Embracing 60 – surprise party and the value of blogging

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I had no doubt I wanted to share this photo but I pondered the title.  Yes it was my sixtieth birthday recently.  I’d been very specific about my age when I was in hospital over the past year and they had me down at one stage as 60 – NO! I said, I’m not 60, I’m 59 – a big difference in my eyes, fiftties sounds younger, sixties sounds, well, old.

So here I am, 60 and proud of it.  It’s a fact, it’s a number.  But does it really mean anything?  I opened a card just the other day from a fairly new friend who had never known my age.  She couldn’t help adding a comment to the card that we had chatted, shared things and experiences together, laughed and more and she couldn’t believe I was the age I was and said it proves age is just a number.  I don’t know her age.  Somewhere between 30’s and 40’s.  Does it matter?  What matters is that we clicked, we get on well together, she always makes me smile.  She said I was an inspiration but she inspires me.  We inspire each other, what can be better than that – peer inspiration, the best.

After the difficult year I have had, I felt blessed to reach my 60th and even more so when a surprise birthday celebration was arranged by my close family.  I had an inkling that we were going to do something, I thought a small family meal out together somewhere.  I was urged to be ready in time and was frantically trying to get my Christmas gift of earrings from a friend through my ears that I had not done for nearly a year, didn’t even know if the holes would still be there.  Success and then I made my way out the door to be greeted by a huge white limousine.

It was a wonderful surprise and I sat sipping a taster of Champagne as I floated in the car to our destination.  It seemed unreal.  In my mind I kept thinking I knew where we were going as we took different turnings and changed my guess as we went past.  We ended up arriving at one of my favourite haunts some years back where we spent many happy times, a fairly local hotel where I had partied, had family brunches with Santa and enjoyed the therapeutic benefits of the health spa.  After capturing our family group outside the limo, I ventured inside, not prepared for the surprises that moment by moment dawned on me.  Some of my closest friends who had supported me so much during the past year were already seated in the lounge area, scattered so it took me a few minutes to take it in and tears of emotion and joy escaped my eyes.  It couldn’t have been more perfect.  How they had all managed to keep it from me at a time when we were wishing each other a Happy Christmas and not expecting to see each other until the New Year I do not know.  I never suspected such a surprise.  It brought a warm glow to my heart and I treasured every moment.

I have dwelt on this more than I intended and it is hard to express in words how I felt.  I had not felt able to make plans myself because I had not long had my last treatment of chemotherapy and was still recovering, and somehow it being the last of the cycle made it more difficult though I should have been pleased.  As I write this I have enjoyed a joyous Christmas at home and spent a couple of days away at a family party where most of my family were present and I met once again with the youngest member, just under a year old, my niece’s son.

I would never have imagined years ago that at age 60 (which always seemed so old when I recall my own parents reaching that age) that I would have a teenage daughter and be mid-way through a degree course at University.  I have a wonderful family, dear friends and a range of interests that keep me happy most of the time.  There are challenges ahead but there is so much to be thankful for.  I am returning to study in January and this will bring its own pressures which will again mean that my blogging will no doubt go on hold again, but it is not something that I want to let go of.  It is something that I want to return to again and again as there is something so special about it.  I have tinkered with different aspects of social media.  Each has its place, benefits and downfalls, but to me nothing gets near to what blogging can do.  It opens up a whole new world and the opportunities are endless.  Whenever I come on here I get lost in what I am doing and never feel that I have wasted my time.  There is always something that draws me in to read more and I know that it is always there for me if I need it.

i

Home again – reflecting back on beauty in nature after chemo

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Hi everyone

Just got back home after another spell in hospital.  I realise I have missed the blogging world which is out of reach where I stay as there is such a bad mobile connection and no Wi Fi.  I thought about writing blog posts while I was in hospital but for me it isn’t the same.  I like to be spontaneous.  To write and post the same day if I can.  There may be some snippets of writing that I can share but I tend to look back later at any writing I do in hospital rather than revisit it straightaway.

Anyway, the week before I was admitted to hospital following my third cycle of chemotherapy, I had taken a gentle walk in a couple of different places.  So some of those photos will be appearing here.  They are not brilliant photos, a bit blurry in places, but for me they represent days spent enjoying just being in nature on beautiful sunny – yet cloudy – days.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Forced to Reflect – chemo and pancakes – including recipe for Strawberry Pancakes with Fresh Apricot and Caramel Sauce

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Forced to Reflect

In my mind, the words force and reflect do not sit well together. Forced is negative, being made to do something against one’s will, whereas reflection brings to mind a calm place with ample time to look back in a positive way on memories. What brings me to think of these words together? I have had a couple of months off treatment, which has taken me to a wonderful place where I have enjoyed life, had renewed energy, been able to think about the future, my hair has regrown to a point where I actually like my new short style. I began to feel that I was in a false state of wellness as I knew that my next cycle of treatment was imminent. Last week I had the dreaded call, resulting in dates for this week. I have tried to keep positive, not to think back on the difficult and challenging time that I have had since January.

Yesterday, as the clear ultramarine blue liquid dripped into me, I thought ‘what a beautiful colour’. One of the nurses who knew me quite well from my spell in the high dependency unit joked about me turning into a smurf. Her smile reminded me of the kindness and care she had shown me back in that dark place. Another nurse smiled brightly, commenting on how unbelievably well I looked compared to that time when I was lying in bed, hardly able to move, being turned throughout the night and losing the use of my legs through lack of mobility. I got through that time. I can do it again, I may not even go there.

Here I am discussing my treatment, what this blog was not to be about. But this blog is saving me, it is giving me hope. It is enabling me to achieve goals at a time when I felt that time was running out. Each day is precious, I enjoy my life with my wonderful family and friends. I have been blessed with a beautiful warm summer that is delightful. Yesterday when I was going for my treatment, my eldest daughter visited and we went out to my favourite new local cafe for lunch. I once wanted to run a tearoom – it was to be called ‘Pebbles” and would be right beside the sea. One side was to be the cafe with special gifts and books for sale, the other side was to be a place for quiet contemplation, with artwork to view and books available, and the opportunity for either one to one support or small group workshops with a coaching theme. I gain satisfaction from seeing what other’s are able to accomplish. The cafe I mention is run by a young girl seemingly living her dream and very successful with it. Who knows where life will take her, I know nothing of her history. I have never owned a tearoom but I have been able to achieve the essence of my dream by organising special intergenerational tea party events, holding workshops and training in the community and organising an art competition – all while working in my dream job working for a local charity.

I started this post early today and now it is late evening and I am reflecting back. I return to the local cafe. The first time I visited it was with a friend. We chose from the breakfast menu and I had the most scrumptious fluffy American blueberry pancakes piled high, with fresh blueberries floating in warm maple syrup. All thought of taking photos for my blog went out of my head as I dived in, so the photo shown here was an afterthought. This experience led me to look up recipes and try one out with my new mixer that I treated myself to. I was really pleased with the results and we had them with cinnamon sugar. Yummy. So this morning, as my daughter had stayed over, I decided to make them again. The first round was drizzled with tangy fresh lemon juice with cinnamon sugar. For the second round, I thought I’d try something different and I made the most wonderful fresh apricot sauce with strawberries. I was gutted that I forgot to take a photo so will have to make them again specially and take a really good photo. But I wanted to include what I did here anyway. So, a quick recipe.

Strawberry Pancakes with fresh apricot caramel sauce

Use your favourite recipe for American fluffy pancakes – if you have never made them there are many to choose from online. The one I make uses 200 g self-raising flour, 200 ml milk, 2 eggs and 1 tsp honey. The eggs are separated first. Then mix the flour, milk, egg yolks and honey together with a fork until thick and smooth, but not for too long. Whisk the egg whites until thick and firm and then fold into the pancake mixture until all the white has mixed in. Melt butter in a thick frying pan and when it is sizzling spoon dollops of the mixture, spaced out. (At this point I add some chopped strawberries, quickly sprinkling a few pieces over the top of each pancake first and then gently pressing them down with the back of a large spoon before the tops of the pancakes become too set. The pancakes are then flipped over once golden to cook the fruity side until lightly golden.)

To make the apricot caramel sauce (quantities for 2 servings only) and the amazingly flavoursome whole strawberries that top it all, peel and chop 2 fresh apricots and wash and hull 4 fresh strawberries. Place the chopped apricots and whole strawberries in a heavy based pan, I use stainless steel, with 3-4 teaspoons of caster sugar. Do not add any liquid. Heat gently, stirring occasionally. The apricots will start to soften and the sugar melt, becoming a lumpy golden sauce. You will smell a slight caramel scent. Do not allow to boil. Continue to stir just for a few minutes. I stopped when I noticed the caramel smell start to change and placed the base of the saucepan in water for a few seconds to stop the sauce from continuing to cook, so it didn’t become bitter caramel. On tasting, there is a hint of caramel flavour which blends beautifully with the fresh apricots and I served it warm. The whole strawberries will be cooked through but remain firm, and their flavour is really intensified.

So today, my second day of treatment, we enjoyed a home cooked, satisfying and delicious breakfast. What a treat! It reminds me that I must cook more, something I used to do a lot of and have the recipe books to prove it in my garage library. It also gives me something else to photo and blog on here.  So, forced to reflect?  Yes, but to me, reflection ends in a positive and turns the world around.