... because life's too short to do anything ALL the time . Creativity and positivity are my "hiraeth"

Monday, 19 January 2015


I wanted a maternity pillow.

Nah, don't be daft. I'm not expecting! (Never!) But I wanted a maternity pillow. Fancied one for ages but just never got around to getting one. They cost a few quid!

I have been doing some tidying, decorating and trowing out recently and I had a load of pillows and cushions that I no longer needed. SO I washed them, took them all apart and made my my massive pillow with a dress lining fabric remnant, and I made 2 covers for it with my favourite print cotton remnant.

Et voila! A lovely maternity pillow for those with a bit of a sore back and a love of comfort! That's me. Especially happy as it cost no money. I like that!

And I want curtains! Since we moved into this house 2 1/4 years ago we've never had curtains on the back window. When we decorated the dining room though, I decided I might like to put some up there. But me being me, I'm not just going to go out and buy some curtains. Where's the fun in that?!

I was in Ikea when I saw the fabric and LOVED it. I love the bright colours and European graphic design. I then noticed it was reduced to just £1 per metre - so I bought 4 metres. I could have easily bought more, but I reasoned with myself and just came away with the 4.

I already had some curtain tape from some old curtains, so I didn't have to buy that either.
My beloved machine has recently been serviced by Pontypool Sewing Machines - and it's now like a flying machine!

SO again, a bit of measuring, a bit of creative thought and I have the funkiest most colourful dining room curtains for £3 - I had a metre left over! Now what to do with that?!

I just love these - the happiest curtains in the world! 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Big up the Healthy Slow Bargains

This post is dedicated to the slowcookers, the Slimming Worlders, the tight budgeters, the healthy eaters and the time poor. Oh and the snow sufferers!

We had a bit of the white stuff overnight. Some of us were quite happy about it...

I didn't really plan to go out, but then the roads cleared a bit and I went - I'm flipping glad I did.

I had to pop to get something for tea. Morrisons happened to be the closest. I don't usually go there, I must be honest. I noticed they had some nice 3 for £10 meat pack so I thought I might as well grab a set - it'll keep us going a few days. Got a busy few days coming up. But I soon put the 3 chosen packs back (nice and tidily - I worked in a supermarket, you can't unlearn that stuff!) when I saw the reductions section. I got this...

3 trays of cubed turkey breast, 1 tray of minced lamb, 1 tray of frying steak, 1 tray of turkey breast steaks, 1 tray of spare rib chops and a sirloin beef joint - all for £11.41. This can only mean one thing.


I love being organised. Sadly I'm not organised enough to be organised most of the time. It's ver much a "fits and starts" situation. Oh and I'm fat. Me and my Chosen One have put a few lbs on over Christmas, which is a shame as he'd lost 17 kilos on Slimming World prior to that. We need to get back on it, big style.

I'm a massive slow cooking fan. Low cost, easily healthy and it fits in beautifully with a busy household. Makes your house smell lush too! So, combining my love of Slimming World scran, slow cooking, partial organisation and budget good eating, I have set about my creation. 

I use Home Bargains roasting bags. 10 for 79 or 99p, Can't quite remember which. But they're the ultimate in pre-thinking organisation. Whole dishes go in one bag, in the freezer. Out of the freezer the night before you want them, plop it all in the slow cooker in the bag the next morning. Done. Sans effort.

22 portions I made from my £11 haul. I just used basic fridge and store cupboard ingredients to make different, convenient, tasty meals in a bag.

Lots of people talking about how to get good supermarket bargains. Sadly it's not an exact science, just trial and error with a bit of insider knowledge, if you can get it. For example, I used to work in my local Asda. Every morning at about 7am, the date code boys and girls start to gather up all the imminent sell by dated fresh foods. Once they have them all, they all get reduced. A bit. So 10ish is a great time to pick up the bargains that have just been reduced. There's usually a fair bit there, but it won't be reduced greatly. Throughout the day, at periods, the remains of it gets reduced further and further, so it's a bit of a trade off, go early for a bit of a reduction but a fair bit of choice, or go later for massive reductions but not usually on a great deal of fresh produce, often none.

Like I said, trial and error. Visit your local supermarkets and see if you can suss out the pattern.

Or you could just go to the butcher, which is usually much cheaper, and better quality so you need less. I like to do both - there's room for everyone and like it or not, we need our supermarkets to sustain a busy modern lifestyle.

Firstly. Tonight's tea.

I used the spare rib chops with all the fat trimmed off (there's only 2 of us for tea tonight) with onions, peppers, that sort of thing, and a generous helping of chinese powdered curry sauce from my local butcher. It's super low in fat etc and has minimal syns, but you could use a 0 syn easily. Chucked in, on for a few hours. The Chosen One is currently cooking the rice now to go with it - smells flipping lovely.

This is the beef joint, in a roasting bag, with red and white onions and a big splodge of wholegrain mustard. I can't wait for this one!

This is a turkey and spinach fakeaway curry off of the Hairy Bikers. Zero fat, zero syns. Tonnes of taste and gorgeousness.

Next to that on the right is spicy cajun steaks. They're frying steaks but I don't think it's treason to not actually fry them. Homemade cajun spice mix with leeks, onions, tomatoes, that sort of thing.

You can't see it too well but on the left is sweet chilli turkey and veggies. Onions, leeks, peppers, all of that good stuff, with a good splodge of Aldi sweet chilli sauce.You'd have to count the syns on that, but per person it'll work out very reasonably. And there's loads of super free veggies in there too. 

I gave away my chinese turkey curry. My daughter was off down her boyfriend's for a night or two so I gave them a ready to cook bag of turkey cubes, peppers, onions, all that, with another good splodge of the magical curry mix from the butchers. I think she was happy with it. Cost me less that £1.50 in total, saves them a load of time and effort.

I just had to remind her not to put her bag on the heater in the bus!

So a few labels later  (we've all done the "I'll remember what's in here" thing - and promptly forgotten what's in there) and the freezer's full of healthy, low syn meals for the next week nearly. For very few quids.

The only down side to doing all that prep in one go is you get to clear up a weeks worth of prep all in one go! The only thing I haven't yet used is the minced lamb. Someone made a good point on the Slow Coker Saddos group that it does make an excellent kebab. I think that might be how it ends up. But, to be honest, I ran out of energy and further ingredients for the time being.

That's quite enough organisation for one day! I'm going for a lie down with a damp flannel. Well I would if I could get to my bed for all the laundry that's on it...

You can't have it all!!!

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Best Bits. Like "scrumps" - before we all got worried about getting fat.

Clearly there are loads of inconvenient, upsetting and frankly painful things about having a complicated relationship with your brain (I believe some people call it "mental health problems" but it sounds a bit restricting to me).

But do you know the best thing? For me anyway, but only because I've amended my attitude.

They say "youth is wasted on the young" and I think anyone over 22 will agree with that. But I'm 38. I'm just learning things that "the normals" learned 30 years ago. How to play nice, share, wait your turn, that I'm a valid human being with valid feelings and opinions and that each and every one of us can make a difference.

What booby prize have you been given?

I love mine.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Unacceptable Behaviours

I've got two blogs. This is my "personal" one, the other one is my professional one. I used my professional one to "come out" about my mental health difficulties in a recent post, this was part of my pledge to the Time to Change campaign.

I've transferred my Mental Health rantings now over to this blog. I can bang on as much as I like over here without mentioning make up!

So today, I stated a page.

I saw this post on my Facebook timeline a few days ago and was spurred into action.

Unacceptable. Makes a mockery of the days of thinking and planning and building up of confidence that I, and I dare say many others, had to go through to make their blog posts and pledges. As a long time sufferer of Mental Health difficulties I resent this.

So I made a page: Remove the Quiz "What is your Mental Disorder?" By I Just Quizzed and it's going really rather well. Why should I have to, though. Is my day off. I should be lying on the sofa watching Dexter.

One of the things that people with Mental Health requirements regularly complain of is the lack of compassion, understanding and empathy from their G.P. I have very many personal experiences of this. One G.P. told me to "take up gardening" one asked me "what do you want me to do about it?" (and not in a "could you advise me as to what you think might help" way!).

I have a friend. Difficult to believe, I know. She's a lovely friend. She was terribly upset today after her trip to the G.P. She is in the process of getting a hold on her situation and doing brilliantly. On waiting lists left, right and centre and doing all the right things to get better and back in control. 

When I've been upset like this I find that writing things down is a massive help. I told her she was right to want to complain to the Practice Manager - and to give her the confidence to do it I said that I would format it for her, if she wrote the detail. This is what she wrote:


"My name is Serena and I am 22 years old. I have recently been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, better known as Aspergers Syndrome.

I struggle with anxiety, panic attacks, depression and I have regular melt downs which can result in self harming. After that I “shut down”. I don’t want to talk, eat or move. I don’t want to see anybody and I feel like I can’t leave my house – it’s hard enough to leave my bed.

I am currently on sick leave from work because I am not well. What I am, though, is human; a person. I have feelings.

So I did not appreciate that when I went to see my Doctor, to renew my sick note (keeping in mind that he is not the doctor I see regularly about my Autism – he knows nothing about the battle I have been fighting), he asked me why I was off work.

The other time I have discussed my Autism with this Dr. was an unpleasant experience for me. He told me that “You’re too intelligent to be Autistic”. Now I’m sure that’s called “discrimination”.

This time, I explained to him that I am Autistic and suffering mainly from anxiety, his facial expression said it all. What he said next confirmed that I was right about what he was thinking. He said “Autism stops you from working?!?!” I have never been made to feel so embarrassed for having a disability. I tried explaining how my Autism affected me and made me feel on a day to day basis, and why that made me unfit for work at this time.

I didn’t have a chance as he cut me off and said “I think you should go back to work Autism or no Autism. You’re too young to be on the sick, it will affect your record in the long term”. He refused to listen to anything I had to say. At this point I felt totally defeated and could say nothing else. My blood was boiling, my hands were shaking, my eyes were filling up and my heart pounding. I had to tell him that I wasn’t prepared to leave without my note. After he reluctantly handed it over I told him I would not be seeing him again. On my sick note he wrote “Anxiety – symptoms” which further confirmed to me that he didn’t believe me.

I also have Asthma and wanted him to check on my lung function as I have a suspicion there may be a problem but I felt so humiliated and uncomfortable that I felt unable to stay in his company any further to have him check my chest.

When I got home, I had a meltdown. What was supposed to be an appointment with someone who was there to help me to the best of their ability turned out to be an appointment with someone who judged me, made me feel like a lazy faker, made me feel embarrassed and hateful of myself and my disability. He made me feel like a freak, he made me angry to be the person I am. He hurt my feelings and for the first time in a long time he made me wish that I was “normal” Are doctors supposed to make you feel like that?

How many others have to feel like this before, one day, it breaks someone?

I am autistic, I am human and I have feelings."

No one has the right to make anyone feel that way. Much less a Doctor. It is wholly unacceptable and frighteningly common.  

Why is it that this is allowed? I know that society was very different years ago when a lot of these older G.P.'s were trained and put in post, but still, as a primary care giver they have a responsibility to do the best by their patients.

Many, many times have I come home from seeing a G.P. feeling the way she did. it has a massively negative effect on the way that person feels which can take days and days to start to heal. It makes you feel insignificant, like a terrible waste of air and a freeloader.

Despite being under the care of the First Access Team for my area, my G.P. keeps putting pressure on me to come off my medication! The board of psychiatrists has met with my case worker and agreed that while I'm feeling the benefit there is sense in taking me off them. I could actually go back onto my original "hardcore" medication at any time, if I chose to, but no, my G.P. (who I've spent less than 20 minutes with - ever) still knows best. Yeah, sure. 

This needs to be addressed. Mental Health patients are being failed by lots of G.P.s. They are over worked, over pressured and financially restricted. Mental health seems to be taking the brunt.


Friday, 19 September 2014

Journey Vs. Destination

Twenty years ago I said I would learn to ride a motorbike before drive a car.

17 years ago I passed my car driving licence.

So when him indoors bought me my CBT for my birthday back in July, I had to put things right and put my money where my mouth is.

I'm always learning something or other, I seem to enjoy the process. What I learn, though, I normally have some kind of natural very basic ability to start off, and then I pick it up fairly quickly.

Not this.

I bought my bike 2 weeks before my test. I started her up in the garden - and pooed myself. I'm pretty tough, but I have an inherent and overwhelming fear of hurting myself*, so wobbling up the grass at less than one mile per hour with no clutch control whatsoever, was a bit of a shock to the old system.

I spent days randomly asking "I will do this, won't I? I will be alright, won't I?" I had a major crisis of confidence and just couldn't see how I cold make progress.

I read the book, I watched the video. It didn't really help. I had no natural affinity for this.

My CBT was HARD. I had never even operated a bike properly before, so I had to be taught to operate as well as ride. We ran out of time on the first go - I wasn't disappointed. I didn't feel I had enough practice to go out on an actual road, nearly 20 years of driving experience or not. I went back the next week - shot through the whole thing, went out on the road and then passed. I was thrilled, as you can see!


I get these things in my head. And it has to happen. I decided that I HAD to ride that night. To my Mother's house. Had to be there, nowhere else.

Cissy (bike - names by Mumatron) wouldn't start. We had her in bits, 2 iPads on the go scouring the net for advice about the problem. Our neighbour (non-biking variety) tried his best to help by repeatedly bump starting it, but would it go? Would it heck as like. A friend of his (biking variety) happened to phone him at the time. He diagnosed and gave us the solution to the stuck ignition switch in a heartbeat - and off we went. On the longest road journey of my life.

I was rigid with effort by the time I got off, It was dark, late and I was exhausted - but I did it. A couple more runs were had, just little ones. And then we went away for 12 days.

It totally threw my confidence. I could remember the theory but I couldn't remember what it felt like and I was really scared. It took me a week to get back on after that. This is really not something I'm used to - there's not much in life that I've been like that about; in fact I can't think of anything else at all. I took 3 days to psych myself up to get back on. I convinced James to come out with me - just down to the local industrial estate, just to get a bit of practicing in. Right up until I got around the first corner (wobbling precariously close to the hedge opposite!) and then something happened.

Like magic, something clicked. My brain thought "I remember this - and it's awesome". I never did go to the industrial estate. I rode around the locality for 2 1/2 hours until he was forced to go home for a loo break - I followed him half an hour or so later. I didn't want to get off!

And it's been like that ever since really. I ride virtually every day. The only time I take the car is if I have to food shop or give a lift. And it sucks! I really dislike car driving now.

I just love riding and I wish I'd learned to do it years ago. The freedom, the weather (dry and wet; I kinda like both!) the head space it takes up, the quiet. It's a wonderful, cathartic experience. It gives a break from the constant information barrage that is continuously assaulting our senses the rest of the time. I'm already starting to think that I need a bigger bike - bigger wheels. A bit more power. I'm planning to do my big bike test next year. That's something I didn't think realistically I'd get to at just a few months ago.

Going through a steep learning curve like this is a great experience. You get to learn so much about yourself and push yourself way out of your comfort zone to see what you can do. And the pride when you start to get okay at doing it is fantastic. It's definitely better to find something hard at the start.

There's the old bike related cliché about it being about "the journey not the destination". It so totally is right. In all aspects of life.

Oh and another good thing. Since carrying my daughter 20 years ago, I've had intermittent but regular and very painful sciatica. (I've never heard of non painful sciatica having said that.) Since I've been riding regularly - nadda. Not a twinge.

I love my bike.

* Being rubbish at sports and not remotely interested in them, I was surprised to find that I was good at the high jump in school but paralysed with fear at the prospect of falling on the bar!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Social Media and Society

Has it really changed the way we live? Is it really that important?


I'm asked regularly what I'm studying in uni - the answer "Social Media" can perplex some people. I've had people with "no idea what that is" to "YOU'RE DOING A DEGREE IN FACEBOOK?!?!?" The answer to both of the last two statements is "no".

As a digital immigrant, I remember what the world was like before the advent of social media and in fact the web. I watched the Tomorrow's World episode that out lined the plan to link the world through something they called "the web".

Immediately (ish), we had email "simplifying" the way we communicate, then skype and conference calling - the initial main uses of the tech. was for business purposes really. So for people not in business, it didn't really affect them.

Only since the web became fully accessible, available virtually everywhere, and in our pockets, has it started to scare people a little bit.

Identity theft. Stalking. Trolling. Paedophilia. Grooming. and the scourge of all evilness - looking at your phone while having tea with your Gran.

Of course none of these things existed before the internet. Lol.

Typically the older generation, I know my Grandmother loves this one, loves to point out "I don't know what you lot would do if you didn't have those things in your pocket" as me, my daughter and my mother are all simultaneously watching something dog related and hilarious on YouTube.

You alter the focus to something they can relate to a little bit though, and they get it a bit more. My Grandmother refused to watch the fairly impressive spectacle of the car park being blown up in Newport recently in real time as she "wanted to wait and watch it on the news". I asked her why, she couldn't really answer - just that was the way it had always been. We're creatures of habit and we don't like change.

I asked her if she would like to have gone, she replied in the affirmative. I asked her if she would like to go and take her favourite arm chair with her and she again replied that she would but that would be a ridiculous idea.

I asked her then if she'd like me to bring the car park to her as it was so un-feasible to take the arm chair with us.

She accused me of being silly.

So I logged onto the live broadcast, on ipad, and we started watching. It didn't take long - we all watched it, all sat on the best arm chair in the world and for a split second, she got it.

Didn't last. Obv.

The world used to be as big as the distance you could travel. Then there were letters, the post. It created opportunities never before considered, and to people who never considered it. It was a huge, but physical change. I would imagine there would have been many resistors - until they received something through the post at last.

Can  you imagine the impact that the telephone had on society, business, relationships? Being able to speak to someone miles away without having to walk and go and visit them?! Truly revolutionary! I know that there were recently some aspects of this used in uber-period drama Downton Abbey with Carson being wholly reluctant to the use of the telephone and in fact the safety implications of having electricity in the house. Until something needed doing.

Likewise with TV - a magical glowing box in the corner of the living room which brought the world to you. "You'll get square eyes looking at that thing!"

Adapting to technology and change is a huge deal and wholly affects our lives in a massive sense. Not only does it affect the way we do our business, who are customers are and how we serve them but also our relationships, the people we hold dear and the people that we "live with".

Through social media I expect we all have examples of a friend or family member who we have recently realised we share a tremendous amount in common with, because of the low key, general, lifestyle related posts we regularly see. In essence we are "living with" more people - hundreds of them. Some expose themselves to be not quite what they think, other people we bond strongly with despite there being miles/continents/countries between us and our lives would be very greatly affected by their lack of presence despite often having never or rarely met.

This is an alien concept to many people and in fact in some circles it's seen to be quite cool to be anti-"social media". The concept of the Antisocial Media movement was something that was introduced to me during the discussions in class around this topic.

It's true. People don't have much "down time" any more. You're on a train journey, when was the last time you day dreamed looking out of the window or did not become a bit annoyed when your twitter feed dropped of as you went through a tunnel? I try to make sure I do this one. I read a book by Carl Honore recently about the Slow Movement which talks about hyper stimulation and feeling the need to be connected, active and productive at all times. It can't happen. It's not humanly possible - not without a major psychotic episode.

Yes, people are looking at their phones walking down a street. It's making a huge generalisation that they must be tweeting - they may be using their G.P.S. and had they not had a mobile that had G.P.S. capability, would they not have been looking at a map?

Did people not use personal stereos before the ipad, iphone, ipod or smartphone? I seem to remember that people had the same awareness related concerns upon the advent of the Sony Walkman many years ago.

Older people regularly tell me that they don't trust online banking or money things. I ask them when the last time they heard about an online bank being held up at gunpoint. We all know about bank robbers and their tights on the head related antics. Bank robbery has always existed.

Stalkers have always stalked. They follow people, they hide, they peep. I'd really rather be stalked on line than down a dark alley on a Friday night. Peeping Toms used to hide in trees.

Paedophiles - they have always existed and will always exist. They have always "groomed" just in a different way.

Something that does fascinate me. There's half a dozen of you, sat around a table in the pub having a good old natter. How many are on facebook? Looking at their phones? Pretty antisocial that.

But what if they're including the 7th member of the group in the conversation that can't make it that night. Is that still antisocial? What if they're taking and uploading photos of some good friends so that the night can be re lived over and over again through the medium of Facebook? Is that still antisocial?

I think what social media has done is shift the focus.

I walked down the street the other day with a good friend who saw the husband of another friend of hers. "Hiya! How's it going!?" "off work today?" "Nah just on lunch - off down to Gregg's". That was pretty much how the conversation went, fairly normal really.

As we walked past my friend said to me "I would normally have asked him how the wife and kids are but he posts so much stuff about them on Facebook that I know they're fine so there's no need for me to ask."

I thought that was really interesting. Social media now has given us the opportunity to carry on many, many conversations with many,, many different people all at the same time. So we're pretty much constantly engaged in conversation, with any number of people. SO the need when we do meet in person isn't quite so great to divulge tonnes of information - because we already have.

It's like having a news paper, with several editions a day, written for you by and about the people that are in our lives in many different capacities, often whether we like it or not!

It's great. Meeting up with someone formally is quite an intimate thing to do. It's also very time consuming. In this world we want maximum return on investment for every minute we have - life isn't a dress rehearsal.

By sharing information and updates through the many channels we have available to us we can focus in person on the stuff we might not want to share with everyone. Social media has made the world inclusive - everyone can use it in some way and the overwhelming vast majority of people use it in some way whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not.

In that way it has changed society. It has made it much easier for us to share causes, reach out to people, help people, do business with people - often all at the same time.

I was interested to read in Erik Qualman's book Socionomics, about Google flu and how Google saves lives.

Yeah right, i thought. Course it does.

Turns out it actually does.

Google has many arms, one of which is a philanthropic arm that they call Google Flu. Google use their infinite data capacity and access to predict outbreaks of influenza throughout the globe and direct the supply chain of vaccinations to new outbreaks. The algorithms created by Googling "flu like symptoms" are enough for Google to be able to track and predict outbreaks - ultimately saving lives. Google gets loads of stick, and rightly so, but I think this is cool as  hell.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Brown Dog Central

I have an elderly Spaniel called Gwyn and and a middle aged Choccie Lab called Welly. They don't get out enough and Welly's arse is getting quite big. This morning, in a haze of excited wagging, crying and jumping around, I managed to get my walking boots on (despite a Labrador helping), waterproof cecks, hi viz waterproof jacket and a cap. Yes, I looked like a boy. The good thing about dogs though is that they don't seem to care.

We wandered across the common land, plenty of road walking for nail filing purposes, but we found a rugby pitch that was fully enclosed. This is excellent as elderly Spaniel loves a little off lead bimble but due to his stone deafness it is generally too dodgy - he can't hear (or chooses not to) to come back. Despite this, he still managed to give me heart failure as he suddenly overcame his fear of kissing gates and headed on to the road. Welly thought this was an excellent game.

(Of course we did not go on the pitch, that's disrespectful, just around the very perimeter.)

We went up and down dale a bit, some nice puddles, saw some horses and stuff, was good.

I was very proud of myself, and then we get to about 200 yards away from our house and my stomach starts leaping about.

I can see someone, male, in the distance with a large dog. Not close, but close enough.

You see, 18 months ago we had been out celebrating my daughter's 18th birthday with family. We got home and as I was was having an especially hard time at that time, I decided to take my fur babies out for a late night walk.

I like to do this, it clears the mind before bed, it's cold  (frosty at that time) and I find it really helps to settle a mind before bed. So off we go.

Just around the village, a couple of streets, it's quiet, crisp, peaceful. Feeling restored, we head home, panting dogs creating clouds of steam, we're all happy. And then I see them.

There's a dog. A big one. I think its's a Rottweiler. I love Rotties. And a man. So that's okay. Oh, the man appears to be intoxicated. A lot. And the dog not on a lead.

We've frozen by this time, unable to back track without attracting attention to ourselves. Too late, the dog has seen us. The man, too pissed to notice.

As the hound comes bounding closer it transpires that it has no collar on either. As it savages my Labrador I am screaming at the man to get his dog under control. It's 01:30, I'm screaming, the dog is relentless. There's blood. Amongst other things.

We had just moved in, less than a month. A new house, a new area, not through choice but due to the most extreme and difficult circumstances that unbeknown to me were going to get worse. I had no energy to engage in a fight with brand new (chav) street neighbours, no capacity to take them on like I normally would.

So I did nothing. I couldn't. I hate that.

And I just can't get over it. The dogs are missing out more than me, but I just can't get passed it.

I hate that.