Merry Christmas

I found this last Christmas and it was so evocative for me I saved it. Sharing it with you today.

CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING AND ALL THAT
(Poem by Maureen Curran/ Image by Bren Whelan)

Cars have been pulling up since lunchtime,
and knowing us well, a cairn of soda scones
is arranged on a cooling grid.
You have fires lit in two rooms
and still we sit under your feet
in the kitchen.
Reluctant to budge,
some remnant of childhood
holds us close to you, envious.
No longer children but like children,
reluctant to be banished,
we resist being hunted on.
We pick at food
move stuff around on the worktop
open the fridge door too many times.
My brother is holding court.
Conversations flit from
fashion to food to love and loss.
The inevitable slight, inevitable huff,
calling the bluff of siblings less rivalrous.
Visiting grandchildren are bedded down
toys lifted, laundry folded.
The boys head to the pub for one,
we swing the kettle for a hot port.
I wipe hands sticky from dressing the ham
and needing no bed, exit into the night air
smelling of stuffing, cloves and strawberry jelly.

(Reproducing Maureen Curran’s beautifully evocative poem by from the WhyDonegal? page
Image by Bren Whelan Donegal Climbing of a traditional Donegal cottage in the Illies, near Buncrana)

Spoonie Makes Chicken Broth

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For me, one of the many losses that goes with chronic illness is not being able to indulge my love of cooking and baking.  Many days I can’t cook for myself, and I haven’t baked for years.  On the days I do cook for myself I make enough to do several days – I don’t mind eating the same thing for days at a time!  The only way I manage to cook is with the help of gadgets and frozen chopped vegetables, so, for fellow Spoonies I thought I’d share how I go about making Chicken Broth with home made chicken stock – often a meal in itself.

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Homemade Scotch Broth with homemade chicken stock.

This broth is made over two days, which is great because it’s much easier to build in rest times to the process AND end up with a homemade stock and soup with all the goodness homemade soups bring.

I need good (for me) energy reserves to do this, so make sure your reserves are good before you start.

Remember the three P’s :

Plan

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Prioritise

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Pace

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Planning

As part of the planning process we need to decide what tools to use.

Gadgets I use:

Freezer:  Most folk have freezers, or, at least, a freezer compartment in their fridge.

I use frozen chopped vegetables because peeling and chopping use up a lot of energy, and, due to hemiplegic migraine, I often experience weakness down my right hand side, making chopping difficult.

Slow Cooker I use a Crockpot – you can buy a replacement bowl if it meets with an accident, like mine did! There are cheaper versions available, so choose according to your budget and your needs.

Pressure Cooker  Not everyone likes using a pressure cooker; I do because it takes minutes to cook things and, as important, seals in all the flavour.  I use a two handled pressure cooker because a one handled cooker is too difficult for me to pick up when full.

I found my first two handled pressure cooker in a department store at the top of The Ramblas in Barcelona many, many years ago when I was well enough to travel, and brought it back home with me.  I now have a Tower Pressure Cooker similar to the one in the link.

If you don’t like working with a pressure cooker an ordinary soup pot will do, you’ll just need to adjust the times.

Microwave:  Again,, most homes have microwaves these days; if you don’t have one just make sure you thaw out any vegetables before adding to the Slow Cooker; frozen vegetables can be used in the Pressure Cooker or Soup Pot.

Cooker:  We all have one of those!

Perching Stool: We all need somewhere to rest, and to change position. Know your pain and fatigue thresholds before you start!

Utensils

Wooden Spoon

Slotted Spoon

Covered dish to transfer cooked chicken into

Knife and fork to remove bones from chicken

Chopping Board

Deep bowl for soaking Scotch Broth Mix

Ingredients for Stock

1 pack of chicken thighs

1/4  pack of frozen diced onion

1/2  pack of frozen chopped vegetable base mix

Garlic puree

Boiling water

Salt & Pepper

Prioritise

The first thing I do is boil the kettle and make a cup of tea.  If you don’t like tea or coffee make sure you have something cold to drink in order to stay hydrated.  Next I make myself a sandwich so I have something ready to eat when I’ve finished cooking.  When I’ve made my sandwich and gathered my gadgets and utensils, I go outside (weather permitting) and sit in my garden with my cup of tea. If the weather is bad,  I sit in the living room and watch something on the television.

Make Stock:  

  1. Set the slow cooker to WARM.
  2.  Measure out 1/4 of the bag of diced onion into a microwave proof dish and thaw the onion according to your microwave’s instructions.  When thawed, add to the slow cooker.
  3. Measure out 1/2 the bag of frozen chopped vegetable base mix and thaw using a microwave proof dish.  When thawed, add to the slow cooker.
  4.   Add 1 teaspoon of garlic puree to the vegetables. 
  5.   Place chicken thighs on top of the vegetable base,
  6.   Cover chicken with boiling water.
  7.   Add 1 teaspoon of salt.
  8.   Cover slow cooker with lid, set on HIGH and cook for 3 hours.
  9. It takes me several hours to recover physically from this activity.  Pay attention to your pain and fatigue thresholds and rest accordingly.  I usually prop myself up in bed after an hour of resting;  I knit or read or study.  Each of these activities take a different toll; sometimes all I can do is a few rows of knitting then rest, but it gives me a sense of purpose and I achieve something at the end of it – which is really important!
  10. After 3 hours, using a slotted spoon remove the chicken thighs from the slow cooker and place in a dish you can cover.
  11. Using a knife and fork remove the bones from the flesh (it should just fall off), and place the bones back in the slow cooker which still has the liquid from cooking the chicken.  Check the liquid for seasoning and continue cooking on LOW for a further 3 hours.
  12. Cover chicken meat and refrigerate.
  13.  After 3 hours switch off Slow Cooker, strain off the vegetables and bones and refrigerate stock overnight.
  14.  Measure 3 oz of Scotch Broth Mix into a deep bowl, cover with water and soak overnight.

 

AND REST!

adult bed bedroom book
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Next day, once your body has wakened and you’ve had breakfast,  follow the same preparation as yesterday by making sure you have a cup of tea (or other fluid) and a sandwich for when you finish your tasks. Make sure you have a perching stool, or something else to sit on to rest and to change position – changing position helps reduce the wind up of pain.

Gather your Gadgets and Utensils:

Chopping Board to cut chicken

Sharp knife

Pressure Cooker (or Soup Pot)

Wooden Spoon

Make Soup

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Cooked Chicken Thighs

1/4 Bag Frozen Chopped Onions

1/2 Bag Frozen Chopped Vegetable Base Mix

Home Made Stock & (possibly) 1 litre of stock made with 1 Stock Cube

Salt & Pepper to taste.

  1.  Drain Scotch Broth Mix and set aside.
  2. Chop half the chicken and set aside, return the remainder to the fridge.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to pressure cooker and heat.
  4. Add 1/4 bag of frozen diced onion to pressure cooker with 1/2 bag of frozen vegetable base.  Sweat the vegetables.
  5. Add Scotch Broth Mix to the pan and mix with vegetables.
  6. Add home made stock.
  7. Add chopped chicken.
  8. Depending on the amount of homemade stock you may need to add stock made with a stock cube.  Make up a litre of stock and add to the pot sufficient to give a good mix of vegetable, broth and fluid, bearing in mind the broth mix will swell.
  9. Adjust seasoning.
  10. Put lid on pressure cooker and bring up to pressure; cook for 10 MINUTES.
  11. Time to rest.   Drink your tea and eat your sandwich!
  12. After 10 minutes take pressure cooker off the heat and cool according to your pressure cooker’s instructions. I leave mine to cool in the pot and keep it covered until I want it.  I then put the broth into serving dishes and heat it in the microwave – and enjoy it with some crusty bread!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thich Nhat Hanh Quote Collectiveॐ

Silence is essential. We need silence, just as much as we need air, just as much as plants need light. If our minds are crowded with words and thoughts, there is no space for us. – Thich Nhat Hanh.

Silence is something that comes from your heart not from outside. Silence doesn’t mean not talking and not doing things, it means that you are not disturbed inside. – Thich Nhat Hanh.

@thichnhathanhquotecollective #thaysaid #thay #thichnhathanhquotecollective #buddhistquotes #silence #multipost #thichnhathanhquotes

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Tree-Hugging Is About Trees and So Much More Than Trees by Carol P. Christ

Great piece from Carol Christ.

Not too long ago I heard someone deride members a seminar that was building labyrinths in the olive groves of Greece as “a bunch of tree-huggers.”  I bristled! I probably first heard of the Chipko tree-hugging movement which is led by women in the 1970s and 1980s. Because I love nature, I naturally assumed hugging trees is a good thing. Originally, I had no idea that the tree-hugging movement was about much more than saving trees from being felled in the interests of short-term profit.

I did not know that the deeper purpose of the movement is to save a way of life based on forest-culture that is being threatened by the imposition of western ideas and practices promoted by colonialism and its successor, the green revolution. Nor did I know that the traditional forest-culture of India is the provenance of women, with more than 4000 years of observation and…

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Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

 

I’ve been absent from my blog since New Year because I’ve had a combination of health issues that have stopped me from doing much except resting and trying to achieve one thing each day – and sometimes that’s just been managing to stay awake!

I’ve been involved in starting a Mindfulness Group at a local centre that provides support to folk with disabilities drawing the local community into its activities.  The idea behind this group has been to sit together and offer support to one another in our practice.  Some of us have previous experience with Mindfulness Practice and some are new to the whole idea.  I’ve been giving a lot of time to thinking about how to explain Mindfulness Practice to folk who have no idea what it is about, so here’s my attempt.

Mindfulness Practice is the central practice in Buddhism*; at its simplest it is a practice of being present to ourselves in every moment, and to attain this we use our breath.  The great thing about the breath is that it is always with us.  There’s no need for special robes, churches or temples; no need for special books; no need for special days**.  In every moment we can practice just by tuning into our breath and bringing our awareness to sitting here, in this body, on this chair, in this present moment. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, tells us that everything we need is here in this present moment.  No need to live in the past, or try to live in the future, all we need is here, now.

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I used to think there was something esoteric and mystical about this when I first began to practice because the idea that I could give all my attention to only this moment seemed impossible – in many ways it is, and that is why we take our seat and give our attention only to our breath in this body, on this cushion in this present moment.

I began practicing in Spring 1999 with people brought together by our friend, Cathy Bache, who had been exploring mindfulness through the teachings  of Thich Nhat Hanh.  It was a pivotal time in all of our lives.  Each of us were experiencing some difficulties and were determined to break out of the patterns that kept us going round in circles.  I needed a rest, and for two hours every Thursday that rest came in the shape of twenty minutes of guided meditation, ten minutes of walking meditation, twenty minutes of silent meditation followed by sharing (if we wanted to) and sharing the merit of our practice with others not present with us, then tea and conversation.

 

Thich Nhat Hahn talks about how refreshing the practice is; I couldn’t describe it as refreshing at first, it was the rest that was most noticeable to me.  Rest from all the demands in my life as a working single mother; rest from the demands of my responsibilities as a teacher; rest from extremely painful divorce I was at the beginning of.

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Mindfulness Practice is simple (but not easy):  we pay attention to our in breath and follow it, and pay attention to our out breath and follow it, and when the inevitable intrusion of thinking comes in, we notice it and smile to it, and let it go.  No harsh judgements; the invitation is to befriend what comes.

Thich Nhat Hanh uses the term ‘suchness’ which basically means ‘it is what it is’.  We can’t change, for instance, fear in ourselves unless we accept that fear is there; we need to give time to looking into this fear with compassion, understanding its roots, and what it needs to be transformed.  We do this by befriending ourselves, and giving time to ourselves to observe ourselves with compassion.

For me, Mindfulness Practice meant air got into my hot little life and everything became less constricted; in my body; in my mind, and in my heart. In practicing with my friends, my sangha, it became easier to stay with the breath; sharing our difficulties with the practice helped me understand I wasn’t getting it wrong; we were all observing our own minds in action and understanding, for the first time, that we don’t actually need to pay attention to our thoughts; they don’t exist outside of our minds; they don’t become concrete until we make them solid by acting on them.  Some thoughts are pleasant – day dreams for example; some thoughts are frightening – fear of meeting new people; some thoughts are neutral – remembering to buy pasta on the way home.  This mixture of thinking with all the positive, negative and neutral charges they bring, swirl around in our minds and they all call for our attention, (a bit like a classroom with thirty-three ten-year olds!).

Sitting in mindfulness practice helped to learn how to not pay attention to my thinking****; to notice the thought, label it, and let it go.  The more I did this, the more it became habit and the easier it became to give my time to the thoughts that needed my attention, when I needed to make a decision and put that decision into action; in turn I was able to focus on my breath to ease anxiety, anger, and overwhelm.  Thich Nhat Hanh says all we need is three mindful breaths to bring us back to the present moment – back to ourselves.

The sense of refreshment did come.  Present moment, wonderful moment is every moment because in every moment we can choose to tune in to our breath and regardless of how bad or good the last moment was, in this moment we can choose to begin anew, one in breath, and one out breath at a time.

NEW-BEGINNINGS2

 

Peace and smiles

Julia

*  Mindfulness Practice is central to Buddhism across the world, but has also been utilised in the West in medicine as a way to deal with physical and mental health issues; in the business world to help workers focus better, and in education to help children in school to focus on their learning.  Some people are against removing mindfulness practice from its ethical roots, while others think the benefits of the practice are felt regardless of the context in which it is practiced.

**  Which is not to say that sacred texts, sacred spaces and ritual have no importance; the point is that we can practice anywhere.

*** I should point out that I am a very cerebral person; as a child I was always asking why, and that continued into adulthood – twenty years of practice later and I can now let some why questions go by!