Tuesday, 9 January 2018

An Update. A celebration?

Content warning-
I’m going to be discussing specific treatments and medications. These things are working for me, they may not work for you for a whole bunch of reasons- even if we have the same symptoms or diagnosis. Also, this is a bit of a ramble...
I recognise that I have a great deal of privileges, and that getting this treatment is a direct result of some of those privileges. Sheer dumb luck was also a factor, well you could call it luck or divine intervention or karma or...magic, but a string of circumstances led me to this treatment that it would be unrealistic to expect to replicate. I’m incredibly grateful for the people who enable my treatment, I will never be able to repay them.
A lot of these treatments are herbal, some of it is a little woo-woo, some of it is traditional western medicine. I’m not going to be talking about dosages or brand names, but feel free to ask if you’ld like more info.
This treatment has made a huge difference, but I am cured. I’m still in constant pain, still exhausted and fatigued, still wobbly and wonky. Some things can be cured, some treated, and some simply managed. I highly doubt I will ever be cured, things like the structural abnormalities of my knees and hips will not disappear, but that’s honestly okay for now.
I have the following official diagnosis - Fibromyalgia, PCOS, TMJD, Chondromalacia patellae, Heart Palpitations, Vitamin D deficiency, Hereditary hip malformation and some other stuff that’s not relevant.
It’s suspected that I have these diagnosis, but they’re not willing to say it officially - Hypermobile EDS, PoTS, chronic migraines, thyroid issues and some other stuff that’s not relevant.    

A friend of a friend of a friend’s sister works at Utah Valley Health Clinic, at some point in 2015 I received a mould treatment in the mail from America. My friend had been talking to her friend about the woman’s son, he was particularly ill with Lyme disease and hadn’t been treated very well with traditional medicine so she had taken him to UVHC. The treatment he received there changed his life, and his medical situation was greatly improved. This got my friend wondering what else they could do, she knew most of the ins-and-outs of my health problems and so, with my go-ahead, began to discuss treatment options that could work without me physically being there. The Clinic nurse decided that mould treatment would be the best way to go, something simple that’s often overlooked, could make a big difference and wouldn’t harm me if it wasn’t something I needed.

The course of treatment contained vials and tablets that would treat a generic mould infection. Once I finished the treatment, I was able to stop using my forearm crutches on a daily basis, using them only for big trips or on bad days. This in itself was a massive deal for me, when I was first beginning to get sick I couldn’t even stand without unbearable pain.

We were all amazed at the outcome and we discussed how great it would be if I was able to go there one day. Don’t get me wrong, I was terrified. Scared of the change, scared of getting my hopes up, scared of disappointing people...I’m still scared to be honest.

This Autumn I made a trip to Utah, not specifically to go to UVHC, but it was part of the plan. The aforementioned friend gave up her appointment, one she’d waited for months to get, so that I could see the nurse. A few days before the appointment I had an emergency root canal, which I won’t go into detail about as all you need to know is that the anaesthetic didn’t work and the placement and shape of my jaw was a big problem. It was one of the most traumatic and painful experiences of my life.

I had never used anaesthetic before, but I knew that anaesthetic failure is common with EDS, so I did warn the dentist. He was lovely, he constantly apologised for the 4 plus hours I was in his chair. I watched Moana and The Theory of Everything - that’s not relevant.

UVHC is a small clinic in Utah Valley, USA in a picturesque red brick building across from a restaurant that makes really good sandwiches. There are signs on the door and inside asking clients to not wear strong perfumes or bring heavy chemical scents into the clinic. Inside there are wooden children’s toys, magazines and glass display cabinets full of herbal remedies and this season’s cold remedy. I didn’t buy a cold remedy, I got a cold within days of being home. The clinic were happy to let my friend pay for my treatment, I was less happy about this but, experience told me that arguing wouldn’t get me anywhere and, besides, I couldn’t afford it on my own. I don’t remember the exact costs, but my monthly treatments are currently around $500 and the clinic will accept some insurances.

There’s a similar clinic in Belgium that the Dr at UVHC works with, I can give you the details if you’ld like to contact them.

After filling out a thousand pieces of paperwork, and ticking off practically every symptom box they had, I met with the Practitioner and invited my friend into the room as well. On the paperwork I had only given information about my official diagnosis, nothing about EDS or anything like that. Brace yourself for the woo-woo up ahead. I have no information about the science behind this so I’ll just tell you that the testing consisted of my holding a copper pipe in one hand a small metal rod being poked and prodded along my hands and feet in line with a series of questions. A computer showed some charts and the Practitioner interpreted the lines into treatments I needed. After we talked for a little while about my life, the Dr came to sit with us. Now, the Dr is a traditionally trained and certified prescribing Dr, but the practitioner isn’t traditionally certified and cannot prescribe or diagnose. They do not diagnose anything, they can say that you need the treatment for XYZ, but not that you have XYZ.

The Doctor found me fascinating, as did the Practitioner, being British in America is endlessly entertaining. They also found my whole medical story fascinating, the lack of help and treatment appalling, and the medications I had been taking at a young age shocking. Prior to this appointment I had taken myself off all of my prescribed medication, carefully and slowly, as I was tired of side effects and little profits, but I was taking antibiotics for the root canal infection and had been prescribed strong painkillers.
(Do Not Do This Without Seeking Professional Advice)

During the conversation, I mentioned the anaesthetic failure, my frequent subluxations and other symptoms. I did not mention EDS. The Dr told me he had recently been studying a new condition, that he thought I might have, but he was unable to say the name properly. Something like El-Hairs. He was surprised that I could not only pronounce Elhers-Danlos, but that I knew so much about it. Again, he could not diagnose me, but we agreed that we would include the EDS treatments he had been studying. He was heartbroken that I lived a life so full of pain for so long that I was completely desensitised to pain.

Over the next few appointments and treatments at the clinic, I spoke more with the Dr and built a great relationship with all of the staff, and several visitors at the UVHC. The first question on the pre-appointment paperwork is ‘What would you like from this appointment?’, my answer was ‘Not to be dismissed. To be respected and for my problems to be recognised. Lower daily pain.’ That’s all I wanted. All I dared myself to hope for. Less pain and less ignorance. Both of those goals were achieved.

Some of these treatments are short time, some a one off and some long term. Forgive me for not knowing the exact purpose for all of them, there’s a lot! I can give brand names and more info you get in touch. I’m terrible at taking medications at the correct times, I always have been, so these treatments haven’t been able to do their job optimally and that’s on me. I’m working on it.

-High-dose Vitamin C. This is something that’s being suggested and trialled for EDS across the world recently. There is an injection version, which can’t be diluted much and burns like you imagine citric acid into your body feels like because that’s what you’re doing. The IV version is diluted and mixed with other helpful vitamins and is only an uncomfortable pain. The current thinking is that it will take years of treatment to have any significant difference in cartilage, but that other symptoms such as fatigue and scarring will react sooner. I have noticed a difference in the amount of scarring I get from tiny scrapes, wounds healing faster and generally more energy. I also take a daily high-dose liquid Vitamin C supplement.
-Another round of mould treatment. The suspicion is that this is from a childhood spent in chicken sheds and a little while living in dampy old flats. These are vials taken orally every three days until finished and large capsules taken several times a day.
-Lyme treatment. When investigating my health before the fibro diagnosis I was tested for Lyme and told I didn’t meet all of the criteria. This is very common, even some Lyme is enough to make you ill. Meeting 80% of the criteria, still means you have Lyme to a degree. These are vials taken every three days, through several courses until finished, herbal drops and a series of tablets. There may be more treatment in the future.
-Estrofactors. PCOS has meant that I’ve been unable to conceive, my doctors have never offered me treatment of any kind. I was told it would require intense medical intervention and probably not succeed. I’ve never been offered help for the symptoms either. These are large herbal tablets, taken several times a day. Since taking these I have had more regular periods of less severity and milder cramps. I haven’t noticed any difference in other symptoms.
-Protein digest. The gluten, wheat and dairy intolerance diagnosis I was given as a child has never fitted. Soy milk and wheat free bread has never made a big difference, nor did Lactase enzymes. Apparently I am not intolerant to these things, I can’t digest protein. When taking these tablets before meals, I do not experience severe cramps or diarrhea. I can immediately tell if I miss a dose as any food causes awful trapped wind in my shoulders and ribs.
-Magnelevures. A Magnesium supplement that tastes absolutely vial. Designed to aid magnesium absorption which is good for nerve and muscle pains. I honestly struggle to take this one the most.
-Probiotic. Only for use while I was taking antibiotics for the infection in my root canal.
-A water supplement designed to relieve headaches by optimising the hydration of the small amount of water I drink a day. I find it incredibly difficult to drink more than 500ml a day, on average I drink around 300ml. When I really put my mind to it, usually when I feel pressured by other people noticing I don’t drink, I can drink around 1L. I’m constantly dehydrated, which definitely contributes to my migraines.
-Vitamin D topical ointment. This stuff. Wow. After 1 day the psoriasis on my foot, which was horrendous after the dry Utah climate, was smooth and unbroken. When used daily, the ointment keeps the patches soft, not bleeding or weeping, less scaley and much less itchy. If I miss a day, it’s very quickly back to dry and cracked. I’m also Vit D deficient so, it can’t hurt to have more anyway.
-Iodine drops. For the undiagnosed thyroid issues that almost every doctor I’ve seen has suggested and done nothing about.
-Oxytocin. Not to be confused with Oxycontin, the high strength opioid. Oxytocin is a somewhat traditional treatment for neurological pain. I had root canal surgery the day before, I was in Pain with a capital P. The Dr gave me a high strength injection of Oxytocin and I didn’t need to take any painkillers for 5 days. I now have a nasal spray that I can use at my own discretion under his directions. It doesn’t get rid of all my pain, there’s still a constant pain but the peaks are gone. If they do flare, the spray works quickly and wonderfully to dull them down to a more bearable level. I love this stuff.
-A Detox foot bath. Claimed to pull impurities out of the soles of my feet, if nothing else it was cool to see the water turn all kinds of gross colours.
-Grounding. I was advised to spend more time outside, barefoot. Unfortunately I live in England and it’s way too cold to spend the recommended 9 hours outside, especially barefoot. I have made more of an effort to be outside and away from screens.
I have sheets and sheets of test results if you’re interested in that sort thing, detailing exactly which mould strains I have and research on the use of Oxytocin.

The takeaway is that I felt comfortable enough to get rid of my mobility aids, I’m having much fewer debilitating migraines, my general energy levels are higher and my general pain levels lower. I don’t know how long this will last for, but for right now I’m embracing it.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Satan comes for me on Saturdays.

Satan gets at me on Saturday. 
Around mid-afternoon I will get a text or a notification that will remind me that it's Saturday which means church is tomorrow. It's not that I forget, it's more that it isn't necessarily on my mind as I walk along the beach or look for photo frames in overcrowded shops. Anyway, every week this happens, sometimes it's to remind me to bring something for YWs or to ask if I need a ride and other times it's our RS president posting an uplifting quote on our Facebook page - it doesn't matter what it is really because that little reminder starts a game with Satan that I'm not sure I always win. 
One of the first things that will come up is that I'm too tired. Sometimes I genuinely am too ill or tired to make it to church but there's plenty of times when I'm actually not. Of course, I'm always tired thanks to my health problems but I'm rarely too tired to sit down for three hours, ya know? The adversary will tell me I am, it will whisper that I don't have the energy and that the little energy I do have would be better used somewhere else. It will tell me to stay in bed, have a lie in because I woke up early today or because I didn't sleep well Friday night. It's so easy to agree, who doesn't relish the idea of a lovely warm lie in with breakfast in bed and a leisurely shower? None of that would actually happen but Satan tells me that this time it will if I just stay in bed instead. Thrown in with this one is the thought that I'm too sick, I'm too unhealthy and ill to possibly go, I should just lay in my bed like a Victorian lady with a touch of the vapours all day. This one doesn't get me as much, it's been around for too long for me to listen much anymore. 
Next up will be the murmurs of my inequity. These ones are easy bait, it's not hard to make me feel unworthy or inferior and the adversary knows that. He'll tell me that I'm not good enough to be there, I don't deserve the atonement or the blessings because I messed up too much and didn't read my scriptures enough. That nobody really likes me and I'm just a burden on them, that it's easier for them to not have me there at all. It's a similar feeling to not wanting to go to school when you haven't done your homework and you just know the teacher is going to ask you about it in front of everyone and you're not going to know the answer. Like I said, this ones easy for the adversary and it's probably the most prevalent part of this Saturday game. 
Later that afternoon will come the urge to text ahead to say I'm not coming, to make up some reason as to why I can't be there. I've never given in to lying but I'm sure I've exaggerated just how ill I feel once or twice because it's even easier for the adversary to keep you away from church when you're already feeling rough. Hey, I admitted that I don't always win. My absences have been minimal in reality, and 90% of those have been for totally legitimate health or travel reasons. 
By the evening time I'm well and truly stressed out from the inner turmoil between wanting to be there and feeling like I can't. Having two anxiety disorders makes this harder too, panic attacks aren't uncommon at this stage thanks to the PAD and I'm usually ready to quit the whole thing and hide in a hole. My anxiety makes it hard for me to go out at all, especially with people, especially with the chance of meeting strangers, especially to a place (a destination as opposed to just being out walking around town), especially when I'm unable to leave at anytime, especially when I can't sit comfortably to regulate pain, especially when I don't feel in control or knowledgeable... can you see why church can be so hard sometimes? 
I've gone off track here, as I was saying- by the evening I'm ready to cancel but I try to convince myself that I'm in control by planning. I plan what I need to take, what bag  I need and what to have for breakfast. Then comes the dreaded moment of choosing an outfit. And Satan's back in full force. I'm not a dress or skirt kind of girl, I'm a jeans and check shirt, converse and a hoody type of girl. Leather boots and leggings at a push, but not a dress. And not a dress that could be described as 'Sunday best' so even though I try to shop for church dresses I'm usually erring on the casual side due to my personal (lack of) style and my need for comfortable clothing. Somehow, there are a lot of LDS ladies that have this ability to dress themselves immaculately with their groomed horde of children, while their husband left three hours ago for meetings. It's intimidating beyond belief, I know that's an exaggeration but that's how it feels most days- I'm just not ladylike enough. So there comes Satan telling me that I'm not pretty enough, I look terrible and everyone is judging me and I believe it. Hook, line and sinker I fall because I already feel so fragile that a feather could know me down. I nearly always cry on either Saturday night or Sunday morning because I'm convinced that I look awful, absolutely and disgustingly awful which is why I often wear make-up to church, even though I'm not huge on that either, as a way to hide the red eyes and feel a little more put together. 
Satan comes for me on Saturday nights and tells me that I'm not good enough. He tells me to give up because I'm going to fail anyway and I don't always manage to win the fight. But I try, I chose my outfit even though it makes me cry. I plan my lesson and prepare my bag. I set my alarm and arrange my ride. I say a teary 'why is this so hard!' prayer and I try to sleep while my stomach churns with anxiety. 
I try because I know that's what counts. The trying is why we're here, oh how easy it would be to have a perfect knowledge and no fear of falling, but oh how sad it would be to know that I forfeited the eternal rewards. Remember that Satan wanted us to have no free will, to live a life free of failing, but also free of success and beauty. So I keep trying and while I try I remember that Jesus died for this very reason- he died so I could try. I can never repay the debt he cleared for me but by trying my hardest to win the battle with Satan I can show my gratitude. 
It's 11:45 Saturday night, I've been through all of this today and more. I'm teaching tomorrow and can't be at church next week as I'll be away so Satan worked a little harder, I don't have an outfit picked so I'll probably cry about that in the morning and I've already considered wiping my whole lesson plan and starting over at least twice. 
Satan came for me tonight and I'm not sure if I'm winning, but I'm sure as heck going to try. 
(As it's now midnight I haven't edited this. I'm sorry for spelling and grammar mistakes) 

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Free ASK youth theme printables

It's new beginnings time for the YW and we're going with a 'seeking adventure' sort of theme for our version of the ASK theme provided by the church. Anyway, spent an hour or so making up our invitations so I figured I'd add them to pinterest for free, feel free to change and butcher them however you like. If you want the editable googledrawing file to change text or colours then drop me an email at leanneglentworth@gmail.com or just pop a white text box over our date and add yours. These are roughly the size of chocolate bar wrapper (can you guess what we're doing with them?), they fit four to a sheet of A4 portrait.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

An apology and an explanation.

In November I got muggle sick, that means I had what appeared to be Slapped Cheek Virus which is a regular non-chronic illness, my body is so busy fighting to keep functioning that there isn't a reserve tank of energy for fighting off bugs so it always hits me pretty hard. Anyway, I'm still sick with this virus in late January, I've tried all the elixirs and potions you can think of but it's still here.
At the end of November I flew to America to stay with friends for two and half weeks, while there I got even sicker which made the flight back horrendously painful for my poor blocked ears and bloody nose.
My husband was flown home from his Royal Navy deployment in the Falkland Islands the day after I landed back in the UK due to a back injury.
I spent the next two or three weeks trying to recover from my trip, care for him and keep the regular day to day chores at bay. I don't think I did a great job on any of those actually.
We took a trip to the North to visit family the next weekend, then a week later we rushed up both again after my grandmother-in-law was taken to hospital. It's a good 4-6 hour drive each way, the second weekend we spent 4 nights on a sofa. During both of those trips we ate mostly junk food because that was all that was available to us, I felt terrible.
Then came Christmas, which even though the day itself was wonderful is always a stressful time of year. We spent the holidays in our own home, just the two of us and a lot of Star Wars Lego.
Two days before Christmas I decided to open a business, great timing I know, that I'd wanted to bring to life for so long and I'm pleased to report is doing okay so far, I'll  leave a link at the bottom for shameless self promotion. Opening a business, even a small hobby business in your spare bedroom is stressful and time consuming to say the least.
2017 started with me branching out via friends with editing work for historic/language/geographic fact checking and continuity, which is something I really enjoy doing but, had always been a favour to friends before.
Today my husband started the year long process of leaving the Royal Navy, it's been a long time coming and we'd been holding off for the opportunity to live abroad. When that opportunity was retracted we decided now was the time, it's been over 7 years when he leaves and in that time we've never spent more than 9 or 10 weeks together in one go. That's our whole relationship, we don't know what life will be like on the other side but we'll soon find out.
Oh, and it's winter so of course my body is flaring left, right and centre. And of course there's the usual modern stresses, politics, marriage, household chores...
What I'm trying to say is that I've dropped the ball on so many things since early November that I can't even count them all. And I truly and so very sorry if any of them hurt you when they fell, I have made promises to try harder a thousand times over these past months but it's time to admit that I simply don't have enough hands to keep juggling them all.
I've lost contact with friends that I hope I can regain, I don't even speak to my sister as much as I used to. I miss our daily phone calls and FaceTimes in which we made our dogs talk to each other while we set the world to rights.
I started a project last year to create a community centred on a daily scripture verse that reminded us to be fearless and brave, I made it 55 days before I dropped that ball. I loved, and still love that project but I've come to realise that I'm not the best person right now to keep it alive. I'm hoping somebody else can create my vision because I really think the world needs it right now.
Booktube and Bookstagram were communities and hobbies I loved being a part of that have fallen to the wayside too, these I hope to pick back up on a smaller scale. Even this blog has suffered.
I'm the Young Women's secretary in my ward, that means it's my job to organise the leaders and teen girls in my church, and I've let my duties drift too. My president, the boss, will vehemently say I haven't but it's obvious I have. I haven't even put a new calendar up yet and I don't think I've sent out the monthly newsletter since October. All I can do there is apologise, pray that you can forgive me and start over. Unfortunately that's not the only church related thing to suffer from my poor juggling, I missed basically all of my Temple prep classes so I can't fulfil the big plans everyone had for me, including my own, to enter the temple as soon as my year anniversary passed. It's still my dream, but it will take more time. Between travel and illness I've missed a lot of services too, I haven't taught for a long time and I'm behind on my visiting teaching assignments already. These balls are high on my list to pick back up.
I've been a pretty lousy wife too I reckon, my husband doesn't read this btw, I know it isn't my job to be Mrs.Domestic Goddess but I've still let my responsibilities in the house slide more than I should. I'm making headway with this one, less easy cook junk food and more easy cook real food. One day I might even win the ongoing battle of the laundry basket, how do two people have so many clothes? I'm considering trying the 333 challenge in an attempt to slay the dragon, the idea is to choose 33 items of clothing only for 3 months, after that you decide wether to keep your other clothes or get rid.
With my husband leaving the Navy we also lose our flat as we live in military housing, that means we need to find somewhere to live once the time draws near and to stay here, where we both have built a great network, will mean that I have to find work that won't set me back medically as living here is fairly expensive. He'll also need to find training courses and then eventually a new job while adjusting to life on civvy street. It's exciting and terrifying at the same time.
Like I said earlier, the list goes on forever and I've probably forgotten more than one ball along the way. I'm not going to make empty promises to wake up tomorrow with everything perfectly balanced, that's simply not going to happen. I'm a perfectionist, I'm brutally hard on myself and I can't cope with failure so trust me, if I'm admitting defeat then there truly is no hope.
What I will do is apologise again and again to the people who I've hurt along the way these past few months and hope that we can repair any damage I caused.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Affirmations, inspiration and motivation.

There are a million of these stories out there, some have made the writer famous while most have been read by friends and family only to be forgotten a day or two later. I hope that none of them have gone unread. 
Even though there are millions of these stories out there I still want to tell you mine. Because mine is different, no it's not particularly special or amazing, it's simply mine and that's what makes it different. 
Just to add a disclaimer, I love all of the things I'm about to mention. I'm not 'hating' on them or the people who make and love them. I'm one of you, I'm just using them as a vessel to make a point. 

Recently we've all become slightly obsessed with inspirational things, have you noticed? There are calendars, books and videos. There's clothing and gadgets and who even knows what else all designed with the sole intention of inspiring us to be happy. They go by affirmations, inspirations and motivations and have spread through the internet like wildfire even seeping into non-cyber shopping and media. It's a worthwhile cause, like I said I pretty much love them. But, this part gets me a little...uncomfortable, this idea of being happy has become a business. Happiness is commercial now, telling someone how to be happy is basically a solid business plan now and that just doesn't sit too well with me. I don't mind people making money on things they've worked hard on, or are passionate about or whatever. I get that money is pretty important if you want to live nowadays, it's just all a bit much for my tastes. 
Now, you probably already know that I have clinical depression, that doesn't mean that I'm 'sad' or 'down' or upset because I ran out of ice cream, it actually means that there is a chemical imbalance in my brain that's probably always been there and probably always will be. Some days it's more imbalanced than others and sometimes that imbalance can last a while. To get back to my point, when I have been in the darkest pits of depression no amount of platitudes have helped significantly me. I have not looked at a photo of a cat telling me that 'you got this' and suddenly jumped back up to normal life. It just doesn't happen. Sure, it's cute and I love seeing them to make me smile for a moment and I do remember particular ones that touched me but they didn't fix anything or impact upon my life in a significant way. 
(Did you know that getting sidetracked like this, losing focus and evading something is a symptom of depression...) 
If you don't have depression and simply find yourself thinking that everything is dark and mean sometimes then this advice absolutely goes for you too, so listen up. 
So, what's my secret? How do I crawl out of that hole? Well, I'm not sure I do, I feel like I get about halfway out most of the time and that's fine by me. How do I get to even halfway when the light is so dim and the world so numbingly grey? 
I look at the trees; I look at my dog; I looks at pizza and lactose free chocolate milk; I listen to angsty teenage songs and piano concertos; I read trashy celebrity news and literary fiction; I just take in the world around me and remember one vital thing. This world, this universe, this life and eternity where made just for me. Just as they're made just for you. If you were the only living thing in all of creation, the world would be just as wonderous. Pizza would still taste so good, puppies would still have waggly tails and the stars would still burn brightly. Because, the creator of all of this stuff is desperate for me to be happy and that doesn't cost a penny. 
If you need an inspirational book or two to get your day going I have some you can borrow, in fact I'll give you your very own, it's one of the oldest records of this world and has one central theme. There is so much hope. 
So why has this basic principle become big business? In short, the world is a scary place full of expectations and blame. We all need cheering up once in a while, some of us need a little more when that black dog of depression comes round for a party, so the self-same world as that ones who made us feel bad are also the ones making us feel good. Do you see how that is a great business plan? Have some one pay you to make them unhappy, then have them pay you to make them happy again. 
I'm categorically not saying that faith or religion will cure mental illness. Let me say that again, faith and religion will not cure mental illness. Don't come running after me with a lynch mob, okay? 
I'm also not claiming that my faith has fixed my depression, it's still there and probably always will be. My faith enables me to remember that there is more than the nothingness when it seems like there isn't. When I found my connection to Heavenly Father and the Saviour I was in one of the darkest places I've ever been, I couldn't see a way out or even a reason why I would want there to be a way out. I was almost content in my misery, the world was grey and I was way too tired to care. Knowing that there is more than this life and realising that I had someone who love me so immensely that he created a universe for me gave me so much hope that my grey fog seemed just a little thinner than usual. 
Did you catch my drift? You don't need all of these ...things... to be happy, you can like them and make them and do whatever but they're not necessary. 
I need to turn on your selfie-mode camera, or go and find a mirror for a second okay? 
The greatest reason to be happy to ever be in existence is right in front of you. It's under your feet and in your fridge; it's holding your hand and blasting out of your headphones. And it's absolutely free. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Fancy on a budget

I know what it's like to have a few days until payday and empty cupboards, I've been there more than once and now stock my cupboards with staples in case that day ever comes again. There are always surprise bills, broken appliances, emergency trips to the vet...the list goes on and on and on and on. It's a worry most of us have, I know it was definitely a concern for my parents more than once when we were young. 

One of the ways I stock up without breaking the bank is to use a site called Approved Food that sells out of date or short dated foods for very cheap. The food is absolutely safe to eat and most of it will stay fine for a long time, such as dried pasta or flavouring sachets - both of which make a big difference when things get tight. Pasta is a wonderfully versatile staple, great for whole meals or even bulking out other ingredients and the flavouring/sauce sachets can make even the cheapest, blandest food something much more appetising.

Most of the recipes I post here are low budget, as part of the chronic illness community I know that money is always short. Being chronically sick or disabled is EXPENSIVE, coupled with the fact that working in a way that provides enough of a income to live from is incredibly difficult and benefits don't bring in much, this means that finding a way to get enough nutrition on a budget and usually avoiding trigger foods for allergies or symptoms is an almost insurmountable task.

Anyway, onto a couple of budget and energy friendly recipe ideas that hopefully feels like an indulgence. Everyone deserves to feel a little fancy after all.

Poached fish and new potatoes - 
This was one of my favourite things to cook for my mum, when we were younger she would buy those awful 'cod in parsley sauce' frozen bags that you boiled in water because she thought they were cheaper. In reality, they're much more expensive than buying frozen fish fillets and poaching them yourself!
For this recipe you simply need frozen white fish fillets, you can buy cod or haddock but, I find the 'white fish' to be just a tasty and much cheaper as long as you don't mind which fish you're eating. White fish is essentially a blanket term for any white meat fish such as cod, polluck, whiting or hake and allows the manufacturer to choose whichever fish is cheapest at the time. 
Boil whole baby, new or pearl potatoes in a pan of salted water until a fork will stab through them with little resistance, when cooked add a small knob of butter to the pan. I like to add dried chives but that's just my personal preference.
If you only have large potatoes you can serve this fish with potatoes cooked in basically any way, mashed, fried, roasted...
Poach the fish fillets, still frozen, in milk. Just enough milk to not quite cover the fish is all you need, cover the pan for around five minutes until the fish is flaky. 
Remove the fish from the pan and decide how much effort you want to put into the sauce.
Minimal effort is to now add a parsley sauce sachet and whisk.
More effort is to make a roux with butter and flour, add milk then parsley and simmer for 10minutes. 
Return the fish to the finished sauce, spoon some sauce over the top and serve up with the potatoes and any veg you fancy.

Belly pork-
Belly pork is the king of cheap meats, it does need some love when cooking so you're not just chewing fat but I LOVE it and find it so versatile. Often replacing chicken or pork steak in our kitchen! Some of our favourites are to use a 'chinese' marinade and grill it until almost burnt, or to fry it up in chunks with soy sauce and noodles. 
For this recipe a sheet of pork belly works the best but if you can only find strips then you can absolutely use those too.
Dry the skin with kitchen roll then rub generously all over with salt and pepper. You can add sage and thyme to this rub if you have it. Roast this for 25 minutes on 250'c then turn the oven right down to 180'c for 1hour.
Chuck roughly chopped apples and onions into the bottom of a clean roasting dish - this could be the one you use before with the juices emptied out, throw in some sage and pile up into a little mound that you can fit your pork on top of. Pop back into the oven for another hour to make sure that pork is beautifully tender inside and gloriously crispy on top.
Serve on it's own with gravy though it also goes great with dauphinoise potatoes or a creamy mash.

Also a quick heads up...soak belly pork in a mixture of the flavour sachet from a super noodle packet and water for a few hours then either slow roast and slice or thinly slice and dry fry before tossing into the noodles cooked with extra water for an upgraded supernoodle/ramen thing-a-majig. 

Eat well, give back

This post is inspired by the LDS church's #lighttheworld campaign, December 7th's prompt is too feed people. One of the suggestions is to eat at a restaurant that gives away surplus food and I realised that I didn't know of any! It has to be one of the easiest of the suggestions to follow, just change your dinner plans a little and job done! I know that not everyone can just pop out to a restaurant for dinner and there are plenty of other suggestions for differing budgets such as donating food to a hostel, sharing a low cost recipe or praying for those who are hungry.
Another option is to use an app such as 'Too good to go' which enables restaurants to list surplus food to sell at below £5, but they tend to be around £2 a portion. You could buy some of these portions and then hand them out to those you see in need or even deliver them to a family who's budget doesn't include dinners out, it's fancy restaurant food for them without breaking the bank for you too.

So here's a vague list of the ones I did find in a ten minute google search that had information on their websites about giving away food, I can't comment on their actual practices or how valid their statements are so it's up to you to make a judgement call on who you feel is the best choice.

  • Nandos UK 
  • Deliveroo UK
  • KFC UK
  • McDonald's
  • Darden Restaurants including: Olive Garden; Longhorn Steakhouse; The Capital Grille; Bahama Breeze; Seasons 52; Eddie V's and Yard House. 
  • BaxterStorey UK
  • Camino UK
  • ED's diner
  • Fourth
  • Carluccio's UK
  • CAU
  • Harden's
  • Jus' Rol
  • Pho
  • CGA peach
  • Champagne Taittinger
  • Shake Shack
  • Cinammon Cultrue
  • CocoFina
  • Innocent