Easy Nutella Cheesecake Recipe

nutella cheesecake

“….I can dream away a half-hour on the immortal flavor of those cheese cakes we used to have on a Saturday night.”Mary Antin, ‘The Promised Land’ (1912)

 

This is probably the easiest cheesecake I have ever made. It only requires a few ingredients, and it is seriously yum. Not too sweet, not overpoweringly Nutella flavoured, and it makes the perfect end to a meal. It’s also the kind of cheesecake you can dress up or down, depending on the occasion.

I first ate this cheesecake at a friend’s place. My friend is a chef and when I asked about the recipe they were embarrassed. “You don’t want that. It’s so easy,” she said. “It’s barely even a recipe!” Turns out, her eleven-year-old son had made it all by himself from a recipe given to him from a friend’s mother after he’d eaten this cheesecake at their house.

All the better. If a child who doesn’t cook can manage this, anyone can!

I made this for Saturday night dinner, when our friends from the city came to stay. It took just a few minutes to whip up, and not much longer to devour.

Why don’t you try it, and you’ll see what I mean…

nutella

Ingredients:

250 grams sweet plain biscuits (I used a packet of caramel pecan cookies and the caramel and pecans gave a lovely texture and flavour!), 75 grams (5 tablespoons) of butter, 1 x 400 gram jar of Nutella (which is a chocolate hazelnut spread in case you don’t know!), 500 grams of cream cheese, 75 grams (1/2 cup) of icing sugar (confectioners’ or powdered sugar)

I also used a punnet of fresh strawberries and an extra tablespoon of icing sugar for decoration.

Method:

Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and whizz until they are crushed. Then add the butter and a tablespoon of Nutella. Whizz again until it begins to form clumps.

making the crust

 

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*Note – if you don’t have a food processor, place the biscuits into a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Tip into a bowl and add the butter and Nutella and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Tip the biscuit mixture into the bottom of a 23cm / 9 inch springform tin, pressing down firmly over the bottom and slightly up the sides of the tin. Place into the fridge to chill.

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Now cut the cream cheese into cubes and add to the bowl of the food processor with the icing sugar. Whizz until it softens and combines. (Can you spy a few biscuit crumbs on my cream cheese? Yes, that’s right. I didn’t bother to wash out the food processor bowl before I used it again. I promise it won’t matter.)

cream cheese and sugar

Spoon the rest of the jar of Nutella into the bowl, and process again until smooth and completely mixed together. (Can’t see those crumbs now, can you?)

nutella mix

Remove pie crust from fridge and carefully spoon the cheesecake mix over the base, smoothing the top. Place back into the refrigerator to set. This will take four to six hours, but it will be even better if you can leave it overnight.

smooth cheesecake into tinIn emergencies, the freezer will help chill things down quickly too. I understand – sometimes you need to make and eat that cheesecake FAST!

Carefully unmold the cheesecake from the springform tin, removing the sides first and then easing the cake from the bottom tray using a knife and a spatula or egg slide. Removing the cheesecake from the springform base stops you cutting through the non-stick coating with a knife when you slice pieces of cake and helps your pan last much longer.

nutella cheesecake 2

To Serve:

It’s perfectly good served plain. But I like to garnish my cheesecake with sweet fresh strawberries and a little dusting of icing sugar. It’s also super yummy with the following variations:

  • whipped cream and a drizzle of salted caramel
  • whipped cream and fresh berries
  • whipped cream and mandarin or orange segments
  • lashings of shaved or grated chocolate
  • tiny chocolate truffles and chocolate sauce

You might also like to make individual cheesecakes, or even put your mixture into teacups or cocktail glasses for something a little fancier.

However, in the end, what matters is the eating. Our visiting campers, Hannah and Mitchell, gave this dish their stamp of approval.

Enjoy!

happy faces

Exhausted, with Aprons…

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“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” 
~ Albert Einstein

 

What a lovely weekend I’ve had. Our friends and their children visited the farm, and to my delight I found that these particular children had a great love of rambling walks in the countryside, board games, stories, an exceptional fondness for fairies and pirates, and a deep appreciation of yummy food, all of which are among my favourite things! :)

Ten-year-old Hannah was also very keen to strap on an apron and help in the kitchen, and so we practiced knife skills, invented crazy salads, decorated desserts with strawberries and made endless delicious treats, including Blueberry Crumble Slice, which was a huge success with her blueberry-addicted brother, Mitchell.

Blueberry Crumble SLice

Today, I’m going to catch up on all that energy I expended. The dogs are equally exhausted after all that fun so we’re going to stay snuggled up on this rain-sweetened frosty morning, drink tea, and write. Well, I’ll be writing, and the dogs shall be lending moral support, bless their furry paws!

Tomorrow, after I am caught up on sleep, I shall share a particularly delectable recipe for Nutella Cheesecake, which was the dessert we enjoyed on Saturday night. I promise it’s both easy and divine. :) Mmmmm, cheesecake…

Dog-gone it, we’re busy!

2014-07-15 20.30.37

“Sometimes, the best way to help someone is just to be near them.”  ~ Veronica Roth, Divergent

 

This will be a short blog post, owing to the fact that it’s cold, and all we really feel like doing this morning is going back to our nice warm bed for a cuddle. Sometimes, comfort takes priority, you know…

The picture above is of Harry Dog, all curled up on the couch next to my husband, Ben. Harry’s saying “Hurry up, Mum, and finish writing. It’s too cold and you’re taking too long!”

When I finished taking Harry’s picture I put my phone down beside him for a moment, and somehow managed to snap an accidental photo of Bert, our other dog, who was sitting by the door, pouting and wishing there was more room on the couch.

Some pictures speak louder than words. Poor Bert…

Okay, enough writing. Cuddle time!

Wishing you all a magical, love-filled day xoxoPouty Bert

Reality Check – A Reminder of What Really Matters

Image from Mummy Quotes

Image from Mummy Quotes

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” 
~ Stephen R. Covey

 

I have a beautiful girlfriend who is the ultimate career woman. She has worked for the same corporation for 25 years, starting at the very bottom and working her way up. She is one of those women who has climbed the ladder and broken through the glass ceiling. For twenty five years she has devoted herself to this organisation, and enjoyed a meteoric rise. She’s a stunning project manager, and she gets things done. They always call on her in a crisis. There is always a crisis. She works insane hours, lives and breathes company business, and is paid accordingly.

In the middle of this she has managed to complete a degree, an MBA, and to marry and have two children. She always wanted to have children but by the time she and her husband started trying for babies in her late thirties, pregnancy just wasn’t happening. She has two beautiful daughters, aged 3 and 6, both from IVF, which was a long and difficult process. It took many attempts to bring those little girls into the world.

No, this is not a post about leaving babies til the last minute.

It’s a post about leaving life til the last minute.

You see, my friend sent me a frantic text yesterday morning, and then called me as soon as she knew I was awake.

I haven’t seen her for a couple of years. You know how things are when people get busy.

She had news. The worst kind. She’s been diagnosed with aggressive and advanced ovarian cancer. It’s inoperable. They think she may have twelve weeks to live, give or take. There’s no time left for treatment. Only for palliative care.

She started losing weight eighteen months ago and put it down to stress. But secretly she was also thrilled. She had put on plenty of weight during each of her pregnancies and had never been able to get it back off again. Still, her tummy stayed round and bloated.

She hasn’t felt her best since the babies were born. But that’s normal for busy mums, isn’t it? Anyway, she always said to me that she was too busy to have the luxury of a sick day.

My friend left it so long to do something about the pelvic pain, the back aches, the bladder leaks, the fatigue, that when she finally made the time to see a doctor it was all too late. She is riddled with cancer. It’s in her bowel, her brain, her liver, her lungs, her bones. Everywhere.

What should she do, my friend asked me. She has recently moved her husband, two little children and their nanny to yet another new city while she works on a difficult merger. They haven’t really settled in yet. She began to tell me all about the work…

Screw the work, I said. Come home. Come home to your family and your husband’s family. Come home to the people who love you, and who can take care of you all. Forget the responsibilities. Now is the time to focus on what truly matters. Living. Loving. Drinking up every last moment. Creating the best kinds of memories. Gifting yourself and your loved ones the time you have left.

She kept crying, over and over, I thought I’d have more time. God, it almost undid me.

All her working life my friend has put things to one side; holidays, celebrations, lazy Sundays, time out with family and friends, because she though that one day she’d be in a magical place where there was plenty of time, and plenty of money and plenty of life left to enjoy all those good things.

heart

Life is so short. So precious. None of us ever really know how much time we have.

Oh, it breaks my heart, dear ones. It just breaks my heart.

I’m going to take a few days off blogging, while I support my friend through this next part of her journey.

Please, look after yourselves. Look after your health and your loved ones. Work out what matters and spend time on those relationships and activities. It’s the journey, as much as the destination. You know that, don’t you?

That great behemoth of a corporation my friend works for will get by just fine without her. She might not have realised it, but she is expendable to them, although I’m sure they’ll miss her, and her talents.

Her husband and kids? I’m sure they can’t say the same.

My friend, ever the one to seek productive outcomes from any situation, asked me to write this post. She hoped it may serve as a reality check for people like her, who’ve strayed too far from what really counts.

Will you hold her and her family in your thoughts and prayers? Her name’s Julie, and she sure could use a little extra love and light right now.

Thank you.

Image from Paper Masters

Image from Paper Masters

Remembering Hot Chocolate

Image from Elite Decorative Arts

Image of Vintage Porcelain Cups from Elite Decorative Arts

“There’s something liberating about not pretending. Dare to embarrass yourself. Risk.”
~ Drew Barrymore

 

My early childhood was spent in a far-flung suburban estate in Brisbane, a place not noted for its cultural diversity let alone culinary delights.

And yet, one of my strongest food memories comes from this time.

One street over from our house was a block of low-set flats, a very unusual thing in a housing estate full of brick boxes with big back yards that served as family homes. It was an oddity, and few people spoke favourably about it. Because it was in the next street, it was out of bounds. My mother was very strict about safety. No talking to strangers. No wandering out of the cul-de-sac.

As I walked home from school with my small brother and sister one afternoon, we took the long way home, past the flats. My father worked in the city, and my mother had started a new job a few suburbs away. Mum wasn’t home before five at the earliest, and Dad walked home from the bus, arriving just before the six o’clock news.

It was my job to collect my siblings from the waiting area at our primary school, bring them home, lock ourselves into the house, supervise homework, and take the washing off the line. I was ten. Virtually a grown up!

To my surprise, Julie, a shy blonde girl from my class and new at our school that year, was standing inside the door of one of the much-frowned-on flats when we walked past, an old stout woman dressed in black by her side. She waved frantically, and out of politeness I made my brother and sister wait on the sidewalk while I went to the front door to say hello. Julie was staying with her grandmother, who stood behind the little girl, not uttering a word. This was Nonna, she said, indicating her grandmother.

Weirdly, I curtsied. Nerves I guess. “Good afternoon, Nonna,” I said politely.

Did I want to come for afternoon tea? Julie’s request had a pleading quality to it. Yes, I said. Thank you. I would love to. I will come back soon, I assured them. After which I felt ill. I had said yes because I was too shy to be rude and say no, and now I had broken one of Mum’s cardinal rules.

What a dilemma. This was rule-breaking at its most serious. I hurried my siblings home,  rushed them to change out of their uniforms and have an early bath, made afternoon tea for them, brought in the clean clothes, and then, as a bribe, let my brother and sister watch cartoons on television. Something else strictly forbidden. As soon as they were settled, I raced back to Julie’s grandmother’s hoping that none of the neighbours would see me. It was only a distance of about eight houses, but for me it felt like a mile.

As soon as I arrived, I explained that I could only stay until four-thirty. One hour. I said it very clearly, hoping that they would understand the seriousness of needing to be home on time. Julie relayed this to her grandmother in strange-sounding words, and I was fascinated to learn that my school-friend could speak another language! Yes, yes, Julie and the old lady agreed, home at four-thirty.

While I was gone, Julie’s grandmother had set the table in her tiny flat with a fine lace tablecloth. There were tiny cups and saucers, and plates of the most unusual biscuits I had ever seen, as well as slices of some dark spicy cake.

My eyes feasted on the old cuckoo clock, the pretty wooden dolls, the religious icons and the vases of silk flowers. It was the most exotic place I had ever been, and it was just a few doors down from my own home!

“Do you like hot chocolate?” Julie asked me.

“Oh yes,” I assured her. My own Nana made me cocoa all the time.

But what Nonna made for us bore no resemblance to any hot chocolate I had ever tried. In a saucepan on the stove she heated milk, and then broke real chocolate, milk and dark into the pot, stirring carefully. To this she added a tiny pinch of salt, and a pinch of ground cinnamon. The thick mixture was poured into a pretty china pot decorated all over with painted flowers.

“A coffee pot!” I said, trying to sound worldly.

“Caffé? No, no, shock-oh-lat!” Nonna said, shaking her head as if I was the silliest girl in Australia, and perhaps I was.

Nonna seated us at the table, and poured the thick, fragrant chocolate for us. She then spooned a little whipped cream into the top of the tiny cups.

I was disappointed that the cups were so small, until I tasted my hot chocolate. Julie showed me how to use the special little spoon to scoop the thick liquid up and drink it like soup. A cup any bigger would have been way too much. I almost swooned from the taste. It was, perhaps, my first truly sensual experience. So rich, so velvety smooth, not super sweet, but oh! Even now I find myself without adequate words to describe the experience.

We sat and ate our spicy gingerbread cake, and our almond biscuits and jam drops, and slowly, slowly savoured the hot chocolate until it was all gone. I had one eye on the clock the whole time, sick with guilt but unable to tear myself away. Nonna didn’t say much. She just smiled and urged more food on us, and when it was time to go home, she insisted on giving me a little parcel of left-overs to take to my mother.

My sister and brother were still in front of the cartoons. They didn’t even look up when I walked into the room.

I cut up an orange for them, and then tidied things away.

When Mum came home from work she was cranky, and I knew that I would cop the wooden spoon or the end of Dad’s belt from her if I even breathed a word. I gave her the little parcel, and told her just that Julie’s grandmother had made them.

“That’s nice,” Mum said looking vaguely taken aback.

“Can Julie come round to play on Saturday, Mum?” I asked, hopeful that she’d look favourably upon my request.

“No, you know I don’t allow friends home from school.”

And that was that. I never went to Nonna’s flat again, and Julie was so slighted that I never asked her to my own home that she would no longer be my friend.

I forgot all about that afternoon until 2010, when I went to Italy for the first time. In a little hilltop town called Gubbio I stopped to write in my journal and gaze out over the view. There I was served a hot chocolate that took me straight back to my childhood, and Julie’s Nonna.

All those years later I still felt the sting of being unable to reciprocate their kindness, even as I felt the magic of being transported through time by something as simple as a hot beverage.

hot-choc-gubbio

On that cold morning in Gubbio, the chocolate was thick and rich, not too sweet, with a delicious dollop of whipped cream on top. It was heavenly.

The staff at the little cafe were kind enough to share the recipe with me, and I’ve made it often since then. I’ll post it for you tomorrow!

Much love, and a really big hug, Nicole xx

Blog Hijack!

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“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed.
For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.” 
~ Charles M. Schulz

 

This is Bert. Me and my brother Harry have taken over this blog.

Writing is dumb. Especially on a very lovely morning of rain and mud and things to do.

We have kidnapped Mum to go play outside in her gumboots and raincoat instead of blogging.

There will be stick throwing and chasing.

There are cows to visit.

We may go for a swim in the river to wash off all the mud.

Then there will be breakfast.

And a nap. With lots of cuddles.

Normal blogging will resume tomorrow.

That is all.

 

The Owl and the Banshee

Banshee by OmniscientNerd

Banshee by OmniscientNerd

“Fairies in Ireland are sometimes as big as we are, sometimes bigger, and sometimes, as I have been told, about three feet high.” 
~ W.B. Yeats

 

As I have been writing my Kimberley memoir, tumbling words onto the page at all hours of the day and night, I find myself I need to talk again about owls, and also about fairies.  I present this information to you only as story, as interesting background.

Although it might be more…

In modern times we often think of fairies as tiny winged creatures, flitting through the flowers and amusing animals and children. But once, fairies were considered to be a race all their own, some larger than humans, some human sized and similar in form, and some quite small, perhaps just a few feet high. They were closely associated with nature and the supernatural, and were considered to have ‘magical’ powers.

Fairies are woven through my family tree.  Really.  When you track back into ancient Irish, Norse and Scottish genealogies the lines start to become blurred between legend, mythology and fact. This is especially true once you start to weave in the fairy folk to these earlier branches of the family tree.  It was once accepted that fairies walked among us, lived in certain places, and married into the lines of the Ancient Norse, Irish and Scottish Kings, from whom I am descended.

It is also believed that some from the ancient family lines, whose blood shares fairy energy, reincarnate over and over, maintaining the ability to connect with the ‘fey’ – the fairies and other creatures of those ancient times – creatures not human, and in their own way, magical.

Each of the great ancient families of Ireland has their own Banshee.  Banshee is Gaelic for “fairy woman”.  Bean = woman, sidhe (pronounced shee) = fairy.  In Irish mythology, the appearance of a banshee foretells impending death in the family. She may appear as a pale old woman with long hair who keens and wails – the banshee scream. She may also be a beautiful woman.  In Norse and Scottish mythology, (whose ancestral lines complete my own) banshees are also given attention, and are believed linked to specific families.

For some of the ancient families an owl or a raven will also appear to herald a death, or as a portend of a coming event of significance.

Image from Flickr

Image from Flickr

In 1776, some of my family line, a party of young people, went to a friend’s house for the evening while the father of one of the girls, Harrison Ross Lewin of Fortfergus, was in Dublin on business – a journey that necessitated five days travel and many stops. The young people walked to their friend’s house and spent a pleasant evening.

Here is their story, as recounted by Thomas Johnson Westropp in his book  A Folklore Survey of County Clare.  

As the party returned under bright moonlight, they were startled by loud keening and wailing from the direction of an old church ruin. When they drew closer to the ruins they all clearly saw a little old woman with long white hair and a dark cloak running to and fro on the top of the side wall, clapping her hands and wailing.

The young men, leaving the girls together on the road, sent some of their number to watch each end of the building, and the remainder entered and climbed up on the wall. The apparition vanished as they approached the church, and, after a careful search, could not be found.

The party, thoroughly frightened, hurried home, and found their mother in even greater terror. She had been sitting in the window when a great raven flapped three times at the glass, and, while she told them, the bird again flew against the window.

Some days later, news arrived from Dublin that Ross Lewin had died suddenly on the very evening of the apparition and omen.”

Both Banshees and Owl visitations are well documented in my family history. Indeed my maternal grandmother saw an owl before her own mother passed, and shortly after the passing of some of her beloved aunts.

My mother, sister and I were also visited by owls shortly before or just after my maternal grandmother died.

Owls sometimes come heralding change or the opening up of metaphysical skills and abilities.

Why am I sharing this information with you? What might it have to do with my time in the Kimberley?

It’s all about the stories.

I promise you, although these various strands – the Owl and the Orchard Man, the Kimberley Owls, the spirit lady from my family tree might seem so impossibly far from each other, eventually all of these puzzle pieces begin to fit together.

Puzzle_Pieces_by_nighty_stock♥ I would also like to publicly acknowledge and thank my sister, Simone, for her tireless work, endless dedication, countless hours and exacting research in her ongoing investigation of our family tree.

 

Who’s your Support Crew in 2014?

Image of the Blue Angels Support Crew watching a flight formation - Wikimedia Commons

Image of the Blue Angels Support Crew watching a U.S. Navy diamond flight formation 1952 – Wikimedia Commons

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends”

~ John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Few of us get there on our own. The journey is always made easier when we have support, no matter what that journey is. So my big question to you is this:

Who is YOUR support crew in 2014?

No matter what kind of year you’re in for, we all need friends and helpful people. People who can cheer us on, offer helpful advice, pick us up when we fall, do the things we need doing but cannot do for ourselves, lend their own kind of magic to ours for that beautiful effect that multiplies our success to be greater than the sum of the parts.

I know that most of you are a lot like me…

Sensitive souls, empaths, carers, healers, kind-hearted people – we are stunningly good at putting everyone else first, and being that support which others need – being a support person is just what we’re wired to do. And if we’d had rough patches in life we’ve become good at being resilient and self-sufficient too.

All of this means that we may not be so flash at asking for favours or putting our hand up for help.

This year I’m putting up my own hand and asking for help. I’m drawing to me the best support crew I can to get me through 2014. I’m also minimising my contact with the crazy-makers and relationships that drain or sabotage me and my direction. (Want help with toxic relationships? Click here!)

Mots of us already have a support network. We may even be putting energy into supporting THEM right now. The biggest issue for many of us is that we don’t ask, or have found ourselves in the habit of having the barriers up as we steam along in that solo kind of self-sufficiency mode. Or we just plain forget that these people are here for us to draw on.

Not all of our support crew will work for love. And that’s okay too. Hiring people to support us is a great act of self-love and affirmation of self-worth. We can also access this support through books, courses and audio files.

We all need a cheer squad, and sometimes we need more tangible help. The point is – we can’t do it all alone!!!

Image of this awesome supportcrew from the South East London Ladies Swimming Club

Image of this awesome support crew from the South East London Ladies Swimming Club

Right now I have my husband and my wonderful PA, Dana, creating firewalls and boundaries in my work and personal life.

My fridge is full of nurturing soup from kind friends. Others have offered to clean my house while I’m too unwell to do this for myself.

I may not be able to get out much, but my sister and a few friends are on speed dial. I have great neighbours, and a fabulous bunch of Soul Sisters from my mentoring groups and retreats. I have all of you, dear readers, lending your support and kindness.

My Sisters of the Pen are always there for online and ‘for reals’ conversation and support for writing and life. The Queensland Writers Centre is my go-to place for continuing development of my craft.

And beyond my emotional needs I have doctors, herbalists, accountants, a good lawyer, a web designer (Hi Tim!), dentist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, an online business mentoring group, lyme boards and forums, music, libraries, bookshops and the internet. I have the Farmers Markets and some wonderful local cafes. There’s also the yellow pages for when I need a plumber, a termite expert or a tree lopper.

Of course, none of these people will be any good to me if I don’t reach out and ask!

Image by maryam

Image by maryam

2014 is shaping up to be a big year, and it’s time to start thinking about who you need on your support crew.

To help you get a better picture of what that may look like I’ve created a simple journal exercise for you!

Journalling my Web of Support

Image from akmhcweb

Image from akmhcweb

Here are some simple questions for you to think about and journal. Don’t feel that you have to answer them all today, but DO give them thought over the next few weeks.

1. Who in my family can I draw on for support, guidance, laughs or to help me lift that heavy bookcase? Remember that it’s okay to include loved ones who’ve passed over. I talk to my grandparents all the time!

2. Which friends in my life (online as well as people I’ve met in person) are supportive of me, my interests and my ambitions?

3. What do I really need to get done this year that I keep putting off?

4. Do I really need to do this myself? Who can help me with this thing? What kind of support do I need for each of those goals or tasks? Do I know someone? Can I pay someone?

5. Who can help me with my health this year?

6. Who can help me with my finances and/or business?

7. Who can help me with my spirituality and soul questing?

8. Who can I laugh with?

9. Who can I cry with?

10. Who’ll cheer me on up that mountain?

11. Music, movies and other motivators that keep me feeling good about myself and on track?

12. Habits and actions I KNOW do me good and support my journey?

I hope in some small way that I can support you too, through my blog and my facebook page. Let’s make this our best year yet – together!

Lots and lots of love,

Nicole xoxo

Image from sevenquotes

Image from sevenquotes

Remembrance Day 2013

Image from Country Threads, design by Fiona Jude.

Image from Country Threads, design by Fiona Jude.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” 
~ Thomas Campbell

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 the giant guns of the Western Front finally fell silent. An armistice was declared and the Great War of 1914 -1918 came to an end. 70 million people had been mobilised during the conflict and over 13 million souls were dead, at least one third of them with no known grave.

That moment in time became deeply significant, and on the first anniversary of the Armistice two minutes silence was observed at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, to honour the fallen. November 11 became known as Armistice Day.

After World War Two the tradition continued, but the name was changed to Remembrance Day, to reflect the need to remember all wars.

Today we are asked to stop what we are doing at 11am, and observe a minute’s silence to honour those who have died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.

Will you join me today, November 11, at 11am, at that time when the guns fell silent? Will you bow your head and remember the dead and all who have suffered and known loss? Will you acknowledge the peace we enjoy, and the life that is ours?

And will you take a moment later to be grateful? For your life, for blue skies or rainy, for that cup of coffee or that meal, for laughter and freedom.

Lest We Forget.

Understanding Soul Groups

Family Tree by Normal Rockwell

Family Tree by Norman Rockwell

“Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star…” ~ E.E. Cummings

I have not seen the Orchard Man for months, but I was not surprised when he walked out of the rain and gloom the night before last.

There had been a thunderstorm after midnight, which woke me right towards its end. Apparently I had slept solidly through the storm’s worst. As the rest of our little family snuggled down to go back to sleep I crept out onto the back veranda, where I sat in my rocking chair, looking out over the gardens and the citrus orchard which span the hill behind our farmhouse.

I had sat there in the dark perhaps ten minutes when the Orchard Man came. He was dressed in long heavy pants and a thick checked shirt. In one hand he carried a lantern. He stopped just by the magnolia tree, less than ten feet away from me, seemingly unaffected by the downpour.

“Good Evening,” he said unexpectedly. His voice was warm and his accent vaguely Irish.

I was so surprised that I stopped rocking. The Orchard Man had never interacted with me before.

“My name is John,” he continued. “And this time here, I see you are Nicole.”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I am.” I was so bound up with excitement and curiosity I could barely get the words out.

“You’ve scant rememberings,” John smiled. “‘Tis how it should be. But you’re of the line. You know you carry the gifts.”

I nodded. A barn owl swooped down and landed nearby.

Barn Owl 016b

We both looked over to it. He cleared his throat.

“We’re known to each other, you see. Alice, who came to visit you and your sister; me, who came to follow Alice. We’re all soul kin. You’d be wanting to call us a Soul Group. We are each connected and we come through the line, together, or connected between this space and yours over and over through time and space.”

I felt it. I felt his words deep within me. I knew them to be true. And I felt something else, so sharp, so painful that my eyes pricked with tears. “I have no children, ” I said. “The line stops with me.”

“Aye. In the tree of this family the line stops with you. And it is as was planned, although you no longer remember. But that is not how a soul group works. We are threaded through the bloodlines of this wider family, and we will continue to reappear through the line as oft suits us. Younger souls, older souls – all helping each other, all growing and learning and becoming. Over and over again. Having no children in this life does not conclude the line, only this small branch of the tree.”

I couldn’t stop the tears that ran down my cheeks. I’d always thought that one day I would be a mother, and though I am resigned to it, part of me still aches that it will never be.

“You and I, we are gardeners tending the family line. We prune a branch here and there so that the tree may grow strong and true. There isn’t only this. We are eternal. You are eternal. We all endure. We all go on. And love, love binds us all. There’s no harm done in this line stopping here. It shall go on somewhere else in this vast old tree. We are always connected, and you are never, ever alone.”

Little Gardener - Image from CQMagOnline

Little Gardener – Image from CQMagOnline

I sniffled, and tried a smile. “Are you waiting for Alice?”

“Yes,” he smiled too, “but I was also waiting for you. It’s nearly your time, you see.”

I knew he didn’t mean dying. I can feel it too. This idea that something big is about to happen. I can feel it swelling within me, but I can’t put voice or shape to that thing yet.

I looked up and he was gone.

Another owl flew over and perched above me.

I will wait. And I will be patient. Because it’s coming, and that’s why I signed up for this life…

All is well.

We are never alone. And we are much loved. I know that with my whole heart.

Image by Erin Leigh

Image by Erin Leigh