Category: wellbeing

Tomato & Basil Sauce – sugar free!

TomAndBasil

In any supermarket the shelves are stacked high with ready mixed cooking sauces in jars. They are very convenient and that’s why millions of jars are sold every day.

The downside? Many of them have a high sugar-content when really most of us are trying to cut down on sugar intake.

When it comes to Tomato and Basil Sauce, not only does it not need sugar – it actually tastes loads better without it!

This sauce is REALLY easy to make in a couple of minutes.

You will need:

  • 2 tomatoes
  • Small carton of passata
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Dried basil
  • Stock cube
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt

Method:

Put all the ingredients in the pan, as follows, before putting on heat.

  1. Pour a glug of rapeseed oil in a saucepan.
  2. Crush and finely chop the garlic clove and add to oil
  3. Chop the tomatoes and add to pan.
  4. Pour on the passata.
  5. Add a stock cube – chicken or veg cube are fine.
  6. Sprinkle over with the dried basil.
  7. Add a few twists of ground black pepper.
  8. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  9. Put the pan on the heat and let it start to bubble.
  10. Turn down to a very low simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  11. Pour over chicken breasts or pasta for a great taste – sugar free!

Jaded Heart

JadedHeart 3D cover HdBack04

Apologies for my absence on here for a few weeks. I have been working on a new book – Jaded Heart – which came out today!

Jaded Heart is the story of love, loss, grief, addiction and recovery.

After the sudden death of my parents and my son, thirty years ago, I spent decades looking for personal peace.

This book shares my personal journey through trying to cope with loss, addictive behaviour and coping mechanisms.

After three decades I have finally come to a place of greater peace and share the journey in this very honest account.

Jaded Heart will help those struggling with loss, grief and addictions.

Jaded Heart is my story, but it may be your story too.

The book is available on Amazon, on Kindle and in Paperback.

Here is a short video about the book.

Jaded Heart from RSVP Trust on Vimeo.

The book is available on Amazon here…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jaded-Heart-story-addiction-recovery/dp/1511954000

Have a banana!

banana

Over the last couple of years of intentionally trying to improve my diet, one simple habit stands out as the easiest and possibly the most effective change I made. A daily dose of banana.

A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber.

There is no question that bananas give us a great energy boost, that’s why they are popular with athletes.

But bananas also help protect us from several illnesses. Blood pressure, anemia, constipation, nerves, and ulcers are all often eased by eating a banana.

According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND, those suffering from depression felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

The old saying, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ should be updated to a banana a day.

I prefer mine when they are nice and ripe, with a few brown dots on the skin. I have one chopped into my porridge every morning for breakfast, with a spoonful of honey.

I also use them in my fruit smoothie recipe.

Go on. Have a banana!

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The Flat Rabbit

flatrabbit2 Yesterday I was quite moved by an article I read about a children’s book that deals with grief. The Flat Rabbit is by Scandinavian children’s book author and artist Bárður Oskarsson. A dog is taking a walk when he discovers a rabbit lying completely flattened in the road. He is quite disturbed by the find and is soon joined by his friend the rat. flatrabbit3

“She is totally flat,” said the rat. For a while they just stood there looking at her. “Do you know her?” “Well,” said the dog, “I think she’s from number 34. I’ve never talked to her, but I peed on the gate a couple of times, so we’ve definitely met.”

They imagine lying flattened in the road is no fun so they think they should do something for the poor rabbit. But they are not sure what. They go to the park for a while to sit and think. The dog finally has an idea and they return and collect the rabbit from the road. flatrabbit9 They work all night in the dog’s workshop and build a kite. They lovingly attach the rabbit to the kite and then, after many failed attempts they get the kite and the rabbit flying. flatrabbit95

Once the kite was flying, they watched it in silence for a long time. “Do you think she is having a good time?” the rat finally asked, without looking at the dog. The dog tried to imagine what the world would look like from up there. “I don’t know…” he replied slowly. “I don’t know.”

I was quite moved by the story because it gently explores the real messiness of grief and loss. Those left behind seldom know what to do, yet feel they must do something. Grief has been a huge part of my story and, watching the dog and the rat struggle to know what to do with the rabbit, I see a reflection of my own confusion about what to do with grief. I’ll be thinking about the flat rabbit and her friends trying to cope with their loss for weeks to come, I think. flatrabbit0 The Flat Rabbit is available on Amazon here.

Looking for seagulls

seagul

The three short years of my son’s troubled life were torture. I thought the bad days would never end. His deformed heart would suddenly cause his blood pressure to drop and he’d pass out. He was in and out of hospital all the time.

Various medicines had to be taken several times a day to keep him alive. When we went out as a family we took a whole pharmacy with us wherever we went.

After he died, shortly before his third birthday, I entered a dark place of not coping that, thirty years later, is only just coming to an end.

When you are going through something frightening or unpleasant, it sometimes feels that this bad period of your life will never be over. Often it feels like the good times play out too fast and the bad times play in slow motion. Life doesn’t have a fast forward button.

Sometimes it feels like our ship has sunk and we are cast adrift, swimming in an endless ocean with no sight of dry land. How long can we go on? But I have learned to look for seagulls.

We may not see the dry land of hope yet, but seagulls never fly too far from the shore. Even a lone seagull can give us hope. Then a few more appear in the sky. Land must be near. Our trial will soon be over and we will stand on solid ground once more.

I don’t know what trials you may be facing today. But don’t give up. Look for the seagulls. Look for a small sign that something is changing for the better.

You may not yet have what you hope for but the seagull means you’re not far off. Hang in there. Dry land is coming soon.

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Who validates you?

like

We all want to be a ‘valid person’. But most of us have some little (or large) secret insecurities. These can make us nervous about being ourselves. So there is a human tendency to seek validation from others. Comedians seek laughter. Actors seek applause. Craftsmen seek appreciation. And so on.

I think for most of us this seeking of validation starts when we are small. Do we fit in? Are we popular? Or are we on the edge of the crowd? Are we sometimes shunned?

I remember when I was at primary school and we’d have a medical check. When they did the hearing test I tried really hard to hear the quietest sounds. I was always hoping the nurse would say, ‘You have incredible hearing. I think you’re unique.’ I hope she’d tell others and officials would come and visit me at school and say, ‘Your hearing ability is so amazing, the Prime Minister wants to meet you.’

Needless to say that never happened.

But seeking validation can be very dangerous. Sometimes we give the power of validation to the wrong person – the overbearing parent, the judgemental friend, the unsupportive spouse.

And that’s what we need to understand – we hold the power of our own validation and we choose who to give it to. Be careful.

Many men suffer because they gave the power of validation to their father but he never validated them, never said well done.

In Paul Merton’s autobiography he tells how he sought his Father’s approval but it never came… until his Father was dying. At the last moment in the hospital he tells him how proud he has been of him. After his death, when the family are clearing his Father’s house, they find a scrapbook with every newspaper article about Paul Merton. His Father had been a secret admirer all along.

Many men and women give the power of validation to one parent or other and sometimes the approval never comes.

In some ways we are all seeking a mini-validation by getting the thumbs up ‘like’ on Facebook, or the favourite star – or even better a RT – on Twitter. I’m hoping for a few on this article! But if not, I’m not bothered.

I sometimes get people giving me the benefit of their opinion on my life or work. Here’s a news flash for them all – I haven’t given you the power to validate or invalidate me.

I choose to let history / God / the Universe validate me or not.

The group of people that irritates me the most is those who think they are something special when they’re just like the rest of us. They assume that their opinion is of more value than mine. They spout their opinion as though it was an inarguable fact, when it is just an opinion.

People told me I couldn’t go to the Third-World to help the poor. People told me I couldn’t write a book. They told me I couldn’t start a Charity, or buy my own house.

So I did.

Be careful of those who try to hold you back. They may be trying to keep you down in order to lift themselves up.

You have the power to validate yourself.

While it is always helpful to have a few wise counsellors around you, you need to be true to yourself.

We are all looking for someone to believe in us but be very careful about letting others validate you, because one day they may decide to invalidate you.

You are unique.

Go and be amazing today!

If you want energy, avoid energy drinks!

EnergyDrinks

When I read this tragic story I realised caffeine is a much more dangerous drug than we realise.

‘My heart just hit the floor’: A mother’s pain after her son died from drinking FOUR energy drinks daily… as a doctor warns no more than two caffeinated beverages per day

The 35-year-old truck driver had suffered a massive heart attack and died from caffeine toxicity

A mother is determined that no one else will have to endure the pain of their child dying from consuming too many energy drinks.

Shani Clarke’s son, Michael, used to drink at least four 500ml cans of Mother a day – as well as four to five cups of coffee before he was found slumped behind the wheel of the 11 tonne truck on the side of the road in Perth on January 30 this year.

The 35-year-old truck driver had suffered a massive heart attack and died from caffeine toxicity.

by Leesa Smith For Daily Mail Australia – 3 September 2014.

(Read full article)

Most of my life I have been a chain coffee drinker. I needed a shot first thing to get the day started, another to get to work, and throughout the morning to keep me focussed… Or so I thought.

In my mid-thirties I began suffering from chest pains. It felt like I was having a heart attack. I went to the doctor. His first question was ‘How much coffee do you drink?’ When I told him he said that was almost certainly the problem. I cut back on the caffeine, and guess what? The chest pains stopped immediately.

As life went on the caffeine consumption increased a little. But I could feel myself starting to get irritable and tetchy by mid-afternoon.

Caffeine is a strong addictive drug. It is the fact that we are addicted to it that makes us think we ‘have to have it.’

Caffeine is in coffee but it’s also in tea – lots of teas not just ‘normal’ tea. It’s also in cola drinks and most energy drinks.

It might come as a surprise that caffeine is not just an addictive drug, it’s also a model drug of dependence

Caffeine is produced by more than seventy-five plants, which use it as a pesticide. That’s right – a pesticide! When we consume caffeine, our body thinks that some kind of emergency is happening. It floods itself with dopamine, epinephrine, cortisol, and acetylcholine. That’s what gives us that feeling of stimulation and being wide-awake and alert. But the human body is not designed to live at that intense state of emergency alertness for long periods of time, let alone every day.

It takes about 24 – 36 hours to come off this drug so, if you are a daily consumer, prepare for a serious pounding headache for a whole day.

Once you are off the drug, you’ll feel a lot calmer, happier and less irritable.

I quit caffeine on 16th October 2014 and I’m not planning to go back. I no longer wake up with caffeine cravings. I still meet friends in coffee shops and cafes but only if they serve decaf, which most of them do.

The alternative

If you want a slow release, safe energy drink, try my smoothie recipe. A pint of that should see you right for the day, with no health risks and lots of health benefits!

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Avoid Kodak moments

kodak

A quick glance at nature now and then will tell us that living things are always growing and changing. The world changes. Society changes. Our lives change from one season to the next.

When I left school (years ago!) someone advised me to get a job with a big successful company and work for them for life. That was the route to security apparently. But since that conversation those jobs have all evaporated. Big companies have downsized and reduced employees to a bare minimum.

Wiser advice today would be to work out what your gifts and skills are, develop them, and then see who is willing to pay you to do those things. And it may be several people or jobs rather than just one these days.

One danger with success is that it feels so good we don’t want that season to change. But it will, so get ready.

Kodak dominated the photographic world for over one hundred years. It had a 90% market share of photographic film sales in America. Almost everyone used the brand.

What followed was a colossal story of failure and missed opportunities. Kodak was a gigantic casualty in the wake of digital photography – a technology that Kodak invented!

Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the first digital camera in 1975. But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘That’s cute, but don’t tell anyone about it.’

As a result the company entered into decades of decline, unable to perceive and respond to the advancing digital revolution.

In 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

Simple steps to avoiding your Kodak moment:

Understand your passion

Kodak’s leaders thought they were in the film business – instead of the image business. They misunderstood the essence of who they were. When you boil it right down, what is your passion in life? Write it down. Stick it on your fridge.

Embrace change

Kodak thought their success was fixed. Life and technology are changing all the time. They made a lot of money from selling film so it was hard for them to think of a world where no one used film.

How is your world changing? What trends are happening in society? True, we don’t always want to be following the crowd but, if a sea-change is going on that affects you, shouldn’t you try and understand it?

Don’t be paralysed by fear

Kodak was so afraid of losing their lucrative film sales they buried their head in the sand. Don’t cling to the past when the past way of doing things is already passing away. Find someone who knows about the new way and learn from them.

Take some risks and experiment

In 1994, in my spare time, I set up a charity to develop my work in Africa and the UK. I wanted to see lives transformed and people rescued from poverty. Four years later, in 1998, my job contract came to an end. I was about to lose my home, which went with the job, and my monthly income.

I decided to try and go full time with the charity I had founded. I’m glad I experimented and set up the charity four years previously. I didn’t have to start from scratch. Although it was a big risk and a scary time, it worked. We now employ three people and are not only still viable but also still growing, these seventeen years later.

As we start 2015, is it time to do an audit of where you are going in life?

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Don’t believe Facebook spin

FBdisturbing

Was life better before Facebook? Possibly. I never saw what you were having for lunch, or the amusing thing your cat did.

On the other hand, I do like being in regular touch with distant relatives and friends.

Last year, a couple of people commented on how idyllic my life sometimes looks on Facebook – the family walks, meals together, and smiley selfies etc.

To be honest, my life is just like most other people’s life – happy bits, sad bits, boring bits, cooking dinner, putting the bins out, paying bills, blah blah…

Some people’s life does look idyllic on Facebook and maybe it makes us jealous. But we really need to understand what Facebook is.

Facebook is mostly spin.

Just as the Blair government made an art form of spinning negative political news to make it look like something positive, so people are doing a sort of life spin on Facebook. We show only the best bits, the happy positive bits. There’s no intention to deceive. Just to show ourselves in the best light.

I tend to post happy family times because it’s something positive. I don’t post about arguments, or the time I had to go to the eye hospital and was quite scared about my eyesight, or when I get a letter with bad news, or times when I feel hurt, and a whole load of other stuff that would make me look bad, irritating or boring – even though I can be all of those things!

Facebook seems to be split into two types of people – the angry people who rage about something new everyday, in a way they never would if they were talking to the person face to face, and normal people –  those who mostly post simple moments that made them smile or think.

There is possibly a third group – the show offs – those playing the ‘keep up with the Joneses’ game of look-at-what-we-just-bought-that-you-haven’t-got.

I tend to block the angry people and the show-offs.

The problem is, if you think what people post on Facebook is their whole real life, you may become depressed that, by comparison, your life seems boring.

Here’s the thing. Everyone’s life is boring or mundane a lot of the time. We have to make our own joy.

A few years ago our family moved from buying mostly material gifts at birthdays and Christmas, and started giving ‘moments’ instead.

We went to see the Chinese State Circus when they came to town. We booked into a Jazz Breakfast. We hired a boat for the day and cruised down the river in Norfolk, for a picnic. What were we doing? Making memories.

Good stuff rarely just happens. You have to organise some stuff to create memories. Sometimes it can all go wrong, but the memory of it all going wrong can still be a funny memory.

Facebook isn’t real life. It’s a million tiny snapshots of what’s in people’s heads at a certain moment of their day.

If you want more happiness in your life do two things:

  1. Don’t think Facebook ever tells you much more than a bit of spin.
  2. Organise your own spontaneity! Plan some stuff. Make some memories of your own.

And perhaps it is time to write down the dreams you have for your own life. Then go and make the dream come true. And, when it does, tell us, on Facebook!