Deliciously Ella’s Oat Cookies

Food and Drink

I have a chronically sweet tooth!

Step one is to find a substitute for the little treats and nibbles that I’m a nightmare for indulging in.

I found this wonderful recipe on the app and decided to give it a go!

I made a few substitutions to fit in with the ingredients I had at home; i used coconut milk instead of almond milk and coconut flour instead of brown rice flour. I also used gluten free oats and a yummy bar of dark chocolate.

My verdict? They’re absolutely delicious. They are sweet and have a lovely texture and apart from not having the ‘butteriness’ of the oat cookies I would usually eat, they were totally moorish! Even my hubby (who hates cakes and biscuits) loves them and has surprised me by going back for my!

These are going to be a go to for a sweet little treat over the next few weeks!

Step One – my 3 week challenge

Food and Drink, Lifestyle

If you read my previous post you’ll know that I had planned to start on the anti-inflammatory diet this week. Unfortunately I ended up back at the hospital and on antibiotics so I decided to wait until I was all clear before embarking on this pretty big change.

I’ve set myself the start date of Monday week, which gives me time to menu plan, shop and do any necessary food prep so that I can fully embrace the changes.

The first step of the plan that I am following is to eliminate 4 food groups for 3 weeks; gluten, corn, soy and dairy. Gluten’s easy for me as I’ve been eating gluten free for 5 years now due to being a Coeliac. Corn and soy should be fairly easy, as they aren’t in any of my main ‘go-to’ foods (although there are a few unlikely exclusions on the list in these categories that I wouldn’t of thought of!). Dairy, however, will undoubtedly be the biggest challenge. Anyone who knows me knows that the only way I drink my coffee is as a latte! I also have porridge (made with milk) for breakfast everyday, have a penchant for milk chocolate and hugely enjoy cheeses, creams and buttery foods. That’s going to be a tough one!

I’ve been having a little practice and the milk substitute that I like best is coconut milk, although I have a few others to try too (hemp milk is a thing, it seems!).

In order to help with my menu planning I’ve also downloaded the Deliciously Ella app, which is absolutely packed with wonderful and delicious recipes. They are all vegan, so aside from a few substitutions and adding in meat (can’t ever see myself going vegan!), I’m excited to try them out.

I’ll be keeping you updated on my progress and using my Instagram to share some of the yummier foods and also the challenges (what am I thinking, having a dairy free Easter!!!).

Let’s see how this goes!

(After the three weeks I will gradually reintroduce each food group to my diet to see how my body tolerates it. The idea is that these are the groups that most commonly cause inflammation, so by emitting and reintroducing them I will clearly see how my body reacts to them and whether I should eradicate them from my diet longer term.)

Trying Something New

Food and Drink, Lifestyle

If you read my last post (Living with an invisible illness) you will know that I was feeling pretty fed up with always feeling sub-par. Well, writing the post has spurred me into action and I’ve spent the last week and a half (while I’ve been unable to carry on with my normal acitivities) researching different schools of thought around autoimmune diseases.

The first and most promising thing I have found is about dietary change. If you are familiar with Deliciously Ella this wont come as a surprise to you, as she changed her life by changing what she ate. I’ve been reading all sorts of online resources and have found that there is a lot of research around functional medicine and an antiinflammatory dient, with a number of the sources claiming to have halted the development of autoimmune diseases and even, in some cases, reversed them.

This is a very exciting discovery for me and I have decided to give one of the methods a go. I have a book that I will be using as a guide, for the initial phase of dietary change, called The Immune System Recovery Plan. This book was written by Dr Susan Blum and this is part of what appeals to me. Firstly, she trained as a traditional doctor so is entirely au fait with modern practices as well as having an in depth understanding of all things anatomical and medical. Secondly, she herself was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (one of the ones I have) and she used this method to heal herself.

Now, please dont think that I am going into this without doing a lot of additional research and finding out the good, the bad and the ugly before I make an informed decision about what I would like to try.

However, I am going to give it a go, see if I can make myself feel a bit better in the short term, see if I can translate that into feeling better in the longer term and then ultimately see whether this has any impact on the chronic conditions that I have been diagnosed with and those which have on the fence results and we are ‘watching and waiting’ to see if anything develops.

I have decided to share this journey with you for two reasons; if it works, I will be able to look back and see the process I went through and know that it may also help others going through the same thing. Even if it doesn’t work, I will find it motivating to be sharing the journey and the changes I am making, in order to keep me focussed and following through with what I have set out to achieve.

So, I have decided that I will start next Monday. Between now and then I will start getting my kitchen cupboards and fridge ready and working out a meal plan. I’ll share every step as I go and hope you enjoy joining me on this little challenge!

Living with an Invisible Illness (or three)

Lifestyle

This post has taken me a long time to get round to writing. Believe it or not, I set up the title as a draft blog post back in June last year. I’ve opened it up so many times to begin writing and I just haven’t been able to. I began to wonder why. What is it about writing about this subject that gives me total writers block? Well, I guess it could be a lot to do with the fact that I never like to seem like I’m moaning or being ungrateful. It could be that I definitely don’t want people to think of me differently. It could be that I’m not really sure what constitutes too much information and don’t want to be an over-sharer. Most likely, it’s a combination of all of the above. Either way, here I am, nearly a year later, finally biting the bullet and giving this little post a go.

So what made me want to write it now (and actually follow through)?

Two things:

  1. I just came out of hospital having had abdominal surgery (not the one I went in for – story of my life!) and my recovery is proving more challenging than I’d anticipated thanks to my pre-existing conditions.
  2. I saw this incredible post on Instagram by @allontheboard and was inspired by the openness of it:

Having read that, it seems like a good place to start. I was diagnosed with endometriosis back in 2007, when I was 19 years old. It has been all of the above and more for me and definitely the most painful of the three autoimmune conditions I have been diagnosed with (this is a good place to mention that the other two are Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Coeliac Disease – I’ll come back to them later). I have had two thermal laparoscopic ablations of the endometriosis (the second of which was most likely what helped us to fall pregnant with our daughter) and was recently told that I will have to have a third, in the not very distant future.

So what is it like to live with endometriosis? Painful. Very painful. At least two weeks of every month, sometimes more, the pain is crippling. It has been known to have me bent double and it doesn’t pass very quickly. Once I even ended up being sent an ambulance after calling NHS 111 in so much pain, only to find out that it was ‘just’ the endometriosis. The trouble with a condition like this, is that you can’t really tell people what’s going on or how much pain you’re in. I personally feel that I don’t want unnecessary attention that surrounds being ‘poorly’, while also feeling that so many people out there have so much worse to contend with and that I shouldn’t be selfish with how I feel. When I get my period, it often knocks me flat for 2/3 days. And I mean literally knocks me flat. I struggle to get out of bed, I struggle to do normal tasks, let alone work a physically demanding job (albeit now part time) and look after an overexcitable and very active toddler. The tiredness and exhaustion is untenable and it’s practically impossible to explain it without sounding like I’m moaning about a heavy period. The trouble with autoimmune conditions, is that once my immune system takes a hit, it doesn’t just take the hit in the place it was targeted, it seems to take on a whole body response and can easily lead to me feeling like I’ve got the flu; full body aches and pains, headache, sore throat, insane levels of fatigue. Yet try explaining that every single month, in order for people to understand. I get bored of it myself, let alone how it must sound to others. So, I don’t. I crack on, do what I can, take it easy on myself at the times when I feel worst and learn to make up for it at other times.

I find that the hardest thing is comparing myself to others. I see my friends running busy lives, being on their feet all the time, working crazy jobs and bringing up their families as well as fitting in all their social engagements and more, and I know that I just can’t physically do it. My body literally doesn’t allow me to. And that’s really tough. Because my mind runs at 100mph and there are so many things I want to do, I just physically can’t do all the things I want to. In fact, at the end of last year it got to the point where I had to make the decision to almost entirely close the business that I had spent a decade (the whole of my twenties) building, because I simply didn’t have the energy and level of health required to continue running it. I don’t really ever say it, but that really sucked. I wish I could have kept all the plates spinning and still felt on top of my game, but my body keeps reminding me that for some reason it isn’t like that for me. And that paragraph is exactly why I don’t talk about it, because it sounds so self-centred and needy! Which is not how I ever want to come across. Eesh, I’m remembering why I keep closing this post before I start writing it!

Ok, next! Coeliac Disease. This is a really weird one because all it means really is that I can’t eat gluten and there are much worse things really, aren’t there. That said, it took until I was 24 for this to be diagnosed, in which time a fair amount of damage had been done to my intestine. The good thing is that once you stop eating gluten (if you have coeliac disease), you start healing, so the long term damages that can occur (such as osteoporosis) are much less likely. The thing that no-one really wants to admit out loud, however, is that not eating gluten, ever, is really really pants! Every single menu has to be scrutinised when you eat out, at weddings you get the most random foods so that the kitchen don’t take any risks on cross-contamination (tinned fruit salad, anyone?), if you want to grab food on the go it isn’t always possible, sandwiches with gluten free bread just don’t taste the same and don’t even start me on the amount of coffee shops where you can’t get a cake! Now, I know that this all sounds very petty, but if you want to know what it’s like, I challenge you to go totally gluten free (no traces, no sneaky little biscuits, no oats, the list goes on) for a week or two. It’s just so frustrating! You can’t ever just be the same as everyone else and the perfect example of this is when we went to Disneyland a few years back. Literally the only thing I ate was boiled rice and salad. That is not cool. I’m a big girl and I can handle it, it gets me down from time to time, but largely it really doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. That said, imagine what it must be like for a child to live with Coeliac Disease. Not really understanding why they’re different from their friends, why their parents send lunches to school and separate cakes or treats to play dates and birthday parties and why they can’t just order off a ‘normal’ menu. As I said, it’s pretty pants. Not awful, not life changing or life threatening, but a total pain and a lifelong thing to put up with.

Talking of lifelong, all of the conditions I’m talking about today are what’s considered to be ‘chronic’. That means that there’s no cure, there’s just management. The other major drawback is that they are really underestimated, misunderstood and mistreated. The GP doesn’t often think about them as having an impact on my life, although often the reason I end up at the GP is due to a response that’s happened thanks to one of the conditions. I’m lucky enough to have private healthcare thanks to my husbands work, but the major drawback is that it doesn’t cover chronic conditions. This means that any time I have a problem relating to them, in any capacity, it isn’t covered. No operations, no consultations, no diagnostic testing, ever. And this seems grossly unfair to me. Not because, as you might assume, I don’t want to use the NHS, quite the opposite. The NHS saved my life in 2016 and I think that many (if not most) of the best doctors work within the NHS and have no private practice at all. The reason is that part of the benefit of the UK’s private healthcare schemes is that it alleviates pressure from the already overstretched NHS. We know what the problems are with me, medically. Instead of taking up a large number of appointments, testings and a hospital bed to have something sorted out that is ongoing for me privately, I have to use all those resources on the NHS, because BUPA won’t cover me. Pre-existing conditions get refreshed every 2 years , but chronic conditions are exempt forever. How silly and frustrating is that.

I’m now at risk of writing an insanely long post that waffles and rambles and becomes entirely uninteresting. So, to finish off, I’ll say that there isn’t really anything interesting to share about the third condition, apart from that it totally messes up my thyroid, resulting in me being on a thyroid medication for life and struggling with a lot of fatigue and more flu-like symptoms. There was a 2 year period when the doctors thought I had Lupus (another chronic autoimmune condition) and this was due to having borderline results on all the relevant blood tests, as well as being symptomatic, however the diagnosis was removed after no change was notice over a two year period.

To summarise, living with an invisible illness is tough. You don’t want to moan, but equally it can make you feel totally horrendous. That not only has an impact on your physical health, but also your mental health. It can be quite demoralising and can bring you down a bit if you let it. In fact, it takes an awful lot of strength to not only fight through the tough physical times, but to have the positivity and determination to crack on again where you left off and continue living as much of a healthy life as you can. People often say ‘you look so well’, which is great to hear, but sometimes that is solely down to having a full face of makeup! In fact, just three weeks ago when I went for the consultation which ended up resulting in a pretty big abdominal surgery and being signed off work for six weeks, the consultant actually began by saying ‘well you’re a fit and healthy young lady with nothing else we need to be aware of’, only half phrased as a question due to the assumption of what the answer was going to be. When I explained to him about these three conditions, plus the 11 surgeries I’ve had in the last 12 years, he couldn’t quite believe it.

Invisible doesn’t mean it isn’t there, it just means you can’t see it, and funnily enough that sometimes makes it all the harder to handle.

A Letter to my Daughter

Parenting

You are truly beautiful. Inside and out. Some people will say this doesn’t matter, some will say it’s all that matters. For me, it is important that you know I believe you to be perfect. I want you to be confident in yourself and feel certain that no matter where you go or who you face, you are enough. In every single way.

To my beautiful daughter,

As I lay here and watch you sleep, my heart bursts with love for you.

I cannot believe that someone so perfect in every way is mine. Mine to look after, to nurture, to teach and to watch grow.

I lay here wondering how I can make your path through life the happiest, most fulfilling and most satisfying journey you could possibly take.

There are so many lessons you will learn in life, so many experiences that I won’t be able to prepare you for, but there are also many wisdoms I can impart, many lessons I can share and some important affirmations you should start believing as soon as you understand what they mean.

Let me first start by telling you that you are strong, you are kind, you are clever and you are beautiful. You are my little warrior princess who, against all the odds, became everything we never knew we were missing. You are also very loved, by so many people and as you grow, so will everyone’s love for you.

Strength can be shown in many ways. We know already that you have a great inner strength; a determination that defies your tiny size and tiny age. And this strength will grow as you do. You must always use it to be supportive, to help others, to earn respect and to achieve wonderful things. Be strong in everything you do, but don’t be afraid to show weakness. Asking for help is also a sign of strength. Emotions are there to be shared and in doing so you will learn so much about both yourself and your friends and family.

Kindness is a trait that I will be reinforcing with you throughout your life. By being kind to others you will always be surrounded by love. Know how important it is to share, to listen, to talk and to be a friend. By being a friend to others, they will be friends to you. Our lives are enriched so much by the friends we choose to share them with.

Being clever isn’t judged solely on academic ability or the results you achieve in tests and competitions. Being clever is about finding your passions and pursuing them. Learning from everything you do and everyone you meet and taking a genuine interest in the world around you. Take pride in your achievements, no matter how small, while at the same time remaining humble and gracious. There are already so many wonderful people in your life who can teach you so much! Listen to what they say, learn from what they do and you will have a wealth of knowledge and a wider understanding of the world around you.

You are truly beautiful. Inside and out. Some people will say this doesn’t matter, some will say it’s all that matters. For me, it is important that you know I believe you to be perfect. I want you to be confident in yourself and feel certain that no matter where you go or who you face, you are enough. In every single way.

I will always be here for you. To hold your hand, to give you a cuddle, to sing you a song, to play games, to teach you to cook, to dance, to ride a bike, to plait your hair, to kiss it better when it hurts, to talk to, to share with and to love you with all my heart.

All I want for you is health, happiness and contentment and it is my goal, as your mummy, to help you find these things as you create your own path through the incredibly exciting life ahead of you.

Remember to always be true to yourself. Follow your own fashions and dance your own dance. There isn’t another you anywhere in the world, so show the world who you are and why you’re so special.

All my love, forever.

Your Mummy x

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CBeebies Bedtime Hour

Parenting

Last week CBeebies created quite a media storm by starting their bedtime ‘hour’ (now 75 minutes) fifteen minutes earlier, at 5.45pm.

Parents across the UK are up in arms because they cannot understand who is starting bedtime at this time or how.

So what do I think?

I love it!

Little V is allowed to watch a little bit of television after she’s eaten her tea and before she has her bath. Tea time is generally between 5 and 5.15 and we go upstairs for bath time between 6 and 6.30. From there, we don’t come back downstairs again as it’s the start of the bedtime routine – bath, pjs, story, sleep.

The new show that is being broadcast on CBeebies at 5.45 is absolutely perfect. It’s a sweet little puppetry story called ‘Moon and Me‘ all about going to sleep. Now, call me crazy, but that is exactly what I want Little V to see before she heads upstairs to start her own little bedtime ritual! It’s calm, it’s child-friendly and it’s very gentle viewing. A stark comparison to some of the other programs in the so-called ‘bedtime hour’ which I’m sure were created to get little ones overexcited and dancing around the room.

Of course, it is every parent’s choice what time they put their little ones to bed, but I personally value an early bedtime.

We have lots of fun during the day, my little girly (who has just turned two) has a nap just before lunch and isn’t allowed to sleep in the afternoon. I then find that by the time bath and bedtime comes round she is more than ready to settle down and welcomes the calm routine that we have established.

It’s just one point of view and by no means are any of the stances on this right or wrong – children’s routines (or lack thereof) are very personal and we all have to do what works for us, but I have to say I’m thrilled with CBeebies new scheduling and I will welcome the addition of Pepi Nana, Moon Baby and their friends as a new part of our bedtime routine.

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Who is Little V?

Parenting

IMG_1879Here she is! My raison d’être, my little ray of sunshine and the sparkliest thing in my entire life.

Little V arrived two years ago on a cold night at the end of January and turned my whole world upside down. I have never known such a feeling of complete fulfilment and cannot imagine a world without her in it.

She is so full of life – the epitome of ‘vivacious’, she is dramatic, talkative, creative, brave, adventurous, sociable and incredibly caring. Her wit, understanding and eloquence is far beyond her two tiny years and she can already command a busy dinner table and cheekily joins in with conversations that we don’t even know she’s listening to!

What is this feeling called love?

Whether I’m cooking, cleaning, tidying, working, chilling out or just going about my every day life, Little V is right beside me wanting to learn, copy and join in with everything I do. She helps me makes the beds every morning, she wipes round the bath and rinses down the sink, she tidies up her little kitchen and makes sure that the Play Doh goes back in the box so it doesn’t dry up while she goes off to play with something else. Yet, on the other hand, she’s quite wild! She’s so free spirited and most definitely has mind of her own. I can tell that there will be many battles of wills ahead – we already lock horns on occasion and she’s hardly turned 2!

So there we have it, Little V. My miniature bestie, my mini-me and the sunshine that lights up every single day.

A Big Bed for a Little Girl

Parenting

It’s no secret if you follow us on Instagram that we’ve been having a little bit of trouble getting Violetta down to sleep recently! 

With the arrival of the heatwave came the demise of her incredible bedtime routine. My calm, easygoing girl who was being popped in her cot awake and seeing herself off to sleep suddenly became clingy, unsettled and impossible to leave at bedtime. To begin with I put it down to the heat and we tried all the usual suggestions, but absolutely nothing made it possible to put her in her cot without total hysterics and my fear that she was just getting herself too worked up. So I got her travel cot mattress and popped it next to her cot and she fell asleep there before being moved across. 

I kept telling myself that everything with children is just a phase and that this one will pass, but it was getting harder and harder to loose my evenings to laying on the mattress until she fell asleep. I do most of my work after she’s gone to bed and that time had gone, meaning I was having to work while she occupied herself during the day. 

So something had to change. I thought about it long and hard before realising that it was the constraints of the cot causing the problem, not the falling asleep. 

So yesterday Violetta and I went shopping together. We bought her a special cot pillow and some new pjs and then we went home and took the side off her cot, together. 

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She was so excited by the time the cot was a bed that I had barely got the duvet and pillow in place before she was climbing in and role-playing bedtime! She went to bed. All her toys went to bed. Mummy didn’t get a look in! Then when Nana arrived for tea, Violetta proudly showed her new bed and how it was to be used. IMG_8519

We also decided that yesterday was the day to say bye bye to the bedtime bottle. So Violetta had her bath, popped on her new pjs and came downstairs to a very special cup of warm milk with a paper straw. She absolutely loved it and straight afterwards said night night and headed off upstairs. 

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I wish that enthusiasm continued. Despite being happy to get into bed, she wasn’t so happy to stay there, but with some gentle persuasion and cuddles from Nellie, she eventually settled. And guess what, she did a solid 12 hours! The longest she’s slept in such a long time! Even after she woke up she waited nicely in bed until we went to get her. 

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And this evening? After a ten minute story and a little back tickle from Mummy, this little dolly was asleep in her big bed and (touch wood) hasn’t moved yet!

I don’t know how tonight will go and I know that some people will think I’ve done this too soon, but I know my little girl and I know she was ready. Here’s hoping the 12 hour nights continue!

ps. Just look at her first pair of slippers!!

Cot Bed: Mamas and Papas

PJs: White Company and Mothercare

Slippers: Mothercare

Bedding: White Company

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It’s the Summer Holidays!

Child's Play, Parenting

It’s the summer holidays! Shout it from the roof tops!! This is my first real summer holiday with a little toddler in tow (last year I worked throughout – and while I plan to work a fair amount this summer I will be limiting it to 2/3 days a week and giving my little one my undivided attention the rest of the time).

So we’re one week in and already having so much fun.

The funny thing is that we haven’t actually gone out and done a lot yet, but we have just really really enjoyed each other’s company.

We’ve planted some little flowers in our garden, re-organised her toy room and nursery to make them the ultimate play spaces for her, done some drawing, cooked dinner together, gone out for coffees, seen friends (old and new!) and family and played, played, played!

Violetta’s language skills are changing every single day and it is truly incredible to witness. She takes absolutely everything in and suddenly comes out with something totally unexpected. Today, for example, she came and asked me for a cup of tea. I was in fits of giggles, but she must have heard the adults around her talking about having a cuppa and decided that she wanted one too, at a later date in a totally new context. When I declined the cup of tea, she just said ‘ok Mummy, sandwich please’. She’s got a seriously fun little personality on her and a really wicked sense of humour.

I’ll keep you updated as to the fun and games we get up to over the summer, but for now here’s a pretty little picture of Violetta with some of my favourite flowers.

My Little Water Baby

Child's Play, Local Things to Do

We started taking Little V to swimming lessons when she was 12 weeks old. We found a wonderful little swimming school called Turtle Tots, which ran classes in a local hotel’s swimming pool. It was such a lovely introduction to the water; building up our confidence and hers, understanding good ways to play in the water and a lovely environment with small classes and a clean and classy changing room! Not only did V find her feet in this class, learning to love the water, hold onto the side, kick, splash, go under water and blow bubbles, we also made some amazing mummy friends with similar aged children. We only did two sets of these lessons, but they were such a valuable learning experience for us all.

Ever since her swimming lesson days V has been a huge fan of the water. Whether it’s a swimming pool, the bath, a shower, a fountain or the bubbles in Mummy’s washing up sink, she can’t get enough of it.

She’s absolutely fearless too – loving it when the water is poured all over her face or she gets splashed by her over-zealous Papa!

This summer we are hoping to spend lots of time swimming at Nana and Grandpa’s house. We will practice everything we learnt at swimming lessons (V can independently hold onto the of the pool for nearly a minute!) as well as having lots of fun with balls and inflatables.

I was never especially confident in the water growing up, so it’s even more important to me that this little girly is happy in the pool from a young age.