Being Grateful

I’m always on the hunt for new delicious recipes that are quick to make and contain few ingredients. This plum tarte tatin ticks all the boxes. There are only 4 ingredients; sugar, plums, marzipan and ready to roll puff pastry. The items are layered with fruit and sugar on the bottom, marzipan in the middle and puff pastry on the top. It was ready to go in the oven in about 10 mins (see recipe in Top Tips below). This was my first time making a tarte tatin. I was always wary of cooking this upside down tart. It requires a leap of faith as you flip the tarte onto a plate after cooking. I think the marzipan really added a special flavour. I served ours with coconut yogurt but it would be equally nice with cream or ice cream.


This tarte was the dessert for a dinner cooked to say thank you to the two very special ladies with whom I share an office. The three of us share a pokey space not much bigger than a cupboard. These two ladies are always on hand with tissues, chocolate, tea and hugs. They have covered for me on my bad days. On the good days we share our love of books and dating stories. Our little office has become a sanctuary in my chaotic life.

This week Thanksgiving will be celebrated by families across the United States. I like the idea of a holiday focused on giving thanks but I had never given it my attention until now.  Looking back at my old life I wish I had spent more time appreciating what I had and actively feeling grateful. A few Christmases ago Conor’s Daddy bought me a Thank You book. It’s a beautiful book published by the Irish Hospice Foundation.  The preface to the book states that the practice of gratitude enhances mental health and emotional stability. It states that gratitude can be learned – the more we express it, the more we experience it. The book contains expressions of Thanks from various Irish  writers and celebrities. It has plenty of pages for adding your own expressions of Thanks. I am ashamed to say that it has taken me until now to write in it.


Gratitude while grieving has not come easily to me. It’s hard to feel grateful for what you have when what you most want is lost forever.  Following the death of a loved one there is a real need for the rest of society to point out positives. There have been many occasions since Conor died that I have been told “At least you have a good husband” or “at least you have your health”. There is no space for “At Least” in grief. What was so wrong with me wanting a good husband AND my little boy? What good was my health when I would have given my life to save Conor’s?  I know it is well meaning but pointing out my positives only angers me. These “At Leasts” are typically uttered by those with both husbands AND living children!!

Gratitude needs to come from within. On bad days I have found there is no room for gratitude. On bad days it’s ok to simply miss what is lost. On good days I can now see the positives (including my husband and health!) Conor’s Daddy and I have started writing in the Thank You book. Before we go to bed we reflect on the day. We are hoping to learn how to be more grateful. It is early days but so far I am enjoying this routine. Knowing I will be writing in the book, I am more aware of the positive moments in my day.  Being grateful will not take away any of the sadness we feel since Conor’s sudden death. However, I hope that being grateful will help make our new life a better place.

I am grateful to each and every one of you who takes the time to read our story – especially those of you who are not bereaved parents but want to support people who are. I only wish there was a way I could thank each of you in person with a slice of tarte tatin.

*Top Tip

This recipe is once again from my hero Mary Berry. Give it a try…


Going round in circles

Here are some biscuits I made for my sister ‘s recent visit. The “bite-sized pinwheel snacks” are from Lorraine Pascale’s “lighter way to bake book”. I thoroughly recommend Lorraine’s books and recipes. This book uses regular ingredients to make familiar bakes. Lorraine has tweaked the recipes to make them a bit lighter. I regularly bake her bread which uses skimmed milk in place of buttermilk. These biscuits contain all the butter and sugar you would expect in a biscuit but are made bite-sized instead. The recipe requires precision. You need to measure out two rectangles onto parchment paper before rolling out both the vanilla and chocolate dough to fit the rectangles. The two rectangles are placed one on top of the other before being rolled up, sliced and baked. They were delicious. While they are lighter than the average biscuit the temptation is there to have a 2nd and a 3rd!


It’s now over a year since I have been sharing my life with grief. I look at how far we have travelled together and I feel proud. This journey isn’t linear though and at the moment I feel stuck in a bit of a vicious circle. It’s like I am on an old fashioned merry-go-round and there seems to be no sign of it stopping.

There is a constant battle between my brain (my thoughts) and my heart (my feelings). My brain seems to be adapting to my new life better than my heart. My brain can see the positives in life while my heart struggles with the idea that life SHOULD be so different. I don’t  seem to be able to experience one without the other. The word SHOULD is never far away…

  • This week I received a lovely postcard that made me cry. My head was delighted that the sender had taken the time to write to us on holiday. My heart knew that the postcard SHOULD have been addressed to three people.
  • I recently heard about a friend having a new baby. While my head is so relieved to hear that this baby arrived safely, my heart knows this SHOULD have been us too.
  • Conversations about Christmas have started in work. My head allows these to take place. My heart however removes me from them knowing our Christmas SHOULD be so different.
  • Yesterday I visited the Christmas department of a local shop. My brain is delighted with my Christmas lights spelling out Conor’s name. My heart knew I SHOULD have been in the toys section buying santa gifts.


This word SHOULD has me stuck. It stops me from sharing others’ joy. It can leave me feeling lonely and isolated. I have been trying to ignore the word SHOULD but it seems to be getting bigger. It’s now time to try a new approach. I have heard the phrase “Its okay not to be okay” so many times as a bereaved parent. The more time that passes since Conor’s death, the more this phrase makes sense to me.  However, the more time that passes, the more I feel a pressure to have moved on. I feel this pressure from others who are waiting for the old me to return but I also put pressure on myself. I need to remind myself that it’s okay for me to still feel consumed by my sadness. It’s okay for me to miss my little boy and the life he SHOULD be having more than anything. I know I am no where near accepting Conor’s death and that’s okay too. I hope that someday my brain and heart will cease battle and enter into a supportive partnership like the vanilla and chocolate in these biscuits. In the meantime I simply need to stay on my merry-go-round, hold on tight and look up at the stars.