healthy, life

My breast cancer scare

I’ve gone back and forth on writing this, it’s a thing I want to share because it’s important but also it’s a period of time that I found very stressful and a bit scary, which is hard to write about.

Last year in the midst of wedding planning and a period of increased medical stress (thanks chronic illness) I found a lump in my left armpit, right next to my boob.

After worrying about it all weekend I rang the GP and after explaining to the arsey receptionist why I was calling for an on-the-day appointment, I got one immediately. Funny that.

My now husband was on annual leave so he drove me to the surgery, which was a big support as I was extremely anxious about the lump. My anxiety disorder can be triggered and added to when it comes to health issues so I was a bit of a walking disaster. Luckily I didn’t have to sit in the waiting room too long worrying and I saw a female GP (most surgeries will let you request a woman doctor, I didn’t specifically but it does made it a little more comfortable).

The exam required me to take off my top and bra, which I expected, and the doctor carried out a visual check and then a manual one. It wasn’t remotely embarrassing as she was very straightforward and put me at my ease. Once I was re-dressed we had a chat about her opinion and the next steps.

She said that she didn’t think it was a tumour but wanted it scanned at the breast clinic just in case. She explained that doctors are told to think the texture of a tumourous lump is the difference between the collagen of your nose (somewhat soft) and your skull (very hard) when pressed. Which is a useful tip for when checking your breasts. Although I highly recommend getting any and all strange lumps and other changes checked, just in case.

I was referred to the breast clinic at my local hospital to be seen by a specialist and have an ultrasound scan to see what was going on.

The clinic was on a Sunday, in a mostly deserted section of the hospital mainly used for various daily clinics, which was slightly creepy; walking through the empty corridors looking for the area reserved for this particular clinic.

There were a few women sat in the waiting area, all ages and races, because cancer doesn’t discriminate. The doctor carried out a similar exam as the GP and sent me off to the ultrasound department (I wish I’d downloaded a step counter just for this appointment as I walked the length of the hospital and back).

The nurse in the ultrasound room was really nice, explaining how to lie comfortably on the scanning bench with my arm tucked under my head. She draped a piece of blue tissue over my chest to preserve some modesty (although by this point several doctors had seen my breasts and I really wasn’t bothered). The doctor came in and carried out the scan then told me to wipe off the gel and get dressed. I walked back through the hospital to the breast clinic and get the results.

Thankfully it was all clear, the doctor thought the lump was more likely to be a swollen lymph node, which happens every now and then and goes away by itself. She told me I’d done the right thing in getting it checked out as it’s better to do and so and it be nothing, than leave it and find out too late that it’s something to worry about.

So ladies (and gents, and people who don’t identify as either) please check your breast tissue (and testicles if that’s relevant), go to your cervical screening or prostate exam. Look after your body, get to know it and recognise when things are wrong.

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baking, food, healthy, recipes

Purple choc cherry brownies with Indigo Herbs

I enjoy baking but I’m not quite Bake Off standard and one of the things I’ve tried to do more of is free from baking. 

I have lots of friends who have food intolerances (as do I) so I like to make sure they feel catered for if I’m having them round.

When the team at Indigo Herbs got in touch about using their natural, free from ingredients I said yes please! 

Indigo Herbs is an independent business located in the heart of Somerset, in Glastonbury and has a huge range of interesting products available online and in store. Plus they’re friendly, which is always a bonus. 

On with the recipe! 

Everyone loves chocolate brownies and chocolate pairs really well with cherries so combining the two was a doddle. 

This bake is vegetarian but not vegan as I’ve yet to find an egg substitute that works as effectively without leaving any trace.

 Ingredients

150g Purple Corn Flour*

150g Organic Coconut Sugar* 

1.5 tbsp coconut oil

200g dark chocolate of your choice 

1tsp gluten free baking powder 

2 eggs

1.5 tsp Acerola Cherry Powder* 

A few glacè cherries, chopped 

Sprinkling of Organic Puffed Quinoa* 

A very lazy cake to bake 

Oven on 200°c and locate cake tin (I used a loose bottom one), line with baking parchment. 

Weigh and measure your ingredients – do not drop any of them on the floor. 

Purple flour!

Mix your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl (I used a spatula but you could use your electric mixing bowl/whisk – I could only locate 1 prong attachment thing). 

Coconut sugar and purple corn flour

Melt the coconut oil and chocolate in a bowl in the microwave – this takes about 3 to 4 minutes. You could use a Bain Marie but that takes longer and requires more room in the kitchen and the brain. 

Add the eggs to the dry mix, do not get any shell in there. If you do, fish it out, wrong kind of tasty surprise. 

Always look for the lion! 🦁

When the oil and chocolate have melted, pour it in. Be careful the bowl will be hot. 

Mix everything together. Add the glacè cherries. Stir them in. You would be best to do this bit by hand. 
You could be really clever and coat them in a little flour first so they don’t sink. I forgot to do this. 

Pour into the lined brownie tray (or a cake tin like I did as my brownie tray is huge) and smooth the top. Or leave it slightly uneven if like me, you’re lazy and perfection is tiring. 

Sprinkle the popped quinoa over the top. This provides a nice little crunch – a textural opposition to the soft brownies.  

Pop into the oven for 20-30 minutes. Check whether a knife comes out clean. If it does, then it’s done, if the knife is sticky, pop it back in for a few minutes more. Ovens (and cakes) can be unpredictable. 

Do the washing up or load the dishwasher and thank whoever invented this life saver. 

Once the baking is done, take it out of the oven (switch the oven off – no one ever tells you to remember to do this in recipe books). 

Too hot to eat…

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes as it will be soft. Then carefully transfer to a cooling rack (I got a set of three of these on Amazon – you’re welcome).

Once cool, you can decorate with more cherries or just slice and serve. Cream or custard (dairy free if preferred) go well with this. 

Obviously you can skip the cherries or swap them for something else, try popcorn instead of quinoa, add extra chocolate, make a bigger batch. Basically, make it your own. Then send me the results – cake by post. 

My independent taste testers gave this tasty treat two thumbs up, so give it a go. 

*items provided by Indigo Herbs for the purposes of this recipe post. All opinions and recipes my own. 

baking, food, fun stuff, healthy, lifestyle

The Allergy & Free From Show 

This past Saturday my mother and I went on one of our increasingly common outings. This time we went to Kensington Olympia to explore free from foods and allergy busters. 

When my mum isn’t buying me lunch (thanks!) she’s an incredibly hard-working and somewhat brilliant nurse working in public health and school health. She recently celebrated 40 years in nursing and is my go to for any ‘should I take this weird thing to a doctor’ query (lucky her).

We had free tickets because the event gives loads away every year – I will share the link for next July once I get it. I did however miss the blogger meet up because I was too busy sampling cakes, oops. 

I also failed miserably to take any photos of use, although I will include the entirely random few I did manage at the end. 

Seriously I blame all the free cake samples and the abundance of dairy free treats. I had a truly delicious magnum style caramel ice cream and got chocolate all over my white top – I shouldn’t be allowed out. 

We did stop for actual lunch too – the prices in the Olympia’s cafes are eye watering for two salads and two drinks. 

My mum became pals with an allergy nurse from a children’s asthma charity – discussing epipens and inhalers. Joy. 

I located the make up stand and got a bit of a makeover while I was at it – once a beauty blogger, always a beauty blogger  (this will be getting it’s own post so stay tuned). 

I even came home with not just a goody bag full of snacks but some little purchases including gluten free samosas, rocky road mix, vodka cocktails (mum and I split 4 between us, she enjoys the odd tipple and free samples) and a few other little bits and bobs. I also found some new and some familiar brands to add to my shopping list. 

There was some live music from the imaginatively named Thomas and Thomas who played cover versions of a range of songs that definitely had at least one fan – the little boy dancing away in front of them! They were actually quite good but the dancing was very entertaining and quite distracting. 

We were ambushed by the man from the WWF and spent the rest of the day not walking past him again. I know why charities rent stands at these events but I wish they wouldn’t. 

I managed to get us lost finding the cocktails stand when we decided to make our purchases before leaving, thank goodness we found them again! Maps are very much not my strong point, though I can scent a goody bag at 500 paces it seems. 

Anyway, it was really interesting to see how far the free from and allergy market has come along since I was a sniffly asthmatic kid with eczema now that I am a sniffly asthmatic adult with eczema. 

Me & the Mothership and a giant samosa
Thomas & Thomas doing Jessie J’s Price Tag
The Green Sisters’ amazing free from samosas
healthy, life, skincare

Stay Cool Kids

The sizzle of sunburn is not something I enjoy so I am very grateful for Past Me who stocked up on suncream. Here’s my top tips for keeping your complexion healthy and avoiding lobster doom whether you’re going abroad or staying home.  

🌻Use suncream every day and top it up regularly, especially if you’re outside during the day. 

🌻Drink lots of water, you get dehydrated quickly in the summer and being taken to hospital and put on a drip can really wreck your holiday. Buy a water bottle and carry it with you – pop it in the fridge before you go out to keep it cool. 

🌻Moisturise! Your skin gets thirsty too and needs love. 

🌻Stay out of the midday sun – the hottest part of the day is the worst. 

🌻Eat delicious water filled nutrients in watermelon, cucumber, and other fruits. Ideally eat things in season as they taste better. 

🌻Don’t forget our furry pals – they can’t take off their fluffy jackets so make sure they have plenty of water, add an ice cube or two to help them stay cool. 

🌻Stop sleeping under your winter duvet! If you need covers a light blanket or spare sheet instead so you don’t get too hot at night. 

🌻Open the windows when you get home. Air out your home and cool it down. If you can, open your doors as well. 

🌻Water your plants. Use water left in your kettle or water bottles rather than pour it away. If you have a garden get a water butt – they’re inexpensive and will save on your water bills, as long as it rains. 

🌻Most importantly have fun! 

beauty, beauty boxes, fun stuff, gardening, healthy, lifestyle boxes, my little box, reviews, skincare

My Little Garden Box 

This is April’s box, the reason for the delay was because I wanted to take photos of my box in the wild – I don’t have a garden but the bonkers weather meant I couldn’t get a break to find some grass and take some snaps. Let’s dive in. 

This garden to table lists the vegetables and fruit in season for every month. Eating seasonally is something I try to do – it works out cheaper when there’s an abundance and you get the best of the crop, sweeter strawberries in June for example. 

I have a larger version of this infuser bottle somewhere, pop your favourite fruits in the infuser core and fill the bottle with water. My favourite fruit combo is lime and watermelon – so refreshing. 

Recipe cards/magnetic shopping list – this has some of the MLB team’s favourite fruit based recipes and then pages to pop your shopping list on with a magnetic backing to stick neatly on the fridge. 

Ape Crunchy Coconut Bites – tasty little discs of crunchy coconut – yummy. 

A floral patterned green and blue square scarf which can be worn in a variety of ways – the last scarf MLB sent out is a firm favourite so this one will be too. 

This month’s beauty treats are all skincare savers. Mixa is a French skincare brand now available in Superdrug (home of many a beauty bargain). Suitable for sensitive skin (yay) this dermatologist tested paraben free moisturiser can be used all over – giving you soft summer skin. 

My Little Beauty Vitamin Shot Facial Scrub – made with bamboo extract, apricot seed powder and argan oil this twice weekly scrub will buff skin and leave you all shiny. 

My Little Beauty Easy Morning Skin Perfector – once you’ve rinsed off the scrub this moisturiser softens and smoothes skin with a subtle shimmer. Just remember to top with SPF! 

food, healthy, life, lifestyle

Milk alternatives for the lactose intolerant 

I can’t digest lactose – found in cow’s milk, properly. It causes havoc with my gut and makes me quite unwell. Overshare warning – I’m talking non-stop diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting. Also hives and a super sexy all over rash have featured. 

Now, I always say that life’s too short to never eat cheese or chocolate but I have to be very sensible. The mac and cheese I made last week was delicious but it had me in agony all night. Too much dairy. 

Lactose is a protein in milk – most people digest it pretty happily. It’s not found in sheep or goat’s milk fyi – but they tend to be much more expensive as you get less per animal. Though goat’s cheese is delicious. 

I have tried dozens of milk alternatives over the years – from soy milk to oat milk and most nut milks. 

Hazelnut milk is like drinking a milkshake – sweet and creamy, I drink this on its own. 

Almond milk is my preferred alternative – doesn’t have too strong a flavour, copes well in hot drinks, cereal, porridge, makes good smoothies and shakes. 

Coconut milk – I cook with this, bake with it, it goes pretty well in most dishes with lots of flavour – curries, casseroles, mac and cheese, cake. I also use coconut oil in baking. 

Cashew milk – this was very expensive (cashew nuts are pretty pricey) and was lumpy. No thanks. Shame as it didn’t taste too bad but I’m not straining pre-made nut milk every morning. 

Soy milk – my mum swears by this but I honestly can’t get along with it. To me it’s basically coloured water – no flavour, no creaminess like nut milk. 

Oat milk – I was really curious about this, would it be liquefied porridge? I bought a carton when it was on offer (free from being the most expensive thing out there apart from maybe caviar), and was utterly disappointed. It went all funny in my hot chocolate and made my cereal taste a bit odd. I know there are different varieties (mostly made by one company) including one designed specifically for hot drinks, but I want to be able to buy one milk for everything.  

Milk itself is a deeply weird thing – we don’t all keep drinking breast milk as we get older and cows milk is essentially breast milk for baby cows. Cows are kept in a perpetual pregnant/feeding loop to produce milk – no wonder they always look grumpy, and their babies are taken away from them. 

I’m not vegan, or even a very good vegetarian (sorry Mum) but milk is one of the things I find a bit weird. Who discovered you could drink it? Turn it into food stuffs (cheese, chocolate, yoghurt, ice cream, cream, custard etc etc). Who is that person?

food, healthy, life, recipes

Recipe: Potato & Egg curry

This is a great way to use up potatoes left over from a previous meal. Oh and eggs. To make it vegan, just skip the eggs. A quick tip – book the eggs and potatoes in the same pan if you’re using raw potatoes. 

1 or 2 hard boiled eggs per person 

A few potatoes boiled and chopped up 

Tin tomatoes or passata

Onion, chopped

Celery, 2 or 3 sticks, diced

Ginger – 1 tsp fresh or frozen

Garlic – 1 tsp fresh or frozen 

Cumin seeds – 1 tsp

Turmeric – 1 tsp

Chilli powder – 1 tsp or a small fresh one chopped

Masala powder (optional) – 1tsp

Salt & pepper to taste

Method 

Boil the potatoes (10 minutes till al dente) and eggs (7/8 minutes till you’re happy they’re done). 

Brown your onion and toast the cumin seeds, add the ginger and garlic and leave to mingle for 5 minutes. Add your spices and season to taste. 

Pour in the tomatoes, mix and cook for 5 or 6 minutes. Drain the potatoes and add them and the celery. Mix in well and simmer. 

When your eggs are done, run them under a cold tap, peel and slice. Add them to the pan for a minute and spoon some of the sauce over them. 

Serve. You can add raita or yoghurt to serve or your choice of Chutney etc. I don’t tend to serve it with rice because of the potatoes but it’s up to you. I do like a piece of naan to dip. 

This is based on a recipe from my lovely work wifey whose family come from Gujarat in India. You can use different vegetables to bulk it out and it tastes just as good reheated the next day minus the eggs.