As we approach Remembrance Sunday in Britain, we wear our poppies with pride and remember fallen heroes; we think of the pain and the loss suffered by so many and remain forever saddened by the terrible inhumanity of war.

I think of unsung heroes. I think of my own uncle who was awarded the D.F.C  – The Distinguished Flying Cross – awarded for acts of valour, courage and devotion to duty- in the second world war. Flying many times in a Lancaster Bomber, he was only nineteen years old when he was first sent to war. He was one of the very few in his squadron to survive the war, and we will never know what he really experienced as he never wanted to talk about those times. The only thing we do know was that he was incredibly brave and a wonderful person who my sons completely looked up to and revere to this day. And he had an amazing sense of humour.

My   grandfather (pictured below) was an Air Raid Warden in Exeter during  the second world war; Exeter was bombed very badly and he witnessed unimaginable sights. He was the very kindest of men, and my mother once told us of how he comforted a young girl who was being herded onto a train to get to safety and was distraught about leaving her dog behind. He gathered the dog into his arms, and smiled at the little girl, assuring her the dog would be just fine with him. This story always brings tears to my eyes; it is often the small acts of kindness that affect us the most.

That brings me to think of today, and the importance of the smaller acts of kindness. Kind words and compassion will never go amiss, whoever sits on the smartest throne,  wears the glitziest crown or rides in the smoothest presidential limousine.

   ‘Never fear; Thank Home, and Poetry, and the Force behind both.’

    ‘All I ask is to be held above the barren wastes of want.’

    Two quotes by English war poet and soldier Wilfred Owen.

What are your thoughts today?

Blessings to you.

 

Arthur Richard Harris  1891 – 1972

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Thoughts on All Hallows Day and Getting a bit Serious…

As we all know yesterday was Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve as it is less commonly referred to. I know some people feel it is an evil day that should be shunned altogether, but I would respectfully disagree. It is said to be the night when all the spirits of our dear departed come back to life as the walls between our world and the next become thin and porous, allowing their spirits to pass through. Trick or treating was said to have started in the 16th century, when people went door- to- door in costume asking for food in exchange for a poem or a song. Many dressed as souls long gone in the hope that they were protecting themselves from the spirits.

I think of it as a time when we reflect on our mortal state and think about the spiritual world, whether we believe in ghouls and ghosts or not.

And is there any harm in letting our children have a little bit of fun as long as it is respectful and monitored by an adult? It seems to me that it heralds the start of the winter season; with cosy evenings, fireworks and bonfires, and the gradual build-up to Christmas.

But as we put away the pumpkins and scary costumes and finish up the sweets and treats for another year, perhaps there is time for a little reflection. Today the atmosphere seems fitting for just that. As November dawned this morning with an eerie damp mist, it was as if nature was calling time on the rich, golden hues of autumn and preparing us for winter. Nature always move on, as does life. And on All Hallows’ Day it is customary in many faiths to pray for those who have gone before us, to honour their memories and take time to remember for a while.

But it is not necessarily a time for sadness. It is a time for remembering good times, parties, family gatherings, and perhaps the loving touch of a grandparent long gone but who played a part in making us who we are.

I remember a Godmother who was a wonderful person; kind and always cheerful. She was disabled but never let it get her down, and indeed managed to drive a scooter. I will never forget her turning up at my school to pick me up; we roared home, laughing all the way. She left this world far too soon and I miss her still. I just hope she is up above somewhere riding high and keeping everyone entertained.

So today I will light a candle for all those we loved and love still. The friends I miss and still talk about, and a little person I never had the chance to know.

There is a certain wistfulness in the air today, which reminded me of one of my favorite poems.The last four lines are etched on a tombstone in the graveyard at St. Enedoc Church, Trebetherick, Cornwall. Beautiful.

 The Day is Done by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

 The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist:
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Blessings to you.

Home Comforts and the Things that Matter the Most….

I don’t think I was the only one watching the final of The Great British Bake Off last night! It was rumoured  that there were 14.5 million viewers.

Over the last twelve weeks we have watched the ups and downs in the baking tent. We have sympathised with the poor quivering bakers when things went horribly wrong; collapsing gingerbread houses,’informally’ iced biscuits, Genoise sponge that could be ‘wrung out like a flannel’ and  cakes that would ‘bounce back if thrown at a wall’ were displayed for all to see. We have marvelled too, at the triumphs; glorious displays of intricate bread structures; towering and utterly scrumptious looking chocolate cakes; an imperious blue peacock cake; regal tea-party delicacies; brilliantly puffy, squidgy, billowing meringues; glossy eclairs….I could go on and on…….

I love to cook and I love food, but what is it that attracts us so much to programs about baking? I think it is about much more than food alone. A lot of the time we are attracted to food because of the memories certain dishes evoke and the relationship we may have had with the person who first prepared them for us. No matter how I try, I cannot replicate the way my Devonshire Grandfather prepared bread and butter! Wafer thin slices of bread were buttered with the best butter and laid on a china plate like the most exquisite lace;,and I have never been able to make porridge quite like my Cornish grandmother which simmered over-night on the Aga and was served with lashings of fresh unpasturised milk, (or sometimes clotted cream!) Of course, these dishes were never Michelin starred, but I never forget those memories, and I have such fond memories of all the meals I watched being prepared as I was a child. I think it is about pleasing our friends and loved ones too; how long do our children take before they look in the fridge when they come home? Not long whatever their ages! And as a mother, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your children, or grandchildren, eating and enjoying nutritious food that you have prepared for them.

My nephew is now a talented chef, and I look back at the time he spent cooking with my mother, sister, and me, and I now take delight in his success.

Cooking evokes such passion. Shortly before my Mum died she sat up in bed and discussed the merits of putting parsley in Cornish pasties, and butter in the pastry. As I look back at the times she was happiest in her later years, it was when she was in the kitchen following new recipes and preparing for family gatherings.

As we sit around a table with family and friends, whatever the conversations or discussions, how can the mood not be lifted by the arrival of a steaming bowl of pasta or a lovingly prepared roast dinner? And after a long, hard day and with winter approaching, how about a bowl of chicken soup to beat the unwelcome chill wind?

                 To quote a favourite Jewish proverb:

                                          ‘Worries go down better with soup.’

There is something intangible in the process of cooking – a need to do one’s best, to create something delicious; an emotion that wells inside us that is more than just about serving up the best cake, it’s about connecting to our primeval instinct and the need to provide food for everyone.

We welcomed a new beloved granddaughter into our family this week! She is truly a blessing and already very much loved. We now have nine grandchildren; each and every one of them is a star in our family universe. After some very hectic days of work demands and a possible house move to think about, I was definitely feeling frazzled, but looking at my new granddaughter ( she was born in America but I could see her thanks to modern technology!) put everything into perspective. Safe in her mother and father’s loving care, and with adoring brothers and sisters waiting for her at home, she has a wonderful world waiting for her. These occasions are momentous and put everyday cares completely to one side.

I put some time aside and took my six year old granddaughter to visit the Roald Dahl museum yesterday which was another enjoyable interlude. I love the fact she  has become fascinated with this author and all his wonderful stories, especially as when her own dad was young, the house we lived in backed onto Roald Dahl’s garden, and we could glimpse his writing shed. After looking around we spent an enjoyable time making up a recipe for a potion to get rid of witches! We have high hopes of winning that competition with our Sticky Sicky Witch Shrinking Potion! I am afraid to say I cannot give you the recipe as it is top secret!

One recipe I will give you is the granola recipe I made up for my granddaughter who loves cooking. Enjoy!

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Thinking about home and frazzled days, here are some lines that resonated with me this week:

‘Even tho’ we walk the diamond studded highways, It’s the country lanes and byways that makes us long for home.’    from  Old Photographs and Memories by Jim Capaldi.

‘If the notes we play are wrong, Let it be our favourite song.’  from ‘Even More Mine’ by Rita Wilson.

I’d love to hear your about your favourite memories of the foods you loved as a child!

Blessings to you.

Lyn

The Value of Every Life…

I was listening to the news this week and heard the story of a lady who is battling with an aggressive form of leukaemia. She is young – aged just 23, and is married with a young daughter. She desperately needs a stem cell transplant and her sister in Nigeria is the only suitable match. She was elated when she received the news that her sister was a 10 out of 10 match, but hope turned to despair when her sister’s visa application to visit the country was rejected. According to this lady, the Home Office said it was not satisfied that her sister would be a genuine visitor to the country and would not have sufficient funds to support her visit. Also the Home Office appeared to be worried that she would not return to her own country after her visit, despite the family pledging funds and the sister announcing she would be returning home to care for her own young family after the procedure.

Of course I do not know all the details of the events here, but it got me thinking about priorities and how situations are evaluated. Do we miss the ‘big picture’? Surely the issue of utmost importance in this story is saving the life of an individual; one who is every bit as important as you, as me, as the Queen?

The is more then one life at stake here too. There is a little girl who needs her mother. A husband who would be bereft. A whole family who may never be the same again if this request is turned down.

 Human lives are more important than petty rules. How many times do we hear the words ‘I’m just doing my job’ or, ‘If we make an exception here we will have to do it for others too.’ So what! And what if the worst happened and the lady’s sister stayed a while. Would it be so bad?

Why cannot common sense prevail? If a life is at stake and a possible cure is available surely it should be given with no questions asked.  Just answers given. Positive answers. Arms should be outstretched to welcome all the help that is offered. If we saw a person drowning we wouldn’t ignore the lifebelt on the riverbank would we? So what is the difference here. Just petty rules.

In this life we all deserve an equal chance. We deserve to be cared for and healed without conditions.

I’m closing with two quotes from Dr. Seuss. They may sound lighthearted but to me they are also profound.

   ‘Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive that is you-er than you!’

        ‘Sometimes the questions are complicated but the answers are simple.’

Blessings to you.

When we lose a pet…

Notes From Dove Lane

dog-in-heavenYesterday there was an awful occurrence on the street where we live. A lady was out walking her dog when a car  drew up beside her. Suddenly someone jumped out of the car and  seized her dog which they then bundled into a sack. It was only because the lady screamed so loudly that the thieves dropped the bag and sped off. Thankfully this time no harm was done but this was a totally heartless act.

Most of us love our animals and the pleasure they bring to their owners is immeasurable. We could never contemplate the above. I started thinking about the bond most of us develop with our animals and how much we miss them when they are gone.

Recently my son and his family lost their beloved dog after she had given them many years of loyal companionship. Always there with a welcome whenever we visited, she…

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When we lose a pet…

dog-in-heavenYesterday there was an awful occurrence on the street where we live. A lady was out walking her dog when a car  drew up beside her. Suddenly someone jumped out of the car and  seized her dog which they then bundled into a sack. It was only because the lady screamed so loudly that the thieves dropped the bag and sped off. Thankfully this time no harm was done but this was a totally heartless act.

Most of us love our animals and the pleasure they bring to their owners is immeasurable. We could never contemplate the above. I started thinking about the bond most of us develop with our animals and how much we miss them when they are gone.

Recently my son and his family lost their beloved dog after she had given them many years of loyal companionship. Always there with a welcome whenever we visited, she is still sorely missed by all of us.

I remember our family Scottie too; a real character who made up for his short stature with a very audible presence! Also, he could hear the rattle of a biscuit tin lid from a hundred yards away! Never really trusted off the lead, he led us a merry dance, but was a very humorous character who only ever sat on his own chair, and once ate my son’s dental brace. We said goodbye to him in very sad circumstances but he wagged his tail to the end.

I must also mention my sister’s dog, a dear old Staffy who came from a rescue center and was much loved. She had a wonderful temperament and never got cross, even when violently attacked by another dog.

Here is a poem for all our four legged friends,

and especially for Roxy, Winston, and Queenie.

All God’s Creatures

For all kinds of creatures who’ve passed from this place
There’s a land up in Heaven with plenty of space
For shaggy dogs and fluffy cats,
Long eared rabbits, hamsters and rats.

There are hutches and baskets, pillows and rugs
And plenty of angels to give out some hugs.
There are grassy meadows for the cows and the sheep
And a shed lined with hay where the horses can sleep.

Nosebags are stuffed full of carrots and oats
And for cold winter evenings there are fur lined coats.
And here every dog can jump and run
And every cat stretch out its paws in the sun.

Happiness reigns and there is freedom to roam
And room for all in this Heavenly home,
Yet once in a while in this menagerie
They’ll remember home, and you and me.

© Lyn Halvorsen