She stills cries

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the night my mum came home and sat on the edge of my bed and told me she had breast cancer. It was quite definitely the worst day of my whole life. I didn’t really know what to say or what to do, and even now, writing this six years later, I’m in tears. 

Mum was amazing, she was so strong and went on holiday with her friends just two days later. Leaving me to take my dad down the pub, where he cried. And broke my heart in to a million pieces. Seeing your Dad cry is awful and totally soul destroying. We talked about what might be next for mum and what that might mean as a family. And I stayed strong, because I had too. All around me, everything I’d ever known as strong and stable, was falling apart. I can’t even see the screen as if type this. 

My little sister was in the middle of her A-Levels and we made the decision not to tell her what was going on. It didn’t feel right, she didn’t need the extra worry at the toughest time of her life. Just a few weeks after mum had got the diagnosis, she came home from school, and in only a way that my little sister could, walked in the door and said to mum ‘you’re dying aren’t you, I’ve known for weeks but I didn’t know how to say it’.  My poor sister had known something was wrong all along but just didn’t know how to tell her mum that she knew. 

I quit my job, I was miserable anyway and they wouldn’t give me the day off on the day mum went into hospital. Apparently someone else needed the day off to go shopping. I went to the hospital that night and saw her, but they wouldn’t let her out because she couldn’t keep anything down. Dad went to get her the next day.  She was so lucky, due to spotting the cancer so early they had been able to catch it early on and she only needed radiotherapy. I drove her to the hospital numerous times over the next few weeks and tried to make light of the tattoo’s they gave her to line up the machine. 

Six years on and she’s cancer free. She’s been on drugs every day since the radiotherapy stopped. Drugs that have had awful side affects on other parts of her body but they mean that her body, for now, is cancer free. Every day I’m thankful that I still have my mum, when so many of my friends don’t. I’m thankful for the money and research that have gone into new cures for cancer that mean that whilst I’ve lost my Uncle, Granny and Gramps to cancer, I’ve not lost my mummy. 

We’re waiting to hear if my sister and I need genetic screening to check we’re not vulnerable. But for now I’m just so thankful that we are still a family. And I’m so grateful to every doctor and nurse involved in treating her. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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She Craves Le Cruset

Back when I was a kid my Daddy bought my Mum a Le Cruset griddle pan for Valentine’s Day. A slightly odd gift to give your wife but, if you knew my Dad then you wouldn’t think so – this man cooks THE best rare steak imaginable. It’s always kept as a treat for special occasions but is so so good, and this griddle pan has a big part to play in making it just so. Since then though I’ve harboured a slightly unhealthy lust to own a piece of Le Cruset cookware for myself; orange isn’t a colour I particularly favour but there is just something about these pots and pans that is so appealing. 

Along with a group of friends I’m part of a Dinner Club, and really it’s just a good excuse to all get together, play some board games and catch up, all based around coming together and having a meal. Back in February it was my turn to host eleven people in my tiny flat, and so I offered to also cook the main course. I realised fairly early on that whatever I chose to cook I would struggle as I just didn’t own a pot or pan big enough…ah hah! What a great opportunity to treat myself, and all in the name of hospitality! 

Well was I in for a shock…clearly at no point during my cravings to own such a thing had I ever checked out the prices!! I was stunned and quite simply could not justify spending that sort of money on a pot for cooking! Gutted, but for once with my sensible shopping head attached I decided that I would just have to make do with what I had. 

A week or so later, Valentine’s Day in fact (clearly a pivotal date for this post!) I was in a Sainsbury’s Savacentre and thought I’d take a quick stroll through the Home department (probably looking for some more candles!) and out of the corner of my eye I spotted some bright orange pots and pans! These were Sainsbury’s own brand cast iron pots and at £30 it really didn’t take much thinking about! It’s safe to say I spent the rest of my shop with a pretty big grin on my face! 

Whilst it feels slightly like cheating at first because it’s such an obvious copy of the Le Cruset pot (they do do a cream colour but that didn’t appeal as much!) that is quickly forgotten when you then start to use it. It works brilliantly on top of the hob to fry off the initial ingredients of whatever you are cooking and is also great in the oven to keep things warm or to allow them to simmer. As it is cast iron it has quite a thick bottom and the heat takes a while to come through but I personally think that is a good thing as nothing ended up burnt to the bottom! It’s a great size at 2.5L and easily catered for 11 people with a good few portions left over. I had left some of the remaining sauce in the pot and was so tired that I didn’t wash it up until the next day. Normally I kick myself for doing this because it’s such a battle but the sauce just slide right off and cleaned up perfectly. The instructions do suggest to dry it up immediately to give it the best care, although I have to admit that I tend to leave it for a bit before I dry it – partly because it is quite heavy so I’m not up for holding it and drying it for too long! 

Whilst it’s not satisfied my Le Cruset craving by any stretch, I am hugely impressed by this pan and have continued to use it to make soup, rhubarb compote, a curry and a spaghetti bolognese.  I leave it sitting on top of my hob top all the time; because whilst the colour does clash rather with the rest of the decor, I am so chuffed with it that I let it off! 

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She Pins

Okay, I think I have OPD… otherwise known as Obsessive Pinning Disorder! Many a night I’ve tucked up in bed early, only to still be wide awake on Pinterest three hours later! I just think it’s the most amazing thing ever! I really wish such a thing had existed when I was doing my Art A-level and Art Foundation Diploma as it would have provided me with so much inspiration! 

My favourite things to pin are, arts and crafts ideas, inspirational words (who doesn’t love a positive pick me up, my favourite (sent to me by my mum, another obsessive pinner!) ‘Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says, “Oh crap, she’s up!”‘) and  ideas for my very forward thinking wedding planning board! 

I’m not really one for pinning beauty ideas, but one particular pin did catch my eye a few weeks ago and has drifted round and round in my subconscious ever since – shaving using baby oil. I am rubbish at shaving my legs, I regularly completely forget and in the winter it wouldn’t be hard to mistake my leg with those of my cat (I joke, his legs are much nicer). I am a weakling when it comes to other hair removal options so I’m stuck with my trusty razor, and on the days when I do remember to shave them I rarely remember to moisturise them (I’ve not really nailed this glamourous girl thing have I?!) and my skin often resembles that of a crocodile. So any new suggestions on how to be a better girl are always welcome and this baby oil malarkey seemed to be a good place to start. 

Now we’ve all seen those pins where people have attempted their own versions of what they’ve seen on Pinterest and ended up with nothing short of an absolute disaster, so I just had to hope that this wouldn’t be anything like that! 

So with one small bottle of baby oil purchased, last night I ran a quick bath and gave it a try. I have to say I was pretty impressed, no cuts and shaving my knees (something I have a really fear of doing) was easy. Jumping out of the bath and drying my legs off was, well just resulted in dry legs really! But once in bed I couldn’t stop stroking my legs, they were so soft and smooth. This morning they didn’t require any moisturising, so I was pretty chuffed. 

Writing this now though I have to say some of the novelty has worn off – my legs are feeling a bit prickley, just 24 hours later! I used a brand new blade so I can only imagine that the baby oil clogged up the razor some what and prevented a closer shave. A shame but to be honest, I think it’s still something I’ll keep doing as they are still well moisturised and actually shaving was easier.

I’ve also seen a pin about mixing iodine with baby oil to make the hair just dissolve and drop off your legs but I think I’ll give that one a miss for now!!

Oh, and feel free to follow me on Pinterest!  

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She cooks #1 – Puff Pastry Parcels

I have to say that I am absolutely a prolific offender when it comes to the Instagramming of food! I am terrible, and I know that I wind a lot of people up by filling up their Facebook feeds with images of things I’ve concocted in my kitchen. 

In an attempt to curb my obsession, I want to try and regularly share some of the things I’ve cooked or baked, through my blog. Showcasing new things I’ve guiltily bought for the kitchen (and trying to justify these purchases because of the blog!), and recipes I’ve made up based on random items in the fridge, and cravings I’ve been having! 

A few weeks back, pre rolled puff pastry was on offer in Tesco (other supermarkets are available!) and so I popped it into my virtual shopping basket and when it arrived I put it into the freezer for a later date. It’s a handy thing to have it the freezer as it’s pretty versatile, and defrosts in one hour at room temperature, which is great when you’ve got no idea what to have for dinner. 

Last Friday was a glorious bank holiday, and time to chill and head into the kitchen and get creative (and fill my belly!).  Mum and I travelled to Crete last October and since I’ve really been craving some of the fantastic flavours we had in the local Greek tavernas. In particular we had these little cheese and spinach pies; filo pastry parcels filled with deliciousness, which I tried to order with just about every meal we ate! Time, I think, to create my own version! 

Flinging open the fridge door I pulled out a block of feta, some vine cherry tomatoes, a bag of spinach…yum! I chopped the tomatoes and feta finely and added some chopped basil and mashed up pine nuts and mixed it all together in one bowl. I chopped the handfuls of spinach up too, and then lightly fried it in some olive oil and added that to the bowl.

Unrolling the puff pastry sheet is always a bit scary as it starts to crack when you get further down the roll, but I just mush the cracks back together again and it’s good! I’ve had those circular cookie cutters in the drawer for ages and never used them but suddenly this seemed like their perfect debut! I picked the largest of the set and cut out six circles from the pastry sheet (don’t be tempted, as I was, to gather up the remnants and re roll them to cut out more circles – this seems to knock the ‘puff’ out). I dolloped a spoonful of the feta spinach mix just off centre on each of the pastry circles and then folded  the circle over to make erm a semi circle?! I used my fork prongs to press the two edges together (and give a fancy finish) and then feeling a bit chuffed with myself I put them in the oven (gas mark 7 / 220 degrees) for 15 mins. And they turned out great, even if I do say so myself! I’d intended on taking them round to my mum and dads for Easter Sunday lunch but I ate them all in one go!! Whoops!! 

I’d love to know about your favourite puff pastry recipes, as I’m always up for trying something different! 

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She Was A Weight Watcher

So turns out that I’ve not really nailed this regular blog updating thingymabob! So please bear with me as I try and make amends over the next few days or so! I’ve got a head full of ideas but not much time to sit down and put figurative pen to paper! 

A couple of years back I was pretty poorly with some fairly gripping stomach pains; after various admissions to A&E, and my body being tested by all sorts of medical equipment, inside and out, the hospital came no closer to working out what was wrong with me. But having prescribed me a true cocktail of medications, I seemed to be pain free and my life was back on track. 

Woooohoo you might think, and certainly I did too. It was great, I could go back to work, I could go out and finally I wasn’t a regular visitor to the local hospital. No one was any closer to working out what was wrong with me but who cared, all I had to do was swallow six tablets a day and I was as good as cured! 

I thought nothing more of it, just kept shovelling the tablets in each day, feeling chuffed that I was fine. Rushing to get ready for work one morning I pulled one of my favourite dresses over my head and then nothing, I wriggled for a bit, shook my arms around a bit more, pulled here, pushed there and nothing. My beautiful black and white polka dot dress had now become a necklace. Nothing I did seemed to make it fit. I was in a rush, so pulled it off, chucked it on the floor and pulled something else out the wardrobe and thought nothing more of it. Stupid dress clearly shrunk in the wash. 

It wasn’t until the weekend, when I actually had an extra five minutes when getting dressed, that I realised that my bra no longer fitted, I had more boob out of the bra than in it! My eyes travelled down my body and I suddenly realised that actually everything looked a lot bigger than I remembered. I ran to the kitchen, grabbing the medication boxes from the cupboard and tearing out the paper bits, and guess what? the side affects on every single one stated that weight gain was a possibility. 

Initially gutted, by the end of the weekend I’d levelled it up in my head that a bit of weight loss was worth it for no pain. So I’d have to buy some more clothes…what a terrible shame! And actually as a result some clothes that had always been too big, now fitted. And I got a lot of compliments from people, in particular my family who had only ever known me as a size eight with a big bum and hips. 

Quickly though all that reconciling I’d done in my head went out the window. Within a month my size 10 trousers didn’t fit so I went out and bought size 12, no problem, and then one day those didn’t fit and I had to buy size 14. This was suddenly and very quickly out of control. Packing to go on a beach holiday was miserable, I had no confidence in wearing a bikini any more, and standing at the till in Accessorize buying a size 14-16 swimsuit reduced me to tears. I could only pack my biggest, previously floaty maxi dresses for evenings – they were the only things that still fitted from that summer and now they were straining at the seams. 

The holiday still had to happen, I couldn’t avoid it, just had to put on a brave face and pretend I was totally fine with the extreme changes my body had gone through in mere months. Looking back now my mum says she really admired how I approached that holiday, as though nothing about the situation phased me. I’m really glad that’s how it seemed on the outside because inside I was a wreck. By that time I’d already spent a lot of time battling some inner demons and some pretty petrifying suicidal and depressive thoughts, and things weren’t exactly improved whilst we were away. I think my family really struggled to keep their shock and thoughts to themselves that week and I tried to let the fairly barbed comments just bounce off me but inside it was destroying that final little bit of light that was still shining. 

I got back from that holiday with two options held very shakily in my fragile little head. I either stopped taking all this medication, but could I risk my depression worsening? Could my already fractious world cope if my stomach pains came back? And could I then exercise and diet within an inch of my life to get my body back? Or did I just let this run it’s course? My body could only get so big, right?  

Sitting there in my front room, a Weight Watchers ad came on television. A January offer for their online service. I don’t think I even gave it a second thought, I picked up my mobile phone and registered then and there. 

And quiet simply that was it. 

Ha, as if! I’m not going to lie, it was hard work. I quit all the medication that very same day and lost half a stone in the first week. If only the next two stone had been anywhere near that quick and easy! But I felt like I had control back in my life. I thought about food constantly, and unfortunately not celery and cucumber! And I had to force myself to like all sorts of things I’d previously despised, purely because they were Weight Watchers meals and at first that was the only way I could stick to it. 

But wow, that app taught me so much about food. Food I’d previously I’d never considered as being bad but now, restricted to just 26 points per day, I couldn’t eat them! Initially I only signed up for a three month subscription, and I decided when that ended, to try and and go it alone – I’d learnt a lot and I had the bit (and not the burger) between my teeth, this was going to happen. 

So then it was the beginning of April and I’d lost just over one stone, so with just one and a half stone to go…I was going it alone. Weight loss had slowed down a lot from those initial few weeks but I was determined to stay positive. Then an email hit my inbox, a surf trip in September with our Scout troop. Yes great, of course I’ll be there. I was excited; looking toward to getting back down to Cornwall and out on my board. Then I remembered…my wetsuit is a size 6. Ah. Slight problem. Whilst I’d lost a bit of weight, I was still very definitely a 12 and no amount of squeezing, talcum powder, washing up liquid or duck fat was going to get me in and the zip done up on that. 

So the challenge was on. I stuck to monitoring my food intake and ignoring anyone in the office who tried to waft a doughnut under my nose. And then I actually did something I said I’d never do, and joined a gym. I started going to Body Pump once a week, and then twice a week and then added a Zumba class to the mix too. 

And then it was time. The size 6 wetsuit was packed and we were on our way to Cornwall. And suddenly my confidence and faith in my self dipped. I should have tried it on before I left. I should have bought a new wetsuit. I shouldn’t have come at all. We got to site, a day before the scouts and I found a thousand and one tasks that we needed to do before getting in the sea and succeeded. Night fell on the camp and I’d still not had to put the suit on. Good work. Then morning dawned, and the scouts have now arrived and at 6am are already charging round site in their wetsuits begging to go into the sea before breakfast. This was it. There was no more putting it off. The suit had to go on. 

And do you know what? It did. It fitted. It was tight, but who cares it’s a size 6 wetsuit and it’s on my body and the zip is done up. I don’t think I managed to catch one decent wave that whole weekend, my sheer elation had overtaken my whole body and all I wanted to do was dance, not balance on a piece of fibreboard. 

And do you know what else? Not once, not one single time since I’d ditched all that medication at the start of the year, had my stomach hurt. And not only that, but at no time during that nine months had I even thought about my stomach pains. 

So here I am, two and a half years later. Two and half stone lighter. And happy. Back in pain. But happy. Because I took control and I got my life back. And quite frankly, if someone who was as close to saying goodnight to the world as I was, can fight back and come out on top, I reckon anyone else can do it and probably do it ten times better and ten times faster.

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She is…

sunglassesI’m sitting in my pint sized garden bathed in early spring sunshine, with a cuppa (okay, okay, a G&T!), and the cat at my feet, writing my first blog and I have to say, I feel pretty content.
I’ve wanted to get back in to writing for a while but couldn’t really think of anything in particular that I wanted to write about, mainly because I’m passionate about some pretty random things for a 26 year old, and so wasn’t really too sure what knowledge or information I could really impart as a result!
But after a pretty emotional and inspirational breakfast with 130 women last week, I think I’ve finally settled on a title series for my blog and a few ideas for future blogs. It felt pretty fitting that this breakfast, held at my church in memory of a young girl who recently passed away in tragic circumstances, was held on International Women’s Day. Whilst I’m not an out and out bra burning feminist I do think us lovely ladies should do more to recognise how AMAZING we all are, both collectively and individually, and celebrate that!
I’d like my blog to therefore be a celebration of just that, and using the title series ‘She’, I want to explore and share all the things that I get up to in my week / month, proving (slightly big headedly) that us ladies are just awesome!!
I don’t intend for this blog to be at all ‘soap boxy’, I guess I just want to show that a cat loving, obsessive shopping, G&T drinking, food Instagraming, patchwork quilt making, classical music listening, blonde girl can also be a Christian and have an awesome life that I want to share with as many lovely people as possible!