Wisdomeats : Bear’s smoothie 

The Hassan’s have inherited a sweet tooth through the generations. My Dad has one, I definitely have one and my Matty continues in the line of sugar and all things sweet lovers. I actually feel guilty about this. Every time I challenge the amount of sugary stuff he’s consuming I’d see the mirror reflecting back to me the amount I’d consumed that day too! Sometimes I’d feel like our love of the sweet and sticky things of life is a curse passed on, not a delight to be enjoyed (in moderation of course).

So Matty (or bear as he’s affectionately known) has always loved the sugary breakfast options, although when I think of it the other 2 brothers aren’t far behind him. Coco Pops, Frosties, crunchy nut cornflakes, frosted shreddies or current fav Krave! Or it’s 2 croissants smothered in a half a pot of raspberry jam. Or white toast (never ever brown but I have tried I promise, even sneaking a slice of white and brown in a sandwich when the white has run out – it can back home uneaten) with layers of Nutella. 

Earlier this year I began to fully grasp my unhealthy obsession with all things sweet and sugary and begin to tackle it.  The results to my well being felt so immediate that I became a preaching convert to the whole house on the evils of sugar and poor Matty was my main target. 

And here’s the proof that I’ve converted him to smoothies for breakfast!!! It feels like a bigger achievement than it probably is but I’m delighted, and he loves them. Started at exam time when I wouldn’t let him go to school without breakfast and he could have this in the car.  I confess that often my boys eat breakfast in the car, travel mugs are an invention I’m very thankful for. Grown up sippy cups!  The smoothie is now firmly the breakfast choice for Matty most days, I mean it doesn’t beat a bacon sandwich but it’s up there. I’ll be honest getting up to make him a pre rugby smoothie at 8am on a Saturday morning does make me feel like one of those ‘super mums’ that we will all aspire to be but  deep down know don’t exist (accept on Instagram or Facebook) 

Further Confession time, they do say it’s good for the soul; I fell off my low-sugar wagon in France and I’m struggling to get back on it, but I am trying. This week the goal was drinking more water and a couple of walks (thanks to my pal Janice who’s been sending me pics to motivate me and get me up and moving more). I want to be healthier;  eat less processed, less sugary food, and definitely be more active, but I’ll be honest I don’t find it easy and some days it feels like another thing to add to my ‘could do better’ list. My relationship with food and exercise has historially been accompanied by those bully boy friends; failure, guilt, and their side kick comparison. I’m 44 now and feel less intimadated by them and I’m slowly learning to be kinder to myself, kinder in my whole life, realising that eating better and moving more is actually a kinder way to treat my body. 

Meantime do yourself a favour and try Bear’s smoothie, the ingredients in brackets are my variation when I make it for myself. 

Bear’s smoothie

1 banana 

½ cup of mixed frozen berries *

1 small pot strawberry  yoghurt (Greek yoghurt & 1/2 tsp cinnamon)

1 cup whole milk (semi skimmed) **

1 handful or ½ cup porridge oats 

½ cup cashew nuts

1 – 2  tsps or a squeeze honey 

Blitz it until smooth. Sometimes it will be thicker than others so add more milk to adjust the consistency. 

* use whatever soft fruit you prefer. Personally I love mango, the men in my house all prefer the mixed berries. Frozen is cheaper and there’s less waste. If you’re using fresh fruit add ½ cup of ice to the smoothie. 

** use whatever milk or milk substitute you prefer


WisdomEats : simple quick pasta 

This is a quick meal. I mean really quick. Most nights no matter how fast I try to prep and cook dinner it takes at least an hour to arrive at the table. Especially if it involves potatoes! Not this one. This is ready in the time it takes the water to boil and the pasta to cook. 15/20mins max. 

Here’s the ingredient list:

1 chorizo roughly cubed 1 red or white onion diced 

1 red or yellow pepper diced 

1 punnet mushrooms sliced

3 cloves garlic crushed or finely chopped

1 fresh chilli finely diced 

½ tsp dried oregano 

1 packet brown pasta 

Parmesan or parmigiana reggiano 

Serves 4 or 5 

Put a large saucepan of water on to boil and add a good sprinkle of salt – as one of my favourite cooks and beautiful women says “it should be as salty as the Mediterranean Sea” (Nigella Lawson) 

Now heat a splash of olive oil in a pan or wok. Throw in the chopped veg and chorizo and fry until cooked through and even better if the chorizo starts to crisp up a bit. At this stage add the garlic and chilli and stir through for about a minute. Now add the canned tomatoes, oregano, some black pepper and if it needs it a little salt. Allow this to cook until bubbling and then turn to really low or turn it off. 

Meantime as soon as the water boil throw in the whole bag of pasta. Set a timer for 10 mins. 

Test the pasta after 10 mins it should be aldente (firm to bite) drain it and add to the pasta sauce, turn the heat on again and stir through until combined. Serve and grate the cheese over the top. 

Apologies for the lack of finished dinner pic, it looked and smelt too good and I forgot about the photo until this happened!! 

Tell you what why don’t you send me your pics when you give this a go. 

Wisdom Eats: Coconut cinnamon pumpkin seed granola 

Jason and I have been trying to eat more healthily (not including France!?!) and my friend Janice recommended a great blog called The Little Green Spoon. I wouldn’t say we’re totally doing the whole ‘clean eating’ thing but we are trying to eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, cut down on sugar and processed foods.  I’d never made granola before as I always thought it was too much hassle; that was until I tried to buy some that didn’t contain sugar. 

Sugar is my drug of choice and I have a problem with it. I LOVE sugar, most of my life I’ve eaten too much of it every single day. I know it’s my weakness and I didn’t realise it was beginning to make me feel awful most of the time. Mood swings, hunger, nausea, tiredness and restlessness. When I began to limit the amount of it I ate I couldn’t believe how different I felt. The sugar cravings started to ease the less I ate of it. The nausea totally disappeared. My mood swings settled and my energy levels stabilised! That lead me to reading granola labels like a crazy person and deciding I needed to make my own granola. My pal Louise talked me through it one night at her house and I headed home to give it a go. I adapted this recipe Coconut and pistachio granola to suit what I had in my cupboard! Here’s what I came up with.


1 Cup of Jumbo Oats 

1/2 Cup of Desiccated Coconut 

1/2 Cup of flaked almonds 

1/2 Cup of pumpkin seeds 

½ tsp ground cinnamon 

1/4 Cup of Coconut Oil (60ml)

1/4 Cup of Maple syrup 


Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl

Melt coconut oil and stir in maple syrup

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well.

Thinly layer on top of grease paper on a baking tray.

Bake for 20mins at 180c 

Allow to cool

Completely and store in an airtight tub. 

Serve with fresh fruit, yoghurt and honey. Or with ice cold milk. 

Why not adapt it for yourself and share your variations below! 

Boxer shorts


I live with 4 adorable men sized males.  Some weeks I pick up, wash, dry, fold and sort into piles at least 30 to 40 pairs of boxer shorts, it actually feels like twice that amount!!  I have a large load washing machine and I can easily fill it just with boxers!

Let me tell you how a simple pair of boxer shorts transformed into a symbol of dignity and compassion from a mundane chore.

I promised more accounts from our trip to Calais and Dunkirk.  One of the first days of our trip we heard about the need for boxer shorts (no briefs – the preference is very much boxer shorts)

We chatted about it with Brian & Diane our dynamic duo stationed in a caravan between Calais & Dunkirk for 6 weeks (on their way home just now – Brian took unpaid leave to go – hero or what?!). They have been our beach head of compassion from VCD if you like.  (follow their antics here). The area is littered with German WW2 bunkers and defence structures all along this part of Northern France.  The Dungannon to Dunkirk brigade have fundraised and galvanised support for the refugees and on our first night there we chatted about how to use some of the money to supply urgent needs.  The conversation quickly landed on boxer shorts.  A few phone calls later we had ordered 800 pairs of boxers direct from a supplier though our middle man in Dungannon to be delivered straight to the Calais.

One week later, by this time we’re back home but I’m still dreaming of the refugee’s most nights, and the 800 pairs of small & medium mens boxer shorts arrive at the Calais warehouse and within 3 hours they are ALL distributed.

800 felt like a lot to me.  But when you have over 3500 people in the Calais camp alone, it feels like a drop in a bucket.  800 pairs of boxers arrive, are sorted by volunteers, are delivered to the camp by more volunteers and are distributed with dignity and compassion by yet more volunteers.

Lets look at that chain of compassion.  2 men from rural Northern Ireland get broken hearts watching the scenes on the news of refugees arriving by the thousand, desperate, destitute and determined.  Nigel and Brian head off in a camper van full of donations with 2 others in Nov. They come back even more broken hearted and now equally focused on doing something  more to help.  They begin to tell the stories of the people they met, of the terrible conditions and the immediate needs and they began to gather more people, money and resources.  15 go out in February with another  camper van filled with donations. 2 are sent out in April for 6 weeks with a caravan full of donations and a dream to do more.  Small short-term teams join them during that time, more people from Vineyard Church Dungannon and others join in too including a team from Causeway Coast Vineyard and a couple from Emmanuel Church in Lurgan.  The kind generous donations are converted in this instance into 800 pairs of boxers.  The black bin liners full of donations have been delivered, sorted, distributed, and still the need grows.

So many people form the links on this compassion chain that provided a simple pair of boxer shorts.  Every person in this chain is vital, every £1 matters.  Every volunteer that makes the journey to Northern France to ‘do something’ matters.  Be it for 6 hours, 6 weeks or 6 months.

We cannot avert our eyes to wave of humanity who are already on our doorstep, to the hundreds arriving each day and the many more already heading our way.  We need to send aid in Syria and around that entire region, absolutely 100% we do.  But we also need aid and solutions for the mass exodus of humanity already on the move.

Will you take your place on the chain? Send money. Donate your stuff.  Rearrange your holiday plans.  Use your annual leave and go serve.  The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, His body has an opportunity no more than that a responsibility to be His light, to pour out His love, to share our wealth, to show mercy.



You’re in? Great here’s some links below to help you or email me direct on michelle@vcdgn.co.uk if are thinking of going out and want some advice on planning your trip.

VCD Dungannon to Dunkirk Facebook Page – updated regularly with info on ways to help

Help Refugees Facebook Page – updated regularly with the most urgent needs.

The back story 

I’m often overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness when I read about injustice or the casualties of war or the victims of disaster (man-made or nature).  My mantra is once you know about something that’s wrong then you must act, even in the smallest of ways, to do something. I refuse to be uninformed, to avert my eyes. This leads me to live in place of frustration, knowing that I could do more, should do more, that our western privilege bears a cost that we aren’t paying. 

Last week we travelled to Calais in Northern France; Jason, Micah, Matthew and I. We have dear friends Brian & Diane Cummings from our church who have given up 6 weeks to go and serve with the charities supporting the refugees in Calais and Dunkirk.  This is Brian’s third trip out in 6 months – when he came back after the 2nd trip (he took 14 others on that one) and told us that the church needed to be out there on a longer term and that he was going back for longer I thought he was a bit mad, but I could see the fire in his belly and the determination in his eyes would not surrender to my common sense, or even to Diane’s voice of reason!! 

Brian and Nigel Graham have pioneered our involvement.  These men are incredible in their ordinariness. Typical hard working, family men of as few of words as possible, preferring to just get on with it and get the job done. When you see men like them moved to tears by what they have seen, then you listen. We listened. We helped make plans, we promised our support and we said we might come out and visit them.

Our sons had a part to play. When they heard the February teams’ account of the living conditions that people where in and that there was ways to help they announced that they wanted to go next time. When they heard that Auntie Diane and Uncle Brian where going for 6 weeks they told us we had to take them! Not the best timing I thought – Matty has GCSE’s this month, Micah AS’s and Caleb A’levels. We scheduled it as best we could which sadly meant Caleb couldn’t come this time 😦

In the past couple of years since the refugee crisis has begun to affect us here in the UK, the information and vast swathe of opinion about what we should do/shouldn’t do, can do/can’t do is confusing to say the least. My confusion leads to indecision that soon breeds inaction. All the time there’s this still small voice, simple in its clarity. ‘The earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof.’ Cutting through the arguments of immigration quotas, the in or out of Europe, the rights of our citizens over the rights of strangers, cutting through the selfish bias that raises its head in my heart to look after my own first, the fear of ISIS. ‘The earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof’ (1 Cor 10) followed by “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, ” Matthew 25:35-36

These words cut through the confusing arguments and shine light on the humans caught up in the fray. This is God’s earth, His alone, how ridiculous our man made borders and possession of land must look to Him. What right have we to natural resources more than any other of His children? The only way to respond to our brothers and sisters stuck on our border is to clothe, feed and care for them until they are invited in. 

It was this still, becoming louder voice that lead me to Calais last week.