How Full is YOUR Glass?

Do you ever get the impression that somehow your moods are being determined for you and that there’s not much you can do to change how you feel?  I am constantly in touch with people of all cultures, creeds and financial situations and everyone seems to have one thing in common – an on-going battle to see the glass half full, when life is throwing curved balls their way. Somehow these challenging moments often coincide with the end of the calendar year and the Christmas season. This is a time when families are often separated and loneliness itself can be debilitating. How can one cope when you are feeling sad and abandoned and spending the holidays alone?

Glass 285x201 458985955Depending on where in the world you find yourself, it shouldn’t be too difficult to identify others whose circumstances are far worse, or at least comparable, to your own. Just reaching out to give them some encouragement often helps to alleviate your own feelings of sadness or despair. If you are able to cheer up another person  and maybe even get them laughing, it’s amazing how much it impacts on your own mood. I am not talking about major depression here, that is a different situation entirely, and medical intervention is critical to prevent potential self-harm, especially at Christmastime.

Missing someone who has recently died and handling the grief process makes it virtually impossible to see the glass half full. Something which I found helped me tremendously after losing a best friend through cancer, was to sit down and write her a long, chatty letter, telling her all my latest news. Having spoken  to her son and his family, I was able to tell her about her young grandson whom she had never met. It was very emotional to write this letter, but once I had finished it, re-read it and then disposed of it, it felt just the same as when we used to have our regular conversations before her illness. A cathartic way of channelling sadness which may be of help to others.

A totally different way to try to lift the cloud of negativity is, and I know this is a cliché, to do some form of exercise which will produce the endorphins in the brain which in turn will assist in a more positive frame of mind. All of you personal trainers out there will most likely be endorsing this advice.  It can be so tough to actually force oneself to get up and at it and do that dreaded exercise. However, it is amazing how much better you often feel after a good workout, whether it is running on a treadmill, going for a long walk, riding a bicycle, bashing a punchbag with great gusto or having a swim. The results are much the same, although the amount of stiffness the next day depends on the activity chosen!

Cartoon Frog

The moral of the two frogs

The story of the two frogs who fell into a tub of cream is another example of seeing the glass either half full or half empty and acting accordingly.

The first frog looked at his situation and, knowing he couldn’t swim in the cream, just gave up and sank to the bottom of the tub and died. His brother on the other hand realised that if he kept on kicking his little legs he could stay afloat in the tub of cream. He kicked and kicked and carried on kicking. Suddenly the cream began to turn into butter, and guess what? The little frog was able to hop out of the tub of cream and life carried on for him.

So, the moral of the story is that things are not always as bleak as they may first appear. Sometimes one has to try to look outside the box to find the answer to life’s problems. When all seems to be lost just carry on kicking your way to the top.

When the glass still seems half full, the following poem might help to keep you focused on the fact that everything changes, and when you are really down, the only way is up!

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DON’T QUIT

When things go wrong,
As they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging
Seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and
The debts are high,

And you want to smile
But you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest, if you must…but don’t you quit.

Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.

And you never can tell
How close you are,

It may be near when it seems afar.

So stick to the fight
When you’re hardest hit…

It’s when things go wrong
That you MUST NOT QUIT!

Anon.

Tuscan Chicken

This is a really tasty way to serve chicken breasts which can often be quite dry, if not cooked correctly. It is great served with steamed rice and serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Chicken breasts, halved and slightly flattened
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 250ml white wine
  • 300ml cream
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 1 handful of grated parmesan
  • 2 handfuls chopped baby spinach
  • ½ cup sundried tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon mixed dried herbs
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then gently fry the chicken breast in a little olive oil until nicely browned and nearly cooked through. Remove from pan.
  • Gently fry the onion in the butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When soft, add the crushed garlic and fry for about 1 minute taking care not to burn the garlic
  • Add the wine, and reduce to about half then add the mixed herbs
  • Add the chicken stock and reduce a bit
  • Add the cream and simmer for a few minutes until the cream has reduced slightly
  • Add spinach and sundried tomatoes and gently cook until the spinach has wilted
  • Add parmesan and stir through.
  • Taste and season as required
  • Add chicken breasts back to the pan and cook gently until they are cooked through

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Gooey Chocolate Brownies

These are great on their own either served at room temp. or straight from the refrigerator. Or you can add a scoop of vanilla ice-cream for a slightly more decadent dessert.

Ingredients

  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 250g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 90g good-quality milk chocolate (I use Lindt),
  • 100g castor sugar
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbs Dutch or other good quality cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 80g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C
  • Grease a 18cm x 27cm brownie pan with oil spray before lining the base and sides with baking paper.
  • Melt butter and 160g dark chocolate in a double boiler or in a heatproof plastic bowl in the microwave. Cool slightly.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the two sugars, the eggs and vanilla, and whisk by hand to combine. Add butter and chocolate mixture, then sift over dry ingredients and fold them through the mixture to gently combine.
  • Finely chop the milk chocolate and remaining 90g dark chocolate and add them to the brownie mixture.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for approx. 25 minutes or until crusty on top and soft in the centre.
  • Leave to cool in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack.
  • Once cool, cut into 4cm squares.
  • Store in an airtight container, such as Tupperware, in the fridge.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Portuguese Mussels

A great alternative to the classic French style mussels.

Ingredients

  • 2 – 3kg live mussels, (or frozen if you cannot get fresh) cleaned
  • 1 Chorizo, skin removed and finely diced
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 3 – 4 Tablespoons good olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 2 challots finely diced
  • 1 glass white wine (sauvignon blanc is best)
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • Salt/pepper if needed

*Fish Stock if needed (see bottom)

Method

  •   Remove the skin from the peppers

      How to peel peppers
1) Cut the peppers in half and remove the stalk, seeds and white membrane.

2) Place the peppers under a hot grill, skin side up, turning as the skin blackens.
3) Seal in a plastic bag and leave to cool.

4) Remove the peppers from the bag. The skin should now peel away easily

  • Chop the peppers into small cubes
  • Heat the oil in a large heavy based pot and gently fry the onion until soft
  • Add the Chorizo and gently fry until golden and slightly crispy
  • Add the garlic and fry for a minute or so taking care not to burn
  • Add the white wine and boil for a few seconds
  • add the tomatoes and peppers and bring up to the boil
  • Toss in the mussels, cover with a tight fitting lid and steam until they shells open (approx 4-5-minutes)
  • As soon as the shells have opened, remove from the heat and add a large handful of freshly chopped coriander
  • discard any mussels that have not opened.
  • Serve in bowls with crispy bread to soak up the juices

*Live mussels contain their own seawater which becomes its own stock when cooking. If you are using frozen mussels you can add some fish stock to increase the sauce volume in need.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Christmas Letter

Christmas letter to friends and family

Dear All

Well here we are once more at the end of yet another challenging year, and I find myself preparing the annual family letter. This job always seems to come my way, as I seem to be the only enthusiastic letter writer in the Robins family.

Looking back over the past twelve months, I think I’ll have to merely skim the surface of the events which have taken place in our family. If I go into too much detail, it will be next Christmas before I get this letter in the post.

January was a very sad month for us all as Jack’s aunt Agatha took a turn for the worse and had to stay in bed most of the time. She moved in with us as no-one else was prepared to look after her. Being confined indoors and not being allowed to wander around the neighbourhood as usual, the poor old dear became disorientated. It would appear that one morning she decided to go out into the garden, whilst I was out shopping. In her confused state she apparently opened the door leading down to the wine cellar instead of the front door. The coroner ruled that no foul play was suspected and once we had all recovered from the shock, and her estate had been wound up, we had a wonderful family holiday in Florida, USA.  Auntie had always regretted the fact that her late husband had never allowed her to go out to work during her entire lifetime, so we decided to pay our last respects to her, and had her ashes made into an egg-timer. She looks really smart in her bright red plastic casing, and she works very efficiently every breakfast time.

Our Labrador, Luke, mated with the sausage dog next door and we decided to take one of the litter as a playmate for Luke. What a cute puppy he turned out to be. We have called him Frankie (after his mother) and just hope that his little legs will continue to take the increasing weight of his rather large body. He looks just like his father, apart from those miniature legs. Still, he gets lots of love in this house, despite his unusual looks.

We had a bit of a shock around April this year. In fact, thinking back, the news was actually broken to us on the first of April, which was the reason that it took a while for us to take it seriously.  In the beginning we really believed it to be a practical joke. Arthur, who is 38 and still living at home with Jack and I, decided that it was time to let us in on his little secret. Well, you can imagine how we felt initially when he told us that he had decided to tour Europe as a drag artist. He always got home very late each night, long after Jack and I had gone to bed, and we just thought that this was normal for a guy working as a barman at a very upmarket pub in town. It turned out that he’s been the star attraction at the pub for the past few years, doing a Dolly Parton lookalike act. (Now I understand why I always seemed to be losing items of frilly underwear and other items of clothing never seemed to be where I had left them!) A talent scout had spotted him and signed him up for a two year contract touring all the major centres in Europe. When he told us how much he’d be earning, we could only wish him well, but it was difficult for us both watching our little boy packing those blonde wigs and lovely new undergarments and knowing he was finally spreading his wings.

Jack has spent most of this year growing vegetables and preserving them. He’s always been such a good help in the kitchen. It’s a wonderful thing when a woman is able to spend time out in the garage working on the car, knowing that her husband is keeping the home together. I can truly say that early retirement seems to be suiting both of us very well. There are days when I know that he misses his job at the newspaper office, but with all the housework and baking he does, he often wonders how he ever found the time for a full time job.

As for me – well the cosmetic surgery I underwent in September was worth all the pain and the expense.  I’d been saving secretly for 10 years to have the op. and I am absolutely thrilled with the result. My surgeon has assured me that I am the only one who is aware of the fact that my left eye is slightly lower than my right one. He says the scars add character to my face as well.  I know for a fact that the reason my friends don’t comment on my new look is because they are all sick with jealousy! The looks of shock on their faces when they saw me for the first time after I had recovered from the surgery reassured me that I had done the right thing. I feel so sorry for Dr. Chancey as some very ungrateful female has taken him to court, accusing him of malpractice just because she believes that her breast implants are two different shapes and size.  How can people be so cruel as to try to ruin his reputation!

Our daughter Magda wrote to us a while back giving us the good news. She’s expecting baby number 8 anytime now. She’s a wonderful wife and mother and just loves their life out on that farm. They are totally self- sufficient growing all their own fruit and vegetables and keeping pigs and rabbits as well as chickens, so there is no lack of fresh meat either. They even home school all those children which saves them a huge amount of school fees – no choice really as they are miles away from the nearest school.  You’d think that she would miss all the mod cons of city life but she doesn’t seem to. They don’t have a television as the reception is dreadful due to all the surrounding mountains and I often wonder how she and Ernie entertain themselves in the evenings.

Oh well, I hope this letter will give you an idea of how our lives are progressing. I’ll close now as it’s getting rather late and Dr. Chancey has told me that I must get as much beauty sleep as I can these days.

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a joyous New Year. If you are travelling and see posters advertising “Delightful Dolores – the Nightclub Queen”, do try to make the effort to say “hi” to our Arthur for us – we miss him so very much.

Trust this letter finds you all in good health, and until next year at the same time, very best wishes,

Hendrina and Jack (and Luke and Frankie)

xxx

Update and Comments: December 10, 2018

Being rather technically challenged where IT is concerned (another shortcoming along with astronomy – planets, stars, galaxies etc.,  which are still a total enigma to me), I have a “behind the scenes” assistant who is presently still familiarising himself with WordPress. Therefore, I must admit that the blog is still “under construction”! I hope you will bear with me on this one!

I have lots of plans for keeping my blog one which should be interesting and, hopefully, appealing to many people who have varied interests and opinions. To prevent you from only hearing my voice, there will be a section for “Guest Contributors” and this will give an insight into the lives and passions of a variety of people from totally different backgrounds. I am not going to say too much about this section right now but you won’t have to wait too long for the first contribution.

Taking selfies is not something which appeals to me and I have never really enjoyed being photographed. I will, however, be replacing my unusual “About” photo once I find one which is more the real me – one which highlights just how much my looks have changed!

I realise that initially my posts tended to be too long, and the objective criticism I received in this regard has resulted in my splitting them into portions which should prove to be more easily digested. I do not want you to feel that you have to wade through my writing to get to the point.

Oh, by the way, I will also have a contact page on my blog in the not too distant future.

Well, that’s all for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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