Sunday 31 July 2016

Sunday Inspiration

Fanny Crosby was a prolific hymn writer, who lived in the mid 1800s. Not only was she blind from a young age - read more here - but in 1859, a year after she married, she gave birth to a child. The only thing she ever said aloud about that experience was "God gave us a tender babe" and "soon the angels came down and took our infant up to God and His throne."

Ten years later, when Howard Doane knocked on her door with a tune, and forty minutes before he needed to catch his train, as she heard it she clapped her hands and said, "Why, that says, 'Safe in the arms of Jesus!'" She wrote the words in half an hour, and Doane caught his train.

Ms. Crosby used the hymn to comfort many grieving parents. She said it was written for the bereaved, and "in a class of it's own".

1. Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels
Borne in a song to me,
Over the fields of glory,
Over the jasper sea. 

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest. 

2 Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world’s temptations,
Sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow,
Free from my doubts and fears;
Only a few more trials,
Only a few more tears! 

3 Jesus, my heart’s dear refuge,
Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages,
Ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience,
Wait till the night is o’er;
Wait till I see the morning
Break on the golden shore. 
I trust these beautiful words speak to your soul today. 

Saturday 30 July 2016

Ten of the Best #56

Good morning all you beautiful people. It's the weekend. At last. Welcome to it. Before it gets too busy, let's take a few moments to reflect on what just happened. Here's the best from my social media feeds, to get the fun started. Hope you find something fun or interesting.

Everyone is getting in on the act this week. My husband thought this would be a great opening picture - it kind of sums up the week, doesn't it?

Did you see Michelle Obama’s speech? I didn’t until just now. I just didn't have the time to watch it earlier in the week. I knew it would be good, and powerful, but it still blew me away. What a lady.

Friday 29 July 2016

Friday Books - Think and eat Smart

On Fridays I participate in BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader, and The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

This week's book-

Click the cover for the Goodreads blurb.

Today the McDonald's logo is more recognizable than the Christian cross. And just as the cross represents Christianity, the McDonald's M can be seen as the image of what has come to be known as the Western Diet, appropriately referred to by its acronym MAD: the Modern American Diet

Here's my P56

Our vision is incredibly limited, despite all our advances in the science of food. For example, coffee beans have over a thousand phytonutrients (that fight diseases), only a small percentage of which have been identified. The complex yet beneficial interaction between just these hundred we can identify, let alone the other nine hundred or so, is also little understood.

I have no expectation that I'm going to get to read this book this weekend - it's just too darn busy. But it has been sitting on my shelf, taunting me with its pretty cover, and interesting topic. I love reading books on food and the brain, and although this one looks a little dense and maybe could have done with more editing, Im sure I'll get a chance to dip into it. What do you think?

Tell me what you're reading, and I'll pay you a visit. 

Happy reading everyone.

Thursday 28 July 2016

Anxiety for Beginners by Eleanor Morgan

"When I was seventeen, I lost part of myself to a toilet cubicle. A part I don't know if I'll ever get back."

As I began to read Eleanor Morgan's personal investigation into anxiety disorders, instead of being put off by her horrific experiences, I was fascinated to learn how many people face invisible monsters on a daily basis. It was eye-opening to start to unpack the emotions, battles and wars waged in what to me were considered everyday events, objects and situations. I realised how little I understand, and how I've never even considered that my neighbour, colleague or child may be facing these demons all by herself.

This book changes that. Eleanor Morgan draws us in to her fraught world in a very personal way. She is a talented writer, with a knack for getting to the point. She adds a dash of humour too, because we all need to laugh at ourselves more. She covers the build up of anxiety from a child's perspective. (And from a conversation with a teacher friend, I know that children as young as 8 or 9 are suffering from forms of anxiety disorder). She talks about the varied encounters with doctors and therapists - some good, some not, and the medications that can help. Helpful strategies and coping mechanisms are presented, as anxiety disorders need to be managed, like so many diseases and disabilities, they can't be cured.

We need to talk about anxiety disorders. We need to read about mental illness. We need to understand the battles others face on a daily basis. We need to think about how to create an atmosphere of sharing, openness and trust. Mental illness is crippling enough for anyone to face, but we, the very society who created the environment in which it can grow and flourish, do very little to help those struggling, and they find themselves isolated and alone. Like we've banished them to an institution, locked up in their own frightening world. Except we don't even know that we've done it, or what that world looks like.

This is an excellent way to start the process.

4 stars

ISBN: 9781443448918

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Chicken Pasta with Basil Pesto

It's cold and wet. We're in need of food that is warm, comforting, and quick to cook. So that you can eat soon.

This is a meal that we first had out at an Italian restaurant, and we enjoyed it so much, we decided to try it at home. Actually not so much "we", just "me". But I don't get complaints when I make it - and in my house, when that happens, I tell myself "Well done. Brilliant meal. Everybody loved it." That way, the compliments do get passed to the chef.

Anyhoo,  here's Chicken Pasta with Basil Pesto. Enjoy.

Olive oil spray
4 chicken breast fillets, thinly sliced 
60ml basil pesto
cups cream
shaved parmesan and basil leaves, to serve
Pasta of your choice - we like penne or farfalle, but fettuccine is great too.

Bring water to the boil in a large pot, add pasta and cook according to package directions. Meanwhile, spray a pan with oil, and fry the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes, until slightly brown. Add the pesto and the cream, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and combine with the sauce, and serve garnished with basil and parmesan. Couldn't be simpler.

Want to make your own basil pesto? Yum, I'm coming over to try it. Here's Jamie's recipe.

More Recipes.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

We waited and waited for Will Trent to reappear. If you've read any of Karin Slaughter's Will Trent series, you can relate - it has been three years since Unseen.

He entered, in the midst of a bloody and fairly gory murder scene, after a brief moment of concern for Betty, his small dog, who needed her teeth cleaned, because if the vet was to be believed, you needed to take out a mortgage to pay for the bills associated with poor dental hygiene in dogs. 

And there you have a taste of Karin Slaughter. Her books are darkly amusing, clever and gruesome. And that's before you've met the characters. 

Will Trent is a special agent, with a messed up past that will never leave him alone. His feisty partner, Faith is a single mother, and determined to be the best agent in the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation). Amazing Amanda is their bitchy boss, who never fails to fling a sarcastic, poisoned comment that will leave your jaw hanging. And they've just been joined by medical examiner Sara Linton, a beautiful doctor (if you've read Karin's Grant County, you know her already). Sara and Will are trying being in love, and the fact that the murder scene has large amounts of blood belonging to Will's wife, Angie (yes, I did say wife!) is not helpful.

Will thinks he can find her, because he knows her. Sara can tell from the scene that her chances of survival are small. Angie is from the same shattered past as Will, and now a cop, so she is tough, resourceful and has friends in the highest of low places. 

Karin Slaughter, do you sleep at night? Because we can't. Not until we've read to the end. This is another gripping crime thriller. A page turner of note, there is a lot of blood, so not for the faint-hearted. The characters are caught up in horrific scenes and the plot moves at a cracking pace - good confronting evil at every turn.

It's a brilliant read, and ticks all the boxes - psychological crime at its very best. 

4 stars

ISBN: 9781780893570

If you like the sound of this, but aren't up for the series, try Pretty Girls or Cop Town (both stand alone) by Karin Slaughter. Or you may enjoy Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton.

Monday 25 July 2016

Monday - let's try this

It's Monday. Time to get up, get going. For me, that means walking/running first thing, and then tackling the mountain-load of work I need to do this week.

In order to do this, I need some inspiration. That's what this post is all about. To make me want to get out there and do this week.

One of the things I love the most about running is the simplicity of it. I throw on comfortable gear,  hair in an elastic, grab my shoes and a cap and go. There's no make-up, fancy kit - there's no point really, it's all going to get sweaty and be run off anyway. The road welcomes me just as I am, and no one is looking at how fashionable I am, they're too busy laughing at my silly running style (or lack thereof!)

That's why....this song....

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try-i-i
You don't have to try, try, try, try-i-i
You don't have to try
You don't have to try

Take your make up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don't you like you?
Cause I like you

As they say in the classics - if you're up and exercising, you're already beating everyone on the couch anyway.

So, off you go. Do your thing today, your style, your way. And well done you. You're getting there.

Sunday 24 July 2016

When keeping on is not enough

I'm reading a book about anxiety. According to a teacher friend, it's the new ADHD. When I was at school, you were either naughty, popular and borderline failing or you were a nerd, lonely, but got all the academic prizes (because there was only one, maybe two in each grade), these days we need various labels for all the "problems" that parents and teachers face  - our children. How sad. But this post isn't about that. I'm still busy writing that one.

I need to write my own memes - because this one needs a ?

Many children, even those below the age of ten, struggle with a form of anxiety. And there are many forms, as I'm learning from this book

The chapter I'm on has a section on therapy, and how some counsellors delve deeply into the patient's past and spotlight causes, past worries and situations  - the aim being that if the emotions associated with these are dealt with, anxiety levels can diminish. Great stuff. Problem is, if I'm the patient, I came to you at the end of myself with my current anxiety. I was desperate enough to come, so it's probably the worst it's ever been. AND YOU'VE JUST MADE IT WORSE. And now I can't cope.

It's not hard to know the right long-term solutions and what we should do to get better, to be healthy, to live long.  It's just sometimes very hard to apply those principles in real life. Because real life, well it pretty much sucks most of the time. There are these bursts of beauty, energy, love and laughter that see us through the drudge and the slog that feels unending. When you're in the mire, it's helpful to know that today, doing what you can to cope, is enough.

Let me tell you about "sleep training" my daughter. I read the book on sleep patterns and understood that you have to create an environment for your baby that won't change during the night. Because we all wake up periodically, and if everything is the same we just fall back asleep. (Why someone hasn't invented a dummy (pacifier) that cannot fall out, a blanket that can't come off and so on is beyond me, if it really were that easy? )

We were bravely letting her cry for about the fifth-but-felt-like-five-hundredth night in a row, when I stopped telling my husband all the reasons why we had to persevere, jumped out of bed, grabbed her, charged back to my side and snuggled up. We all slept so well. We needed to.

I didn't think it through, I just did it. But in the morning I understood, as I explained to my patient husband, who after bearing the brunt of my disdain, was astounded that I'd done the very thing he'd wanted to all along.

"We are sleep training. We do it every night. We will do it again soon. But last night, we were in 'coping phase'. There are no rules for coping phase, except that it can't last forever. You do whatever it takes to survive, you forgive yourself, and you get through."

What do you need to get through today?  If you're in training, and you're up for it, lucky you. You'll get there, and you keep at it. If you're not doing so well, give yourself a little leeway. It's ok. You will still get there in the end. Yes it will take a little longer, but you may be in one piece, and that's important too.


Saturday 23 July 2016

Ten of the Best #55

Good morning and welcome to the best of my social media feeds this week. It’s been a week full of news, and poking fun at everything, so there’s been a great deal to choose from. Here are my favourites.

The Nice news broke just as last week’s Ten was being compiled, so this is late, but good - why this new wave of attacks is so dangerous, and the difficulty in “protecting” ourselves. 

Britain’s new PM, Angela May prefers to let her feet do the small talk, I loved this article.

And then there was the plagiarism story - Melania Trump’s speechwriter trawled Michelle Obama’s old speeches, and they all landed up in trouble. But everyone missed this one - which is now being referred to as the”rick roll” (after Rick Astley, of course.) Click the meme for the rick roll.

Friday 22 July 2016

Friday Books - The Kept Woman

On Fridays I participate in BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader, and The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

This week's book-

Click the cover for the Goodreads blurb.

Here's my P56

"I have to look for her. I'm the only one who knows the kinds of places she'd hide."
Amanda gave Will one of her steely glares. "I swear on my life, Wilbur, if you take one step off this balcony, I'll have you in handcuffs before you see sunshine." 
His eyes burned with hatred. "I'll never forgive you for this."
Amanda made a show of pulling our her phone. "Add it to the list."

And the beginning... 

Will Trent was worried about his dog. Betty was getting her teeth cleaned, which sounded like a ridiculous waste of money for a pet, but when the vet had explained to Will all the terrible things that poor dental hygiene could do to an animal, he had been ready to sell his house in order to buy the little thing a few more precious years.

This is number 8 in the Will Trent series, for which Ms. Slaughter has made us wait for three years. That's a long time. But if, like me, you've read 1 through 7, it was worth waiting for. The characters have been so well developed through the other books, it feels like they live next door.

I love tough Amanda - the only one who calls Will "Wilbur". And Will, the brilliant but broken special agent with the GBI. Dr Sara Linton, the newly appointed GBI Medical Examiner, and Will's lover.  But this is about the search for Angie, Will's wife (yes!), and whether she is as evil as she seems. I breathed this book, I needed it so much. Review will be up next week, but it's well worth a read, and I highly recommend that you read others in the series first.

Happy reading everyone.

Thursday 21 July 2016

I'm Sick Now What? by Dr. Andrew Butterworth

I know, I know. Why this book? Let me explain.

I went to the Kingsmead Book Fair recently, and hadn't booked a first session, and landed up in the chapel listening to Dr, Butterworth talk about healing. Quite timely, given my last twelve months. He was down-to-earth, interesting and practical; patient, intelligent and steadfast in his faith.

He said there was one fact that he thought worth sharing: 

"It can be proven scientifically that there is a link between our thought life and how well our immune system works."

I knew this had been said before. But I hadn't heard it expressed with such conviction from the perspective of both faith/religion and medical science. So I bought the book (which had to be hunted down - challenge accepted).

The book is like Andrew (who I've subsequently had the pleasure of meeting). Fascinating, insightful, and full of practical ways to work out the questions he poses: 

"Why am I sick? Is healing possible? IS IT POSSIBLE FOR ME?"

The first four chapters explore sickness, and the promise of healing from a Biblical perspective. Andrew brings in his medical experience to explain the link between our thoughts and the immune system, the toxicity of stress and spiritual healing. The middle chapters work through typical blocks with practical questions for considering at the end of each chapter. The last few talk about the journey towards health - how? 

This book is packed with goodness, challenges and honest confrontation of difficult questions. It will motivate you and inspire you to live better, stronger and well. It's worth reading.

5 stars

ISBN: 9781629115610

Wednesday 20 July 2016

More soup for me

I know. This is the fifth sixth seventh soup recipe I've posted recently. I'm boring myself. My eyes are rolled so far back, I can see Australia.

But this one's really easy, and healthy and tasty. All my favourite things. And you can even serve it hot, too.

Cucumber soup

You will need -  4 Cucumbers, 1 cup vegetable broth, knob of butter, 250ml fresh cream, 15 ml mixed herbs.

Peel two cucumbers, and leave the skins on the other two for colour (and because skin is good for you), and slice all four. Fry gently in a knob of butter. Add the stock and herbs and bring to the boil.  Simmer for about 25 minutes. Blend using a stick blender, and add cream. Try it hot - yum, or chill for a few hours. Also delicious. Garnish with cucumber slices.

Too bland for you? Add some crushed garlic when you fry the cucumbers. Or use dill and mint instead of mixed herbs. 

And since that's so easy, if you're up for baking, why not make your own bread or rolls to go with that? No? Then pop out to your local and buy a fresh French Loaf.


Tuesday 19 July 2016

After the Party by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is like her name - you dig out an old one, and it is beautiful, shiny and goes with your favourite outfit. 

I am dying to read her latest - I Found You. But while I wait for it to become a little cheaper (US Kindle edition is over $20 at time of writing), I thought I'd dip into an old one I'd been wanting to read for ages. After the Party is the story of Jem and Ralph, who found their happy ending eleven years ago. Only now, two kids and some stress and chaos later, it doesn't have the same fairytale ring as it did before. Jobs and careers are difficult, they're drifting apart, and the predators of the opposite gender are circling around both of them.

In this delightful read, the author asks when it is right to leave and move on, if the magic can ever be recaptured and whether we are capable of coherent decisions in times of crisis. 

I listened to the Audible version, and found Patience Tomlinson's narration excellent. Weaving seamlessly through time and the net of tangled relationships, the characters were wonderful. Jem is petite, capable and unwittingly gorgeous, and Ralph's charm is in his bafflement at the way his life is falling out of control, and his desperation to recreate it. I only discovered upon its completion that it is a sequel, and I am glad - I think it actually stands alone well, and I wouldn't have enjoyed imagining how the first book went.

The delight and added star came in the surprising and uplifting ending. It worked for me, and although it was a tad long-winded, I enjoyed the journey too.

A heartwarming 4 stars

ISBN: 9781451609103

Other Lisa Jewell books I've read: The Girls, Before I Met You, The House We Grew Up In, The Third Wife

You may also enjoy Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.

Monday 18 July 2016

Running, Loving, Living

Good morning all you early birds.

So glad you are joining me this morning. We're going for a walk, that may involve a bit of running. We're getting there. Slowly. But we're getting there.

I need a lottle motivation to do this every day. And I do have to. My medical aid has given me incentives to get a free reward on a weekly basis (a free hot drink or smoothie). To do this, I need to achieve a fitness target. Great. Except the target keeps increasing. And I'm figuring that one day soon, I may need to learn to sleepwalk again so that I can achieve all they want me to. 

But that's not really why I do it. No really, it's not. I do it because I love to get fit, and I love doing it outside, in our beautiful part of the world, and I love to connect with nature and people as I go. It's a great start to the day.

So part of my motivation is to sing songs in my head as I go. This morning I'm humming this one.

Yes, it's Adele. Again. I really enjoy this song - it shows how much she's moved on, let go, and besides, it has the lines: "Baby I'm still rising - I was running, you were walking - You couldn't keep up, you were falling down (down)"

That's going to inspire me to run a bit more than I walk today.

Have a good one.

Friday 15 July 2016

Ten of the Best #54

What a week it's been. Eventful? Somewhat, I'd say.

And our social media feeds tell the tale - so much to share today. Almost too much. It makes writing this post so much quicker and easier. Thanks to all my friends who share the funniest, craziest, most interesting stuff online. You know who you are.

So here we go then, ten of the best of what I saw this week. Snuggle up, grab your tea, and let's begin.

This was the week that Pokemon Go got very famous. Launched in the US on 1 July, so still not officially here (neither was Netflix, for all those years, but COME ON), but of course it is. What do you mean you didn't know? Kate Sidley illuminates the concept for all of us. Click the pic for the news story.

Hang on, did I miss something? I did hear that David Cameron was going, but I thought Boris Johnson was next. Even if he only lasted a few days like our esteemed Finance Minister Van Rooyen. But how did Theresa May get there so fast? Or not so fast, as this humorous article explains.

Friday Books - Anxiety for Beginners

On Fridays I participate in BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader, and The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

This week's book-

Click the cover for the Goodreads blurb.

When I was seventeen, I lost part of myself to a toilet cubicle. A part I don't know if i'll ever get back.

Here's my P56

Stage fright isn't a commonly spoken about anxiety among performers, maybe because they think it's bad luck to do so...As Adele told Vogue in an interview "I puke quite a lot before going on stage, though never actually on the stage." She appears, blazing, smiling. "I shit myself before everything," she continued. "But the bigger the freak out, the more I enjoy the show."

I'm taking a break from my usual fare - crime thrillers and historical fiction, and going to read this personal account of anxiety disorder, from someone who was diagnosed at quite a young age with an anxiety disorder. I'm really looking forward to it. 

It looks well written, for a start, and I'm fascinated by the topic. A teacher friend was telling me that children in her class as young as 8 or 9 years of age are being treated for anxiety. It seems that our society cannot help making everyone anxious, and when it's young people and children, maybe it's time for change?

Tell me what you're reading, and I'll pay you a visit. 

Happy reading everyone.

Thursday 14 July 2016

Book Club Books

Is it your turn? Have you got a list?

What will you decide to buy for Book Club?

Our Book Club doesn't work like that - we bring books every month, as we've read them. But if you need to choose books, sometimes a list of options is helpful.

Here are my favourite picks from the last few months. I've included a brief synopsis here, but if you click the covers, you'll get my full reviews.

Different Class by Joanne Harris is one of the best books I have read this year so far.

Set in a creepy going-down-the-drain boys' school, an old pupil is appointed as headmaster to sweep clean, and this may mean that our hero - Roy Straitely, the Latin master, and protector of heritage, history and tradition, may be brushed out. It is intense, and has a marvellous psychological aspect to it.

Flashbacks from a schoolboy's journal reveal that all was not healthy there a decade or so ago, and now perhaps the demons are re-appearing. A great read.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Chicken Broccoli Bake

I cannot believe that I've been posting recipes nearly every week for a year now, and I haven't done this yet. Just astonishing, as it's such a family staple. 

Well here it is - I've trawled the internet for the one closest to ours, because I don't think I've ever bothered to write it down. Shame on me.

Chicken Broccoli

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 punnet mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups fat-free-milk
  • 1 (16-oz) package steam-in-bag broccoli florets
  • 250ml fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup light mayonnaise
  • Black pepper
  • Cheddar cheese, a sprinkle for the top
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Cook broccoli in a little boiling water. Drain.
  2. Heat olive oil , add onion and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are starting to get tender. Add cubed chicken. Cook until chicken is cooked through. 
  3. Sprinkle flour over chicken & mushroom mixture and stir constantly, cooking for one minute. Stir in milk. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes, or until thick and bubbly.
  4. Stir in cooked broccoli, and heat through about 1 minute. Add yogurt, mayo and pepper, stirring lightly to combine.
  5. Pour into casserole dish - coated with oil spray. Sprinkle top with cheese and bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese melts and it's bubbly around the edges. Enjoy with rice, or cauli-rice.