Midlife Sight and Insight

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If we were having coffee together on this Saturday morning, I would tell you how grateful I am for my sight. As you may know, we have just come back from holiday, and I was thinking how much I would have missed out on during the holiday if I could not see. Hearing is, of course, important too, and so is tasting, smelling and feeling, but not being able to see would be difficult to cope with. I do not see very well, but what I can see, I am immensely grateful for.

I am grateful that I can see

  1. enough to boil a kettle-full of water, to pour the hot water into the cafetière on top of a generous heap of freshly grounded coffee beans and then to add a dollop of cream to a steaming cup of blissful blackness

  2. the frothy pink blossom that has exploded on the flowering cherries trees this week

  3. my two black cats cuddling together in a pool of sunlight

  4. the satisfied smile on my husband’s face as he repairs the fencing posts damaged by the winter storms

  5. the first swallows returning from their visit to sunnier southern parts

  6. to plant the new Cox’s Orange Pippin apple tree in the orchard

  7. to weed and till the vegetable garden in preparation or this years sowing and planting

  8. the horses getting frisky with spring exuberance in their meadow where the grass is starting to grow with renewed determination

  9. to read e-mails, shopping lists, musical scores, a newspaper, an engrossing book

  10. to take pictures and to look at pictures I have taken before, pictures of my childhood, of friends and family I miss, of places I have been to and would like to go back to and of places I would like to visit one day.

I am also very grateful that I can see well enough to write. This week I have spent a lot of time writing, about our Transformational Retreats, especially as I am designing an optional coaching program to follow the retreats and help participants put the changes they have decided to make during the retreat into practice once they get home.

I wish you an exciting weekend, full of beautiful/amusing/fascinating/compelling sights, insights…and vision.

The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision.” – Helen Keller

This post is part of the MJP Gratitude Challenge and the <strongTen Things of Thankful Challenge(#10Thankful). This post is also part of the #Weekend Coffee Share collection of blog posts, hosted by Diana of Parttime Monster.com. 

10 things of thankful#weekendcoffeeshare

 

Grateful to be home again!

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It’s Sunday morning and time to share a cup of coffee – or tea, if you prefer, I can brew you up a tisane in no time or maybe you would like some of the Rooibos (Redbush) tea I bought back from holiday. More about redbush tea below.

After more than 12 months of renovating house, land and lake, and an autumn season of Mindfulness Meditation Retreats with Horses, we finally found time to go on holiday. We needed a complete break and we also needed to see neglected friends and family, so we were away for several weeks. When I came home on Thursday, I was very grateful to discover that: 

  1. No-one had killed anyone else

  2. No-one has gotten anyone else pregnant

  3. No-one has pigged out and gained loads of weight

  4. No-one got ill requiring expensive medical care

  5. No-one has absconded or been kidnapped

  6. No one has driven the people who looked after them round the bend

  7. No-one has torn their winter wardrobe to shreds

  8. No-one has injured themselves (accidently or on purpose) that would require lots of time off work

  9. No-one gave birth (yet)

  10. No-one has had a friend over to stay (permanently)

Everyone looked healthy and happy to see me. There were some complaints about the quality and quantity of food served in my absence, there was a lot of talk about the recent storms, rain and prevailing muddy conditions, one or two mentioned how nice it was not to have to work while I was away (lazy slobs) and there was a lot of good-humoured reporting of Leo’s exasperating antics.

Got to love ’em, bless their feathered fetlocks.

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Only 38 days until spring and the start of our mindfulness meditation retreat with horses season, time to get this lot back into work, methinks.

Talking about the retreats, redbush tea is one of our retreat guests’ favorite drinks (only the water from out springs is more popular). Guests can brew a pot 24/7 in the guest wing’s kitchen and in the summer there is often a jug of iced redbush tea in the fridge so that guests can benefit from the tea’s various qualities. Possible health benefits of Red RooibosTea include (more studies are needed to confirm these):

Redbush tea contains polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimutagenic properties. Polyphenols are antioxidants that act as destructors of free radicals, the detrimental byproducts of cell metabolism that can cause illnesses like cancer and heart disease.

Redbush tea is caffeine-free, which means people who suffer from insomnia and crave a hot drink at bedtime can drink it without fear of caffeine causing them to lie awake the whole night long.

Redbush tea is believed to relieve stress, anxiety and hypertensive conditions. Hypertension can lead to dangerous diseases like heart attacks and strokes.

Redbush tea is rich in calcium, manganese and fluoride – minerals that can assist in maintaining bone structure and strong teeth. These minerals can reduce one’s chances of developing conditions like osteoporosis. Manganese stimulates the enzymes that build and repair bone. Fluoride is related to dental health and is often found in mouthwashes and toothpaste.

Quercetin, another powerful antioxidant found in redbush tea, has been linked to the prevention of a wide variety of heart conditions. It is believed to be anti-inflammatory and to reduce blood pressure by destroying free radicals. It promotes an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and inhibits the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) that block blood vessels (atherosclerosis) causing heart attacks and strokes. Quercetin and bioflavonoids may also help to prevent hemorrhaging.

Anecdotally, redbush tea can be used to soothe children suffering from colic(stomach pain). The exact mechanism by which it soothes colic is unknown.

Aspalathin, a rare antioxidant found in redbush tea, may help to balance blood sugar levels, improve insulin resistance, increase the glucose absorption by muscles and boost the insulin secretion from the pancreas, helping to prevent type II Diabetes.

The alpha hydroxy acid and zinc in redbush tea can reduce the signs of wrinkles and other premature aging symptoms.

As there is no oxalic acid in redbush tea, it does not cause or worsens kidney stones.

Redbush tea contains antispasmodic agents that can ease severe stomach cramps and abdominal pains.

Redbush tea is also used to alleviate allergies like eczema, hayfever and allergy-related bronchitis.

I love iced redbush tea with lemon; I don’t know how many gallons I drank while on holiday. If you would like to try some, you can place an order here: The Redbush Tea Company: 80 Original Redbush Teabags

This post is part of the MJP Gratitude Challenge and the Ten Things of Thankful Challenge (#10Thankful). If you click on either of these links, you will find several more similar posts to read and you may even decide to add one yourself.

#weekendcoffeeshare

 

This post is also part of the #Weekend Coffee Share collection of blog posts, hosted by Diana of Parttime Monster.com. 

Midlife Women: 10 reasons to be grateful

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Saturday again! One of my favourite ways of starting the weekend is by making a list of the things I am grateful for. I keep a gratitude diary (I don’t manage to write in it every single day, but I write in it at least five times a week. Sometimes it is a long list, sometimes just a single word or a picture that I know will spark a specific memory. I also keep a Gratitude Diary on Pinterest, purely because I enjoy pinning. I often choose a theme – it helps me think of different things to be thankful for.

With the launch of our Mindful Midlife Renaissance Retreats last week, with our horses, here in the south of France, my mind is squarely fixated on midlife.

  1. I am very grateful, that here where I live, in deepest rural France, there are super-stylish older women that are fantastic role models. Many of these fascinating women have risen to the top of their professions during their careers and have now decided to retire here in the south of France. I am so grateful that there are women living nearby that still manage to stop the conversation when they walk into a room, in their fifties, sixties, seventies and even eighties.
  2. I am also very grateful that I live in a country that is not fixated on the beauty of youth, but where beauty in older women is celebrated with equal vigour as in younger women – just look at Catherine Deneuve, for one. Isabelle Adjani, for another. I am also grateful for role models from other countries, from the past, like Audrey Hepburn and from the present like Meryl Steep, Rachel Ward, Susan Sarandon, Judy Dench, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith.
  3. I am grateful that as a blogger, I have discovered so many other women midlife bloggers. Women who write about the trials and tribulations, but also the victories and celebrations of mid-life. I follow several midlife blogs like No Time to Travel, Brazen Women, Better after 50, over50feeling40, Reclaiming Mary, StillBlondeAfterAll, MidlifeChic, LettersfromMidlife, The Succulent Wife, A Boomer’s Life After 50, Making Midlife Matter and MidlifeAGoGo to name but a few. The names of the blogs say it all. One of the best places to find other midlife women bloggers is at MidlifeBoulevard.com.
  4. For day to day inspiration, I am very grateful for all the midlife women whom I follow on Twitter like Walker Thornton, who describes herself as a « 60 years old sex goddess », Judy Freeman, who’s «  goal as I age is to keep my chin up so my neck stays forever wrinkle-free », Evelyn Kalinosky, who « helps high-achieving midlife business women increase their sacred capital », Jean Parks, « a chocolate eating, cupcake loving computer geek with a passion for bath/beauty products, fine living & fun » and Candace Karu, who is « more fun than a barrel of monkeys – if the monkeys had an iPhone, a dubious past and questionable attitude”.
  5. I am also grateful for the Facebook pages written by midlife women, with loads of up-to-date information, articles and ideas, like FiftyNotFrumpy(my all time favourite), MidlifeWarriorSisterhood, Fabafter40, BestKnickersAlways and WomenAfter50.
  6. There are also several brilliant groups on Facebook, where midlife women share their experiences, good or bad, support each other, offer advice, share what works for them and what does not. I like these midlife women facebook groups, Midlife Bloggers Association hosted by Kimberley Montgomery, The Women of Midlife, hosted by Paula Myrick and Sassy Midlife Women, hosted by Katie Paul. There are several others, some focus on health problems during midlife like Menopause Angels, Menopause Naturally and Making Friends with the Menopause, others celebrated midlife women’s’ wisdom like the Wise Women Facebook group. There is something for everyone, a community to join where one can discuss everything under the sun.
  7. I am grateful for the inspiration all these amazing women bring to my life. I am a member of another Facebook page called Wild Women Sisterhood, and although it is not specifically for midlife women, it often reflects my thoughts so exactly that it can be scary. This page and the fabulous women and writing on it helped me develop my Midlife Renewal Retreats. I found this picture posted on Wednesday – the words really resonate with what I feel right now:Midlife Inspiration
  8. Whenever I go online, on Twitter, Facebook or on my WordPress reader, I am so grateful to find endless amounts of articles, tweets and posts about things that are of interest to me, questions I may have or inspiration that I may lack. I found the posts « Power of Resilience: How you bounce back from adversity can reveal a lot about how you’ll age», « Great Jobs for Midlife Women » «Managing My Weight Over 40 », «Is poise old-fashioned or cutting edge ? » and « 2016 Fashion Trends for the Midlife Woman » very interesting and educational. Most of these posts are accessible on my MidLife Blossoming Pinterest board.
  9. Talking about Pinterest, I am very grateful for all the mid-life women Pinterest boards full of pictures of beautiful, elegant, stylish older women and with links to yet more articles about ageing gracefully and scandalously enjoying the process. So much so, that I had to create my own Pinterest board with inspiration for midlife women (you should see Helen Mirren in a bikini at 63!): 
  10. More and more people are writing about the beneficial effect horses can have on human experience, and I am very grateful that having arrived at midlife, I have six horses, all very different characters, to support me while I sail through the storms of this transitional period. I am hugely grateful for all my close friends who support me and encourage me and put up with my questions and insecurities while I try to navigate midlife. Most of all, I am intensely grateful for an understanding, caring and patient husband.

This post is part of the MJP Gratitude Challenge and the Ten Things of Thankful Challenge (#10Thankful). If you click on either of these links, you will find several more similar posts to read and you may even decide to add one yourself.

Margaretha Montagu – Mpowering women to live the second half of their lives with renewed passion.

bmDr. Margaretha Montegu is a medical doctor with 20 years of experience helping her patients manage stress so as to avoid physical disease and psychological distress. 8 years ago she left medical practice to concentrate on prevention rather than cure and now hosts Mindfulness Meditation Retreats, assisted by 6 super-smart horses, in the south of France. 

If you are interested in attending a Personal Empowerment Retreat here at Les Sources Sacrées in the sun-blessed south of France, or if you would like to find out more about it, please e-mail us on welcome2gascony@gmail.com or leave us a message below. Goes without saying that your e-mail address is perfectly safe, we will never share it. You can find our everything you would like to know about the retreats by clicking on the buttons on the top menu bar under “About the Retreats”.

You may also like:

Midlife Women 10 reasons to be grateful

Laughter Meditation for Midlife Stress Relief

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I am very grateful for the things that make me laugh. Laughter is one of the best stress-busters I know. Whenever I feel stressed and hassled, I do my best to be mindful: being100% present in the moment, my attention focused on what is happening second-by-second. Humour anchors me in the present moment. Sometimes, when stress threatens to overwhelm me, I take a moment to try and see the funny side of the situation. More often than not, this can defuse said situation on the spot. Sometimes I plaster a smile on my face and try to think about something or someone that makes me laugh. Is there something like laughter meditation? And if not, why not? At other times, I need a bit of help and that is where the ten things of thankful listed below come in:

1. I am seriously grateful for great stand-up comics and hilarious comic sketches. I am even more grateful that many of these sketches are now instantly accessible on Youtube. In less than 5 minutes, a comic sketch can have me laughing out loud, all the stress and distress forgotten for the moment, all tension acutely relieved. One of my favourites is this one by French and Saunders: (and yes, of course it has a horsey theme!)

2. Funny films cheer me up on rainy days and I am very grateful that so many comedies are made into films every year. especially if they are midlife. One of my favourites is “Enough Said,”  starring Julia Louis Dreyfus and James Gandolfini in one of his last screen roles. Louis Dreyfus plays a nearly empty nester who’s back on the market and discovering the challenges of dating in midlife – a smart comedy about dating in your 50s. I am also very grateful for funny TV series: who could forget the “Vicar of Dibley”, “The Golden Girls” and “Frazier”? – when I am in need of comic relief, I watch reruns of these. I have been thinking that it may be useful to have a few on hand for participants in our Mindful Midlife Renewal Retreats to watch…

3. I am also deeply grateful for all the funny books that have crossed my path and that keep showing up to lighten my days. When I have to be patient, when I have to wait, especially if it is a long and stressful wait, nothing takes my mind off my worries more efficiently than a funny book. Not only does it distract me, not only does it offer me temporary escape, but it often goes a fair way to « curing » my distress by lightening my mood. Lots of books have made me chuckle, but few have made me laugh out loud and just a handful have had me in hysterics. I am a Terry Pratchett fan and two of my favourite books of his are “Mort” and “The Colour of Magic“. A few more that I would like to mention:

  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • Wilt by Tom Sharpe
  •  The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • From the back row by Amy Odell
  • Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

4. I am most thankful for the Facebook pages and Facebook groups that make me laugh. One of my favourite pages is “Funny Horses” (Facebook.com/FunnyHorsesPage/). I also like “Very Funny Horse Bumper Stickers”. My favourite group is “Funny Horse Pictures and Videos” (Facebook.com/groups/1496050047282805/). Whenever I need a lift, I stop by for a minute or two and very soon I find something that makes me smile. I am so grateful that other people take the time to take pictures and make videos that make me laugh and that those people are willing to share their pics and videos online.

5. I am also grateful for the many funny things I read on Twitter. I follow a few people just because they make me smile. I like Chester of @ChestersColumn. One of his tweets: « Dis morning Oi mostly did floying changes. Lots of ’em. All in a row. And NONE of dem asked for !! #aheadofdagame » (he’s an Irish Sport Horse)

6. Pinterest also has a few very funny boards that I am very grateful for. Midlife can be a stressful time for many men and women, so anything that focuses on the funny side of midlife is a very welcome distraction. One of the boards I follow is Turning 50’s “Midlife Crisis”:

7. I am very thankful that I have a whole bunch of friends who make me laugh. Some people are just funnier than others, non? Just being with some people makes me happy, even before they have opened their mouths to say anything. One of my friends specifically, not meaning to be funny at all, sometimes comes out with something so funny, that I end up on the floor. I am so grateful to have such friends around me. I am also very grateful that modern technology allows me to pick up the phone and call a friend on the other side of the world, who has me in stitches within minutes of answering the phone. These friendships I nuture carefully, and cultivate freely, they are like therapy to me.

8. Cartoons often make me smile, I am very grateful to the clever cartoonists who capture laugh-out-loud moments on paper. Funnyhorsecartoons.com has loads of funny cartoons:dre 

9. I am also very grateful for the many excellent jokes that I have heard over the years, mostly at the beginning of speeches. Sadly I am not very good at remembering jokes, but one that does stick in my mind is this one: A blonde decides to take up horseback riding, even though she has had no lessons and does not know anything about horses or riding. She succeeds in mounting the horse unassisted and the horse immediately springs into motion. Soon, it is galloping along at a steady and rhythmic pace, but the blonde starts to loose her balance and slips from the saddle. In terror, she grabs the horse’s mane but cannot get a firm grip. She tries to throw her arms around the horse’s neck, but to no avail. The horse gallops along, seemingly impervious to its terrorised rider. Finally, giving up her frail grip, she lets go and falls to the ground. Unfortunately, her foot has become entangled in a stirrup and she is now at the mercy of the horse’s pounding hooves as her head hits the ground again and again. She is mere moments away from losing consciousness when to her great fortune… the supermarket manager sees her and shuts the horse off.

10. I am quite partial to a good quote, as you may have gathered by now from all my posts about quotes (25 of the best Mindfulness Quotes). I am very grateful that a Google search for funny quotes immediately brings back 80 500 000 hits, so if anyone is looking for a funny quote or two to make them smile, they would be spoilt for choice! The best funny quotes, in my opinion, are those that are not only witty but also wise. As Kurt Vonnegut once said, “The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful.” Ex. “Before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes (profoundly important saying). That way, you’ll be a mile from them AND you’ll have their nearly-new shoes.” Jack Handey I hope you have smiled at least once while reading this post.PS. 11. Please have a look at my friend Kappa’s great idea about a daily e-mail with a funny comic in the comments below.

PS. 11. Please have a look at my friend M.L. Kappa’s great idea in the comments below: websites where you can subscribe to receive a daily e-mail containing a funny comic.

I hope you have smiled at least once while reading this post and I hope you have an “absolutely fabulous” weekend.

This post is part of the MJP Gratitude Challenge and the Ten Things of Thankful Challenge (#10Thankful).

10 Gastronomic Delights Of Gascony

10 Gastronomic Delights of Gascony
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Keeping a gratitude journal has changed my life. I recommend it to all our  Mindful Meditation Retreat guests- we discuss how and why one should keep a gratitude journal during our writing meditation sessions. I have also written a blog post about how to do it that you can read by CLICKING HERE and I keep an online Gratitude Diary on Pinterest. (see below).

Writing a daily list of 10 things that one is grateful for can become a bit monotonous when one always lists more or less the same things, so I like to choose a theme for each list. Today’s theme is food. Food is very important to the French (of course it is). It is for this very reason, and because our region offers such wonderfully decadent and delicious gastronomic delights, that we have decided to feed both our guests’ bodies and minds on our retreats – so no starvation diet if you come on one of our Mindfulness Meditation Retreats here in the south of France. You can read more about the food and wine our guests enjoy on retreat by CLICKING HERE.

The 10 types of food of our region that I am most grateful for today are:

1. Garbure
This is a delicious, hearty and filling soup, made with fresh seasonal ingredients in the winter. It is often offered steaming hot at no extra charge at lunchtime to guests in restaurants, at the start of the day’s 12 euro menu, before the first course. I have a pot full on the stove most days during the winter.
2. Confit de Canard
Gascony is duck country. A confit de canard is basically preserved duck legs in duck fat, usually sold in tins, that can be kept for many months. When needed, the duck legs are removed and then baked/grilled to remove the extra fat. Even so, it is an extremely rich dish, often served with crisp matchstick frites and green beans from Tarbes (haricots tarbais).
3. Magret de Canard
Magret de canard is the breast from a duck raised for its liver, or foie gras, and it’s usually cooked like a steak — seared, finished with a few minutes in the oven, and served medium-rare, often with a slightly sweet honeyed sauce and/or fruit, to counteract the fattiness of the meat.
4. Paella
The Spanish border is less than 2 hours’ drive from us and our region has been influenced by this proximity in various ways, including gastronomically. Paella is a Spanish dish that consists mainly of rice, flavoured by saffron, with chicken, sausages, seafood, etc. added and cooked and served in a large shallow pan.
5. Croustade aux Pommes
This is a classic Gascon dessert: crisp, paper-thin sheets of phyllo dough are wrapped around tender caramelised and brandied (with Armagnac) apples. A delightfully light end to many a heavy Gascon meal!
6. Daube
This is a classic rich and hearty stew, cooked in many parts of France, especially in the south of France and definitely in Gascony, made with inexpensive beef braised in Madiran wine, fresh seasonal vegetables, garlic and herbs, usually fresh too. It is traditionally cooked in a daubière, a braising pan, in November and then preserved for use during the winter in glass bottles.
7. Salade de Gésiers
This is a wonderfully filling salad, often served as a main course, made of dark green salad leaves, potatoes, walnuts, duck gizzards and vinaigrette. An acquired taste, admittedly, but definitely worth trying with the freshest and crispiest Frech bread you can get hold of.
8. Mélons de Lectoure
Only available when in season, these sweet and juicy bright orange melons are often served with Jambon de Bayonne as a first course or an amuse-bouche. Absolutely divine. Wish it was melon season now!
9. Hard Cheese made from sheep’s milk (fromage de brébis). This addictive cheese is made from the milk of sheep that spend their summers high in the Pyrenées mountains and their winters in the valleys below. Twice a year all traffic has to stop for the bi-annual transhumance when the sheppards guide their sheep with the help of their Pyrenean Mountain dogs up or down the mountain.
10. Cèpes Soup and Cèpes Omelettes
Cèpes are mushrooms found fresh in the woods here in October and November (if you should know where in the woods they grow, you keep the information strictly to yourself!), but also dried year round as it retains its flavour very well. The cèpe mushroom is so tasty that many commercial mushroom products contain this mushroom as flavouring.

If you would like to know more about Gascony, you can CLICK HERE to read about it or visit my Gascony! Pinterest board.

This post is part of the MJP Gratitude Challenge and the Ten Things of Thankful Challenge (#10Thankful). If you click on either of these links, you will find several more similar posts to read and you may even decide to add one yourself. This polished and updated version of this post is, as from today, the 25th of February 2016, also part of Diane at PartTimeMonster.com’s #Throwback Thursday Party.

10 gastronomic delights of Gascony pinTTlink