July Gratitude

TW: body image, weight gain

Can you believe we are already in August?  Some people have said that they thought this year has moved slowly, but for me it has absolutely raced by.

I’ve been slow in posting again this month due to continuing health problems – some endo, some of a more sinus-y nature – but I have plans for the months to come and some drafts saved and ready to roll.  For now, though, it’s time for me to engage in that important monthly practice – gratitude.

1)  Scuba

Bawley Point20 June 19 .jpg
Image Description: beautiful Bawley Point.  The sun is shining in a vivid blue sky above an even brighter blue sea.  There is a small sliver of creamy beach in the background, topped by dark trees.  In the foreground is rocky, grassy ground, and some big rocks with snorkel gear on them.  

I did it!  You may remember that at the beginning of the year I said that I had three goals I wanted to complete.  I wanted to finish the Old Testament (did that last month), learn Arabic (not progressing well), and  get Scuba certified.  Well, I finally did the latter!

We did some training dives in a pool over one weekend, then headed to the NSW coast for the second weekend and did our qualifying dives at Bawley Point, near Bateman’s Bay.  It is a beautiful spot to dive, and we had a lovely weekend for it.  The weather was crisp and clear, but not freezing, and the sun shone all weekend.  And under the water – so many fish!  We saw literally hundreds of Australian mado (little black and white stripey fellows with yellow tails), several Port Jackson sharks, a crested horn shark, two massive bull rays (I kid you not, these things were wider across than my car) and a sea turtle.  It was absolutely magical.

Also, I’m now a PADI certified Open Water Diver.  Yay!

2) Reconnecting with a friend

I did the diving course with a friend I haven’t spent much time with for a long time.  He was friends with my husband for years before I met him, and when I asked on facebook for people to do the dive course with me, he put his hand up.  We had a great time.  He is super into science and really enjoyed the technical side of diving, whereas I was just, “ooh, fish!”  We both loved it for different reasons, and had some really good D&Ms on the road to and from the coast.  I love getting to know people like that all over again.  Moreover, he’s just a really great, kind, good-hearted person who is lovely to be around.

3) New colleagues!

Two new people joined our team this month.  Love them both already.  Interesting and fun women.  One of them bakes.  Top marks.

4) A bit of body positivity

I haven’t had the best relationship with my body this year.  I gained a lot of weight at the beginning of the year when my Zoladex went all wild on me, and I’ve struggled with body image and self-hatred so much as a result.  Most of my hate has been directed at my thighs.  However, in learning to dive, I had to wear a wetsuit (side note: getting in and out of a wetsuit is a WORK OUT).  Underneath that, you can’t wear board shorts or anything (I normally wear these cute little swim shorts from Landsend, or a swim dress).  I had to wear my once piece, thighs out.

Women's Swim Shorts with Tummy Control
Image description: the lower half of a white person wearing black shorts in a swimsuit material.  The shorts are just a little shorter than mid-thigh.  I think they are the perfect length – more flattering than board shorts but still giving a little more coverage than just a one piece.

You know what?  I felt fine.  My thighs are a perfectly acceptable size (if somewhat glaringly white) and the exercise forced my to just embrace my body.

Sure, the confidence sort of vanished the next time I tried to squeeze into some of my work clothes from last year and realised that they no longer fit around the thigh, but it felt really good while it lasted.  I think I would feel comfortable doing it again.

5) Extra Skincare

I’ve been really into learning more about skin care in July.  If you are interested in also learning all the mysteries of what the different acids are, what you really need in your routine, what ingredients work best together, etc, then I highly recommend heading over to Beauty Within.  I absolutely do not agree with their product recommendations, which are rarely cruelty-free and almost never vegan, as well as being super expensive, but learning about the key ingredients can help you find good skincare at a fraction of the price.

Whilst I was learning about all this, Nourished Life was good enough to have a big old clearance sale.  Nourished Life sell a bunch of green and vegan products, so it’s a really good place for me to shop, and they always have free gifts or good deals going on.  I indulged in some replacements for items I needed, and explored a new-to-me brand called Andalou Naturals.  Most of their products are vegan, and they are packed with all the ingredients I wanted.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Sukin, but they don’t have certain things in them that I like in my skincare routine.  I will never abandon certain Sukin things, but I’m happy to introduce some Andalou.  I love a sale.  I love the pampering effect of new products.  Happy me.

6) New Prostap

I don’t love being on Prostap, but I like being without it even less. My last dose of the stuff turned out to be a dud batch and provided no pain relief at all. I now have a new batch and, whilst the adjustment period is rough, the pain relief is really nice.

7) Sunshine

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Image description: a slightly chubby ginger cat is lying in his side in a dusty dirt patch in the grass.  He has green eyes and is looking up at the camera.  There is netting behind him, and grass beyond the netting.  This is Max in his cat net.  

As the weather gets warmer and sunnier, my boy Max has been able to get out in his CatNet cat enclosure and have a little bit of outdoor fun. Max is strictly an indoor cat unless he is contained in some way. I’ve tried him on the leash, but he’s a bit nervy and can escape it when he gets panicked. The cat net lets him have the outdoor time he clearly craves whilst keeping him safe and preventing him from having an impact on local ecosystems.

He loves lounging in the sun, rolling luxuriously in the dirt, and eating the grass.

8) Opportunities

One plus side of working in a really big organisation is that there are a lot of opportunities to do different things or move up the food chain.  An opportunity came up recently and I have gone for it.  We’ll find out in August how successful I was!  Extra grateful for my kind colleagues who helped me talk myself up in my CV, and my wonderful supervisor for supporting me in going for it.

9) Trivia

I love trivia, but what I mean this time is a trivia night.  I’m involved in the social club at work, and we organised a trivia night in early July.  We raised a lot of money and were able to donate more than $2000 to charity, thanks to the generosity of my colleagues and our sponsors.

Although I was too sick to go myself, the team I was rooting for (my team colleagues) absolutely killed it and took home first prize.  Very proud.

10) Not dying in a car crash

Oddly specific, perhaps, but I have a reason.  The last days of July were a bit wet, and on the way to work one day my car spun out on the wet road on a roundabout.  I spun 270 degrees around and ended up facing the wrong way on the road.  By some miracle there was no one else on the roundabout at the time, although some people were waiting to come on, so I didn’t hit anyone else or the signs around it.  Some kind strangers stopped to check that I was ok, then stopped the rest of the traffic so I could get the car off the road.  My mum came out and waited with me while the NRMA came to confirm that it was just the greasy road and not my somewhat elderly car having a senior moment.  (It was just the wet road).  I was shaken and very late for work, but thankfully totally unharmed otherwise.  Here’s to safe driving and kind people!

What are you grateful for this month?

 

April Gratitude

Another month has passed astonishingly fast, and it’s that time again – a monthly gratitude post.

Not going to lie, April has been super hard, and so finding things to be grateful about has been trickier than usual.  I haven’t really had any spectacular lows, but it’s felt like I’ve been in a constant slump.  I’ve had a number of sick days, and had a really bad experience with my last Prostap injection (a painful infection at the injection site and ongoing struggles with the side-effects).  The ongoing pressure of the adenomyosis and the general malaise and lack of hope that comes with chronic pain has been exceptionally hard to deal with.

However, I made a commitment to be more grateful and positive this year, and these posts force me to consider the good things in my life, so let’s go.

1)  Easter

Close-up Photo of Bunny Plush Toy
Image description: a grey felted rabbit holding a pink felted egg with white spots.  It is standing on a next on a wooden board and there are some white flowers next to it.  

I wrote about what Easter means to me as a chronically ill Christian, so I hope I’m not cheating by mentioning it again.  There are plenty of reasons to be grateful for it, though.  A four-day weekend (followed shortly by ANZAC Day), lots of chocolate, and, of course, the celebration of Jesus’ sacrifice that means an afterlife in paradise.  That’s always good.

2)  Girl’s night

I got a chance to spend the evening with my four best girls.  We are a diverse group in both personalities and backgrounds, but we still have plenty in common – enough that we have stayed friends for ten years during the most turbulent times of our lives.  Perhaps our greatest commonality is our love of great food, which we ate at tonne of.  One of this fabulous group is from Bangladesh, and boy, does her mum create the most amazing feasts ever.  I could LIVE off her dahl.  Her spinach is mind-blowingly good.  She is single-handedly responsible for making me like cauliflower.

Sure, it was incredibly high FODMAP and I was in agony the next day, and I accidentally ate a chilli, but it was entirely worth it.  And now I’m craving her spinach.  Damn it.

Also, the chance to see my four wonderful best friends is always so good.  Everyone should have that friend or group of friends that they love and trust and always feel incredibly happy to see, even when life is hard or you don’t want to socialise.  This is that group.  There is no feeling in the world like spending time with my girls.

3)  ANZAC Day

Red Petaled Flower in Macro Photography
Image Description: a red poppy on a field of grey grass.

I may be pretty anti-violence, but I am not against people standing up to invaders.  I can also appreciate the courage, heroism and comradeship displayed by the ANZACS and the other soldiers of WW1.  Can you imagine how terrifying it would be to suddenly see a tank coming over the horizon in a war where cavalry with swords were still in common usage?  Can you imagine the mud, the blood, the terror, the cold in winter and the searing heat in summer, the disease, the privation and the utter uncertainty?  I don’t think war is something to celebrate, but the qualities of the soldiers who fought are, and their deaths should be remembered and commemorated.  I am grateful for what they did to ensure that we won the war.

4) An income

In the last month I’ve seen a lot of articles and the like on the difficulties of people with chronic illnesses who also have to deal with a low income or poverty.  This one in particular tugged at my heartstrings.  Australia has a good social security system compared to some countries, but as a lawyer I heard a lot of stories about people struggling with bureaucracy and a lack of understanding of the nuances of their condition.  I am incredibly grateful that I don’t have to battle for Centrelink, or try and live on the amount dispensed.  A stable income, having enough left in your pay after the necessities to save or give to charity – these are privileges that cannot be underestimated.

5)  Changing leaves

Landscape Photography of Trees
Image description: a tree with golden and green leaves shades a green field to the left and a brown path to the right.  The path has red and gold trees on the right that form a sort of tunnel.  Glimpses of bright blue sky are visible at the top of the image.  

As I wrote last month, I love autumn.  I’m enjoying the cooler weather still, although I’m not thrilled with some of the very cold mornings.  What I am loving this month is the beautiful autumn colours as the leaves change from green to shades of gold and red.  Some of the older suburbs with the European trees are just incredibly beautiful in autumn.  It was a particularly big shock for me when I took a week off sick at work to go from driving down the street my office is on and seeing it go from a green tunnel to suddenly almost bare, with the road covered in golden drifts of leaves.  I also really love the smell of autumn leaves as they break down.  It’s so earthy and rich.

6) Fitness 

During April I took advantage of a Fernwood sale and bought myself a membership with some personal training.  My PT, Emily, is really fun and works me within my limits, but doesn’t let me slack off.  I’m really exciting to be getting my fitness back on track, and have been taking on some additional exercise as well (I swam a kilometre for fun the other day!).  I’m doing almost an hour of warm-up before my sessions, and it is really, really relaxing for the brain.  I can just focus on my body and making it work.  It’s great mindfulness.

I also really enjoy feeling exhausted and sore for a good reason, as opposed to just feeling exhausted and sore because disease.  It’s satisfying and makes me feel proud of my achievements.  I’m not losing any obvious weight (thanks menopause!) but I am feeling my muscles harden up and I have a little bitty line on my biceps that looks like it could be a muscle.

7) Vegan smoked salmon

Since going vegan, people often ask me if I miss meat.   Generally speaking, no.  Sure, I enjoyed bacon and rissoles, but I never really got excited about steaks or chicken.  I genuinely do enjoy the taste and texture of fake meats better in 99% of cases.  However, I loved fish.  I definitely didn’t give up eating fish because I hated the taste.  Gardein Fishless Fillets filled a big gap for me, but I really, really missed smoked salmon.  Thankfully, the Cruelty Free Shop has started carrying Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Smoked Salmon.  It’s not a perfect replica but it is very close and soooo tasty.  I had so many slices of toast with Tofutti cream cheese and some chives.  Heaven.  Happy little vegan.

8) Macaron adventures

Three Assorted Flavor Breads
Image description: three macarons in a pile.  The bottom is cream, the middle is pink and the top is brown.  

Disclaimer: the macarons in the picture above are not mine.  Mine only vaguely resembled macarons.

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Image description: macarons with the insides exploded out.
Image may contain: food
Image description: a slightly less exploded macaron.  

 

Pictured above: attempts one and two.  They tasted fine.  I’ve never tasted macarons before, vegan or otherwise, so I have no point of reference, but these were nice, with a light marzipan flavour.  I definitely need to have another crack and try and get them better, but I think eventually I’ll get it.

I baked them with my sister and it was a bit of a giggle.  It took us HOURS and she managed to turn our sugar syrup into a solid rock, but I enjoyed it, even if it was incredibly frustrating to put in all that work and just get explosions.

This is the recipe I used.  On my second batch I turned the oven down to 250F and it worked much better.  I’ll keep playing and let you know if I ever manage it.

9) Love Nikki

Image result for love nikki
Image description: a pink-haired anime girl with flowers.  She has pale skin and brown eyes and is smiling.  She is the titular character in the game Love Nikki,  

If you play mobile games with pop-up ads you have probably seen some for Love Nikki.  It’s basically like Pokemon but for fashion.  Your character, Nikki, is inexplicably transported to another world with her cat, Momo, and ends up in a bunch of styling contests.  The game has a bunch of content and paying players definitely have a big advantage, but even my cheap self who just plays the free version can get heaps out of it.

It may seem like a silly thing to be grateful for, but it’s another thing I can do for fun when I’m really sick and stuck in bed.  Apps are great for the chronically ill.  Plus, I really like anime and pretty clothes, so this ticks all the boxes.  Let me know in the comments if you’d like a more in-depth review.

10) Sex Education

Image result for sex education

I don’t mean the school lessons – mine were patchy and weird at best.  Highlights included being told repeatedly to just “keep your pants on!” in a strong US accent, and pictures of diseased genitalia.  That’s a Christian school vs a public school for you, I suppose.  Both freakish and not particular useful, just in very different ways.

What I am actually referring to is the Netflix show, Sex Education, starring Asa Butterfield (you may recognise him as the titular character of Ender’s Game).  Whilst this show does have more sex scenes than I really want to see (probably unsurprising, given the name), it also deals really, really well with some very real issues – poverty, abandonment, over-protective parents, divorce, sexual trauma, abortion, vaginismus, slut-shaming, parental pressure, revenge porn, stigma against virginity, stalking, drugs, homosexuality (both repressed and flambouyant) and the attendant prejudice and danger, and a raft of others.  The characters are engaging – some are deeply loveable, some are deeply tragic, and it is just incredibly well-written.  If you don’t mind a whole bunch of nudity and want a show that really tugs the heart-strings, this is a good one for you.  I was hooked.  I am not kidding when I say I laughed, I cried, and I determined to teach my hypothetical future children strong lessons about their self-worth and ensure that they get proper sex education.

February Gratitude

CW: pregnancy, body image

As I mentioned in January, one post I really want to try and commit to each month this year is a list of things I am grateful for.  It is actually quite challenging.  Although I’m generally a positive person who lives life at a level I would call “content”, and only occasionally swing into bouts of terror and sadness, this is quite a challenge for me, particularly since I want to put my animals and my family on every list and I have set myself the challenge to be grateful for new things every month.  Anything that stretches my ability to be grateful, however, I suspect is a good challenge.  Practice, after all, makes perfect.

1)  fLash Lash

This may sound terribly superficial, but since we’ve already established that I am I’m going to plough right ahead anyway.  My friend put me on to this lash serum.  I was really sceptical at first because the idea of a lash serum just sounds really gimmicky to me.  However, I’ve been using it for about a month now, and it works!  My lashes are actually longer.  I tried to take a before and after, but unfortunately my before is really blurry so it’s extremely hard to see any sort of difference.  The difference isn’t huge – certainly nothing as dramatic as the pictures on the website –  but it is noticeable, and I love it.  I will definitely be repurchasing this one.  (And no, sadly this is not a sponsored post and I do not get any money from spruiking the wonders of fLash Lash).

2) Maternity jeans

I’m not pregnant, but I am now a sworn devotee of maternity jeans.  I’ve never actually tried them before, although I have written about them as I know other endo-warriors who wear them.  Now I’m not sure I ever want to wear anything else.  I tried on this pair yesterday and was blown away.

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Image description: a pair of legs wearing black skinny jeans with a rip on each knee standing in a Scandi-style room with a white crib.  There is a wooden window seat next to the legs with a cream cushion and a grey throw.

They look like jeans, but they feel like leggings and they are so soft and comfy on the belly.  They are actually quite flattering, and I say this as someone who has always felt very self-conscious about the width of her hips in leggings and skinny jeans.  With a pair of biker boots they are positively badass.  Badass comfort – what more could you possibly want?  You could fight crime and look cool in these things.

3)  New friends

Whilst I still miss my friends from my old workplace, particularly my fLash Lash friend and another lovely woman who left a few months before I did, I am delighted to have found such incredible people at my new job.  They are mostly women, and they are all wonderful – friendly, helpful, chatty, hardworking, collaborative, and always up for a jaunt to the local coffee shop or grocer.  They’ve made me feel so at home.  Great colleagues make for a great job even when the work isn’t tops, and I love the work too, so it’s great all round.

4)  My employer’s attitude to disability

Although I have thankfully not had to put it to the test in a “I’ve only worked three hours in the last month” sort of way, my employer so far seems really pro-disability and supportive of disabled staff.  We get personalised desk assessments (everyone, disabled or otherwise) and if you have a pre-existing condition they get in a physio or other specialist to do it.  Mine has resulted in a better chair and an extra plug so I can have my electric heat pack plugged in at my desk.  This means no more awkward trips to and from the kitchen every forty minutes juggling a piping hot wheat bag that will be painfully hot at first and then cool down annoyingly quickly.  This hugely increases my ability to stay at my desk working.  It makes such a difference.

5)  Cool weather

I don’t do terribly well in the heat.  I am too white for days much above 30 degrees.  I like a gentle cool breeze on a warm 27-28 degree day.  English summers are largely perfect, in my eyes.  Summers here are dry and baking and seem to parch the moisture right out of you, except when it is stormy in which case they are hot and sweaty but still leave you really thirsty and dry on the inside.  Thankfully, February has largely seen a move to more gentle temperatures.  As I write this, we’re expecting a top of 24.  Perfect.  Love it.  I know I’ll be having the opposite feeling come winter, but right now I’m happy as the proverbial clam.

6)  Nice hair

It’s not always nice, but yesterday I got a haircut and now it’s just spiffy.  It’s great while it lasts and it makes me happy.  It smells nice, too.

7)  Adventurous tomatoes

I didn’t plant any tomatoes this year.  My plants just ran riot last year and I had more tomatoes than I could comprehend, so I thought I’d give them a miss this year.  Despite this, I have four or five tomato plants sprouting in the garden, including one that is growing in the cracks of the pavement again.  They are plucky and determined plants, and I’m actually pretty excited because I do like tomatoes.  I also have a single brave chili growing in my Vegepod.  I’d forgotten I even planted chillis (did I plant chillis?  Is it even a chilli?  We’ll find out when I cut it open, I suppose).

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Image description: my hand, holding six slightly oval little tomatoes.  One has a green stem on it.  There is dirt on some of them and on my fingers because they are fresh from the garden.

8)  Valentine’s Day

Like most people, I’m not a huge fan of the commercialism that inevitably springs up around days like this.  However, I am a fan of the idea of love persevering, and a brave man helping couples marry in secret.  I also like the reminder it brings to have a special date with my husband and take an evening to really cherish our relationship.  We’ve endured a lot together and it’s really important for us to make happy memories too.

9)  The Done app

As you may know from my previous mention of my dairies, I’ve switched from a bullet journal to a more traditional (but also very fullsome) planner this year.  One other thing I’ve done is make my habit tracker digital.  There’s an app called Done which allows you to track 5 habits for free, or as many as you like for $6.99.  I paid for the full suite.  I’m sticking to tracking my habits far more effectively when it’s on my phone, and it is actually easier to view trends there.

Image result for done app
Image description: text that reads, “Track any goal or Habit.  Track an activity multiple times a day, week, month or year.”  Beneath that is a grey silhouette of a phone.  On the screen it says, “Done”.  Beneath that are five bars.  A partially-filled yellow one says “Wake Up Early: 3.  This week, 03/04 mornings”.  A partially filled red one says “Workout: 5.  This month: 08/10 sessions.”  A partially-filled bright blue one says “Drink Water: 3.  Today: 04/08 glasses.”  A partially-filled lilac one says, “Meditation: 3.  Weekly: 02/03 sessions.”  A fully-filled blue one says, “Less coffee: 5.  Today: 00/02 cups max.”

When you have reached your goal for the day/week/month/whatever, the bar fully fills up.  The number on the right refers to your streak of how many days/weeks/months in a row you’ve managed the habit.  It’s quite motivating and really quick to do.

10) Finally getting over this cold (I hope)

This darn cold is dragging on and on and on, as they always do when you have an immune system as useful as the male nipple.  However, I think it might finally be going away.  I can feel something almost like energy waving a tentative hand in my direction, and my headache is only dizzying instead of catastrophic.  Progress!

 

 

RUOK Day and the Cake of Doom

TW: Suicide, mental health

Yesterday I explained that I am engaged in a battle to the death over who at my workplace can make the best cake.  I will tell you the results of that epic showdown, but first I want to talk a bit about RUOK Day.

Did you know that 8 Australians take their own lives every single day?  Even higher numbers than that make attempts.  Rates of suicide are higher amongst men.

This is particularly relevant to people suffering from endometriosis, and chronic illness in general.  Why?  Because there are three main factors that make it more likely that someone will commit suicide: social isolation, feeling like a burden, and the means to follow through.  I’ve talked before about how easy it can be to become socially isolated when struggling through a flare-up, and that feeling like a burden is one of the many mental side-effects of physical pain.  With the amount of strong painkillers many of us have access to, means to follow through completes the endometriosis-suicide trifecta.  We are an at-risk group and today really brought that home to me.

RUOK Day focuses less on people at risk of suicide, though, and more on the rest of society and what ordinary Australians can do to help their friends, colleagues or loved ones through the power of asking a simple question, “Are you ok?”  It teaches listening without judgement, helping the person struggling to seek appropriate help, and continuing to check in with them (in my view the most important step of all).  It’s never going to be an easy conversation to have – it may be embarrassing and overly intimate for both parties, but they are right when they say it can save lives.  I encourage everyone to head over to their website, watch some of the informative videos they have on how their system works, and put it into practice.  Use this day as a chance to check in with friends and family.  That simple act of connection may pull someone back from the brink.  It may pull you back.  I’ve written before about the importance of maintaining social connection even when you feel like you can’t.  Take a step to do that right now.  Ask yourself, “Are you ok?”  If you aren’t, speak to someone.

On a lighter note, my workplace wisely decreed that the path to mental health is built on cake.  Ironically, I had to fight my way through crippling knee pain (my knees were swollen and aching from referred back pain) to make my cake, I literally lost sleep over it, I would have skipped dinner if not for my husband, and I shed real tears.  Not my proudest mental health moment.  However, the cake was a success!

I was attempting to recreate Anthea of Rainbow Nourishment’s glorious Golden Gaytime cake.  For those outside Australia going “um…what?” the Golden Gaytime is a popular and delicious ice-cream that is sadly not vegan.  I based my recipe partially on Anthea’s ice-cream bites of the same flavour, and improvised a whole lot.  I topped it with a bunch of things from her beautiful e-book, “Nourishing Treats”, including date-tahini-caramel swirls, hazelnut chocolate dough, and vegan Ferrero Rochers.  I also made some banana popsicles but the cake was so full of treats that it didn’t need it (and they also were just really unfortunately and inappropriately shaped).  On the plus side, they are safely in my freezer where I can eat them all.

Although it lacks the professional finish of Anthea’s cake, I was pretty proud of how it came out.

My cake 1.JPG
We had a crunchy chocolately base, a caramel ice-cream layer, a chocolate ice-cream layer, a vanilla ice-cream layer, chocolate drizzle, tahini-date caramel at the edge, chocolate hazelnut swirls, Ferrero Rocher bits, shards of chocolate, cacao nibs and cookie crumbs – all made from scratch!

I was up against some very stiff competition, though.  There were six cakes in all.

Banana and raspberry.JPG
I was tempted to try and steal that nice little chopping board.

Offering number one was this banana raspberry creation, vaguely reminiscent of an aeroplane.  This cute little number was a runner-up (ranked in the bottom three) and won a box of cake mix.

White chocolate and macademia.JPG
Does anyone else always try and spell macadamia as “macademia”, like some bizarre cross between nuts and university research?

Offering number two was this plate of delicious-looking white chocolate and macadamia cookies, which deserve special mention as the baker was sick with a sinus infection and still loved his colleagues and the promotion of healthy minds enough to bring in biscuits for us.  Despite his efforts, these biscuits also landed as a runner-up and also won some cake mix.

Hamburger.JPG
Doesn’t the “cheese” look disturbingly realistic?

Offering number three I found unbelievably odd.  This cake actually looked very much like a cheeseburger.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good (vegan) cheeseburger, but there is something about seeing one in cake form that just does my head in.  However, it is very clever and landed a neat third place.

Chocolate and raspberry.JPG
Beautifully presented and it smelled AMAZING.

Offering number four was this decadent gluten-free chocolate-raspberry cake, which was apparently full of whiskey.  This was the one I was most sad about not being able to eat because it looked so good (mine was the only vegan cake so I couldn’t taste-test any of the others).  To my surprise this cake also only made it into the runner-up position – I think maybe not enough people tried it as it was on the smaller side.

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The inside sponge was vegan so I did manage to nab a taste of that and it was admittedly delicious.  Why must I be surrounded by such talented women?

Finally, my main competition, made by my work bestie and towering over its competitors: the gravity-defying Malteser cake.  It is with a heavy heart that I admit that this cake beat mine to take out the main prize of a silicon muffin tray and loaf tin, and I walked away with second (a very nice glass tray).  Admittedly it was an excellent cake and the win was not undeserved.

Layers.JPG
A better look at the layers in my creation.

All in all, I was very happy to come second.  I had some stiff competition and although mine looked incredibly decadent, it wasn’t particularly sweet.  Barring the chocolate, it had no refined sugar and relied on date and a small amount of maple syrup in the Ferrero Rochers for sweetness.  However, I think the lack of sweetness may have worked in my favourite – it was cold and relatively refreshing and I think would have stood out because of that.  It also managed to be quite rich, thanks to being 90% coconut cream, and had all sorts of textures thanks to the crunchy base, nutty crumble, stiff chocolate and smooth creamy layers.

So, what’s the take-away from today?  Eat cake, but don’t hurt yourself to make it.  Perhaps more importantly, look after your mental health, and look out for your friends.

10 Ways to Help

People with endometriosis often need help. We don’t necessarily like it, but it is all too often a fact.  Pain leaves us unable to complete basic tasks such as grocery shopping, going to work, driving, or even standing up.  If you have a friend or loved one suffering from endo, chances are you want to know how you can help them.  So, without wanting to put too much pressure on you, what can you do?  Well, here’s a few ideas:-

  1. If you are doing your groceries, message them and see if they need anything. My bestie does this for me all the time, and while I’ve yet to take her up on it, my heart glows when she asks because it’s really kind of her.
  2. Consider other errands they may need help with. For example, do they have any parcels at the Post Office waiting for collection? Do they need to return library books or rented movies, or post letters of their own? If you are heading in that direction, check if there is anything you can do.
  3. When you are at their house, ask if there are any household tasks you can help out with, such as the washing up or stacking the dishwasher. Again, this is something I tend to turn down (except when my mum offers, because she’s my mum and it’s different when it’s your mum) but one day I may be in so much pain that I’ll take someone up on it. You don’t need to offer to chuck their dirty undies on for a wash or anything, but watering the plants, reheating their wheatbag or letting the dog out might be something that could help.
  4. Keep them company. As I’ve written about before, endo is super isolating because getting out can be really hard. Kicking back at their place and watching a movie or eating yummy food with a pyjama/yoga pant dress code means the world.
  5. Walk the dog, if they have one. My mum and my sister-in-law have both done this for me on days when my husband can’t, for whatever reason. It takes a massive load off me and frees up my husband in the evening to care for me instead of being out and about. Plus, dogs are great.
  6. Pick some low-key, cheap activities. I’m not saying you can never go clubbing again for fear of offending your endo-friend, but every now and again a movie night, board games night or relaxing spa day could be the perfect change of pace for you and a great way to include them. It also helps them where activities have minimal cost as endo is incredibly expensive and tends to impact earning ability as well.
  7. Be spontaneous where you can. One of my biggest problems is I can’t commit to things in advance because I just don’t know that I’ll be well enough. If your endo friend calls you and asks you out and you can do it, do it. They are having a rare good day and taking advantage of it should provide fun for all.
  8. Offer lifts. Not everyone with endo has trouble with driving, but some us do due to referred pain in our legs or backs. Some days, having someone else available to drive me can make the difference on whether I can leave the house or not. If you’re both going the same way, see if they want to carpool.
  9. Keep asking them. Your endo friend may be flaky by necessity but it doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate being asked out. There may well be days when they are absolutely capable of coming and are thrilled to have the chance. Just because they’ve flaked 9 times out of 10, please don’t give up on them.
  10. Support them emotionally. This is such a debilitating disease. I cannot adequately explain how exhausting, depressing and just utterly draining it is, or how painful the rollercoaster between hope and despair can be. Sometimes we really just need a shoulder to cry on or someone to rant at. Hug us. Thrust tissue boxes in our direction. Pat us awkwardly on the shoulder.

And, for bonus points, look after yourself. If you are dealing with way too much of your own stuff, don’t feel like you have to listen to ours.  If you can’t be there for us, let us know – trust me, we will get it – and always feel free to ask for support in return.  We would love the opportunity to help someone back, and chances are, we owe you!  Plus, even if none of that is true, it’s all part and parcel of being friends.  🙂