Trying to think about what I would choose as my something I’ve been given for this week’s challenge was hard as I’ve been given so many meaningful things by some very special people.
So I decided to go with the keys that Mr. D. presented me with that opened the door to our first home – and that’s the first home that we own and not one where we’re paying off someone else’s mortgage.
As a big rock fan, I love that its not your standard run of the mill looking key and represents our love of concerts and the way we met.
But it means so much more than that.
When we lived in London, owning our own home seemed like the impossible dream – and anyone who lives in London and isn’t a millionaire will know what I mean. Getting on the property ladder was hard. We couldnt even get on the property footstool and I was really kicking myself for not having got a move on much earlier.
I just wanted a home we could call our own, where we could be us and do our own thing, and be surrounded by things that were ‘us’. Where I could entertain and have people over to stay. Mr. D. was more concerned with having woodland, animals and a lake to fulfil his desire for nature. I also wanted enough land to build smaller homes for our parents in their retirement.
Talk about a pipe dream!
Admittedly when we first went to view the house, I wasn’t really taken with it. A chance encounter with a neighbour really had me hoping we’d buy somewhere else! But the house came with land for me, woodland for Mr. D and a lake behind the nearby conservation land. Plus the house was in our price range so it looked like it might just happen…
Fast forward eighteen months and we are very settled in our home. We still haven’t done much with it and we’re still getting used to being homeowners. This house was definitely worth the wait and almost worth leaving London for… If only I could have taken my family and friends with me 😢
We’ve been saddled with a thirty year debt but believe it or not we are so thankful for that. If it means we’ll never have to deal with another greedy landlord, see another dodgy tenancy agreement or share with another hideous housemate then great! Although I hastened to add that I actually miss most of our housemates but there are some I’m hoping never to bump into again.
But yes, these keys are among some of the most cherished things I’ve been given and I am so very thankful for them.
For this week’s week of gratitude, I couldn’t think which member of my family I’m most grateful to – and for! But as much as I love every member of my family and I’m thankful to them all for one thing or another, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay tribute to my amazing late grandfather.
Goodness, where do I start with my grandfatheIt’ssell I think I can begin by saying that he was a real character. He was one of those people who would make you laugh with the things he said and did – problem was he was not trying to be humorous! There was many a time that a sneaky snigger was turned into a cough when he caught sight of us.
As strange as this may sound, I always knew that my grandfather was my grandfather before I knew he was my mum’s dad! I just thought it was some really bizarre coincidence that he happened to be her father as well as my grandfather. I was probably pushing three, and at that age I really didn’t know how these things worked!
I always describe him as a fearless, no-nonsense old army man. He didn’t suffer fools gladly and wouldn’t put up with any rubbish from anyone. This was a man who wasn’t afraid to put a stroppy teen in their place or tell a snooty, up -themselves person exactly where to go! And should you have the misfortune to ask for advice, he would tell it to you like how it was – and he didn’t mince his words either! Well you asked!
Quirks aside, Grandad really was the nicest, kindest, most generous human being ever. When he gave, he gave from the heart, whether it was time, money or his efforts to help others. And it was helping others that Grandad was known for. Most people would get fed-up with the phone ringing endlessly or constant knocks on the door with people needing help, advice, favours etc. But Grandad was always ready and happy to help – especially as it meant that he could dole out his own brand of tough love. And still the people kept coming!
Helping people wasn’t just because of his good heart. I believe it also helped fill the void after my nanna passed away when the focus of his life became his family and close friends, the church, and helping others. Well that and his social life! At an age where most people would be slowing down, grandad was always out and about – sometimes even coming home at two in the morning! My friends would laugh at my octogenarian grandfather who was a bigger raver than I am!
It’s been eight years since we lost him and there really isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t feel that loss and miss his presence. It’s impossible to sum up everything about grandad in one post. My grandfather may not have been perfect and faultless. I can’t pretend that he never got things wrong. But I’m so thankful that God made him my grandfather. I’m also thankful to my grandfather for making me the person I am today. The things I do, the way I behave, the way I treat others… Its all because of him. From the time I was a mini-human, he played his part in making sure that I grew up to be a decent person. Whether I am or not probably isn’t for me to say, but I know I’m a better person because of him. Admittedly my ditziness has nothing to do with him, and even though I’m just a fraction of a fraction of the person that he was, I hope as I get older I will become more like him.
OMG OMG OMG! I’ve fallen in love… with a compote!
No you are not imaging these words and I really am saying them. But I’ve just made the most amazing tropical fruit compote that’ll having you thinking that you’re sitting on a beach from the very first spoonful – and by beach I don’t mean Southend (although, of course, there’s nothing wrong with good old Southend!)
It was my second attempt at making this compote. The first attempt wasn’t too bad but I felt it was missing something. So I added more spices, some honey, and some booze – because let’s face it, everything tastes so much better with booze!
Initially I wasn’t a hundred per cent sure if all the flavours would work well together, even though I knew that many of the ingredients used to give flavour worked well individually with the pineapple, mango and passion fruit used in this recipe. Thankfully they did and I was thrilled with the result.
I loved the heat you got from the spices and the rum; the fresh zingyness of the lime; the sweet aroma of the vanilla, and the somewhat simultaneous sweetness and tanginess of the fruit. Delicious!
But don’t just take my word for it – have a go at making it yourself!
Another thing I’ve discovered about fruit compotes – whether you use fresh or dried fruit – is that they are so versatile. You can serve them hot, warm or cold and they can be used as a topping for porridge or toasted brioche as part of a yummy breakfast; they can be served as dessert with cream, mascarpone, ice-cream or custard. Compotes can also be used as a topping for cheesecake or a sponge pudding, or can be used as a filling for pancakes, crumbles, pies, cobblers or tarts.
And if you’re feeding little people – and by little people I mean children not vertically challenged people like myself – you might want to leave out the rum.
THE HEAT IS ON TROPICAL FRUIT COMPOTE
THE FOOD STUFF:
1 medium pineapple
2 large mangoes
5 passion fruit
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 vanilla pod
1 star anise
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
2 tablespoons runny honey
a couple of good glugs of Malibu
THE EQUIPMENT STUFF:
1 Sharp knife
1 chopping board
1 baking tray
A variety of spoons
- Turn oven on to
- Peel and core pineapple and cut into chunks.
- Peel mangoes and cut into large chunks.
- Cut each passion fruit in half and scoop out pulp.
- Place fruit in an oven proof dish.
- Cut vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out seeds.
- Add vanilla to the fruit.
- Add remaining ingredients.
- Combine well.
- Pop in the oven and cook for 25mins or until pineapple chunks have softened.
- Take out of oven – and enjoy any way you wish!
I write this post with a slight bit of embarrassment as we are now in March but I’m only on week three! I think I misunderstood and thought this challenge was called Twelve Months of Gratitude! Never mind – I’ve promised myself that come the end of the year, I’ll have completed all fifty two weeks. In fact I’m grateful to be on week three at all!
OK, this week’s topic is family which is interesting considering that I didn’t get off to a good start with mine this morning. My sister woke me up by WhatsApping me with the latest family drama – and before I’ve had a coffee that’s dangerous!
I consider myself to be a very family minded person. That’s the way I was raised. I never understood people who claimed that they were not close to their aunts and uncles or used phrases like “Oh, he’s only my cousin.” In my family we were raised to believe that there was no such distinction between immediate and extended family and distant relatives. If we shared DNA, we were family – end of!
Sadly now that I’ve reached adulthood, my circle of family has gotten smaller. This is due to people wanting to go their own way for whatever reason. I also understand that I have relatives who don’t know the meaning of ‘family loyalty’ and the ties of family are such that I cannot cut them off no matter how much I want to, so for the sake of my emotional well-being, I have been left with no choice but to keep certain relatives at two arms length – and I don’t feel guilty about it.
So the bottom line is that I have family, and I have people I just happen to be related to.
So far you’re probably thinking that where my family are concerned, I don’t have a lot to be grateful for. Not at all! As far as I’m concerned my family consists of Mr. D. our immediate families, and a handful of extended relatives.
I’d like to make out like we’re the perfect family – like my mum has convinced herself that we are – but we’re not. I don’t mind admitting that my family are totally bonkers! There are a multitude of characters and personalities, and we all have our eccentricities and oddities, and are more than just a little on the dysfunctional side! There’s always some drama or stressful situation that we’re trying to resolve – but at least no one could ever accuse us of being dull and the in-flight entertainment is always worth watching (although we’d rather you didn’t!)
When I was growing up I always wished that we could be like the families you saw on TV. I also thought that my friends and classmates had better, more ‘together,’ families than I did. Now that I’m an adult, I realise that there’s no such thing as the perfect family. We all have our own struggles and own problems that we’re trying to overcome. And past experience has taught me that its often the families who claim to be the most perfect who often have the most issues.
Coming from a seemingly ordinary, perfect family is no guarantee, as I’ve learned, that you’ll turn out ‘right’. Growing up was hard and I used to blame many of my problems on the fact that I didn’t come from a ‘normal’ family. But I now feel that coming from such a family has given me a resilience that I may not have had. I feel like I can handle anything and I’ve learned to embrace my weird family and my own weirdness. As my dad once said ” Who wants to be normal?”
In recent years my immediate family and I have had a lot of issues which meant that we weren’t as close as we should have been. It was a very sad period of our lives but I’m glad that even though certain issues are not fully resolved, we are all back in each others lives and our bond has grown stronger and there’s definitely more than enough unconditional love here. We don’t take anything for granted any more and we all know that when push comes to shove, we are always there for each other.
And there’s other things I’m thankful for when it comes to family. I’m thrilled there there are many different nationalities here and different languages spoken. We’re like a mini UN! Some people think it’s a little ‘confusing’ but it’s not. We have learned so much from each other and we really wouldn’t have it any other way. Not to mention there’s always something for everyone when it’s potluck at family gatherings!
I also love the big pool of talent that exists in our family as we all have different interests, skills and areas of expertise. There are creatives, techies, sports enthusiasts, business brains, problem solvers, culinary geniuses, fashionistas… We all bring something different to the table.
My family have made me who I am, so for all their craziness and zaniness, I have to be grateful that God put me in with this nutty bunch. There’s tons more fabulous stuff I could say about why I’m so grateful for my family but I’ll just end by saying that the greatest blessing to be bestowed on our family is definitely the next generation – our gorgeous nieces and nephews. Not only are they a constant joy to be around – even when they’ve tired you out – but they’ve played a major part in healing our family and bringing people together. We may never be a TV family – unless you’re thinking of The Adams Family – but it’s thanks to those amazing kids that we can try to do ‘normal’…Sometimes!
For an incredibly long time, I have wanted nothing more than to start my own business selling handcrafted products. Over the years I’ve dabbled in a number of crafts which I’ve enjoyed, holding on to the belief that one day, I’d be able to make a living from my passion.
Sadly that day never arrived!
I’ve made products which were sold in the family business, and I’ve made things to give as gifts – which were always very gladly received, I’m pleased to say – but I’ve never taken that leap of faith into the great unknown and set up on my own.
I’ve now decided, however, that now is the time. There’s absolutely nothing to stop me from giving it a go… Although it would help if I could make up my mind as to what I want to create and which craft I’d like to get more involved with.
But while I may be fairly confident in my abilities as a crafter, it’s the business side of things that scares me a little. My dad and sister are the ones known for their business acumen in the family – me, not so much… Although I have despaired at some of the ridiculous antics of the candidates on The Apprentice!
However I’ve stumbled across a really useful book that I think is indispensable for anyone who wishes to start a craft-based business. It’s called Crafting a Business: Make Money Doing What You Love by Kathie Fitzgerald.
It’s not a new book but out of all the books that I’ve read that explains how to start a craft-based business, Crafting a Business, I find, is the most helpful and inspiring. The book is divided into two parts. The first part contains profiles for various female business owners as they outline how they got into their particular craft, started their business, built their brand etc. The fact that many of these talented women are self-taught, never attended a course, or had to overcome life’s trials and obstacles in order to get to where they are now, is nothing short of inspirational.
The second part of the book is what is called the Business Crafting Workshop which gives instructions as to how to structure a business plan, finance your business, develop and market your product etc. For those of us who don’t have much practical business knowledge or experience, it’s a great starting point to help you get your business off the ground.
OK, I’m done with part one, now time to tackle part two!
Wish me luck!
I’m running behind on this challenge but I have to say, this is the week I’ve been looking forward to most – where I get to talk about my amazing Mr. D. And as it’s exactly seven years today since Mr. D popped the question after planning the most beautiful proposal, I’d say that this post has come at the right time.
When I met Mr. D almost ten years ago, I really did think that that was going to be the first and last time I ever saw him, despite my intention to stay in contact. We lived on different continents and our lives moved in completely different directions so it seemed unlikely that we would ever meet up again. I have never been so thankful to have been proved wrong!
Being a die-hard romantic I wanted the old-fashioned eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room deal. I wanted popping champagne corks, symphonies, and fireworks. What I actually got was better than that: a sh**load of vodka, a hard rock band from Oklahoma, and nachos! People who hear about how met and got together think it’s like something out of a rom-com movie and I’m so glad that we have such a unique story to tell.
Admittedly since we got married, Mr. D now feels that he doesn’t have to try so hard, so things like opening car doors, pulling out my chair in restaurants and flowers are now a thing of the past! Hmmm… And don’t think I haven’t complained about it!
But one thing that hasn’t changed about Mr. D is his good heart. He has got the kindest heart out of everyone I know. He’s extremely compassionate, forgiving, non-judgemental and he treats everyone with the respect they deserve. He’s the last person you’ll ever find bitching about anyone (though I have heard him complaining about me more than a few times!) Whereas my exes were so caught up in appearances and being the life and soul Mr. Popularity, down-to-earth Mr. D. really couldn’t care less about any of that and is just intent on being his humble self. It’s an attitude I find refreshing and is one of the reasons why it’s not just me, but why my family and friends love him him as well.
I always feel that you know when you’re with the right person because they bring out the best in you and Mr. D certainly does that for me despite us being total opposites. He’s been a very calming influence on me and the fact that we are so different means that it never gets boring and we learn tons from each other.
A few of our closest friends know that last year was a very tough year for us. It was one of the most stressful and traumatic periods we’ve ever encountered in our married life and I hope we never have to go through anything like that again. But marriage isn’t always wine and roses and as someone once said, sometimes you only know the strength of a relationship when it’s been pushed to the limit and you’re being tested. I’d like to think we’ve passed the test.
Mr. D. is absolutely my best friend, the love of my life and my most favourite person. I could spend all day, every day with him and never get bored. I’m so thankful I get to call him my husband.
And I will forever be grateful to that rock band from Oklahoma!
So this is the first week (for me!) to start this challenge and I’m very thankful to be doing it at all after very nearly missing out!
As I said in the previous post, I’ve never really participated in such challenges before. But this was one that I felt I should do…
I was brought up to believe that gratitude was everything. I knew from a young age the importance of saying thank you. I was taught to be thankful for everything that you have. As I grew older I learned to count my blessings, and realise I actually had plenty of them.
And as most of us know, gratitude is a quality which is very much in short supply these days. How many people express genuine gratitude when something nice has happened to them? How many people even bother to say those two little monosyllabic words ‘thank you’? Judging by the number of people I see sailing through a door being held open of them by someone kind enough to do so, I’d say not many!
It might be strange to say that we need to practice gratitude when it should be second nature but I guess we all don’t reflect enough on the good things that we have in our lives. And that’s what’s so good about this challenge.
2016 was not one of my better years and that’s something of an understatement. I’m so glad to have left it behind and all the awful things that came along with it. But as I sit here writing this post, I think how easy it could have been for things to have been far worse than it was. So would you believe it – I’m even thankful for the problems that I have!
So as grateful as I am for everything, I hope that by the end of the year when this challenge is over, I’ll have experienced an even deeper level of gratitude.
Best of luck to everyone who’s taking part in this challenge. May it make us ever more thankful, kinder and wiser with it.