How to Eat Out Stress-Free with a Special Diet

How to Eat Out Stress-Free with a Special Diet

How to Eat Out Stress-Free with a Special Diet

I have been on my very restrictive Autoimmune Protocol Diet for over two years now and it has been transformational in reducing inflammation in my body. I am used to it now and am slowly re-introducing foods, and even though it can be boring if I don’t make the effort to make new recipes, I am quite happy with it.
Eating out at restaurants and other people’s houses, however, can be a real challenge. If you, like me, are restricted in this way you will know what it is like. You just want to be able to eat out stress-free when you have a special diet, and not end up feeling like a troublemaker or ending up getting ill due to ingesting some food that is detrimental to you.
I have developed different ways of dealing with these hurdles that can make the whole process easier for you and your friends and family…and the waiter/waitress for that matter! After all, eating out should be a relaxing enjoyable experience for everyone.

Social difficulties of special dietary requirements:

  • Embarrassment and stress due to feeling like you are being difficult.
  • Feeling like you are being an unreasonable or ungrateful dinner guest.
  • Not wanting to put more work onto others.
  • Awkwardness in restaurants.
  • Pressure from family to just be “normal”.
  • Friends and family having difficulty understanding the reasons for your diet.
  • Potluck events can be tricky as there is little or nothing you can eat except your own offering.
  • The temptation to eat something you shouldn’t just to make it easier for others.
eat out stress-free with a special diet

Tools and tricks:

Communicating your needs:

  • Spend some time planning how to explain the reasons for your diet and how it benefits your health. I sometimes like to say that I am on a prescribed diet plan recommended by my nutritionist (which is true!).
  • Practice a short clear explanation of what happens to you in the following days if you break your own diet rules.
  • Ask for exactly what you want in restaurants. eg ask if it is possible to just have fish/meat fried plain in olive oil with some steamed vegetables.  I like to imagine I am a famous actress or pop star and say what they would often and ask politely of course!


  • Advance planning is crucial. Get ahead by checking restaurants online menus, then email them to explain your requirements in advance. This saves a lot of the hassle and the chef will hopefully have a written record of what your requirements are on the day.
  • Aim for restaurants that make lots of fresh salads and simple grilled meats and fish. Identify sides of greens or salad that you can have in advance and swap them in for other disallowed foods.
  • Look on Paleo and Coeliac websites in advance for ideas of 100% gluten-free restaurants.
  • Take your own food contribution to dinner parties if that is helpful. Make it yummy so others will want to share too to make you feel less excluded.
  • Take your own seasonings to restaurants and dinner invitations.
  • Email friends/family some recipes that you can eat if that seems appropriate.
  • Print out allowed/forbidden foods for the family.
  • If it is a work lunch, it may be easier to just take your own food as you may be time-limited.
eat out stress-free with a special diet

Staying on track with special diet:

  • Think about ways of saying ” no thanks” to offers of food that don’t offend the person offering and allow them to eat it happily in front of you. eg. That looks delicious, and I would love to eat it, but my diet doesn’t allow it. You go ahead, I am going to have a herbal tea, fruit salad, or whatever..”
  • Sometimes eating in advance of the event is helpful, nothing worse than going hungry!
  • Be appreciative of any extra effort made by others to accommodate your requests rather than apologising guiltily. There is nothing to be guilty about, you have a medical condition, take care of yourself.
  • Tip well in restaurants for the extra effort made.
  • Stay strong in your convictions and don’t be swayed by others saying ” Just a little won’t harm you!” You know it will!

So with great planning ahead, clear compassionate communication and an attitude of gratitude, eating out will be something you can enjoy thoroughly. We certainly deserve a break from the kitchen and missing out socially is not beneficial to our mental health. So I encourage you to do your research but to also to keep a sense of humour as the best-laid plans..and all that…


“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ― Virginia Woolf Click To Tweet


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Why is Asking for Help so Difficult?

Why is Asking for Help so Difficult?

Why is Asking for Help so Difficult?

Asking for help is something that can be surprisingly difficult. Sometimes people don’t have clear boundaries and find it hard to say no to requests when they want to or need to. If you are someone with poor boundaries, and limits, you may feel that others do too. You may presume that they will feel pressured to say yes to a request when in fact they may be fine with that. This can lead to an unwillingness to ask others.
Trusting that the other person has their boundaries in place makes it easier to ask. In this high-speed environment that we all reside in now it is common to be stressed and under pressure, and so it is unsurprising that we may not want to ask a favour from another person.
asking for help

What if we all asked for help when we needed it?

I find it hard to even imagine, but my vision is of a world where we would be a lot less overwhelmed as we are sharing our skills and energy, and playing to our strengths.
These days not many people in the UK have a network of a community to rely on. There are online groups and support networks, and those can be very helpful but they don’t help you pick up the kids when you are ill, or help you move a fridge freezer. We need supportive friends and community networks to help alleviate pressure and loneliness.
Over the years there have been hundreds of times when I could have done with some help. I have not found it easy to ask at all. My previous friendship group has fractured somewhat as people changed, moved away and had families. I don’t have regular contact with most of them and although I have been happy to make a few new good friends, some of them have chronic illnesses and others live further away. I feel like I am in a transition time of finding my new tribe and it is taking some time. I yearn for community and social contact but as many stay-at-home mothers are now finding, I can go for days on end without any other adult contact. It seems the advent of technology has isolated us more than ever.
People have unique personalities and quirks, and some people love doing what I hate to do, and vice versa. For example, someone who loves animals may be more than happy to pet sit for a week, someone who needs a change of scene or a retreat may jump at the chance of a housesit. Some people even love to clean and declutter or do accounts!! So I think if we could all get better at asking for help and use our online social networks to communicate with each other, then we could build more community support and enjoy reciprocal arrangements.
It is not always necessary to repay or swap either. If you think of times when you have helped someone (willingly) it feels good! Helping others brings feelings of generosity and kindness and that is an uplifting sensation.

So why can we find it so hard to ask for help?

I think that we are trained socially to believe that only children need help and once we are an adult, we are supposed to know what we are doing and be capable of it all. With the rise of mental health issues in younger age groups this needs to change. The stigma around seeking help when you have a mental health condition is still huge and the levels of suicide in young men particularly are shocking.

“Being first to ask for help in a friendship takes courage and humility.” Afton Rorvik Click To Tweet

The barriers to asking for help:

  • Pride
  • Not wanting to burden someone else
  • Fear of rejection or being ignored
  • Embarrassment
  • Fear of seeming incompetent or weak
  • Shyness
  • Fear of being judged or even labelled
  • Not wanting to feel indebted
  • Feeling vulnerable
  • Not knowing who to ask or where to go for support
  • Hoping the problem will go away by itself
Pride can be a big one for men in this culture, perhaps as men have been landed with this model of being a strong, tough bread-winner. Essentially though this is just a distortion of the ego energy that may well have been passed down through generations. This variety of pride is unhelpful and best dropped as it prevents authenticity and any movement towards gaining support.

The benefits of asking for help:

  • Less stress
  • Getting things done that wouldn’t be possible otherwise
  • New outlooks, possibilities and ideas.
  • Learning new techniques and tools
  • Lessening of overwhelm
  • Sharing problems
  • May lead to a helpful diagnosis
  • It allows the other person the gift of giving
  • Takes pressure off the family unit
  • Reducing loneliness
  • Making deeper friendships

Here’s how to do it!


  • Ask the other person at a time when they have space and time to listen
  • Ask someone who is likely to be willing to give freely, not someone with a history of manipulation or deal making.
  • Ask from a place of truth and integrity
  • Be clear and direct
  • Explain specifically what it is you need support with, it could be something as simple as having someone to listen to you.
  • Trust that the other person will say no if they choose to.
  • Remember if the other person says no, they are saying no to the task, not to you personally.
  • If they say yes, express gratitude!
You can access help from your GP, counsellors, or organisations and charities. In general, these can all be found easily online but the GP is the first option if you are unable to find this information.
If children don’t see parents asking for help then they don’t witness the modelling of that behaviour and they will be less likely to ask for help themselves when they move into young adulthood. Surely that is a time when they might need help, guidance and support the most.
I am going to try to put this advice I have come up with into practice this week. I am thinking that practice makes it easier.
Why don’t you give someone the gift of being able to help others this week, by asking clearly for some support? Go on, I dare you! What’s the worst that could happen?

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The Highs and Lows of Parenting with Chronic Illness

The Highs and Lows of Parenting with Chronic Illness

The Highs and Lows of Parenting with Chronic Illness

Parenting is full of highs and lows but parenting with chronic illness is a whole different kettle of fish. If you have an autoimmune disease or some other chronic illness, you may be suffering extreme fatigue, pain, lack of mobility and many other agitating symptoms. In this post, I reflect on some of the the highs and lows of my past 11 years of being a Mum.
Every day is different but the majority of days I am experiencing at least one symptom of my various ailments. Sometimes 5 or 6 at once. So when I wake in the morning, I have no idea what the day will bring. When you are a parent, however, you can’t just reschedule, cancel or stay in bed. There are kids to feed, the school run, paperwork to fill in, laundry, housework and a multitude of other tasks to be done. I am happy to do it and I wouldn’t change being a Mum for anything but it is challenging when you are running on empty. You barely have enough energy to sort yourself out, never mind anyone else!
There are of course good days too, but sadly many parents with chronic illness have many more bad days than good.

My parenting with chronic illness lows:

Not being able to lift my son up at The Correspondents gig after a tramp across muddy fields at a world music festival. He couldn’t see a thing and was so frustrated with me as he was too young to understand.
When they were younger, my boys saying that girls don’t really do sport. I had to put them straight on that one swiftly!
Not being able to climb up and change my son’s sheets in his high bed.
Looking an absolute state at the school gates (hair like a bush and sticky dry eyes).
Almost pulling out in front of a car when in an exhausted brain fog.
Trying to join in the Mums race at sports day a few years ago to come way last. The disgusted looks on the kids’ faces were crushing.
Getting ratty with them in the supermarket when too tired to cope.
Tearing my shoulder cuff muscles lifting my heavy three-wheeler buggy into the car boot (twice!).
Having to cut short my breastfeeding to go back on medications.
Struggling to lift and carry the boys when they were little. I couldn’t lift them up anywhere near as much as I wanted to.
Forgetting to take money with me for cake sales and the like due to brain fog = very cranky kids!
The house being chaotic and cluttered due to lack of housework.
Not taking them swimming, to the park etc because I am just exhausted.
Not having any local help as friends/family are not nearby.
Putting my families needs before me too much and then depleting myself even further.
Knowing that I am not giving them as much attention as I would like to because I am running on empty.
Cooking dreadful meals because I can’t get it together.
Struggling on when I should be in bed.
Not inviting friends for them because I can’t handle the extra effort.
Feeling guilty around the PTA Mums at school because I haven’t volunteered to help with the latest fundraising event..again.
Comparing myself to other mothers who seem just so much more capable and fun.
My youngest having a go at me for not being more sporty.
Not managing to go shopping for food.
Not being able to afford things/experiences others have due to being on a single income.

Parenting with chronic illness highs:

The kids being extra nice to me and giving me extra cuddles when I am really unwell (so sweet).
The boys carrying heavy shopping bags for me.
Lots of time cuddling on the sofa watching programmes.
Seeing them develop compassion for others through caring for me.
Being able to breastfeed at all. Very grateful for that.
Having a wonderful lady from a local charity help me with the kids for a couple of hours a week when they were little so that I could have a nap.
Having a good excuse not to do the ridiculously competitive Mum’s race at Sport’s Day! (ha ha ..never again!).
Ok, so I realise I don’t have as many highs as lows in my list, and I could add many more situations to the lows. I also am aware that some of these things may be experienced by parents without illness too. It is never a good idea to compare yourself to others!
The thing is, that every day I am blessed by the miracle of having children, and this high far outweighs all the struggles. I had two (male) rheumatologists who said it was a ridiculous idea for me to even try for a baby. They obviously didn’t know how determined I can be!
Nobody can tell you how amazing parenthood is or how difficult it will be, as each experience is unique. My boys are a joy to be with (apart from when they are arguing ;-)) and I treasure their beautiful innocence and uniqueness. I truly love being a mother and at the end of the day, I am doing my best.

Suggestions for parenting with chronic illness:

So if you are lucky enough to have kids, but unlucky enough to be experiencing a chronic illness, then I suggest the following:
  • Find community and ask for help: Having friends to talk to and rely on is vital. If you don’t feel like you have that, try to get yourself out to a place where you might make new friends. Women’s / Men’s  circles can also be incredibly helpful for expressing emotions and asking for help. Look online to see if there is one near you. You could start one of your own! There are often local parenting groups also and of course there are huge resources and groups online and on social media. I feel the online support should be in addition to a local community though as online support can be great but there is nothing like connecting with people face-to-face.
  • Practice self -care: As I have said before, self-care is essential if you are experiencing chronic illness. How can you look after others if you have nothing left to give? Practising self-care allows you to put some energy in your piggy bank so that you are more able to care for others. Read my post on self-care tips here for ideas on how to do that.
  • Plan well and write things down: Planning for me is essential to keeping on tops of things. I use my Bullet journal to keep track of my monthly/weekly/daily schedules and also for any other notes and reminders. For some great videos on Bullet Journaling check out Boho Berry.
  • Know your limits: Another tip is to manage your limited energy wisely so that you can pace yourself and not overdo it when having a good day. This is easier said than done. For more information on this read my post on energy management. Having healthy boundaries is also essential. Learn how to say no and stick to it.
  • Let go of any guilt: This can be a mother’s ruin and doesn’t serve us in any way. It is inevitable that we won’t feel good about every action, inaction or decision, but we aren’t perfect and mistakes will be made. I try to give myself the compassion that I would give to someone else and try not to give myself a hard time. We may not be able to parent in the same way healthy parents do but we can give our love and attention as best we can.


  • Trust your Intuition. Find stillness in your day to tap into your reserves of intuition. They are there and are a much better guide than outside advice, as you know your kids best.


Guilt is a supreme waste of time and energy. @Emily Giffin Click To Tweet



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Food as a Mood Booster

Food as a Mood Booster

Food as a Mood Booster

I think of local vegetables and fruit as being gifts from nature with the perfect constituents to keep us healthy. In my mind, the way we assimilate these beneficial substances from food is superior to taking a supplement and certainly a conventional medicine. With some careful planning and thought, we can introduce specific food as a mood booster into our diet to ensure that our minds and bodies are working in harmony and health.
Have you ever noticed that when you eat a lot of white bread or greasy chips, for example, you can end up feeling sluggish, bloated and grumpy?
Are you having severe mood swings due to the effects of caffeine and sugar?
Could you be deficient in essential minerals and vitamins due to eating a standard western diet that is not optimised for your well-being?
It is becoming more and more apparent that a diet rich in plant-based food is the most healthy for humans at this time. Avoiding processed food and as much sugar as possible is essential to promote health. We were just never meant to eat all those weird unpronounceable substances on the back of the majority of packaged food. Whether you then add in grass-fed meat and safe fish with your vegetables is your choice. However, if you are avoiding grains and pulses to reduce inflammation, then it will most likely be essential to add that protein back in.
I have been following the Autoimmune protocol diet for a couple of years and have enjoyed huge improvements in my health because of that. It is very restrictive and can be difficult in social situations but it is worth it to experience a transformation in your well-being.
Thankfully now there are huge online resources of information and recipes to make it easier. There are even Facebook groups and books written to guide you through the transition to the AIP diet. Essentially the Autoimmune Protocol Diet is the paleo diet with the removal of additional foods, such as nightshades, which are considered to be inflammatory. The aim is to heal a leaky gut membrane and then once that is improved, additional foods can be re-introduced in a careful manner. For more information on the AIP diet see my links page.
All the suggestions below, therefore, are in keeping with the AIP diet (with the exception of the nuts and seeds which could be an early reintroduction).

How can we use food as a mood booster?

One way is to add more protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates into your diet to help to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
When your blood sugar levels drop, you can start to feel stressed and down. The beneficial fats and complex carbohydrates help to make hormones and neurotransmitters in the body that help make you feel better. Also, many people are deficient in essential minerals such as magnesium and calcium due to our depleted soils, so adding these in is also an instant mood booster.

1) Coconut oil

Coconut oil consists of medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat which is turned into energy quickly and efficiently. This type of fat is easily used by the body so it doesn’t tend to be stored as fat deposits. It provides lasting energy and has a whole host of other benefits, such as being antibacterial, antifungal, boosting brain function and reducing cholesterol. Make sure you are buying a good quality organic extra-virgin coconut oil.

2) Bananas

There is hardly a day that goes by in the last few years that I don’t eat a banana. Bananas supply your body with lasting energy. They are rich in potassium and vitamins A, C and B6. The carbohydrates provide your body with a sustained release of energy and maintain blood sugar levels. The fibre helps fill you up and slow down digestion. The potassium assists with fluid movement in the body and consequently helps your muscles work efficiently. Also bananas help with the absorption of Tryptophan and the vitamin B6 is important in the conversion of the Tryptophan to Serotonin.  Serotonin decreases appetite and improves mood and heart health.

3) Raw nuts

Nuts are a fantastic source of long-lasting energy and protein. Almonds, cashews and hazelnuts are all high in magnesium and help convert sugar into energy. Brazil nuts have high levels of selenium which can improve mood and reduce anxiety. Avoid processed, smoked, highly sweetened or salted nuts. Go for the raw plain organic ones. You can always find a healthy recipe for a way to season them. Of course, some people can be highly allergic or intolerant to nuts, so if you are reintroducing them, do it with care and attention.


Food as a mood booster


4) Asparagus

Asparagus is a fantastic plant source of Tryptophan, one of the building blocks of Serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter in the brain. Asparagus is also high in folates which have been shown to be important in reducing depression.*

Food a sa mood booster

5) Avocados

Avocados are an incredibly versatile food that many just swear by for boosting health. I also eat these most days, whether in a smoothie, a delicious salad or a yummy cacao desert!!  Avocados are natural hormone balancers, and that is what you want to keep your brain happy and functioning well.

 6) Sesame seeds

Sesame seeds make a wonderful seasoning and contain tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid which boosts the brain’s dopamine levels. Dopamine is the chemical that allows us to have feelings of bliss and pleasure. When it is deficient, the brain cannot send messages easily. This affects behaviour, mood and cognition adversely. I like Tahini as an alternative to hummus which is not allowed on the AIP diet. Recently I had black roasted sesame seeds for the first time on a delicious meal and I adored the smoky flavour. Black sesame seeds are also an excellent source of magnesium, calcium and vitamin B1, and so are beneficial in a multitude of ways.

 7) Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is a revitalising leafy vegetable that is packed with magnesium which is needed for over 300 different chemical processes in the body. To find out more about why Magnesium is beneficial for mood, read this great article in Psychology Today. It is delicious in vegetable broth or stir-fried with garlic and lemon juice. If you aren’t a leaf loving person, you can always stick it in a green smoothie.
Food as a mood booster

8) Foods rich in probiotics

Include water kefir/ kombucha/ raw sauerkraut in your diet for the beneficial effects on your gut microbiome. The number of probiotic cultures in these foods exceeds natural yoghurt by far.  A healthy microbiome can also help a person to stay calm and relaxed.
Food as a mood booster

What we eat and how we feel is obviously intimately interlinked. Also, food intolerance reactions can affect you days after ingestion. If you suspect that you have some food intolerances, I strongly suggest seeing a qualified nutritionist to get some help with your diet.

Food as a mood booster is an easy and wholesome way to increase vitality, positive outlook and energy.

Why not have a look at your diet and see if you can incorporate some of these mood-boosting foods daily.

J Affect Disord. 2000 Nov;60(2):121-30. Enhancement of the antidepressant action of fluoxetine by folic acid: a randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Coppen A1, Bailey J.

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What I Learnt this Week about my Personality Type

What I Learnt this Week about my Personality Type

What I Learnt this Week about my Personality Type

So what kind of personality do you have?


In my last post (How well do you know your own personality?), I wrote about how I had fun with the online 16personalities test last year. Not only was it entertaining but it also helped me feel validated and encouraged as it was so accurate in its’ assessment. Today I want to elaborate on why it was really helpful and interesting to me when I retook the test this week (6 months after the first one).

What I learnt last year about my personality type:

 As a Mediator:
  • We seek harmony
  • We are flexible, open-minded and passionate.
  • Mediators are dedicated and hard-working.
  • Mediators are hopelessly romantic, poetic and kind-hearted.
  • Beware of withdrawing into hermit mode. (I definitely have a tendency to do that and stop contacting friends.)
  • Gift for languages. (Maybe I need to take up a language again, I certainly loved languages at school.)
  • Difficult to get to know. (It takes me ages to bond with people on the whole, apart from a special few who must be soul mates because as soon as I met them I felt like I had known them forever.)
personality type

Under the career section for my personality type it said this:

“It is perhaps more challenging for INFPs to find a satisfying career than any other type. Though intelligent, the regimented learning style of most schools makes long years earning an advanced degree a formidable undertaking for people with the INFP personality type – at the same time, that’s often what’s needed to advance in a field that rings true for them. INFPs often wish that they could just be, doing what they love without the stress and rigour of professional life.”
This rings so true for me, as I found professional life very stressful and overwhelming. It goes on to say that writing, if not a novel, then blogging is perfect for my personality type as well as service careers such as working as a holistic therapist.

Yay, I seem to be heading in the right last!



Personality Type

Here is the interesting bit:

Comparing results

When I took this test 6 months ago I wrote down the results and then pretty much forgot about it. When I came across the results again whilst looking through my old Bullet journal I thought I would write this post but also take the test again to see if the results were repeatable.
I like to be critical of data and stay grounded in science despite my more mystical side, and so I was curious about whether the results would be the same. I am aware that we change energetically from moment to moment and also that our moods might affect how we answer the questions.
In fact, I got very similar results to last time but came out as more introverted (74% – this feels more accurate). The other results were very much similar to before but one variable had changed by 3%. This meant that I now was 55% Judging ( I had been 49% before) and interestingly this made me now a INFJ-T.

That small change had made me a different personality type!

I am now an Advocate!

Now, I hear you cry, that it is all a load of rubbish as I got a different result the second time. The way I see it is that the change from INFP-T to a INFJ-T is a subtle one. Only one variable has changed and only by a few percent, but that has been enough to put me in a different category.
Advocates only make up 1% of the population. It is interesting as the personality type is very similar to the mediator but is more decisive and organised. Over the last 6 months, I have been focused very much on getting more organised and planning with my bullet journal system both for my blog and my personal life. So it is fascinating to me that this effort on my part has produced a shift in my results. 

 personality type


Scientists tell us about plasticity in the brain. Neuroplasticity is where experiences, behaviour and neural changes can reorganise new circuits in the brain. I find this an exciting prospect. This means we have some control over who we are and how we function and cope with life.
Barbara Arrowsmith is an amazing example of what brain training can achieve. Since her childhood, she suffered from several severe mental disabilities. She did not allow that to stop her. She had an inspiring inventor father who told her that if there was no solution yet for a problem, then you had to find it yourself. She invented her own method to rewire her brain and make the healthy parts of her brain perform the functionality that the damaged ones could not do. Her inspiring TED talk is here if you would like to hear more about her journey and neuroplasticity.


All in all, I don’t mind whether I am categorised as a Mediator or and Advocate as they both ring true for me. However, as I have essentially ended up being an Advocate for people with Rheumatoid Disease, then that is perhaps what I have become! Also, advocates are apparently suited to writing and also art and music.

So I am still on the right lines ..yay again!   


Personality type


So, in the context of mental health, I am thinking that this 16personalities test could be very helpful for people with mild mental health issues. (Of course, if you have a more serious mental health condition this is probably not going to be right for you, and it is advisable to see a professional for help.)

For example, if you are experiencing slight anxiety or depression, then perhaps by knowing your personality type you may be able to make adjustments to your lifestyle, work or social life that could be more beneficial to you.

Also, an understanding of your personality weak and strong points may help by giving an insight into how you deal with life and provide you with some tools and pointers to help along the way. Encouraging your nearest and dearest to also take the test could help you to relate and understand one another better.

Sometimes other people’s behaviour can be baffling and seem insensitive, but if we can see that they are actually running on a different operating system, (their personality type), then perhaps we can be more accepting of their behaviour and differences.

A lot of different flowers make a bouquet. Muslim Origin Click To Tweet

Why not take the test?

Comment below on whether you found the test helpful and accurate.

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