Why I Started ‘Out With Animals’

It’s a very strange thing when you stop working because of ill-health. The only thing I can really compare it to in any way is it must be a bit like what retirement feels like. It’s the end of an era, you’re admitting that you’re not able to function like you used to, you’re taking some time for yourself and you’re putting your working life behind you. But retirement is expected, and it’s a celebration in some ways as well. When you stop working 40 years earlier than expected like I did, you don’t get people celebrating your working achievements with you or praising your dedication and merits. I didn’t even get a leaving card or a cake. It was a bit like I died- I just ceased to exist in the working world and life carried on for everyone around me.

I get it, to everyone else – family and friends included, not just work colleagues- it’s a case  of people don’t know how to respond. It’s not like leaving for a new and exciting job role, or a change in career, or going back to studying, where you can wish someone luck in their new projects. It’s not like giving up work to go on maternity leave or to concentrate on bringing up your family where you can at least make jokes about the perils of parenthood, while also wishing luck for the future. It’s not even like taking a break because I’ve got cancer or another illness with an end date on it and I’d hopefully go back to work sometime in the future. So people didn’t know what to say, and, truth be told, it’s only now I think about it that I realise what would have helped me at the time.

I realise now that I didn’t fail because I stopped working. But I felt like that was the case because of my feelings about it and because of the way people (inadvertently) made me feel by dodging the subject or the way they spoke to me about it. There should have been something to mark the successful bits of my career.It takes a bit of getting used to, being unemployed, even if you’ve been off sick for a while beforehand. It’s completely different and still comes as a shock. It also takes a bit of getting used to admitting you’re disabled. So until Christmas, I basically was trying to find where I fitted in the world without my job and all of the things I loved about having a job which came with it. Not to mention the sudden drop in income and the change in lifestyle which has to come with it.

I decided to knit everyone I knew Christmas presents, which kept me busy. But then I got to January, where everyone always feels sad and depressed anyway and it kind of hit me. What the hell am I going to do with my life now? The way I saw it, there was two options:

  1. Give up and become a victim-like personality and exist purely as my illness and nothing else.
  2. Find myself a reason to get up every day which gave me some sense of purpose. I can’t work but I can find something to do with my life which makes it actually worth living. I’m definitely not living the way I planned my life to be, but I can’t do much about the cards I’ve been dealt, so I may as well make the game as good a one as I can. Just because I’m incapacitated doesn’t mean I’m incapable. I still have worthwhile characteristics and qualities which didn’t just vanish when I stopped working.

Number 1 is by far the easiest. If people feel sorry for you, you get attention, and who doesn’t feel better from attention? You can use your illness as an ‘excuse’, some people will let you act in whatever way you want ‘because you’re sick’. But it’s more pity than attention, and it’s completely fake. And, if you’ve got a normal lifespan with your chronic illness, other people aren’t going to put up with you acting like that forever.

Number 2 is definitely harder. Most mornings I wake up and think ‘here we go again, I feel awful, I haven’t really slept, I wanted to do X today, but I probably won’t manage. Why is the kitchen so far away to make my breakfast? Can I really be bothered with this?’ In January, it was even worse and I really struggled mentally. So I decided to do something about it.

I sat down and thought about what I’d like to do with all my ‘free’ time if I wasn’t restricted by illness:

  • volunteer
  • support a charity
  • do sports
  • play music
  • start a business
  • meet up with friends
  • read
  • study something
  • Take up a hobby I do every day
  • travel

Then I put a line through all of the ones I can’t do because of illness. Meeting up with friends with no money wasn’t going to be a sustainable thing. Plus they have jobs during the day. Reading is something I struggle with. I’d been supporting Post Pals, a charity which sends post to seriously ill children to cheer them up over Christmas with their reindeer post scheme, so I contacted them and asked if there was anything regularly I could do. They said people send their kids post all year round. I know I like receiving post when I’m feeling poorly and depressed, so I decided to find something along those lines which I could do. I could do it from home when I could manage it with my illness, which was good for me too.

However, as much as sending post to children would give me something to do every now and then, it wasn’t really the regular thing I was looking for i.e. something every single day. What else can I do every day? Knitting. I was doing a lot of knitting. I could also write blogs on my phone. The thing with me and charity work is that I don’t do charity work for the ‘praise’ I get back. I actually prefer doing charity stuff if I don’t get feedback from whoever I’m doing it for, because it makes it feel less like I’m doing it for myself and more like I’m doing it for the ‘right’ reasons (in my head anyway). But, I was pretty isolated, and I knew that whatever I was trying to do every day needed to be something which involved a two-way interaction process with another human being, so that I didn’t get stuck in a depressive spiral.

So I had knitting, Post Pals and writing as my ‘things I can do most days’ list. I’d been making a lot of animals for my nephew because I’d got bored of making conventional things like scarves. The animals were good to make because they only took me a couple of days each and they knit up in sections, meaning I can start and stop them when I needed a rest without getting lost. Except my nephew was quickly developing quite a zoo in his bedroom, so that couldn’t continue much longer. But I thought ‘if he likes animals, then other kids will too. Maybe I’ll make some for the post pals kids‘. Another thing which I realised, is that I always have some kind of stuffed toy in my hospital bag because it gives me some kind of comfort when I’m feeling vulnerable in a hospital. Now, if I like to have something pocket sized to take with me as a 30 year old, those kids from Post Pals definitely will. What if the animal was their friend? And wrote a letter to them to say hello when they got sent to them? Or, what if the animals talked about what they’d been up to before they got sent to the child, and then the child could introduce them to their world?

Basically, I came up with: knit an animal (daily habit), persuade a friend to take out an animal and take photos of it doing things (2 way interaction for me), write a story (daily habit), post the animal and story off to the post pals children (charity). My doctors, especially my psychiatrist all heartily approved of me doing this.The friend who took the first animal out for me works in comms, so suggested social media to get more people involved, and because she found the whole concept quite amusing! I was having to work hard to convince people that they wanted to take a stuffed animal out with them places and take photos of it ‘pretending’ to be on an adventure (people thought I was a bit nuts), so I set up twitter, instagram and Facebook profiles, as well as an online blog for the stories, under the name ‘Out with Animals‘.

I was quite enjoying being sent photos of the animals doing fun things (and seeing what my friends were up to) and using my brain a bit to write stories- it appealed to the creative side of me that had kind of got covered in dust since stopping music teaching. Then around Easter time, a lot of people I know had holidays planned and, instead of me thrusting an animal on them and begging them to take photos, suddenly a lot of people asked if they could take an animal with them. And I’ve had some really imaginative photos from lots of people! I started using the social media pages I set up to ‘chat’ to places the animals visited- I had a lovely chat with Monarch Airlines about Lizzy the Lizard’s travel sickness from having eaten too much Easter Chocolate, I managed to get Eric the Elephant a City of Culture Badge by tweeting them about his adventures and the Kennedy Space Centre tweeted me back about Oscar the Octopus’s attempt to be the first octopus in space. Not only were the animals getting more and more adventurous- they’ve been to places all over, from Italy to Japan, but it really was helping me and my mental health. Around the same time, another charity called Help for Dominica emailed me and asked if I could send some animals over to Dominica to help with their school education and outreach programmes following Tropical Storm Erika. That was also pretty exciting, and I’ve sent 7 out there so far.

Now I’ve constantly got a ‘list’ of animals that people have requested to take out, and I’ve also had a few random strangers who have come across my page ask to be involved either by crocheting animals or because they want an animal to take out. Groups and organisations like primary schools, Scouts, Rainbows, Hospitals, the army, a mayor, and the police have asked to be involved somehow. That’s pretty cool for an idea that came out of me sitting in my PJs knitting one day in January!

Making animals is in no way filling the massive hole that teaching and having a job left. But it’s something I can do which helps other people, gives me some kind of a sense of purpose, and stops myself from hiding away and exacerbating my illness by isolating myself. I can do it at my own pace and stop when I’m having rough patches with illness. If you follow my social media, I tend to do an update before 8am when I’m doing my whole ‘here we go again….’ monologue- that’s intentional. It’s the hardest time of day for me, and even when I’ve been in hospital, I’ve still managed to post an update. It means that I can feel like I’m contributing to life even though I’m not out of bed yet and everything is really hard work. I’ve achieved something even if I manage nothing else for the rest of the day. It’s only a small thing, but it’s quite important for me to be able to do it. It’s not the same as having a career, but I enjoy doing it, and it’s a lot better than giving up and letting my illness take over completely. If nothing else, I’m proud of myself for that!


Harry Potter in Concert

The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra is currently touring the UK performing the Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone film score live at the same time as the film is played. I’m a massive Harry Potter fan and particularly love the Harry Potter film music, so I loved it! 

We went to see it in the Albert Hall. There were performances closer to us, but I incorporated it into part of my 30 things list and I thought the atmosphere would be amazing. And it was. It was a great mix of people- film lovers, orchestra fans, Harry Potter geeks dressed in robes, children… it was really good fun. And audience participation was encouraged! 

I studied conducting at university, but never did any film or screen conducting. I found it interesting to watch it being performed live with the film, because it obviously has to be really precise, but usually when the film score is recorded, it’s done with cues and times. This conductor must have really internalised his score and the film to be able to get it so spot on in front of a live audience. Incredible. And the musicians were amazing too. An entire film score, especially the length of a Harry Potter one, is a lot of playing to do in one concert! 

There was also a choir with wordless parts throughout. You know their bits exist when watching the film, but because it was live their parts added more depth to the soundtrack. In fact, in general there was more depth to the music, especially in the lower brass. I guess it’s partly because I haven’t watched the first HP film on a large screen since it originally was released and the sound gets compressed a lot when it gets turned into a DVD. I also noticed a lot more of the musical devices used and our perception of some of the characters was different, which was interesting! All because the music was played live and more of a focus rather than in the background. 

I think my favourite bit was actually the credits because they played them in their entirety and people stayed in their seats and listened unlike at the cinema. The orchestra played all of the themes we’d listened to for the last few hours and it just rounded it off nicely. And also got a really loud round of applause. 

It was a great day out. We managed to get street parking right outside the Albert Hall (£14 ish for 4 hours), and the congestion charge doesn’t apply on weekends. Because I’m not up to walking far, we decided to have lunch in the Italian restaurant at the Albert Hall, which was a bit of a gamble because we hadn’t reserved and it could have been ridiculously expensive, but it turned out to be really reasonably priced and a nice meal. Plus we didn’t have to rush because we were already at the venue. I’ve only been to the Albert Hall once before so I loved being in such a historic venue. The same orchestra are performing the Chamber of Secrets next year so I’m tempted to see that too! 

Banner photo: taken from the Albert Hall box office 


I really hate napping. I’ve always hated going to sleep. When I was a kid, I didn’t like to feel like I was missing out on anything (what, I don’t know) so I didn’t like going to sleep. I’m still like it in some respects, but a lot of my time at the moment is spent napping or lying down resting. It’s boring! 

A friend told me about podcasts. These are now my new favourite thing! Sometimes I lie on the sofa and watch tv and nap, but unless it’s something I’ve seen before, I tend to want to have my eyes open so I don’t miss anything, which isn’t very conducive to napping. Plus it takes extra energy processing sound *and* sight so it’s not as much rest as I could get. Making podcasts a good option! A lot of them are free, there’s lots of talking and I can lie in bed with my eyes shut and drift in and out of sleep. Or if I can’t sleep, I know I’m getting decent rest. I tried audiobooks before, but the problem with those is that if I fall asleep I tend to get ‘lost’, and I feel like I’ve ‘missed out’ on some of the plot (which I have). Here are some of my current favourite podcasts:

The West Wing Weekly

It’s a discussion of each episode of the West Wing, so I have a legitimate reason to watch the West Wing for the umpteenth time! They talk about plot lines and characterisation, but also production and backstage things too, which I’m finding really interesting. 


This is one which you have to listen to in order. It follows a case of a girl who was abducted and murdered and the 17 year old boy who was convicted of it. It’s a real case from 1999 but the point of the podcast is that they’re not convinced he actually did it. So they’re picking apart the case and using interviews and evidence to try to decide. It’s so interesting! It’s a bit like Sherlock, to me anyway. 

Desert Island Discs

This is quite a good one to dip in and out of if I actually want to sleep. A different famous person per episode is asked what music they’d take with them to a desert island. They also talk about their reasons for having chosen the pieces so you find out some details about their lives. 

The Rough Guide to Everywhere 

It’s a travel podcast with special guests who discuss places they’ve traveled to, their lives at specific points when travelling and culture. I’m not listening to all of them, just the ones I find interesting.

Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review 

Basically a run down of the latest films, both on TV and in the cinema, complete with reviews. Listeners can write in and contribute and there’s usually a celebrity interview linked to a film out at the time. Another one that’s good to listen to in the background, but I quite like the debates they have about the different films. 

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

The notion of this is an interesting one: looking at Harry Potter as though it was a text like the Bible or another sacred text. It’s really fascinating how if you read the chapters with a specific theme in mind, it changes the way you view the story. I’m not re-reading the books along with the podcast because I did that quite recently, but I really like how they pick apart certain elements of it, and how actually a lot of the morals of the story are the same or similar foundations of other religions. The presenters use examples from their own lives to illustrate their interpretations as well, which helps you think about aspects of your own life. 

There are some other ones I occasionally listen to, like some meditation ones or the documentaries and long reads on the Guardian and BBC channels, but these are the ones that I look forward to listening to. The West Wing Weekly is by far my favourite, but I’ve almost caught up with them and they only record once a week! Let me know if you have any suggestions of others to listen to 🙂 

Learning How to Crochet

I like to think of myself as a proficient knitter:


but crochet seemed like a strange form of witchcraft in comparison. I tried to learn with a friend last year and it felt like I was just waving a stick around in the air, occasionally catching some wool and expecting it to magically form something that resembled crochet. It was fun though!

I recently started knitting small animals for charity and writing stories about them (check out this blog) but was getting incredibly frustrated with the amazing and cute crochet patterns available and the distinct lack of knitting equivalents. So I decided last week to learn how to crochet properly.


Lou the Lion on his animal adventure

Another friend told me about some really easy crochet videos by a guy called Mikey on the Crochet Crowd YouTube channel. I’d looked at videos before but got nowhere but this was a whole series of videos with slow and clear instructions. He even tells you when to pause the video! So I started practising the basic stitches: single crochet, double crochet and triple crochet.


The one thing I will say is the way he tells you to do a slip knot is unecessarily difficult, in my opinion. But I knew that from knitting anyway.

I spent a few days learning and practising these. My venture into crochet last year helped a lot because I already knew how to hold the hook and how to yarn over. But I got to the point where I was bored of doing stitches and wanted to do something that was recognisable as crochet and not just a series of random knots. So Mikey helpfully taught me how to make a Granny Square.


I was pretty proud of my achievement, but a friend said they’re supposed to be different colours. Well, Mikey didn’t tell me how to change colours, so I didn’t. And Mikey is the Crochet Master! So I went on YouTube and found a different channel by a British lady.

This is where I got confused. She was saying the word single crochet but she was not single crocheting. Had Mikey been lying to me the whole time?! Then I remembered that American and British crocheting are different, although Mikey is Canadian I think, judging by the way he says ‘about’. I switched video and found a different British lady who does ‘the American way’ and managed a colour changing granny square:


I felt like I was cheating on Mikey a bit though, he’d got me further than anyone else so far through his idiot proof lessons, so I went back to his channel and picked up the next lesson which was circles:


I’m absolutely appalling at maths so I was grateful for Mikey and his helpful rhymes telling me how to do it. However, this is where my knitting knowledge came in handy- I might not have been able to immediately do what Mikey was telling me but I was able to work out what I should be doing, which is half the battle.

The next thing I wanted to learn was how to make a flower. Mikey’s channel taught me a simple flower and the British lady taught me how to make a rose.


I felt like I was getting the hang of it by now, so realised that I should probably stop relying on Mikey and work out how to read a pattern. Thankfully Mikey also had a video for that too! I also decided to buy some crochet hooks, because I only owned 1 before.


I needed an animal for someone to take to Italy for me and gecko was one of the suggestions. So I found a pattern online pretty quickly, so much easier than trawling through the knitting ones! I had issues working out what a magic ring was. Correction, I knew what I was supposed to do – you wrap the yarn in such a way that you don’t have a hole in the centre of your work – but Mikey’s video was overly complicated, so I found a different one. Working this out took the longest but once I’d got that, the rest of the pattern was pretty easy to decipher by using what I already knew or by using YouTube videos. Again, knitting knowledge came in handy.


I’m pretty impressed with myself because my first attempts at crochet last year were terrible. Getting the right YouTube videos was definitely the main reason for my success- I’m quite good at copying someone but not very good at verbal instructions. The Crochet Crowd videos with Mikey were good because he repeated the exact same phrase over and over and didn’t talk unnecessarily while he was doing it, which helped when trying to repeat the stitches in a different context. Truth be told, I still don’t have a clue what the differences between all of the stitches are, but it doesn’t take long to go back to the videos and work out which ‘rhyme’ I’m supposed to be using. I’m looking forward to the different patterns I can now explore! Thanks Mikey 🙂

30 Foods Before 30: Spring Update

My birthday in May seems a lot closer now Spring has sprung. I’ve started a new diet, low carb high fat, which slowed me down a bit with finding some of the foods on my list. But now I’ve got to grips with it, I’ve been able to take a few breaks from it to make sure I complete my list!

1. Biscuits and gravy

2. Musakhan jajj

3. Freak shake We went to the shopping centre where I got the Freak Shake last time and it took a lot of will power not to go in and get another one!


4. Wood ants I’m not looking forward to this one… The friend who suggested it was talking about this place the other day. The restaurant sounds like an interesting place so I’m up for trying it, even if I don’t feel excited by the prospect!

5. Lobster I had steak and lobster in a steak house.


6. Khachapuri

7. Ceviche Texture was weird, but the taste was good!


8. Kleftico

9. Nutella Krispy Kreme Many, many times…! So good! Sadly, Krispy Kreme definitely isn’t low carb, and one doughnut would be approximately 2/3 of a day of carbs for me. So I shouldn’t really sample anymore of these 😦


10. Raclette I’ve had lots of Racelette now. Especially as it’s a very low carb meal, which is an added bonus! Here’s our most recent one a few weeks ago:


11. Afternoon tea While on holiday in Wales we had a lovely afternoon tea out.


12. Tapas I’ve had Spanish and Italian Tapas since starting this list. My brother now owns a Tapas bar, so hopefully I’ll be able to sample his soon too!


13. Alcoholic ice lollies We tried making these over Christmas, but lacked the alcohol to put in them…

14. ‘Proper’ loose leaf tea I’ve had this a couple of times, once at a friend’s house and also with afternoon tea


15. Tartiflette I can’t believe I’ve not had this yet! We even have the cheese in the freezer ready to go! It’s become slightly more difficult with my latest diet, which rules out potatoes. I’ll make an exception for this though 😉

16. Dosas

17. Tagine My husband made this for tea one night. It was alright- something I’d eat, but not something I’d really look forward to having again.


18. Real steak Steak is now a regular feature in my diet. Here’s my favourite one- philly cheese steak


19. Gelato I’m happy to continue sampling flavours with this, despite it being ‘done’😉


20. Pecan pie In an american smoke house- very, very good pie.


21. Mississippi mud pie I didn’t eat it in pie form, but I did have it in a sundae the other day. It was pretty good- quite bitter but I like some desserts like that.


22. Ice cream float Also in the smoke house, had this a couple of times now.


22. Hot dog This was ‘alright’. I wouldn’t pick it again, but I can say I ate it!

hot dog

23. Octopus We had this as part of the tapas meal I had ages ago and it was ‘alright’. But then my friend (the one who’s the really good cook) made it for us as part of a meal we had before Christmas and it was really, really good.


24. Thai food I’ve had a Thai Green Curry at a pub and at home and Thai Red Curry Mussels but haven’t eaten in a Thai restaurant or eaten authentic Thai food. So this is kind of done, but not quite


25. Chowder My good chef friend made us chowder a few weeks ago. It was amazing! Definitely something I’ll have again


26. Mussels We had these this week on our anniversary meal out for our second wedding anniversary. They were also unlimited so we could eat lots of flavours. Korma and red thai curry were the best.


27. Wood fired pizza Pizza is the opposite of low carb so takes a bit of planning. But that won’t stop me! 😉

28. Churros I’ve had these a few times now, still really good, especially these ones with nutella and dulce de leche


29. Jerk chicken This was an amazing meal out for my husband’s birthday.


30. Sweet potato fries I’m still pretty obsessed with these- every meal that comes with the option of chips, I switch them for sweet potato fries if I can!

If you’re observant, I repeated the number 22 by mistake when I wrote my list so I’ve actually got 31 things, not 30. But I’m happy to eat one thing extra! So in my Winter update I had 19 done, 1 nearly done and 11 not tried yet. Now I’ve got 21 done, 1 nearly done and 9 not tried yet. I’m getting there slowly! It’s the more obscure things on my list I have left now. So if you want to cook for me (please) or accompany me in my quest for finding the things on my list, let me know! 🙂

Banner photo: google image

Knitting Off-piste

A friend asked me if I could knit a kangaroo and joey as part of a birthday present she was making. She was sewing a patchwork blanket (I think!?)  with pockets in for small toys, so the criteria was it had to fit in the pocket. I’ve never knitted a kangaroo before and I don’t often knit toys, so this sounded fun. Plus I really like knitting for a purpose rather than just knitting random things and finding them a home afterwards. So I started looking online for patterns.

There’s a distinct lack of kangaroo knitting patterns online, I discovered. Not a problem. I’ve knitted for long enough that I know how to adapt patterns to suit my own purposes. So I started thinking outside the box and looked for patterns of rabbits and mice and other small creatures that I could change to become kangaroo-like.

I started one for a rabbit, which was a pattern knitted in the round. It didn’t tell me the dimensions of the end product, so I chose small needles and wool and hoped for the best. The start of the pattern was fine, but then it started wanting me to knit part of it like I was knitting the heel of a sock. This is where I ran into problems: with my Adrenal Insufficiency, I categorise skills into pre and post diagnosis. Basically anything I learnt how to do before I developed adrenal insufficiency, I can usually repeat now (providing I can physically manage it and albeit a lot slower). Some medical professionals encourage people with concentration/memory problems (like Alzheimer’s) to knit because it’s enough to keep the brain working but not too taxing on it. I really struggle to learn anything new now, can’t retain the information, and can’t piece together abstract bits of information. So I know how to knit and follow and adapt patterns because I did that for years before, but I’d never knitted a sock before so I was completely clueless. Eventually, the disaster that was becoming the rabbit/sock/kangaroo was turning out to be ridiculously huge, so I decided to abandon that pattern completely and try a new one.

A friend bought me this book for Christmas:


It’s a good book anyway, but crucially for me and my criteria, it said ‘mini’. Toys are usually made up in pieces which you sew together, so I started looking through the book to see if there were any characters I could ‘steal’ and adapt to fit my kangaroo.

I eventually decided on: the body of Mary, the head and neck of a donkey, the arms of a sheep and I would make my own legs, tail and ears based on what I already know. It sounded a little bit like a Catholic prayer of some sort for communion, but I set to work.

The body of Mary worked out quite well for the body of the kangaroo. Next I made the neck and donkey head. This didn’t turn out so well, mostly because the neck was a lot longer than I needed it to be for my kangaroo- a bit like a giraffe. So I flicked through the book again and found a reindeer head, which was much better, minus the antlers. It became obvious that while I could position the reindeer head and Mary and sew those together, I also needed a base. Otherwise all the stuffing would fall out and the kangaroo wouldn’t stand up. So I knitted a circle and sewed that on, and then put some toy stuffing in before sewing up completely.

After all that, the legs, arms and tail were quite easy. The legs, tail and ears I just knitted front to back into every stitch on a knit row until I had enough stitches (and purled the purl rows) and the arms I followed the i-cord suggestion from the sheep pattern. My husband said it still didn’t look very kangaroo-like so I decided to knit him a pouch, by doing a sort of half circle similar to the base in white. I found some blue beads for the eyes and decided to knit him a red scarf to give him a bit of colour. For the joey, I did another i-cord section which I folded in half lengthways. Before sewing the sides, I embroidered eyes and a mouth in black wool, sewed up the sides, and just sewed over myself a lot of times into where the head, arms and feet would be to give them a bit of shape. Knitting a scarf for joey would have been too fiddly, if not impossible, so I tied a piece of blue yarn round his neck.

I was quite impressed with how they turned out considering I don’t make toys often and it was a bit like knitting off-piste! And considering it’s an amalgamation of Mary, a reindeer and a sheep!



30 Foods Before 30: Autumn Update

I’ve been a bit slower eating my way through my 30 foods before 30 list in recent weeks, but here’s my Autumn update as to how I’ve got on so far:

1. Biscuits and gravy

2. Musakhan jajj

3. Freak shake I recently gave up most processed sugar to help manage my insulin resistance, and I think eating a freak shake might be a bit of a sugar overload now! But I’ll still try someone else’s at the very least. 

4. Wood ants I’m not looking forward to this one…

5. Lobster I had steak and lobster in a steak house.


6. Khachapuri

7. Ceviche  Texture was weird, but the taste was good!


8. Kleftico 

9. Nutella Krispy Kreme Many, many times…! So good!


10. Raclette Will be eating more raclette this week too 🙂


11. Afternoon tea While on holiday in Wales we had a lovely afternoon tea out.


12. Tapas I’ve had Spanish and Italian Tapas since starting this list


13. Alcoholic ice lollies 

14. ‘Proper’ loose leaf tea I’ve had this a couple of times, once at a friend’s house and also with afternoon tea


15. Tartiflette I can’t believe I’ve not had this yet! We even have the cheese in the freezer ready to go!

16. Dosas

17. Tagine 

18. Real steak I had the steak and lobster which was ‘alright’, but also steak at another steak house, which was amazing!


19. Gelato I’m happy to continue sampling flavours with this, despite it being ‘done’ 😉


20. Pecan pie In an american smoke house- very, very good pie.


21. Mississippi mud pie 

22. Ice cream float Also in the smoke house, had this a couple of times now.


22. Hot dog This was ‘alright’. I wouldn’t pick it again, but I can say I ate it!

hot dog

23. Octopus Again, this was ‘alright’. We had it as part of the tapas meal. I’ve been told that it tastes better if made differently though.


24. Thai food I’ve had a Thai Green Curry at a pub and Thai Red Curry Mussels but haven’t eaten in a Thai restaurant. So this is kind of done, but not quite.


25. Chowder

26. Mussels We had these this week on our anniversary meal out for our second wedding anniversary. They were also unlimited so we could eat lots of flavours. Korma and red thai curry were the best.


27. Wood fired pizza I’m surprised I’ve not eaten this yet!

28. Churros I’ve had these a few times now, still really good, especially these ones with nutella and dulce de leche


29. Jerk chicken This was an amazing meal out for my husband’s birthday.


30. Sweet potato fries I’m still pretty obsessed with these- every meal that comes with the option of chips, I switch them for sweet potato fries if I can!

So by my counting that’s 17 done, 1 nearly done and 13 not tried yet. And if you’re clever, you’ll have realised that that adds up to 31, not 30. It’s because in my original list I repeated 22 by accident, but when I realised, I decided to leave it in because I’m quite happy to sample one extra food! I think some of the red ones I might have to make at home from recipes, because I haven’t seen them on menus- if you have, let me know so I can hunt them down.

I’m quite impressed that I’ve eaten everything so far- there’s not been anything that I would say ruined the meal because I didn’t like it. But then again, I haven’t eaten wood ants yet!

Banner Image: Google Images

30 Before 30: Autumn Update

I haven’t done an update on my 30 things before 30 list for a while because it got tricky in completing something every week. Plus I’ve had a few health setbacks recently which have made it virtually impossible to do even the ‘easy’ things. I started the list over the Summer, and here’s my Autumn Update! The idea being, I will have hopefully managed most if not all of the things on the list by the time my birthday comes in May. I will definitely need some help with some of these, or if anyone wants to join in let me know 🙂

  1. Ride a Horse. I’ve not even seen a horse since starting my list!

  2. Go on a Spa Day. 

  3. Make a wearable piece of clothing. I’ve started this by starting to make a skirt. But it’s been put on hold while I recover because it takes too much concentration/effort to do.

IMG_66834. Volunteer for a charityI signed up to post cards/letters to a 5 year old child who spends a lot of time in hospital (postpals), one from each of the reindeer throughout the month of December. It’s not practical volunteering, but it’s still doing something for charity. 

5. Go to a Christmas Market that’s not just the one in Birmingham. I’m determined for this to happen!

6. Sell at a craft fair. 

7. Go see a musical and stay the night in London. 

8. Be a tourist in London. 

9. Go for a picnic in a park or a forest. Complete! Although I still want to go on a picnic in the forest.


10. Go punting. 

11. Do yoga outside. I did some physio and Tai Chi outside. Yoga is definitely too ambitious at the moment. And it’s now cold outside!

12. Make brioche.

13. Sleep in a yurt. 

14. Learn to play Mvt II Sonata Pathetique (Beethoven) all the way through. I have one more page left to learn. Sadly it’s the hardest page!


15. Make my own fruit juice for breakfast. Complete! I made peach and mango and apricot juice for breakfast. 

IMG_619516. Practise Spanish in an actual situation. I’ve done this a bit to a spanish waiter, but it would be good to have a conversation where my responses weren’t just ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

17. Go/watch ice skating. Ice skating won’t happen. But hopefully watching it could.

18. Read all of the Harry Potter books in order. Complete! And I even read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well. I can’t have read the last 2 books as much as the other ones because it took me a lot longer to read as I didn’t already know the story as well and kept forgetting bits and having to flick back. And the films, which I have watched a lot, miss out a lot of storylines I’ve discovered! Thank you to my friend who let me borrow his books 🙂


19. Make mojito ice lollies. 

20. Learn how to crochet properly (even if it is bad). I still can’t do it… It’s proving hard.

21. Re-read a book in French. 

22. Host a raclette party. Complete! 

IMG_665523. Listen to BBC Proms concerts. I kind of tailed off listening to them as the Summer went on, but I still listened to lots of different performances. 

24. Record a song on GarageBand. Or Logic. 

25. Play Pokemon Go. I’m still playing, but I can tick it off the list.

26. Eat tapas. We had some very good tapas, on 2 occasions, Still open for trying more though!


27. Visit a castle. We visited a lot when we went on holiday to Wales. This one is my favourite:


28. Go to the seaside/beach and paddle. 

29. Play in a band rehearsal. I *kind of* did this when I went to my old concert band’s reunion event. As in, I played the triangle and the tambourine for a couple of pieces! But I’d still like to play more if I can (although looking unlikely)

30. Go to a Carol Service. This will hopefully happen, a friend was talking about this yesterday so fingers crossed!

My list is looking a bit like my RAG spreadsheets for school exam predicted grades (teacher in me), so I feel like I should add them up! I’ve completed 8, made a start towards 6 and haven’t done 16… There’s still a lot to be done!

I started the list when I was in a more of a healthy spell, so some of them might not get completed at all now as they’re possibly too ambitious. Others are weather dependent or seasonal. So overall, I’m quite impressed with myself! I think I’m going to focus on the Christmas ones and ones I can do at home, like reading a book in French, crochet and playing the piano. Hopefully I’ll be able to tick those off in my Winter update 🙂

Why I started Blogging 

Day 19 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge is hobby. I already wrote about my hobbies earlier in the month when ‘passions’ was the topic. So I thought I’d write about my newest hobby: blogging.

The idea of writing a blog and sharing things publicly wasn’t one that appealed. I also thought I wouldn’t be very good at it. I originally started writing about TV programmes, after a friend suggested I write about the things that I watch during the day to keep from my brain wasting away while off sick. 

After I finished work, a lot of people seemed to struggle with the notion that I wasn’t ‘getting better’ and it became obvious that I hadn’t really explained what I’m sick with very well. So I decided to write easy to understand blogs about adrenal insufficiency so that my friends who were interested could read them. Other people from elsewhere in the world started reading them as well, which surprised me! I branched out a bit more, writing my experiences about chronic illness and with different healthcare professionals in the NHS- these ones are the most popular on my blog. 

I took part in Blog Every Day in May and really liked the challenge of writing about different themes. A couple of these were about travel and I liked looking back at my photos, so started to write about trips I’d been on. An American website saw these and asked me to write for their site as well, so I publish on there when I can too.

Blogging gives me something to do most days, and makes me ‘think’. I like reading other people’s blogs as well and seeing their points of view. I like the fact it’s a way of being creative. There’s no pressure to do it and I can write as much or as little as I want. I also like doing challenges like this one! 

#30bbdaysofgratitude challenge

My ’30 Things Before 30′ List

I decided I’d join in with Making a ’30 Things Before 30′ List. Mine isn’t full of travel adventures, nor is it things which I consider to be life goals. It’s a list that I (think I) can achieve taking into account my Adrenal Insufficiency, fun things which I’ve either never done, or activities I enjoyed and want to do again. It might also be subject to change. I’ll need help for some things on my list and I always enjoy company, so let me know if you want to join in with it! In no particular order (except for the random way they came into my head):

  1. Ride a Horse. I’ve ridden ponies, never a horse. I don’t know if I can actually physically get onto a horse, so I’m likely to fail before I start, but I thought I’d write it on the list anyway!

  2. Go on a Spa Day. Lots of girls do this and rave about it. It involves a lot of sitting down doing nothing- something which I am very good at!

  3. Make a wearable piece of clothing. I love knitting and have recently taken up sewing. I’ve knitted jumpers in the past, so I want to try to sew a (wearable) piece of clothing.

  4. Volunteer for a charity. I’ve done plenty of volunteering in the past, and I like doing it. This is now not very easy for me to physically do, which is why I want to do it again.

  5. Go to a Christmas Market that’s not just the one in Birmingham. I’ve been to a few Christmas Markets in Europe, and the Birmingham one every year. I want to go further afield to a different one. 

  6. Sell at a craft fair. Kind of continues on from number 3. I like the idea and I’ve not done it before.

  7. Go see a musical and stay the night in London. I’ve done this before, it’s fun, I want to do it again!

  8. Be a tourist in London. I’ve done bits of London touristy things, but there’s more to see.

  9. Go for a picnic in a park or a forest. Again, done it before.
  10.  Go punting. I’ve been rowing before. I’ve never been punting, it looks like fun. 
  11. Do yoga outside. I generally like doing exercise outside and being outside. Except I can’t do exercise anymore, except for really, really basic yoga/physio. So this is a compromise to ‘exercise outside’.

  12. Make brioche. I ate brioche every day for breakfast when I lived in France. Amazing stuff. So I want to bake it myself. 

  13. Sleep in a yurt. I love camping, again, because of loving being outside. I can’t go camping but I *possibly* will manage sleeping in a yurt/glamping…

  14. Learn to play Mvt II Sonata Pathetique (Beethoven) all the way through. This sounds relatively easy- just sit down and practise it right? Not really- my endocrine brain can’t cope with remembering information, which includes muscle memory ie, I have very little retention from day to day. This will be a challenge for me!

  15. Make my own fruit juice for breakfast. I like mornings and I like fruits. Why not? 

  16. Practise Spanish in an actual situation. I’m learning Spanish online, so I’d like to test it out sometime.  

  17. Go/watch ice skating. I don’t think I’ll manage this one, it’s probably too much physical work. I used to love ice skating, and I was pretty good- I’ve never fallen over ever! So I will compromise with ‘watch Ice Skating’.

  18. Read all of the Harry Potter books in order. I love Harry Potter. I have nothing but time, and I know the books inside out, so I won’t have to keep rereading bits to remind myself of what’s going on.

  19. Make mojito ice lollies. I saw them on BBC Good Foods. I can’t drink alcohol, so maybe this can be a Summer compromise!

  20. Learn how to crochet properly (even if it is bad). I. Can’t. Do. It. (Yet). So I want to learn!

  21. Re-read a book in French. We read books in French as part of our University course. Reading a book in English is hard enough for me at the moment, so re-reading a book I’ve read before in French might be within my reach (it might end up being Harry Potter in French…) 

  22. Host a raclette party. I love raclette. I can’t cook for myself anymore, otherwise it would be ‘host a dinner party’. The beauty of raclette is that you can prep it in advance in chunks and put it in the fridge ready to go. It might take a couple of days prep in my case, rather than the intended couple of hours, and I suspect my husband will end up doing most of it (sorry), but I want to try! 

  23. Listen to BBC Proms concerts. I forgot how much I love listening to music- when it’s your job, it’s easy to forget why you got into it in the first place, if you don’t have any time to enjoy it. I have lots of time now, and I have to spend a lot of time resting (ie lying down), so this seems to fit perfectly!

  24. Record a song on GarageBand. Or Logic. I’m not going to write a song, just record a song in. Sounds pretty lame, but I can do it in bits, and it’s similar to my reasons in number 23. 

  25. Play Pokemon Go. I don’t really like Pokemon, but I don’t hate it either. It’s more because I can’t walk very far at all, so this is actually a lot of a challenge for me. But it’s not the same as a sponsored walk/run event where you have to do X amount of distance at a specific time, I can do it as and when (I believe I can do it in my house??), within my limitations, and with someone else. Plus I get to see what the hype is about!

  26. Eat tapas. We went on Honeymoon to Spain and had amazing tapas, apparently. I don’t remember since I was in what we now know was Adrenal Crisis the whole time. I’d like to eat some more good tapas which I can remember!

  27. Visit a castle. I’ve visited a lot, I like them.  

  28. Go to the seaside/beach and paddle. I’ve done this a lot, I like doing it.

  29. Play in a band rehearsal. The last time I played clarinet in a band rehearsal 2 years ago, my paramedic 1st clarinet friend had to call me an ambulance and I was admitted to hospital for 2 weeks. A whole rehearsal is not achievable, but it would be quite fun to play a piece (or two…)! This is something I would clearly have to build up to, and might not actually ever happen. 

  30. Go to a Carol Service. I love carol services! I used to play in them every year- I loved playing in the Christmas seasons. This year I want to go to a ‘proper’ carol service as a congregation member.