Saturday, 8 October 2016

Nothing Like a Nice Bowl of Soup

One of my biggest cooking obsessions at the moment is soup. It's so easy; you can make batches; it's healthy; it stores well and there is just so many options! A big favourite of mine at the moment is Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup, and today I'm going to run through my recipe as it's a great one for spoonies.

Well, I say it's a great one for fellow spoonies. I'm not going to lie, this is definitely one to make on a good day rather than a bad day, but it can be stored in the fridge or in the freezer and just hiked out when you need a quick, healthy meal with no effort. A worthwhile to spend a small chunk of a good day in my opinion.

So what do you need?

1 onion (or I use frozen diced onion and chuck a good old handful in)
3 carrots (or you could use a small bag of prepared carrots even if they're batons)
2 sweet potatoes peeled and slice or cubed or whatever you fancy (you may be able to get some pre-prepared sweet potatoes, but I'm not sure)
1 litre of stock (vegetable or chicken or whatever floats your boat)
Garlic (or I use garlic powder though)

From here you can funk it up however you want. This time I used some chilli powder for a kick, and some mixed herbs.

So to start with, get a big old saucepan (honestly, you want the biggest one). Pop some oil in the bottom, heat up the pan and chuck in your onions. If you're using real garlic, crush it up and put it in now as well. I get my onions going for a little bit before I put in my garlic powder.

Once your onions have softened up nicely, throw in your carrots and mix round as well. Now's probably a good time to put in any of the herbs and spices you're using. Add your sweet potato in too, and follow it with your litre of stock.

Now for the easy bit. Give it all a good stir, and then leave it alone. Maybe stir occasionally if you can be bothered or feel like it. You want to leave it until your carrots and sweet potato have all gone super soft. This can be as quick as 20 minutes, or I like to leave mine on a real low heat for an hour whilst I'm making and eat my dinner usually.



Once it's all soft and squidgy you're nearly in the final stages. Take your saucepan off the stove and placed it on a solid surface with a mat as required - obviously the pan is heavy so watch weak wrists and fingers at this point as it's all too easy to end up spilling burning hot liquid over yourself and no food is worth that.

This next bit you have to be really careful with as well. I've burnt myself on more than one occasion doing this because I don't concentrate. You want to blitz your soup into actual soup now. To do this you can either put it into a blender, or I use a hand blender. All too often I lose concentration though and end up spraying boiling soup up my arm, so you do really have to focus at this point and take it steady. Blitz the soup until all the lumps have gone (unless you're into random lumps of carrot and sweet potato, then leave some of them!).

You now have ready to eat soup! Yummy! At this point I normally dish this out into my plastic dishes and get it ready to freeze or throw in the fridge. If you're eating straight away, feel free to enjoy with some bread.



I find the recipe does me 3 decent sized bowls of soup, so it's a good one to have for lunches during the week, or to freeze as a quick evening meal. I just microwave until roasting hot when I'm ready to eat. This takes between 3 and 4 minutes from fridge and will obviously be way longer from frozen.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Sweet Treats

It's been a little while since I shared one of my easy-to-make recipes, so I thought it was about time I did another one... So now it's time for dessert.

I don't know about you, but all I really want pretty much all of the time is sweet stuff. Chocolate preferably. And cakes. And icing. and generally lots of naughty things. But as we all know, it's bad for you to have too much of this stuff. And it can be especially bad for us spoonies to consume too much when we don't necessarily have the ability to work it all off. So I've been looking on good ol' Pinterest for healthy recipes and this is one that I love. It's soooo easy, so simple, tastes great and satisfies that sweet craving without being horrendously bad.

All you need is 3 ingredients. Yep, only THREE.
- 3 bananas (well ripened)
- 120g smooth nut butter (I use almond butter, I'm obsessed with it!)
- Cocoa powder to taste - I used about 6 teaspoons worth, but do it depending on your preference.

The other thing you ideally need to make this recipe as easy as possible, is a blender. I just have a cheap little hand blender that I swear by for pretty much everything.


As you can tell, I only remembered to take this picture AFTER I had chucked all the ingredients in the blender and started to blitz... but you get the idea. Bananas, smooth nut butter and cocoa powder.

Once it's all blitzed together you have this sauce type stuff. It looks pretty yummy just as it is. All you need to do now is grab a small tin and have your oven pre-heated to about 200 degrees centigrade. I line my tin with foil because I'm really lazy, but you can do it properly and use baking parchment and use butter or similar to grease the sides. Coconut oil would probably a great alternative to butter if you're being super healthy.

Chuck the batter in the tin and throw it in the oven for 20 minutes. When it's done, leave to cool. Cut up and enjoy...

As you can see, I'm *impatiently* waiting for mine to cool so I can cut it up and enjoy.

With this, I imagine it will last pretty well for a few days in the fridge in an airtight container. But let's be honest... who can leave chocolatey goodness alone for a few days?!

Friday, 9 September 2016

Pain for Gain

The phrase often goes "no pain, no gain," but rarely is that actually the case for an EDS sufferer. Normally pain is just a fact of life and you gain nothing from it but tiredness and if you're real lucky (that's sarcasm folks) then you get to have exhaustion, insomnia, and all sorts of fun and games.

One thing that I have had to try and teach myself about lately though is "good" pain... the "getting gains" type of pain... Ever since I started using the gym, going to pilates and trying to get fitter this year, I have been having to try and learn this good pain.

Trying to differentiate between the burning pain of working out, and the bad pain that is your joints protesting their inability is a hard one. At times it's near-on impossible to differentiate and if you get it wrong, it can be really bad.

I stopped working out in June until just this month... I don't really know why I stopped other than pure laziness. I did the odd day here and there and tried to eat a bit healthy but mostly I slipped back into my old ways. I wrote about a bad flare I had as a result of this back in July... I also know I wrote about trying to get motivated again in August. It didn't work... but I'm getting there now. I'm using weights and the last few times I have really felt the burn.

One of the main things I have been told on more than one occasion is that I need to strengthen my core. This is because your core is where an awful lot of your stability comes from. Zebras with EDS will know that one of the fun old symptoms of it can included a loss of balance and co-ordination. I'm a big old tick in that box. I regularly fall over thin air and I have lost count of how many times I have fallen into my desk or miscalculated where it is in relation to my body at work... My legs are a living testament to this as they are black and blue with bruises. But I digress.

So, working to improve my core strength is a big goal of what I am trying to achieve. I'm also trying to improve my leg strength to better stabilise my joints, work on the strength of my arms as I have zero upper body strength... and just generally improve my fitness. So I use weights and various exercises that work a whole bunch of these things together... But I have really had to learn between what is the pain of my thigh muscles working hard and improving, and what is my hip bone grinding away more of the cartilage.

It's a difficult journey and it's hard to learn. I don't always get it right, but I am getting stronger. Now I get to have days where I can moan about my legs and arms hurting, but I get to follow it with the phrase "but it's good pain." It's the pain that tells me my muscles have been worked hard and are going to get stronger from. It's not the pain that leaves me feeling like my world is falling apart.

So fellow zebras, please try and remember that there is good pain and bad pain. It's just a case of learning how to achieve one without the other, and maybe achieving the good pain might assist with limiting the bad pain....

I'm currently obsessed with my kettle bell weight (only a measly 3kg but present enough of a challenge for my weeks limbs) and my hand weights (a bulkier 2.5kg each.... these are blooming hard work and in hindsight I should have ordered 2kg. They didn't have them on the shelf when I was making my purchase though, and 1kg was too little, and I was impatient.)


What exercises do you like to do? Have you tried weight training?

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Chaos

Life has been it's usual slightly chaotic self again lately. I've been managing to find some crafty time, but at the expense of exercise time. I've not done any proper exercise for a while now.

My gym membership expired at the end of July, and I took the decision not to renew it partly down to cost, but also to try and make me self-motivate to exercise at home. After all, what is the point in having 2 yoga mats, an exercise ball, skipping rope, weights, a kettle bell and an exercise bike all at home if you're never going to use them. Needless to say though, I haven't quite succeeded at the self motivation part - instead I've been doing other things.

This is going to change though, because I can definitely feel the difference in my joints, and my body as a whole when I don't exercise. What I'd love to do is reach a point where my body can tolerate the impact of running. I've got it to a level where it can tolerate quite a large amount of walking, so now it's time to increase that to running. I've always been envious of runners you see. There's something so freeing about it all.

I guess it's going to be a case of taking the time to re-train my body to do exercise and cope with it, and then it'll be a case of building it up slowly and gradually. I know I need to improve the strength in my ankles before I can even contemplate starting to run, but I'm hoping I'll get there!

Maybe if I can get to a point where I can actually do a fairly decent run, I could do a fundraising run for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome research, and wouldn't that be something!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Quick Bites

As part of my health kick, I've been trying to find something that satisfies my naughty biscuit craving.... And I've found one that's not perfect but it's pretty darn good. These "cookies" have the same texture as the middle squidgy bit of a really good (really naughty) cookie.... and they're only 3 ingredients!!!!

All you need is 2 ripe bananas, 1 cup of oats, and then an extra of your choice, I like to use a couple of *small* handfuls of dark chocolate chips for mine, and they are super yummy.

To make these is super duper easy...


  • Preheat your oven to about 180 degrees celsius.
  • Line a tray with foil or greaseproof paper.
  • Peel and mash the bananas. If your joints aren't up to mashing, then you can use a food processor for this bit.
  • Mix the cup of oats with the 2 mashed bananas.
  • Add any yummy bits like chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, etc at this point and mix well again.
  • Place spoonfuls onto the tray, I normally get between 8&10 depending on the size of my spoonfuls, 
  • Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are starting to brown off.
  • Allow to cool for a brief spell, then peel off the foil or paper.
  • ENJOY the chewy yummy goodness!

This is the pre-oven cookies. They look like the real deal even at this point...

And the finished product:


NOM!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Flare Up

Lately I've been talking a lot about what a difference exercising and a healthier diet have made to me. I've not had any bad flare ups since I started exercising regularly, I got myself a fairly okay bikini body for my holiday and the pain that I did have was manageable. It was beautiful.

Then I got a great big slap of reality. I came back from holiday and kept telling myself "next week I'll get back on the health kick, the exercising, etc; next week I will". The problem was, "next week" was always put off a little longer, and a little longer.... It didn't matter though I thought, I wasn't piling back on the pounds; I was happy, life was good, it didn't matter. I was wrong.

I'd had the stirrings of a flare up going on for a few days in hindsight, but at the time I didn't realise it as I had gone so long without one. I was just cracking on with life, the constant nag of pain was there, but whatever, it was always going to be there. Then it happened. The murmur of pain became slightly louder. I thought it odd, but I carried on. I went to my pilates class as normal that evening, as sometimes this has helped me during a flare, and to be honest I thought it would just settle the pain back to a murmur. God was I wrong. That was the beginning of the end that evening. My hips clunked louder than ever with every leg movement, I could feel the grind of the cartilage. My back kept twinging constantly. I struggled to even maintain the lowest level of plank, when I had been just starting to master the main level of plank. It was a disaster.

I came home, I got in a hot shower, and I cried. I poured myself a large drink, took some painkillers (remember kids, DON'T take meds with alcohol, I'm an irresponsible adult, so do as I say, not as I do) and curled up feeling sorry for me whilst I watched the final of a programme I like. Then I went to bed and cried some more until I slept.

The next day was even worse. That murmur had become a shout and scream and bellow. I couldn't walk properly, my back was killing me, my hips were killing me, my shoulders were killing me.... Lets be honest here, my everything was killing me. It was a nightmare. But I wasn't ready to admit defeat. So I dragged my ass into work, and for the first time at this job, my colleagues got to see what my illness really meant to me. We've talked about it in passing before, but I don't think they've really ever seen it as a serious problem as they've never seen me not coping with it. But this time they did.

They were supportive, thankfully. They did their best to make me laugh, to minimise the stress on my joints, and ensured they offered to adapt my work tasks. I hauled my ass through that whole damn day, and was exhausted. But I carried on, because I knew I needed to this time. I was not ready to admit defeat to my body this time.

Thankfully, having forced myself to take a walk that night as well, to try and ease out some of the pain, I woke up to just a chatter the next day. It was in that moment that I realised what I needed to do. I needed to get back into routine, and exercise again and eat healthily. So that's what I've been doing. I've mentally committed to trying to do at least 20 minutes of some sort of exercise every night, and hopefully I'll get myself back to where I've been of being in control of this beast.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Busy Bee

Life has been so crazy busy for me lately. I've been running at pretty much maximum since my last post, and I just haven't really had chance to get near a (non-work) computer. It's been ridiculous.

So, let's do a bit of catch up then... Around the last time I wrote, I was heading out to Santorini for a holiday with my beloved other half, and to watch one of my friends tie the knot. It was pretty darn exciting, and part of the reason I had been working so hard at eating healthier and exercising more, as I really did want a better beach body. It wasn't perfect still, but it was a darn sight better than what I started 2016 with.

Whilst in Santorini, I had to test my limits, a lot. But it was all for the better, and it turned out I got to see a real improvement from all the exercise I had done. Our hotel was halfway up a very steep hill, and whilst this meant it was only about 5 minutes down to the beach, it did also mean that it was about 15 minutes back up to the hotel. Nightmare. But none the less I managed to do that climb every day, at least once a day, and more often than not, I did it twice a day!

The first time we did it, I thought I was going to pass out/puke, but that was also because it was 2pm, sweltering hot, and I was tired out from exploring the beach front. I recovered much quicker that I ever used to before though, and was happily by the pool not even 15 minutes after reaching our hotel.


This was the view from our balcony; as you can see we were pretty high up, and if you can see the car in the second picture, you get a bit of an idea of how steep the hill was!

Anyway, I soldiered on with that, and went off to watch my friend get married and enjoyed a wonderful evening with her, to then go on to face my next challenge!

We booked an all day boat excursion to see some more of the island, including the volcano, a smaller island off of the main island, and ending in Oia. This day really put me to the test again, as it involved climbing up the volcano over uneven, stoney ground. It was bloody hardwork and near on killed me.


But it was worth it.... once we stopped off at the little island, and had a spot of lunch, I was pretty tired, but we still had my next challenge to undertake - the 280 steps from the port up to Oia, the place where pretty much all beautiful pictures of Santorini are taken, and THE place to watch the sunset. I had to get there. There was the option to pay €5 for a donkey ride up to the top, but I wanted to do it off my own steam. So I did it. It took me a long time, and I had to take plenty of breaks. I wanted to cry, but I made it. And that was the most satisfying achievement I have had in a long time... Boy did I get a reward for it to...

So, that was my holiday, and one of my *many* reasons for my large absence from the blog lately. Never fever though, normality will be returning hopefully.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Cheating Pizza

The other day I came in and I was exhausted. I only needed to cook for myself, and I just couldn't face going through a huge effort for anything. But I wanted food and I didn't want a takeaway. I didn't know what to do.

I had a little rummage through the cupboards and the fridge. I really wanted pizza, but we didn't have any in the freezer, and I had already ruled out a takeaway. I was wondering what I could do to ease the craving. Then I figured it out. I could make a fake pizza, and it would only take a couple of minutes to make, and it didn't matter what food was in the cupboard as I could easily change it up.

So I made a cheat pizza.... It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty darn tasty, and I enjoyed it. This was my one that night.


So, what do you need to make this tasty thing? Well the beauty of it is that it's pretty flexible. The main things you need are:

  • 1 Tortilla wrap
  • Handful or 2 of grated cheese

For this one I also used the following ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • Handful of frozen sweetcorn
  • Handful of pre-cooked prawns
To make this cheat pizza is so straight forward. You can either oven or grill it, depending on what toppings you use. Grilling will cook the tortilla quicker, so only use this if you've not got a topping that needs to be piping hot. I used the oven for mine as I wanted to make sure my prawns were heated through thoroughly before eating. Nobody wants to end up with a poorly belly!
  • Warm your oven or grill to arrange 200 degrees celsius.
  • Place your tortilla on a tray
  • If using tomato puree, put this on the tortilla and spread it around evenly
  • Scatter your cheese over the tortilla. I like a lot of cheese so I used a fair bit for this, if you don't like it so much, then don't use too much
  • Add any other toppings on now. You could use pre-cooked chicken, pre-cooked bacon, peppers, spinach, tuna, ham, pineapple. Whatever takes your fancy, just remember to not load it up too much as the base is not as stable as a normal pizza base!
  • Pop your tray with the "pizza" into the oven or under the grill. Then watch it carefully. Grilling takes about 5-10 minutes, but do keep an eye on it. In the oven it may taken 15+ minutes. Just ensure that anything that needs to be reheated thoroughly is done so (like chicken or prawns).
  • Once done, remove from the oven/grill and slide onto a plate. Then cut with a knife and enjoy!
I'd recommend cutting it into smaller slice than I did on the one in the picture as I found it to be very unstable and that make eating it more difficult. It was pretty tasty though and definitely made for a fairly satisfying dinner without too much exertion!

What toppings would you use when making this?

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Time for Something New

I had to make a big decision recently. It was, what feels like, one of the first big decisions I've had to make regarding my health. Sure, you could count the decision to eat healthier and exercise more as a relatively big decision, but that didn't feel as big as this....

As of next week, I will no longer drive a manual vehicle. I am getting rid of my lovely Honda Civic that is a 2.2 turbo diesel, 6 speed manual, for something else... I've got a Honda CRV automatic.

This was quite a big decision for me to make as I actually really enjoy driving. Whilst I hate when I don't know where I'm going, and hate driving with my boyfriend as a passenger, I do genuinely enjoy driving. I've come to enjoy the power that I get from my civic, and knowing exactly how it handles. Getting off to a fast start away from traffic lights, etc. Driving manual has always been a pleasure.

That was, until a couple of years ago, when I started to have problems with my left ankle. Now I'd already reached a point where I couldn't drive long journeys before this time. I can't sit in the driving position for longer than about 45 minutes without a break, and after that break the time gets less and less until I've had a sleep. It just gets too painful and I get too stiff. But then I started to have problems with my ankle, and it was on the side you need to use to change gear. I went through a 2 week flare where every time I drove I was crying because it was so painful to change gear. I avoided driving at all times apart from where absolutely necessary.

Thankfully that bad flare calmed down, but it has had a a lasting effect. Now I can no longer cope with being stuck in traffic. The constant need to move your foot up and down on the clutch as you crawl along is agony. I can be stuck in traffic for only 15 minutes and it will leave me exhausted, crying in pain, and on the verge of vomiting as my pain levels peak. Unfortunately for me, I often get stuck in traffic.

So something had to change. I was just coming to terms with the fact that in a few months I was really going to have to look for a new car, when my other half rang me. An automatic CRV had become available, did I want it.

We had a few long talks about it. Was a really ready to commit to this? Would he still let me drive his car occasionally to keep my hand in with drive manual? Could I afford it? Was this the right option?

Eventually it all boiled down to one thing. I had to do it. I had to take the plunge and for the first time in a long time, let my condition rule a decision. So I bought the car. I have to be honest, I do love it. It's going to make things so much easier and as it's a taller car it's going to be easier to get in and out of as well, which is another bonus for when I'm having problems.


So here is my new baby. She really is a beauty, and I'm sure I'm going to enjoy driving her.

And what did I learn from all of this?
Sometimes, just sometimes, it is okay to let this debilitating illness rule your decisions.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Dinner Time

As many a zebra will know, dinner time can be a bit of a stress when you've got to feed yourself, let alone feeding anyone else in the Hopefully y. I have a deal with my other half that I don't have to do any cleaning, but I do have to cook instead. I, personally, find cooking uses less spoons than cleaning, so it's a deal that works really well for me. It also means that if I'm having a really bad day, I have alternative options of providing my chore, either frozen pre-made dinners that I've done on a good day, or good old fashioned take out.

Cooking can still be bloody hard work though, even when it's not a really bad day. Sometimes just the effort that goes into providing a nutritious meal and trying to get some back up meals out of it can be difficult. So I thought I'd start to share some of my go to meals. I'll try to be as thorough in sharing exactly what is involved in the process so you can see how this could affect your pain levels and use your spoons. All of these meals are quite plain and simple as well, as my other half is quite a fussy eater. He would genuinely live on meat and chips if I'd let him, with sides of crisps, chocolate and yoghurts.

Anyway, the first meal I'm going to cover in this set of posts (which I'm going to label as "SpoonieFeeding" to make it easy to find them), is going to be one of my weekend favourites. I grew up having this meal at home as a child, and I used to hate it, but now it's one of my favourites. It's a real winter warmer, but definitely still nice to have any time, just can be a bit much on a hot summer's day. It is a basic beef casserole and this is my mother's recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Stewing beef - I buy just basic stuff from the supermarket & normally get around 900g
  • Carrots - I use 3-6 depending on their size. 
  • Celery - I use no more than 2 sticks as it is only me that eats this bit, but you can use more if you all like it
  • Onion - this is optional and I don't always use it. If I do it's anywhere between 1/4 of one and a whole 1.
  • Gravy - you want at least a pint of the stuff
  • Beef stock cube - 1 of these bad boys should be sufficient
  • Salt & Pepper - pinches to taste
  • Tomato puree - I use between 1 tsp and 1 tbsp
  • Worcestershire sauce - this is also optional but you can't really taste it in the dish, it just helps add to the flavour. A glug or two of this is all you need.


Method:

  • Firstly, you obviously want to make sure you've got all your ingredients together. It sounds silly, but I have lost count of the number of times I've started making this and realised I've run out of something, today's images will come from a key example of this, where I realised I had no celery. Oops.
  • Make sure you have time to make this. You need to allow at least 3 hours for this to cook, so it's definitely more of a day off make than a work day make... unless you want to cook at a lower temperature all day I guess
  • Make sure you've popped your oven on. You're looking for about 160 degrees Celsius. This is a nice low, slow cook.
  • Get a casserole dish, and chuck your meat in. This should ideally be defrosted if you've frozen it, but I often forget to get mine out with enough time to defrost, so mine is usually partly defrosted. For this reason I leave my casserole to cook for an extra hour generally, but find what works for you. The instructions on the meat always say to brown it first, but I've never bothered and I don't find it gives me an issue - one less pan to wash up!
  • Now you want to peel your carrots. I sometimes find using peelers really hard. I've got one that has a nice chunky handle on it and the blade works either way. I actually got this one from John Lewis and found it to be very spoonie friendly. You can get carrots that don't need peeling, and these are a good option too. 
  • Once you've peeled (or washed) your carrots, you want to top & tail them, and then cut them into nice chunky lumps. I keep mine about an inch long, They're going to be cooking for a good long while so you want them to still look carrot-y at the end.
  • Wash your celery and top and tail this. Again, you want to cut it into chunky pieces. At this point you can also add finely diced onion if you're using it, or any other veg you might want to use like leek, parsnip, etc. The joy of this meal is that it doesn't have to be exact.
  • Throw your carrots, celery, and any other veg you're using, in with the meat in the casserole dish. We're nearly there now, and there's not much left to do before you can go back to having some self-care or curling up on the sofa. 
  • Now is the time to add your tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, and salt & pepper. I also put in my stock cube now. I find the Oxo beef cubes quite easy to crush into a powder, but you might prefer to use a liquid one that you can measure out, or the stock pots. Do whatever is easiest for you. You don't need to mix this up into a full liquid with boiling water, just add it as is.
This is my casserole in process, just before I added the gravy. As you can see, I forgot to make sure I had celery beforehand. Oops!

  • We're now at the last stage before you can go relax for a few hours. You need to make some gravy up. For this, you want to make at least a pint. Do this in whatever way you normally would with boiling water. I use bisto but you might use something else. Once you've made it, pour it over everything else in the casserole dish and give it a little stir.
  • Now all you need to do is cover it with your lid and put it in the oven. Depending on your wrist/finger strength this can be a little difficult sometimes, and please be cautious if you suffer from bad shakes. I've burnt myself on more than one occasion because of this. 
  • Once the door is shut, you can go and chill. Put your feet up, watch some tv, remember to stay hydrated. Make a note of what time you put your dinner in the oven.
Finally, when you're getting close to the end, you want to do something to go with it. You could just serve it in a bowl and have some bread rolls with it. I like to serve mine with mash, so about half hour before it finishes I peel a few potatoes and boil them down, getting my other half to mash them afterwards. When I do mash, I serve with peas as well just to get a few more veg into Mr. Fussy.
Another nice little treat is to put dumplings in your casserole. To do this just buy some suet and make it up as per the instructions. Put these into the casserole about 20 minutes before it finishes and you will have some stodgy loveliness to go with your casserole. Yummy!

The great thing with this dinner is how easily you can play with the volumes. The amount of casserole I make serves 4. We have half for dinner on the day, and the other half gets frozen to be reheated one evening after work in the future. All you have to do is defrost it, chuck it in a saucepan and gently bring it back up to temperature; it takes about 30 minutes and means you have another easy meal for in the week. You could easily make this to serve more people though and use it if you've got people coming over, or to feed a whole family.

Here's where there should be a finished picture of my casserole, but I got a bit over excited about food and forgot to take one. Oops! Hopefully I might get one when I do a meal with the leftovers that are now ssafelyin the freezer. Nom!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Finger Pain

Ever since I started exercising regularly, eating healthy and losing a little bit of weight, my pain levels have been slightly more bearable and I haven't had horrendous flares (touch wood).  I get the occasional bit of tummy ache when I do eat badly now, but nothing like the problems I was having at the end of last year. It's all been pretty good.

The last week though, has not been so good, and I'm not sure whether there is something I can do to make it better, or if I need to continue to accept that no matter what I do, sometimes my body is still going to hate me in pretty mean ways. I've made no real changes to my routines or anything else, but all this week my fingers have been giving me problems.

I'm talking like stupid levels of pain through every joint in the finger; pains that radiate down to my wrist and out through my entire hands. The time of pain that makes you want to pull your fingers off. It's been very strange and infuriating.  It's also given me very restless fingers in one hand. There's been a couple of days this week where I've not been able to stop my fingers from twitching and tapping and moving around, regardless of what I do.

I don't really know what to do to try and help ease this one. I've not had problems with my hands for quite a while. I used to get really bad shakes but discovered this was more anxiety related than anything, and as long as I keep my anxiety under control then the shakes stay in control. But generally I only get really bad pain through my fingers when I'm in the midst of a full body flare.

It's bizarre and rather unnerving, but I'm going to deal with it as best as I can. I suppose it's a case of watch this space to see what happens.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Leaps and Bounds

Things have been really good lately. I'm not trying to brag, I'm just appreciating this fact for once. The other weekend I managed to walk - in low heels - about 1.5 miles from where I had been drinking in town with my friend, back to my house. Admittedly it was all down hill, and I had had more than a couple of drinks to take the edge of any pain, but none the less, it really wasn't too bad. I didn't even wake up in horrendous pain the next day like I would have done back in the day.

It may almost seem like I'm "cured". That is until a new version of "bad days" arrives. Where my knee keeps popping and feeling like it's not quite in joint all evening... where my "good" hip won't stop grinding every time I walk further than 2 steps for most of the day.... where my big toe is causing me such agony that changing gears whilst driving is pretty agonising.... where my fingers feel like they're on fire every time I type.

So no, I'm not cured, but my realities are better than they have been for a while. My flares aren't so intense these days. I still have them, but they aren't quite so vomit-inducing. They don't make me want to hack the body part(s) off with the nearest implement I can find..,. They're far more tolerable.

I realise that lately all my posts have been about "look how well I'm doing at the gym", and "look at all these healthy meals I'm cooking", "look at all this energy I have"... So I felt I needed to bring a hit of the less positive reality in as well. Just to keep on point, y'know.

Exercise works for some people. It seems to be easing my symptoms, and for that I'm ridiculously grateful. But it doesn't cure me. It doesn't take this bugger of a condition away. My life is still owned by this disease, I'm just winning some control back.

If you've got the ability to do a small amount of physical exercise, try it. It might be worth it. Try not to let the first bad day with it put you off. I let that happen too many times. What I didn't learn until recently is I have to find what works for ME. Not any one else, just me. It might be a case of walking around the house twice just to get a little more tired. Just to raise the heart rate slightly... Or maybe just taking that can of beans and doing some curls with it. Just to make your arms ache a little. All these little movements can slowly add up to much more.

Likewise, if you can't do exercise, don't beat yourself up. It's not worth it. Living with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome means you've got to find what makes your life bearable, and that means finding the right self-care for you.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Healthy Healthy Healthy

I'm at it again.  Showing off my healthy dinners. I gotta be honest though, yesterday is the first day I've actually full on adored and demolished my healthy dinner, and didn't have a slight bit of resentment for it's healthiness. What makes this even better is I did a (very rough) calorie count on it, and it came in at under 400 calories. And I was stuffed. It was basically a miracle.

Here's a snapshot of the dinner I cooked after spending a good half hour at the gym....


This little beauty consisted of my new favourite obsession; courgetti that was seasoned with a small amount of chilli powder and a teaspoon of tomato puree; spinach, cauliflower and salmon. I topped it off with a little bit of mozzarella cheese as well done to myself for being healthy. It was delicious.

In other news, I've been busy busy busy working on my stamina and general wellbeing to try and improve my ability to cope with my condition. It's not been easy, but hey, it's worth it. The gym is going well, I can manage 15 minutes on the cross trainer at a reasonable pace and not be completely dying afterwards. I can even go on to do 10 minutes on the rowing machine if I have a small break between. Both of these low impact exercises are making a difference to my general strength and fitness levels and it's really comforting to know I'm getting somewhere at last... In fact, I've reached a point where I can begin weight training again as repetitive movements aren't the agony they were before. They still can hurt a fair bit, and I'm still having to learn to understand the warning signs that stuff isn't workout pain, it's EDS pain, but I'm getting there.

Give me some time and I might get to look like this eventually
Haha... in the distant, distant future maybe.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Successfully Busy

Things have been pretty busy again lately. I've been working extra hard at the gym, doing over time and catching up with some friends. It's safe to say that my spoons are being pushed to their maximum, but I am finding that the more frequently I exercise, the better my spoons last.

Yesterday was the first day in a reasonable time I have struggled with my pain. Yesterday was the first day in a while that I have sat down a lot. I find the more I sit, the more tired I feel and the more my joints ache. It's very strange but I am at least learning & noticing patterns that I am finding.

In terms of reaching this point, it's taken a fair bit of work. I go to the gym at least twice a week, and also do further exercise at home as and when. I've had to try and sort my diet out as well, and I've found that eating healthier has also made a huge difference to my general well being. I'm not cured. I still reach a point of exhaustion far quicker than a healthy person. And that damn nagging ache has never left. But as a whole, I feel better. I'll never get rid of that constant nagging whine in my joints. It's like a constant buzz that doesn't stop regardless of what you do. But I'll take that any day over screaming pains that I used to get on a frequent basis.

Here's a sample of one of my lunches the other day which includes one of my favourite recent discovery; courgetti (basically long thin strips of courgette that you can use instead of spaghetti, nom nom nom!)

I genuinely never thought I would find vegetables so filling, but this had me stuffed. It's just asparagus, beans, tenderstem brocolli and my beloved courgetti.

I've also been making the effort to make better food choices in general. I went out for dinner at an Italian the other night with a friend, and whilst I could have happily have had a starter to myself followed by a massive bowl of pasta, we instead opted to share a garlic bread starter (because everyone needs a treat!) and then I follow it up with this delight.

Chicken wrapped in prosciutto, with roasted new potatoes and broccoli. Again, it was not the healthiest thing on the menu (I had the option to have a salad), it was still not a massive amount of
carbs and felt like a treat. No dessert for me though!

And this is why... this is what I'm working hard for:
This is me the other night. Slightly less lumps and bumps than I did have. I now have clearly defined calf muscles when I stand on tiptoes... I have slight definition in my arms when I tense. All stuff I've never had before.

I still have a long way to go, and I know that as a side effect of my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, I will never be ripped (it's common to have problems gaining and toning muscle for some reason; probably collagen related), but I might just get some tone and a bit slimmer, and what more can a girl ask for?

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Oh No

Uh-oh, I've been doing that thing where I go super quiet and rubbish at blogging again. Sorry! I've been improving general work/life balance, but I've not quite got there just yet with the blogging balance as well - I'll get there soon though!

So what's new lately? I guess the biggest news is that I've gotten myself motivated and got my butt into gear to go a bit more hardcore on my exercise -  as hardcore as a spoonie can anyway! I'm still working hard at not overdoing it and using all my spoons up before the end of the day, as I hate nothing more than that feeling of complete and utter exhaustion and still knowing that I need to shower before I go to bed, so instead I found this great way to get myself stronger without overdoing it.

What is it, I hear you ask. Well, lovely zebras and spoonies, it's that wonderful thing that I used to be obsessed with a few years ago, but in an even better format; Pop Pilates.

On YouTube there is a channel called Blogilates, run by an insane American lady called Cassie who comes across as so lovely, but she really loves her insane workouts. I mean, this woman is seriously hardcore. When I first started doing her videos I'd end up managing the first minute and the last minute, and if I was really lucky a couple of moves in between those times. It was just too hard, and I think it did deter me a little bit, rather than motivate me,

However, since I stopped following the channel and following her on Twitter etc, I missed an important discovery. That was, until recently, when we got a smart TV in our bedroom and I discovered I could use YouTube on it and do exercise videos in our bedroom off a decent screen rather than anything small and rubbish. Whilst I was testing this out, I discovered that Cassie is now doing a wonderful set of videos; Three Minute Turbo routines.

Yes, it's 3 minutes non-stop, and yes they are still bloody hardwork, but they feel much more achievable for me. And yeah, sometimes I still have to stop and I only end up doing like 1.5-2 minutes of the workout, but I still feel like I've achieved something, and from doing this alongside the pilates class I go to at my gym, I've figured out how to do some of the moves at a lower level so I can still manage, but I'm getting some gain out of them.

I really do recommend them, but do potentially watch through before trying to see if you are comfortable with the moves suggested, and if not, see if you can figure out a way to take it down a level.

My favourite one at the moment is the 3 Minute Turbo Arm Workout. This is mainly because my arms are one of the more noticeable areas of my weight gain, and I've got a summer wedding that I'm going to where I'd quite like my arms to not look like a cellulite-ridden, elephant-sized bingo wing. So I've been doing this to try and help. When I have more energy I sometimes follow it up with the 3 minute turbo legs, and 3 minute turbo abs. If I don't haver much energy, I can still do a short burst of workout and it still feels like I'm achieving something.

Anyway, take a watch of my current fav, maybe have a go if you think you've got enough spoons to try it, and have fun :)

Monday, 7 March 2016

Quick Hello

I'm aware I've gone quiet again, and this is mostly down to any down time I've had where I could have blogged, my other half has been on the PC and I've not been able to get near it. The rest of the time I've been super busy, doing all sorts of things (including a very messy night out which was bad. Zebras should not be allowed to get drunk drunk, only tipsy!)

The plan is to write a few proper blog posts this weekend as the other half is away (wahey, bed to myself!) and get myself up to date. I'm still trying to figure out a good work/life/sew/blog balance, but I'm getting there... sort of.

Anyway, main reason I stopped in to say a quick hello was to have a little bit of a #HumbleBrag (yes I've become one of those people who hashtags during their blog post). Yesterday I weighed myself and discovered that this year so far, just through making a few changes to my diet and exercise routine, I have managed to lose ONE WHOLE STONE. That's without any drastic changes, just small conscious efforts.

I can genuinely say my joints are aching *slightly* less, ad I feel better in myself. I'm regretting not doing a before picture at the beginning of the year now as I'm unsure whether I actually look any different, or whether it's just enough for only my clothes to be able to tell?

More to come soon!

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Ouch!

There is something I can't help but wonder if other spoonies suffer with, or if I'm just that rubbish at knowing my body.

At the weekend I did a couple of Pop Pilates videos, only the 10 minute ones, and I was careful not to overdo it as I am all too conscious as to how easily I can injure myself through over exertion. I got a nice early night the same day and managed to get a good 9+ hours sleep. I didn't feel refreshed when I woke up (what spoonie does?) but I felt pretty good, bar a pretty savage pain in my ribs.

At first, I thought this was down the other half cuddling me at a funny angle. Then I realised that he had moved and the pain had too. He was off of me, and the pain had gone to the middle of my ribs, below my sternum, but where the ribs come to the middle. At first I thought it was a pulled abdominal muscle from pilates, but then it felt like my ribs were bruised.

Even now, I'm still not sure which it is, or whether it's perhaps both? I don't know. Do any other spoonies have issues identifying what is causing their pain?

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Moisturise Me

I've finally got around to sorting a new product out for my little bath product venture that I'm trying out, I haven't listed it on the Chronic Chemist site yet, but that's my plan for next weekend, along with another one that I'm working on as we speak.

For the moment though, I'd like to introduce you to my moisturising bars:


That's right, they're ducks. It's safe to say I'm a bit duck obsessed, so I felt these to be an appropriate mould. I'm pleased with how they turned out, has to be said. All I've got to do now is create some labels for them, but that shouldn't take me too long!

I'm super pleased with these as the way they melt into your skin just from your body temperature makes them super easy to use, and I'm hoping the shape of these should make them reasonably easy to grip, which is a positive factor for fellow spoonies who have grip issues (as I often do).

They smell super nice too, and I'm a little obsessed with using them myself. Hopefully other people like them just as much as I do.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Paris, Je Suis en Toi!

Paris, I am in you. Well, I was a week ago...

That's right, a little over a week ago, I spent 48 hours in Paris with my friend from school exploring the city and doing some fabric shopping (more about that coming up over on the crafty blog).

It was a fab time, but it did certainly push me to my spoonie limits for the days. We flew out Wednesday evening, and went straight to bed when we go there as we were shattered from travelling (and we may or may not have consumed a whole bottle of wine each before leaving - oops!)

The only full day we had in the city was pretty darn full on - we walked about 12 miles from about 9am until 7pm when we were pretty much ready to go back to bed! We managed to stay up until about 10pm with another bottle of wine and some food but still! We started by getting the Metro, mucking up our change so covering by going to visit the Arc De Triomphe. My main comment about this place is that the French are absolute nutters. It does seem to just be a free for all around that roundabout. Don't stick to a lane, cut people up, just sod it! Very strange.

From there we saw the Sacre Couer, did some fabric shopping at the most mahoosive fabric shops I ever did see, and then walked to the Louvre. We walked around the Louvre and realised we were getting pretty darn tired so decided to leave, but not before finding the Mona Lisa - did you know that thing is pretty darn small? Like, seriously, you'd miss it if it wasn't on its own on this big ass feature wall surrounded by glass and barriers and with guards! We wimped out of walking then, and got the metro back to our hotel where I had a nap and then we went to see the Eiffel Tower in the dark and see the light show. It was pretty stunning, but geez were we tired by the time we had got back to the hotel after grabbing some food and drink to take back with us!

The second day we were leaving that night, so we didn't want to over do it. That was the intention anyway! We walked to the Eiffel Tower and went up it, right to the very top. Needless to say we used the lifts! I do not recommend EVER attempting the stairs if you're a spoonie - there's 1664 of the buggers if I remember correctly. The average house has only 13 steps. I struggle with that, so I knew I didn't have a hope in hell on the rest!

Anyway, here's a nice tourist shot of me at the park behind (or in front of, depending on your point of view) the Eiffel Tower!


After we done playing tourist we figured we would try and take it easy so we didn't end up as tired as the day before. We went to a nearby shopping centre, got coffee, had a look around the shops and generally sat around for 2 hours... But we still have nearly 5 hours until we were getting our transfer back to the airport! So we took a steady walk along the River Seine and then went and found a wonderful museum that had lots of stunning African and Asian and tribal art. It was wonderful. 

Our "taking it easy day" eventually resulted in walking another 11 miles.... So over the course of 48 hours I walked nearly the length of a marathon. 23 miles! It was a massive spoonie win for me as I never would have thought I could do that before. Clearly taking a bit more care in my eating choices, my exercise habits and my self-care has been having the right results, but god did I sleep a lot on Saturday!

Friday, 12 February 2016

I Workout!

Well, I'm trying to work out anyway.

The last month has been super busy, and I've not really had more than 5 minutes to get near the computer to keep in touch. But now I'm here! In the last month I have started a new job, joined the gym, used the gym and been to Paris with a friend. Busy busy bee!

As promised, I thought I'd share some pictures of my workout gear which I took before I went out a couple of times. I've been trying to take it steady and know my limits. After all there is no point injuring myself and leaving myself unable to do any more exercise for a while, and any zebra knows how easy it is to over do it or to hurt yourself!

So here's a couple of things I've been wearing for my workouts. Having worked in the lingerie business for a number of years, I'm very aware of the important of a good supporting bra when you work out, so I always ensure I have my sports bra on when I'm going to the gym (despite my small chest!). To find a good sports bra was more difficult for me than a lot of people perhaps as I had to take into account the hypermobility and how I get in & out of the garment, as a lot of sports bras need to be pulled on and then tightened once on. I personally have a great deal of trouble pulling tight items on and off over my head so instead I found a suitable bra that zips at the front instead. Beautiful.




I've so far only been going to the gym about twice a week, which has included pilates once a week, and then gym the other time. I'm hoping that I will get myself into a better routine and be able to go more like 3-4 times a week, but we'll see I guess!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Got It Sussed

This year I turn 25. A quarter of a century. 2.5 decades.

My birthday isn't until December, but it's this year that I hit that age none the less. Now, this isn't going to be a story of "I thought I'd be married with kids and a mortgage by this age, but now look how wonderful my life is in other ways!" Nope.... this is more a case of "I thought I'd know how to adult by now."

What I've realised though, from having the bollocks to finally actually approach this subject with some more grown up adults, is that I probably won't ever know how to adult. Like, I know how to pay bills; how to book a doctors appointment; organise car insurance, and book a holiday. That's all good; but I don't know how to feel like a grown up whilst doing it. I still feel like a silly 18 year old playing at being grown up. Having had a conversation with various other "proper" adults, as I have always seen them, I have learnt that actually we are silly 18 year olds playing at being grown up.

I'm actually slowly starting to make peace with this fact. It's weird, but it's comforting to know that whilst I feel like I am winging my way through life, so does everyone else apparently!

The same could be applied to looking after my health I guess. Sometimes I feel like "yeah, I've got this down, I know how to control a flare, I'm responsibly with my medication, I've got this." Then something small or insignificant happens and I'm like "what am I doing, why isn't Mum giving my the tablets at the times I need them because I should not be allowed to be responsible for this!" It's okay though. I'm accepting this, and this (in)ability to always successfully adult my way through my illness is what makes me human.

I've also finally learnt that it's okay that I'm not good at big nights out any more. In fact, I went out for a meal tonight with some friends and we were all home by 10.30pm, texting each other to say it was a lovely night, but god we're glad to be home with our bras off and joggers on. I made myself a nice hot chocolate and got all set to snuggle up for an evening in front of the PC before going to bed before 1am to wake up feeling well rested and not hungover, and because of this I thought I'd have a little celebratory selfie of me with my hot chocolate in my joggers. Enjoy!


Sunday, 10 January 2016

New Year, New Me

What a cliché title, but feels very appropriate.

As most people do, I am using the new year to have a little re-evaluation of myself, my life and my condition. I've let things go by the wayside over time, I've not eaten right, I've not done enough exercise and I've really just not made an effort in general. I jumped head first into a new job that I knew wasn't right purely to escape one that had put me in a difficult situation.

So I set about rectifying that. In December I found myself a new job, one that feels right this time. I made sure I enjoyed my food and booze over Christmas and New Year, but then I fully submersed myself in making more effort with my exercise. Everyday I am making sure I walk for at least an hour throughout the day, and try to do some other small types of exercise. I got an exercise ball for Christmas and I have to say I'm in love with it.

I'm also trying to eat healthier - more fruit and veg, less snacking, more water. Doing all the right things. From the neglect I've put my body through, I've become ever so slightly overweight, and whilst not horrendously so, I am conscious of how much worse this is making my pain, so I'm intent on rectifying it and strengthening myself.

Part of this did also mean that I had to go and buy new workout gear - what a shame, not! The next time I go out, I'll definitely try and take some snaps to share!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Shocking Habits, New Starts and Fresh Kicks

I've done that horrendous thing again where I neglect my blog again for months. Ergh. What a failure.

So over the last few months I've been spending a lot of my free time on my little venture that I was talking about before I disappeared. This venture is making bath products for fellow spoonies. It all started when I made some lotion bars as a test for a present I wanted to make for one of my sister-in-laws, and I really enjoyed it. Then I saw one of my fellow spoonies that I follow on Tumblr was looking for a UK partner for her business. So after a few months of emails and some testing and some trial and error, I'm finally live on her site!

It's been an amazing experience so far. I'm only selling fizzing bath salts to begin with, then as those progress, I'm planning bath bombs, lotion bars, solid bubble bath; ahh the options are endless, but I need to just get things going to start with.

So, if you fancy having a peep, go check out the store on Etsy, if you're based in America you can buy from Kayti who's store it is and have access to all those wonderful things straight away, if you're UK based, buy a few bits and then keep an eye out for the rest!