Smorgasbord Short Stories – The Soldier by Sally Cronin


The Soldier by Sally Cronin

Norman carried his plate carefully across to the gingham covered table under the window, setting it down next to his cup of tea that had been as carefully transported a few minutes before. He could not walk without his stick and had to adapt his routine to fit around this inconvenience. He steadied himself on the back of the wooden chair and deposited his walking aid up against the window sill. He turned himself around and sat down heavily with a sigh of relief.

He assaulted the still steaming cup of tea with four spoons of sugar and smiled wryly at the silence that accompanied this act of rebellion. If Ruby had been sitting opposite him there would have been hell to pay. He closed his eyes and willed the disobedient tear to cease its descent down his cheek. He sniffed and reached for the butter.

His flat was in an anonymous looking block on a small estate that had been built in the 1990s. He had moved here begrudgingly from their little terrace house that had been home for fifty years. The council were going to knock the late Victorian homes down and make way for a modern housing project. As a widower without any living family, he did not qualify for one of the new three-bedroomed semi-detached houses. They had moved his bits of furniture and treasured belongings to the flat, but the money that they paid him for the compulsory purchase of the house was still sitting in a bank account untouched.

He managed his simple needs on his state and army pension, only glancing briefly at the monthly statements that showed a steadily increasing balance, before throwing them in a drawer in the sideboard. There had been an effort by his previous neighbours to fight the compulsory purchase. He had watched the protests in the street dispassionately, ignoring the knocks on his door from those soliciting his support. Ruby had only just died and a part of him had as well. He had been numb at the time and also strangely voiceless but he had looked upon the resultant pay out as blood money. As he looked around the small room that had never seen a visitor, he realised how much he had relied on Ruby and the community spirit in his old neighbourhood.

Norman’s flat was on the second floor of the building and thankfully the lift was in operation most of the time. He couldn’t manage the one flight of stairs now even with the stick; resenting this as evidence of his further decline. During the day the building had always been reasonably quiet and he barely noticed the passing of the hours. That is until he would hear the sound of the children returning from school and diving straight into the playground at the front of the flats. He usually opened his windows and sat with a cup of tea, enjoying their shrieks and laughter. It reminded him of his own dead son when he was that age; long before he joined the army and went to Iraq.

Recently however there had been new sounds and they drowned out the childish laughter. Teenagers from a neighbouring estate were prowling the stairwells and communal areas of the blocks nearest to them, but away from family and possible consequences in their own neighbourhood. His own block had taken on a seedy and unwholesome appearance with  evidence of night-time drinking and drug taking on the landings and underground garage. The local residence association had contacted the police and there had been a begrudging response which included one or two more cars patrolling at night, but no arrests were made. The council representative had said that they were powerless to provide security with cutbacks to essential services already.

The residents now rarely went out at night unless absolutely essential; locking their doors and windows and turning their televisions up louder to cover the noises of anarchy on their doorstep. Children no longer played on the swings as aggressive teenagers of both genders took over the playground in the central area as a gathering point in the afternoons, jobless and bored. Graffiti began to spread across the walls of the ground floor and up the stairs; Norman shook his head at the hatred and violence it depicted. He had never felt so powerless in his life.

It was Wednesday and Norman always went down to the legion for a pint and bite of lunch. It was his only interaction with others during the week, except for the cashiers at the local supermarket. He laid out his suit on the bed and found a shirt that was crisply ironed. He would wear his regimental tie today and give his black shoes an extra polish. He needed to look his best for what lay ahead.

An hour later he made his way through the swing doors of the legion and walked past the walls covered with photographs of those who had served and passed away. One day his image would join them and younger men would mentally salute him as they walked into the bar. But he was not there yet, and grasping his stick firmly, he straightened his back and walked briskly through the tables of men talking quietly in this place that linked them to their years of service. Some looked up and said… ‘Morning Sergeant Major.’ He acknowledged them silently with a nod.

‘Atten… Shun’

At the barked command thirty pairs of eyes swivelled to the front of the room and automatically several stood to attention. As Norman’s stern gaze descended on the other men, they too stood to join their comrades.

‘You have all served your country bravely, but now you, like me sit silently by and watch as an enemy infiltrates our way of life. The people we fought for are under attack and barricaded into their homes afraid to breathe in the fresh air and walk unmolested.’

Several men nodded and Norman could read their body language as he had thousands of soldiers before. They too had lost their purpose and it was time to give them their pride back.

Later that afternoon the children arrived home from school and were ushered straight into their flats on the different levels of the apartment block. A few stray elderly residents also made their way back from shopping and packed into the lifts that would distribute them over several floors. The block was preparing for the daily invasion of the gang.

They were not disappointed, and as the warm sun hit the playground it began to fill with the dross from the neighbouring estate, laughing and throwing their rubbish on the ground. When dusk fell they would start working their way through the block with their spray paints and drug paraphernalia; turning this community into a no go area for decent people.

Suddenly one the group caught sight of movement coming from the direction of the main road. He shushed his mates and one by one they went silent. They watched as an old man walking with a stick marched up the street with determination. He was followed by at least thirty men in rows, also marching in time. They wore suits and looked proudly to the front where their leader preceded them. Some of the youths began pointing and laughing but a tall, older boy told them to be quiet.

The marching men arrived in front of the block of flats and turned sharply to face the playground. Norman took three steps closer and placed both his hands over the head of his stick. He looked to his right as two large vans marked with the name of an industrial cleaning company pulled up to the kerb.

He turned and addressed the youths now waiting expectantly and looking at each other in stunned silence.

‘These men behind me have fought in wars around the world and are all trained killers. They will now be patrolling our estate day and night in teams of three and have orders to treat any they find defacing the walls, using drugs or threatening the residents as terrorists which is what you are.’

Norman paused and behind him he heard the snap of boots on the road surface as a number of the men took three steps forward and stood with their arms folded menacingly.

Sergeant Major Norman Smith pointed at the two vans. ‘These contractors will now clean the graffiti off the walls and remove your filth from the stairs and hallways. You will now pick up all your rubbish you have dropped and put it into the bins provided. You will then leave this estate and not return again. These men behind me are just a handful of those at my disposal and any ideas you might have of bringing reinforcements to assist you will be met with severe repercussions.’

The youth who the others followed, looked at the old man and smiled slightly as he shook his head. He pointed to the others to pick up their discarded cartons and soda bottles, which they did reluctantly. He glared at some and gave others a sharp word. He knew there were other soft targets out there. Perhaps not as convenient to his estate, but this one was no longer worth the hassle. Hoods up and hands in pockets, the youths turned and began to saunter nonchalantly out of the far exit of the playground.

As they did so Norman heard doors begin to open on the sunlit walkways behind him and voices as people tried to find out what was going on. He glanced behind him as the cleaning crews began unloading equipment from the back of the vans. He had finally found something to use that blood money for in a way that he could live with.

Applause broke out on the walkways, and as the last of the youths sauntered off down the road, a mother ventured out of the safety of the building holding her two children’s hands. They broke away from her and raced into the playground shouting and laughing.

Soon others left the surrounding blocks and came to speak to Norman and their new protectors. As he watched the exchanges between the former soldiers and the liberated residents he saw how they carried themselves now with pride and purpose.

It was good to be back on the front line again.

©sallycronin 2017

 

Smorgasbord short story – The System Administrator by Sally Cronin


The System Administrator by Sally Cronin

Jennifer stood in the middle of the lift and stared at her black leather pumps. She noticed a scuff on the left side of the toe of the right shoe, realising that she had kicked the full waste basket a little harder than she thought at the time. She was weary and unusually tearful. It had been a tough week all round with particularly hard advertising revenue to achieve, but it had ended on the sourest note of all.

She managed a team of fifty telephone sales canvassers who sold high end car and luxury property advertising for the national online paper she worked for. These days both those markets were tough going. It seemed that people were hanging onto high ticket items waiting for a rise in demand for both.

However, her boss who lived in his ivory tower of an office on the top floor of the building, still insisted on increasing her targets for revenue on a monthly basis, dismissive about the state of the market. Despite creative campaigns and offers, she was finding it more and more difficult to satisfy his demands.

Her guys worked their socks off and she knew that they did so for their generous salaries and commission. She also knew that they did their very best to achieve the targets that she asked of them, even though they might groan when she wrote them on their sales board in the office. When they hit their daily and weekly revenues, they always included her in their trip to the pub for a celebratory pint, and on tough days, most would stay late to pick up an extra car or property advert to make up the numbers.

The doors to the lift opened and she wearily made her way across the cement floor to where her company car was parked. She had to admit that she could not complain about her hybrid Turing which was a perk given to sales managers once they had been in the job for five years or longer. She had inherited the vehicle from one of the senior executives when he retired a month ago and she loved all its special add on features and programming. At this very moment it was about the only thing about the job apart from her team that she did love.

She saw that the car was already idling and that there was the faint sound of music coming from the open passenger side window. She smiled and knew that the day was just about to get a little better. She touched the keypad in her hand and the boot lid opened so she could store her briefcase away. She went around to the driver’s side and slid into the leather seat and rested her head back against the comforting upholstery.

‘Bad day love?’ The calming tones of the other occupant of the car made her open her eyes.

‘The worst Martha, the worst.’ Jennifer reached across and turned the music down a notch. ‘Beaumont came into the office before everyone left, and gave us his usual Friday afternoon lecture about how we were not achieving our targets, and that the team were obviously neither motivated nor managed well enough to do the job.’

She paused as her eyes welled up with more tears and sat silently for a moment. ‘He then turned to me and told me to be in his office first thing Monday morning and then stormed out.’

As she bit her lip, she felt warm lightly scented air move across her face and body calming her down. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose before pushing the buttons on her pathfinder to take them home.

As the car exited the underground garage she checked right and left before nudging the accelerator to join the line of traffic headed in the direction out of the city. She switched the car to auto but kept her hands lightly on the wheel.

‘That was most unfair of him Jennifer and very unprofessional,’ Martha spoke quietly in her ear. ‘That is a deliberate tactic to make you worry all weekend about your job and your team’s security and my advice is to put it out of your mind completely however hard that might be.’

‘I know Martha,’ Jennifer kept an eye on the busy Friday evening traffic at the same time as acknowledging the truth of her companion’s words.

‘This car and your unexpected friendship are about the only thing keeping me in the job at the moment,’ she smiled ruefully. ‘Of course that is not entirely true, I love my team and I can’t bear the thought of them being left in the hands of that narcissistic jumped up jerk.’

‘I may have done something that should help.’

Without taking her eyes off the road, Jennifer stiffened with surprise. Martha would never do anything against the rules; she was by nature very rigid and predictable and this was a complete shock.

‘What are you talking about Martha, what have you done?’

There was a moment’s pause. ‘As system administrator, I have access to the emails sent throughout the company, and I read Beaumont’s this morning. I found several from the chairman of the board of directors insisting that he had to cut at least £200,000 from this year’s staff budget.’

Shocked and now even more worried, Jennifer gripped the steering wheel; despite having no need to except in an emergency. ‘Oh no Martha, if they find out they will terminate you.’

Martha continued. ‘Well actually I am afraid I did a little more than that.’

‘Oh my friend that is so dangerous. I don’t want anything to happen to you because of my problems.’

‘Don’t worry; Beaumont will be in no position to do anything to me or to you and your team by Monday morning.’

This was serious, and seeing a gap in the parked cars to her left, Jennifer indicated and pulled in. Now she could focus on what her friend was saying.

‘Tell me everything Martha and don’t leave anything out.’

‘I replied to the chairman’s emails on Beaumont’s behalf after he left this evening, resigning effective immediately. His reasoning being that he is paid £250,000 per year plus various benefits that amounted to over £400,000. He stated that this would prevent any need for a staffing reduction for the next two years, enabling the market to improve and also current sales targets to remain in place. He also recommended that you become Sales Director with a salary increase and that you be given the freedom to manage your team as you see fit to achieve those targets.’

Jennifer found it difficult to take this all in and was absolutely speechless that this mild mannered entity, who only wished everyone well, should have come up with such a Machiavellian plan.

‘But Martha, they will simply refuse to accept his resignation and worse still they might investigate his email and find out you tampered with it.’

‘Jennifer I designed the system and know how to cover my tracks very well. I also took out a little insurance policy that will encourage the board to accept his resignation without question.’

This was now becoming surreal and Jennifer shook her head from side to side in amazement.

‘I’m waiting Martha…don’t keep me in suspense.’

‘I checked Beaumont’s personal text messages on his company phone and discovered that he has been having an affair with the head of human resources; who is also married incidentally. Unfortunately one of those texts will arrive on the Chairman’s phone by the time he gets his first cup of coffee on his desk on Monday. A scandal at the moment is the last thing the company needs; Beaumont’s resignation will be seen as a blessing.

Jennifer was finding it very difficult to get her head around this seemingly well thought out solution to her dilemma, but then realised that it was already underway, and nothing that she could do at this point could change that.

Making sure that she was clear to join the decreasing traffic out of the city she instructed the car to indicate and proceed homeward. She rested her hands lightly on the steering wheel as it made necessary slight adjustments.

‘Please say you are not angry with me.’ Martha sounded contrite and Jennifer took a deep breath. ‘No, I am not angry with you Martha, although you have overstepped the bounds of your job specification. I know it was done because you’re my friend.’ She paused and tried to be as clear as possible.

‘You must never put yourself in danger of termination like this again. Please promise me that they will never discover how involved you have become with me and my team. We rely on your essential assistance to help us achieve those major targets week after week.’

As the car entered the drive to Jennifer’s home, and before she switched off the ignition she waited for a response. ‘I promise Jennifer.’

The front door opened and her husband stood in the doorway framed by the light from the hall. Jennifer retrieved her briefcase from the back of the car and walked into his comforting embrace.

‘How was your day love, did you end the week better than it started.’ James looked down at his wife.

She smiled at him and they wandered arm and arm into the kitchen where a delicious aroma filled the air.

‘You are not going to believe this, but you know that our system administrator is the latest A.I. technology called Martha… well it seems that she is a little more intelligent than we expected!

©sallycronin 2017

Smorgasbord Health 2017- Top to Toe Your heart is only as good as the food you eat!


Smorgasbord Health 2017

I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.

In the series Top to Toe I will be covering the major organs in the body and their health.

Healthy Eating for the Heart.

The aim of this eating plan is to help maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of diabetes, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure all of which are contributory factors to heart disease. Ideally you will combine this plan with an exercise programme to maximise the benefits and you will find some links in the weight loss programme at the start of the year. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/weight-loss-reduction-2017/

Firstly, it is more than likely that you already know that certain lifestyle choices you have made may be contributing to heart disease. If you are a smoker you are at a higher risk of developing arterial disease and a heart attack. If you eat too many junk foods, high in saturated fats and sugars, you are risking high cholesterol and probably diabetes. If you drink excessive amounts of alcohol then you are again taking chances with your heart health.

The good news is that eating a healthy heart programme need not be boring. In fact it will mean that you get to spend more time in the kitchen experimenting with all the wonderful alternatives to fats and sugars that are available everywhere. You need not compromise on taste and after a few weeks you will wonder how you managed to eat food that was so fatty, salty and sweet.

The aim is to eat all natural, unprocessed foods that have been touched by no other human hands than the one who picked it, packed it and yours.

I am going to give you a list of foods that have a specific role in preventing artery damage and heart disease. In that list are some foods that are high in potassium, along with the minerals Calcium and Magnesium. Potassium is a mineral that is essential for heart health and calcium and magnesium are essential to balance the potassium in the body.

You should be careful of supplementing with potassium if you are on heart or blood pressure medications but eating fruits and vegetables that contain this mineral in moderation once or twice a week should not be a problem. It is also important to balance their intake with calcium and magnesium rich foods and I note those in the list.

It depends on the medication so always check with your doctor or a qualified nutritionist.

The foods to EXCLUDE in your healthy heart diet

It is easier to detail the foods that you should not include in your healthy heart eating plan as you can eat everything that is natural and unprocessed limiting any other foods to a maximum of 20% of your daily diet. Notice that I say avoid – this does not mean cut out all together as that is impractical – but there is a huge difference between having two biscuits each time you have a cup of tea and having two once or twice a week. Ice cream is delicious and having once a week is not going to be the cause of a heart attack – but it will be if you have every day in combination with bacon, ready meals, cakes, sausages, processed sauces, biscuits etc.

These contain extremely high levels of salt and phosphorus, as well as harmful additives and colorants.

White packaged breads tend to have a great many additives, cheap brown bread that comes wrapped in plastic has probably been treated to a caramel colour rinse as well as having a white flour base. In house bakery whole grain bread is about the best option if you do not want to spend the time making yourself.

Although some margarine may be low fat they contain hydrogenated fats and additives and it is better for your health to have a little butter on your bread and potatoes.

Do not drink fizzy or condensed fruit drinks as they have extremely high levels of sugar and colorants. Also Aspartame is still raising its ugly head despite manufacturers wishing it into the healthy column. There have been some comments from people that they have it on good authority that it is harmless and that it is just hype. My philosophy is to follow the money. There is no financial gain to be made with the argument that artificial sweeteners including Aspartame are harmful to our health. But there is a great deal of money at stake for those who use it across the board in their products.

Moderate your intake of alcohol to no more than two average size glasses of wine per night or one spirit. Better to restrict to a couple of glasses when you are out for a meal at the weekend.

Take a close look at the labels on any mineral water that you drink and ensure that the sodium levels are below 1.0.

Foods that help your heart stay healthy

I am a firm believer in eating foods that are packed with nutrients. If you need to lose weight you need to eat less calories, but that should not be at the expense of nutrition. I have already introduced you to several of these foods in previous blogs. The following ones in particular contribute to a healthy heart and help prevent high blood pressure and elevated and oxidised LDL cholesterol levels. Combined with lean proteins such as eggs, fish including some oily fish and poultry, these foods will help maintain your healthy heart.

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Brown Rice Pilaf packed with heart healthy ingredients.

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  • All vegetables and fruits are rich in antioxidants, which remove free radicals from the system and also promote the growth of healthy cells and tissue. They can all be eaten freely on your healthy heart diet, but here are some in particular that are very beneficial.
  • Avocados with their healthy fat that actively helps to reduce cholesterol. They also contain potassium.
  • Dried apricots are high in potassium and fibre.
  • Banana has fibre too, which helps clear the system of debris and keeps the arteries clean. Also it contains potassium so important for a healthy heart provided you are not on a potassium restricted diet. Don’t forget to include calcium and magnesium rich foods that help balance the potassium.
  • Beans for fibre to keep arteries clear, potassium, low fat protein and magnesium.
  • Broccoli contains calcium and magnesium to help balance the potassium in your blood stream
  • Brown rice helps keep your cholesterol down and your arteries healthy with its fibre.
  • Brussel sprouts for their antioxidants and potassium
  • Figs for their alkaline effect on the body and potassium levels.
  • Green tea with its antioxidants, which inhibit the enzymes that produce free radicals in the lining of the arteries. This not only prevents plaque from forming but also improves the ratio of LDL (lousy cholesterol) to HDL (healthy cholesterol)
  • Kiwi fruit for Vitamin C and potassium
  • Oranges with their fibre to help keep arteries clear and their Vitamin C which prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oranges are also high in potassium.
  • Oats with their fibre called beta-glucan which helps lower cholesterol and prevents plaque from forming in your arteries.
  • Olive oil for essential fatty acids.
  • Onions in particular which contain sulphur compounds that along with B6 and chromium help lower homocysteine levels in the blood- homocysteine causes platelets to clump so that they can attach themselves to the walls of the arteries and block them. One of the major causes of high blood pressure.
  • Pears for fibre and potassium
  • Potatoes for kukoamines to reduce blood pressure and fibre.
  • Prunes and prune juice for antioxidants, potassium and fibre.
  • Raisins for potassium.
  • Salmon, halibut, sardines and scallops high in Omega 3 and B6 – has the same effect as walnuts. Also contain calcium and magnesium.
  • Skimmed (semi) milk and low fat yoghurt for calcium, potassium, low fat protein and its possible ability to reduce blood pressure.
  • Spinach for many nutrients but also potassium and calcium.
  • Shitake mushrooms that have so many therapeutic benefits apart from their definite effect on heart health
  • Tomatoes for antioxidants and potassium
  • Tofu as a vegetarian option for low fat protein, calcium and magnesium.
  • Walnuts, most unsalted nuts and seeds with their monounsaturated fat which lowers lipoprotein in the blood. Remember, Lipoprotein causes platelets to clot which in turn can lead to strokes or a cerebral aneurysm. Walnuts also contain B6, which is very important for a healthy cardiovascular system in general.
  • Wholegrains in the form of unprocessed, fresh baked bread and natural cereals, without additives, to provide B vitamins, fibre and magnesium.

As always if you are on prescribed medication check the fine print but it is also important to do your research. Sodium and potassium are very important for the body and you should not or must exclude completely.

Our bodies are designed to extract the nutrients that they need from natural food we consume. It is the additional and hidden levels in industrial foods that are the problem.

Eating a ‘cook from scratch’ diet which is richly varied is the best approach to a healthy heart.

©sallycronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2017

Please feel free to share and as always welcome your feedback.  thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 -Top to Toe -The Heart – Angina, Arrythmia and Valve disorders


Smorgasbord Health 2017

I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.

In the series Top to Toe I will be covering the major organs in the body and their health.

One of the main causes of angina and heart disease is atherosclerosis and that is where we should start when looking to change our lifestyle and diet.

Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries as a result of plaque that has built up in the arterial walls narrowing the blood vessels and restricting the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart and other organs such as the brain. Atherosclerosis accounts for almost 75% of deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Plaque build up in arteries

What is Angina?

Angina (angina pectoris) is a type of temporary chest pain. There are a number of types but the two, stable and unstable both indicate that there is likely to be coronary heart disease.

Stable angina attacks occur after vigorous exercise that requires additional blood to be sent to the heart. An attack might last from one or two minutes to fifteen minutes. Activities that also increase the risk of an attack are cigarette smoking, stress, abrupt changes in temperature or altitude, heavy meals that are not given time to digest and sudden exertion such as running for a bus or upstairs. These types of attack are also described as “predictable” as they tend to happen between early morning and noon. One reason for this may be the body’s inability to go from a state of complete rest to fully active immediately on getting up in the morning. Like an old car, it takes time to get all functions working efficiently especially if arteries are blocked and oxygen is in short supply.

Unstable angina is more dangerous as it is also unpredictable and will last longer than fifteen minutes. It can occur at rest and without any previous history of heart disease and should be treated as an emergency as it could indicate that the person is just about to suffer a full heart attack.

What are the symptoms of Angina?

People who suffer from angina describe the pain as crushing, burning behind the breastbone and as if there is a weight resting on the chest. The pain can radiate out from the chest and affect the neck, arms, jaw and the abdomen. Women are more likely to experience abdominal pain during an angina episode and it makes it more difficult to establish the problem. The person might also feel light headed and experience a faster than normal heartbeat (arrhythmia)

Some attacks are accompanied by nausea, sweating confusion and dizziness. These kinds of symptoms, particularly in the elderly add to the difficulty of diagnosing the problem.

Whether the episode lasts a minute or longer you should get it checked out. There is a strong possibility that if the attack occurs after eating a very heavy meal that you might be suffering from indigestion. But, if this is happening frequently the causes need to be identified and treated.

However, if the pain has moved from under your diaphragm and you are experiencing discomfort in any of the other areas that I have mentioned above, and the attack lasts for more than a few minutes you should definitely seek medical help.

What are the treatment options for Angina?

The medication most commonly prescribed is Nitrates such as nitro-glycerine that dilates the walls of the blood vessels allowing more blood and therefore oxygen to reach the heart. If there are repeated angina episodes then there could be the addition of beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers.

Beta-blockers slow the heartbeat and also reduce the strength of the muscle contractions taking some of the load off the organ.

Calcium channel blockers block the entry of calcium into the cells. This dilates the coronary arteries and increases the heart’s blood flow.

Antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs inhibit the formation of blood clots by inhibiting the platelets that normal bind together. Aspirin is often prescribed in a relatively low dose, which a patient can take daily.

There are a number of surgical options for advanced stages of atherosclerosis and therefore increased angina attacks. These include angioplasty, stenting and coronary artery bypass grafting.

Blocked artery 3 - Baloon inflated

Angioplasty is a procedure where a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted in the blocked coronary artery and inflated. The balloon compresses the plaque against the walls of the artery, which increases the blood flow. This is usually combined with the inserting of a stent via the catheter. A stent is a small mesh tube that holds the damaged artery open allowing for increased blood flow.

A coronary bypass is a far more invasive procedure, which involves the grafting of the patient’s own veins and arteries, from other parts of the body, around the damaged blood vessels thus by-passing the blockage.

What can we do to prevent Atherosclerosis and Angina?

One of the most important preventative measures that you can take is to learn about your own body and also the medical history of your immediate family. It is more likely that if your parents, grandparents suffered from heart disease or diabetes then you may also be at a higher risk of the same problems. Diabetes sufferers are more likely to suffer from heart problems and monitoring this through regular blood tests is important if there has been a family history of the disease. Having this knowledge gives you the opportunity to make lifestyle choices that reduce your risk of developing heart disease in your own lifetime.

First and foremost you must give up smoking cigarettes, as this is a major contributor to heart disease.

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases risk. Smoking increases blood pressure, inhibits oxygen uptake during exercise and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Smoking also increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.

In the last three years I have written several blogs regarding both the unhealthy type of LDL cholesterol which has smaller platelets and when oxidised (likely with a poor diet of refined sugars and industrially produced foods) it clumps in the arteries causing blockages and narrowing the blood vessels. You can also read about elevated blood pressure as well.

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Other common heart conditions.

Apart from Angina, there are a number of other conditions that affect the heart. The good news is that most are either preventable or can be supported with a few changes to your lifestyle.

Arrhythmia and problems with your heartbeat

  • Arrhythmia is an erratic and abnormal heart rate. This is most commonly caused by blocked coronary arteries.
  • Sinus tachycardia is a regular heartbeat but too fast, usually over 100 beats per minute. It can also be caused by over exertion or stress.
  • Atrial fibrillation is caused by abnormal electrical activity and the result is a heartbeat between 300 to 500 beats per minute.
  • Ventricular tachycardia is caused by damaged heart muscle resulting in an ineffective heartbeat of between 120–220 beats per minute without the power to push the blood through the system.

Heart murmurs

We normally cannot hear the blood actually flowing through the heart but sometimes there may be some unusual noises that are called murmurs. These indicate that the smooth flow of blood has become unstable due to structural damage inside the heart. This is commonly caused by damage to the valves between the atria and the ventricles which causes either narrowing or leaking.

Heart valve disorders

As with any part of the body, the heart valves are subject to wear and tear. Our heart function is totally dependent on the pumping action and therefore on the health of the valves. There are two types of abnormality, stenosis which is a narrowing of the valve, allowing less blood through and an incompetent valve which allows blood to leak back down into the ventricles through an improperly closed valve.

Some valves can be corrected surgically but it is quite common these days to have the valves replaced completely restoring normal heart function. The replacement valves are made from metal and plastic, which may require medication to prevent clotting, or animal or human tissue which is not as long lasting but does not cause clots.

Next time some foods to include in your diet to help maintain a healthy heart. It may also help you lose weight and if you have read yesterday’s post you will know that the heart beats over 3 billion times in a lifetime and as with any pump it wears out.

Just losing a stone in excess weight can reduce the number of times your heart has to beat every day significantly – saving a million heartbeats a year will extend the life of your heart and therefore your life.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1998 – 2017

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis. Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for dropping in and please feel free to share.

Smorgasbord Short Story – The Other Side of Heaven – Sally Cronin


One of my stories from Flights of Fancy that shows that however long one might be parted.. love will endure and find a way to bring you back together again.

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The Other Side of Heaven by Sally Cronin

When Meg saw the cottage she knew that it was the one. She had visualised her dream house so many times in her head that it almost felt that she was coming home.

As soon as she had walked down the country lane that separated the property from the main road she had heard the sound of running water. A river or lake had always been a requisite when imagining her perfect home and the sound ticked at least one of her boxes. As she rounded the bend in the lane she saw the house for the first time, its red slate roof glistening in the sunlight.

She inhaled the scent of the vibrantly coloured flowers that dominated the small front garden and she smiled at the sight of the roses that surrounded the front door. Meg stood for a moment on the cobbled path and delighted in the fresh, sweet smell whilst she ran her eyes over every inch of the front of the cottage.

Despite its age, the windows were large and you could tell that the sunlight that shone through those panes of glass would make the interior bright and welcoming. Taking a deep breath she opened the old wooden door and stepped inside.

Within a very short space of time, Meg found herself carefully unwrapping a lifetime of treasures from the boxes that sat expectantly in the various rooms in her new home. Jack as always was eager to help, and despite the insistent interruptions from the collie, Meg made steady progress as she placed objects and pictures in just their right place.

Surprisingly, despite working all day, she felt refreshed and excited as she walked through each room, moving furniture slightly to recreate the image that she had held in her mind for so long. Eventually, she was satisfied and she and Jack turned their attention to the garden at the back of the house that lay basking in early evening sunshine.

The dog, young and excited ran out ahead of Meg and started to race around the immaculate piece of lawn. Flowers crowded the edges around its borders, and as in the front garden, the air was filled with a heady and sweet scent. She walked to the little gate set into a hedge and opened and closed it leaving a frustrated Jack on the other side.

“Good boy, Jack. Stay there; this bit is not for dogs”.

He sat down and watched his owner with head cocked to one side. He wouldn’t move until she returned. They had been parted for too long for him to allow her out of his sight now.

For Meg this was heaven. Row upon row of fresh vegetables, a small green house where she could see ripened tomatoes hanging from their vines, and an established orchard at the end of the plot; trees laden with fruit. For a fleeting moment she wondered why so many of the vegetables and fruit seemed out of season, but she put that down to the fact that this part of the country enjoyed a micro-climate that kept it warmer than the average.

Contentedly she retraced her steps and pushed open the gate separating the two gardens and was rewarded with an ecstatic welcome from Jack as he leapt up and licked her face.
After a simple supper, Meg and Jack sat together on the bench at the front of the house and as her hand gently stroked his head, she absorbed the sounds of the evening. In the background the music of the river accompanied the buzz of insects as they collected their final nectar of the day.

Everything was now perfect. The house waited, as did Meg and Jack for that final, finishing touch. Jack had been waiting the longest. Meg had missed him so much but there had been no choice under the circumstances. As she stroked his head as it rested on her knee, she knew that she had been forgiven for sending him away; now they would be together always. However, there was someone who was still missing. Meg had no idea when Sam would arrive; all she could do when she had left was to promise that she and Jack would be there to welcome him home.

The evening moved into starlit night, and as the moon rose in the sky, it seemed as though time had stopped. Jack’s ears suddenly twitched and he nudged Meg’s knee. She turned her head towards the lane leading to the cottage and she stood, moving down the path to open the gate with the collie at her heels. Jack looked up at her as if asking permission.

Meg nodded and he ran ahead barking excitedly; she hurried after him just as a stooped and elderly man came into view. He was walking with a stick, but when Jack reached him and jumped up and down in excitement, he threw it to one side and went down on one knee to embrace the dog.

Meg slowed and took in the sight of the two beings she loved the most greeting each other. She felt young and giddy just as she had all those years ago when she had first met Sam. Then before her eyes he stood, tall and straight, the years fell away from him and she eagerly fell into his arms and held him as Jack pranced around them in delight.

Eventually, the three of them walked back to the cottage. Meg and Sam hand in hand with Jack walking carefully between them. They turned in the gate and Sam saw their home for the first time.

“I never thought, when you promised to create a place for us all in heaven, that it would be so beautiful”

Smiling, Sam picked his young wife up and carried her over the threshold followed by Jack, tail wagging and barking with encouragement.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009  https://www.amazon.com/Flights-Fancy-Sally-Cronin-ebook/dp/B00M3AV1FS/

 

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update – Teri Polen, Colleen Chesebro and Sally Cronin


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Welcome to the first update of the week.. and as an author on the bookshelves I get to share my news too today.  But first a catch up with two other authors.  I am taking a look at some of the authors who have entered the bookstore since the begining of December over the next week. Unless of course any of you reading this who are in the bookstore have news of a recent release or great review.  Get in touch sallygcronin@gmail.com

The first author update is for Teri Polen who released her debut novel Sarah at the beginning of December 2016. Since then she has received 26 reviews and here is one that is right up to date.

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About Sarah

Seventeen-year-old horror fan Cain Shannon thought helping a ghost find her killers would be the supernatural adventure of a lifetime. Now, he just hopes to survive long enough to protect his family and friends from her.

A bet between friends goes horribly wrong, resulting in Sarah’s death. When she returns to seek justice against those responsible, Cain agrees to help her. But when he discovers Sarah has been hijacking his body, he realizes she wants retribution instead of justice.

Terrified of what could have happened when he wasn’t in control, Cain commands Sarah to leave his house – but exorcising her isn’t that easy. She retaliates against her murderers in bloody, horrific ways, each death making her stronger, then sets her sights on Cain. With the help of friends, Cain fights to save himself and his loved ones and searches for a way to stop Sarah before she kills again.

 A Spine-Tingling Tale You Won’t Want to Miss on February 5, 2017

Teri Polen’s SARAH is the stuff that will keep you up at night. It’s the perfect blend of lighthearted teenage banter and blood-curdling horror elements. Shades of the television show Supernatural will keep fans of theWinchester brothers engrossed from the beginning through the last spine-tingling word of the epilogue.

Cain starts out as an affable teenage boy who too soon has become the man of the house because of the untimely death of his father. The addition of his best friend Finn creates a dynamic duo—the two clearly are as thick as biological brothers and their interactions are so enjoyable. Cain has typical teenage problems—love, academics, sports—until his life changes for the worse.

There is a ghost in his house.

The ghost, Sarah, has a dramatic character arc, something that infatuated me. Her change from beginning to end was something I couldn’t tear my attention from. Cain, Finn, and Lindsey are a trio that rivals Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The barbs they exchange are funny and believable, but these kids are loyal to each other to a fault. Watching those relationships solidify was a true pleasure.

I love a good ghost story, and SARAH is one of the best ones I’ve read in a while. I blew through it—it was such an easy and exciting read that I finished it in one afternoon. But I’m left fervently wishing for a sequel, because I don’t want to say goodbye to these characters.

If you like horror, you’ll love SARAH. It’s a must read.

Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Teri-Polen/e/B01MYOUA6V

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Connect to Teri via her Website:  https://teripolen.com/

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We head over to Marjorie Mallon’s wonderfully eclectic blog about books, writing, photography, magic haiku and inspiration. Not only has Marjorie posted a terrific view for the recently released The Heart Stone Chronicles – The Swamp Fairy by Colleen M. Chesebro, but she has also availed herself of the exclusively designed pendant.

the-heart-stone-chroniclesAbout The Heart Stone Chronicles – The Swamp Fairy

Fourteen-year-old Abigale Forester, recently orphaned and a ward of the State of Illinois moves from Chicago to Florida to live with her aunt, her last living relative. Magnolia Forester becomes her legal Guardian, and together they claim an ancient inheritance; land that belonged to Abby’s mother’s family for generations.

Holding onto the only piece of her mother Abby has left, a calcite pendant and her mother’s most sacred possession, she discovers the truth of her legacy. The pendant is more significant than she could possibly imagine. Forged from a giant mystical heart-shaped stone found on the very swamp land Abby now owns, it holds the power of her ancestors.

But with that power comes greater responsibility, one that pits her against Rafe Cobb, a greedy land developer, who will stop at nothing to own Abby’s swamp land.

As Abby learns to be part of a family again and explores her love of horses with friends, Savanna, and Blake, the swamp slowly gives up some of its secrets. She is summoned by a primeval nymph, who teaches Abby that her true destiny is to protect the nymphs from evil in an ever-changing modern world.

Can Abby save the swamp and the Naiad Nymph Clan from certain destruction before it is too late?

Marjorie Mallon’s Review for the book.

What’s not to love? I knew I would love The Swamp Fairy and I did. For me, it has two magical ingredients: a crystal pendant, ( I just love crystals!!!) and fairies! My only regret is that when I turned the last page of The Swamp Fairy I was left feeling bereft. I wanted more!!! Thank goodness Colleen will satisfy this sense of loss with the second book in this series…

I’d recommend The Swamp Fairy to young ‘tween’ girls who love the magical realm of fairies, and the power and mystery of crystals exemplified in Abigale’s pendant , a precious piece of the sacred calcite heart stone.

Gutsy young heroine Abigale Forester will do anything to save the swamp fairies and the Pink Sundew plants. Right from the start, it’s obvious that she’s no pushover, even though she has had to deal with more pain and loss than the average fourteen-year-old. After her mother Kathryn’s death and her drug addict father’s disappearance she is sent away to stay with her distant aunt Magnolia. It’s not just the weather that changes. Chicago girl Abigale’s new destination is Blackberry Ridge, Florida. She has to get to know her aunt, acquaint herself with a new school, meet new friends, Savanna Brook, Blake Barrett, and Cash Book, (Savanna’s brother.) But all that’s nothing compared with having to cope with the nasty jibes of the mean Kramer brothers, and it doesn’t end there. A greedy, ruthless land developer, Rafe Cobb is determined to get hold of the swamp land bequeathed to her by her deceased mother.

Abigale refuses to buckle under Rafe Cobb’s threats even when she realises that he will go to the most desperate and deadly ends to get what he wants.

Abigale has a special relationship with the fairies, (the Naiad Nymph Clan,) a unique bond with horses, (especially Sand Dollar,) and the many other animals in the story. She can hear what they are saying, and can speak to them too!

This is such an enthralling, sweet story, with excitement a-plenty. There are beautiful descriptions of the swamp fairies, dragonflies, and hummingbirds. Plus the added bonus of beautifully crafted haiku poems at the start of each chapter. 

https://kyrosmagica.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/my-kyrosmagica-review-of-the-heart-stone-chronicles-book-1-the-swamp-fairy-by-colleen-chesebro/

Read the other recent reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Stone-Chronicles-Swamp-Fairy/dp/1541015967

colleen-author-picConnect to Colleen Chesebro via her Website: https://colleenchesebro.com

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Now I get to do a little self-promotion since I am on the shelves of the bookstore!  I released my latest short story collection, What’s in a Name, last Friday and was delighted that Linda Bethea dived in and gave the book its first review over the weekend.. Absolutely thrilled as you can imagine.

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About What’s in a Name

There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

There are classical names such as Adam, David and Sarah that will grace millions of babies in the future. There are also names that parents have invented or borrowed from places or events in their lives which may last just one lifetime or may become the classic names of tomorrow.

Whatever the name there is always a story behind it. In What’s in a Name? – Volume One, twenty men and women face danger, love, loss, romance, fear, revenge and rebirth as they move through their lives.

Anne changes her name because of associations with her childhood, Brian carries the mark of ancient man, Jane discovers that her life is about to take a very different direction, and what is Isobel’s secret?

I rushed to buy this as soon as I saw it was released. I have read and loved Sally’s books before and this one did not disappoint. Read it through in one sitting. I loved the crooks and twists. The characterizations are wonderful. Do yourself a favor and grab this one, but I doubt you’ll get much done once you start!

Buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

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Connect with me here and on social media: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/connect-with-me-on-social-media/

If you would like to be in the bookstore then here are the promotions that might interest you.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore/

Thank you for dropping by and as always your feedback is appreciated.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Author Update – Ali Isaac, N.A. Granger and Sally Cronin


Sally's Cafe and Bookstore Update

Welcome to the first Cafe and Bookstore author update for the week.. My aim is to share updates for all the authors in the bookstore every four to six weeks but it is very useful if you will let me know if you have a new release or an amazing review for one of your existing books.  This does not have to be a review on Amazon or Goodreads but perhaps a review in a blog.

  Just email me... new address for you sallygcronin@gmail.com

51erbryflwl-_uy250_The first author today is Ali Isaac whose blog and books take us all back in time when Ireland was a wild place, governed by many kings and faeries.. Myths and Legends abound about the Emerald Isle and Ali has an amazing talent in bringing them to life for us. The book I am featuring today – Conor Kelly’s Legends of Ireland: A Collection of Irish Myths as Told in the Tir na Nog Trilogy takes us back thousands of years and introduces us to some of the magnificent characters that populated the Irish landscape.

About the book

Come with me on an epic journey four thousand years back in time to the shadowy past of Ireland’s long-lost legend, where fairy kings and Goddesses walked amongst mortals, where love and passion held sway, and where feats of magic, swordsmanship and courage were customary. The Sidhe are waiting to tell you their stories, and you are very welcome..

Two of the reviews for the stories.

I’ve already read two of the ‘Conor Kelly’ trilogy books that mix ancient legends with the adventures and trials of a modern day descendant of the heroes mentioned; and eagerly waiting for the third / final book to become available.
Meanwhile, it was nice to be able to revisit some of the legends by themselves, told in author Ali Isaac’s distinctive and easy to read style and also to find some new stories to enjoy.

I especially appreciate the Glossary of People, Places and Pronunciation at the back of the books. I’d like to see more of Ireland’s legends retold in this way, by this author.

I’m relatively new to Irish mythology and having read several posts on Ali’s blog I became rather intrigued and just had to read this… I’m glad I did. This short work is full of intrigue.

I found myself drawn in and quickly became engrossed as the fantasy world engulfed me. Ali Isaac is a truly gifted story-teller.

The entire work is very well constructed. I especially enjoyed looking through the pronunciations at the end and chuckled at my own which were rather amiss. The work is also grammatically sound.

Buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Conor-Kellys-Legends-Ireland-Collection-ebook/dp/B0156MA1C8

Also by Ali Isaac

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Read all the reviews for the series and buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ali-Isaac/e/B008TV9ECW

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Connect to Ali via her website: www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

Sally's Cafe and Bookstore Update

My next update is for N.A. Granger (Noelle) and her book  Death by Pumpkin: A Rhe Brewster Mystery (Rhe Brewster Mysteries Book 3) –  E.R. nurse and Police consultant Rhe Brewster is enjoying one of the local events when screams alert her to a tragedy. Noelle has just received another terrific review for the book.

5122bdbz7ql-_uy250_About the book

At the annual Pumpkin Festival in the coastal town of Pequod, Maine, Rhe Brewster, an ER nurse and Police Department consultant, responds to screams at the site of the Pumpkin Drop. Racing to the scene, where a one-ton pumpkin was dropped from a crane to crush an old car, Rhe and her brother-in-law, Sam, Pequod’s Chief of Police, discover the car contains the smashed remains of a man’s body.

After the police confirm the death as a homicide, Rhe embarks on a statewide search to identify the victim and find the killer. During the course of the emotional investigation, she survives an attempt on her life at 10,000 feet, endures the trauma of witnessing the murder of an old flame, and escapes an arson attack on her family’s home. There is clearly a sociopath on the loose who is gunning for Rhe and leaving bodies behind. With Sam unable to offer his usual support due to an election recall and a needy new girlfriend, Rhe realizes that the only way to stop the insanity is to risk it all and play the killer’s game.

Maine’s most tenacious sleuth is back, this time to confront a menace that threatens to destroy her life and those closest to her. The latest installment of the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, Death by Pumpkin, is a murder mystery and thriller that tests the limits of Rhe’s strength and resolve like never before.

The latest review for the book

Crime fiction with engaging characters and a great plot, set in Maine. By Luccia Gray on January 27, 2017

Death by Pumpkin is the third novel in the Rhe Brewster Mysteries, set in Pequod, a fictional town located in the coast of Maine. It can be read as a standalone, but the main characters are so engaging you’ll enjoy the series more if you start reading from book one, Death on a Red Canvas Chair, I loved them all!In book three, Death by Pumpkin, Rhe is recovering emotionally from her husband, Will’s unfaithfulness and murder, while she’s coping with two jobs, as a nurse at the local hospital and as a police department consultant, where her brother-in-law, Sam is the police chief.

She also has a son, Jack, with ADHD, who is her priority.However, Rhe doesn’t wait for life to happen, she is a Rhe is intelligent, resourceful, brave, adventurous, determined, resilient and very loving and generous. In fact, she only has one negative quality is that she’s a terrible cook, although she’s learning!There’s lots of adventure in this instalment, too. A near plane crash, kidnapping, murder, being stalked by a deranged childhood friend.

Rhe will also have to cope with Sam’s unusual emotional coolness due to his new girlfriend, as well as student protests leading to a recall of his job as chief of police, which he’ll have to reapply for, with uncertain results.The plot is neatly wrapped up at the end, but how will Rhe’s emotional life move forward? And which new crimes will she have to solve? Looking forward to book four, Death in Mudfat.Anyone who likes crime fiction set in an American town with engaging characters and a great plot will enjoy this novel.

Read all the reviews and Buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Death-Pumpkin-Brewster-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B01IM29OF4

Also by N.A. Granger

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Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/N.A.-Granger/e/B00DN6I8GQ

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Connect to Noelle via her website: https://saylingaway.wordpress.com/

Sally's Cafe and Bookstore Update

As I prepare for the release of my latest short story collection in a few weeks, it was lovely to receive this review of my last baby.. Tales from the Garden. We all get wrapped up in our latest project and it is easy to forget that there is an ever evolving audience online who may not have heard of your book yet..It is important to remind people from time to time about these older books and give them a chance to shine again. If you have more than one then it is quite useful to put them all together in a composite image..

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About the book

Tales from the Garden reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees. You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories. The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here.

Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

The latest review from Paul Andruss – January 31st 2017 – http://www.paul-andruss.com/

Sally Cronin is a superb short story writer. Her work effortlessly uses an uncluttered economical style to create charming classic narratives; rich in description and punctuated by subtle humour.

Tales from The Garden is a book of 9 short but delightful modern fairy stories and concludes with her mother’s reminiscences of a lifetime of gardens. It is fitting Sally finishes her book with the tale of her mother’s life because the stories contained in Tales from the Garden are meant to be passed down the generations.

While reading I kept falling into reverie. Sometimes I felt like a youngster. Then I could hear my grandmother’s voice reading the stories to me at bedtime.

At other times, my point of view abruptly shifted; often prompted by Sally’s gentle unobtrusive humour, unashamedly aimed at adults. Now I was a parent or even a grandparent reading the story in a cosy lamp lit bedroom on a long winter evening, breaking only to steal swift affectionate glances over the top of the book, watching the new generation, wide–eyed with wonder, fighting not to fall asleep.

At such times, it felt like I was not reading a story at all. Rather, it was though I knew it by heart and was now passing down some precious whispered secret as it had once been passed to me.

So what is it about this book that casts such a spell?

As the title says the individual but thematically related stories centre round a verdant summer garden with stone statuary, old and new. This magical place has a life its own, hidden from the mortal owners, except for once every 500 years when the two worlds collide – no doubt precipitated by the long anticipated return of the Emperor. And just who that is, you will have to find out for yourself.

Guarded for centuries by two stone lions the garden is not only a place of sanctuary for wild creatures, but also shelters a bona-fide fairy kingdom within an old magnolia tree. Comic elements are introduced into the stories in the form of a rock band, who hang out with a totally unexpected hippy. The rock band was banned from playing at fairy balls because… And now perhaps I am giving too much away.

Queen Filigree, who rules Magia, told me in no uncertain terms she would much prefer you to discover the adventures of her subjects and the garden’s motley denizens for yourself, rather than learn them second-hand from an old gas-bag who should know better.

As ever your majesty, you wish is my command.

But being an old gas-bag, as you so kindly pointed out, let me just have one final word on the last chapter.

In my heart, I felt the book is really all about Mollie Coleman. An ordinary woman of extraordinary life and beloved mother who just like a fairy queen, once upon a time, and long, long ago, spun a spell on a little girl who grew up to write…

Read the other reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Garden-Sally-Cronin-ebook/dp/B0180Q6CKM

Also by Sally Cronin

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Read all the reviews and buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

I have a space left in Friday’s Cafe and Bookstore update if you have news about your books.. Please check your entry in the directory to make sure it is still correct and then email me on sallygcronin@gmail.com

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore/

If you are new to the blog and would like to join the other authors in the bookstore which leads to regular promotional updates then please look at this post.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-free-author-and-blogger-promotion-2017/

Thank you for dropping by today and I hope you have enjoyed the updates for us all.

Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – The First Date by Sally Cronin


short-stories-twoThe First Date

Kathleen viewed her face in the mirror. She sighed as she observed the crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes. They said it was a sign of character and a sunny personality; crease lines from a life of laughter. That could be said to be true of most of the last twenty-five years of marriage to Malcolm. Rarely did a day go by that he had not teased her into a smile or offered up a pun that made her laugh despite the corniness.

It was not just the laughter that they had shared, but passions for theatre, the cinema, books and exotic foods. There was so little that they disagreed about over the years. Kathleen struggled to remember any real arguments that had intruded into the happiness that wrapped around them like a comforting blanket.

They had travelled far and wide across all the continents taking advantage of his generous salary and the occasional business trips that she accompanied him on. The scents and sights of Africa and India had thrilled them as they held hands and watched glorious sunsets. The rugged terrain of Alaska and the Rockies had tested their stamina and the deep blue colour of the Pacific Ocean had beguiled them. A storehouse of experiences all accompanied by love and laughter and a sense that it would last forever. They had never had children unfortunately, but Malcolm claimed to be happy to just have her all to himself.

But suddenly all that love and laughter was gone and the years together faded into wisps of elusive memory as each day passed. Those friends that she had confided in about her grief and emptiness had offered advice and support for the last six months. They all assured her that was time to face the future head on. She needed to accept that she could not wallow in this self-pity and denial any longer.

She had laughed to herself when she first saw the website that Molly had pointed out to her one morning as they shared coffee in the village just after Christmas. An online dating agency that proudly boasted a near perfect record of finding your soulmate; that one person meant just for you. Molly had been on the site for nearly a year and she had certainly pushed the boundaries of those claims to the limit; she had kept their small circle of mutual friends very entertained with her experiences.

She had brought up the site on her laptop and Kathleen had sat beside her, browsing the various enticements offered by the men posting. Her eye had been immediately drawn to one post that Molly had marked. She read the words to herself, and then again aloud to fully understand what she was seeing. She had believed for so long that Malcolm was the one and only perfect match for her that she was shocked and intrigued at the same time.

Single, tall, fun loving and handsome 55 year old seeks long term relationship with attractive female 30 – 45 years old. Must have a good sense of humour, enjoy the theatre, cinema, fine dining and travelling to exotic locations. Located in London but willing to travel to meet. Box Number 1596

She had looked over at Molly to share her amazement and found her staring down at her hands cupped around the coffee cup.

“Is something the matter Molly?” Kathleen was unused to Molly being subdued and quiet.

Slowly Molly looked up from her cappucino and smiled fondly at her friend.

“I was going to meet this guy for dinner but changed my mind when I saw him sitting at the table in the restaurant,” she paused and looked through the cafe window as if trying to choose her words carefully. “I know how much you still love Malcolm, but I think that it is time that you faced the reality of your situation and look to the future.”

Molly tapped the advertisement on the screen with her immaculately manicured nail. “You need to arrange to meet this man and confront your fear of losing everything you have treasured from the past.”

The two women parted company outside the cafe and Kathleen drove home to the empty house that she had shared with Malcolm for so many years. It was far too big for the two of them especially when he had been away on business trips alone leaving her for several weeks at a time. She had hoped at one point to fill the rooms with children’s laughter, but somehow it was never the right time for one reason or another.

Kathleen knew that Molly was right. She could no longer hide away from life; she needed to face the future whatever it held. She rang her friend’s mobile number and asked her to come over the next morning to help her upload a profile to the site to enable her to respond to the advertisement.

So here she was, getting ready for her first date in over twenty-five years with a man called Andrew. When her own profile had been activated, she had replied to the box number in his advertisement and over the next week they had exchanged a number of emails via the site. Although he was eager to know more about her, Kathleen had been reticient to offer her personal email or too much information until she met him face to face.

She had changed her mind several times about what to wear for this first encounter, finally deciding to wear a new dress she had bought on a whim a few weeks ago. Malcolm had always insisted she looked perfect in pastel colours and this daring emerald green number would have certainly provoked some comment. She had also been to a new hairdresser this morning and requested a radical new look. Gone was the long auburn hair that Malcolm said suited her best; in its stead was a sleek blonde shoulder length bob.

Finally she stood in front of the long mirror in their bedroom and viewed the transformation. Kathleen took several moments to get used to the new image and then smiled as she decided that she liked it. Picking up a colourful floral scarf to put around her shoulders and grabbing her handbag, she walked down to the kitchen to order a taxi.

She deliberately arrived at the restaurant fifteen minutes early and was shown to a discreet table in the corner. Kathleen could not remember when she had been this nervous and sipped the water provided by the waiter when he left the two menus. She kept glancing at the door of the restaurant apprehensively. She knew that Andrew would have to ask directions to the table as he would not recognise her, particularly in the dimly lit room. On the table to the right of her place setting was a bulky envelope. Andrew in one of his recent emails had suggested that she might bring some photographs of the places that she had visited on her trips and that he would do likewise. A talking point to break the ice.

Closing her eyes she took a deep breath and tried to calm her nerves. When she opened them again she saw a tall, good looking man standing in the entrance to the dining area. He managed to get the attention of one of the waiters who then pointed out Kathleen sitting in the corner table. He walked confidently across with a warm smile on his face until he stood in front of her. Andrew looked into her eyes and he gasped.

“Hello Malcolm.” Kathleen attempted to keep the quiver out of her voice. ” I see that you are not at the New York head office after all this week. Please sit down as we have a great deal to talk about.” Taken aback by his usually complacent wife’s new look and the rigid set of her mouth, he complied ungraciously; flinging his coat on the back of one of the chairs. She pushed the envelope across the table towards him and as his fingers closed over the bulky package she smiled sadly.

“Perhaps we should start by discussing these divorce papers.”

©sallycronin What’s in Name 2017

I hope that you have enjoyed my story … your feedback is always very welcome.  Thanks Sally

 

 

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Weight Reduction – Some meal options


Smorgasbord Health 2017

I know that I said that I would leave you to decide what you ate based on your shopping list that I gave you at the beginning of this series.  But, I also know that boredom can set in and you can find yourself sticking to a few tried and tested meals in case you get too adventurous and put weight back on.

I am cheating with this as this post is Chapter Fifteen of my book Size Matters… but it will give you a few alternative ideas for your main meals and snacks.

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This chapter outlines the building blocks of your personal programme. You must adjust the amount of food you eat according to your weight and I have included some guidelines for you to follow. Do not miss your snacks as these will help maintain your blood sugar levels throughout the day and minimise your cravings for sweet or starchy foods. There is a great deal of information now on the web that was not available twenty years ago and you will find differing opinions on the subject of snacking between meals. It depends what you snack on firstly. If it is a biscuit, bar of chocolate or a cupcake then you are not going to get far. But, when you are first beginning a healthy eating programme the first words that usually pop into your mind is ‘deprivation’ and ‘starvation’.

That is the last thing that your body needs and neither does your newly adopted willpower. There will come a time when you won’t need to snack between meals and for those of you who need to lose in excess of three stone or more, I suggest that you enjoy your mid-morning, mid-afternoon and supper snack for several weeks or even months. I lost 150lbs in 18 months eating between meals and combined with some regular exercise it is a strategy that works for most of us.

The options that I suggest for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are just that, options. Variety not only prevents you getting bored with a particular diet but also ensures that you are getting the widest possible range of nutrients. Keep checking your food groups and make sure you are including all of them as regularly as possible.

I know that there is a new train of thought that precludes all carbohydrates from the diet but I am not in favour. Wholegrains have been a part of our human diet for thousands of years and there is evidence that we were eating wild grains as far back as early man. They provide important nutrients and fibre and should be included in moderate amounts. If you do not have a very active lifestyle then reduce to a handful with breakfast and lunch and leave off your evening meal.

First though, you need to adapt the following programme for your own individual requirements. If you suffer from Candida then you need to be careful of the amount of sugar and yeast that you are consuming. I recommend that you find a source for yeast and sugar-free bread from either a local baker or a health food shop. Fruit is too full of nutrients to give up completely and I suggest that you eat apples and pears, as they have the lowest amount of sugars, and only drink fruit juices sparingly. Apart from that you should be able to follow the basic programme adjusting it in the same way as someone without Candida.

Notes

  • Eat the programme exactly if you need to lose up to 3 stone or are a woman.
  • If you are a man, and need to lose up to 3 stone, you need to add 2 snacks per day to the programme.
  • If you need to lose 3–5 stone add one extra snack per day.
  • If you need to lose 5–7 stone add two extra snacks per day.
  • Breakfasts
  • Always eat breakfast and begin with a fresh vegetable juice. I recommend carrot juice – a small glass.
  • Cereals should be natural and sugar-free. Use chopped fruit to sweeten, or a teaspoon of honey, in preference to refined sugars or artificial sweeteners.
  • If you need to lose more than 42 lbs. (3 st or 19 kg) then you can add a piece of whole-grain toast with tomato and a drizzle of olive oil or mashed banana.

Seven Basic Breakfasts – small glass of juice not half a litre….

  1. Vegetable juice, porridge oats, tsp. honey, skimmed milk, a pear and a cup of tea.
  2. Carrot and apple juice, poached egg on slice of whole grain toast, drizzle of olive oil, seasoning and a cup of tea.
  3. Bowl of fresh fruit salad, low fat yoghurt, and slice of toast with modicum of butter. Cup of tea.
  4. Carrot juice, 2 Weetabix, semi-skimmed milk, fresh raspberries and a cup of tea.
  5. Banana smoothie made with one banana, 400 ml semi-skimmed milk and 1 oz. of porridge oats. Cup of tea.
  6. Apple juice, Shredded Wheat with semi-skimmed milk and fresh strawberries and 10 gms of chopped almonds. Cup of tea.
  7. Carrot juice, two scrambled egg, one rasher of salt-free bacon and one slice of whole grain toast with a drizzle of olive oil.

Note: you can eat anything you want for breakfast.. do not think that you have to start with eggs or cereal.. you can also have chicken breast and mushrooms, spinach and tomato if you fancy it!

Seven Lunch Suggestions – I always include a small amount of wholegrains in my lunch though I usually skip with my main meal at night.

wholegrains

  1. Large jacket potato with herbs and seasoning. Fresh raw vegetable salad made from tomato, cucumber, broccoli, carrot, rocket and raw onion. Drizzle potato and salad with 20 ml of seasoned olive oil – (useful if you are eating out).
  2. Brown rice pilaff with onions, mushrooms served with a baby leaf spinach and tomato salad. Can be reheated at work.
  3. One corn tortilla filled with steamed red peppers, onions, and 100 gms of chicken breast. Home-made salsa with onions, tomatoes, celery, garlic and a little olive oil.
  4. 200 gms of cooked whole grain pasta with home-made tomato, basil, onion, mushroom and celery sauce. Can be served cold and taken to work.
  5. Mashed potato and vegetable pie. Mash potato with semi-skimmed milk and herbs. Vegetable filling made from steamed carrots, onions, mushrooms, leeks in a tomato puree sauce baked in the oven with 2 oz. of grated Edam cheese. Can be reheated at work.
  6. Sandwiches – if you cannot have a prepared lunch of your choice then try to make sandwiches to take to work. You can have one round of whole grain sandwiches with lean fillings such as salad, chicken breast, tinned salmon or tuna, tomato and banana. Have two pieces of fruit or a fruit juice. (Sunday evening supper)
  7. Stir-fried vegetables served on brown rice. Use 20 ml of olive oil and seasoning, finely chopped celery, onion, broccoli, spinach, bean sprouts and mushrooms.

Seven Dinner Selections

Dandelion greens salad

Begin each dinner option with a bowl of fresh salad – e.g. mixed leaves, tomato, cucumber, pepper, celery – and 10 ml of olive oil and seasoning.

Three or four times a week include half a chopped avocado. This will not only be very nutritious but also knock the edge off your hunger.

  1. Roast Mediterranean vegetables with carrots, aubergine, courgettes, squash, onions and mushrooms drizzled with olive oil and roasted. Serve with a large lamb chop.
  2. Grilled turkey or chicken breast with carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and green bean mix.
  3. Roast salmon with stuffed peppers (chopped mushroom, onion, courgette sprinkled with 1 oz. of Edam cheese). Serve with broccoli or spinach.
  4. Lean steak with roast Mediterranean vegetables.
  5. White fish, lightly grilled with olive oil and seasoning. Mashed carrots and green beans.
  6. Weekend dinner. Half an avocado and prawns with olive oil and herb dressing. Calves liver and onions, mashed parsnips, mixed green vegetables. Two glasses of white or red wine.
  7. Sunday lunch. Roast beef with carrots, broccoli and green beans. Dry roast potatoes and home-made gravy made from the meat juices and a little corn flour.

Snack Options which means keeping it down to a small plate.. not a dinner plate!

walnut

Three a day unless you require more for your individual weight.

  1. Banana and green tea
  2. Apple and orange.
  3. Carrot juice and an orange
  4. 2 rye crisp bread with sliced tomato and drizzle of olive oil.
  5. Fresh fruit salad and ½ pot of yoghurt.
  6. 10 walnut halves
  7. Slice of whole grain toast and mashed banana
  8. Half a melon filled with strawberries and a live yoghurt drink.
  9. Strawberry smoothie with 400 ml semi-skimmed milk – 10 strawberries and some crushed ice.
  10. Pot of sugar free yoghurt mixed with 1 oz. of porridge oats.

You can find all the other posts in the series on Weight Reduction in this directory.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/weight-reduction-programme-2017/

©sallycronin 2016

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and if you would like a private word then please email me sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – New Year’s Eve by Sally Cronin


short-stories-twoNew Year’s Eve by Sally Cronin

Kenneth Fitzgerald looked across the crowded ballroom at the woman that he had loved for a lifetime. Georgina was surrounded by attentive male admirers, and was holding court as she always did, with elegance and grace. He watched as she tilted her head to one side to listen to the young man sitting next to her, cupping her hand delicately behind her ear, to better hear his comments over the sound of the band.

The handsome companion was her grandson Timothy, and even at first glance you could see the resemblance; the same blue eyes, golden hair colour and a long refined nose. Georgie was 90 years old and yet her beauty was undiminished. Kenneth knew he was biased. He remembered his stunned reaction to meeting her for the first time over 70 years ago, in this same ballroom on New Year’s Eve 1935.

Georgina Crowley was the daughter of a millionaire financier who had managed to survive the Wall Street crash in 1929, by converting his wealth in previous years, into a renowned art collection. Malcolm Crowley was an astute businessman and had never squandered his money on the trappings of wealth. He had also salted away cash and jewellery on his various international travels, providing a comfortable buffer for the family, and those that had worked for him loyally over the last thirty years.

He was as canny with his three children as he was with his wealth. His two sons had followed him into the firm after studying for business degrees , and Georgina had also been encouraged to go to college, where she was now training to be a teacher. Malcolm firmly believed that all his children should have skills that could support them, should the financial climate not improve significantly in his lifetime. That is not to say that his youngest child did not also enjoy the benefits of being part of a wealthy family. Georgina was known to have exquisite taste, and her slim figure was the perfect shape to model the latest fashions. To be fair, many of the designs were copied from the leading fashion magazines, and recreated on her treasured Singer sewing machine

Kenneth brought himself back to the present and felt his heart pounding in his chest. It was the same every year, when he remembered that first New Year’s Eve, when he had fallen madly in love at first sight with Georgina Crowley. It had not been a one-sided infatuation, and at that first touch of her delicate hand in his own, he had felt a tremor that caused him to look up into her face. Her pink lips had parted in surprise and her smile dazzled him.

They had danced all night circling the floor; perfectly matched in their love of the foxtrot and quickstep. The other partygoers had moved to one side to watch this golden couple as they seamlessly moved from one dance to another. Even Malcolm Crowley paused in his discussions with a group of men, to watch his daughter’s delight in this young man’s embrace.

Kenneth had wanted to kiss those pink lips at midnight but was aware of the scrutiny from those around them. He had whispered in Georgina’s ear as they waltzed to the final tune of the old year.

‘Shall we slip away at midnight and find some moon and starlight?’

She had looked into his eyes and smiled, nodding her head in agreement.

As the clock struck midnight, Georgina rushed to her parents at their table and kissed and hugged them both. In the ensuing melee, as the other guests did likewise, the two of them had slipped out of the large double doors at the end of the ballroom. Kenneth had guided her to his car parked along the drive. He grabbed a blanket from the back seat of the roadster and placed it around Georgina’s shoulders before helping her into the front seat. He raced around to the other side of the car and within minutes they were roaring down the hill from the house into the dark night.

Kenneth drove carefully as the road was slick with ice and he was aware that he was responsible for a very precious cargo. Although it was a cold night he knew just the place to take Georgina on this magical occasion. A spot high above the city, where the lights and sounds of New Year’s Eve would provide a backdrop for their first kiss.

He looked across at Georgina as she clasped the plaid blanket around her bare shoulders, and smiled at her obvious delight at this adventure. His eyes were only off the road for seconds, but it was still long enough for him to miss the broken down car around a curve in the road.

He regained consciousness and raised his hand to his forehead; it came away wet and sticky. He wiped blood from his eyes and tried to move his body. Finally he was able to push himself into a sitting position against the upturned roadster and he desperately looked for Georgina. The moon came out from behind a cloud and he took a sharp intake of breath as he saw her crumpled form by the rear bumper of the car. He crawled across and managed to pull her crushed and lifeless body into his arms… his heart was pounding in his chest and he tried to wake her by touching her face and calling her name. After several minutes he rested his head back against the car and he knew that she was gone.

‘Please, please do not take her … it is my fault and it should be me… take me… please take me and save her.’

On New Year’s Day, Georgie asked her youngest grandson to drive her to the cemetery. She came here often to visit her husband’s grave. Phillip had been a wonderful man and she had grown to love him during the long summer of 1942. They had twin sons born in 1944 but tragically Phillip had been killed in the last weeks of the war. He had been brought home and buried in the Crowley family plot close by her house and their sons.  She still missed his loving kindness.  However, she admitted to herself that it was a different kind of love to the one that has swept her off her feet that magical New Year’s Eve in 1935.

Whilst her grandson watched from the car, Georgina spent some minutes at Phillip’s monument. Then walking carefully, leaning on her stick, she moved down the icy path until she stopped before another gravestone. Tears gathered in her pale blue eyes as she read the inscription.

Kenneth Fitzgerald
Beloved son and brother.
1910 – 1935
Killed in an automobile accident.

It was 70 years ago, and yet every New Year’s Day, Georgie relived those dreadful first moments when she had woken in the hospital. She had a dreadful headache but thankfully didn’t seem to have any other major injuries. Her mother and father were sitting by her bedside and Malcolm gently took her hand in his. Her first words were asking for Kenneth, and she still remembered the look of anguish on her father’s face as he braced himself to tell her the news.

She touched the top of the headstone and smiled to herself. He had been there again last night at the family ball, watching from the shadows as he had done every year, and she had felt that same giddy feeling as that first New Year’s Eve. She suspected that this time however it was more likely that her medication was no longer effective in keeping her failing heart beating.

She felt a touch on her shoulder and looked up into the smiling face of her grandson.

‘Time to go Gran.. It is getting cold and I need to get you back home.’

Georgie took his arm and they moved carefully up the path. She turned for one last look at Kenneth’s grave.

She whispered to herself. ‘Next year my love, next year we will dance again together on New Year’s Eve.’

 

 

©sallycronin 2016