Monday, 13 January 2014

Happiness & Positivity Jars

Last night whilst I lay in bed waiting for sleep to take me and listening to my husband grunt and snore many thoughts flitted in and out of my head.  One of them was how normal our abnormal life has become and wondering how we are perceived by people from outside our tight inner circle.  It's tough sometimes living with illnesses that are "invisible" and it has to be said there are days when you just can't bear the thought of explaining why the girls aren't in school and can't go to parties, family gatherings, holidays, travel long journeys (you get the gist).  But I also feel that no matter how bad things get the silver lining of all we have and are going through is that it has bound us all closer together than ever before.  If the girls had led a "normal" teenage life we most likely would only see them briefly as we pass on the stairs or hallway as they come and go to school, clubs, social gatherings etc but instead we have been pushed together through intensely difficult times, emotions have boiled over, tears and angry words have been spoken, grief expressed and through it all we have developed a closeness that we value and hold dear.  We may sometimes appear strange when people come into see us as somehow we have developed our own way of speaking to each other with deliberately misspoken words (a legacy from my mother!), in-jokes, nicknames and constant teasing banter - the girls call their dad The Dave and I go by almost any name under the sun - but none of it rude or malicious - the girls have developed a great sense of humour, insight and maturity through their experiences which perhaps would not have occurred if their life had gone down the normal healthy route.

HOWEVER there are times when the girls struggle, especially with their mood - anxiety and depression sadly an issue for all three, so when I saw a post floating about Facebook about filling a jar full of your happy thoughts and memories throughout the year for 2014 and then opening it to read and remember at the end of the year I thought FABULOUS (by the way, in our family you HAVE to sing the word FABULOUS, it's a word to be celebrated whenever it is used), just a note for you to remember!

So, I spoke to the girls about it and although all three thought it a great idea only Tasha wanted to join me in doing it.  We have two jars, one each - Tasha's is the Jar of Happiness and mine the Jar of Positivity.  Tasha is slowly bit by bit decorating them as and when energy allows and we are filling them with teeny tiny pieces of coloured paper to keep it bright, then, whenever we are feeling low we are going to open the jars and read everything that is happy and positive to remind us that it's a blip - better days are ahead.

Our jars, not yet fully decorated (but note we DO already have pieces of paper in them and it's only been 13 days!) ...

We're also a household full of foodies and so we find baking is another way to hit the happy button and make us smile - thankfully I LOVE baking but it can be a challenge as we have to accommodate gluten free and sugar free diets.  Some recipes can easily be converted using gluten free flour and xylitol as a sugar replacement - but others don't work out so well, so we have some successes and also many disasters - but hey, it's a learning curve!  One recipe that is tried and tested and works well gluten and sugar free is my chocolate chip cookies - the girls love them and can be guaranteed to raise a smile, admitedly the recipe for no restrictions is nicest, the gluten free version are also good.  (I'll put both gluten/sugar free recipe up for you and the normal recipe for peeps who have no diet restrictions if you fancy trying them).  

Ingredients (for normal version)
Makes 14-16 cookies
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 75g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g dark chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C or Gas 5 and line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
  2. Gently melt the butter in a small saucepan.
  3. Put both sugars in a mixing bowl and pour the melted butter over them and combine well by beating with a wooden spoon.
  4. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and then add to the mixture stirring well.
  6. Then add the chocolate chips.
  7. Dot heaped dessert spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray leaving plenty of room around them as the dough spreads out during cooking.
  8. Bake for 8-10 minutes until they are pale and golden brown.
  9. Leave to cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes to firm up before carefully using a spatula to transfer onto a cooling wire.
  10. Eat and enjoy! 

To make a Gluten, sugar free version - substitute the flour for the Gluten Free Plain Flour and add just less than a quarter of a teaspoon of Xanthan Gum (helps stop biscuits becoming too crumbly, add too much and they go all stretchy and sticky and inedible!).  Also replace the caster and brown sugar for Xylitol.  They do work but are slightly less chewing and unctuous as the normal version.

Today is also our first weigh day for me and The Dave *imagine us both doing a victory happy dance* in our first week of sensible eating, reduced alcohol and chocolate consumption we have both lost some weight - something else to go in my jar!!  

Oh, and you know I mentioned the purple hair (hence the name) - I had Tasha re-dye it for me yesterday - the box said purple, the shade looked purple BUT my hair looks black - although admittedly it has a purple glow in the light!  I was perturbed as had never considered having purple black hair, but you know what - I really quite like it - so there you go!

Anyway - the point I was trying to get to was, no matter how dark and bleak life can be, there will always be sunshine ahead, look closely and I am certain a silver lining can be found somewhere.
Stay happy and positive when ever possible folks!